18 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

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Most students have to borrow student loans to go to college. But very few know anything about them. That’s pretty scary considering you’re likely to take on several tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And making mistakes with that much money could cost you just as much. 

Take it from me. I borrowed six figures to get a doctorate to work in a notoriously low-paying field. And thanks to taking advantage of years of deferments, forbearances, and an income-based plan designed to help borrowers with high debt and low income, I now owe twice what I originally borrowed. 

Don’t make my mistakes. Instead, learn about the most common student loan borrowing and repayment errors. That way, you can avoid an overwhelming amount of student loans and get out of debt faster.

Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

Most student loan borrowing and repayment mistakes deal with misunderstanding what you’re borrowing, how interest works, how to pay off debt quickly, and how to avoid default. Steer clear of these top mistakes to ensure you borrow smartly and don’t end up in over your head. 

Mistake 1: Applying for Aid at the Last Minute

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to qualifying for all financial aid of any kind. That includes federal grants and student loans as well as state grants and most institutional aid — the grants, scholarships, or loans offered by your school. 

The FAFSA opens for applications every Oct. 1, and you must complete it by June 30 before the academic year you need aid for. You must complete a new FAFSA every year you plan to enroll in school.

Many colleges and universities also require additional forms, such as the CSS profile (short for the College Scholarship Service profile), which dives even deeper into your family’s financial situation. So check with the financial aid office to find out what they are, and stay on top of deadlines. 

But note that states and colleges have limited grant resources. And those resources tend to go to the students who apply early. In other words, they’re first come, first served. So the earlier you get your applications in, the better.

And while the federal government is unlikely to run out of education loan funds, if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to resort to private loans, which are costlier and feature less favorable repayment options.

Apply as early as possible to ensure you get as much grant and scholarship aid as you can qualify for. The more grants you can get, the fewer loans you’ll need to borrow.

Mistake 2: Borrowing Too Much

It’s possible to borrow every cent you need to finance your education anywhere you want to go to school. But it’s crucial to ask whether you should. Getting in over your head with student loan debt can have catastrophic consequences. I’m living proof.

I needed a doctorate for my original career plan of teaching college. But few college professors earn enough income to manage the types of monthly payments I had along with other living expenses. That’s how I ended up in the deferment-forbearance cycle.

And it’s not easy to get out of. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program I was counting on and how colleges operate, my teaching position doesn’t qualify me for forgiveness. Additionally, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is currently so difficult it’s nearly impossible. And settling federal student loans isn’t any easier. 

The first step to reducing overwhelming student loan debt is to exhaust every other means of paying for college, including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Search online for scholarship aid using a national scholarship database like Fastweb.

And never count on options like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Historically, the government’s made it nearly impossible to get. Do your homework to increase your chances of getting it and apply for it if you qualify. But don’t base your student loan repayment strategy on it.

Additionally, consider less expensive colleges. State schools tend to give most students the best value. It only matters where you go to college for a select few graduates, such as those looking to build connections with specific financial or law firms. 

Finally, do a cost-benefit analysis. I found out the hard way all degrees don’t pay off, so as much as you want to pursue your passion, it might not be worth it financially.

Search sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out how much you can reasonably expect to make in your chosen field and compare that to the cost of school. As a rule, don’t borrow more than you can expect to earn as your annual salary your first year out of school. That ensures you can pay it off in 10 years or less. 

Mistake 3: Not Understanding How Loan Forgiveness Works

Historically, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been notoriously difficult to qualify for. The program was overhauled in the fall of 2021. But until then, only 2% of applicants who believed they qualified had their loans forgiven.

Much of that is likely due to bureaucratic mismanagement, hence the overhaul. However, the mismanagement led tens of thousands of borrowers into making payments under the wrong repayment programs. 

On Oct. 6, 2021, the government announced Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which allows previously nonqualifying payments to be counted toward loan forgiveness as long as those payments are certified before Oct. 31, 2022.

But moving forward, it’s crucial that borrowers are clear about the rules of loan forgiveness. You don’t want to find out after 10 years that your application is ineligible and you have to start all over.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must:

  • Have Federal Direct Loans. Private loans don’t qualify for forgiveness, nor do other types of federal loans, such as Perkins loans. If your federal loans aren’t direct loans, you can consolidate them into a direct loan to qualify. 
  • Work Full-Time for the Government or a Nonprofit. Payments only qualify while you’re employed full-time for an American federal, state, local, or tribal government or qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. That includes military service, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps but excludes labor unions and partisan political organizations.
  • Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Program. No other repayment options qualify. But even if your income is so low your calculated payment under the plan is $0, being enrolled qualifies you. 
  • Make 120 Qualifying Payments. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they must qualify, meaning you have to make them under an income-based plan.
  • Submit the Forgiveness Certification Form Regularly. You must fill out and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program certification form yearly and each time you switch employers. While not required, doing so ensures the payments you’re making qualify for forgiveness and allows you to make any changes you need to before you’ve made too many nonqualifying payments.

See all the rules at StudentAid.gov. 

Mistake 4: Taking Out the Wrong Type of Loan

There’s more than one type of student loan. But it’s generally best to exhaust your resources for federal aid before turning to alternatives. 

That said, while rare, some students may find the caps on how much you can borrow in federal direct loans don’t cover the total cost of attendance. 

Fortunately, graduate students and parents of undergrads can borrow PLUS loans up to the total cost of attendance. So there’s no need for many students to resort to other sources. If that’s not an option for you, students can sometimes borrow from their state government or the school they plan to attend. 

But the primary source of alternative loans for student borrowers is private student loans from banks or credit unions.

Federal student loans almost always win out over private student loans because of their lower fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, borrower protections, and the potential for forgiveness.

But if you’re planning to borrow PLUS loans and definitely won’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, it’s worth it to find out whether you could get a better deal on a private loan if you have excellent credit. 

Mistake 5: Not Shopping Around for the Best Interest Rate & Terms

If you decide to borrow private student loans, always shop around for the best loan you can qualify for.

Private lenders compete for your business. So going with the first lender you find could mean leaving a better rate on the table.

Use a comparison site like Credible, which matches you with prequalified rates from up to eight lenders with only a soft inquiry on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your credit score. That way, you can compare all your student loan options in one place. 

But it’s not only interest rates that should matter to your bottom line. The best private student loan companies offer various borrower perks in addition to low rates.   

For example, most lenders reduce your interest rate when you enroll in autopay. And some reduce your rate even further with loyalty discounts for doing other business with them, such as opening bank accounts or taking out personal loans. 

Some lenders also offer perks for specific borrowers, such as special payment plans for medical and dental students during their residencies. And some even offer unique perks like free financial coaching or career planning services.  

Just remember to read all the fine print so you know exactly what loan terms you’re agreeing to before you sign. For example, it may lack options for deferment if you fall on hard times or a co-signer release option. Don’t be lured by a shiny interest rate on its own.  

Mistake 6: Not Understanding How Variable & Fixed Interest Rates Work

The rate is only one piece of the interest puzzle. How that rate works also affects how much accrues over time. 

For example, all federal student loans come with fixed interest rates set each year by law. That means the rate stays the same for the life of the loan, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the interest rate during the year you borrowed. 

But some private student loans have variable interest rates. These fluctuate with market conditions. Although the variable rates are generally the lowest offered rates, it’s because the borrower is assuming the risk that the rate won’t go up, which is likely if you take 10 or more years to repay your student loans.

If you already have a variable-rate private loan, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan while rates are low. 

And once you start making payments, contact the student loan company to find out if there are any ways to lower the interest rate, like signing up for an autopay discount.

Mistake 7: Not Understanding Interest Accrual & Capitalization

Another factor to consider is when the interest begins to accrue (accumulate). On subsidized federal loans, that doesn’t happen until after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Thus, whatever you borrowed is what you owe up until the day you’re no longer enrolled full time. 

But interest on unsubsidized federal and private loans starts the moment you get the money. So on graduation day, you owe a higher balance than you originally borrowed.

Worse, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance as though it were part of what you borrowed) once you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Since interest accrues according to the principal, that means you’ll then be earning interest on the interest.

Fortunately, you can reduce or even eliminate the burden interest can cause. Make small monthly interest payments while you’re still in school. That ensures none accrues and capitalizes on graduation. 

If you have to, take on a part-time job. As long as you keep it to part-time hours, it shouldn’t interfere with your studies, and a well-chosen college job comes with numerous benefits, like teaching you the money management skills you need to pay off those loans after college. 

Mistake 8: Co-Signing a Loan Without Understanding the Consequences

In some cases, a co-signer can help a student qualify for a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

But co-signing their loan comes with a great deal of risk. You’re taking on equal responsibility for the loan. That means if they make a late payment or miss one entirely, it could impact your credit score. And if they default on the loan, the loan company will come after you for the balance.

And it doesn’t matter how responsible or well-intentioned the borrower is. No one can predict the future, and they could fall on hard times. 

There are several programs designed to help people who have trouble paying back federal loans — if they enroll in them. But private lenders are especially hard to work with. Either way, there are risks associated with co-signing for a student loan. 

If you do agree to co-sign, ask them to look for a company with a co-signer release option, which absolves you of responsibility for the debt after the student makes a certain number of on-time monthly payments.

If not getting help means they can’t attend college, a parent PLUS loan gives you more control than co-signing a private loan. You can borrow up to the total cost of their attendance, but the loan will be in your name. 

If you want, you can still agree that they’re responsible for paying you back (though that agreement isn’t legally enforceable). Plus, if you experience financial hardship, you have access to federal repayment plans and borrower protections.

However, don’t sacrifice retirement savings or go into debt paying for your kids’ college. It could leave you unprepared, potentially placing a financial burden on them later.

Mistake 9: Putting Off Making a Repayment Plan

Many borrowers get lulled into thinking they can wait until after they graduate and their six-month grace period ends before they have to start worrying about their student loans. But you need to prepare your budget long before then.

A student loan payment could easily be $400 per month (maybe more). That’s a hefty chunk of anyone’s take-home pay. But recent grads won’t make as much as established professionals in any field. 

And if you don’t think about it for the first six months post-graduation, it’s easy to establish a post-college life that doesn’t leave room for it, such as upgrading your apartment or buying a new car.

Before you graduate, find out what your monthly payment will be. You can check your student loan balance by creating a student account at StudentAid.gov.

