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

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

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

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

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car

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

1. Know What You Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Book Early, Especially During Peak Travel Times

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

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

3. Take Advantage of Discounts

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

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

4. Join a Loyalty Program

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

Joining one of these programs could get you benefits like:

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

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

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

5. Compare Prices

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

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

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

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

6. Check Smaller Car Rental Companies

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

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

7. Look for Coupon Codes

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

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

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

8. Read the Fine Print

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

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

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

9. Prepay

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

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

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

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

10. Use a Rewards Card

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

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

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


Final Word

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

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

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

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

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

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Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Become a Mortician and Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

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There are a lot of reasons for thinking about becoming a funeral director, the funeral industry’s preferred term for mortician.

For one, the unemployment rate is low. For another, there’s always a need.

And, it is one of the careers that does not require a bachelor’s degree that still pays well. Funeral directors make an average of $55,000 a year. That’s the average and some directors with more experience bring in more than $70,000. As far as school, most states require an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship/internship, and passing a licensing exam.

If working with bereaved families and preparing bodies for burial or cremation seem like something you would be good at, consider this well-paying career path. The funeral industry is estimated to be worth $16 billion in the United States in 2021.

Read on to find out how to become a mortician.

The Difference Between a Mortician and Funeral Director

First, let’s clarify some terms. What are the differences between mortician, funeral director, embalmer and undertaker? They have similar roles but slightly different duties.

In 1895, an American publication called The Embalmer’s Monthly put out a call for a new term for undertakers. The winner was mortician, a made-up word and thank goodness for Morticia Addams, right? Now, the industry uses funeral director for the person arranging the funeral service.

Most funeral directors are licensed morticians and embalmers. They have studied mortuary science and prepare bodies, but they also arrange the other aspects of funeral services. Funeral directors help the bereaved plan the memorial service (and might conduct it if there is no clergy) and arrange for cremation and burial. Funeral directors deal directly with the clients.

An embalmer can work for a funeral home, but also elsewhere — medical schools, hospitals, and morgues. They mainly prepare bodies, and don’t work with clients. The term undertaker is the British term for funeral director and is seldom used in the U.S. except when referring to the popular professional wrestler, The Undertaker.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors deal with both the living and the dead. Funeral directors arrange for moving the body to the funeral home. They file the paperwork for death certificates, obituaries, and other legal matters.

Preparing a body for the funeral service may or may not include embalming (cremation doesn’t require embalming), but it needs to be dressed, cosseted (put in the best and most natural appearance), and casketed (placed in the coffin).

Funeral services are difficult times for people. The funeral director needs to have compassion for people navigating their pain and sorrow. While an interest in science is necessary, an important quality for someone who wants to become a mortician or funeral director is empathy.

The funeral director guides the grieving through the decisions that have to be made for the funeral service. This not only includes choosing the coffin, but placing the obituary, arranging the wake and service and creating a program for it, shipping remains, and more.

The Changing Funeral Business

Most funeral homes are independently owned. While often smaller businesses don’t have the deeper pockets of corporations, their size allows them to be more nimble in evolving their business. Funeral services have transformed from somber and sorrowful times to celebrations of life with some funeral homes even providing spaces for outdoor gathering complete with grills.

In recent years, more women are graduating in mortuary science. Some people might become funeral service workers as a second career instead of inheriting the business, which has been a traditional entry into the industry. The National Funeral Directors Association encourages its members to seek out, hire, and train more women and non-binary people.

You can find mortuary science stars on social media, including the popular YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician. There are funeral directors’ TikTok videos, and mortician AMAs (ask me anything) on Reddit.

Get Started in the Funeral Business

Most states require a two-year associate’s degree in mortuary science or related areas, an apprenticeship or internship, and passing the national or state’s license exam. Ohio and Minnesota are the only two states that require a bachelor’s degree to be a funeral home director. Colorado does not have any education requirements, but licenses funeral homes instead. Kentucky doesn’t license funeral directors but does license embalmers.

The National Funeral Directors Association is your go-to source for state-by-state details of working in the funeral industry.

If you were also thinking about joining the military, the Navy is the only service branch with its own morticians. For that you need a high school diploma or GED, and then you would get training through the Navy as a hospital corpsman-mortician.

Licensure

You usually have to be at least 21 years old to take the exams, though you can start an internship or apprenticeship before that age. There may also be a criminal background check. Having a criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a mortician. You also have to submit proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

You can also study for and take the national funeral service education board exam. The pathways to these two types of exams can be different. It is important to note that not all mortuary science programs are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

You can only take the National Board Exam if you have a degree from an accredited program. Some states allow you to take the state exam even if your program is not accredited. The exams are the same. It is just more difficult to practice in a different state if you haven’t attended an accredited program.

State Licenses

Most states have information about how to become a mortician through their occupational license, public health, or funeral board sections on their website. It is important that you clarify whether the mortuary science programs are accredited for just the state license exam, or for both state and national exams. Some schools also offer Funeral Arts Certificates, which can be used for other jobs in the funeral service industry.

National License

The American Board of Funeral Service Education is the national academic accreditation agency for college and university programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science Education. Most states have easier reciprocity requirements to transfer your practice if you have taken the national board exam. If you have taken the state exam only, you may have to meet all of the requirements again if you move to another state.

Classwork for the License

Coursework can be broken down into roughly three categories: art, business, and science. Art? That is for the restorative arts, or visually preparing the body for a funeral service, which includes hair and makeup. There are courses which cover death traditions from many cultures and the history of funerals.

Science classes may cover embalming theory and labs, anatomy, physiology, public health, and pathology. There are chemistry and biology courses, and also usually psychology courses on grief and bereavement training.

Business classes will cover funeral home administration, accounting, requirements for a funeral service license, and some business law. There are usually classes covering legal and ethical issues that a certified funeral service practitioner will face.

Cost of Getting a License

The cost of getting a two-year mortuary science degree varies by state but your best bet will be an in-state community college. Then there will be costs associated with taking exams and getting a license.

School

There is a huge difference in how much you can pay for a mortuary science associate’s degree. In-state public schools may cost between $5,000-$8,500. Private, out of state tuition might be almost $20,000. There are the normal student loans and grants available, but there are also specific grants for students studying mortuary science (even as a second career). It seems like a great investment, since unemployment for funeral directors is extremely low.

Exam

The National Board Exam has two sections, arts and sciences. Each one costs $285. There are practice exams that you can take, which are free. In Florida, the state funeral service examining boards charge $132 for exams. Maine charges $75 plus $21 for a criminal background check. Texas charges $89. Some states have two separate exams — one for funeral services and the other for embalming.

Licenses

This is another area with variation. Using the same three states as above, Florida’s license for a funeral director costs $430 with all the fees. Maine’s is $230, and Texas costs $175 plus $93 for the application. Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas! Licenses need to be renewed periodically, which also requires continuing education credits.

Funeral Director as Entrepreneur

The funeral industry has been changing rapidly over the last few years. Cremations have increased and burials decreased. Funeral homes make less money on cremations, and have responded to this shift by finding new sources of income and new ways to help people.

Green Funerals

There are more environmentally conscious choices that funeral homes can offer, including rental coffins for services (and a plain one after), biodegradable coffins, and natural burials. Green funeral services include sourcing flowers locally, using funeral invitations and programs made of recycled paper embedded with seeds, and biodegradable water urns, which sink and dissipate for at sea services..

Pet Funerals

An estimated 67% of households in the U.S. own pets, and many of them are using funeral home services for their animals. That includes memorials, services, and burials. Despite pet cremation being infinitely (well, 90 vs.10%) more popular than burial, there are over 200 pet cemeteries in the U.S., with Florida having the most.

Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

Besides being an intern or apprentice, you can work in the funeral industry in many other ways. Florida lists 16 separate individual and business licenses for funeral home-related activities.

Here are the common jobs in the funeral or mortician industry though keep in mind in a smaller business, the funeral director may do some of them:

  • Administrative assistants handle office work.
  • Burial rights brokers arrange for third parties to sell or transfer burial rights.
  • Cemeterians maintain cemetery grounds (think groundskeeper).
  • Ceremonialists conduct the funeral service.
  • Crematory operators/technicians assist in cremation remains.
  • Direct disposers handle cremation when there is no service or embalming.
  • Embalmers prepare the body after death.
  • Funeral arrangers work with clients to set up the funeral.
  • Funeral home manager is the best paying job in the field, the median salary for this position is more than $74,000. The manager oversees all funeral home operations.
  • Funeral service managers are similar to funeral arrangers.
  • Funeral supply sales personnel work for the funeral home-sourcing supplies.
  • Monument agents sell tombstones and other markers for the cemetery.
  • Mortuary transport drivers prepare and transport human remains.
  • Pathology technicians work in hospitals, morgues, or universities with cadavers.
  • Pre-need sales agents help clients plan their services and burials before they die.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Funeral Business Jobs

We’ve rounded up the answers to the most common questions about working in the funeral industry.

