How to Get the Most Out of Your Airline Miles and Points

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Lots of people like to travel to new places and try new things. The problem is that travel can be expensive.

I’ve personally managed to take nearly all of my vacations for free thanks to rewards credit cards. All in all, I’ve earned more than 1 million miles and points to fund my trips over the past five years. I’ve used these points to visit U.S. and international destinations I would never have seen otherwise, enriching my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. 

If you know what you’re doing, you can — like me — save a lot of money by using airline miles and points. If you really take the time to optimize your travel rewards, you can find yourself on a luxury vacation for economy prices.

How to Get the Most of Your Airline Miles and Points

Most airlines and hotels operate loyalty programs that award you with miles and points when you fly or stay with them. 

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These points help you save money and earn upgrades when you redeem them for travel. And there’s lots you can do to earn more rewards even before you travel — giving you some much needed budgetary breathing room. 

Earning Miles & Points

If you’re looking to go on an exciting vacation on the cheap, you’ll want to earn as many miles and points as possible before you set sail. Use these strategies to boost your earning rate.

Sign Up for Airline & Hotel Loyalty Programs

Even if you haven’t flown with an airline or stayed at a hotel, you should be able to sign up for that company’s loyalty program. This ensures you’ll earn points next time you fly or stay with that company. 

It also ensures you’ll receive promotional offers. 

Though potentially annoying if you’re not actively planning to travel in the near future, these offers often promise big discounts or exciting opportunities to earn rewards points or miles. For example, members of American Airlines AAdvantage program often receive mailers to sign up for a branded credit card and get a great sign-up bonus.

Choose the Right Credit Card

One of the best ways to earn more airline miles and hotel points is to regularly use a travel credit card. 

Most major airlines and hotel chains have a credit card partner and offer one or more branded credit cards. Each time you use their card, you’ll earn points or miles that you can redeem toward future travel.

When evaluating potential travel credit cards, consider the following:

  • Whether You’ll Actually Use Your Points. If you won’t use the points or miles a card offers, it’s not worth getting.
  • How Much You’ll Earn. Look for cards that have the highest earning rates in the categories you know you’ll spend in.
  • Status and Perks. If you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel, see if there are premium cards that come with status or perks with that chain. For example, certain Hilton credit cards confer automatic status that comes with you automatic room upgrades, a daily food and beverage credit, a free night on longer trips, and more.
  • Generic Cards. If you aren’t loyal to a specific brand, choose one that offers generic rewards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the American Express Gold Card. Instead of being tied to a single airline, you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards points toward travel on a number of the card issuers’ partner airlines.

Take Advantage of Welcome Bonuses

One of the best opportunities to rack up points or miles is through welcome bonuses and other credit card offers.

Credit card issuers want you to sign up for their card, so they’ll try to incentivize people to sign up through these offers. Usually, they require you to spend a certain amount of money within a certain time period, often three or four months.

For example, you might see a deal to earn 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in your first three months with a new credit card.

These bonuses are often large enough to get you a free round-trip flight or hotel stay right away. If you’re in the market for a travel credit card, pay attention to each contender’s welcome bonus offer — it could well be the card’s defining feature.

However, be careful and make sure that you can meet the spending requirement of any card you sign up for without overspending. If you overspend and carry a balance, the interest you pay will more than offset the value of the rewards you earn.

Take Advantage of Bonus Spending Categories

Some credit cards have flat-rate rewards programs. You earn rewards at the same rate regardless of where you spend your money.

Other rewards programs have bonus categories. For example, a credit card might give you 1 mile per dollar spent on most purchases but offer 2 bonus miles for each dollar you spend at restaurants.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers:

  • 5x points on travel through Chase
  • 3x points on dining and delivery
  • 3x points on groceries
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 2x points on other travel purchases
  • 1x points on everything else

Some cards also offer limited-time deals where you can get even higher earning rates at certain merchants, such as 10x points per dollar spent with a particular merchant.

If you have multiple rewards credit cards, try to optimize your spending to take advantage of bonus spending categories and earn more miles or points.

Refer a Friend

Many credit card issuers offer refer-a-friend bonuses to cardholders who get someone else to sign up for a travel card. Often, these programs are win-win situations: You get a bonus for making a successful referral and the referred person gets a lucrative sign-up bonus.

If you know someone who wants a travel credit card, refer them to your favorite card. You could both end up closer to a free flight or hotel stay.

Pay for Group Travel

If your friends aren’t up for signing up for new cards but still want to travel with you, you can accelerate your earnings by offering to book everyone’s flights and hotels. Put the cost of the trip on your card and have everyone else pay you back.

As long as they do pay you back, you earn miles or points on the entire trip value while still only paying your portion of the costs.

This can be especially lucrative if your credit card offers bonus points for spending on flights or hotels. You could find yourself racking up tens of thousands of points if you put all of the flights or hotel rooms on your card. It’s also a good way to hit spending requirements for welcome bonuses.

Just make sure you get paid back after you book the trip.

Use Shopping Portals

Many credit card issuers, airlines, and hotel chains offer shopping portals that sell merchandise and travel. If you shop through these portals, you could earn additional frequent flyer miles or rewards points, often at better rates than those offered by the card’s regular rewards program.

Depending on the portal, you might even earn points when you shop with a debit card. That’s great news if your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be and you’re having trouble qualifying for a travel credit card as a result.

Earn Elite Status

Many airlines’ and hotels’ loyalty programs offer elite status if you earn enough miles or points or spend enough money on their branded credit cards. If you travel a lot, elite status is well worth the effort to achieve, as it promises perks like room or fare upgrades, food credits, bonus point earnings, free nights, and more.

For example, if you earn at least 125,000 Rapid Rewards points with Southwest Airlines, you qualify for a companion pass. That gives one companion of your choice a free ticket on any flight you take, less taxes and fees. The pass lasts through the end of the following year, giving you more than 12 months to enjoy this benefit. 

Redeeming Miles & Points

Earning your miles and points is just one piece of the puzzle. You’ll want to use points in the most efficient way possible to make sure you get the best value.

Be Flexible About Travel Dates

Whether you’re paying for your airline ticket with cash or miles, being flexible about your travel dates is one of the best ways to save money while traveling. 

Certain times of the year, like Thanksgiving weekend and the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, have huge demand for travel. Other times, not so much.

For example, a recent round-trip flight between Boston and Orlando cost me about $220 in early June. Not bad. During Thanksgiving week the same year, the same route cost more than double that. Ouch.

Certain days of the week are busier and therefore more expensive too. Expect to pay more to fly on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. 

Bottom line: If you can be flexible and travel during less busy times, you can redeem your points for award flights at a much cheaper rate.

Treat Yourself to Upgrades

If you’re looking for a luxury vacation, fare class or room upgrades offer fantastic value for your points. You can often upgrade to a first-class or business class seat for a relatively low number of miles compared to the difference in the two fares’ cash prices.

Hotels are similar. More luxurious rooms often cost fewer points than you’d expect based on the cash price.

If your goal is to travel as much as possible, don’t waste your points on upgrades. But if you’re craving a once-in-a-while splurge, this is a cost-effective strategy. 

Think Beyond Airfare and Hotels

Airfare and lodging are big travel expenses, but they’re not the only ones you’ll encounter on your journey. Once you get where you’re going, you have to think about what you’re going to do and how you’ll get around.

Some hotels and airlines have partnerships with rental car companies or vacation companies that offer activities or excursions. You might be able to redeem your rewards for exciting activities or a free rental car so you can drive around your destination.

Travel cards with generic rewards are often the best way to get these redemptions. For example, Chase’s Sapphire line of cards let you redeem your points not only for flights and hotels but also for cruises, rental cars, and sightseeing tours.

Consider the Point Transfer Ratio

Many airlines and hotels have partner companies and let their customers transfer points or miles to their partners. This has two clear benefits.

First, it gives you more options. For example, the OneWorld Alliance is a group of airlines that includes American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, and Qantas, among others.

If you have American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you can often use them to book flights with another member of the OneWorld Alliance.

Second, if you’re willing to put in some work, you can sometimes get even more value for your points by transferring them. Favorable transfer ratios often boost your points’ value — sometimes by an order of magnitude — after you’ve moved them to another airline.

Find the Award Chart Sweet Spots

Some hotels and airlines have standardized redemption options, letting you turn a set number of miles into a specific flight or hotel stay.

For example, JetBlue offers one-way flights to and from Hawaii and any U.S. East Coast location for 30,000 miles, making a round-trip vacation 60,000 miles. 

Depending on where you live on the East Coast, that deal could be a great value over redeeming points for other flights. For example, despite the much shorter distance and (usually) lower dollar cost, a flight between Boston and Los Angeles can cost as much as 33,000 points.

Be on the lookout for sweet spots where you can get a far greater value for your points or miles than other redemptions.

Redeem Via the Rewards Portal

If you’re using a travel credit card with generic rewards instead of a branded airline card, you can often get better value for your points by using the card issuer’s rewards portal.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card boosts your points’ value by 50% when you use them to book travel through Chase’s travel portal. If you book your tickets outside the portal, you lose that value.

Pool Points With Friends & Family

If you’re going on a family vacation with members of the same airline or hotel loyalty program, look into pooling your points as a group. Many airlines and hotels allow this at no cost. 

If you each have just a few thousand points, you may not be able to get any useful redemptions on your own. But together, you might be able to get a free ticket or room and split the savings between everyone.

Watch for Limited-Time Deals

Some airlines or hotels will run deals where you can redeem your points for great deals. If you’re paying attention, you might see a chance to get a flight or hotel stay for half the normal price.

These deals can also come on the earning side, such as a higher earning rate on the purchase of a flight or hotel stay. This can accelerate your progress toward a free flight or stay.

Don’t Forget Partner Awards

Just like the various travel alliances often let you transfer points between airlines or hotels, you can often redeem your miles directly for flights on other airlines without having to transfer them first.