Then, build the rest of your post-college budget around your monthly student loan payment. That ensures you won’t take on more financial obligations than you can afford. Unfortunately, that may mean living that ramen-eating college lifestyle for the first couple of years after you graduate. 

Mistake 10: Choosing the Wrong Repayment Plan

The automatic student loan repayment schedule is 10 years of fixed payments, but it’s not the best option for all borrowers.

You don’t want to string out payments for decades unless it’s necessary. But income-driven repayment plans, which forgive any remaining balance after you make 240 to 300 (20 to 25 years) of qualifying payments, may be a saving grace for borrowers with high debt and low income. 

And for those entering public service fields, an income-driven repayment plan is the gateway to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives any remaining balance in as few as 120 qualifying payments. 

But even if you stick to the standard 10-year plan, you still have options. 

For example, you can repay your loans on a graduated plan, which lets you make smaller payments at the beginning. Your payments then gradually rise every two years. This plan is ideal for those who must start in a lower-paying job but expect their income to increase substantially as they gain work experience.

Use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov to see how much you can expect to repay under different repayment plans. It shows your monthly payments, total amount owed, and any potential balance you could have forgiven under an income-driven repayment plan as well as the date you can expect to have your loans paid off.

Use this information to weigh your options. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it better to pay off your loans as quickly as possible by sticking to the standard 10-year plan? Is that realistic at your current income? 
  • How big will your payments be 10 years down the line if you opt for graduated repayment? Are you likely to make enough money for that to be practical? 
  • Is it better to make your current situation more manageable through an income-driven or extended repayment plan? 

Lowering your monthly payment will have consequences since it means more interest will accrue. But the loan simulator can give you an accurate picture of what those consequences will look like. 

Mistake 11: Only Making the Minimum Payment

The longer you sit on debt, the more it costs you thanks to the interest. So if you have any wiggle room in your budget, put whatever money you can toward your student loans to pay them off as quickly as possible. 

Even small amounts can make a big difference.

For example, if you borrowed $40,000 in student loans at 6% interest, your monthly payment would be $444. But if you paid $500 a month instead — a difference of only $56 — you’d save $1,957 in interest and have them repaid a year sooner.

If you can, opt for a side gig or cut your expenses. Additionally, put any windfalls — like tax refunds, gifts, or inheritances — toward your loans.  

But this is key: When you make any extra payments toward your loans, ensure you indicate the company should apply it to the principal. The more you pay down the principal, the less interest accumulates.

Mistake 12: Refinancing Without Considering the Pros & Cons

Refinancing is a common strategy for lowering the cost of debt, whether it’s a mortgage refinance or a student loan. But while refinancing can score you a lower interest rate, interest rates aren’t the only consideration.

When you refinance a student loan, you can only do so through a private refinance lender. That means you lose access to all the benefits of federal student loans, including federal repayment plans, borrower protections, generous deferment and forbearance options, and federal loan forgiveness. 

It may still be worth it to you, depending on the rate you can get. But it’s crucial to weigh that against all you’d be giving up.

Even if the private interest rate is lower, the future is unpredictable, and you never know if you could need those federal benefits. And you’ll lose all access to federal loan forgiveness with a refinance.

On the other hand, if you have private student loans, there’s no reason not to refinance. 

Mistake 13: Postponing Payments Unnecessarily

Both federal and private student loans have multiple options for deferment and forbearance. These allow you to temporarily suspend payments for various reasons, including full-time enrollment in school, economic hardship, military deployment, and serving in AmeriCorps. 

Sometimes, deferment or forbearance makes sense, such as while you’re enrolled in school. But prolonged use of these options just increases your overall balance because interest keeps piling up. 

Interest accrues on all but subsidized federal loans during deferments. And it accrues on all loans during forbearance. Additionally, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment or forbearance. 

Only use these options when absolutely necessary. And if possible, make interest payments during periods of deferment or forbearance to prevent its accrual. 

If you’re deferring or forbearing for economic hardship and anticipate the hardship will last longer than a month or two, apply for an income-driven plan instead. 

Depending on the severity of your situation, your monthly payments could be calculated as low as $0. And some plans don’t capitalize interest and even have interest subsidies, which means the government covers the interest on your loans for a specified period.  

Additionally, those $0 “payments” count toward potential student loan forgiveness. But only periods of economic hardship deferment count toward the forgiveness clock. No other form of deferment or forbearance qualifies. And there’s a cap on how long you can defer for economic hardship.

Plus, if your financial situation changes, you can always change your repayment plan. 

Mistake 14: Missing Payments

Missing payments can result in late fees. The student loan company tacks these onto your next month’s minimum payment. So if you had a hard time paying this month, it won’t be easier next month. 

Plus, when you make your next payment, your money covers fees and interest before going toward the principal. So multiple fees could mean paying your principal down slower. And interest accrues according to the principal balance, so the higher you keep that balance, the more interest you pay.

Worse, if you miss enough payments, it can result in a default of your loans, which comes with severe consequences, such as damaged credit or wage garnishment or seizure of your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or property. 

There’s never a reason to miss a payment on a federal student loan if you’re facing financial hardship. Simply call the company and let them know. Depending on what you qualify for, you can choose from multiple options, including deferment, forbearance, or an income-driven repayment plan.

Private lenders are tougher to work with, as fewer repayment options are available. But many are still willing to work with you if you explain the situation. Most of the top lenders have limited programs for deferment or forbearance in times of economic hardship. 

Mistake 15: Keeping Your Assigned Payment Due Date

Student loan companies allow you to adjust your monthly due date. That can be helpful if you’re having trouble stretching your dollars from one paycheck to the next.

Plus, if your bills are anything like mine, most of them are due at the same time of month. Thus, if you get paid biweekly, adjusting your due date to a different time of the month can make things easier.  

If you want a different due date, contact the company handling your student loans and ask if you can adjust your due date to one more beneficial for you. You may even be able to change it through your online account.

Ensure you get confirmation of the new date in writing. That protects you if you get hit with any late fees in error. Additionally, ask when the new date takes effect. It could take a billing cycle or two, depending on the lender. 

Mistake 16: Falling for Student Loan Scams

Many borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and texts offering them relief from their student loans or warning them federal forgiveness programs will end soon if they don’t act now.

But the services these scam debt relief companies offer usually steal borrowers’ money or private information rather than grant any actual relief. 

Other student loan scams take fees for helping students apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidate their loans. However, borrowers never have to pay to sign up for any federal repayment programs. They only need to contact the company in charge of their loan.

In general, if someone contacts you, avoid giving them any personal information. No matter who they claim to be, either tell them to send their request in writing or say you’ll call them back. Then verify their story by contacting your student loan company at their listed phone number or through their website.

Additionally, never pay an upfront fee for student loan services. The government doesn’t charge application fees for any of their loan programs. They also won’t claim an offer is only available for a limited time since all the terms are set by law every year and are available to all students.

For more red flags to watch for, check out the Department of Education’s tips on avoiding student loan scams. 

Mistake 17: Forgetting to Update Your Contact Information

You are responsible for making all your loan payments whether you received the bill or not. Additionally, the lender in charge of your loan can change, and you need to ensure you’re able to receive that information so you always know who to contact about paying and managing your loans.

Thus, it’s on borrowers to ensure the company in charge of their student loans has all their current contact information, including mailing address, email address, and phone number. That’s especially the case if you moved after you graduated or listed a parent’s address on your application forms.

Log into your student loan account to ensure your contact information is current. 

If you don’t know who services your student loans, check with your school’s financial aid office. For federal loans, you can always create an account on StudentAid.gov.

Then, each time you move, get a new email address or change your number, update that info with the company handling your student loans.

Mistake 18: Not Asking for Help

Paying off student loans can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with low income or a large amount of debt. Depending on your circumstance, it could feel like you’re drowning and may never escape.

Trust me, I know how it feels. And I’m hardly alone. A simple online search reveals dozens of stories of borrowers who’ve consistently paid on their loans yet owe more than ever thanks to the compounding effects of interest, which often feels like quicksand. 

But paying late or not at all only makes the situation worse. Damage to your credit report can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a job. And default can leave you subject to wage garnishment, steep collection penalties, and even lawsuits.  

But hope isn’t lost. There is help. Resources exist for borrowers who need an extra hand.

The first step is to reach out to the student loan company. See if there’s a payment plan that’s manageable for you. Even if there isn’t, let them know what payment you can afford, and go from there. 

If the company is uncooperative, contact the federal student loan ombudsman. 

Borrowers can also reach out to nonprofit student loan counselors, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. These organizations work with borrowers to help them figure out the best strategies for dealing with their loans and overall financial health. 

Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point of needing to settle your student loans or file for bankruptcy, seek an attorney who specializes in student loans. For private student loan help, try The National Association of Consumer Advocates. For federal student loans, search the American Bar Association.


Final Word

The United States is currently experiencing a student loan crisis because of how the debt has impacted American lives.

It’s affected borrowers’ ability to save for retirement and buy a home. It’s also impacted people’s ability to start a family or even choose a job for passion over a paycheck.

And it can do so for decades. Many millennials who’ve entered middle age continue to face debt repayment. And many feel college wasn’t worth it as a result.

But you don’t have to be one of these statistics. I write about student loans precisely to help others avoid my mistakes. Learn from this list so you can borrow wisely and avoid overwhelming student loan debt.  

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

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Public Defender or Private Attorney: Which Should You Use?

“Mr. Beaver, should we hire a private attorney or insist that our son, ‘Tom,’ just ask for a public defender for his possession of a controlled substance charge? He was arrested with several other young men in a car that had illegal drugs in the passenger compartment. 

“We own an automotive and commercial truck parts delivery service.  Tom is 25, works as one of our drivers, and it is my hope that he will take over the business.

“My wife says that he needs to deal with this on his own, and as he can’t afford a private attorney, to ask for a public defender, but he yelled, ‘Public defenders are second-rate lawyers!’

“We succeeded in enabling him to have an entitled attitude, and this scares us. I know that you began your law career as a deputy district attorney, so, what’s your recommendation? Does it really make a difference if he uses a PD? Thanks, Terry.”

Bite the Bullet! The Consequences of a Drug Charge are Real

I ran this often-asked question by Denver-based criminal defense attorney Peter Lloyd Weber. His law practice concentrates on drug transportation and distribution.