What Jobs Can You Do at a Funeral Home?

negotiate supplies, transport bodies, conduct funeral services, and work with clients to place obituaries and arrange the service. They also have sales people working on pre-need arrangements. Some funeral homes feature pet burials and have special jobs related to that.

How Much Do You Make Working at a Funeral Home?

Funeral directors average $55,000 annually. Managing a funeral home pays a median salary of $74,000. Mortuary transport drivers average over $35,000. It is a field with very low unemployment.

How Do I Get a Job in the Funeral Industry?

Most states require two years of school, a (paid) internship, and passing the appropriate license exams to become a funeral director. Other jobs may require less.The mortuary transport driver has to be able to lift 100 pounds or more and have a clean driving record.

What is a Funeral Home Job Called?

There are many. There are funeral directors, embalmers, mortuary transport drivers, and funeral service arrangers. There are also typical office jobs, such as administrative assistant and bookkeepers. There are also related jobs at crematoriums, hospitals, and mortuaries.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

James Glassman’s 10 Stock Market Picks for 2022

Last December, after beating the S&P 500 index five years in a row, I wrote, “This kind of streak isn’t supposed to happen, and readers should be warned that there’s no guarantee it will continue.”

Well, it’s over. My annual selections for 2021 performed just fine, with an average return of 17.4%, but the S&P did much better, gaining 35.8%. (Returns and data throughout the story are through Nov. 5.)

Since 1993, I have offered a list of 10 stocks for the year ahead. Nine are culled from the choices of experts I trust, and I include one of my own. For 2021, I’m happy to say, my pick was the biggest winner: ONEOK (OKE), the 115-year-old natural gas pipeline company, which benefited from the rise in petroleum prices and was up 139.9%.

I’ll get to my choice for 2022 at the end. Let’s start with one from the Value Line Investment Survey, a font of succinct research that has a strong forecasting record as well. My strategy is to pick from stocks that Value Line rates tops (“1”) for both timeliness and safety. That list right now is short: nine companies, including obvious ones like Apple (AAPL) and Visa (V).

The outlier is T. Rowe Price Group (TROW), the Baltimore-based asset manager, whose earnings have risen each year since 2009 despite the growing popularity of low-cost index funds. Value Line notes that “shares have staged a dramatic advance over the past year. However, our projections suggest … worthwhile appreciation potential for the next 3 to 5 years.”

Parnassus Endeavor (PARWX), a socially responsible fund – one that invests with an eye toward environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures, has returned a sparkling annual average of 18.3% over the past 10 years. In 2021, Jerome Dodson stepped back from managing Endeavor and other Parnassus funds, but he’s still a guiding force at the firm he founded 35 years ago. My picks from the portfolio for 2019 and 2020 were microchip companies that scored average gains of nearly 100%.

For 2022, I like PepsiCo (PEP), which Billy Hwan, the fund’s new solo manager, acquired for the first time in July. In addition to its soft drinks, the company has such respected brands as Lay’s, Quaker and Gatorade. Revenues have risen consistently, and PepsiCo may be able to benefit from general inflation with aggressive price increases.

Another big winner in 2021 came from Dan Abramowitz, of Hillson Financial Management in Rockville, Maryland, who is my go-to expert in smaller companies. His choice was IEC Electronics, which was purchased by Creation Technologies in October for 53% more than the stock’s price when I put it on the list, noting, “IEC is also a potential takeover target.” 

For 2022, Dan recommends DXC Technology (DXC), a midsize in­formation technology company based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is in the midst of a turnaround, Dan writes, “yet we are still in the early innings here.” Profits are improving, but the stock “is valued at under 10 times current fiscal year earnings.”

A few months ago, I recommended AB Small Cap Growth (QUASX), a fund that has notched a sensational 29.8% annualized return over the past five years. The fund has been adding to holdings of Louisiana-based LHC Group (LHCG), a provider of post-acute care, including home health and hospice services, in more than 700 locations. The stock appears well priced after setbacks from hurricanes and because healthcare workers were forced to quarantine due to COVID-19. As the population ages, healthcare is a growth industry.

Fidelity Advisor Growth Opportunities (FAGAX) is red-hot, ranking in the top 3% of funds in its category for five-year returns. The problem is that it carries a whopping 1.82% expense ratio and is sold mostly through advisers. Still, you can scan its port­folio for ideas. Most of the fund’s holdings are tech stocks, but the only new purchase for 2021 among its top 25 holdings was Freeport-McMoRan (FCX), the minerals (copper, gold, silver) and oil and gas producer. The stock has doubled over the past year, but its price-earnings ratio, based on analysts’ consensus projections for 2022, is just 11.

A disappointment in 2021 was Upland Software (UPLD), down 47%. It was the choice of Terry Tillman, a software analyst with Truist Securities whose previous selections on my annual list had beaten the S&P 500 index for an incredible nine years in a row. Tillman recently initiated coverage on Engage­Smart (ESMT) with a Buy rating. The firm, which helps healthcare professionals manage their practices, went public only in September, but it already has a market value of $5 billion, and Tillman sees the price going much higher.

It has not been a good year for China’s big companies, which China’s government apparently thinks have become big enough to threaten the Communist Party. As a result, my 2021 list’s worst performer was Alibaba Group Holding (BABA), the e-commerce giant, with shares falling by nearly half.

Still, if you have a stomach for risk, Chinese stocks present remarkable value these days. Matthews China (MCHFX), my favorite Asian stock fund, has held on to Tencent Holdings (TCEHY), which is down by about 40% from its February peak. Tencent, with a market cap of $576 billion, operates worldwide and offers social media, music, mobile games, payment services and more.

Last year, I turned for the first time to Schwab Global Real Estate (SWASX) and was pleased with the 21% return from its choice, Singapore-based UOL Group (UOLGY), with an office, residential and hotel portfolio. The fund’s third-largest holding is Public Storage (PSTG), owner of 2,500 facilities in 38 states. Is there a better business? Every year, I get an e-mail notice telling me my storage-unit rental has risen in price, and what am I going to do about it? Moving my stuff out is a horrifying thought. I have always wanted to own this stock. It is expensive, but waiting may make it more so.

Over the years, the assets of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), Warren Buffett’s holding company, have become more and more diversified. At last report, the company owned 40 publicly traded stocks. Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holding by far is Apple, at about $135 billion. Guess what’s second? Bank of America (BAC), at $49 billion. I am a longtime fan and shareholder of BofA as well, and it looks especially good at a time when interest rates are rising.

My contrarian bias paid off last year when I shook off my disastrous 2019 choice of Diamond Offshore Drilling (it went bankrupt) and scored a double with ONEOK. Searching for value again, I have arrived at Starbucks (SBUX), which took a big (and to my mind, unwarranted) hit over the summer when the company warned of a slower recovery in China. So I’m taking advantage of skittish investors and recommending Starbucks, one of the world’s best-run companies, growing steadily with 33,000 outlets worldwide.

I’ll end with my usual warnings. These 10 stocks vary by size and industry, but they are not meant to compose a diversified portfolio. I expect they will beat the market in the coming 12 months, but I do not advise holding stocks for less than five years. Buy and hold works! Finally, these are my recommendations, but consider them suggestions for your own study and decision-making. No guarantees.

James Glassman stock picks for 2022James Glassman stock picks for 2022

Source: kiplinger.com

The Best Cities for Public Transportation

If you’re looking to have an easy commute or just want to spend less time in your car, these cities are great options for using public transportation.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans board public transportation 34 million times. Every. Single. Weekday.

That adds up to a whopping 9.9 billion trips per year. And why not? Beyond the obvious savings of traveling by bus, train, trolley or metro — both financial and environmental — leaving the driving to someone else allows you to kick back and text, read, work, or snooze to your heart’s content. And let’s be honest, road rage is for suckers.

If you’re one of us in-the-know commuters, you’re going to want to check out our list of the best cities in America for public transportation.

