Micro Wedding Is Sign of the Times

Micro weddings have become ultrachic in the time of coronavirus. These smaller weddings allow you and your future spouse to exchange your vows, enter into a legal relationship and get access to each other’s health insurance all while living through these socially-distanced times.

What Are Micro Weddings?

A micro wedding is generally a wedding with less than 50 guests. In the before times, micro weddings were often a cost-cutting measure as the most effective way to cut your budget is to cut your guest list.

When you cut your guest list, you’re cutting down on the amount of space you’ll need at the venue. Simultaneously, you’re cutting down on the costs of food, alcohol and favors.

During the time of Coronavirus, micro weddings are helpful to your health as well as your wallet. You may even want or be required to cut your guest list further than the normal standard of 50 guests.

Planning a Micro Wedding

When you’re planning a micro wedding the first thing you’ll want to start with is your guest list. You may only want your closest friends and family there for your big day. Or, in this time of pandemic, you may only want it to be the two of you and the officiant. In some states, you can even eliminate the officiant via a self-uniting marriage.

Whether you have a handful of guests or just the couple at your micro wedding, venues and vendors across the wedding industry have many ways to help you share your big day while saving money.

Get Creative with the Venue

Because you have a smaller guest list, your venue doesn’t need to be nearly as large. Your favorite art gallery might be renting out space, or you might be able to book a private room at your favorite restaurant. If a venue had a minimum guest count prior to 2020, those minimums have likely been reduced or eliminated altogether.

If you are absolutely set on having a larger wedding despite the pandemic, you could book your local park or another outdoor venue to make the event safer. Be sure to remind your guests that they still need to wear masks and observe the 6-foot rule even though the event will be taking place outside.

Newly weds get married as hot air balloons are released all around them on top of a mountain.
Getty Images

Destination Weddings

You may have a bit of pent up wanderlust, dreaming of a destination wedding. Destination weddings are usually micro weddings. Because you or your guests will have to pay for extra expenses like hotel rooms and travel costs, the number of people who can attend usually becomes inherently smaller.

There are certainly some Caribbean destinations that are allowing Americans to visit during the pandemic, and some of the resorts are offering great deals. But despite more and more Americans getting vaccinated, many people are still avoiding air travel. Be prepared for some guests to decline your invitation if air travel is involved.

Instead of air travel, you can either commit to a long road trip through locales where the infection rate is low, or pick a venue within convenient driving distance. Traveling in your car with other members of your bubble is a far safer way to get from point A to point B.

Remember that even if you’re fully vaccinated, there is still potential for you to spread the virus to your guests, your hosts and anyone else you may come into contact with. The more the virus spreads, the more likely it is to harm the unvaccinated, even if those unvaccinated people aren’t in your immediate circle.

Allowing the virus to spread like this also provides it with increased opportunities to mutate into vaccine-resistant variants, which could force us all into lockdown again until boosters for new strains are available.

Invest in Quality Videography

Maybe you never dreamt of having a micro wedding. You might even be upset that you can’t have a huge party with your family and friends.

One way to help soften the blow of having a micro wedding during the pandemic is to share your big day with quality videography. You can either livestream your ceremony or hire a videographer to document the celebration.

Because business has been slower and videography has new importance during the pandemic, some venues and videographers are offering discounts on these services.

Curbside Tastings

The mere fact that you’re feeding less people at your micro wedding means you can spend less on your wedding cake and any catering your micro wedding may require.

During the pandemic, some bakeries, restaurants and caterers are offering curbside tastings to ensure everyone’s safety.

Drive-By Wedding Visits

Maybe in normal times, your sister would have been your matron of honor, but she has a disabled child who is high-risk. Even though you are both vaccinated, her child is not. She can’t risk exposing herself to even asymptomatic cases of the virus as she could unknowingly pass them on to her child.

You still want her to be a part of your big day. If she lives within driving distance, you could schedule a drive-by visit prior to the micro wedding ceremony. Either she and hers could drive by your place, where you’d be on display in your gown or tux, or you could drive by her place, stepping just outside the car to show her how good you look while keeping a masked distance of well over six feet.

It’s not the same. It’s still incredibly sad that she can’t be there, and you might even want to consider postponing your wedding until she can attend. But if the show must go on, these drive-by visits can still provide you both with a special memory from your special day.

Include Remote Readings

If you’re having a Zoom micro wedding, even those who cannot attend can participate in your ceremony. In the case of your sister, she may perform a reading or conduct a prayer through the screen. You can customize your ceremony any way you see fit, using your creativity and the power of the internet to make your micro wedding all that much bigger.

Micro Wedding Ideas for a Smaller Guest List

When planning a micro wedding, you may find that you have a bit of a budget surplus because of these cut costs. Both the budget surplus and the fact that you’ll have far fewer guests at your wedding allow you to get creative and a little more personal with the finer details of micro wedding planning.

Hand sanitizer and face masks are set out for guests to use during a wedding reception.
Getty Images

Wedding Favors

The following are a few favor ideas you might consider for your micro wedding, depending on your budget and your wedding’s theme. The dollar signs are meant to show you the relative expense but the exact dollar amount of each is based on your own budget.

  • Masks. ($-$$) Masks can be custom-printed with names and wedding date, nodding to the extraordinary times we’re all living in while giving your guests a functional gift they’ll be able to use in their day-to-day lives. You may even want to make these favors available to guests upon arrival rather than at the end of the celebration. That way if anyone forgot to bring their mask, they’ll literally be covered.
  • Hand sanitizer. ($) You can find plenty of beautiful yet affordable options for custom-printed hand sanitizer right now. Instead of the “Germ-X” label, your label will include your names, the wedding date and perhaps some adorable quote about love. This is another good favor to make available to your guests upon arrival.
  • Fauci-approved smooches. ($) Want to DIY your micro wedding favors? One cute idea is to get a glass jar, fill it with Hershey Kisses, and affix a label that reads “Social Distance Kisses.”
  • Flip flops. ($-$$) If you plan on driving to the beach for your destination wedding, flip flops can make a great wedding favor. If guests forget about the sand and wear fancy shoes to your celebration, they’ll appreciate the option to switch to beach-friendly attire upon arrival. Because your guest count is small, you can ask each guest for their shoe size beforehand so everyone is accurately accounted for. You can also go the extra mile and order custom flip flops with your names and wedding date printed on them.
  • Custom luggage tags. ($$$) This option is a little more expensive, but if you find yourself with extra padding in your wedding budget you may decide they’re worth it. Luggage tags can serve as a token of hope that life will go back to normal soon and we won’t have to stress as heavily should we have to get on a plane and traipse through the airport.

Guest Book

Similarly, because micro weddings have so few people in attendance, you can use creative ideas for a non-traditional guest book. Your guest book can then be integrated in your day-to-day married life.

Here are some ideas that can be customized to any micro wedding budget:

  • Picture frame. ($-$$$) When you get your wedding pictures back from the photographer, there’s likely to be one photo that just blows you away. Before the wedding, purchase a frame where you can display that much-anticipated picture. Buy a frame with a removable mat. Then, you can have your guests sign the mat in lieu of a guestbook on your wedding day. Their well-wishes can be displayed in your home alongside your favorite wedding photo.
  • Ornaments. ($-$$$) Have you ever known someone who has a tradition of picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation? Their tree then reminds them of all the journeys they’ve enjoyed. You can do a similar thing for your wedding day — especially if you have a small guest list. Instead of a guestbook, provide ornaments and paint pens coordinated with your wedding colors. Each guest will sign one. Every year, you can display your wedding-day memories on your tree, remembering those who were there with you.
  • Tiles or stepping stones. ($-$$$) Are you and your soon-to-be spouse remodeling? Or doing some landscaping work? If so, you can integrate your wedding day into your design plans. For instance, if you’re doing interior repairs and plan to lay tile, you can put out some tiles at your micro wedding in lieu of a guest book. Each guest would then sign one, and you could integrate your guest book into your home. If you’re doing outside work, you could have each guest sign a wet stepping stone, even adding their handprint if they want to. You can then integrate these stepping stones into your garden.

Stationary

Things are a lot more hopeful right now with somewhat improved vaccine distribution, but there are still so many unknowns. As you plan your micro wedding during uncertain times, you might want to familiarize yourself with some Corona-era additions to the wedding stationary world:

  • Change-the-date announcements. Change-the-date cards are now incredibly common for wedding postponements. Just like wedding invitations, these cards range from cute and witty all the way to incredibly formal. You can look for a template that matches the tone of your wedding day.
  • Virtual wedding invitations. Maybe you’re doing your part by giving the virus as few opportunities to mutate as possible. That’s why you’re doing a Zoom micro wedding with just the two of you plus your officiant. Paper invitations to your wedding are still a beautiful touch, but the most convenient way to invite your guests to livestream the event is through a virtual invitation. With virtual invitations, your guests will have access to a clickable link where they can participate in your ceremony live.
  • Elopement announcements. Whether you elope or simply choose not to announce to anyone but your micro wedding guests that you’re getting married, after-the-fact wedding announcements are a good way to include family and friends. Prior to the pandemic, these were commonly used for elopements, so you can find plenty of templates online even if they predate 2020. But you can also find pandemic-specific announcements whether you eloped or did, indeed, plan and have a few guests. Ideally, this announcement will contain a link to a wedding website where friends and family can view either pictures or video of your celebration after the fact.

