While retirement may be associated with leaving the workforce behind, most Americans plan to work past the age of 65. In fact, a 2022 study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that around 57% of workers plan to work either full-time or part-time in retirement. Financial reasons and a desire to remain active were cited as the main motivators. Here are eight jobs that can keep you active, boost your income and let you work remotely.
If you’d like personalized help managing your finances in retirement, consider working with a financial advisor.
8 Great Work-from-Home Opportunities for Retirees
While there is a myriad of opportunities for retirees to work from home, what follows are some of best, who might be a good fit for the work and estimated pay, per salary.com as of May 1, 2023.
Bookkeepers maintain a business’s financial records, including purchases, sales, invoices, payments and other transactions. The job will require a high level of accuracy. And it will likely take some technological savvy given that many, if not most, businesses use software to manage their finances.
Organized and detail-oriented workers with a solid grasp of basic accounting principles.
Average salary: $42,854
Telehealth Nurse —
If you have a nursing degree but hope to transition to remote work, the growing demand for telemedicine may be a great opportunity for you.
Telehealth nurses “see” patients via email, phone and chat. They also videoconference and answer their questions, determine the next medical steps, conduct follow-up appointments and deliver medical treatments.
This is good for people who already hold a nursing degree, of course. And in a remote environment, communication skills become more important than ever for treating patients with sensitivity.
Average salary: $85,045
Administrative Assistant —
You may think of an administrative assistant as someone who mans the reception desk, makes copies and orders more coffee. But the remote role has slightly different responsibilities. You can expect to answer phone calls and emails, schedule meetings and appointments and handle many of the things that keep a remote office running smoothly.
This is good for people with excellent customer service and time management skills. Being able to multitask is a plus.
Average salary: $45,003
Paralegals serve as assistants to lawyers, helping investigate and research legal cases, maintaining records, drafting correspondence and putting together documents for trials. The job descriptions for a paralegal will vary widely depending on the law firm, what type of law is practiced, its size and the paralegal’s own qualification level.
Those who already have a certification or degree in paralegal studies—though the qualifications required to become a paralegal depend on the hiring firm and an actual degree or certification isn’t always necessary.
On the other hand, if this interests you, paralegal certification programs and associate’s degrees in paralegal studies can be relatively affordable and can require as few as 12-24 months of study.
Average salary: $58,630-117,990 (salary ranges widely vary)
Tutoring is another job with a wide variety of possibilities, depending on the age and education level of the students, the subject or subjects taught and more. You can be a generalist who works with elementary school kids on any subject they need help with.
You can also be a specialist who works with college students on writing assignments, an ESL tutor who helps adults learn English, and all kinds of varieties in between. In the big picture, a tutor works with students outside of their classes to help them better understand and implement the concepts they’re learning.
People who are patient, good at breaking complex concepts into simple ideas and steps and hold the required credentials. Some tutor positions only require a GED, while others may require a college degree in the subject you intend to specialize in, such as a bachelor’s degree in math for a math tutor.
Average salary: $42,422
A virtual receptionist serves the same role as a traditional, in-person receptionist: They ensure that all customer concerns are taken care of.
While there is some overlap with a virtual administrative assistant, a receptionist will be more focused on the customer side of the office than the administrative, answering phone calls and emails, helping customers who need assistance, scheduling appointments and more.
This is good for those with good multitasking and people skills. And some technological savvy ensures that customers don’t slip through the cracks in a remote office.
Average salary: $41,704
Customer Service Representative
In a brick-and-mortar retail shop such as a hardware store, a customer service rep may be walking the floor, answering questions about what someone should buy for their upcoming home improvement project.
In a remote business, customer service representatives serve much the same purpose: answering customer questions, helping them with problems and troubleshooting any issues.
People with patience, great communication skills and a solid knowledge base of the products or services being sold by their employer.
Average salary: $37,623
The transcriptionist job is a straightforward one: You simply type up recordings. Some transcriptionists work exclusively in one industry. For example, they can work in legal or medical industries, which necessitates a certain level of knowledge of the terminology used in that profession. Others may do general transcription work, typing up whatever is needed.