Partner bookings can be a bit complicated when it comes to finding the best value for your miles. But if you’re lucky, you can get a great redemption for very cheap.

Familiarize yourself with the different airline alliances to see which airlines are partners to see if you can find good opportunities. If you have a specific trip in mind, you can do some research online — using resources like travel subreddits — to see if other travelers have found exciting deals.

Keep an Eye on Expiration Dates

Some loyalty programs make their miles or points expire after a period of time. For example, American Airlines miles expire after two years of no activity. 

Fortunately, if you earn a single mile during any two-year period, you reset the timer for your entire balance. Time your purchases accordingly.

Cash Out Miles You Won’t Use

Between sign up bonuses, referring friends, and not having time to travel much, you might find yourself with way more miles and points than you can imagine yourself using.

If you find yourself with miles that are about to expire or that you won’t otherwise use, try to redeem them for something so that you don’t completely miss out on the value. 

You can do this even if you don’t plan to travel in the near future. Many airlines let you cash out your miles for non-travel rewards, such as gift cards or merchandise. While these redemptions are generally a worse value than redeeming miles for an award ticket they’re better than letting your miles languish and never get used.

Final Word

If you like to travel, airline and hotel rewards programs are a great way to save money on trips or to take a luxury vacation. 

Signing up for the right credit card, finding opportunities to maximize mile and point earnings, looking for lesser-known ways to boost points’ redemption value — these strategies and more have significantly reduced my travel costs over the years. They can do the same for you.

But maximizing travel rewards is just one way to save money on the road. Even as you work to make the most of your points, look for other opportunities to take exciting trips on the cheap too.

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TJ is a Boston-based writer who focuses on credit cards, credit, and bank accounts. When he’s not writing about all things personal finance, he enjoys cooking, esports, soccer, hockey, and games of the video and board varieties.


3 Instances When a Landlord Can Legally Break a Rental Lease

Read this to understand when you can legally break a lease agreement.

Even before the pandemic, landlords filed 3.6 million eviction cases on average in the U.S. each year. The process is emotional and difficult for everyone involved, but there are circumstances for which you as a landlord will have to break a lease agreement early.

If you’ve got a month-to-month lease agreement, either party can terminate at any time with proper notification, at a minimum of 30 days. But if you’ve got a fixed-term lease agreement with a tenant, such as a one-year lease, you can’t break the lease mid-way through on a whim.

When can you legally terminate a lease agreement early?

Breaking a lease agreement with cause

You’ve got a lease agreement that’s legally binding that the tenant signed before moving in. If that tenant violates the lease agreement by having an unapproved roommate, unauthorized pet, unpaid rent, has caused major damage or conducted illegal activities, you have every right to terminate their lease “with cause.”

In this instance, you would send your tenant a “cure or quit” notice. Either they “cure” the problem by paying rent owed, for example, or they “quit” the property. You can even send an “unconditional” quit notice if the issue at hand isn’t cured. For example, if the tenant alters or damages part of the property without your consent and there’s no way to fix the problem. Check your state laws on these types of lease terminations.

Eviction notice.

Eviction notice.

Can a landlord break a lease agreement without cause?

You can do so but you must include the reasons for this kind of early termination in the tenant’s lease agreement. If it’s not in the agreement, you can’t just force a tenant out on a whim.

Add a clause to your lease agreement that allows you to break a lease with 30- or 60-days’ notice so the tenant has time to find another place to live. Work with an attorney to make sure the language is accurate. Be upfront and clear in your language and point it out to the tenant at signing. There’s no reason to hide your intentions. If you know well in advance that you may have to break the lease, sign a month-to-month lease.

Reasons to break the lease early

There are certain circumstances under which you can break a lease, including:

1. You want to sell the property

You can sell whenever you want, but you must have a clause in the lease agreement in order to terminate the lease legally. Lease contracts will transfer along with the property and the new owner has to abide by them. Some buyers want properties that are already tenanted.

Decide if you want the tenants on the property during the sales process or if you want them out before putting the property on the market. Also, check whether your state requires you to offer existing tenants the first right of refusal.

You want to keep your tenants happy if they’re staying on the premises. And they do have some legal rights, including 24-hour notice of showings, the right to stay during a showing and the transfer of their security deposit to the new owner once the property sells.

Lay hardwood floors

Lay hardwood floors

2. You need to renovate the property

As a landlord, you must keep your property safe and habitable. If you need full access to the property in order to renovate and remodel to keep your property in good condition, you can terminate a lease. If the upgrades are going to cause health and safety issues, you can terminate a lease early. Again, you must have a clause in the lease agreement in order to terminate the lease legally.

3. You need to move into the rental space

If you’re renting out a house, for example, and you need to move back in, you can legally terminate the lease early.

How to terminate a lease

There are a few steps you must follow to legally end a lease to avoid a tenant possibly filing a claim in court.

Send a notice to the tenant letting them know that you’re terminating their lease. Check your state laws on how to write and deliver this termination notice. There are specific requirements for doing this.

Depending on the reasons you’re giving this notice, it may state the tenant’s transgression and warn them that they must vacate the property or face eviction. Or, you might give the tenant a few days to act on fixing whatever they did wrong, e.g., find a new home for their unauthorized pet or pay any rent owed. Again, check your state laws.

If the tenant doesn’t comply with the notice, you may have to file an eviction lawsuit.

Make sure it

Make sure it

When a landlord is not allowed to break the lease early

The bottom line is if you haven’t included a clause in your lease that you may terminate the lease early, you can’t just go ahead and do so. And your state may have a list of circumstances under which you’re restricted from ending a lease early. For example, there are usually rules around breaking the lease on a rent-controlled apartment.

You may just have to wait

Nobody likes the eviction process, and you don’t want to end up in court. But sometimes, you must remove a tenant. If it’s possible, your best bet is to wait until lease renewal time and not renew the lease. Depending on your state laws, you may need to give 30- to 60-days’ notice on non-renewal.

If you didn’t have an early termination clause in your lease agreement, but you need your tenant to move out, you can pay them, a.k.a., offering cash for keys. You give a tenant enough money to cover their moving costs and a deposit on another place they might rent.

Always be open and communicative with your tenants for the best outcome. In all cases, if you’re a property manager or landlord and you need to break a lease agreement, check your state laws and get an attorney’s input.


Joe Rogan’s Real Estate Experience: Living a Luxurious Lake Life in Austin, Texas

Podcasting has its privileges. After sealing a deal for over $100 million with Spotify, Joe Rogan has become the most popular — and best paid — podcaster on earth. 

The Joe Rogan Experience host first rose to fame in the 1990s sitcom NewsRadio and went on to host stunt/dare game show Fear Factor, followed by forays into martial arts, where he is a renowned commentator for the UFC.

And while nowadays his name is tied to his immensely popular podcast (which was the most popular podcast in the U.S. for much of 2020 and 2021, reaching an estimate 11 million people per episode), the former Fear Factor host has had an extensive stand-up comedy career, which he started in back 1988 and continues to the present day.

Cashing in his podcasting pennies, Joe and his family recently took up residence in a multi-million dollar mansion. Below you’ll find all the details we could find about the Rogans’ $14.4 million property in Austin, Texas.

Joe Rogan’s house upgrade from California to Texas

The Joe Rogan Experience host, 54, and his family-of-five became part of the “mass exodus out of California” due to the Golden State’s lockdown rates and COVID-19 responses, lack of rain, homelessness epidemic, overpopulation and increased taxes.

According to the father-of-three, the Lone Star State — and the multi-million dollar dream house he found there — is a far more appealing alternative and the perfect place to call home.

While his 7,500 square foot home in California was cozy, the comedian recently moved his family into a much larger estate in Austin, Texas. 

path leading to Joe Rogan's house
Joe Rogan’s new house in Austin, Texas. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood

Rogan’s house in Austin, Texas is one of the most exclusive properties in the area, and puts the podcaster in proximity to some other well-known celebrities that reside in the state’s capital — including Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles, who also lives in a lovely lake house in Austin.

Reportedly worth four times more than his home in California, Joe purchased the Texas estate for $14.4 million.

Nestled in the outskirts of Austin, the massive spread is outside the chaos of the city, but close enough for the everyday conveniences.

With A-list neighbors such as billionaire John Paul DeJoria and Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock, the podcast king created his castle in this southern slice of heaven.

Inside Joe Rogan’s Austin home, a million-dollar home fit for the world’s leading podcaster

Purchased in an off-the-market deal, Joe and his family-of-five recently moved into their lakeside home in the second half of 2020.

Although not many details have been leaked online about their sprawling new digs, it seems that Joe and his wife Jessica have plenty of room for their three daughters: Lola, 12, Rosy, 11, and 24-year-old Kayja Rose. 

According to Dirt, the massive lakeside mansion boasts 10,980 square feet and features 8 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. 

the entrance to Joe Rogan's house in Austin, TX
Stepping inside Joe Rogan’s Austin house. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood
Joe Rogan’s new house comes with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open up to mesmerizing lake views. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood

Located on Lake Austin, the Tuscan-style estate was built in 2006 and listed for $7.25 in 2015. 

According to Work and Money, designer Benjamin Wood and his philanthropist wife Theresa Castellano Wood are the former owners of the elegant abode.

They’re also the ones who added the Asian-inspired and modern upgrades, which add a wow factor to the already-impressive home.

Rogan’s house includes an open floorplan with the dining room, living room and library all sharing one space. Painted deep blue, this shared living space is accented by rustic wooden pillars and light wood feature walls. 

living room with floor-to-ceiling walls of glass inside Joe Rogan's house in Austin, TX
The main living area has an open floorplan that combines the dining room, living room and library. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood
The living area is accented by dark blue walls and dramatic furnishings. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood
The statement piece in Joe Rogan’s house in Texas is a floor-to-ceiling built-in library. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood

With rustic farmhouse vibes, the beautifully open kitchen includes two islands, antique cabinets and plenty of room for Joe’s favorite wild meat meals. 