It can be hard to break it to family or friends that they are either not invited or are uninvited to your wedding. But you are not the only one going through this situation. The silver lining is that because so many couples have faced the same circumstances, there are plenty of templates online and professionals who have worded the same sentiment for numerous clients. You don’t have to stress about the wording on your own.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at Femme Frugality.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Barclays jetBlue Plus Card – 60,000 Point Bonus

Update 5/5/21: Deal is back, not as good as the recent 100,000 point offer though. Hat tip to reader Scotty

Update 8/10/20: Still available. Hat tip to reader EB

The Offer

Direct link to offer

  • Barclays offering a sign up bonus of 60,000 JetBlue points after $1,000 in spend within the first 90 days of account opening on the JetBlue Plus card.

Card Details

  • Full Review Here
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 6x points per dollar spent on jetBlue purchases (previously 2x points)
    • 2x points per dollar spent on restaurants and groceries (previously 1x point)
    • 1x points per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Annual fee of $99 (not waived first year)
  • Free checked bag for the primary cardmember and up to three companions on the same reservation when you use your JetBlue Plus Card to purchase tickets on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • Enjoy all Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases after your anniversary date
  • Get 10% of your points back every time you redeem to use toward your next redemption
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $100 statement credit after you purchase a Getaways vacation package with your card
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases including cocktails, food and movies

Our Verdict

This is the highest bonus we’ve seen on this card, it was last offered in late 2017/early 2018. The standard bonus is 40,000 and we frequently see 50,000 points but this 60,000 offer is extremely rare. There is also a 60,000 point bonus on the business version of this card. JetBlue award flight prices are linked to the cash price of a ticket, much like Southwest. If you have any questions about Barclays credit cards, read this post first.

If you can make use of jetBlue flights then I do think this is a great offer and I will be adding it to the list of the best credit card bonuses.

Hat tip to reader Christian R

Post history:

  • Update 4/29/20: Offer still available and being promoted by jetBlue
  • Update 2/3/20: Reposting as there is now a direct link. Hat tip to reader Yawgoog

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Our Seasonal Guide to the Best Outdoor Gear Deals

Planning a vacation in the great outdoors in the next year? Now’s the time to start thinking about new gear and how you can get it for less.

Outdoor equipment can be pricey, but buying it at the right time of the year can get you the gear you covet at a better price. The savings will give you more cash to spend on the outdoor adventures themselves.

We’ve noted national retailers as good sources, however you might be able to get better details from Facebook’s Marketplace or Nextdoor for secondhand equipment. At Gear Trade you can buy both new and used equipment.

It’s time to get out there.

Guide to Buying Outdoor Gear at the Right Time

Ski Equipment

Best time to buy: Fall and March

Details: When ski shops shut down for the season, they usually have to clear out the inventory. Many of these stores stay in the outdoor gear business year-round, converting to bicycle or camping gear stores come spring and summer. But there’s always the question of what to do with all the bulky skis and snowboards that are left. The answer is usually to sell them cheaply. While the selection might not be great post-ski season, the prices are. Another option is to buy used ski equipment via GearTrade.com. Every week that an item doesn’t sell, the price drops so you can watch your favorite items until the price is right (unless someone else snags it first).

You’ll save: 50-60 percent

Where to buy it: Backcountry; REI; Gear Trade

Camping Equipment (Mostly Tents, Things to Sleep On)

Best time to buy: September

Details: In September, retailers don’t typically have many people clamoring to buy camping gear because it’s getting cold in much of the country, and they want to sell as much as possible, Priobrazhenskiy says. November through January are also good times to purchase when people are searching for holiday gifts. If you have a last-minute outing, you can find discounted items in late August as well, says Andrew Priobrazhenskiy, the CEO of DiscountReactor, an e-commerce business.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Dick’s Sporting Goods

Seasonal Sports Clothes (Ski Coats, Bathing Suits, Hiking Clothes and More)

Best time to buy: May

Details: If you wait until July or August, you’ll also be able to get your hands on great sale options and discounts as well, says Priobrazhenskiy.

You’ll save: 50 percent

Where to buy: REI;  Patagonia; Moosejaw

Outdoor Cooking Gear

Best time to buy: February, June and August

Details: These items such as camp stoves and cooking supplies and utensils tend to go on sale during these months. This is when most people plan their camping and outdoor trips, and retailers want to snag the business, Priobrazhenskiy says.

You’ll save: Up to 60 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods

Stand Up Paddleboards, Surf Boards, Kiteboards, Windsurfers

Best time to buy: August

Details: Purchasing your water sports equipment at the end of the summer is best because many stores hold end-of-season clearance sales, says Holly Appleby, a marine conservation researcher and surf instructor who runs Ocean Today, a project dedicated to ocean education. If you purchase at the end of the season, however, ensure you have adequate storage for your new equipment. Surfboards and paddleboards should be stored out of the sun in a cool, dry place, Appleby says. And while many items can be purchased secondhand, Appleby cautions against purchasing water sports equipment this way. “Purchasing secondhand usually means you can get good deals year-round, but while you’ll likely save money, there’s a chance the safety of the item has been compromised,” she says.

You’ll save: 40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; REI

Kayaks and Canoes

Best time to buy: End of August

Details: The prime season for paddling around lakes, rivers and other waterways in much of the United States is August. So the end of August is a great time to buy a discounted kayak, canoe or other piece of paddle equipment. Don’t want to store it for a year before you’ll get to use it? Memorial Day usually draws major lake equipment sales, as does Christmas. The worst time to purchase these items is spring, when the new inventory arrives in the stores. Often, you can find used paddling craft and equipment on Craigslist or on local Facebook groups for half the price during the spring and fall months.

Two people kayak in the water.
Getty Images

You’ll save: 40-50 percent

Where to buy: REI; Cabela’s

Hiking Gear

Best time to buy: March and April

Details: The majority of sporting goods retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Camping World will have closeouts in the spring to make room for new gear and accessories for hiking such as boots, packs, navigation tools and trekking poles, says Vipin Porwal, founder and consumer savings expert at Smarty and Smarty Plus. “It’s very important to take advantage of any available savings with trending coupons and rewards like cash back in order to assure the best price, regardless of the stores you’re shopping in,” Porwal says.

You’ll save: 10-40 percent

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods; Bass Pro Shops; Camping World

Bicycles and Helmets

Best time to buy: Fall

Details: This is when the stores get rid of the previous summer stock and to make room for new models. But you can also get good deals on Black Friday and around the Christmas season. If you’re looking for a specialist bike, such as a mountain bike or a road bike, these will be on sale whenever they’re out of race season (usually the winter months). Save even more by asking to purchase a demo bike. These are the bikes that shops lend to prospective buyers. They tend to be well-maintained, and are the equivalent of an open box item in an electronics store.

You’ll save: 20-35 percent

Where to buy: You should purchase bicycles at a local store to get the correct fit.

Fishing Gear

Best time to buy: February

Details: About two months after the December holiday season is the sweet spot: It’s too early to fish in much of the country except for all but hardy ice anglers and stores need to sell off their older gear. Make sure to look in the used sections as well because that’s where better deals can be found.

You’ll save: 25-40 percent

Where to buy: Cabela’s; Bass Pro Shops

Car Racks to Carry It All

Best time to buy: November

Details: Black Friday is the best time to snag racks for bikes, watercraft, skis, snowboards and more, but you’ll rarely see these for more than 20 percent off. Want a better deal? Look for these on EBay or Craigslist, or scour local Facebook Marketplace listings. These are sturdy so you don’t typically have to worry about it being damaged and often, people will use theirs for a trip or two before getting rid of it.

You’ll save: 20 percent

Where to buy: REI; Backcountry

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

PODCAST: Estate-Planning Your Stuff with T. Eric Reich

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Links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

David Muhlbaum: When it comes to estate planning, money is usually front of mind. Makes sense, that’s where decisions about wills, trusts and more can realize real tax savings. But it’s stuff, tangible things like houses, china and collectibles that often generate drama and conflict. We talk with a financial advisor who’s touched a nerve on this front. Also, meet Generation I. All coming up in this episode of your money’s worth—stick around.

David Muhlbaum: Welcome to Your Money’s Worth, I’m kiplinger.com senior editor David Muhlbaum, joined by my co-host, senior editor Sandy Block. How are you doing Sandy?