“Where a family is facing the dilemma between teaching their kid a lesson and saving money — or biting the bullet and hiring a private attorney — there is really no choice as the collateral consequences of a drug conviction are so great,” he says.

“It can result in his being unable to obtain certain kinds of employment, licenses, may impact his credit rating, make it impossible to join the military, dramatically increase auto and homeowners insurance rates — in short, nothing good comes from a drug conviction.

“Especially where Tom’s parents expect him to take over their delivery business, a drug record is the last thing in the world they should risk.”

A Parade of Defendants Pleading Guilty

I recall as a deputy D.A. the parade of defendants represented by the Public Defender’s office or appointed counsel who, in my opinion based on what I saw, were induced to take plea deals on potentially defensible cases. And it wasn’t because these lawyers were lazy or incompetent.

Rather, it had to do with the economics of time. In fact, many articles have been written — –going back years — sympathetic to what faces these dedicated attorneys who want to help their clients. 

But when you are given a huge caseload and lack adequate time and resources, justice suffers.

Weber agrees.

“This does not mean that public defenders are bad lawyers, far from it,” he says, “But you’ve got to look at the reality of having a PD or appointed counsel as your defense attorney. It often comes down to getting what you pay for.

“Public defenders are government employees and generally, across the country, are significantly underpaid. In fact, some are so badly paid they would qualify for a PD!

“So, it is a perfect storm of the millions of people who can’t afford to hire an attorney for their criminal defense, given a PDs or equally low-paid appointed counsel — all of them juggling massive caseloads.

“Often these lawyers meet with their clients a few minutes before entering a plea. The results are negotiated pleas in almost all of their cases, due primarily to their huge caseload.

“It is common for PDs to plead their clients to years in jail with little more than a brief conversation beforehand. They simply do not have the time, energy and attention necessary to formulate a legal defense that could have prevented or minimized the impact of a conviction,” He maintains.

Advantages of Privately Retained Counsel

There are many advantages in hiring your own lawyer, and a main one is that clients can expect adequate time to be devoted to the case in addition to support staff, including private investigators — typically retired from law enforcement — and technical experts who are able to challenge evidence against their client.  These all cost money, but as Weber observes, “They level the playing field.”

On the nightly news, we see body cam police video. He asks, “Do you think that public defenders or appointed counsel have the time to watch what could be hours of video? Often they do not. A privately retained lawyer will take the time to examine all avenues that help the client.”

Flat Rate or Hourly?

“Stories of defense attorneys being paid thousands of dollars upfront and then just walking their client through a guilty plea are common and are so unfair,” he underscores.

“Don’t let fear interfere with your common sense about the cost of hiring a lawyer. We can only charge reasonable rates, and with that in mind, I recommend that clients strongly consider paying by the hour — on a time-based approach — instead of one large flat fee.”

And what does he like most about his job?

“What I do is more than a job; it is a calling. People phone me every day asking for help. I never charge for phone consultations. When someone contacts a criminal defense attorney, this could be one of the worst times in their lives, and they should be able to talk with a lawyer without worrying if they can pay for that time on the phone.”         

Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to  (661) 323-7993 or e-mailed to [email protected] And be sure to visit www.dennisbeaver.com.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com

Best Online Life Insurance Companies for 2022

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Additional Resources

In the old days, applying for life insurance was tedious, time-consuming, and stressful. The process took weeks to complete, much of that spent waiting on the results of a medical exam. And you didn’t know how much your policy would cost until everything was said and done — or even if you’d qualify for a policy at all.

Fortunately, the old days are over, at least for life insurance applicants who apply online. Also known as algorithmic underwriters or algorithmic insurance companies, online life insurance companies give you an up-or-down decision within minutes, often without a medical exam or many questions about your medical history. You can apply over lunch or dinner and then get on with life.

Best Online Life Insurance Companies

Not all online life insurance companies are created equal, of course. These are among the very best.

Each of the companies on this list does at least one thing really well, and our top pick offers the best overall value for the widest number of potential applicants. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Best Overall: Ladder

Ladder Life Insurance Logo

Ladder is one of the best life insurance companies. It tops our list of the best online life insurance companies thanks to a potent collection of strengths:

  • Up to $3 million in term life insurance coverage without a medical exam — double what most competitors allow
  • In-home medical exams for policies larger than $3 million — the application process remains all-online otherwise
  • Choose from 10- to 30-year term coverage options
  • Option to scale down coverage over time without reapplying
  • Approval within minutes for many applicants
  • Backed by national insurers with strong financial strength ratings

Best for Fast Approval: Bestow

Bestow Life Insurance Logo

Bestow earns its spot as one of the best no-exam life insurance companies thanks to a streamlined digital application and underwriting process that produces results in as little as five minutes. If Bestow doesn’t need any additional information from you, you can apply for life insurance and get an up-or-down approval decision during your coffee break.

Its features include:

  • Term life insurance only
  • Term lengths from 10 to 30 years
  • Policy death benefits as low as $50,000
  • Coverage up to $1.5 million per policy with no medical exam required
  • Open to applicants ages 18 to 60
  • A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from A.M. Best

Best Premium Membership Rider: Haven Life

Haven Life Logo 1

Haven Life is one of the best online term life insurance companies around, but it really shines for a reason that’s not directly related to insurance. Haven Life offers the best premium membership rider — an optional add-on filled with potentially valuable features.

That rider is Haven Life Plus. It’s free to policyholders wherever it’s offered and provides at least $150 in annual value to policyholders. It includes:

  • A customizable and legally binding will that you can store online
  • A subscription to Adaptiv, a workout video and music library
  • A subscription to Timeshifter, an app designed to fight jet lag
  • A subscription to Lifesuite, a secure digital storage vault
  • A 15% discount on eligible MinuteClinic products and services

Haven Life has some additional features worth noting, including:

  • Term life coverage up to $3 million with a medical exam
  • No-exam coverage up to $500,000 through Haven Simple
  • AgeUp, an annuity product that can supplement your retirement income after you turn 90

Best for Nontraditional Underwriting: Sproutt

Sproutt Life Insurance Logo

Sproutt is an online life insurance broker that uses an innovative model called the Quality of Life Index (QL Index) to assess life insurance applicants’ risk. 

While it doesn’t completely replace traditional considerations in Sproutt’s application process — or in the underwriting processes of the insurers Sproutt works with — the QL Index goes beyond the usual medical and lifestyle information to consider factors like:

  • How often you exercise and what kind of exercise you do
  • How much and how well you sleep
  • Your emotional health
  • Your eating habits and overall nutrition
  • Your work-life balance

Additional features:

  • Access to fully medically underwritten term life, no-exam life (simple issue life insurance), and guaranteed issue life insurance
  • Multiple types of permanent life insurance available, including whole, universal, and variable universal
  • Get quotes within minutes
  • Apply directly with the insurer with help from Sproutt agents 

Best for Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance: Ethos

Ethos Life Insurance Logo

Ethos is rare among online life insurance companies because it offers permanent life insurance. Most competitors stick with term life.

Ethos’ permanent life insurance offering is a low-value whole life insurance policy for people between the ages of 66 and 85. Its features include:

  • Death benefit between $1,000 and $30,000
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance, meaning you can’t be turned down for medical reasons
  • No expiration, meaning the policy is effective until you die or stop paying premiums
  • Guaranteed level premiums, meaning your premiums won’t increase over time
  • Accidental death is covered right away
  • Nonaccidental death coverage kicks in two to three years after the policy effective date in most cases

Ethos’s term life offering is no slouch either. Its benefits include:

  • Amount of coverage ranges from $20,000 to $1.5 million
  • 10- to 30-year terms
  • Guaranteed renewable after the term ends, albeit at a higher premium

Best for Higher Coverage Limits: Fabric

Fabric Life Insurance

Fabric offers online life insurance policies with coverage up to $5 million. That’s an unusually high limit for a streamlined, all-online application process. And Fabric offers a no-exam option for applicants with uncomplicated health histories, although not up to the $5 million coverage limit.

Additional features:

  • Accidental death coverage available up to $500,000
  • A+ (Superior) financial strength rating
  • Low pricing, with monthly rates starting as low as $1 for $1 million in coverage
  • Will-making services available
  • Secure online vault for financial and personal documents at no additional cost

Best for Price Transparency: Walnut

Walnut Life Insurance Logo

Walnut sets itself apart with what it calls “price-first” term life insurance. Basically, you know how much you’ll pay for 10-year term coverage before you apply, making it easier to fit a new monthly payment into your budget (or decide to go a different direction). You never have to take a medical exam as a condition of coverage.

Walnut also offers a broad lineup of value-adds through a premium membership program included in the cost of insurance. Starting at $10 per month, this includes subscriptions to:

  • Headspace Plus, an app offering guided meditation and self-directed therapy
  • ClassPass Digital, a library of home workout videos
  • Dashlane Premium, a password manager and auto-fill app

According to Walnut, this package is a $25 monthly value. If you want even more, upgrade to a Digital Protection membership for an additional monthly fee and enjoy:

  • 24/7 access to a cyber support helpline
  • Up to $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement if you’re the victim of identity theft

Best Online Broker for Life Insurance Only: Quotacy

Quotacy Life Insurance

Quotacy is an online insurance broker specializing in life insurance quotes. In fact, a life insurance quote is the only type of insurance quote you can get through Quotacy. 

Quotacy’s narrow focus on life insurance gives it some advantages over other online insurance brokers:

  • Access to term life policies as long as 40 years — elsewhere, policies generally top out at 30 years
  • Access to a variety of types of life insurance, including term life
  • Multiple permanent life insurance options, including whole life policies and universal life policies
  • A five-minute, all-online quote creation process
  • Dedicated agents who understand life insurance
  • A vast insurer network that ensures competitive life insurance rates

Best Online Broker for Other Policy Types and Bundles: Policygenius

Policygenius Logo

Policygenius is an all-purpose online insurance quote aggregator. Unlike Quotacy, it focuses on a variety of different types of insurance, including: 

If you’re shopping for more than one type of insurance right now, Policygenius is your best choice for fast answers. And if you’re paired with a life insurance provider that offers other types of insurance too, there’s a good chance Policygenius can hook you up with a money-saving bundle discount. 