Takeaways about the best cities for public transportation

You’re used to looking at route maps, right? Yeah, we know. This is why we created this interactive map to highlight the top 150 cities for public transportation. Can you guess which cities made our top 10? You’re probably not too far off.

Dashboard 1
  • The Northeast region has the strongest representation among our top 10.
  • The No. 1 city boasts a whopping 1,148 stations across the city.
  • Providence, RI has the lowest price for a monthly unlimited pass.

These are the 10 best cities for public transportation

The best cities for public transportation are mostly urban centers with fantastic infrastructure. So, don’t expect to see a “city” like Des Moines make the cut.

And while the East Coast may have the slightest overall edge, you’ll find at least a couple of cities in every major region of the country represented here. Read on to find out which U.S. cities are the best for public transportation.

10. Minneapolis, MN

minneapolis mn

minneapolis mn

Minneapolis is serious about keeping its citizens warm and comfortable. Take, for example, the Minneapolis Skyway, a 9.5-mile network of enclosed heated walkways. And while that makes traveling on foot a breeze — even in the dead of winter — sometimes, you need to travel farther than your own two feet will take you.

And for those trips, there’s the METRO light-rail, along with 18 bus lines to choose from, including fare-free “Free Ride” buses you can hop on along Nicollet Mall.

Even for the rides that aren’t free, your public transportation budget will go far in Minneapolis — the second cheapest city in our top 10 for transport (monthly unlimited).

Think living in this half of the Twin Cities is your speed? Get the scoop on the best neighborhoods in Minneapolis, find an apartment and stock up on some serious winter wear.

9. Miami, FL

miami fl

miami fl

Is Minneapolis too chilly (OK, frigid) for your taste? Perhaps you should consider the opposite tip of the country. Down in Miami, the vibe is endless sunshine and permanent vacation mode. And while traffic is no joke (understatement), public transportation is a stress-free way to get around the city.

First, you’ve got the charming free trolleys, which come every 15 minutes. If no-charge sounds pretty good, you’ll also love the Metromover, which you can pick up in Brickell or Downtown. Trying to get down to Coral Gables, Coconut Grove or South Miami? Hop on the Metrorail. And for getting around Miami Beach, the bus is your best option. Get up to speed on everything you need to know about living in Miami and start searching for your South Florida apartment.

8. Philadelphia, PA

philadelphia pa

philadelphia pa

Living in Philly gives you all the East Coast arts, culture, education and sports you can handle — without the N.Y.C. price tag. You get a lot more bang for your buck in Philadelphia, and you’ll still find a public transportation system that rivals that of the Big Apple.

The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the country’s sixth-largest public transit system. More than 1.3 million people ride SEPTA’s train, subway, trolley and bus lines every day. The extensive system makes it simple and convenient to explore all that both Philadelphia and the surrounding areas have to offer.

7. Providence, RI

providence rhode island

providence rhode island

If you live in Providence, you’ll enjoy the cheapest price for a monthly unlimited travel pass among our top 10. The capital of our nation’s smallest state is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Getting around town is a breeze for co-eds, commuters and everyone in-between.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) provides low-cost bus and trolley services around the city. In the summer, there are even routes to the beach. Better yet, all of the buses have bike racks so you can explore Rhode Island on two wheels. And if you want to really soak up the scenery, take the hour-long ferry ride from Providence to Newport.

Plus, Providence is a stop on one of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) commuter rail lines, so you can get to Boston in just over an hour.

6. Seattle, WA

seattle wa

seattle wa

Have you ever gazed out over the Puget Sound at the majestic Cascade Mountains on one of those magical sunny days in Seattle? It’s the kind of scene you don’t soon forget. And while those sunny days are somewhat rare, there’s a lot to love about living in Seattle, from the coffee culture to the ease of getting around on the fantastic public transportation system.

Grab an ORCA card and hop on the city’s easy-to-navigate streetcars, light rail and busses. Not only are there ferries from which to soak up those amazing views, but Seattle also boasts a monorail. Considering a move to Emerald City? Scope out the best neighborhoods in Seattle, then start searching for a place to live.

5. Chicago, IL

chicago il

chicago il

Even if you’ve never ridden it before, you’ve probably heard of “the L.” Short for “elevated train,” locals and visitors alike love the L because it’s both cheap and easy to use. And here in a city with two airports, easy public transportation is key.

Take the L’s Blue Line to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) or the Orange Line to get to Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). The Chicago Transit Authority also has an extensive bus system, while the Metra regional train system will take you through downtown Chicago and to the suburbs and cities beyond. Whether you’re looking to live large in a luxury apartment building, or you’re looking for a budget-conscious ‘hood, you’ll find a wide range of apartments in Chicago.

4. San Francisco, CA

san francisco ca

san francisco ca

Here’s the thing about living in San Francisco. As far as cities go, it’s fairly compact, so nothing is too far away. Which makes it seem like you’ll probably be fine on foot. But there’s one huge consideration — the hills. Depending on how big your calf muscles are, and how hard you want them to work, you’re going to need to lean on public transportation at some point to cruise you up those inclines.

Fortunately, you can travel in style on the city’s iconic trolleys. Or, take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), a rail system that will take you all around the Bay Area. If you’re staying in the city, MUNI has you covered with an extensive network of trains, buses and cable cars. If there’s one place you don’t need a car, it’s San Francisco. Plus, the city is expensive enough without paying for your own set of wheels.

3. Washington, D.C.

washington dc

washington dc

OK, let’s start with the bad news: Washington, D.C. is the third-most congested city in the country. Boo. But that’s exactly why you don’t want a car here, or really need one for that matter. The best way to escape road rage? On the subway. The Metrorail is the most efficient way to get around Washington, D.C. There’s also the Metrobus and the D.C. Circulator if you want to brave the roads — and prefer your public transportation with a bit of natural sunlight.

And since there are so many sights to see, even locals can appreciate the more tourist-oriented modes of transportation. Spend a sunny day on a boat ride across the Potomac, or hop on one of D.C.’s trolley tours to soak up the sights without stress. Fancy living in the nation’s capital? Take a quiz to find out which Washington, D.C., neighborhood is best for you.

2. Boston, MA

boston ma

boston ma

Beantown is an excellent city to traverse on foot. And when you’re not walking, you’re going to want to hop on the “T.” More formally known as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the five-line system has subways, trains, buses and trolleys that connect you to all of downtown Boston’s neighborhoods.

And who doesn’t love water taxis? Cruise across Boston Harbor on a boat and pat yourself on the back for avoiding some of the country’s worst traffic. Warming up to the idea of an East Coast move? Get up to speed on the cost of living in Boston, then find your perfect Boston apartment.

1. New York, NY

new york ny

new york ny

No surprise here, right? New York has long been the best city for public transportation in America. Of course, there are the iconic yellow taxis, but you simply can’t get much more connected than New York’s subway system. This impressive 24-hour network goes well beyond the city to shuttle commuters to both Long Island and New Jersey. With 1,148 train stations and 1,224 station lines, New York is untouchable when it comes to public transportation.

Having a car in N.Y.C. is not only near impossible (financially and otherwise), it’s simply not necessary. Put all of the energy you save in navigating the roads into your New York apartment search. It’s no secret that the Big Apple requires a big budget, and finding an affordable apartment is going to take some research. Start by figuring out which New York neighborhood is best for your lifestyle.

Methodology

To find the best cities for public transportation, we looked at metrics related to public transportation usage, accessibility and cost.

Features were normalized and then weighted based on the following scale:

Usage: 25 points

  • Percentage of public transportation users: 25 points

Accessibility: 50 points

  • Bus Lines per density: 10 points
  • Public transit stations per density: 10 points
  • Number of tracks: 10 points
  • Transit lines per density: 10 points
  • Number of transit systems: 10 points

Cost: 25 points

  • Price for a 30-day pass: 12.5 points
  • Percentage of pass cost related to local mean income: 12.5 points

Transit system info was from citylines.co. Transit cost was from ValuePenguin. Bus lines were from a database of 8 million commercially available business listings. These listings may not reflect recent changes to bus line availability. Usage is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of October 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.

The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

12 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy for 2022

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

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

That’s where monthly dividend stocks come into play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Realty Income

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stag Industrial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gladstone Commercial

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

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

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

That’s not a bad run.