With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the family-of-five can couch-it while glancing out at the four acres of spectacular views on their private property.

The kitchen inside Joe Rogan’s Austin house comes with antique cabinetry and two kitchen islands. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood
The inviting kitchen boasts a rustic farmhouse vibe, complemented by stylish finishes and large windows. Image credit: Peter Vitale via Benjamin Wood

Of course, the UFC commentator has a customized home gym with all the bells and whistles. And did we mention his fully-equipped podcast room?

The lakeside mansion features a large back porch and deck, alongside an impressive mezzanine featuring a large Buddha statue. With over 300 feet of water frontage, the Rogans are sure to enjoy the property’s party deck on Lake Austin.

After their lake adventures, Joe and his family can jump in the outdoor pool which includes a stonework patio and plenty of shade for those hot Texas summers. 

The house Joe Rogan left behind

In 2003, Joe and wife Jessica purchased their Bell Canyon, Calif. home for $2.33 million. After living there for 17 years, the Rogans made a handsome $1.12 million profit when they sold it for $3.45 million in March 2021.

Joe Rogan’s former home in Bell Canyon, California, which he sold for $3.45 million. Image credit:

With 7,500 square feet and 5 bedrooms, the family home included 5 bathrooms and 2.14 acres of outdoor space. Their former California home featured a pool and backyard deck, but nothing in comparison to their palatial Austin estate.

For now, Joe Rogan’s experience seems to be fit for a king. From the overpopulation of the Golden State to the laid back vibes of the Lone Star State, it seems like Joe’s choices in terms of real estate went from lovely to luxurious.

More celebrity homes you’ll enjoy

Tour Andrew Rea’s (Binging with Babish) House in Brooklyn
Impact Theory’s Tom Bylieu Bought the Striking $40 Million Mansion from ‘Selling Sunset’Where Does Trevor Noah Live? A Closer Look at the Daily Show Host’s Penthouse in ManhattanFrom a Prince to a King: A Look at Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith’s Real Estate Dynasty


17 Home Upgrades That Rarely Help Close a Sale

A real estate agent posts a for sale sign in front of a brick house that is under construction
Sean Locke Photography /

We all like to think that making positive changes to a home can make it more attractive to buyers. However, some renovations that might make you feel more comfortable, actually might not help you sell your home in the long run.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released its latest Remodeling Impact Report, finding that some renovations are less effective than others in convincing buyers to move forward.

Surveying real estate agents, NAR looked at 20 types of projects and asked agents which they’d suggested homeowners do before selling a home. The survey also asked agents whether completed projects had helped close a sale.

Following are the renovations this survey identified as least likely to close a home sale. Specifically, fewer than 10% of real estate agents said these projects helped close a sale.

17. HVAC replacement

New Africa /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 7%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 20%

According to the National Association of Realtors report, the estimated cost of completing an HVAC replacement is about $8,200, and the cost recovered in a home sale is about $7,000. So, even though you might be able to recover much of the cost of doing the project, it’s not one that is likely to help you close the sale.

16. New wood flooring

Halfpoint /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 5%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 16%

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reported earlier this year that indoor flooring replacement is the most common upgrade, as we detail in “The 15 Most Popular Home Upgrades – and What They Cost.”

And yet, real estate agents indicate that this project is unlikely to add much to a home’s appeal to buyers.

15. Hardwood flooring refinish

Jo Ann Snover /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 5%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 27%

New flooring isn’t recommended by as many real estate agents as refinishing the wood flooring that’s already there, according to the NAR report.

Even though it doesn’t help much to close a home sale, the report indicates that those who invest in the project see a recovery of 100% of their investment.

14. Bathroom renovation

Susan Schmitz /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 4%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 33%

A third of real estate agents suggest homeowners make this change before they sell, even though this project doesn’t usually help close a sale.

Additionally, you might only see a 57% return on value when you complete a bathroom renovation, according to the NAR report.

13. New vinyl windows


Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 4%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 12%

With new vinyl windows, homeowners can expect to retain about 73.4% of the cost when they sell the home, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. Believe it or not, that’s a relatively good cost recouping.

12. Basement conversion into living area

Artazum /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 2%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 5%

Only 5% of real estate agents suggested this renovation to homeowners looking to sell, and for good reason, since it doesn’t contribute much to the ability to close a home sale. However, it does offer homeowners relatively high satisfaction, as we recently reported in “19 Home Renovations That Give Owners the Most Joy.”

11. New garage door

Luxury home
karamysh /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 2%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 16%

While this home improvement project might not do much to help close a home sale, it can return nearly all of the cost when reselling your home.

Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report shows that a garage door replacement retains 97.5% of its value upon resale of the home, as we report in “These 10 Home Improvements Offer the Highest Returns.”

10. Add a new bathroom

Monkey Business Images /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 1%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 5%

Very few real estate agents suggest this renovation, and even fewer find that it helps with closing a home sale.

It might be best to skip this one since it can cost as much as $60,000 — and only return about 50% of its cost, according to the NAR report.

9. New steel front door

Monkey Business Images /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 1%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 4%

While replacing your front door isn’t something that closes a home sale, it can help boost the value of your home — especially if you paint it black, as we report in “Painting With This Color Can Boost Your Home’s Sale Price by $6,000.”

Additionally, this project is likely to bring homeowners joy. The NAR report gave the project what it calls a “Joy Score” of 9.7 out of 10.

8. New vinyl siding

Red and black house
Lindasj22 /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 1%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 4%

While it’s not a project much-recommended ahead of selling, new vinyl siding is one of those renovations that offer a relatively high return on value. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, the replacement of siding retains 75.6% of its value when the home is sold.

7. New wood windows

Woman with dog in house
Ahmet Naim /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: 1%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 2%

The NAR report gave new wood windows a “Joy Score” of 9.6 out of 10, as we detail in “19 Home Renovations That Give Owners the Most Joy.” But these windows aren’t likely to help close a home sale and agents aren’t likely to recommend them as a pre-sale renovation.

6. New master suite

Nenad Aksic /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: Less than 1%

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 3%

Not only is this project unlikely to help close a home sale, it’s also unlikely to pay for itself.

Both a midrange master suite addition and an upscale master suite addition made the list in our article “The 10 Worst Home Renovations for Your Money.”

5. Attic conversion to living area

Attic bedroom /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: None

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 2%

This project costs up to $80,000 to complete, and it returns only about 56% of the investment, the National Associations of Realtors report states.

4. Insulation upgrade

Worker insulating an attic
Bilanol /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: None

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 4%

Even though this project isn’t one that agents say could help close home sales, the NAR reports that it offers homeowners a relatively good recovery (83%) on the money spent.

3. Closet renovation

A woman picks clothes out of her closet
New Africa /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: None

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 4%

A closet renovation earned the highest Joy Score possible — a 10 out of 10 — in the NAR’s study.

Even if it won’t help you sell your home, you might enjoy this renovation while you still live in the home.

2. New fiberglass front door

Woman opening a door
Monkey Business Images /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: None

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 4%

Even if you don’t close a home sale by replacing the front door, choosing the right color for that front door may add to your home’s sale price.

Plus, as with a new steel front door, a new fiberglass front door is likely to bring homeowners joy. The NAR report gave both projects a Joy Score of 9.7 out of 10.

1. New fiber-cement siding

Artazum /

Surveyed real estate agents who said this project helped close a home sale: None

Agents who have suggested that homeowners do this project before selling: 2%

While fiber cement siding can return 76% of the cost and give homeowners satisfaction, it’s not a project that real estate agents say they find helps close a home sale.

What home renovations have you been considering? Share your thoughts in a comment below or over on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


The 15 Best Value Stocks to Buy Right Now

In 2022, the old rules of investing have mostly gone out the window, but one thing hasn’t changed: Wall Street’s best value stocks continue to be an attractive place for investors to plunk down their money for the long term.

The S&P 500 is down roughly 10% year-to-date. War continues to rage in Ukraine and disrupt energy markets. And significant changes in interest-rate policy continue to upend investment strategies that have been profitable for several years running.

But that’s the thing about investing. If you want to get ahead, it’s important to think beyond the obvious opportunities and consider a holistic approach that will generate returns even in even challenging environments. That involves looking beyond fashionable growth investments to value stocks that might been roughed up of late but still offer long-term upside.

In hopes of finding the best value stocks for investors right now, we looked for:

  • Companies with a minimum market value of about $1 billion
  • Those with forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios below the broader market (for reference, the S&P 500’s forward P/E is currently at 18.8)
  • Those with price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratios below 1 (PEG factors in future growth estimates, and anything under 1 is considered undervalued)
  • Strong analyst support, with at least 10 Wall Street experts covering the stock and the vast majority of those issuing ratings of Buy or Strong Buy

A few of these companies have admittedly seen trouble lately, hence their sagging stock prices, but even then, their underlying businesses are sound. And considering the broader challenges to every company on Wall Street, it’s important for investors to focus on high-quality picks over the latest flashy growth narrative, regardless of recent performance.

Here are 15 of the best value stocks to buy now.

Share prices and other market data as of April 25. Analyst ratings courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Stocks are listed by analysts’ consensus recommendation, from highest score (worst) to lowest (best).

1 of 15

Boot Barn Holdings

rows of boots on shelvesrows of boots on shelves
  • Market value: $2.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 16.8
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.82 (Buy)

Even if you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a cowboy hat in public, don’t let your personal tastes get in the way of understanding the fundamentals that make Boot Barn Holdings (BOOT, $94.71) one of the most attractive value stocks in 2022.

Shares have soared roughly 800% over the past five years. That’s in response to a top line that has soared from just under $630 million in the fiscal year ended spring 2017 to what is projected to be nearly $1.5 billion at the end of this fiscal year.

Say what you want about cattleman hats, but you can’t disparage results like that.