Methodology: How We Select the Best Online Life Insurance Companies

We use several criteria to evaluate online life insurance companies and select the very best for our readers. Some relate to the application process or policy underwriting, while others speak to the overall user experience and quality of the insurers themselves.

Financial Strength and Customer Satisfaction

Third-party financial strength ratings assess insurers’ ability to pay out death benefits in the future. When possible, we use ratings from A.M. Best, a highly respected rating agency that specializes in the insurance industry.

Customer satisfaction is another important measure of insurer quality. The top authority for customer satisfaction ratings in this industry is J.D. Power, which ranks life insurance companies and life insurance products annually.

Policy Types Available

Many online life insurance companies offer term life insurance only. Those insurers that also offer permanent life insurance coverage generally require medical underwriting for it, lengthening the application process.

That said, if you prefer to have both options available when you apply, you’ll want to focus your attention on insurers that can accommodate.

Term Options

Online term life insurance policies typically range from 10 to 30 years. Some insurers offer shorter-term policies, down to five or even two years. 

Unless otherwise specified in the terms of the policy, you can renew your policy once the initial term expires. However, this may require another round of underwriting and will definitely involve a higher premium.

No-Medical-Exam Options

One of the core benefits of online life insurance is the seamless application process. This process is helped along in many cases by a lack of medical underwriting. 

The insurer might ask some basic questions about your personal and family medical history and lifestyle. It’ll check your answers against your health records as well. But it won’t require you to undergo a medical exam as a condition of coverage.

No-medical-exam coverage costs more than fully medically underwritten coverage because it provides less information about your risk of premature death. However, this is a price many would-be policyholders are willing to pay, especially if they have reason to believe a medical exam would turn up health-related red flags.

The best insurers for no-exam coverage have high coverage limits — above $1 million — and terms of at least 20 years for younger and middle-aged applicants.

Coverage Amount (Death Benefit)

Online life insurance death benefits typically range from as low as $25,000 to $50,000 for final expenses insurance to upwards of $1.5 million. If you have higher life insurance needs, look to an insurer that can accommodate — Haven Life’s coverage amounts range up to $3 million, for example.

Policy Add-ons (Riders)

Many online life insurance companies offer policy add-ons, also known as riders. Some of the most common include:

  • Return of premium riders, which reimburse the policyholder for premiums paid during the policy term
  • Accelerated death benefit, which allows terminally ill policyholders to claim a portion of the death benefit before they die
  • Accidental death rider, which pays out an additional death benefit if the policyholder dies in an accident covered by the rider

Online Life Insurance FAQs

You have questions about getting life insurance online. We have answers.

Do You Need to Get a Medical Exam When You Apply for Life Insurance Online?

Often, no. If you’re applying for a life insurance policy worth less than $500,000, you probably won’t have to get a medical exam if you don’t want to. Many insurers offer no-medical-exam coverage as high as $1 million or $1.5 million, and a few go higher still — up to $2 million or $3 million.

That said, if your top concern is paying as little as possible for coverage and you have no known health issues, opt for the medical exam. As long as the exam doesn’t raise any red flags about your health, you’ll pay less for a policy that requires one.

How Much Does Online Life Insurance Cost?

How much you pay for an online life insurance policy depends on a number of factors:

  • The policy value — coverage amount or death benefit
  • The policy term — the longer the term, the higher the premium
  • The type of policy — term life is always cheaper than permanent life
  • Your personal medical history
  • Your family medical history
  • The results of your life insurance medical exam if you take one
  • Your age when you apply
  • Your lifestyle, including whether you use or have ever used tobacco and whether you have any risky hobbies

The best way to estimate your life insurance cost is to use an online quote aggregator like Policygenius or Quotacy. 

What Do You Need to Apply for Life Insurance Online?

To apply for life insurance online, you’ll need some or all of the following:

  • A good idea of how much life insurance you need
  • Basic personal information, like your address and Social Security number
  • Basic financial information, such as your annual income
  • Your height and weight
  • Your recent medical history
  • Information about your lifestyle and personal habits

If required, you’ll need to take a medical exam in the days or weeks after you send in your initial application for coverage. Many insurers offer in-home exams, but some ask you to visit a testing facility. 

You’ll also need to give your consent for the insurer to pull your Medical Information Bureau file. This file contains important information about your medical history and previous insurance applications, helping would-be insurers check the information you provide on your application against the public record.  

Is Life Insurance Worth It?

Often, yes. One of the most harmful myths about life insurance is that only certain people need it, such as parents of young children or people with lots of debt. In fact, there are many reasons to buy life insurance:

  • Covering final expenses, such as funeral and burial costs
  • Preventing major debts from passing to a surviving spouse or partner
  • Covering higher costs borne by survivors, such as child care and health insurance
  • Covering future education expenses for your children
  • Protecting your business partners’ financial interests
  • Maintaining your survivors’ standard of living
  • Creating a store of cash value that you can borrow against during your lifetime

Chances are, at least one of these reasons applies to you. And if that’s the case, some form of life insurance is probably worth it.


How to Choose the Best Online Life Insurance Company

These are the best online life insurance companies on the market right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. The best choice for your life insurance needs might not be the best choice for your neighbor — or even your spouse.

To choose the best online life insurer for you, think about why you’re applying for life insurance in the first place.

Do you want an affordable term life policy that lasts until you pay off your house in 15 years? Do you want to make sure your future kids’ college education is paid for, 20 or 25 years down the road? Do you want a policy that lasts indefinitely, creating a cash value reserve that you can tap as you age and possibly establishing generational wealth for your heirs?

Likewise, think about what you want out of your relationship with your insurer, beginning with the application process. Are you willing to pay more to forgo medical underwriting? Or do you prefer a seamless, super-fast application process that produces an answer — and an active policy — within minutes?

It’s your call. Fortunately, you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list.

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Source: moneycrashers.com

10 Ways to Turn Off Potential Buyers

As a result of our obsession with photos and visuals today, buyers make judgments of homes immediately. Many will do their first showing online, so if your photos turn them off, they may never step foot inside.

Sellers need to go to great lengths to get buyers in the door. If you can get them through, it’s the small (and often obvious) things that will keep them interested. Though it’s a home first and foremost, it’s also an investment. Make changes or alterations that could turn off a buyer, and you risk hurting your bottom line.

If you’re planning to put your house on the market, be aware of these 10 ways you might be turning off potential buyers.

1. Turn your garage into a family room.

A family room might be attractive – to a family. But if you’ve sacrificed the garage, the trade-off might be a turn-off, especially to people who don’t have kids or who live in dense urban areas, where parking is at a premium. Even in the suburbs, most people want a covered, secure place to park their cars.

Don’t forget that a garage often doubles as a storage location, housing everything from the lawn mower to excess paper towels and cleansers. If you go glam with your garage, you’re likely to force a buyer to look elsewhere.

2. Convert a bedroom into a something other than a bedroom.

Aside from location and price, one of the first things a buyer searches for is number of bedrooms. Why? Because it’s a fundamental requirement.

You might think that having a wine cellar with built-in refrigerators in your home will make it attractive to potential buyers because it was attractive to you. But that’s not for everyone.

And while it’s true many people work from home today, at least part of the time, that doesn’t mean they want a dedicated home office -especially one with built-in desks or bookcases they can’t easily remove.

If you must convert a bedroom into something else, make sure you can readily change it back into a bedroom when you go to sell. If you have lots of bedrooms, buyers might be more forgiving. But a buyer who needs three might see your custom home office as a turn-off.

3. Lay down carpet over hardwood floors.

People like hardwood floors. They look cleaner, add a design element, don’t show dirt as much, and consumers with allergies prefer them over carpets.

If you have gleaming hardwood floors, show them off. Let the buyer decide if she wants to cover them. It’s easier for her to purchase new carpeting of her choosing than to get past yours.

4. Install over-the-top light fixtures.

A beautiful chandelier can enliven a dining room. But it can also turn off buyers who prefer simpler, less ornate fixtures.

Did you fall in love with a dark light fixture on a trip to Casablanca? That’s great. And you should use it for your enjoyment. But when it comes time to sell, replace it with something more neutral.

Remember, you want to appeal to the masses when your home is for sale. You want to stand out from a crowded field of sellers – but in the right way.

5. Turn your kid’s room into a miniature theme park.

Little kids have big imaginations. They tend to love Disney characters, spaceships, and superheroes, and their parents are often all-too-willing to turn their rooms into fantasy caves.

But the more you transform a child’s bedroom into something resembling a Disneyland ride, the more you’ll turn off most potential buyers. Your buyer might have teenage children, and see the removal of wallpaper, paint or little-kid-inspired light fixtures as too much work.

If you can, neutralize the kids’ rooms before you go on the market.

6. Add an above-ground pool.

Does it get hot in the summer where you live? Wish you had a backyard pool, but can’t afford to have a “real” pool installed? Then you might be tempted to buy and set up an above-ground pool.

For most buyers, though, these pools are an eyesore. Also, an above-ground pool can leave a big dead spot of grass in your backyard – another eyesore.

If you must have it, consider dismantling it before going on the market. Of course, be sure you’re ready to sell, or you may be stuck without a place to cool off next summer.

7. Leave dirty dishes in the sink.

A kitchen full of dirty dishes is not only unattractive, but it sends a strong message to the buyer: You don’t care about your home.

shutterstock_3339927

If your home is for sale, buyers will be coming through, and you want to impress them. Would you keep dirty dishes in the sink for your in-laws or overnight guests? Probably not. Then why wouldn’t you clean up for your potential customers?

Putting your home up for sale, and keeping it on the market, is work. If you aren’t cut out for it, considering holding off until you are ready to clean up for the buyers.

8. Make buyers take off their shoes.

This turn-off cuts both ways. As an agent, I always hated being forced to take my shoes off in someone else’s home - until I sold my own. Not only was it inconvenient, but also I wasn’t happy about my socks picking up a random homeowner’s dirt, pet hair and dust.

Once I became a first-time home seller, and one with sparkling new hardwood floors and carpet, I couldn’t imagine allowing dirt and grime from the outside world to dirty up my floors.

So what’s the compromise? Shoe covers from a medical supply store. Buyers and agents don’t need to take off their shoes, simply cover them. It’s a win-win for everyone.