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

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EPR Properties

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

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

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

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

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

5 of 12

LTC Properties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AGNC Investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dynex Capital

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

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

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

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

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

8 of 12

Broadmark Realty

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

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

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

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

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

9 of 12

Main Street Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 of 12

Prospect Capital

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

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

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

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

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

That’s commitment.

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Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about TEAF at the Ecofin provider site.

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

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

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BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about BTT at the BlackRock provider site.

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

Source: kiplinger.com

The Best Places to Live in South Carolina in 2022

With its variety of beach towns and laid-back atmosphere throughout the state, there are a lot of cities considered the best places to live in South Carolina.

There are big plantation homes and tons of American history throughout the state, not to mention the unique culture of the Lowcountry. All combined, South Carolina is really like no other place in the U.S.

From outdoor fun to delicious, local eats and all the activities in between, living in South Carolina is an experience worth having. Here are 13 of the best places to live in South Carolina.

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

  • Population: 137,566
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,479
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,224
  • Median home price: $280,000
  • Median household income: $68, 438
  • Walk score: 63/100

With so much history packed into one town, Charleston is a great place to call home. As the starting point for the Civil War, you can explore Fort Sumter and take in a major turning point in our country’s own story.

When you’re ready to dip into the modern amenities of the city, there’s no shortage of enticing eats, preserved architecture and culture to enjoy. It’s the perfect mix of a city and a coastal town with so much to do right outside your door and so many beaches just minutes away.

Clemson, SC

Clemson, SC

  • Population: 17,501
  • 1-BR median rent: n/a
  • 2-BR median rent: $590
  • Median home price: $257,500
  • Median household income: $43,568
  • Walk score: 34/100

Of course, the biggest draw to this particular city is Clemson University. There’s plenty of student housing around this prestigious school. And, although Clemson gets billed as a college town, the city and school have a positive, intertwined community.

Leaving the draw of campus and all that football, introduces you to all the rest Clemson has to offer, including the Bob Campbell Geology Museum, the Brooks Center for Performing Arts and even the South Carolina Botanical Gardens.

Columbia, SC

Columbia, SC

  • Population: 131,674
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,067
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,103
  • Median home price: $200,000
  • Median household income: $47,286
  • Walk score: 35/100

Another college town, Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina. The campus stretches across the city, and tailgate culture is huge, everywhere. You’re most likely a football fan, to some degree, if you call this city home.

In addition to being Gamecock central, Columbia is also the state capital, bringing in a diverse population — that’s not all college students — to make the city run. It’s one of the best places to live in South Carolina because of its varied population and professional opportunities. There’s also plenty of fun things to do.

Fort Mill, SC

Fort Mill, SC

  • Population: 22,284
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,425
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,692
  • Median home price: $410,000
  • Median household income: $91,061
  • Walk score: 19/100

A charming historic district and proximity to Charlotte, NC make Fort Mill an appealing way to stay close to the city without actually living in it. Fort Mill offers miles of hiking and biking trails along its own greenway, plenty of golf and all the dining and shopping you could want.

One of the fastest-growing communities in the area, Fort Mill is drawing in families and young professionals alike — anyone who wants the combination of activity and natural beauty wrapped up in a carefully laid out town.

Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

  • Population: 70,635
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,284
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,445
  • Median home price: $280,000
  • Median household income: $56,609
  • Walk score: 39/100

Known as an artsy city, neighborhoods in Greenville provide an eclectic mix of locations. Combining small-town charm and more urban amenities, you’ll find plenty of galleries, public festivals and events to satisfy your creative side.

Greenville is also perfectly placed for nature lovers to get a dose of outdoor beauty. Situated right in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, scenic hikes are less than an hour away. For a closer touch of nature, Falls Park lures residents in with its waterfalls and suspension bridge.

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head, SC

  • Population: 39,861
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,162
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,600
  • Median home price: $395,000
  • Median household income: $84,575
  • Walk score: 16/100

While you may consider Hilton Head more of a vacation spot than a living destination, the island offers something for everyone. Beautiful beaches, world-class golf, shopping, restaurants and even nightlife are all here. But, it’s not all resorts in this slice of the Lowcountry. There are plenty of communities that provide that homey feel.

Another draw of Hilton Head is its location. The island is one of the best places to live in South Carolina because of its proximity to both Savannah, GA, and Charleston. You can set yourself up for a more picturesque home life while taking advantage of big-city opportunities.

Lexington, SC

Lexington, SC

  • Population: 22,157
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,255
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,420
  • Median home price: $208,000
  • Median household income: $72,996
  • Walk score: 16/100

The historic and modern mix perfectly together in Lexington. Its historical claim to fame is the home to one of the first battles in the Revolutionary War. Another part of the city’s history revolves around commerce, and Lexington’s Old Mill stands as a symbol of the area’s commitment to small businesses.

Shopping around here means supporting locals and long-standing, family-owned shops. Its history and commerce are all in one, packaged in a quaint, suburban environment that continues to draw in young professionals and families.

Mauldin, SC

Mauldin, SC

  • Population: 25,409
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,378
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,333
  • Median home price: $249,200
  • Median household income: $67,860
  • Walk score: 28/100

A suburb of Greenville, Mauldin provides that safe, suburban feel without taking you too far away from a bustling city center. With access to everything the big city has to offer, staying close to home also provides ample opportunities for natural beauty and activity.

The 400-acre Lake Conestee Nature Park is not only a natural habitat for lots of local wildlife, but it’s also a perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. And, it’s only five minutes from the center of town. You also can’t skip over the food in Mauldin when talking about the amenities of the town. You’ll find delicious Lowcountry cooking and plenty of great local restaurants.

Mount Pleasant, SC

Mount Pleasant, SC

  • Population: 91,684
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,525
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,783
  • Median home price: $555,500
  • Median household income: $103,232
  • Walk score: 29/100

As a South Carolina town with literally everything you could ever want, Mount Pleasant is a popular choice to call home. It’s quiet and picturesque, with strong community vibes and a variety of residents. It’s a town that caters to its population with great restaurants, shops and thriving nightlife.

Another laid-back coastal town that has it all, you’re also close to so much that makes South Carolina great. Sullivan’s Island is only a short car ride away, and Isle of Palms isn’t too far, either. On top of that, you’re less than three miles from Charleston. It’s the perfect, middle spot to enjoy everything the entire area offers.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach, SC

  • Population: 34,695
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,314
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,400
  • Median home price: $250,000
  • Median household income: $43,200
  • Walk score: 23/100

Known primarily as a vacation destination that can get a little rowdy, Myrtle Beach has a lot to offer once you step away from the tourist traps and move past the amusement parks and high-rise hotels.

Taking up 60 miles of coastline, Myrtle Beach is a resort town, with all the typical amenities, and that presents a lot of opportunity both for job-seekers and entrepreneurs. There’s also the climate to consider when thinking of Myrtle as one of the best places to live in South Carolina — it’s fantastic. Mild weather and the lulling sounds of the ocean attract families, young professionals and empty-nesters to call this place home.

Rock Hill, SC

Rock Hill, SC

  • Population: 75,048
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,132
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,320
  • Median home price: $277,000
  • Median household income: $50,444
  • Walk score: 32/100

A thriving art scene gives the downtown area of Rock Hill its own signature. Named the state’s first cultural district, this area is full of galleries, museums, theaters and art studios. Not only that, but you’ll find the streets peppered with murals and sculptures from local artists.

Not an arts town alone, Rock Hill also has 31 parks, including Cherry Park and its 68 acres of hiking trails and landscaped walkways. Boyd Hill is another option with a disc golf course, picnic areas and even an outdoor swimming pool.

Spartanburg, SC

Spartanburg, SC

  • Population: 37,399
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,140
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,217
  • Median home price: $205,000
  • Median household income: $40,053
  • Walk score: 29/100

If South Carolina is calling to you for its mountain views, you’ll want to check out Spartanburg. With its small-town feel and neighborly vibe, living here still reminds you that you’re in the south but without the beach-front scenery the majority of the state provides.

A revitalized downtown is representative of the quick pace at which the city has grown over the last few years, and you’ll find diversity in job opportunities and living options as a result.

Tega Cay, SC

Tega Cay, SC

Source: Facebook.com/TegaCayCity
  • Population: 11,335
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,330
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,600
  • Median home price: $460,000
  • Median household income: $130,918
  • Walk score: 16/100

Another suburb of Charlotte, Tega Cay is a close-knit, lakeside community that fits most people’s ideal of small-town living. A family-friendly place, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops, as well as water sports on the lake.