But growth has become harder to come by in this niche retail model. More recently, that has weighed on shares, which are down about 30% from their 52-week highs in late 2021. With the worst of COVID-19 behind us, however, and given Boot Barn’s loyal customer base, there’s every reason to expect this retailer to keep putting up big numbers – including a stunning growth outlook of more than 60% revenue expansion this fiscal year.

That might make this recent pullback a chance to get in on one of Wall Street’s best value stocks, now that BOOT’s valuation is more in line with peer specialty retail stocks despite outsized growth projections.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike down-market goods, Western wear is a decidedly luxury category, despite what many might think. Quality boots and hats can run $500 or more. And history has shown that these kinds of purchases keep churning along even amid high inflation and other consumer pressures.

2 of 15

Tempur Sealy International

a Tempur Sealy buildinga Tempur Sealy building
  • Market value: $5.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.4%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.3
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 1 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.82 (Buy)

The pandemic changed many behaviors and expectations, and among those were many consumers thinking hard about housewares for the first time in a few years. Since nobody could travel and we were all spending so much time in our homes and apartments, it was natural to finally pull the trigger on furniture upgrades that hadn’t seemed particularly urgent before COVID-19.

Mattress leader Tempur Sealy International (TPX, $28.70) rode that wave in a big way, watching shares rise more than four-fold from March 2020 through fall of last year. However, many investors have abandoned the stock lately on the idea that the upgrade cycle is over; indeed, TPX has lost nearly half its value since September 2021.

That has created a big opportunity for value investors. The 2013 mash-up of some of the biggest mattress brands on the planet gives this company deeply entrenched relationships with retailers. And while many folks are buying mattresses online these days, there’s one thing that TPX has that these e-commerce brands don’t: a massive hospitality business, which continues to look very strong as hotels look to an important summer travel season after the pandemic.

In fact, even though TPX stock is down more than 40% on the year, Wall Street is actually anticipating double-digit revenue growth and continued earnings improvement. While perhaps things got a bit overheated in this stock thanks to the “stay at home” trade, continued growth coupled with a more reasonable price now makes this mattress leader look like one of 2022’s best value stocks to buy right now.

3 of 15


A Carter's/OshKosh retail storeA Carter's/OshKosh retail store
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.3%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 9.9
  • Analysts’ ratings: 6 Strong Buy, 0 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.80 (Buy)

When it comes to durable retail spending categories, it’s hard to find a store that is more reliable than Carter’s (CRI, $89.72). This go-to brand is focused on children’s clothing under its own nameplate, as well as under associated brands like iconic OshKosh overalls.

Kids keep growing and keep needing clothes no matter what, and upscale fashions make Carter’s stores a go-to destination for moms and grandmas everywhere.

Admittedly, the growth outlook is relatively modest here. Revenues are projected to expand by merely single digits both in 2022 and 2023. However, Carter’s is expected to squeeze plenty of blood from that stone, with earnings per share estimated to jump by 14% this fiscal year and another 11% in fiscal 2023 if current projections hold.

CRI has been investing heavily in e-commerce over the past few years, and in fact, its international segment posted an impressive growth rate of nearly 30% this last fiscal year in part because of digital successes.

OK, sure, international sales account for just 13% of total revenue. But this is exactly the kind of under-the-radar narrative that investors should look for in value stocks: outsized growth in a small business segment that will ensure strong operating results in the future, even if there’s no disruptive innovation on the horizon set to deliver instant gains.

Children’s wear is a durable spending category, and CRI remains one of the top brands in the space. With shares trading at a forward P/E of just about 10 right now, it might be worth looking at this retailer as a potential bargain stock.

4 of 15


A Target store on a sunny dayA Target store on a sunny day
  • Market value: $111.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.5%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 16.4
  • Analysts’ ratings: 15 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 7 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.80 (Buy)

Big-box shop Target (TGT, $241.66), at more than $110 billion in market value, is one of the largest U.S. retailers out there. But although Target takes great pains to offer higher-quality furnishings and more fashionable apparel than its down-market competitors, this big box giant is itself being discounted in 2022 – creating an ideal opportunity for those seeking out value stocks to buy right now.

Right now, Target’s market value is slightly below its projected revenue for next year, while competitors like Costco Wholesale (COST) are trading at a premium on this metric. TGT stock is also being discounted compared with earnings, with a forward P/E of 16.4 right now compared with a reading of almost 19 for the broader S&P 500 Index.

It’s also worth noting that while COVID-19 disruptions took their toll on many retailers, Target is actually riding a broader tailwind for its business thanks to the fact that is has adapted to the “omnichannel” approach of a digital age. Total sales are up almost $30 billion since 2019 thanks to a robust e-commerce presence, curbside pickup and an agile approach to compete in a digital age.

The dividend yield might not burn down the house – at 1.5%, it’s better than the broader S&P 500 but worse than 10-year T-note. But Target is a Dividend Aristocrat that has strung together half a century’s worth of uninterrupted payout growth – and with annual payouts just totaling $3.60 per share and earnings set to approach $16 per share next fiscal year, there’s more than enough headroom for increased dividends down the road.

And for those concerned with environmental, social and governance (ESG) traits, note that Target also has earned a place among our Kiplinger ESG 20.

5 of 15

D.R. Horton

A D.R. Horton home is under constructionA D.R. Horton home is under construction
  • Market value: $26.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.2%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 4.5
  • Analysts’ ratings: 11 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 6 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.76 (Buy)

A $26 billion homebuilding company, D.R. Horton (DHI, $74.19) has a pretty easy-to-understand business. It acquires land, builds residential homes on the sites, then sells the finished houses for a hefty profit.

It operates under the D.R. Horton brand, as well as Express Homes, Emerald Homes and Freedom Homes. It also offers mortgage financing and related services to help put buyers in their new homes.

If you own a home or are shopping for a home right now, chances are you’re attuned to the ever-rising values in most markets. But to give newcomers an example, home prices in March surged 15% year-over-year to set yet another record, proving this red-hot sector is far from cooling off.

DHI, however, has rolled back as investors have gone “risk off” in 2022, with shares now off about 35% from 52-week highs set in November. Part of the reason is because folks are afraid that higher interest rates could result in higher mortgage costs and thus scare off potential homebuyers.

At least so far, that has not been the case. No small wonder. Consider that the National Association of Realtors estimated that in March the inventory of homes actively for sale on a typical day in March decreased by 19% compared with the prior year. There is simply not enough supply for the buyers that are out there, and interest rates aren’t rising enough to make enough of those buyers reconsider.

That adds up to a compelling story for DHI. Couple that with a bargain valuation, including a forward price-to-earnings ratio that is below 5 right now, and it’s worth considering staking your claim to one of today’s best value stocks in the housing space.

6 of 15


worker spraying waterproof layer on concreteworker spraying waterproof layer on concrete
  • Market value: $7.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.5%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 3 Buy, 5 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.72 (Buy)

Chemicals company Huntsman (HUN, $34.19) produces products worldwide including polyurethanes, dyes, epoxies and other materials. It’s not a particularly glamorous business, making these raw materials for end-users to craft their own finished goods. However, Huntsman’s chemical operations are incredibly reliable, and they’re seeing strong demand across the board as the global economy recovers in the wake of the pandemic.

As proof: A few months ago, Huntsman posted Street-beating sales and earnings for the fourth quarter of 2021, and it provided strong guidance for 2022. That’s not just because of improving demand broadly, but also because of higher prices it can command as a result of the current inflationary environment.

Thanks in part to these strong results, HUN also has been blessed by a Standard & Poor’s upgrade to its credit rating in April that will help the chemicals company access financing at better rates going forward.

Value investors will be interested to learn that Huntsman is incredibly committed to its shareholders. It recently doubled its stock buyback program to $2 billion in the wake of recent success, and it has already bought up more than $100 million under that authorization. It also recently increased its dividend by 13%, to 21.25 cents per quarter – that’s 70% from the 12.5-cent quarterly payout it provided as recently as late 2017.

And with payouts at less than 20% of next year’s earnings, there is ample upside for future dividend increases, too.

7 of 15


Glass similar to that made by CorningGlass similar to that made by Corning
  • Market value: $29.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.1%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 14.4
  • Analysts’ ratings: 7 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 3 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.71 (Buy)

Although it got its start as a specialty glass company was back in 1851, Corning (GLW, $34.42) has a long history of high-tech partnerships – from working with Thomas Edison on his early lightbulbs to leading the charge on cathode ray tubes that powered the first generation of televisions to modern fiber optic cable and touch-screen displays.

In fact, its chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass is currently the gold standard for mobile devices. It is designed to be thin, responsive and damage-resistant – all must-have characteristics for phones and tablets. 

Corning has been a slow-and-steady performer compared with some of the flashier names in technology. But there is definitely still growth here. GLW produced an outsized spurt in 2021, with revenues up nearly 25% year-over-year. Looking forward, estimates are still for mid- to high-single-digit sales improvement over the next couple years. And promisingly, Corning has largely sidestepped most of the supply-chain issues plaguing many manufacturers; indeed, CEO Wendell Weeks said earlier this year that its biggest problem wasn’t supplies or labor, but capacity to meet high demand!

On top of that, GLW offers a decent dividend north of 3%. That dividend is growing, too, up to 27 cents quarterly at present compared with 10 cents per quarter back in late 2014. And with annual earnings per share of more than $2.60 projected next fiscal year, that dividend isn’t just sustainable but also ripe for future increases down the road.

When looking for the best value stocks – those that can perform over the long run – a stock like Corning is a great example of taking an alternative approach to fashionable trends to avoid some of the volatility. Nobody thinks of this glass company first when plotting investments in tech, and that allows for moments like this when shares are more reasonably priced than some other assets out there.