9. Smoke cigarettes in every room of your house – for years.

Over time, the smell of smoke permeates your home. It gets into the carpet, drapes, wood paneling - just about everywhere. And that’s a big turn-off to most buyers today.

Getting rid of the smoke smell can be a big job. If you’re a smoker, seriously consider how you want to present your home to the market. For a long-term smoke-filled home, it means painting, removing carpets, and doing lots of deep cleaning. If you don’t do it, don’t expect to get top dollar for your home.

10. Keep Fido’s bed and toys front and center.

Family pets bring a lot of joy to the home. But they don’t always bring the same joy to a prospective buyer. Dog’s toys, filled with saliva, dirt and dust, can be a sore both for the eyes and the nose.

If you have a pet, put a plan in place to move the food and water bowls as well as the toys and dog’s bed to a better location, like in the garage.

It’s your home – for now

Part of the joy of owning a home is that you can do whatever you want with it, to it, and in it. You should enjoy it. But if you want to sell it quickly and for top dollar down the road, try to picture how others might react to any renovations, additions or modifications you make.

The more specific you get – such as turning your kid’s room into a miniature castle – the harder it will be to sell your home later, and the less return on investment you’ll get. When considering changes to your home, always consider resale.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

How Risky is Investing in Rental Properties?

I am trying to buy as many rental properties as possible because of the great returns they provide. I am also trying to help other investors discover the fantastic world of investing in long-term rentals through my blog. However, I run into a lot of feedback from people who are worried about how risky it is to invest in rental properties. I hear: “my friend went broke investing in real estate” or “my parents had a rental and it was a money pit up until the day they were forced to sell it.” There are many horror stories involving real estate, but I have no doubt whatsoever long-term rentals are a great investment if you do your homework and buy properties right. Most of those horror stories come from people who did not do their homework, turned a personal residence into a rental out of necessity, or were hoping for appreciation. What are the real risks of rental properties and how can you mitigate these risks?

What are the main risks of investing in rental properties?

There are real risks with investing in rental properties. Many people felt the wrath of these risks in the last housing crash. Housing values plummeted and in some areas rents plummeted as well. Interestingly enough, not every area saw lower rental rates. Some areas saw rents increase because there were so many more renters (people who lost their houses) and the demand pushed rents up.

The investors who were hurt the most in the housing crash were those who were breaking even on their properties or losing money each month and hoping prices would increase to make money. When the bottom dropped out, they now had a property that was losing money each month and was worth less than they had bought it for. Many investors allowed these homes to go into foreclosure because they didn’t think they were worth keeping.

Other risks come from rentals when people buy a property and do not have enough cash to maintain the property or hold it when it is vacant. Most banks will require a certain amount of reserves when you get a loan on an investment property. But as soon as the property is purchased there is nothing stopping the owners from spending that reserve money. When you own a rental there will be times when the tenants move out, there can be evictions, and rarely a tenant can destroy a property. We see these situations occur quite often because people love to see drama but for the most part our tenants take care of our rentals and are awesome.

Why invest in rentals with these risks?

Rental properties have made me a ton of money over the last decade. Prices have increased significantly, which is great, but the properties also make money every month, and I always get a great deal on everything I buy which means I build equity on day one. There are many ways to mitigate the risks of rentals and the money I have made from my properties more than makes the risks worth it!

A lot of people will assume that when you are investing in large value assets like real estate and there can be huge returns, that the risk must be through the roof. There are types of real estate that can be very risky. We flip houses as well, and that is a much riskier venture than owning rental properties in my opinion. Development can also be much riskier but again come with huge rewards as well.

I also was an REO broker during the housing crash and I talked to many investors who lost homes. I was able to see why they lost their homes, what they could have done differently, and what happened after they lost their homes. For the most part, they bought houses that did not cash flow or make money every month and when things went bad they lost the motivation to keep paying into them. Losing the houses was also not the end of the world for these investors. Many of them had put little money down thanks to the crazy lending that was happening prior to that last crash. They were also able to keep those houses for quite a while after they stopped making payments. Many investors kept collecting rent during this time period which may or may not have been legal, but it did happen.

Many of those investors got right back in the real estate game after recovering and invested the right way with cash flow!

How can you mitigate the risk from rentals?

Buy below market value

One key to a low-risk rental strategy or any successful real estate strategy is to buy property below market value. Buying a property below market enables you to create instant equity, increase your net worth, and protects against a downturn in the market. One of the investors who was hurt badly during the crash was buying brand new houses and turning them into rentals. The houses were in great shape, but he paid full retail value for them.

When I buy rentals I want to pay at least 20% less than they are worth after considering any repairs are needed. For example:

  • A home needs $20,000 in repairs and will be worth $200,000 after those repairs. I want to pay $140,000 or less for that property ($200,000 x .80 – $20k). If I am flipping houses, I need to get an even better deal!

I also usually put about 20% down when I buy rentals which means after the property is repaired I have a loan around $110,000 and a property worth $200,000. Even if prices lost 30%, which is about how much they dropped across the county I am fine.

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Cash flow

I consider cash flow the most important factor in my long-term rental strategy. I want every property to make money each month after paying all expenses. Finding these properties that are also a great deal is not easy, but if you want to change your life with massive returns, it is not easy! When I invest I look for a return of 15% cash on cash. That means I make 15% on the money I have invested into the property. These are very high returns and not everyone needs to make this much but it is what I shoot for.

When you have cash flow coming in every month, it does not matter if values decrease because you do not need to sell the property. While it is true that rents can decrease and lower your cash flow, that is very rare and was even very rare in the last housing crash. There were some areas like Florida and Arizona that were massively overbuilt that saw lower rents, but the nation as a whole barely saw any drop.

My cash flow calculator can help you figure the real income on rentals.

Type of property

The older the property, the better the chance of a major repair needing to be done. I have enough cash flow coming in to account for major repairs, but homes over 100 years old can have issues come up that could wipe out all equity. It is rare, but a foundation or structural problem can make a property uninhabitable and cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. By purchasing newer properties, I lessen the chances of running into repairs that could wipe out my profit for a year or even two.

Multifamily and commercial real estate can also carry more risk. Those types of properties are more complicated and have fewer buyers. I also buy multifamily and commercial properties but I am very careful what I buy and understand there will most likely be way more costs and exposure if the market changes.

If you buy properties that need a ton of work that can add to the risk as well. On my flips and rentals, the worst deals I have done were properties that needed massive remodels. It takes so much time, so many resources, and there is so much that can go wrong. It can also be risky trying to do all of that work yourself!

Cash reserves

One of the most important things to have when investing in real estate is cash! If you buy rentals or flips that can be expensive at times. It is very important to set aside cash to take care of the problems that might come up. When I figure my cash flow I set aside money for vacancies and repairs. You need to have cash set aside in case something goes wrong and this is one of the biggest mistakes landlords make is not having cash around.

Ironically, getting a loan allows investors to have more cash in many cases. Paying down the mortgage early or trying to pay it off with all your extra cash can leave you in a bad situation. If you do pay a property off and need to access that money in an emergency it can be hard to get to without selling.

Good management

Another way to have problems with your rentals is to manage them poorly. Many people have no idea how to manage a rental but decide they can do it on their own. They choose a bad tenant after not screening them, then never check on the property, and are surprised when it gets trashed. If you are going to manage rentals on your own you have to take the time to learn how to manage them. You have to screen tenants, and keep tabs on the properties!

If you don’t want to manage them yourself, you can hire a property manager as well. It takes time to find a good property manager and this is where it takes from work from the landlord as well. Again, no one said owning rentals was easy, but there are many ways to make them a great investment if you are willing to put in the work.

Liability and damage

Another risk that comes with rental properties is natural disasters or liability from accidents. People can get hurt and can sue tenants or tornados can wipe your property off the earth. Both instances are rare, but they happen. To mitigate the liability side you can put your properties in an LLC or make sure you have the property insurance coverage like a landlord and umbrella policy. With these policies, if you have a tenant destroy property or need to be evicted, they can help cover those costs as well! Putting a property in an LLC can help with getting sued but is not foolproof.

It is important to make sure your insurance agent knows you are using the property as a rental so you have the right coverage. It might be cheaper to leave homeowners insurance on the property if you used to live there but that can cause problems down the road.

Risks that are tough to mitigate

There are some cases where a landlord does everything right but still has a massive loss. These are rare but can happen and just about any investment or simply living life comes with risks.

  • Meth or drug house: If someone is cooking meth or using meth in your house it can cause damage that insurance will not cover. You may have to make major repairs depending on how bad it is. These risks can be alleviated by good tenant screening and checking on the properties often. It is not always the case, but many drug houses we see have cameras all over. That can be a sign to check the house out more if you see cameras on your rental.
  • Floods: Not all floods are covered by insurance. You often need an additional rider or flood coverage. If you are in a flood zone the lender will require the additional coverage but if you pay cash or use private money you may not be required to have it. There is also the risk of a flood outside a flood zone. If the property has a risk of flooding it is important to talk to your insurance agent about additional coverage.

Why does everyone say rentals are risky?

I won’t tell you it is impossible to lose money investing in long-term rentals. It can easily happen if you don’t have a plan, have reserves, or are impatient. It is not easy to buy properties below market value with great cash flow. If it were easy investing in long-term rentals, everyone would be investing in real estate.

The reason so many people think rentals are risky is that they hear anecdotal stories. Stories are good for entertainment and drama but they don’t give the entire picture. “my cousins, aunts, friend, lost all their money when their rental was trashed!” They failed to tell us the person self-managed a property they used to live in from 4 states away and never once talked to the tenant in 3 years. Then they were surprised it was trashed. There are all kinds of stories but usually, you can find one of the main reasons above for why people lose money on rentals. Overall, real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth!

Don’t be scared to invest in rental properties

There are many people who have gotten rich and retired early by investing in long-term rentals. There is a lot of opportunity and many advantages to investing in real estate. Just because you can have some great rewards does not mean there is a massive risk. Some risk? Yes of course and the less you pay attention to your investment the riskier it will get!

Categories Rental Properties

Source: investfourmore.com

Dear Penny: Do I Tell My Mother-in-Law Her Retirement Plans Are Screwed?

Dear Penny,

My in-laws are hardworking folks who have never had much money, nor have they been good at managing it.