Residents of Tega Cay also value the safety of the city. It’s the kind of place where kids are always out riding bikes and the community pool fills up with eager swimmers each summer. It’s almost like the suburban town you’d find in a movie.

Find an apartment for rent in South Carolina

Whether you want city living, ocean waves or even mountain tops, apartments for rent in South Carolina can provide the perfect view. With locations that accommodate any pace of life, alongside some delicious, fresh seafood, you’ll quickly see why there are so many places in the state people call the best.

The rent information included in this summary is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and Rent.com as of October 2021.
Median home prices are from Redfin as of October 2021.
Population and median household income are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The information in this article is for illustrative purposes only. This data herein does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Amazon Prime Review – Is it a Good Value for the Cost?

At a glance

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

  • Plans: One standard plan for $119 per year or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year); discounted Student Prime plan for eligible members
  • Features: Prime Delivery (multiple expedited and discounted delivery options); Prime Video; Prime Reading; exclusive Prime deals; unlimited music streaming; unlimited photo storage; eligibility for Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card subject to credit qualification
  • Advantages: Wide range of shipping options, though variable by customer location; potentially valuable media perks; higher cash-back earnings for qualified Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card users; Prime member discounts at Whole Foods; 30-day free trial period; household memberships; discounted student memberships
  • Disadvantages: Relatively high annual (and even higher monthly) fee; no refunds if you fail to use the service; additional fees for expedited food delivery; music library is weaker than some competitors’

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Amazon Prime is one of the most popular retail loyalty programs in U.S. history. Although Amazon itself doesn’t regularly release membership figures, a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that more than 100 million people had access to Prime in 2019.

Why is Amazon Prime so popular? And is it really a good value for the cost? To decide for yourself, take a closer look at Amazon Prime’s core features and member perks. Then, weigh the facts to determine when and whether it’s worth the annual expense.

Key Features

What’s remarkable about Amazon Prime’s subscriber count is the fact that you must pay to join. Regular Prime members pay $119 per year when billed annually or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) for the more flexible monthly plan. 

Prime Student members pay $59 per year when billed annually and $6.49 per month (about $78 per year) when billed monthly. To qualify, they must have valid dot-edu email addresses and be able to prove they’re actively enrolled in at least one college course in the United States (including Puerto Rico).

Tens of millions of consumers happily pay comparable annual fees for warehouse store memberships. But most other common retail loyalty programs, such as those run by supermarket and department store chains, cost nothing to join.

But when you look at Amazon Prime’s core features, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular despite the cost.

30-Day Free Trial

All new Prime members are eligible for a 30-day free trial to test-drive the service. During the free trial, you have access to all Prime-exclusive perks and benefits.

You must enter a valid credit card to secure your free trial. Your membership automatically rolls over to paid status at the end of the trial period unless you cancel.

Household Prime Membership

Amazon allows multi-person Prime memberships covering the same household. My wife and I pay a single annual fee for our joint Prime membership. Like merging finances in joint accounts, joint Prime memberships are common practice for spouses and committed domestic partners. 

Household Prime memberships also make sense for long-term roommates.

Prime Delivery

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is Prime Delivery, a collection of Prime-exclusive free and discounted delivery options including:

Free 2-Day Delivery 

Prime’s signature benefit is available on more than 100 million Amazon products for customers in the continental U.S. Members don’t have to worry about a minimum order size or limits on delivery frequency to get free two-day shipping. 

By comparison, free shipping takes anywhere from five to eight business days for non-Prime members, depending on their location and what they order.

Free 1-Day Delivery

Free one-day delivery (next-day delivery) is available across the continental U.S. on more than 10 million Amazon products. Just look for the “Prime FREE One-Day” logo. 

One-day deliveries arrive by 9pm local time the day after you order them. And you’ll never run into minimum order sizes or delivery frequency limits.

Free Same-Day Delivery

Free same-day delivery is more like free 10-business-hour delivery. 

Eligible goods — several million in all — ordered before noon local time arrive by 9pm local time on the same day. Products ordered in the afternoon or evening arrive the following day. 

To qualify, orders must have at least $35 in eligible purchases. Same-day delivery is only available in select cities. Roughly speaking, you can get it in the largest 50 to 100 U.S. metro markets, though Amazon adds new cities regularly.

Free Ultrafast Grocery Delivery 

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers free ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. In some markets, participating third-party retailers may offer ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon as well. 

These deliveries typically take no more than two hours during the business day, but they may take longer during off-hours. Look for the “Available Today” icon in the upper left corner of the shopping page.

Secure In-Home Delivery

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers secure in-home delivery through the Key by Amazon app. 

You can use the app to watch deliveries in real time to ensure the delivery person minds their business inside your home. You must install a special lock and camera and register any frequent guests to limit Amazon’s liability for damage or theft before accepting your first in-home delivery.

Amazon Day Delivery

If you typically place multiple orders per week, you can set a standing Amazon Day to receive everything you ordered during the preceding week. 

It’s a nice perk for Prime members who are frequently absent during the week. For example, setting your Amazon Day for Friday or Saturday reduces the risk of package theft when you’re out of the house on weekdays.

Release-Date Delivery

Amazon Prime members are eligible to shop for preorder products at least two days before their scheduled release dates, then receive free guaranteed delivery the day they’re available to the general public.

Other Amazon Delivery Perks

Amazon’s regular shipping benefits get all the glory. But they’re not the only perks for Amazon Prime members.

Additional perks include:

  • Shopping rewards when you select the no-rush delivery option (either points to use as a credit toward future purchases or instant discounts) 
  • Free delivery on special merchandise that doesn’t typically qualify for free delivery, such as bulky, heavy, or fragile goods
  • Discounted expedited delivery on products that don’t qualify for free one- or same-day shipping

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive library of free on-demand TV and movie content. 

Amazon Studios’ top original series and movies (known as Amazon Originals) are available through Prime Video at no additional charge. So are hundreds of popular non-Amazon shows, movies, and live out-of-market sporting events. 

Amazon doesn’t make its entire universe of video content available to Prime members for free. Premium TV series and films may carry one-time rental fees. 

You can stream Prime Video to your TV with a compatible smart TV or external device, such as an Amazon Fire Stick or Apple TV. On the go, you can access content through the Amazon Prime Video app, which is compatible with Android and iOS operating systems.

Amazon Prime Video is the most popular Prime service available on an a la carte basis. If you only want access to Prime Video streaming and don’t care about other Amazon Prime perks like free, fast delivery, you can get it for $8.99 per month. That’s less than competitors like Hulu and Netflix.

Prime Reading

Prime Reading is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive collection of fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and audio recordings. Prime Reading works are available for download on any compatible device, Amazon-made or otherwise.

Music Streaming

Prime subscribers can stream over 2 million songs, including new hits and old favorites, through Prime Music for free. But it’s worth noting that’s a fraction of what’s available from leading streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, which have more like 40 million songs in their respective libraries.

Prime Deals & Prime Day Deals

Prime Deals are Prime-exclusive shopping discounts and promotions. They’re subject to change but generally include discounts of 10% to 40% on popular Amazon products, with a focus on home goods, electronics, and kids toys and accessories. Prime-exclusive deals are particularly plentiful on Prime Day.

Prime Add-On Subscriptions

Prime members are under no obligation to add anything to their Prime subscriptions. Before you subscribe to an add-on, check its availability. 

As add-ons, all these subscriptions carry an additional cost — anywhere from $2.99 per month for Amazon Kids+ to $29 per month for NBA League Pass. But they make valuable services for anyone who uses them regularly.

Premium Prime Video Channels

Prime members can watch high-quality video content not included in the regular Prime Video. 

Known as Prime Video Channels, this premium content lineup includes subscription movie and TV channels like HBO and Starz. It also includes a decent lineup of live sports channels and memberships, including NBA League Pass and MLB.TV. 

There are no big channel packages full of content you don’t really watch. You pay only for the channels you want, which helps control your total entertainment cost.

Amazon Kids+

For a small additional monthly fee after a one-month free trial, Prime members can add unlimited kid-friendly content — books, TV shows, movies, and apps — through Amazon Kids+. Kids+ includes built-in parental controls.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Music Unlimited is an expanded song library with over 60 million songs, which is on par with top standalone subscription streaming services. There’s a decent additional monthly fee associated with this service.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a premium cash-back credit card that’s ideal for Prime members who spend heavily at Amazon and Whole Foods.