8 of 15

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo bankWells Fargo bank
  • Market value: $173.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 2.2%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 10.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 13 Strong Buy, 8 Buy, 5 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.69 (Buy)

Among financial stocks, the $180 billion financial powerhouse Wells Fargo (WFC, $45.83) in many ways was, for a time, in a class by itself. However, the company has piled up a number of black marks on its corporate record in recent years that have caused many investors to think twice about putting their money behind WFC stock.

One of the biggest challenges started in late 2016, with news that some Wells employees were opening checking and savings accounts for clients without their consent. There was also word that Wells was misleading businesses on corporate credit card fees, followed by a 2018 move by the Federal Reserve announcing it would restrict the bank in response to “widespread consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns.”

Understandably, some folks have abandoned WFC stock in recent years – including even Warren Buffett, who exited almost all of his stake last year. And that’s not without cause. But as with so many things, the race for the exit has created a buying opportunity for value-minded investors.

WFC stock currently trades for a price-to-book ratio of just 1.1, compared with closer to 1.3 for Bank of America (BAC) and 1.5 for JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and 1.7 for “super-regional” U.S. Bancorp (USB). So while Wells remains one of the biggest banks in the U.S., it’s still treated as an also-ran compared to large peers.

But with interest rates on the rise, creating a tailwind for most lenders, it’s worth considering whether the negativity around past transgressions has turned Wells Fargo into one of the banking industry’s best value stocks to buy.

9 of 15


deepwater oil rig for drillingdeepwater oil rig for drilling
  • Market value: $118.8 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 8.9
  • Analysts’ ratings: 14 Strong Buy, 9 Buy, 3 Hold, 1 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.67 (Buy)

Everyone who has filled up their car with a tank of gas recently knows all too well how inflationary pressures have gripped the energy sector in a big way over the last year or so. And as a result, many oil and gas stocks have seen strong performance as well.

With crude oil prices at around $100 per barrel presently, that has created continued tailwinds for Big Oil names such as ConocoPhillips (COP, $91.66). It’s not the biggest firm in the oil patch, but it’s still a major player at nearly $120 billion in market value and a global energy business that explores, develops and produces oil and natural gas worldwide. And unlike the big integrated energy giants, COP mostly operates in “upstream” operations (exploration and production), meaning it’s uniquely positioned to make the most of the current environment.

Case in point: As a result of inflationary pressures across all energy commodities these days, the company is plotting revenue growth of more than 25% this fiscal year.

An investment in ConocoPhillips certainly carries risks, insofar that a significant rollback in oil prices would likely disrupt the stock the same way we saw rising prices create better performance. However, COP is making big structural moves lately that should ensure shareholder value for many years to come.

Specifically, COP plans to return 30% of operating cash to shareholders with a predicted outlay of $65 billion back to shareholders from 2022 through 2031. That follows a $1 billion boost to its stock buybacks last year.

These are significant figures that should make any value investor a believer in this stock.

10 of 15

General Motors

General Motors' Hummer electric vehicle is built in a GM ZERO plantGeneral Motors' Hummer electric vehicle is built in a GM ZERO plant
  • Market value: $57.9 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 6.0
  • Analysts’ ratings: 12 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.65 (Buy)

Traditional automakers have struggled for a host of reasons in recent years.

For starters, younger generations of Americans simply aren’t as concerned with driving or car ownership. Then there’s the electric vehicle revolution that has put many legacy brands behind the 8-ball when it comes to innovation. And to top it all off, major disruptions to semiconductor supply chains have created bottlenecks, preventing car manufacturers from tapping into pent-up demand.

However, these circumstances have also scared off many investors who do not see the underlying value in car stocks such as General Motors (GM, $39.82).

GM currently trades for just six times earnings estimates – more than three times lower than the typical S&P 500 stock right now. Furthermore, it trades for a slight discount to book value and at half next year’s projected revenue. These kind of metrics are a value investor’s dream.

To be clear, GM’s bargain price isn’t because of, say, disturbing growth projections that warrant this discount. Rather, GM is projected to see an impressive 23% growth in the top line this year. And while earnings are set to take a hit in fiscal 2022, they are forecast to make up all the lost ground and then some in fiscal 2023.

The automotive market assuredly is full of risk and uncertainty. However, GM has a long history and strong brand recognition that should serve it well, especially as the company shows that it’s willing to be flexible.

At these prices, GM stock could be one of the sneakiest value stocks to buy now.

11 of 15


Skechers shoes are shown behind the window of a storeSkechers shoes are shown behind the window of a store
  • Market value: $6.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: N/A
  • Forward P/E ratio: 13.6
  • Analysts’ ratings: 8 Strong Buy, 2 Buy, 3 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.62 (Buy)

Skechers U.S.A. (SKX, $39.24) is a roughly $6 billion footwear company that continues to connect with consumers and build on its already impressive brand.

But what really makes Sketchers one of the best value stocks to buy now is its direct sales operations that continue to boost margins and drive real results for shareholders. In February, for instance, Skechers reported that its direct-to-consumer segment posted more than 30% year-over-year gains during the fourth quarter.

And looking forward, the brand continues to explore new products via its “comfort technology” and predicts yet another record year in 2022 as it rides growth trends even higher.

SKX stock has struggled over the past year. Shares are off by about 25% over the past 12 months as some investors have questioned whether recent growth trends can continue. Well, the pros are projecting low-double-digit revenue growth in each of the next two years – and similar expansion on the bottom line next year before a 24% explosion in profits in 2023.

Meanwhile, Skechers is helping its own cause, authorizing a $500 million stock buyback program in February to help prop up its shares.

Despite all this, SKX stock still trades for a slight discount to annual sales and a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 13 right now – significantly lower than both the S&P 500 as well as other top consumer discretionary stocks. With continued growth ahead and continued investment in the high margin direct-to-consumer arm of its business, there’s good reason to expect Skechers has what it takes to succeed going forward.

12 of 15


Lowe's storeLowe's store
  • Market value: $132.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 14.8
  • Analysts’ ratings: 18 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 7 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.62 (Buy)

While Home Depot (HD) might be the go-to name in home improvement, investors would be wise to not sell short its competitor Lowe’s (LOW, $200.38). Consider that while Home Depot has roughly 2,300 locations in the U.S., Lowe’s commands roughly 2,000 locations of its own. However, HD is valued at $315 billion while Lowe’s market capitalization is almost a third of that, at $130 billion or so.

And as long as we’re comparing, Lowe’s boasts a forward price-to-earnings ratio of less than 15 and a price-to-sales of about 1.4 while HD has a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 19 and a price-to-sales ratio of 2.1.

In other words, Home Depot might be the larger DIY chain, but that’s in part because investors are paying a significant premium for shares.

And this discount comes despite the fact that Lowe’s has delivered better returns across most timeframes, including a 159% total return (price plus dividends) over the past five years versus 124% for HD. Helping that total return is one of the most consistent dividends on Wall Street – Lowe’s is another Dividend Aristocrat, having raised its payout annually for 59 consecutive years.

If you’re looking for value stock picks, Lowe’s is the better buy among DIYs.

13 of 15

Air Lease

An airplane like the ones Air Lease leases out to customersAn airplane like the ones Air Lease leases out to customers
  • Market value: $5.0 billion
  • Dividend yield: 1.7%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 9.5
  • Analysts’ ratings: 4 Strong Buy, 4 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.50 (Strong Buy)

Air Lease (AL, $43.76) is an aircraft leasing company concerned with the purchase and leasing of aircraft worldwide. Right now, it owns just shy of 400 planes and is benefiting from a resurgence in air travel now that the coronavirus pandemic is on the wane.

The fundamentals of Air Lease are looking up thanks to improving air travel trends, as evidenced by a projection of 15% revenue growth this fiscal year and then roughly 18% growth the following year.

But despite this tailwind (pardon the pun), AL stock is still reasonably priced with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 9 right now. That’s less than half the S&P 500 average at present.

In February, Air Lease said that its lease utilization rate for both 2021’s fourth quarter and full year was an amazing 99.8%. There is no better metric of success for a company like this, proving that its existing resources are in high demand. Additionally, the triple-net lease model of Air Lease requires that the users of its planes pay for the taxes, insurance, and maintenance regardless of whether those planes are grounded or flying. All of this means a higher likelihood that money will continue to roll in for the foreseeable future.

With COVID-19 on the wane and an uptrend in air travel trends this year, the stage is set for AL stock to finally take off after years of stalling. But the time to buy should be soon, while it’s still one of Wall Street’s top value stocks.

14 of 15

Signature Bank

Skyscrapers in a big citySkyscrapers in a big city
  • Market value: $16.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.9%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 13.2
  • Analysts’ ratings: 10 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 0 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.41 (Strong Buy)

Signature Bank (SBNY, $261.06), a roughly $16 billion regional bank stock, is riding the tailwind that has benefited most financial firms in the last several months: namely, higher interest rates that have lifted margins on loans. 

Signature boasts about $120 billion in assets under management, mostly in major metro areas including New York, Charlotte and San Francisco. The company primarily serves local consumers and businesses through conventional offerings including checking accounts, real estate loans and lines of credit. But beyond that, SBNY also is a major player in high-growth areas like cryptocurrency trading via its Signet platform, as well as slow-and-steady business lines such as insurance that help ensure strong long-term performance.

Thanks to the uptrend in operations lately, SBNY is projecting big-time increases in its operating metrics, including a nearly 45% jump in revenue this year. The bottom line is expected to expand by just as much.

Many segments of Wall Street that can wax and wane, and financials are no exception. But Signature Bank’s wide and sustainable footprint will serve it well in the current rising-rate environment. It’s not as large as other diversified financials, but it’s trading at levels that put it among the top value stocks to buy right now.

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Micron Technology

  • Market value: $78.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 0.6%
  • Forward P/E ratio: 6.1
  • Analysts’ ratings: 26 Strong Buy, 7 Buy, 4 Hold, 0 Sell, 0 Strong Sell
  • Analysts’ consensus recommendation: 1.41 (Strong Buy)

Data storage leader Micron Technology (MU, $70.12) is a company that has deep roots in the modern digital economy. Founded back in 1978 – in Idaho, of all places – Micron carved out a niche in semiconductor design that has ultimately kept it at the cutting edge of the tech sector for more than three decades.