Sandy Block: I’m doing good.

David Muhlbaum: Well, good. Short of talking politics, there’s probably no quicker way to generate angry feedback than waging intergenerational battles.

Sandy Block: But you’re going to do it anyway?

David Muhlbaum: Sort of? I say that in part because while the study I’m going to discuss sounded like it was going to be kids versus the olds, it turns out there’s more nuance than that. Anyway, I’m going to talk about Generation I, which isn’t really even a generation but rather a handy little term that the Charles Schwab Investment firm cooked up for new investors. By that they mean people who are new to stock market investing.

Sandy Block: And those folks have been the source of some of the market drama we’ve seen this year like the GameStop bubble we talked about earlier this year.

David Muhlbaum: Yes, yes. There is overlap between the whole meme stocks crowd and Generation I. I stands for investor but since it’s a new term, let’s start with the definition. What Charles Schwab means by Generation Investor, Generation I, is people who started stock market investing in 2020—not before. So it doesn’t matter what your actual age is. There are Generation I members who are Boomers, Gen X, Millennials. Obviously, the group skews younger than investors broadly, but what’s striking is that Generation I, according to Schwab, accounts for 15% of all U.S. stock market investors.

Sandy Block: By population, not by dollars invested.

David Muhlbaum: Yes, by population. They don’t have a figure for a Generation I’s sum assets but I see what you’re getting at. And yes, Gen I earns about $20,000 less in annual income, at $76,000 a year, than those who began investing before 2020. And here’s another interesting number, half of Generation I says they live paycheck to paycheck.

Sandy Block: Okay. That sounds worrisome.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah, but here’s the thing. Some of the so-called Generation I are people who downloaded Robinhood and are watching a handful of stocks for big moves, short term trading. And if they’re doing that while missing payments on their car note, okay, that’s bad. But at least according to the study, they say they’re learning that investing is more about longer-term gains versus shorter-term wins. About learning to do research, diversification, capital market gains, taxes, risk tolerance, all that—the knowledge if you will.

Sandy Block: I’m hearing echoes of what Kyle Woodley was talking about when he joined us for the GameStop discussion about how it’s possible for people who came in for this excitement might be convinced to stay around for the long term, grow your wealth, not double your money, kids.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah, I totally agree. However, the big factor here is that the sum of Generation I’s market experience is this strong bull market. Will they stick around when things go south, which someday, sometime we’ll have a bear market. Markets go up, markets go down.

Sandy Block: That’s right, and I’m constantly reminded what our editor Anne Smith reminds us all the time, is that we’ve been here before, maybe not at these numbers. But in the 90s, when tech stocks were taking off, all kinds of people got in the market for the first time. And while you couldn’t make trades for nothing on an app, it was cheaper to buy and sell stocks than it had been in the past. And a lot of these people piled in because they had heard that tech stocks would never go down and they didn’t think they would ever lose money and they learned the hard way that they could.

David Muhlbaum: When we return for our main segment, we’ll talk with a financial advisor with some insights about the estate planning for stuff. Not just the money, the stuff.

David Muhlbaum: Welcome back to Your Money’s Worth. Joining us today is T. Eric Reich, the president and founder of Reich Asset Management in Southern New Jersey. Eric has a whole slew of professional certification acronyms after his name, including CFP. And the way we found him is that he’s a contributor to Kiplinger’s Wealth Creation Channel. That is an area of our website that has content from a range of financial professionals, CFPs, CPAs, tax lawyers and more. They’re qualified and they’re good writers. Plus, since they’re dealing directly with clients, I’d venture to say that they often have a closer sense of what personal finance guidance people actually need than personal finance writers. So Eric wrote a piece for us called, Time to Face Reality, Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff. And well, it was a hit. Welcome, Eric. We will get into what stuff and why, but since we’ve brought up how you professionals get to hear it directly from the clients, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the reaction you’ve been getting? Because, I understand from your assistant that you’ve gotten a lot of feedback.

T. Eric Reich: We have. We got probably a few dozen emails across the country from different readers of Kiplinger’s that saw it and then of course our own clients, of course, were calling us. They were writing or calling and letting us know their thoughts on it. And it’s funny, I wrote it because it’s such a recurring theme with a lot of people. They’re always convinced that people want all of your stuff and they just don’t. So I wanted to touch on why, but I knew it was going to get a strong reaction because I hear the same thing all the time from people. So if I hear locally on the ground, then I’m sure to a bigger audience, we were going to even get more opinion on that.

Sandy Block: Well, Eric, I immediately latched onto your piece because I am in the process of… My father passed away a couple of months ago and I’m in the process of distributing and cleaning out his house and it’s a mammoth job. So many of the things that you talked about really resonated with me. Obviously, we’re going to link to your piece so that people can follow up and read it in its entirety but we’re going to hit on some highlights and my question is, what’s the number one item people planning their estate think their kids want but the kids don’t actually want?

T. Eric Reich: By far the biggest one is the house. And it’s not that the kids don’t want the house, it’s that logistically it just doesn’t work. My example: I have three children, I have a nice house and I have three young kids. Let’s say my kids were in their twenties and something happened to me. My kids might want the house, but how’s that going to work? None of them can afford it because they’re just starting out in their careers. There’s three of them, they’re certainly not going to share it. And then one of them invariably wants to buy it, but they think they’re entitled to a discount because they’re my kid. But then the other two would be offended if they got a discount because they’re my kids, so why should they get shortchanged in favor of another one? So everybody thinks that their kids want the house, but the reality is most often that the biggest misconception is that your kids just really don’t want your house.

Sandy Block: So a follow-up question, Eric, if you aren’t going to leave the kids your house, how should you plan your estate so that doesn’t happen?

T. Eric Reich: So if you’re not going to leave the house to the kids, I mean, you can leave it to them, but you can reference in there, “Hey, these are the parameters in which someone’s going to keep it.” So if you want to keep it, it has to be appraised by two different independent people or three different and you take the average of the three it’s bought at fair market value. You have to specify the rules to which someone can keep it because if not, that’s where all the fights start, is the more ambiguity you leave in it the bigger the fight. So all of those things should be spelled out ahead of time. If you want it to be sold, say you want it to be sold. If somebody wants to keep it, fine, but here are the rules under which someone gets to keep it.

David Muhlbaum: What about setting up a trust? Couldn’t that help establish the rules you’re talking about?

T. Eric Reich: It can, I mean, I think a trust in general can help with a lot of things. Again, this is for an estate planning attorney more but to me, I like using trusts in general. Simply because it’s a way to control things and I hate to use this phrase, control from the grave, but that’s exactly what it is. And sometimes that comes off as sounding like a control freak or overbearing, but sometimes it’s for, honestly, just the protection of the beneficiaries themselves. If one’s a spendthrift, if one’s in a bad marriage, if one has a lot of creditors, you could be doing them a disservice by giving it to them outright instead of via trust.

Sandy Block: So, Eric, isn’t the other advantage of putting your house and other items in a trust that it keeps it out of probate?

T. Eric Reich: It keeps it out of probate and the biggest part of that too, is, that’s public record. I mean, I remember when a client had a family member pass away, they got a phone call a few months later from a guy wanting to buy the antique car that they just inherited. To which their response was, “Wait, who are you again?” Well, here they looked up in public records that one of the assets was this old antique Chevy and the guy wanted to buy it off him. And I always say, you see it in real life, you know,. Princess Diana’s will was published in a magazine. Whereas I always say, “Well, what about, Frank Sinatra?” And they go, “Well, I never heard anything about that.” Exactly, because everything was in a trust. So privacy is a big component of that as well. So avoiding probate and also what goes along with that is the privacy factor.

David Muhlbaum: The main family house is one thing but a vacation house can be even more emotionally loaded, no? I imagine someone working on their will thinking, wouldn’t be great for everyone to get together at the lake house every summer, roast marshmallows and remember grandma and grandpa for having found this place. And actually the kids are like, “Eh, we like going to Europe.”

T. Eric Reich: You’re absolutely right. It’s definitely bigger for the creator of the estate. It’s not that the beneficiaries don’t love the idea of the vacation home and everything else. The problem is, and again, I always go back to my example, I have three kids. Who gets to use it when? It’s only fit to be used in the summer months. I live at the Jersey shore, so, super-popular here June through the end of August. So, who gets to use it during that time period and what weeks and what holidays? And as I get older and my kids get older, their kids get older,

If one family has five kids and the other has one, are they getting more usage out of it? How are the expenses being paid? Is everyone sharing in that equally? So it really starts to create a problem. One of the ways around that maybe is that if that were in a trust, then I could also put money into that trust for the maintenance of the house, to pay the taxes, it’s going to pay everything it needs at least for the next decade. And then after 10 years, you guys have to come up with a solution based on x, y, and z of how we should deal with it going forward.