It’s a more powerful version of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. The Prime Visa earns 5% cash back on Amazon-universe purchases and an unlimited 2% cash back on purchases at eligible restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores. 

Credit qualification applies. This card is designed for Prime members with good to excellent credit. Before you apply, check your credit score.


Advantages

There are many reasons to invest in an Amazon Prime subscription. 

1. Vast Array of Shipping Options

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is a slew of free or discounted shipping options, from two-day free shipping on some 10 million products to ultrafast two-hour shipping in select metro markets. 

If you frequently place last-minute orders, the rush delivery fees could cost as much as or more than many of the products you buy. That makes Prime’s subscription fee seem like a bargain. 

Even if you’re not in a rush, it could still be worth it. Let’s optimistically say you average a delivery fee of $5 per order. Your month-to-month Prime subscription pays for itself if you place just three orders per month. On an annual subscription, it pays for itself with two orders per month.

2. Media Perks Have High Potential Value for Frequent Users

Amazon Prime Video in particular delivers tremendous value for frequent users when compared with competitors like Hulu. 

Unfortunately, it’s not a universal library. For example, Netflix has a trove of original shows and movies, and the newest, choicest flicks carry per-rental fees. But it’s more than enough to keep Prime members occupied on nights in.

3. Free Trial Period

You can cancel your Prime subscription without penalty during the 30-day free trial period. That’s a lifesaver for budget-conscious shoppers looking to dip their toes in without paying anything out of pocket.

4. Household Membership

Joint household memberships are ideal for couples, families, and long-term roommates looking to pool their shopping and media consumption dollars. 

You can only have two adults on a household membership, but its time-saving features give parents peace of mind without paying an extra dime. Teens can shop on their own, pending your approval via text, and you can customize parental controls to limit and monitor kids’ access to media.

5. Membership Discounts for Students

Verified students enjoy 50% off the monthly or annual cost of a Prime membership. That’s excellent news for penny-pinching scholars expecting to rely on Amazon for timely deliveries of textbooks, electronics, school supplies, and basic dorm necessities.

6. Special Discounts at Whole Foods

Prime members enjoy exclusive 10%-off deals on hundreds of products at Whole Foods, subject to change and availability. 

Were it not for this perk, I wouldn’t bother shopping at my local Whole Foods at all, but this discount is deep enough to make Whole Foods’ prices competitive with nearby downscale supermarket chains.

7. Higher Cash-Back Earnings on the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card

For frequent Amazon and Whole Foods shoppers with above-average credit, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card’s 2% cash back bonus subsidizes or entirely offsets Prime’s annual membership fee. 

Earning 2% back on gas and restaurant purchases is nice too, though you don’t need to be a Prime member for that.


Disadvantages

As good as it is for so many, there are downsides to the Amazon Prime subscription.

1. Relatively High Annual Fee

Amazon Prime has a relatively high annual fee: $119 per year when billed annually and $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) when billed monthly. For reference, that’s roughly double the cost of a basic Costco membership. 

If you’re not a frequent Amazon or Whole Foods shopper, don’t regularly take advantage of Prime’s non-shipping perks and features, and don’t mind waiting a few extra days for delivery, Prime probably isn’t for you.

2. No Partial Refunds for Unused Benefits on Annual Subscriptions

If you use your Prime benefits at any point during your subscription period, you’re automatically ineligible for a refund of Prime fees paid during that period. 

For instance, say you opt for the two-day free shipping benefit on one order in January, the first month of your Prime membership year. Then, you don’t use your subscription for months, deciding to cancel your annual subscription in May. You’ll pay the full cost for the entire year, despite canceling five months in. 

That’s an incentive to pay for Prime on a month-to-month basis, despite the higher yearly cost. And it’s a disadvantage over warehouse stores like Costco, whose expansive satisfaction guarantees make it fairly easy to cancel for a retroactive refund.

3. Expedited Food Delivery Costs More

An Amazon Prime membership does not entitle you to expedited grocery deliveries. For most folks, the fastest, cheapest way to get edible essentials using your Amazon discount is to stop by the nearest Whole Foods Market, where Prime members enjoy 10% off select goods. 

Amazon Fresh is particularly expensive. Mercifully, shipping is free on Prime Pantry orders over $35.

4. Free Music Library Isn’t Particularly Impressive

To most people, 2 million songs sounds like a lot. But Prime’s free streaming music library isn’t very extensive compared with top-of-the-line streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. 

Those seeking deep cuts may want to look elsewhere or spring for a paid Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.


Final Word

Amazon Prime has a lot to offer, but it isn’t for everyone. 

My wife and I get our money’s worth and feel it’s a fair value. But we know plenty of occasional Amazon shoppers who can’t justify spending more than $100 per year for Prime benefits. Other shoppers take issue with Amazon’s growing retail dominance and prefer to support independently owned retailers instead.

Whether Amazon Prime makes sense for you depends on how much value you can extract from it. If you’re already selecting one- or two-day shipping on frequent Amazon purchases, shopping at Whole Foods, and regularly streaming Amazon content, it makes sense to join Prime. 

If you shop Amazon infrequently or not at all, don’t watch much TV, and don’t live near a Whole Foods, Prime likely isn’t worth it for you. If you’re living somewhere between those two poles, your choice might be tougher, but you now have what you need to make an informed decision.

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The Verdict

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

Verdict: Amazon Prime is a wildly successful retail loyalty subscription that more than justifies its high annual cost and even higher monthly cost (a premium for the freedom to cancel anytime).

The ideal Prime user is an individual or household willing to pay upfront for free, expedited shipping and able to take advantage of value-added perks like Prime Video and member-exclusive deals.

If you qualify for the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card, you’re much more likely to offset the annual Prime membership fee. And you may neutralize the cost through increased cash-back earnings alone if you spend enough at Amazon and Whole Foods.

Prime is not ideal for occasional Amazon shoppers or those willing to pay more to support local or non-Amazon retailers.

Editorial Note:
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Late Rent Notice: When and How to Send One to Overdue Tenants

If your tenant runs late with the rent, here are steps you can take to resolve the situation and get paid.

When a new tenant moves into your unit, you expect that they’ll pay their rent on the first of the month like clockwork. But, that might not always be the case. Despite their best intentions, some tenants might be late paying rent and you’ll have to send a late rent notice.

Handling late rent payments is an inevitable part of owning or managing rental property. So, creating a process for late rent, including a standard letter to send to tenants, will make the situation run much more smoothly. Here’s an overview of how to write a late rent notice, when to send one to renters and what to do when the tenant doesn’t pay the overdue rent.

What is a late rent notice?

Simply put, a late rent notice is a letter written by the property manager (or owner) to the tenant informing them that rent is past due — according to what’s included in the lease agreement. The lease should specify the rent amount, when it’s due, when it’s considered late and how you will notify tenants of overdue rent.

The notice tells the tenant how much they owe, any late fees you’ll charge and when they must pay rent. You should also include the next steps for renters — either pay the rent and continue living in the home or what will happen if they don’t remedy the situation, such as starting the eviction process.

When rent is late, it’s a good idea to encourage tenants to discuss the situation with you. Good communication will help you find out if they’re struggling with financial problems or if they believe you’re not holding up your end of the lease agreement, such as neglecting repairs. To maintain a positive relationship with renters, try to work with tenants to come up with a resolution that benefits everyone.

Writing a late rent notice.

Writing a late rent notice.

What should a late rent notice include?

When drafting a late rent notice, first check your local rental laws to understand any regulations regarding late rent. For example, you’ll want to find out if you can charge late fees, whether there are specific time frames for what’s considered late rent and when you’re required to notify tenants that you’re taking action.

A late rent notice should include the following elements in most cases:

  • The entire property address of the rental
  • Date of issue for the notice
  • Names of the tenants on the lease
  • The rent balance due
  • A list of late fees
  • How tenants can pay the late rent, such as online or by check
  • An explanation of what happens if they can’t clear up the late rent or continue to pay late
  • A resolution date for the situation
  • Signature of the property manager or owner
  • Contact information for the property manager or owner

Sample late rent notice template

To streamline the process of late rent payments, create a standard letter that you can send all tenants. You can use this sample late rent notice template below. Simply download as a PDF or download as a Word document and customize it for your needs.

sample late rent notice letter

sample late rent notice letter

When to send a late rent notice?

Property managers typically require tenants to pay rent on the first of the month. They will also specify when rent is considered late, usually five or seven days after the due date. So, the best time to send a late rent notice is immediately after that grace period.