Nowadays, Micron specializes in data storage technologies, including for graphics and servers, as well as mobile-focused solutions known as dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). And it’s this sustained growth in the memory market that looks to provide the biggest tailwind for MU stock in the years to come.

Just look at the numbers. Micron is projected to enjoy more than 20% revenue growth in both fiscal 2022 (the current year for MU) as well as 2023. And that will more than filter down to the bottom line. The pros are looking for 50%-plus growth in earnings per share this fiscal year, then another 30% growth in 2023.

Yes, semiconductor stocks are up against the ropes right now. And yes, there are perhaps more interesting stocks in the space than MU. However, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of just over 7 right now and strong growth projections for the next two years, it might be worth looking to this unsung chip play at its current bargain valuation.


2021 Tax Returns: What’s New on the 1040 Form This Year

Time is running out if you haven’t already filed your 2021 federal tax return. For most people, the tax return filing deadline is April 18 this year (residents of Maine and Massachusetts get one extra day). So, for all you tax procrastinators out there, it’s time to get moving. One of the first things you should do is collect and organize your tax records. If you’re going to file your own 1040, you should also check out tax software options. If you need more time to file your return, request a tax filing extension (although you’ll still have to pay any tax you expect to owe). And, no matter when you fill out your 2021 tax return, you first want to familiarize yourself with the tax law changes that may impact it.

Many (but not all) of the new items on the 2021 1040 form come from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted last March. This Covid-relief bill made changes to the child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, earned income tax credit, and more. Other changes stem from the expiration of earlier Covid-related provisions that expired at the end of 2020. There are a few modifications to some of the main 1040 schedules, too. And, of course, there are the normal inflation-based adjustments that occur every year.

There are many reasons why you should know and understanding these changes up front. First and foremost, it very well may result in a larger tax refund or a smaller tax bill. You’re also likely to get through your return faster if you’re already aware of any new twists and turns. If someone else prepares your 1040, it will be easier to catch any errors when you review the return. But since “Tax Day” is right around the corner, you don’t have much time left to get up-to-speed on what’s new and changed for your 2021 tax return. So take a look at our list below and study up now so you know what to look for before tackling your 1040.

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Due Date

picture of a calendar page for April 18 laying on stacks of one-hundred dollar billspicture of a calendar page for April 18 laying on stacks of one-hundred dollar bills

“Tax Day” is the day that federal personal income tax returns are due. It was delayed the past two years because of COVID-19. In 2020, Tax Day was pushed back to July 15, and last year it was moved to May 17. This year, however, the tax return filing deadline is moved back to its normal spot on the calendar…well, sort of.

Federal income tax returns are normally due on April 15. But this year most 2021 tax returns aren’t due until April 18. That’s because of a holiday in the District of Columbia. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, your federal return isn’t due until April 19, thanks to a local holiday in those states. Victims of certain recent natural disaster can wait even longer to file their return.

For more information, see Tax Day 2022: When’s the Last Day to File Taxes?

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Form 1040 and Main Schedules

picture of a woman shrugging while she holds a tax formpicture of a woman shrugging while she holds a tax form

There are some subtle, but important, changes to the 1040 form itself for 2021 tax returns. Generally, they’re needed to account for changes to the tax laws that are discussed below. For instance, the line on page 1 of the 1040 used for reporting the $300 deduction for charitable cash contributions was moved down on the form so that the deduction no longer impacts your federal adjusted gross income (AGI). This is important because your federal AGI is used to calculate several other tax breaks and obligations. It’s also used by many states as the starting point for determining your state income tax liability.

Lines 19 and 28 on page 2 of the 1040 form were also adjusted to account for the fact that the child tax credit is fully refundable for the 2021 tax year. Line 27 was also modified and expanded (including a new check box) to satisfy changes to the earned income tax credit. (See more about changes to the child tax credit and earned income credit below.)

The idea of having a postcard-size tax form has been totally abandoned, too. We see this in the expansion of Schedules 1, 2, and 3 that go with the 1040 form. For 2020 returns, each of these schedules fit on one page. Now, for 2021 tax returns, they’re each two pages long. The extra length is due to various additions to income, “above-the-line” deductions, extra taxes, and less common credits now getting their own line on these forms instead of being lump together as an “other” item to include.

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Standard Deduction

picture of a person writing "tax deduction" on glass and underlining it in redpicture of a person writing "tax deduction" on glass and underlining it in red

Approximately 90% of all taxpayers claim the standard deduction instead of itemized deductions. Fortunately, the standard deduction amounts you’ll use on your 2021 tax return are larger than last year, thanks to the annual adjustment for inflation. For the 1040 form you’ll complete this year, married couples filing a joint return can claim a $25,100 standard deduction. That’s a $300 increase over the 2020 tax year amount. For each spouse 65 years of age or older, you can tack on an additional $1,350 ($1,300 for 2020).

Single filers can claim a $12,550 standard deduction on their 2021 tax return ($12,400 for 2020). That jumps to $14,250 if you’re at least 65 years old ($14,050 for 2020).

For head-of-household filers, the standard deduction for 2021 tax returns is $18,800 ($18,650 for 2020), plus an additional $1,700 if they’re at least 65 years old.

Regardless of their filing status, blind people can add an additional $1,350 to their 2021 standard deduction ($1,700 if they’re unmarried and not a surviving spouse).

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Tax Brackets

picture of "tax brackets" typed using an old-style typewriterpicture of "tax brackets" typed using an old-style typewriter

The tax rates you’ll see on your 2021 tax return are the same as they were last year: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. However, the income ranges that apply to each tax rate bracket have changed. Use the tables below to find the appropriate tax bracket for your 2021 return. It’s based on your filing status and taxable income (Line 15 of your 1040 form).

Remember, though, that the tax rate associated with the bracket you fall into doesn’t apply to all your income. It only applies to the amount of your taxable income that’s within the bracket’s range. So, for example, if you’re single with $50,000 of taxable income in 2021, only the last $9,475 of your taxable income is taxed at the 22% rate ($50,000 – $40,525 = $9,475). The rest is taxed at either the 10% or 12% rate.

2021 Tax Brackets for Single Filers and Married Couples Filing Jointly

Tax Rate

Taxable Income

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Jointly)


Up to $9,950

Up to $19,900


$9,951 to $40,525

$19,901 to $81,050


$40,526 to $86,375

$81,051 to $172,750


$86,376 to $164,925

$172,751 to $329,850


$164,926 to $209,425

$329,851 to $418,850


$209,426 to $523,600

$418,851 to $628,300


Over $523,600

Over $628,300

2021 Tax Brackets for Married Couples Filing Separately and Head-of-Household Filers

Tax Rate

Taxable Income
(Married Filing Separately)

Taxable Income
(Head of Household)


Up to $9,950

Up to $14,200


$9,951 to $40,525

$14,201 to $54,200


$40,526 to $86,375

$54,201 to $86,350


$86,376 to $164,925

$86,351 to $164,900


$164,926 to $209,425

$164,901 to $209,400


$209,426 to $314,150

$209,401 to $523,600


Over $314,150

Over $523,600

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Capital Gains Tax Rate Thresholds

picture of a notebook with the definition of "capital gains tax" written on a pagepicture of a notebook with the definition of "capital gains tax" written on a page

If you hold on to a capital asset (e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate, art, etc.) for at least one year, any gains from the sale of the asset are taxed at a lower capital gains rate – either 0%, 15%, or 20%. The same rates apply to qualified dividends. Which rate applies to you depends on your taxable income.

For your 2021 federal income tax return, the 0% rate applies if you’re single with taxable income up to $40,400 ($40,000 for 2020), a head-of-household filer with taxable income up to $54,100 ($53,600 for 2020), or a married couple filing a joint return with up to $80,800 of taxable income ($80,000 for 2020).

The 20% rate kicks in at $445,851 of taxable income for single filers ($441,451 for 2020), $473,751 for head-of-household filers ($469,051 for 2020), and $501,601 for joint filers ($496,601 for 2020).

If your taxable income falls between the 0% and 20% thresholds for your filing status, then the 15% rate applies.

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Deduction for Cash Donations to Charity

picture of a man putting cash in a donation boxpicture of a man putting cash in a donation box

As mentioned above, the $300 deduction for cash contributions to charity no longer affects your federal AGI. There’s also another important change to this deduction for 2021 tax year returns – married couples can now deduct up to $600. For 2020 returns, married couples who filed jointly could only deduct $300. However, one deduction is allowed per person now, which means each spouse can deduct up to $300 on a joint 2021 return.

Note that this deduction is only available if you claim the standard deduction. It also expired at the end of 2021, so you won’t be able to claim it on your 2022 return.

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Earned Income Tax Credit

picture of a bartender pouring a beerpicture of a bartender pouring a beer

Several significant upgrades to the 2021 earned income tax credit (EITC) were made by the American Rescue Plan Act. The biggest changes will allow more childless workers to claim the EITC on their 2021 tax return. For one thing, the minimum age for claiming the credit without a qualifying child is lowered from 25 to 19 (except for certain full-time students). Workers over the age of 65 can claim the credit on their 2021 return, too. The maximum credit available for workers without a qualifying child also jumps from $543 to $1,502. Expanded eligibility rules for former foster youth and homeless youth were put in place for the 2021 tax year as well.

While the modified rules listed above for childless workers only apply for the 2021 tax year, the American Rescue Plan Act made a few other changes to the EITC that are permanent. For example, the $3,650 limit on a worker’s investment income is bumped up to $10,000, and the cap will be adjusted for inflation each year going forward. In addition, certain married couples who are separated can now claim the credit on separate tax returns. And certain workers who can’t satisfy the EITC identification requirements for their children can now qualify for the credit as a childless worker.