Sandy Block: Yeah. Eric, my experience with people who have inherited vacation homes, it sounds like a great idea at the time but very often they/ve moved and live many, many miles away. They don’t live near the Jersey Shore, they live in California, so it becomes a huge hassle. And I think that’s something probably you mentioned that people also need to think about, how close are your heirs to the actual vacation home that they could use it.

T. Eric Reich: Yeah, we actually just had a situation not too long ago. We had someone who owned a house on the beach, a very valuable house. They were kind of house poor; they had a phenomenal house, but not tons of money other than that. But the client really wanted to preserve that asset for a grandchild, the only grandchild, who lived hours and hours away. And I actually suggested, we call the grandchild and ask point blank, “Do you want this house?” The client was floored, like, “Well, of course they want the house, who doesn’t want a house on the beach in Ocean City in New Jersey.” Well, we called and it turned out the kid said, “That’s wonderful but I’m in my 20s, I work 80 hours a week. It’s three and a half hours away. I will absolutely never use that house. I’d much rather you sold it and got to use the money and enjoyed it. And if there’s something left over, wonderful, leave it to me but otherwise, I really don’t care.”

David Muhlbaum: Well, sounds like conversations really come down to the core of doing estate planning, especially around stuff. But those could be pretty fraught conversations. It sounds like this one went okay, but I assume they don’t always.

T. Eric Reich: Well, yeah, that’s true. I mean, the reason we had to make that phone call was because they were adamant that, of course, they would want this. Who wouldn’t want it? And the reality is there’s a lot of people that wouldn’t want it. The beauty of that is in the eye of the beholder, not so much somebody on the other end, but these are real world scenarios that people have to deal with. And of course the house being the biggest, but it’s not always just the house.

Sandy Block: Now that leads me to my next question, Eric, because you also talk in the slideshow about your stuff, your collectibles. They may have great sentimental value to you but maybe not to your children. Should you start getting rid of them while you’re still around?

T. Eric Reich: We do suggest that sometimes or at least explore it. Or, if not, educate the children on the value of it. A lot of times what we’ll see is someone has a collection of stuff, whatever it might be, the owner, of course, knows how valuable it is. They’ve been collecting it for 20, 30, 40 years, but an heir doesn’t necessarily have an idea of what that would be worth. And we ran into a scenario like that: We had someone that was going to basically just sell a bunch of stuff. And I think it was for like $1,000. And then we actually brought a specialist in to review it and turns out it was worth $45 to $50,000. So this poor guy was going to get ripped off because he didn’t understand the value of what it was, and that’s not uncommon at all.

Sandy Block: That’s my Antiques Road Show nightmare, Eric, is that I will give something to Goodwill and be watching Antiques Road Show and it’ll show up being worth $50,000 and I’ll realize that I gave it away. So I think you’re suggesting that you get that stuff valued and appraised while you’re still around to help your kids is a really good one.

T. Eric Reich: If you’re not a collector, you don’t know. Either sell it and let it go ahead of time, or at least communicate that value—and an actual value, because sometimes we also think collectibles are worth a lot more than they really are. We think it’s worth $50,000 and it’s worth $1, that’s more often the case. But nonetheless, an appraisal from an independent person will help.

David Muhlbaum: I’m glad you brought up the point about actual valuation, because my cats eat from some pretty fancy china bowls that someone thought had a lot more value than they did. And I think that sometimes these items that people have had for a long time or inherited from their predecessors, they really don’t fetch that much today.

T. Eric Reich: No, because unfortunately some of the things and it’s just a generational thing and I use china, actually as the example a lot of times. Because 50 years ago, 75 years ago, china was prized. I mean, for everybody, fine china was a real hallmark of things. Today, I probably have six or seven sets of fine china. Some of them apparently, extremely old, from great-great-great-grandmothers. But the reality is the generation today doesn’t use it at all. If they do, they can’t use five, six, seven sets of it. But the reality is that value from a long time ago doesn’t necessarily translate today for those reasons. So a lot of times things you think are very valuable maybe aren’t.

Sandy Block: Yeah. David Muhlbaum: and I have discussed this, and both of us are awash in china. And, I also have at least two sets of silver that again have been handed down from generations. As you said, young people—and this goes for even furniture—young people just don’t use that stuff. So I guess, the best thing you can do is either get rid of it or have some instructions for what you’d like to have done with it.

T. Eric Reich: Yeah. And valuation is key for that as long as you have a good value placed on it and you have a sense of what it might be worth? My wife’s family, they have a much, much larger family than I do. They’ll go to everybody in the family, two and three removed and say, “Hey, does anybody want this piece?” Because it is a family piece. But if not, then what do they ultimately do with it? It sounds sad to have to part with it, if really nobody wants it, and you know you mentioned yourself and you’re going through it personally, it’s only adding to the problem, we’ll call it, of settling an estate. And the less planning involved, the bigger the problem becomes.

David Muhlbaum: I imagine that in your line of work, Eric, you refer people out for valuations pretty often. How can our listeners get good qualified valuations for their stuff?

T. Eric Reich: So there are evaluation organizations. So you basically would want to find certified valuation type of people for that.

David Muhlbaum: Do they have acronyms like CFP?

T. Eric Reich: They probably do. I think I’ve seen one or two out there, definitely not an expert on it, but it is funny because from the article, I did have two different companies reach out to me and say, “Hey, this is what we do for a living. Feel free to pass our information along.” So these companies are out there, they do understand what things are worth. I got lucky in the one example of the $1000 offer for $50,000 worth of stuff. I happened to know a person who had some expertise in that area. But we frequently do refer out to an appraiser, to an estate-planning attorney, to a CPA. And all of them can have pretty good contacts in that world as well.

Sandy Block: Eric, this wasn’t in your slideshow, but you mentioned cars. Do you want to talk about cars?

T. Eric Reich: Cars are a big issue for a lot of people. My example: I have an old classic Corvette. I have a 1963 split-window coupe. So among the rarest of the rare. I have one of them and I have three kids. They all are convinced they’re getting the, “Vette.” Or the yellow car, as I like to call it, when I’m gone someday. Well, they can’t all get it. They also probably have no idea what it’s really worth. So for that reason just like the house or anything else, get a valuation. Get an appraisal of what is this thing really worth. And then again, if somebody wants to buy it at fair market value, that’s fine.

T. Eric Reich: But if not, it has to be sold. So otherwise it’s going to be unfair. Now, you can swap assets. You might say, if that car was worth $150,000, okay, well then if you’re getting that, then you have to give up a $100,000 of something else. And so that 50 and 50 go to the other two siblings. That’s fine you’re welcome to do that but my trust would stipulate that. Would lay out the terms at which someone could buy something.

David Muhlbaum: Could people set up a corporation to manage it for them?

T. Eric Reich: They could, that’s more of an estate lawyer question from that perspective. But you could, or you could probably do it all through a trust. It might just be too onerous to set up a corporation for that purpose. The logistics and maintenance of it might be a little too much.

David Muhlbaum: One interesting word you used in your article, Eric is “fun.” It’s a little surprising. Where’s the fun?

T. Eric Reich: Well, that’s just it, estate planning is never fun. Settling an estate is flat-out awful but the estate planning process and planning for your demise is never something that’s fun. But If you don’t deal with it, it is going to be a nightmare for the people behind you. So, why not deal with it today, when you’re of sound mind and body, as the phrase goes, to make those decisions. And again, try to make it fun, try to involve the kids from day one. It’s not like they’re fighting over your stuff. If everything’s out in the open and it’s shared freely, you really can have fun with… You know, I have one kid who’s clearly closest to my old Corvette than the other two.

T. Eric Reich: So the other two say, “We want it.” But as soon as they leave the room, he says, “Well, of course you know I’m getting it.” You can joke around with it that way but sometimes in those conversations, you will find that there are things of greater value to different family members. And it doesn’t have to be monetary value, they just really want something special to them. And if that’s what they really want, then maybe they get that and somebody else gets the car or the whatever, to be even.

David Muhlbaum: I see an opportunity for the younger generations to help here. As documentarians of a sort. They can take pictures, record, video, ask questions, discuss the things. What are the stories associated with the thing? And then you can decide, okay, we have a record of everything, now, these we’re going to keep and these we’re going to want to let go.

T. Eric Reich: That’s a really good point. I mean, recording it that way. Someone had reached out to me after reading the article and said, what they did, was they took pictures and many, many pictures of all the different things that they had collection wise. Wrote about them and then sold them. So they still have the pictures, they still have the story, they still have the context and everything else. They just don’t have the asset by itself, but they still have all the memories of it. They have the pictures, they have everything. So you did keep that meaning alive behind it, without actually worrying about who’s going to maintain this asset.