By his mid-20s, my partner was already in a caretaker role with them both with some light money management and my father-in-law’s extensive health issues. This care is part of what made me fall in love with him. He’s been able to hold firm boundaries through the years, allowing us to help when needed but still enjoy our warm relationship with them.

Several years ago, an elderly family member became ill. This family member was close to my in-laws a long time ago, but they’d lost touch as everyone aged. When this family member’s power of attorney attempted to defraud her, my in-laws stepped in to manage her finances and her medical care since she has no other living family.

It quickly became clear this task went beyond my in-laws’ abilities. While they didn’t want our help, my partner eventually had to intervene. This family member was about to be homeless, and my in-laws were essentially clueless. My partner was able to secure federal benefits for this family member that covered large portions of her care. This took a lot of the strain from my in-laws, and we thought all was well.

But we recently learned my in-laws took out a gigantic loan to cover some of this family member’s nursing expenses before she died last year. Not only is the loan huge, but the interest rate is terrible. My father-in-law told my partner they inherited a few thousand dollars from her, but they decided to keep it rather than apply it to the loan.

My father-in-law’s health continues to be poor, and my mother-in-law is beyond overwhelmed. My father-in-law has long been the manager of the family’s finances, but he’s terrible at it and my mother-in-law doesn’t like to intervene. It’s possible she’s not aware of the details of the loan. She’s close to retirement age, but this loan on top of their monthly expenses threatens her ability to retire completely.

With some assistance, I think they could manage the debt and even determine if any of this family member’s federal benefits will cover a portion of it. But is there any way to present this information in a way that they’ll accept? I’m tempted to use some direct language with them, like, “Without refinancing this loan you won’t be able to retire.” But my partner worries that will just add to my mother-in-law’s already paralyzing anxiety. 

What should they do first to manage this loan? Which financial services can we put them in touch with in the future so if they don’t want to come to us, great, they can go to this person?

-Loan, Loan Go Away

Dear Loan Go Away,

Your in-laws are adults who are allowed to make bad choices if they want. But unsolicited advice rarely goes well. Even when the motives are good, the person on the receiving end usually feels like they’re under attack. And if your mother-in-law already has severe anxiety, starting the advice by telling her that she may never be able to retire will make matters worse.


Your partner needs to take the lead here because these are his parents. He should try to make this a conversation instead of a lecture.

He should ask his parents if they’d be OK with sitting down to discuss a few financial matters. Tough conversations are best had when no one feels ambushed. Ideally, the three of them would have this discussion together.

Your partner should ask his parents some neutral questions. How big is the balance? How much is the interest rate? What are the monthly payments?

You say you’re not sure if your mother-in-law is aware of the details of the loan. But I wouldn’t assume your father-in-law is fully aware, either. Sometimes when people are overwhelmed by debt, they have no idea what they owe or what it’s costing them.

Once your partner gets the facts of the situation, then he can ask his parents how they’re feeling. Do they feel worried about whether they’ll be able to repay the loan? What about after his mother retires?

If your partner is worried that his parents can’t afford the loan, then he should say to them something to the effect of “I’m worried about whether you can afford these payments, but I think you have options. Could we discuss them?”

The point is to keep the message judgment-free. Telling your in-laws that they’ve made poor money management decisions will only put them on the defensive. But I’d urge your partner not to shy away from this discussion out of concern for his mother’s anxiety.

If your in-laws are willing to discuss their options, your partner could suggest they meet with a financial counselor. Unlike financial planners and financial advisers, who typically work with wealthier clients, financial counselors help lower- and middle-income clients with basic money management. They often work with clients struggling with debt.

You can search the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education’s website for a financial counselor in your state. Many charge on a sliding scale. If your in-laws are open to the idea, your partner could offer to pay the fees.

Bringing in a third party may be beneficial here. A professional isn’t going to have an emotional stake in this game. Plus, sometimes people are more willing to listen to guidance when it isn’t coming from family.

Ultimately, though, managing this loan is up to your in-laws, not you and your partner. Respect their boundaries, even if you don’t agree with their decisions.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

18 Great Jobs For Retirees for Flexibility and Extra Cash

But true personal shoppers are more likely to purchase clothing and accessories than groceries. A personal shopper often finds items and then sends photos and descriptions to the person who hired them to get approval.

A security guard who does not carry a weapon serves as a presence to discourage inappropriate behavior. While many large businesses like Target or Wal-Mart hire security personnel from a service, small employers such as charitable or service organizations are likely to hire someone who is reliable and gives the appearance of authority.
You are more likely to work on an hourly wage determined by your experience and amount of work you are required to perform. There are also job firms that provide virtual assistants; you can sign on with them and accept work as it is offered to you.
School bus drivers can earn up to per hour. They have regular hours with the opportunity to earn extra for field trips or outings. Some states require a specific license (a Commercial Drivers License, or CDL, for example) or require you to pass a test to qualify.
Hourly pay for security guards without weapons training is likely to be between and . Night-time security guards are likely to make more than daytime ones.
Plan on some up-front costs, such as a portable bar (if the host doesn’t have one) and basic bar tools. The host is expected to supply the alcohol and mixers. And to protect against possible liability you might want to consider an annual liability policy.

18 Part-time Jobs for Retirees

Many small or civic organizations cannot afford, nor do they truly need, a full-time bookkeeper or accounting service. They are not in it for the money. Often, they are charitable or non-profit organizations. But they need occasional bookkeeping, often with an eye towards tax advantages.
Recent news reports indicate there are many job openings for school bus drivers.
There are no actual nanny or babysitter licenses or certifications in the United States, but many families require that nannies be bonded, which is a guarantee of service. It is a protection against someone failing to show up for work; one such failure forfeits the bond and that area of work is no longer available to that nanny.

1. Substitute Teaching

If you can memorize lots of cocktail recipes, if you have an outgoing personality and a steady hand, and if you’re willing to cut people off if needed, this could be a fit for you. Your best bet might be starting out tending bar for people you know and then building a network of referrals.
Some high-end clothing stores offer personal shopper services as well. These positions might be a little less “personal,” as they might be a one-day relationship. But the concept is the same.
Security guards who carry weapons require special training and weapons licensing, and is an entirely different job pursuit, perhaps not as well-suited to a retirement job.
Many people reach so-called retirement age and are in no way done with being productive. Many continue in freelance jobs and part-time gigs, whether in a brick-and mortar setting, from home, or even outdoors.

2. School Support

A part-time bookkeeper job often requires simple financial recordkeeping or upkeep of other financial records. Part-time bookkeepers are usually former accountants or have experience as a bookkeeper. They may be asked to track invoices, but most companies use financial services for paychecks.
You have a good head for numbers. You are in charge of your own finances, and you perhaps worked in an accounting role at a previous job.

3. Tutoring

While “retirement income’’ or “retirement job” might seem like oxymorons, they are a more reasonable pursuit today than in years past due to advancing life expectancies and improved health among older citizens.
Depending on the particulars of the job, a commercial driver’s license might be required. Different states have different laws regarding licensing for shuttle bus drivers. A different license might be required if the bus holds a certain number of people or is a particular weight. Your state motor vehicle website will tell you what’s required in your state, and any potential employer will know, too.
Freelance bartending doesn’t require bartending school and can earn you good money working at large events or small, private parties. Hourly pay for freelance bartenders can be anywhere from to even before tips.

A senior woman drives a school bus.
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4. School Bus Driver

According to Indeed, the average hourly pay for a freelance writer is a bit over , but you are often paid by assignment or by word, so the pay varies. If you have knowledge in certain topics like science and medicine, the pay can be higher.
As of this writing, Ziprecruiter showed more than 34,000 virtual assistant jobs, suggesting that a virtual assistant could make up to ,000 a year, depending on the work required.
Pay is often dependent on the age of the players and the competitive level of the organization, but officials are likely to make at least per game. At higher levels where certification is required, you can earn 0 per game.

5. Shuttle Bus Driver

There are dozens of different types of shuttle bus driver jobs. Most hotels have shuttles to and from airports. Senior citizen homes, churches and community centers often offer shuttles to shopping areas or grocery stores. Hourly pay for shuttle bus drivers can average above per hour, and that’s not including tips from satisfied riders. Like school bus drivers, shuttle bus drivers have regular hours.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6. Conducting Tours

Most of the examples here require your physical presence on-site, but there are remote jobs, too, such as virtual assistant and customer service work that can be done from the comfort of your home.
Child care might be a bit of a political football these days, but rarely has it been more necessary. Single parents or two-parent families that require or want two incomes are likely to need child care, and that could take the form of a nanny or frequent babysitter.
These positions can be part- or full-time, and they pay well. So if you plan to collect Social Security benefits, make sure to check how your wage impacts your benefits.
Many seasonal jobs are defined by the weather, which is defined by the time of year and the climate where you live. Seasonal jobs are popular, never go out of style (except when the season changes), and can actually be a fun job to look forward to.
Most school districts have lenient requirements for substitute teachers, often requiring just a bachelor’s degree with no teaching experience.
Craigslist or neighborhood job sites are great ways to search for these positions, but your best bet is to work with your personal network. Let people know that you would be willing to work as a nanny or frequent babysitter, and, with the proper recommendation, you could have a very gratifying retirement job.

7. Patient Advocate

The job of a patient advocate is to assist someone who is struggling to cope with the healthcare system. A patient advocate deals with paperwork and appointments, and communicates with healthcare providers to get information on diagnosis, treatment and followup procedures.
As such, typical hourly pay is as a call center representative.
Personal shoppers who go after groceries or staples are likely to make typical hourly pay of to . Those who work for a service are likely on a wage or salary determined by the service rather than by the client.
Being a patient advocate does not require any particular educational degree, but it is possible to become certified in this role.

An elderly man babysits two girls. He plays guitar on the couch while the two of them listen to him play.
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8. Child Care Provider

The job is likely to include more than just driving, however. You may be asked to supervise students on the bus, and you may be called upon to discipline rowdy students or those who are making the trip unsafe. A tolerance for children of all ages is probably an important requirement.
If you have an advance degree, you may also qualify to be an adjunct instructor at a community college or four-year university.
Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Virtual assistants are independent contractors who offer business services virtually. Those services can include website management, website design, marketing assistance, social media postings, blog writing, email correspondence or any number of clerical duties that can be carried out with a computer and phone. This kind of work is often well-suited to flexible hours.
For between and an hour, you can earn money pet-sitting in a home or, if the pet happens to be a dog, you can walk the animal. Pet-sitting is a good job for retirees who want to work outdoors without a lot of physical requirements other than being able to walk while pulling or being pulled.
While there are occasional situations where someone needs a one-off writing assignment, freelance writer jobs often offer consistent, if sporadic, work. A retiree who can write could have a client for years. Check out this Penny Hoarder article on 18 places hiring freelance writers.