Finally, as with the 2020 EITC, you can use your 2019 earned income to calculate your 2021 EITC if it’s more than your 2021 earned income. Since this can increase or decrease your EITC, calculate the credit using both your 2019 and 2021 earned income to see which method will save you the most money.

To calculate your EITC, complete the worksheets associated with Lines 27a, 27b, and 27c of Form 1040 in the instructions for Form 1040. If you have a qualifying child, also complete Schedule EIC and attach it to your 1040 form.

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Child Tax Credit

picture of parents and three children cooking together in the kitchenpicture of parents and three children cooking together in the kitchen

As with the earned income tax credit, the American Rescue Plan Act made major improvements to the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. For instance, the credit amount for 2021 tax returns was increased from $2,000-per-child to $3,000-per-child six to 17 years of age and to $3,600-per-child five years old and younger. However, the extra $1,000 or $1,600 is phased out for single filers with a federal AGI above $75,000, head-of-household filers with a federal AGI above $112,500, and joint filers with a federal AGI above $150,000. The credit is further reduced under pre-existing rules for single and head-of-household filers with a federal AGI above $200,000 and married couples filing jointly with a federal AGI above $400,000.

Any child tax credit claimed on your 2021 return is also fully refundable for most parents, even if you don’t have any earned income (normally, the credit is only partially refundable – up to $1,400-per-child – and you must have at least $2,500 of earned income). Children who are 17 years old also qualify for the 2021 credit (child normally must be 16 or younger to qualify). Finally, unless you opted-out of the payments, families received 50% of their estimated 2021 child tax credit amount in advance through monthly payments sent between July 15 and December 15 last year.

To calculate the child tax credit allowed on your 2021 tax return, you must subtract the monthly payments you received last year from the total credit that you’re otherwise entitled to claim for the 2021 tax year. (The IRS will send you a Letter 6419 showing the amount paid to you in monthly payments.) If the total child tax credit amount is more than your combined monthly payments, you can claim the excess amount as a credit on your return. However, if the total credit amount is less than your payments, you might have to pay back the extra child credit payments.

Use Schedule 8812 to reconcile the advance payments you received last year with the actual child tax credit you’re entitled to claim on your 1040 form, and to see if you need to pay back any payments (they will be paid back in the form of an additional tax calculated Part III of the schedule).

For more information about claiming the 2021 credit, see Child Tax Credit FAQs for Your 2021 Tax Return.

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Child and Dependent Care Credit

picture of a childcare teacher with two children playing with blockspicture of a childcare teacher with two children playing with blocks

Parents benefiting from the child tax credit enhancements may be able to cut their 2021 tax bill even further because of big changes to the child and dependent care credit made by the American Rescue Plan Act. For example, the maximum credit is increased from 35% to 50% of eligible expenses for the 2021 tax year. Plus, the credit percentage won’t be reduced for families making less than $125,000 a year (instead of $15,000 per year), and all taxpayers earning less than $438,000 can claim at least a partial credit on their 2021 return.

The 2021 credit applies to more child or dependent care expenses, too. The credit percentage is applied to as much as $8,000 of eligible expenses for one child/disabled person and up to $16,000 of expenses for two or more (the amounts are usually $3,000 and $6,000, respectively). That means the total credit amount can be as high as $4,000 if you have just one child/disabled person and $8,000 if you have more ($1,050 and $2,100, respectively, for 2020).

The child and dependent care credit for the 2021 tax year is also fully refundable for most people (it’s usually a nonrefundable credit). Form 2441 is used to calculate the credit.

See Your Child Care Tax Credit May Be Bigger on Your 2021 Tax Return for details.

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Premium Tax Credit

picture of a stethoscope on a medical insurance claim formpicture of a stethoscope on a medical insurance claim form

The American Rescue Plan Act improved the premium tax credit for 2021 and 2022 to lower premiums for people who buy health insurance through an Obamacare exchange (e.g., on their own. The credit amount was increased for eligible taxpayers by reducing the percentage of annual income that households are required to contribute toward their health insurance premium. The law also allowed the credit to be claimed by people with an income above 400% of the federal poverty line.

For certain people who purchase health insurance through an exchange, an estimated premium tax credit amount is paid in advance to the insurance company. If advance payments are made on your behalf, you must reconcile the credit and the advance payments when you file your tax return. If the advance payments are greater than the actual allowable credit, the difference (subject to certain repayment caps) usually must be paid back. However, the American Rescue Plan Act eliminated the repayment requirement – but only for the 2020 tax year. As a result, excess advance payments made in 2021 will have to be repaid when you file your 2021 tax return.

Use Form 8962 to calculate your premium tax credit and reconcile it with any advance payments. Also make sure you submit Form 8962 with the rest of your 2021 tax return.

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Adoption Credit

picture of an adopted child in the kitchen with his adopted familypicture of an adopted child in the kitchen with his adopted family

The nonrefundable credit for expenses related to the adoption of a child is a little larger for the 2021 tax year. For 1040 forms filed this year, the credit can be worth up to $14,440 ($14,300 for 2020). Plus, the full credit is available for a special-needs adoption, even if it costs less.

The credit begins to phase out if your modified AGI is over $216,660 and it’s eliminated altogether if your modified AGI reaches $256,660 ($214,520 and $254,520, respectively, for 2020). To claim the credit, complete Form 8839 and report the credit amount on Line 6c of Schedule 3. Also submit Form 8839 with the rest of your 2021 tax return.

The income tax exclusion for company-paid adoption aid was also increased from $14,300 to $14,440 for the 2021 tax year.

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Alternative Minimum Tax

picture of a wealthy couple looking at their mansionpicture of a wealthy couple looking at their mansion

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) was originally designed to hit only wealthier Americans. However, the AMT exemption amount wasn’t always adjusted annual for inflation – but it is now. For the 2021 tax year, the AMT exemption jumped from $113,400 to $114,600 for married couples filing a joint return and from $72,900 to $73,600 for single and head-of-household filers.

The phase-out ranges for the AMT exemption are adjusted for inflation each year, too. For 2021 tax returns, the exemption is gradually reduced and can ultimately be eliminated if alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI) on a joint return is between $1,047,200 and $1,505,600 ($1,036,800 and $1,490,400 for 2020). For single and head-of-household filers, the 2021 phase-out range is $523,600 to $818,000 of AMTI ($518,400 to $810,000 for 2020). The 2021 range for married people filing a separate return is $523,600 to $752,800 ($518,400 to $745,200 for 2020).

In addition, the 28% AMT tax rate doesn’t kick on 2021 tax returns until you hit $199,900 of AMTI. That’s an increase over the 2020 threshold, which was AMTI of $197,900 or more.

Use Form 6251 to calculate your AMT and file the form with your 2021 Form 1040.

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Tax Breaks for Education

picture of a tuition check with a graduation tassel on itpicture of a tuition check with a graduation tassel on it

Say goodbye to the tuition and fees deduction, which was worth up to $4,000 per year. It was repealed starting with the 2021 tax year.

On the bright side, the phase-out thresholds for the lifetime learning credit were increased. They’re now the same as the phase-out amounts for the American Opportunity credit. So, beginning with 2021 tax returns, the lifetime learning credit is gradually reduced to zero for joint filers with a modified AGI from $160,000 to $180,000 ($118,000 to $138,000 for 2020) and single filers with a modified AGI between $80,000 to $90,000 ($59,000 and $69,000 for 2020). If you’re claiming either the lifetime learning credit or the American Opportunity credit, you must first complete Form 8863 and then attach it to your 1040 form.

The phase-out ranges are also higher in 2021 for the exclusion of interest on Series EE and I savings bonds redeemed to help pay for tuition and fees for college, graduate school, or vocational school. For 2021 tax returns, the exclusion starts to phase out for joint filers with a modified AGI exceeding $124,800 and for other people with a modified AGI of $83,200 or more ($123,550 and $82,350, respectively, for 2020). The exclusion is totally phased-out for joint filers with a modified AGI of $154,800 or more and for other taxpayers with a modified AGI of at least $98,200 ($153,550 and $97,350, respectively, for 2020). You must compete Form 8815 to claim the exclusion and then report the exclusion amount on Line 3 of Schedule B.

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Recovery Rebate Credit

picture of a government check with "Stimulus Check" stamped on itpicture of a government check with "Stimulus Check" stamped on it

The recovery rebate credit is back, but with one important change. As you may recall, this credit made its first appearance on the 2020 Form 1040 and was available for people who didn’t receive a first or second stimulus check, or who didn’t receive the full stimulus check amount they were entitled to.

For 2021 tax returns, the credit is for people who didn’t receive a third stimulus check (or didn’t receive the full amount). Those payments were for up to $1,400, plus an additional $1,400 for each dependent in your family. Similar to the monthly child tax credit payments the IRS sent last year, your third stimulus check was an advance payment of the recovery rebate credit. As a result, when you file your 2021 return, you must reduce the recovery rebate credit you’re entitled to claim by the amount of your third stimulus check. (The IRS will send you a Letter 6475 showing the amount of your third stimulus check.) For most people, your third stimulus check payment will equal the 2021 recovery rebate credit allowed. If that’s the case for you, the credit will be reduced to zero. But if your third stimulus check was less than the credit, your recovery rebate credit will equal the difference. And what if your third stimulus check was more than your 2021 recovery rebate credit? You get to keep the difference!

Use our Third Stimulus Check Calculator to see you how large your third stimulus check should have been.

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Tax Breaks for Retirement Savings

picture of a jar with "retirement" written on it filled with coinspicture of a jar with "retirement" written on it filled with coins

Two tax breaks that encourage saving for retirement were tweaked for the 2021 tax year. In both cases, the changes are the result of annual adjustments for inflation.