Sandy Block: Eric, it sounds like bottom-line here, a lot of people might be very conscientious about having their beneficiary designations correct for all of their finances, but they really don’t think about the solid items that they’re going to leave behind. And I suspect this often comes with people—and this is the case in my situation—people who have been in the same home for many years. If you move into a retirement community, you are forced to downsize but a lot of people die in the homes that they lived in. And I can tell you from personal experience, that clean-out can be a real job, especially if you don’t know what was the intention for some of these things.

T. Eric Reich: Yeah, it’s really the case. You live in the same house, 40, 50, 60 years, you accumulate a lot of stuff. Some of that stuff probably is fairly valuable. And really it is key because, the longer you’ve been in that house, your reference point is also of that house, and you have special memories of things in that house, because you’ve been going even yourself to that same place all that time. And that’s where a lot of that interest from heirs comes in, is there is a special piece or a special thing that reminds me of mom and dad or grandparents or whoever. And that sentimental value to that item is worth more than the financial value, and that’s why that honest, open communication is really key. Have this conversation while you’re alive and you’re healthy. When you’re in more advanced decline is where we see problems come in—or I promised that Corvette to all three kids at some point, because I forgot I promised it to the other two.

T. Eric Reich: Because I might be starting to slip a little bit or I’ve let things go or I let people take things out of the house over the years, things like that. So it really is important to not just focus on the, “yes, I’ve done estate planning, I set up a will or I set up a power of attorney.” That’s the bare minimum but even just writing out things like an ethical will, here’s the things I want to happen. This is what I want to see you do with stuff. Or here’s what I would love to see happen to the car, if you can’t, fine, then do this. A lot of times heirs will try to honor those wishes, if you really put it down in paper. It’s not something that would necessarily be part of a will. That’s more just the direct transfer of the property but more what I would like to see happen with something.

David Muhlbaum: Write it down on paper, tell people what you want to happen, have honest open conversation, always good advice. And I think we’ve had a good conversation here today ourselves. Thank you so much for joining us, Eric. We’re going to link up to your piece for people who want to dig a little bit deeper into what to do and not to do with your stuff. Thanks again.

T. Eric Reich: Thanks so much for having me.

David Muhlbaum: And that will just about do it for this episode of Your Money’s Worth. If you like what you heard, please sign up for more at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your content. When you do, please give us a rating and a review. If you’ve already subscribed, thanks. Please, go back and add a rating or a review if you haven’t already, it matters. To see the links we’ve mentioned in our show, along with other great Kiplinger content on the topics we’ve discussed, go to kiplinger.com/podcast. The episodes, transcripts and links are all in there by date. And if you’re still here, because you wanted to give us a piece of your mind, you can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or by emailing us directly at podcast@kiplinger.com. Thanks for listening.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. Reich Asset Management, LLC is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS

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Source: kiplinger.com

How to Refinance Your Home Mortgage – Step-by-Step Guide

Deciding to refinance your mortgage is only the beginning of the process. You’re far more likely to accomplish what you set out to achieve with your refinance — and to get a good deal in the meantime — when you understand what a mortgage refinance entails.

From decision to closing, mortgage refinancing applicants pass through four key stages on their journey to a new mortgage loan.

How to Refinance a Mortgage on Your Home

Getting a home loan of any kind is a highly involved and consequential process.

On the front end, it requires careful consideration on your part. In this case, that means weighing the pros and cons of refinancing in general and the purpose of your loan in particular.

For example, are you refinancing to get a lower rate loan (reducing borrowing costs relative to your current loan) or do you need a cash-out refinance to finance a home improvement project, which could actually entail a higher rate?

Next, you’ll need to gather all the documents and details you’ll need to apply for your loan, evaluate your loan options and calculate what your new home mortgage will cost, and then begin the process of actually shopping for and applying for your new loan — the longest step in the process.

Expect the whole endeavor to take several weeks.

1. Determining Your Loan’s Purpose & Objectives

The decision to refinance a mortgage is not one to make lightly. If you’ve decided to go through with it, you probably have a goal in mind already.

Still, before getting any deeper into the process, it’s worth reviewing your longer-term objectives and determining what you hope to get out of your refinance. You might uncover a secondary or tertiary goal or benefit that alters your approach to the process before it’s too late to change course.

Refinancing advances a whole host of goals, some of which are complementary. For example:

  • Accelerating Payoff. A shorter loan term means fewer monthly payments and quicker payoff. It also means lower borrowing costs over the life of the loan. The principal downside: Shortening a loan’s remaining term from, say, 25 years to 15 years is likely to raise the monthly payment, even as it cuts down total interest charges.
  • Lowering the Monthly Payment. A lower monthly payment means a more affordable loan from month to month — a key benefit for borrowers struggling to live within their means. If you plan to stay in your home for at least three to five years, accepting a prepayment penalty (which is usually a bad idea) can further reduce your interest rate and your monthly payment along with it. The most significant downsides here are the possibility of higher overall borrowing costs and taking longer to pay it off if, as is often the case, you reduce your monthly payment by lengthening your loan term.
  • Lowering the Interest Rate. Even with an identical term, a lower interest rate reduces total borrowing costs and lowers the monthly payment. That’s why refinancing activity spikes when interest rates are low. Choose a shorter term and you’ll see a more drastic reduction.
  • Avoiding the Downsides of Adjustable Rates. Life is good for borrowers during the first five to seven years of the typical adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) term when the 30-year loan rate is likely to be lower than prevailing rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. The bill comes due, literally, when the time comes for the rate to adjust. If rates have risen since the loan’s origination, which is common, the monthly payment spikes. Borrowers can avoid this unwelcome development by refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage ahead of the jump.
  • Getting Rid of FHA Mortgage Insurance. With relaxed approval standards and low down payment requirements, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loans help lower-income, lower-asset first-time buyers afford starter homes. But they have some significant drawbacks, including pricey mortgage insurance that lasts for the life of the loan. Borrowers with sufficient equity (typically 20% or more) can put that behind them, reduce their monthly payment in the process by refinancing to a conventional mortgage, and avoid less expensive but still unwelcome private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Tapping Home Equity. Use a cash-out refinance loan to extract equity from your home. This type of loan allows you to borrow cash against the value of your home to fund things like home improvement projects or debt consolidation. Depending on the lender and jurisdiction, you can borrow up to 85% of your home equity (between rolled-over principal and cash proceeds) with this type of loan. But mind your other equity-tapping options: a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

Confirming what you hope to get out of your refinance is an essential prerequisite to calculating its likely cost and choosing the optimal offer.


2. Confirm the Timing & Gather Everything You Need

With your loan’s purpose and your long-term financial objectives set, it’s time to confirm you’re ready to refinance. If yes, you must gather everything you need to apply, or at least begin thinking about how to do that.

Assessing Your Timing & Determining Whether to Wait

The purpose of your loan plays a substantial role in dictating the timing of your refinance.

For example, if your primary goal is to tap the equity in your home to finance a major home improvement project, such as a kitchen remodel or basement finish, wait until your loan-to-value ratio is low enough to produce the requisite windfall. That time might not arrive until you’ve been in your home for a decade or longer, depending on the property’s value (and change in value over time).

As a simplified example, if you accumulate an average of $5,000 in equity per year during your first decade of homeownership by making regular payments on your mortgage, you must pay your 30-year mortgage on time for 10 consecutive years to build the $50,000 needed for a major kitchen remodel (without accounting for a potential increase in equity due to a rise in market value).

By contrast, if your primary goal is to avoid a spike in your ARM payment, it’s in your interest to refinance before that happens — most often five or seven years into your original mortgage term.

But other factors can also influence the timing of your refinance or give you second thoughts about going through with it at all:

  • Your Credit Score. Because mortgage refinance loans are secured by the value of the properties they cover, their interest rates tend to be lower than riskier forms of unsecured debt, such as personal loans and credit cards. But borrower credit still plays a vital role in setting their rates. Borrowers with credit scores above 760 get the best rates, and borrowers with scores much below 680 can expect significantly higher rates. That’s not to say refinancing never makes sense for someone whose FICO score is in the mid-600s or below, only that those with the luxury to wait out the credit rebuilding or credit improvement process might want to consider it. If you’re unsure of your credit score, you can check it for free through Credit Karma.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio. Mortgage lenders prefer borrowers with low debt-to-income ratios. Under 36% is ideal, and over 43% is likely a deal breaker for most lenders. If your debt-to-income ratio is uncomfortably high, consider putting off your refinance for six months to a year and using the time to pay down debt.
  • Work History. Fairly or not, lenders tend to be leery of borrowers who’ve recently changed jobs. If you’ve been with your current employer for two years or less, you must demonstrate that your income has been steady for longer and still might fail to qualify for the rate you expected. However, if you expect interest rates to rise in the near term, waiting out your new job could cancel out any benefits due to the higher future prevailing rates.
  • Prevailing Interest Rates. Given the considerable sums of money involved, even an incremental change to your refinance loan’s interest rate could translate to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars saved over the life of the loan. If you expect interest rates to fall in the near term, put off your refinance application. Conversely, if you believe rates will rise, don’t delay. And if the difference between your original mortgage rate and the rate you expect to receive on your refinance loan isn’t at least 1.5 percentage points, think twice about going ahead with the refinance at all. Under those circumstances, it takes longer to recoup your refinance loan’s closing costs.
  • Anticipated Time in the Home. It rarely makes sense to refinance your original mortgage if you plan to sell the home or pay off the mortgage within two years. Depending on your expected interest savings on the refinance, it can take much longer than that (upward of five years) to break even. Think carefully about how much effort you want to devote to refinancing a loan you’re going to pay off in a few years anyway.