Looking for a fun part-time side gig? Here’s how you can earn money visiting theme parks as a Disney nanny.

9. Virtual Assistant

Any task that can be done virtually via computer is likely to be requested by a virtual assistant. Firms would rather pay a freelancer than an employee to do the work.
Pet sitter/walker is also a good line of work to get into because one job can lead to another. Pet owners tend to concentrate around each other, and they will give recommendations to other pet owners about a reliable person who can watch Fido or Fluffy while they are on vacation.
Ski resorts in the winter and water parks in the summer are two great examples of places that require seasonal employees. It is not necessary to be a ski instructor or a lifeguard, either. These places require assistance in areas outside of their main purpose: security, transportation, customer service. Even the National Park Service hires seasonal temps.
Businesses, organizations and sites that host tours come in many shapes and sizes, from historical sites to museums, from outdoor walking tours to behind-the-scene workplace tours. They can be an everyday part of a business or scheduled by appointment. What they all have in common? A tour leader.

10. Bookkeeper

The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Jobs Portal makes the remote-job hunt easy. Our journalists scour the web for the best gigs, vet the companies and aggregate the latest listings in one place.
Nannies are likely to make an hour on average. Babysitter earnings vary widely by affluence of the neighborhood. Check out The Penny Hoarder’s tips on how to get paid up to an hour babysitting.
While high-level programs require officials to get licensed or certified, lower-level and youth group programs require just a basic knowledge of the rules. Look around your community for sports leagues in need of umpires or referees.
A babysitter sits in a home with a child or children. A nanny is responsible for getting children to day care or other activities; they are a substitute parent in many cases.

11. Umpire and Referee

If you are going to house-sit the animal, you will likely get paid more for also keeping an eye on the property while the owner is away.
Substitute teachers have never been more valuable than today. Covid has increased the chances that a teacher might be out of the classroom either awaiting test results or recuperating. When that happens, their students need someone to teach — and that could be you.
Although freelance writers no longer provide articles — it’s called content now — freelance writing is a gig that can offer the freedom to accept the assignments you want. There are firms that will connect freelance writers to people or companies in need of blogs, resumes, cover letters, marketing content and more.
This is a good job for retirees who do not mind a bit of boredom.

A man walks a gaggle of dogs at his dog walking job.
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12. Pet Sitter and Dog Walker

If you are interested in online tutoring, there are many good paying gigs out there. Match your skills to the openings.
So let’s get to work, shall we?
To be successful, you need to be ready to deal with a room full of 20 or so children of varying ages. But it could pay off. School districts in Chicago, for example, pay as much as 0 a day for a full day of work.
This is a classic retirement job that gets you out of the house, allows you to have contact with neighbors, and lets you provide security and safety with another set of adult eyes on the children.

13. Freelance Writer

These jobs require knowledge about the subject and the ability to tell a good story — often while walking backwards.
Competitive sports programs need officials for their games. Baseball, basketball, soccer and football all have leagues at various ages that need officiating. Depending on where you live, the work can be constant. If you get certified for multiple sports, you can work all weekend long and often during the week.
Some stores hold hiring events in October to fill these positions, but they often continue searching for employees throughout the final three months of the year.
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14. Call Center Worker

Most schools are always looking for crossing guards, recess supervisors and other positions. A call to your local elementary, middle or high school could lead you to a good retirement job that would fit your schedule. Even better is searching online for jobs at your school district. This will give you a range of what’s out there.
Who even knows what “retired’’ means anymore?
This is a perfect retirement job if you have a sports background and the ability to withstand criticism.

A senior citizen bartender holds up a pint of beer.
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15. Freelance Bartender

Another idea for animal lovers is pet transporting. If you’ve got a reliable set of wheels and like to drive, getting pets from here to there from owners, maybe be the side gig for you.
Taking classes in CPR or other emergency response techniques, which offer certifications upon completion, can improve your chances of being hired.
Is it the shopping or the buying that you enjoy? If it’s the shopping, then you might consider becoming someone’s personal shopper.

16. Personal Shopper

As much as this is a remote job, it is definitely a people-person retirement job. You are likely to be talking to someone who is upset or unhappy, and you are the first line of communication for the company you are representing. You need to be capable of being friendly and helpful in the face of unpleasant conversation.
Tour guide is one of those jobs that, when you see someone doing it, you think, “Well, I could do that too!”
To be a personal grocery shopper, you probably need only have been in a grocery store from time to time. To be a high-end personal shopper, a knowledge of the fashion industry and current fashions is going to get you better clients.
Remember when you had a summer job as a teenager or a part-time job during your winter break from college? The same logic can work when you’re thinking about some extra retirement income.
The job title describes the job. You are given a shopping list and the means to make the purchase, and you chase after the items.
The responsibilities of a security guard depend on the needs of the company being guarded. There may be requirements that go beyond just being a presence, but the differences depend on the needs of the company.
As you browse these possible jobs for retirees, keep in mind one warning: If you are collecting Social Security, you can only earn a certain amount each month before your benefits are reduced.

Got what it takes to be a mystery shopper? We’ve rounded up four companies that are hiring retail sleuths. 

17. Security Guard

There are hundreds of tutoring companies in the U.S. who work with kids of all ages to enhance their school education or prepare for college entrance exams. If you sign up with one, they’ll match you with work and you won’t need to market yourself as a tutor.
You might have left the career you had in the 40-hour-a-week workforce. But now you don’t exactly want to be glued to your couch watching puppy videos. You want to be active, you want to work, and you want to make a little money to support your fun retirement plans.
Also included in seasonal work are holiday positions during the months of October-December. On-site customer service, truck unloading, shelving of new goods, and custodial services are among the positions for which big box stores are likely to need employees. For example in 2021, we tallied more than 1 million seasonal jobs at national retailers and delivery services.
The average salary for a part-time bookkeeper is around per hour.
This could be a dream job for someone who knows the topic well and likes to retell stories about history, natural science or architecture (among many other possibilities).

18. Seasonal Worker

The hourly pay for these companies ranges from about to . Requirements often are limited to a bachelor’s degree, although exam-prep work might require a recent ACT or SAT test score, or might require you to retake the exam for verbal or math instruction.
Tour guides make an average base salary of per hour. Plus, they are often offered tips by tour participants.
Certainly, many people already have personal shoppers and don’t know it. When they contact a grocery store and provide an itemized list of goods they want, someone does the “shopping,” and the items are then delivered.
If this appeals to you, don’t overlook a special area of knowledge you’ve developed during all those years in the workplace. Know a lot about the manufacturing industry? Maybe you’re just the person to lead tours at a cheese factory.
Writing skills rarely diminish, but the requirements for writing change over time. A knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) is going to open more doors. Many jobs that use job search websites like Indeed ask for candidates to take a writing test, but many of those are simple grammar or proofreading tests.

Pro Tip
There are plenty of ways to bring in some extra money to augment pension, social security, or other retirement funds. We’ve rounded up 18 ideas for good jobs for retirees that offer part-time opportunities, flexible hours, or both.

Just to be clear, we are talking about taking calls from customers, not making calls. A call center representative answers incoming calls from customers or potential customers and either answers questions or sends the caller to someone else who can answer.
Advocates might also be asked to work with insurance companies to understand coverage and costs. Many are asked to help a client obtain assistance with financial or legal issues. The range of duties can be as varied as the patient’s needs.

Can Your Craft Become Your Livelihood? A Conversation with Grant Ginder

That creative thing you love—writing, painting, designing, composing—that’s what you do for pleasure. To relax, unwind, escape. Many of us hold a belief that the thing we love to do and the thing we get paid to do can’t be one and the same. Unless, of course, you’re Lizzo or Stephen King. 

But what if that assumption is wrong? What if there's a way to add a small revenue stream, or even make a full-time career, out of the creative thing you love?

Becoming a creative begins with creating.

I sat down with novelist Grant Ginder (author of The People We Hate at the Wedding and Honestly, We Meant Well) who boldly shares his advice on how he turned his writing hobby into a profession and how he believes you can follow his lead down any artistic path you choose.

What makes someone an artist?

When I asked Grant what makes someone an artist, he chuckled before confessing that even as a published author, he struggles to claim the title out loud.

"I think … so much of it is just a matter of taking ownership. [We tend to believe] you're not allowed to call yourself a painter unless you've sold paintings. But a painter is someone who paints. …I spend a lot of my day writing, and so I'm a writer. Getting anyone else to take you seriously is to take yourself seriously. And part of taking yourself seriously is calling yourself what you are."

Addressing the mindset of art as a hobby or creative pursuit only

Many of us carry a creative wish or talent inside of us. And yet so many believe that our art—the creating—is the thing we must do after the “real job” is done. Being creative happens separately from being a professional.

"My parents… encouraged me to follow those [writing] ambitions. And if I would've told them after I graduated college ‘I'm going to go be a writer’… they would have [said] ‘Maybe you won't be doing that.’

"When my first book came out, my parents had a celebration for me and my dad was giving a speech. He said ‘Grant said he was going to write a book and we didn't believe it!'"

Then, after Grant’s second book was published, his parents (supportively) expressed the same surprise.

"It was a mixed message. It’s not just your parents [sending you this message]—I think you have pressures from all sides; from school, from media, from just looking at the world around you. It’s like the only [artists] that matter are the ones who make a lot of money. I think it’s a very skewed way of looking at art."

Making the move from amateur to creative professional

It's all well and good to say that we should all support creative pursuits as a means to an income. But how do you actually get started on making it official? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that becoming a creative begins with creating.

"For me, the creating part was learning to set aside time, and to protect that time, to engage in this particular craft… I would write on the weekends a lot. [I had to learn] to say no to things… [because] this is the time that I've set aside to engage in this process, and I'm going to engage in this process now. Holding yourself to that and getting other people to recognize and take that seriously [is essential]."