The first retirement-related change for 2021 tax returns is to the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA. If either you or your spouse was covered by an employer retirement plan, your IRA deduction may be reduced (potentially to zero), depending on your filing status and income. The income levels that trigger a reduction for 2021 returns have been adjusted. For married couples filing a joint return, the deduction is gradually phased out if you’re modified AGI is between $105,000 and $125,000 (between $104,000 and $124,000 for 2020 returns). For single and head-of-household filers, the phase-out range is from $66,000 to $76,000 ($65,000 to $75,000 for 2020).

If only one spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction is reduced if the couple’s modified AGI exceeds $198,000, and it’s totally eliminated if their modified AGI hits $208,000 ($196,000 and $206,000, respectively, for 2020). (NOTE: If you made any nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA for 2021, report them on Form 8606.)

The second change is to the “Saver’s Credit,” which encourages lower- and middle-income people to save for retirement. The credit is allowed for either 10%, 20%, or 50% of the first $2,000 ($4,000 for joint filers) you contribute to retirement accounts, depending on your filing status and income. The lower your income, the higher the percentage you can use to calculate the credit. For 2021 tax returns, single filers, married people filing a separate return, and qualified widow(er)s can claim a 50% credit if their AGI is $19,750 or less ($19,500 for 2020). They can claim a 20% credit if their AGI is from $19,751 to $21,500 ($19,501 to $21,250 for 2020), and the 10% credit is available if their AGI is from $21,501 to $33,000 ($21,251 to $32,500).

For married couples filing a joint return, the 50% credit is available if their AGI doesn’t exceed $39,500 ($39,000 for 2020), the 20% credit is available if their AGI is from $39,501 to $43,000 ($39,001 to $42,500 for 2020), and the 10% credit is available if their AGI is from $43,001 to $66,000 ($42,501 to $65,000 for 2020).

The 50% credit can be claimed by head-of-household filers with an AGI of $29,625 or less ($29,250 for 2020), while they can claim the 20% credit with an AGI from $29,626 to $32,250 ($29,251 to $31,875 for 2020) and the 10% credit with an AGI from $32,251 to $49,500 ($31,876 to $48,750 for 2020).

To claim the credit, complete Form 8880 and send it to the IRS with your 1040 form.

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Standard Mileage Rates

picture of an odometer in an antique carpicture of an odometer in an antique car

For 2021 tax returns, standard mileage rate for business driving is 56¢ a mile – that’s less than the 57.5¢ per mile for 2020. The rate for medical travel and military moves also dropped for the 2021 tax year from 17¢ to 16¢ a mile.

The mileage rate for charitable driving doesn’t change from year-to-year. So, it stayed put at 14¢ a mile for 2021 returns.

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Self-Employed Taxpayers

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Self-employed taxpayers can claim some tax breaks that other people can’t. And some of those tax breaks are tweaked for 2021 tax returns. For instance, the sick or family leave credits self-employed people could claim on their 2020 tax return if they missed work for Covid-related reasons was extended for 2021 – but not for the full year. For 2021 returns, the credits are only available for qualified absences through September 30, 2021. In addition, the family leave credit can only be claimed for 50 days missed from January 1 to March 31, 2021, but it can be claimed for up to 60 days missed from April 1 to September 30, 2021. Self-employed people should use Form 7202 to calculate the sick and family leave credits they’re entitled to claim on their 2021 1040 form.

The income threshold for limits on the 20% deduction for qualified business income were also adjusted for the 2021 tax year. The taxable income threshold is $329,800 for married couples filing a joint return, $164,925 for married people filing a separate return, and $164,900 for all others ($326,600 for joint filers and $163,300 for all others for 2020 returns). Use Form 8995 or Form 8995-A to figure your qualified business income deduction.

Self-employed people who are wining and dining clients can take advantage of another perk for both the 2021 and 2022 tax years. The deduction for business meals at a restaurant is increased from 50% to 100%. This deduction is claimed on Line 24b of Schedule C.

If a self-employed person had a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiven in 2021, the canceled debt is not taxable income and doesn’t have to be reported on Form 1040. However, if you have tax-exempt income resulting from the discharge of a PPP loan last year, you must attach a statement to your 2021 tax return that includes certain information related to your PPP loan (see the instructions to Form 1040 for details). You should also write “RP2021-48” at the top of the statement.

Unfortunately, there are also a couple of negative changes that may increase the 2021 tax bill for some self-employed taxpayers. First, none of the self-employment taxes owed for the 2021 tax year can be deferred as they could on 2020 returns. In fact, half of any 2020 tax deferred had to be paid by the end of 2021, while the rest is due by the end of 2022. Second, the cap on deductible business losses is back after being suspended for the 2018 to 2020 tax years. For 2021 tax returns, the inflation-adjusted limit is $262,000 ($524,000 for married couples filing a joint return). Form 461 is used to calculate a self-employed taxpayer’s limitation on business losses.

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Unemployment Benefits

picture of an unemployment benefits application formpicture of an unemployment benefits application form

The $10,200 exemption for unemployment compensation in effect for the 2020 tax year is no more. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, which authorized the exemption for families with a federal AGI less than $150,000, the tax break was for one year only.

As a result, any unemployment compensation you received last year will be fully taxed on your 2021 tax return. Report the benefits on Line 7 of Schedule 1.

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Long-Term Care Insurance Deduction

picture of a nurse helping an elderly resident of a nursing homepicture of a nurse helping an elderly resident of a nursing home

If you’re paying for long-term care insurance, you might be able to deduct a portion of your premiums – and the deduction maximums, which are based on age, are higher for the 2021 tax year. Taxpayers age 71 or older can deduct up to $5,640 per person on their 2021 tax return ($5,430 for 2020). If you’re 61 to 70 years old, you can deduct as much as $4,520 of your premiums ($4,350 for 2020). Anyone 51 to 60 years old can write-off up to $1,690 ($1,630 for 2020). For people 41 to 50 years of age, the max is $850 ($810 for 2020). And, finally, the maximum deduction is $450 if you’re 40 or younger ($430 for 2020).

Long-term care insurance premiums are only deductible as medical expenses for most people, which means they must itemize deductions on Schedule A to claim the tax break. However, self-employed people can deduct their premiums on Line 17 of Schedule 1 without having to itemize.

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Student Loan Discharge

picture of a blackboard with "student loan debt relief" written on itpicture of a blackboard with "student loan debt relief" written on it

Before the 2021 tax year, canceled or forgiven student loan debt was considered taxable income. However, from 2021 to 2025, most canceled student loan debt that was incurred for a post-secondary education is tax-free. Therefore, you shouldn’t report qualified student loan debt that was canceled last year on Line 8c of Schedule 1.

The IRS has also told lenders and student loan servicer providers not to file Form 1099-C or submit payee statements for qualified student loan debt that’s discharged, canceled, or otherwise forgiven through 2025. So, if you do receive a 1099-C form reporting discharged student loan debt that you believe is not taxable, contact the lender or loan service provider that issued the form and ask them to send a corrected form.

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Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

picture of a man holding a U.S. passport while standing on a map of the worldpicture of a man holding a U.S. passport while standing on a map of the world

Americans working abroad may be able to exclude all or a portion of their foreign-earned income from taxable income on their U.S. tax return. For 2021 returns, the maximum exclusion amount is $1,100 higher than it was for the 2020 tax year – it jumped from $107,600 to $108,700.

In addition to the foreign earned income exclusion, taxpayers living abroad may also be able to claim an exclusion or deduction for their foreign housing. For the 2021 tax year, the maximum foreign housing exclusion is generally $15,218 ($15,064 for 2020), although it can be higher in certain high-cost areas.

Use Form 2555 to figure both your foreign earned income exclusion and foreign housing exclusion/deduction.


What Does the Phrase ‘Rehab’ Mean in an Apartment Listing?

There’s a reason all those HGTV home-renovation shows are so popular. Folks love historic properties, but they don’t want to give up modern convenience to get it. The same goes with apartments. Often highly desirable, the phrase “rehab apartment” means the unit has been recently renovated, either in full or in part.

What you can expect

When you read “rehab” in an apartment listing, it most likely means that while the property and structure are not new, the living space will feature modern upgrades, such as a renovated kitchen with new appliances, new flooring or lighting fixtures, a sleek bathroom or an alluring combination thereof.

Additionally, it could mean that the building itself – in particular if it’s historic in nature – has been brought up to code, with new plumbing, electrical wiring and HVAC, and that older materials now deemed unsafe, such as lead paint or asbestos insulation, have been removed. Hence, the term “rehab” might even give you peace of mind where your family’s health and safety are concerned.

The bottom line is that it can mean anything from a couple of aesthetic renovations, to more internal (but important!) features that greatly affect your standard of living to a complete overhaul, inside and out – which may mean “dream apartment,” but likely comes with a price tag to match.

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Is a rehab apartment right for you?

Some apartment-hunters want a rehab. Depending on where it is and its current condition, a rehab apartment could have lower or higher than average rent for the area.

For example, a completely rehabbed apartment in restored turn-of-the-century building could be your dream flat – historic digs with modern convenience. But it’s likely to command a high price.

Conversely, the partial rehab in a complex with a desirable location (maybe the floors are new, but the kitchen and bath still need updating) could be a great, cheap find in a neighborhood where your friends are paying hundreds more!

Keep in mind as you begin your search, that the word “rehab” has a broad scope. It’s important to do your research so you know if a rehab is what you’re looking for, or perhaps it will open your mind to options you hadn’t considered.

Find out what you’re getting

Ask the landlord or property manager about the specifics of the rehab apartment in which you’re interested. Check out the photos and, if possible, give the place a drive-by. There’s no need to waste anyone’s time when you’re on the hunt for a new home.

Once you have the information and you’re still interested, set up an appointment to tour the apartment. Bring a list of further questions and don’t be afraid to poke around. If you’re worried about the age of the apartment, check out the plumbing and electrical. If you’re looking for higher-end finishes, pay attention to the countertops, appliances and fixtures.