Pro tip: If you need to give your credit score a bump, sign up for Experian Boost. It’s free and it’ll help you instantly increase your credit score.

Gathering Information & Application Materials

If and when you’re ready to go through with your refinance, you need a great deal of information and documentation before and during the application and closing processes, including:

  • Proof of Income. Depending on your employment status and sources of income, the lender will ask you to supply recent pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements.
  • A Recent Home Appraisal. Your refinance lender will order a home appraisal before closing, so you don’t need to arrange one on your own. However, to avoid surprises, you can use open-source comparable local sales data to get an idea of your home’s likely market value.
  • Property Insurance Information. Your lender (and later, mortgage servicer) needs your homeowners insurance information to bundle your escrow payment. If it has been more than a year since you reviewed your property insurance policy, now’s the time to shop around for a better deal.

Be prepared to provide additional documentation if requested by your lender before closing. Any missing information or delays in producing documents can jeopardize the close.

Home Appraisal Blackboard Chalk Hand


3. Calculate Your Approximate Refinancing Costs

Next, use a free mortgage refinance calculator like Bank of America’s to calculate your approximate refinancing costs.

Above all else, this calculation must confirm you can afford the monthly mortgage payment on your refinance loan. If one of your aims in refinancing is to reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of your loan, this calculation can also confirm your chosen loan term and structure will achieve that.

For it to be worth it, you must at least break even on the loan after accounting for closing costs.

Calculating Your Breakeven Cost

Breakeven is a simple concept. When the total amount of interest you must pay over the life of your refinance loan matches the loan’s closing costs, you break even on the loan.

The point in time at which you reach parity is the breakeven point. Any interest saved after the breakeven point is effectively a bonus — money you would have forfeited had you chosen not to refinance.

Two factors determine if and when the breakeven point arrives. First, a longer loan term increases the likelihood you’ll break even at some point. More important still is the magnitude of change in your loan’s interest rate. The further your refinance rate falls from your original loan’s rate, the more you save each month and the faster you can recoup your closing costs.

A good mortgage refinance calculator should automatically calculate your breakeven point. Otherwise, calculate your breakeven point by dividing your refinance loan’s closing costs by the monthly savings relative to the original loan and round the result up to the next whole number.

Because you won’t have exact figures for your loan’s closing costs or monthly savings until you’ve applied and received loan disclosures, you’re calculating an estimated breakeven range at this point.

Refinance loan closing costs typically range from 2% to 6% of the refinanced loan’s principal, depending on the origination fee and other big-ticket expenses, so run one optimistic scenario (closing costs at 2% and a short time to breakeven) and one pessimistic scenario (closing costs at 6% and a long time to breakeven). The actual outcome will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

Note that the breakeven point is why it rarely makes sense to bother refinancing if you plan to sell or pay off the loan within two years or can’t reduce your interest rate by more than 1.5 to 2 percentage points.


4. Shop, Apply, & Close

You’re now in the home stretch — ready to shop, apply, and close the deal on your refinance loan.

Follow each of these steps in order, beginning with a multipronged effort to source accurate refinance quotes, continuing through an application and evaluation marathon, and finishing up with a closing that should seem breezier than your first.

Use a Quote Finder (Online Broker) to Get Multiple Quotes Quickly

Start by using an online broker like Credible* to source multiple refinance quotes from banks and mortgage lenders without contacting each party directly. Be prepared to provide basic information about your property and objectives, such as:

  • Property type, such as single-family home or townhouse
  • Property purpose, such as primary home or vacation home
  • Loan purpose, such as lowering the monthly payment
  • Property zip code
  • Estimated property value and remaining first mortgage loan balance
  • Cash-out needs, if any
  • Basic personal information, such as estimated credit score and date of birth

If your credit is decent or better, expect to receive multiple conditional refinance offers — with some coming immediately and others trickling in by email or phone in the subsequent hours and days. You’re under no obligation to act on any, sales pressure notwithstanding, but do make note of the most appealing.

Approach Banks & Lenders You’ve Worked With Before

Next, investigate whether any financial institutions with which you have a preexisting relationship offer refinance loans, including your current mortgage lender.

Most banks and credit unions do offer refinance loans. Though their rates tend to be less competitive at a baseline than direct lenders without expensive branch offices, many offer special pricing for longtime or high-asset customers. It’s certainly worth taking the time to make a few calls or website visits.

Apply for Multiple Loans Within 14 Days

You won’t know the exact cost of any refinance offer until you officially apply and receive the formal loan disclosure all lenders must provide to every prospective borrower.

But you can’t formally apply for a refinance loan without consenting to a hard credit pull, which can temporarily depress your credit score. And you definitely shouldn’t go through with your refinance until you’ve entertained multiple offers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Fortunately, the major consumer credit-reporting bureaus count all applications for a specific loan type (such as mortgage refinance loans) made within a two-week period as a single application, regardless of the final application count.

In other words, get in all the refinance applications you plan to make within two weeks, and your credit report will show just a single inquiry.

Evaluate Each Offer

Evaluate the loan disclosure for each accepted application with your objectives and general financial goals in mind. If your primary goal is reducing your monthly payment, look for the loan with the lowest monthly cost.

If your primary goal is reducing your lifetime homeownership costs, look for the loan offering the most substantial interest savings (the lowest mortgage interest rate).

Regardless of your loan’s purpose, make sure you understand what (if anything) you’re obligated to pay out of pocket for your loan. Many refinance loans simply roll closing costs into the principal, raising the monthly payment and increasing lifetime interest costs.

If your goal is to get the lowest possible monthly payment and you can afford to, try paying the closing costs out of pocket.

Choose an Offer & Consider Locking Your Rate

Choose the best offer from the pack — the one that best suits your objectives. If you expect rates to move up before closing, consider the lender’s offer (if extended) to lock your rate for a predetermined period, usually 45 to 90 days.

There’s likely a fee associated with this option, but the amount saved by even marginally reducing your final interest rate will probably offset it. Assuming everything goes smoothly during closing, you shouldn’t need more than 45 days — and certainly not more than 90 days — to finish the deal.

Proceed to Closing

Once you’ve closed on the loan, that’s it — you’ve refinanced your mortgage. Your refinance lender pays off your first mortgage and originates your new loan.

Moving forward, you send payments to your refinance lender, their servicer, or another company that purchases the loan.


Final Word

If you own a home, refinancing your mortgage loan is likely the easiest route to capitalize on low interest rates. It’s probably the most profitable too.

But low prevailing interest rates aren’t the only reason to refinance your mortgage loan. Other common refinancing goals include avoiding the first upward adjustment on an ARM, reducing the monthly payment to a level that doesn’t strain your growing family’s budget, tapping the equity you’ve built in your home, and banishing FHA mortgage insurance.

And a refinance loan doesn’t need to achieve only one goal. Some of these objectives are complementary, such as reducing your monthly payment while lowering your interest rate (and lifetime borrowing costs).

Provided you make out on the deal, whether by reducing your total homeownership costs or taking your monthly payment down a peg, it’s likely worth the effort.

*Advertisement from Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS 1681276.Address: 320 Blackwell St. Ste 200, Durham, NC, 27701

Source: moneycrashers.com

Renting a Car for Your Holiday Vacations

The holiday season is upon us and many of us will be taking time off work to visit family and friends or just to get out of town. With so many people going on vacations, the number of cars being rented increases dramatically. Unless you’re planning a staycation, it’s likely that you will need a vehicle or some reliable means of transportation once you get to your holiday destination. That is usually where rental cars come in handy.

Renting a car during your vacation has its advantages and it’s also fun driving a “new” car. It can also be quite convenient and oftentimes more affordable than relying on taxis, while saving you time and headache. The advantages aside, it’s important to note that if you plan on renting a car using a debit card, you should know how it can affect your credit.

Rental car companies prefer that their customers use a credit card. As Thrifty Rental Car explains on its site, “Renting a car to someone with no credit card is risky for rental car companies. Not having a credit card is a red flag that you may be a credit risk.”