He also speaks to the importance of consuming the art form you want to produce. For Grant, that’s the novel. But he acknowledges that it's probably the same for other creative arts like painting or music. The process involves analysis and self-reflection.

"You read a novel and you want to write one of these things. [What do you like about it? Why do you like that? And how is that writer doing that thing? And so, [you're] coming at it as… someone who's trying to train themselves in a particular craft. I think that's kind of step one in producing something [creative]."

Finding inspiration and motivation

Sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike you. You have a job to do.

What about inspiration? Do you wait for it to strike or do you just have to start?

Grant believes the artist simply has to start.

"I don't believe that I have to wait for inspiration to strike. I actually think that this comes from my training as a speechwriter, and from writing under deadlines. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike you. You have a job to do."

He pointed to an idea he paraphrased from novelist Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

"You write a sentence. Just write that sentence. And it might be a really bad sentence, but the next one will probably be a little bit better."

"I'm also a fan of super messy first drafts. I think my writing is at its worst and my process is at its worst when I get way too precious. Am I in the mood? Is the light in the apartment just right? It's like, no, just roll up your sleeves and start."

Getting your creation out into the world

Once you’ve written or painted or composed the thing, is there a clear, step-by-step roadmap to getting it out into the world? Grants recommendations were refreshing. And relatable.

1. Do your research

"I used Google. When I wrote my first novel, I Googled ‘how many words are in a novel?

"I've always loved writing. I've always loved reading. And so, on breaks [from my speechwriting job], I would write. And, I kept that up. And then… when I reached that magic number [of novel words], I Googled ‘how to publish a novel.

"My path was like a Google Commercial."

Grant's googling led him to conclude that he needed to find a literary agent. And, of course, he then used Google to find out what a literary agent was. 

"Your research is really important [in figuring out] what the next steps are and how to prepare yourself for those steps."

2. Be scrappy

"I started realizing I'd never really read the acknowledgments in the backs of books before. So I started reading the acknowledgments… and authors thank their agents. So if I really liked the book, I would read the acknowledgments and keep a list of who the agents were.

"When it was time for me to query agents… I reached out to those agents. Some of them didn’t respond, but some did. It takes a while. You get a lot of rejections. But I told myself that for every rejection, I was going to send it out to two more people. You just chip away."

I told myself that for every rejection, I was going to send it out to two more people. You just chip away.

3. Make connections

"I assume this would translate to other fields—developing a network of other writers, painters, musicians helping each other … to navigate the landscape."

Grant had no prior knowledge of the steps to take in getting a book published. He had no connections. He had only a book, a wish, and a decent internet connection. And this is how he would advise any creator to figure things out as they go.

How do you handle rejection?

Grant mentioned rejection. And I wasn’t letting him off the hook. How, I asked, do you deal with rejection?

"There is this incredible vulnerability in putting something out in the world. It's something that you've sat with for years. And it's just [been] you, engaging with [it]. Then all of a sudden it's in the hands of everyone and they're allowed to think whatever they want about it.

"I think you have to get to this state—and I'm not there yet—[but] I imagine [it’s] like the author's Nirvana… where I’ve made this thing that belonged to me while I was making it. And I am now putting it forth for interpretation… [but] texts are meant to be read and processed in a variety of different ways. And I think that… the more you can lean into that belief, the happier, and probably the better writer you can be."

Grant's advice to budding creatives

I wrapped our interview with this question: What’s the one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?

Here’s a (slightly paraphrased) summary of the pep talk Grant wished he'd received.

"Just sit down and do it. Trust the process. One sentence will lead to the next sentence, which will lead to the next. Don't worry so much. Just write the book you want to write."

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How To Get Free Stuff on Amazon: 12 Great Tips and Tricks

Use your old electronics to get credit? As good as gold.
Let’s admit it: most of us don’t have the kind of social media following that gives us influencer status.
While there are some things on Amazon anyone can get for free right away, the best way to get high-quality freebies is through helpful, informative and well-written product reviews.
If you’re expecting a new baby, sign up with Amazon Registry for a free gift with goodies for the newborn and parents, with a value of up to . The program also has a wedding registry which offers “bonus gifts” for the couple.

Robust Reviews Earn Amazon Freebies

Another helpful tip is to look for products without a lot of reviews, because yours is more likely to be read and earn “Helpful Votes.” Focus your reviews on the types items that you would like to get for free, as becoming an expert in a specific category helps achieve Top Reviewer status more quickly.

1. Become a Top Amazon Reviewer

Vine is a more transparent program because the decision-making about who reviews what products is in the hands of Amazon. Vendors have no influence over which Vine Voices review their products.
Tomoson’s business model is to connect brands with influencers — if you meet the right criteria you’ll be selected for a campaign. You don’t necessarily need to have a huge number of followers; brands care most about someone with an audience that fits the niche of their product.
If audio books are more your speed, Amazon offers a free 30-day Audible trial. This includes one credit for a free audiobook that you get to keep after the trial is over.

2. Get Invited to be a Vine Reviewer

Competition between these sellers is fierce and with just a little bit of work, you can take advantage by scoring deals and getting free stuff on Amazon.
Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the country and sells just about everything under the sun. If a product is for sale online, chances are it’s on Amazon. The retail giant doesn’t just sell its own products, it’s also a virtual marketplace for millions of vendors around the globe.
But marketing departments also see the value in micro-influencers — social media users that have smaller, intensely-dedicated followings. If you have a blog, Youtube channel or a certain number of social media followers, signing up with a company like Tomoson is one way to get free stuff from Amazon.
It’s not hard to become a Top Amazon reviewer, and we’ve laid out all of the steps you need to take to join the upper echelon. It’s important to remember that Amazon values quality reviews and the number of helpful votes you accumulate is critical, so be sure you think about the kind of information consumers would care about and craft a well-written, detailed and grammatically-correct review.

3. Use Influencer (or Micro-Influencer) Status for Freebies

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
So we’ve established that the best way to get free stuff on Amazon is with an invite into the Vine program. But how do you get invited? It does require some work on your part and the first step to getting that invite is becoming a Top Amazon reviewer. Believe it or not, the company tracks the best and most prolific reviewers, posting it all on a rankings board. 
Reviewing products is one of the prime ways to get Amazon freebies. We offer some tips and tricks to be successful.
But did you know that you don’t even need to sign up for a trial to access free songs on Amazon? Head over to the Free Songs page on Amazon Music where you can listen to and download thousands of free tracks.

4. Tread Carefully with Facebook Groups and Third Party Review Sites

These reviews or mentions will be posted on your social media so you don’t need to worry about violating Amazon’s terms by receiving a free item for review — though FTC laws require you to disclose your relationship with the brand you’re posting about.
If you’re an Amazon customer, you can get access to free cloud storage. Every customer has access to 5GB of cloud storage for photos, videos and other files through Amazon Drive. These files can be accessed on your desktop, tablet and mobile phone.

Free Stuff Anyone Can Get

Like everyone, you probably have a ton of old electronics laying around the house. Instead of sending them off to the e-waste collection, why not turn obsolete devices into Amazon credit? Amazon Trade-In is a program that gives customers the chance to exchange their unused electronics into gift cards. Thousands of items are eligible for the program and don’t necessarily need to be Amazon Devices.

5. Free 30-Day Trial of Amazon Prime

The early days of Amazon reviewing was like the Wild West – companies sent out free products or other compensation in exchange for positive reviews, despite the actual quality of the item. Unsurprisingly, this led to companies manipulating reviews and “earning” inflated scores for subpar products. Amazon responded in 2016 by prohibiting incentivized reviews, with the exception being those facilitated through Amazon Vine.

6. Amazon Music Free

In 2016 the company changed its review policy and now the only way to get free products through reviews is the Vine program. While you won’t be able to reach out to a struggling retailer and offer reviews in exchange for merchandise, there are still ways for reviewers to get free stuff.

Who doesn’t love free cash? As an incentive for new customers, if you add in Amazon Cash to your account, you’ll get a credit towards your first purchase.

7. Free Kindle Books

If you’ve never had a subscription to Amazon Prime or it’s been a year since your last subscription expired, you are entitled to a free 30-Day trial of Amazon Prime. This membership gives you access to ad-free Amazon Music, Prime Video, Prime Reading and Amazon Photo, plus free shipping on items ordered through Amazon.

8. Audible Audiobooks

There are a couple ways to get free Kindle books on Amazon. If you’re already a Prime Member, the First Reads program entitles you to one free Kindle book a month. Even if you don’t have Prime, you can use First Reads to pay just .99 for one book a month. Plus, you have access to thousands of free Kindle books in the company’s library.

9. Free Cloud Storage

Like most streaming services, Amazon Music Unlimited has a free three-month trial for new subscribers, giving you unlimited, on-demand, ad-free music and podcasts. Of course, you’ll need to remember to end the subscription before your three months are up or you’ll be charged for a month (.99). Signing up for a free 30–day trial of Prime also gives you unlimited access to the service’s deep library.

10. Free Baby Box with Amazon Registry

Vine membership is by invite-only; you can’t apply to join the program. Amazon watches out for customers who post reviews frequently, are considered the most helpful by customers, and write about the types of items that are typically featured in the program.

11. Get a $10 Gift Card for Signing Up with Amazon Cash

Many sellers on these Facebook groups and review sites aren’t reputable and are violating Amazon’s incentivized reviews policy or soliciting fake paid reviews. This is most risky for them but could result in your Amazon account being suspended. Additionally, most of the products on these sites and groups aren’t name brands and appear to be low-quality.

Not Free Stuff, But Free Cash Back

There are ways to get free things without much effort. Here are some.

12. Get Gift Cards with Amazon Trade-In

In this program, companies send Amazon products which they distribute to trusted reviewers for free. Then, Vine identifies the most helpful and trusted reviewers (Vine Voices) and invites them to give their opinions on new and pre-release products. Voices aren’t under any pressure to post positive reviews, and sometimes aren’t even required to write one.
Matt Matasci is a Southern California freelance writer who writes on technology and business, plus travel and lifestyle topics.
When searching for Amazon freebies, Facebook groups and third party review sites are a popular recommendation. It’s true these groups can provide vouchers or gift cards for items you’ve purchased on Amazon — usually, in exchange for a positive review — but you need to be careful.