Local rental laws often include rules when rent is overdue, when to send notices, whether you can add on late fees and the late fees permitted. Some late fees are a percentage of the rent, such as 5 percent, or a flat rate. Include all of these details in your lease agreement.

You can deliver the notice in person or send it certified mail, which provides proof of delivery. Another option is to email it with a “read receipt” notifying you that the tenant opened the message. However you send it, maintain a copy of the late rent notice in your files.

What if tenants don’t pay the past-due rent?

After you’ve sent the late rent notice and the tenant doesn’t pay the overdue balance, you can begin an eviction. These processes differ by state (and even at the city level) so it’s crucial to learn about the requirements and legalities in your area. Consult an attorney for help before taking any action against a tenant.

An eviction is a formal process to terminate the lease agreement early because of failure to pay rent (or other reasons such as a tenant damaging property). Often, that starts with a pay or quit notice, a formal letter sent to the tenant stating that they need to pay the overdue rent or vacate the home. The notice usually gives tenants a few days, often three to five, to pay up or move out. If a tenant leaves the home without paying rent, you might be able to get a judgment from the court to recoup the missed payments.

In some states, a pay or quit notice begins the eviction process, while in others, you’ll need to take additional action to evict. That’s why understanding local landlord-tenant laws is vital.

Couple talking to landlord

Couple talking to landlord

How to work out a deal for rent repayment

No one wants to go through an eviction. Evictions are costly for property managers and owners and can mar a tenant’s credit and bring extra charges for them. If your tenant contacts you about the late rent notice, see if you can work out an agreement. After all, you don’t want to place more financial burden and extra stress on the tenant if they’re struggling with something like a lost job or another issue.

Finding a way to keep your existing tenant, especially if their struggles to pay rent are only temporary, will likely save you money in the long run. Some possible rent repayment agreements you can come to include:

  • Adjust due dates: For renters with multiple bills, agreeing to change the rent due date in the future could ensure they’re better able to pay on time.
  • Split rent into two payments: If tenants struggle to pay the lump sum, setting two smaller rent payment due dates might be helpful. Consider scheduling the due dates closer to when the tenant gets paid each month.
  • Waive late fees: Consider not enforcing the late fees if the tenant is able to repay the rent balance.
  • Set up a repayment plan: A repayment plan could help tenants repay the past-due rent in smaller increments, which they may find more financially doable. Consider dividing the late amount over six months or a year and adding it to the regular rent payment.

If you can come to an agreement with your tenant over the late rent, put it in writing. Include all the details that you’ve agreed to, as well as what happens if they violate the agreement, and make sure you and the tenant sign it.

How to make sure late rent doesn’t continue

Whether you’ve resolved the late-rent situation with your tenant or want to ensure it doesn’t happen with a new renter, establishing a few best practices can help. Though, late rent is inevitable sometimes.

  • Charge a reasonable amount of rent: Check out how much similar properties in your area are renting for and charge something comparable.
  • Screen tenants before signing a lease: Part of the screening process should include checking their credit, verifying employment and talking to previous landlords about the tenant’s rental history.
  • Review the lease with tenants: Before signing, verbally go through the lease with each tenant. Explain when rent is due, when it’s considered late and what happens if they don’t pay on time.
  • Accept rent payments online: Letting tenants pay rent online and encouraging them to set up automatic payments could help you get paid timely. Rent.com enables property owners and property managers to accept rent online.
  • Send reminders: Set up automatic email reminders to send to your tenants a few days before rent is due. This might ensure no one forgets!
  • Post notices in your apartment community: Hang posters in common areas of your apartment community, reminding everyone when rent is due.
  • Keep the lines of communication open: Maintain a positive relationship with tenants and foster a sense of openness. Encourage anyone with a problem paying rent to discuss it with you as soon as possible, so that you can find a solution and avoid eviction.

How and when to send a late rent notice

Property managers and property owners likely don’t expect late rent payments to occur. But sometimes, events outside a tenant’s control come up and prevent them from paying on time. Being prepared and drafting a late rent notice will help resolve the situation easily. Consider listing your property on Rent.com, where you can reach potential renters, screen them and collect payments online.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

31 Ideas for Doing Thanksgiving Inexpensively

If you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner, you likely know how easy it is for costs to spiral. Between appetizers, drinks, the turkey, sides, and pies, you can easily rack up (multiple!) large tabs at the grocery store.

Even if you’re just traveling to have Thanksgiving with family or friends, you can end up putting a big dent in your spending account. Airlines and hotels often charge a premium during high-demand times like Thanksgiving weekend.

To avoid overspending just a few weeks before gift-giving season, read on. We’ve got 31 ways to keep your Thanksgiving costs under control.

Thanksgiving on a Budget: How to Save

Here are some simple strategies for doing Thanksgiving inexpensively this year. Bonus: They can also help you save time — and stress.

1. Stocking Up as Stuff Goes on Sale

Throughout November, stores typically have different Thanksgiving dinner items on sale. Grabbing nonperishables whenever you see them on discount can save a bundle, and also help spread out the cost of the meal.

2. Making It a Potluck

Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, you can make Thanksgiving inexpensive by asking your guests to each contribute a dish. You can coordinate who is bringing what in advance to make sure there are no overlaps or gaps.

3. Checking Coupon Sites

Before heading out to the grocery store, you may want to check out coupon websites like Coupons.com , LOZO , and CouponMom to find deals on the items on your shopping list.

4. Going to Manufacturers’ Websites

A few major brands likely produce many of the items on your Thanksgiving shopping list. It can be worth checking websites like Butterball and General Mills for coupons and seasonal promos.

5. Getting Your Grocery Store’s App

Many supermarkets have apps that offer coupons and deals. Sometimes you can get a reward just for signing up.

6. Hitting More Than One Store

Going to just one supermarket is obviously more convenient. But if you check the circulars, you may see different items on sale at different stores. Going to a few different grocery stores could lead to significant savings.

7. Buying a Store-Brand Frozen Turkey

Typically, a turkey makes up about 40% of the cost of the Thanksgiving meal. Opting for a store-brand frozen bird, rather than a fresh one, can significantly lower your total outlay for the meal.

8. Splitting the Costs

You may want to consider teaming up with a sibling or other family member to co-host this year’s gathering. That way you can spit all of the costs, rather than foot the entire bill.

9. Buying Basics in Bulk

Buying staples like flour, potatoes, eggs, cream, and butter from a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club can help you spend a lot less on food, as long as you’re not buying more than you need or will use up after Thanksgiving.

Recommended: How to Buy in Bulk: Beginners Guide

10. Going Generic

Many times, generic or store-brand products are just as good as the brand name version, and the only real difference is price.

11. Asking Guests to BYOB

Wine, beer, and other alcohol can add up quickly. One easy way to save money is to ask your guests to bring their favorite beverage. That way, everyone will get to sip something they love, and you won’t have to shell out all that extra money.

12. Sticking With Seasonal Produce

Vegetables that are in season in November, such as sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, and white potatoes, will typically cost a lot less than out-of-season picks, such as corn, asparagus, and green beans.

13. Going With Frozen Veggies

If you want to use veggies that aren’t in season, you may want to choose the frozen versions, which are generally much cheaper than fresh.

14. Baking Your Own Bread

Baking bread can be fun, and typically involves spending a lot less than buying rolls or loaves at a bakery. You can also make bread ahead of time and stick it in the freezer until the big day.

15. Going Simple with Sides

It can be tempting to try a new gourmet recipe you saw online or in your favorite food magazine, but fancy recipes often require specialty ingredients — and can end up costing a lot to make.

16. Not Going Overboard

You may love the idea of giving your guests a cornucopia of options, especially when it comes to appetizers and sides. But making a lot of different dishes can lead to a much longer and costlier grocery bill. And, much of that food may end up going to waste.

17. Getting a Bigger Turkey Than You Need

Yes, this sounds like a way to increase costs. Going with a larger bird, however, can pay off by giving you several additional meals, like turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pies, you can make later without going back to the store, or spending another dime.

18. Considering Pre-Made Dishes

Sometimes store-made dishes and desserts can actually be cheaper than buying all of the ingredients and making these things yourself. It can be worth doing some quick math at the store. This move can also save you time, as well as stress.

19. Shopping Your Pantry

You may already have quite a few shelf-stable items in your pantry (maybe even from last Thanksgiving) that you need this year. It can be well worth the time and effort to give your cabinets a once-over before you head to the market.