Because of this, it is much easier to use a credit card to rent a car than a debit card. That being said, not everyone has a credit card and their only option is to use debit for payment. That can be fine; however, you should be aware of what that can entail. If your reason for not having a credit card to use is because of poor credit, this is even more important.

Using a Debit Card for Car Rentals

Many car rental companies will allow you to use a debit card for your rental but they don’t make it easy. When using a debit card, the rental companies will usually require you to have the full amount of the scheduled rental charge available in your account and may also put a hold of up to $350 on your account. Additionally – and what you really need to worry about – they may also run your credit.

Some rental companies will check your credit score before approving the rental while others will look for multiple delinquent lines of credit opened within the last 3 years. Each time they run your credit, it can lower your FICO score by 5 or more points. If your credit score is already low, this will not only make it worse but you could also be declined. After being declined at a rental company, many people will just try getting a rental from another company and then their credit will be checked again by the next company, lowering their score even further.

If you think your credit score may be too low (a score lower than 500 can be risky), then you should seek alternative options. At the very least, you should contact the rental company that you plan on using and ask about their credit requirements to determine how strict they are before having your credit ran.

Alternatively, you could look for a rental company that won’t run your credit, although they may have other stipulations. According to CreditCards.com, here is a list of rental companies that check your credit when using a debit card and those that don’t:

Companies that run a credit check

  • Advantage
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Hertz
  • Thrifty

Companies that do not run a credit check

  • Alamo
  • Enterprise
  • EZ Rental
  • National

The companies that do not run credit checks may not allow you to use a debit card so you may want to contact them first before making plans.

If you don’t have a credit card and don’t want to risk damaging your credit, the best route to take would be to find an alternative means of transportation, such as:

  • Uber, Lyft or other ride share service
  • Taxis or limo service
  • Public transportation

While these options may not be as convenient, they could help prevent serious damage to your credit that could haunt you down the road. If your credit score is low and you need assistance improving your credit score, contact Credit Absolute today for a free consultation: (480) 478-4304

Source: creditabsolute.com

12 Hotel Chains With Free Breakfast – Everything You Need to Know

I confess I’ve grown spoiled in my expectations of free breakfasts. If I’m staying at a hotel rather than an alternative like Airbnb, I only book properties where I can enjoy free breakfast.

Yes, it saves me a little money and helps keep my travel habit affordable. But it also makes traveling easier, scratching one less worry off each day’s itinerary. You just stumble to the elevator, and the next thing you know you have a cup of coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other.

Of course, not all hotel breakfasts are created equal. While some hotel chains offer free breakfasts to everyone, others only provide it to guests with elite reward member status.

Whether you’re looking to save money, time, effort, or all of the above on your next vacation, you can count on free breakfasts from the following hotel chains.

Different Types of Hotel Breakfasts

Hotel breakfasts come in three varieties: continental, buffet, and a la carte. This gets slightly confusing because continental breakfasts are served as buffets.

Continental Breakfast

At the low end of the hotel breakfast spectrum lie continental breakfasts. Although set up as a buffet, continental breakfasts lack any precooked food or heat platters.

Common options include cereal, oatmeal, yogurts, pastries, bread, and sometimes deli meats and cheeses. If you’re lucky, they might include a self-operated waffle iron along with premixed batter. They also usually include beverages like coffee, tea, and juices.

A continental breakfast isn’t so much a balanced meal as a breakfast-shaped snack, sufficient to hold you over until you find a good bagel shop or an early lunch.

Buffet Breakfast

What distinguishes a continental breakfast set up as a buffet from a true buffet breakfast?

Hot food.

At a minimum, buffet breakfasts should include a heat platter with scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage. But they could include many more hot food options as well, in addition to cold fare like cereal and fruit.

A La Carte Breakfast

The best breakfast buffets also include made-to-order stations, where staff members cook omelets or other dishes to your custom specifications.

In some cases, you can also order off an a la carte menu. Or there may be no buffet at all, and you order the entire breakfast from a menu, all included with your stay at the hotel.


Hotel Chains That Offer Free Breakfasts to All Guests

Now that we’re clear on terminology, which hotel chains include free breakfasts for everyone?

Surprisingly, free breakfasts dominate the lower- and mid-ranges of the hotel market, not its upper echelons. At least, free breakfasts for all guests, not just elite-level members.

1. Hilton Brands

Many of Hilton’s 15 hotel brands offer free breakfast of one sort or another. Keep an eye out for the following Hilton hotel brands to eat cheap on your next vacation.

  • Hampton by Hilton. The Hampton by Hilton chain offers continental breakfasts, but most do include a waffle iron and oatmeal with hot water for at least a couple of hot breakfast options. One nice twist Hampton offers on the continental breakfast is free on-the-go breakfast bags you can snag on your way out the door.
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton. A step up the breakfast food chain, Home2 Suites offers a couple more hot breakfast options. They rotate hot “artisan-style” breakfast sandwiches and bowls daily, in addition to the standard continental fare and a waffle iron. Other highlights include hard-boiled eggs, grits sometimes rotated with the oatmeal, and an “Inspired Table™” in the breakfast area with power outlets to charge your devices.
  • Tru by Hilton. Hilton’s Tru brand offers a limited hot buffet breakfast with scrambled eggs, chicken sausages, and of course waffles, plus the standard-issue yogurts, cereals, and so on. Tru touts an impressive 35+ toppings available for your breakfast creation.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton. Homewood Suites features basic hot breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, and breakfast potatoes. It also includes pastries, cereals, oatmeal, fruit, and other continental breakfast staples.
  • Canopy by Hilton. Although they don’t claim all properties provide it, this smaller Hilton brand offers a complimentary artisanal breakfast with fresh ingredients and local produce in many of its locations. Double-check with the hotel though before assuming they provide it for free.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton. With a full hot buffet breakfast including eggs, bacon, and oatmeal, the Embassy Suites also features a made-to-order omelet station. After chowing down on a la carte omelets, be sure to squeeze some fresh fruit in your breakfast from the cold foods section as well.

2. Best Western Hotels

Best Western claims more than 4,500 franchised hotels around the world, with roughly 2,000 of them in North America. Almost all include free breakfast, as the brand strongly encourages but doesn’t require franchisees to offer it.

The quality and quantity of options of those breakfasts vary by location. Some go all out with full hot breakfast buffets with eggs, sausages, bacon, potatoes, and even breakfast sandwiches and a la carte omelet stations. Others limp by with yogurts and other continental breakfast options.

Most offer at least a waffle iron, pancake griddle, or French toast to add another hot option beyond oatmeal. Plus most include a healthy assortment of fruits.

3. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Several of IHG’s chains advertise free breakfasts, although they vary both by chain and property. Again, do your homework before counting on a gourmet spread.

  • Holiday Inn Express. Given a makeover in 2018, the free breakfast at Holiday Inn Express hotels now includes items like egg white omelets, bacon and sausages, cinnamon rolls, and a one-touch pancake machine. They also spruced up the continental side of their breakfast foods, with Chobani yogurts and whole wheat English muffins. If you oversleep, they also provide prepacked to-go breakfast bags as well.
  • Staybridge Suites. This IHG brand promises a hot buffet breakfast, which includes scrambled eggs, bacon, and waffles. Don’t expect any bells and whistles, but you can find the full continental breakfast along with a basic hot breakfast buffet.
  • Avid Hotels. The breakfast at Avid Hotels looks more continental, mostly consisting of oatmeal, fruit, cereal, slices of breads, and yogurts. They do also provide hard-boiled eggs and some on-the-go options such as breakfast bars you can grab on your way out.

4. Country Inn & Suites by Radisson

Most Radisson hotels do not provide free breakfasts, at least not without elite member status. But Country Inn & Suites proves an exception.

Hotels in this chain provide two rotating hot breakfast entrees every day, and I confess they sound pretty tempting. Customizable breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, an omelet station, eggs Benedict, French toast, and bacon with eggs and toast are all featured in the rotation.

Beyond the hot entrees, you can expect the usual waffles, oatmeal, fruits, and cereals. One standout option is the parfait station, allowing guests to build their own perfect yogurt parfait.

5. Marriott Brands

With 30 hotel brands, most of Marriott’s hotels don’t offer complimentary breakfast. But a handful do, at least outside the Asia Pacific region, where the conglomerate does not require properties to offer breakfast.

  • Residence Inn by Marriott. The extent of these breakfasts vary by location, but the brand promises a “full American breakfast.” Expect a basic continental breakfast with a couple of hot options.
  • Springhill Suites by Marriott. Although mostly continental fare such as yogurt and fruit, some locations offer hot eggs, spinach, and other minimal hot buffet items.
  • TownePlace Suites by Marriott. Similarly, most TownePlace Suites properties offer a basic hot buffet breakfast that includes eggs, sausages, and waffles in addition to the cold continental options.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. This brand offers a few hot options such as eggs and breakfast meats, along with a waffle iron, fruit, toast, and the usual corporate breakfast items.
  • Element by Marriott. Although Element offers the standard Marriott limited hot buffet breakfast, what sets it apart is actually its afternoon offering: a complimentary adult beverage in many locations.

6. Wyndham Brands

Many Wyndham chains provide at least a continental breakfast, and a few offer basic hot items as well.

  • La Quinta Inn & Suites. I once lived at a La Quinta for three weeks when my travel nurse girlfriend’s employer failed to produce corporate housing for us on time. For the first few days, I enjoyed the continental breakfast of cereal, yogurt, fruit, and waffles. After three weeks of it, though, I didn’t eat waffles again for several years.
  • Wingate by Wyndham. Wingate hotels offer a basic hot buffet breakfast with eggs, bacon, waffles, as well as continental breakfast options.
  • Hawthorn Suites. Similarly, Hawthorn Suites provides simple hot options such as eggs, breakfast meat, bagels, and oatmeal.
  • Travelodge. Most Travelodge locations offer a free continental breakfast with minimal frills, but you should at least get some fruit, toast, yogurt, and other basics.
  • Howard Johnson. HoJo offers a free “Rise & Dine” continental breakfast in most locations. Expect the usual cold options.
  • Baymont Inn & Suites. While Baymont advertises a “hot breakfast,” the only hot items at most locations are waffles and coffee. Expect a standard continental breakfast.
  • Days Inn. Wyndham knows its marketing, and in this case pushes the “healthy breakfast” angle. Again, it’s a standard continental breakfast.
  • Super 8. This chain also provides continental standards, including waffles, fruit, and cereal.
  • Microtel Inn & Suites. This brand provides a continental breakfast, which usually includes bagels and a toaster in addition to the classics.

7. Choice Hotels Brands

Most Choice Hotels chains offer free breakfast in one form or another.

  • Sleep Inn. This basic hotel chain includes a free hot breakfast buffet for all guests, including eggs and breakfast meats. They rotate the exact options, but sometimes include biscuits and gravy or sausage patties, and pancakes in addition to waffles.
  • Quality Inn. This chain offers a similar hot buffet breakfast to that of the Sleep Inn brand.
  • Comfort Inn. Another standard of Choice Hotels’ lineup, Comfort Inns also provide free hot buffet breakfasts. The waffles sometimes have multiple flavor options for some variety across multiple mornings.
  • Clarion Pointe. In 2018, Choice Hotels separated its Clarion brand into several sub-brands, and most standard Clarion hotels stopped offering free breakfasts. The slightly higher grade Clarion Pointe branded properties do still offer a free basic hot buffet breakfast with eggs and breakfast meats in most cases.
  • MainStay Suites. The MainStay Suites brand offers free continental breakfast, although many properties include an oatmeal station so guests can customize their hot oatmeal with a range of toppings.
  • Econo Lodge. This basic hotel chain provides a standard free continental breakfast.

8. Drury Hotels

Most Drury Hotels provide all guests with a complimentary hot buffet breakfast. It includes eggs, sausage, breakfast potatoes, the ever-present waffle iron, fresh fruit, oatmeal, and all the cold continental options.

The family-owned hotel chain touts that “the extras aren’t extra” as its slogan, and its free breakfast doesn’t disappoint.


Hotel Chains That Offer Free Breakfast With Elite Status

Some hotels charge standard guests for breakfast but offer it as a free incentive for guests with some sort of elite status with the brand. Each hotel chain has its own travel loyalty program and tiers, with different pricing and perks. Some are even free. Research each individually before committing, as some offer far greater value than others.

9. Marriott Properties

Many of the higher-end Marriott brands charge for breakfast — unless you have elite status with them.

Marriott features six status tiers currently: Member, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite, and Ambassador Elite. Customers in the highest three tiers enjoy free breakfasts at many Marriott properties around the world.

Those properties include:

  • Marriott Resorts (not hotels)
  • Sheraton Hotels
  • Westin Hotels
  • Marriott Courtyard (if the property has a lounge)
  • Four Points Hotels
  • Protea Hotels

Breakfasts range from a full hot buffet up to completely customized a la carte breakfasts.

Joining the Marriott membership program comes with a suite of other benefits too, and makes for an alternative way to earn travel rewards without a credit card. Just remember that it doesn’t make sense to spend more than you would have otherwise to save a little money on breakfast. Spending an extra $50 to earn $25 in benefits is a losing proposition.

10. Hyatt Properties

The Hyatt corporation offers a four-tiered membership program called World of Hyatt. Tiers include World of Hyatt Members, Discoverists, Explorists, and Globalists at the top.

Different membership types earn you free breakfast at different Hyatt hotel brands. For example, Hyatt Place hotels provide free breakfast for members at all four tiers. Many other Hyatt brands only provide free breakfast for members at the Globalist level.

As you explore the following Hyatt brand hotels, verify specifically whether they offer a free breakfast for World of Hyatt members, and at which minimum tier:

  • Park Hyatt
  • Grand Hyatt
  • Hyatt Regency
  • Hyatt Zilara/Ziva
  • Hyatt Place
  • Hyatt House
  • Andaz
  • Alila
  • Thompson
  • Hyatt Centric
  • The Unbound Collection
  • Destination
  • Joie de Vivre
  • Hyatt Small Luxury Hotels and Resorts

At all properties, diners can expect at a minimum a full hot breakfast buffet, often with a la carte options such as an omelet station, and in some cases a full a la carte breakfast menu.

As a final thought on Hyatt hotels, some offer complimentary breakfast if you book directly through Hyatt’s website rather than a third-party website like Expedia or Travelocity. Check Hyatt’s own website first when making reservations for a Hyatt hotel.

11. Hilton Hotels

Similarly, the Hilton Honors loyalty program includes four tiers and features free breakfasts for some members. The levels include Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond.

Gold and Diamond members receive free breakfast at any Hilton hotel in the world. The brand’s hotel list includes:

  • Conrad
  • Canopy
  • Curio
  • DoubleTree
  • Embassy Suites
  • Hampton Inn
  • Hilton
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Home2 Suites
  • Homewood Suites
  • LXR
  • Motto
  • Signia
  • Tapestry Collection
  • Tru
  • Waldorf Astoria

The hotel breakfasts across this group vary considerably. Some hotel brands offer only a continental breakfast. Others offer a hot buffet breakfast, and still others offer full a la carte breakfasts.

Do your homework on individual hotels and their breakfast offerings before booking.

12. Radisson Hotels

The Radisson Rewards program also features four tiers: Club, Silver, Gold, Platinum. Only Platinum members get free breakfasts, and only at participating properties.

Guests need to read the fine print carefully, too. The member must be the registered guest — as opposed to, say, their spouse — and only the member receives free breakfast.

As free breakfast benefits go, the Radisson Rewards program wins the award for most stingy.


Credit Card Hotel Networks Offering Free Breakfasts

One other way to score free hotel breakfasts includes elite credit cards, which include a range of travel benefits through a network of hotels. It makes for another opportunity for travel perks, even without specifically owning a travel rewards credit card.

Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Network

Platinum American Express cardholders get a wide range of perks within the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts network. It includes more than 1,000 hotels around the world.

Cardholders see benefits similar to those earned by elite hotel memberships. Some of those benefits include:

  • Daily free breakfast for two guests
  • Early check-in when available (usually noon)
  • Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
  • Room upgrades
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Other amenities unique to individual properties

Many of the hotels in the network are high-end luxury hotels, offering either upscale hot buffets or a la carte breakfasts. In other words, expect breakfasts to impress.

Chase Luxury Hotels & Resorts Collection

Chase’s network operates extremely similarly, where more exclusive cardholders get access to hotel perks at an equally large network. Chase advertises access to their Luxury Hotels & Resorts Collection as a perk with the following cards:

However, I’ve informally heard that some other Chase cardholders also get access to the network. The following cardholders can try accessing the network as well:

Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection

Holders of Visa Signature cards get access to a similar network of upscale hotels with over 900 properties worldwide through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.

Hotels in the network offer similar perks, including free breakfast, early check-in, late checkout, and so on. But one unique benefit to Visa’s network is that it guarantees the lowest available rate. Cardholders never pay more than the rate advertised elsewhere online, unlike some hotels in the other two credit card networks, which may charge more for customers availing themselves of the benefits.


Final Word

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but a free breakfast? Well, sometimes.

Keep in mind that many hotel chains are owned by franchisees, and not all properties participate in the overall company structure for free breakfasts. Even among corporate-owned hotels, some properties don’t offer the standard free breakfast either. Be sure to check each individual hotel before booking to ensure it offers free breakfast for guests.

Source: moneycrashers.com