20. Watching a Movie at Home

Though many people have a tradition of going out to the movies on Thanksgiving, theater tickets and concessions can be pricey. Instead, you may want to consider renting a movie from a streaming service (or finding a free one) that everyone can watch together on Thanksgiving night.

21. Not Going to the Mall

The average American dropped about $312 going shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation . If you don’t want to be tempted by Black Friday bargains, your best bet may be to avoid stores and stay off-line.

Recommended: How to Cut Back on Spending

22. Using Up Airline Points

If you need to travel by plane over Thanksgiving, you may want to consider using any points you’ve racked up with the airlines or on your credit card to score a free or discounted ticket.

23. Going on a Staycation

While taking a vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday can be fun, it could add up to thousands of dollars between the flights, hotels, and rental car, depending on where you go. You may want to consider staying home and planning a series of local adventures instead.

24. Staying in an Airbnb

If you normally stay in a hotel when you visit family or friends over Thanksgiving, you may be able to save by going with an Airbnb instead, especially if you can share it with other people who are coming in from out of town.

25. Checking Warehouse Clubs for Travel Deals

Before you book any Thanksgiving travel, you may want to check for deals offered by your local warehouse club. If you are a member, you may be able to access discounts on hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, and more.

26. Asking for Travel Discounts

Whether you’re renting a car or staying in a hotel over Thanksgiving, it can be a good idea to ask if you are eligible for any discounts when you book. You may be able to score a lower price if you’re a AAA member, a student, a resident of the state, a member of the military, or over age 55.

Recommended: 27 Tips For Finding The Top Travel Deals

27. Making a Budget

Whether you’re hosting or heading out of town, it can be a wise idea to come up with a total amount you can afford to spend on Thanksgiving. You can then make a list of expected expenses, and determine how much you can realistically spend on each item.

Recommended: Building a Line Item Budget

28. Going DIY with Decor

A fun way to save money on Thanksgiving is to recruit the kids in the family to create your decorations. They could collect and paint pine cones, create cut-out turkeys (using their hands to trace them), or make a craft paper tablecloth where everyone can write or draw what they are thankful for.

29. Handing the Reins to Someone Else

Hosting can be fun and rewarding, but if you need a reprieve from the work — and expense — you may want to see if someone else wants to step up this year. You can offer to bring your famous balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes to make the host’s job easier.

30. Going Out to Eat

Local restaurants may be offering Thanksgiving specials to bring in customers. You could save big if you go out to eat (and split the tab) rather than host everyone at your home.

31. Volunteering for the Holiday

Helping out at a local soup kitchen can be a great way to get into the holiday spirit and have a chance to focus on giving back, rather than spending.

TheTakeaway

You can enjoy Thanksgiving (and the upcoming December holidays) without running up expensive credit card debt that you may struggle to pay back.

One great way to keep your holiday costs under control is to set up a simple budget and then make sure you stick to it by keeping track of your expenses as you go.

With a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can easily track and categorize your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the SoFi Money app.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you keep tabs on spending this holiday season.

Photo credit: iStock/GMVozd


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Source: sofi.com

How to Write a Rent Increase Letter To Your Tenants

Follow this process to notify your tenant of an upcoming rent increase.

Increasing rent each year is a common practice for many property managers. And when the time comes, you need to write a rent increase letter to tenants informing them of the change.

Many states have rental laws that stipulate how much you can raise a tenant’s rent, when you can increase rent and how and when you’re required to notify tenants that their rent is going up. Standardizing this process will help you apply rent increases consistently and equitably for all your tenants.

Not sure how to write a rent increase letter? Here’s an overview of what the letter should include, how to send it and when to deliver the notice to your tenant.

Reasons to raise a tenant’s rent

If you’re planning to raise rent sometime soon, you’re not alone. Over the past year, rent prices have crept up about 20 percent nationwide, according to ApartmentGuide. The reason is that there are fewer rental properties available and a large number of renters are looking for affordable properties. Keeping up with the local real estate market is one reason property owners increase rent each year.

You might also raise the rent if there’s a rise in property taxes, insurance, homeowners association fees or utility prices. Another reason is if you made significant upgrades or repairs to the home. Increasing rent can help cover some of these expenses.

You can’t increase rent for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons, however. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, religion, color, national origin, family status, sex or disability. Raising rent based on how many children a family has could violate this law, for example. Many states prohibit rent increases solely because you had a negative interaction with the renter.

Man working on a calculator

Man working on a calculator

How much can I raise the rent?

In October 2021, rent for a one-bedroom apartment averaged $1,660 nationally and $1,964 for a two-bedroom. The average rent increase is usually 3 percent to 5 percent a year. If rent is $1,660 a month, an increase would be $49 to $83.

In most cases, property owners can technically increase the rent as much as they want, but only by a reasonable amount. Raising rent too much could turn off a great tenant, and it will likely cost more to have the apartment sitting vacant.

When deciding how much to increase a tenant’s rent, it’s best to start with your local landlord-tenant laws. Some states or municipalities may cap rent increases or not allow rent to exceed a certain amount, especially if the property is rent-controlled.

When is the best time to increase the rent?

Property managers can’t raise the rent on a whim or in the middle of a lease term. When a tenant signs a lease, they agree to a specific rent amount for a certain timeframe. Some leases specify how rent increases work and how much rent will go up. Rent increases should occur once the lease term ends, which is usually every 12 months.

You can propose a rent increase ahead of a lease ending with it going into effect once the term expires — however, the tenant doesn’t have to agree to it. The renter can choose not to renew the lease with higher rent and move out. If they stay in the home after the lease expires, you have the right to go through the eviction process.

When to send a rent increase letter

You must provide tenants with written notice before raising the rent. State laws specify the timeframe for when you should send the notice, but it’s usually 30 days before a lease term ends or when the increase will take effect. Then, give renters time to respond to the notice — if they agree to the rent increase and will renew their lease or they’re not renewing and plan to move out.

Woman putting. a letter into an envelope

Woman putting. a letter into an envelope

How to write a rent increase letter to tenants

A rent increase letter serves two purposes. It notifies tenants that their rent is going up and is official documentation that you notified them of the increase within the required timeframe.

When writing a rent increase letter, keep the tone professional but friendly — and be clear and direct. Make sure your letter includes these elements:

  • Name of the tenant
  • Property address
  • Name and contact information for the property manager (or property owner)
  • Date of the letter
  • Date the rent increase will go into effect
  • Amount of the rent increase
  • Amount of the current rent
  • Date first new rent payment will be due
  • Mention the current lease agreement’s expiration date
  • Include a timeframe for when the tenant must notify you that they’re not renewing their lease

Sample rent increase letter to tenants

Here’s a rent increase letter template that you can use to notify your tenants. Simply update anything in brackets. You can also download a PDF or word document of this file.

[Property manager or owner name]
[Address]
[City, state, ZIP Code]
[Phone number and email address]

[Date of notice]

[Tenant’s name]
[Property address]
[City, state, ZIP Code]

Dear [Tenant’s name],

This notice is to inform you that beginning [date the rent will increase], the monthly rent that you pay to occupy the unit at [property address] will increase if you choose to renew your lease. Your current lease expires on [date of lease expiration].

The current monthly rent is [amount of current rent] and your new rent amount will be [amount of new rent]. The first payment at the new monthly rent amount will be due [include date payment is due].

Please let us know if you agree to this increase. Check one of the boxes below and sign and return this notice to the address provided by [date to return the notice]:

I agree to the rent increase of [amount of new rent] effective [date the rent will increase]. Please send me a lease renewal.

I do not agree to the rent increase and will vacate the unit by [date to move out], as specified in the lease agreement.

Please let us know if you have any questions about this notice.

Sincerely,

[Property owner/manager’s name]
[Property owner/manager’s signature]
[Tenant’s signature]

How to deliver the rent increase letter

Check with your local laws to see if you’re required to deliver a rent increase notice via a certain method. You can hand-deliver the notice by leaving it on the tenant’s front door.

If you mail the rent increase letter, send it certified mail, which provides confirmation that the tenant received it. Email is another option. Just make sure you include a read receipt to ensure they received the message.

Play by the rules

Increasing rent is a standard part of running a rental property. You just need to make sure you’re following all state and local laws regarding how much and when you can raise rent and how to notify tenants.

When you list the property with Rent.com, you can collect rent online, as well as accept applications and screen tenants.

Source: rent.com