This is good for fast and accurate typists looking for low-intensity work. While some may find this kind of work boring, the right person may find the audio or video they transcribe interesting and value the calm.
Average salary: $41,453
Things to Consider When Looking for Remote Jobs
Don’t Get Scammed
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a common scam is for a fake company to hire you. And then they send you a check to buy equipment with the caveat that you should send the extra money back. The check is bad and will be returned.
The FTC advises that you carefully review any job offers, only apply to jobs on legitimate websites and never rely on a “cleared” check your employer sends you.
Use Your Career Expertise
One of the best ways to find a new remote job is to use the skills you already have. You may be able to find a less demanding and remote version of your previous career. And going into this new job with your years of experience can be valuable to your employer. And it can potentially earn you a bigger starting salary.
For instance, if you had a career as an editor, you may be an excellent English tutor. You can help students understand the rules of grammar and how to improve their reading and writing skills.
Understand How Working Can Impact Your Social Security Benefits
Working can still be the right choice for you, but make you know how your benefits could be affected. According to the Social Security Administration, while you can work and still receive benefits, there’s a limit to how much you can earn before they begin to reduce your benefits if you’re not yet full retirement age.
In 2023, the limit is $21,240 for those under full retirement age. And it’s $56,520 for the year that you reach full retirement age.
It’s common for retirees to continue working in retirement. It could be due to financial reasons or just finding ways to keep busy. However, you may not want to stay with the same career track you worked in previously. You may be looking for something less demanding, more flexible or a job you can do from home. But before you decide to work, do your due diligence in finding the right opportunities.
Consider working with a financial advisor to get the most out of all the benefits the SSA provides. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
The SmartAsset Retirement Guide offers a calculator to show you how much you need to save for retirement. It also has a retirement tax friendliness calculator to help you weigh various options if you are moving after your retirement.
Everyone likes a discount, right, even if it’s on a small one-time purchase that equates to a nominal amount. For one reason or another, it just feels like a win.
It’s obviously even sweeter if you get a discount on a big-ticket item, as the savings will be much larger.
Better yet, how about a discount on something that you could be paying off for the next 360 months, like your home loan? Now we’re talking!
I did some research and came up with a list of mortgage lenders with the “best mortgage rates” to consider if you’re in the market to finance a new home purchase or refinance an existing mortgage.
There are literally thousands of mortgage lenders out there, so it’s easy to miss some along the way if comparison shopping.
Here are 10 that might offer a discount relative to other banks and lenders out there, not only because they seem to offer low mortgage rates, but also limited or no lender fees.
The one caveat here is no one mortgage lender can be the cheapest all of the time, for all borrowers.
So be sure to always take the time to shop around and get multiple quotes, even if it takes some additional legwork. Sure, it’s not fun but nor is spending more money.
Also, if you want the best mortgage rate, you’ve got to be a good borrower.
That means coming to the table with an excellent credit score, a decent down payment, and checking all the other boxes that affect mortgage rates.
You can’t expect the lender to do all the heavy lifting.
Aside from being a tech-savvy lender with a digital mortgage platform, Better Mortgage also prides themselves on not charging a loan origination fee. Or any lender fees or commissions for that matter.
Often, this fee can be 1% of the loan amount, so if you take out a $300,000, that’s $3,000 right there. Then there might also be additional fees for processing, underwriting, and so on.
They also openly advertise their daily mortgage rates right on their website, so they’re pretty transparent about their pricing as well.
In summary, you could get a discount and breeze through the home loan process thanks to their technology – they can fund 100%-digital loans without even a single phone call.
They’ve got a 4.6-star rating out of 5 on LendingTree with a 91% recommendation rating.
CIT Bank / OneWest Bank
If you choose to work with CIT Bank or OneWest Bank to get your home loan, they provide a number of discounts on top of their already low mortgage rates.
This includes a $525 cash back bonus if you have or open a CIT Bank or OneWest Bank deposit account before closing on your mortgage with them.
Additionally, they offer mortgage rate discounts if you make new deposits, including 0.10% off your rate with 10% of loan amount in new deposits, and 0.25% off if you can muster 25% of the loan amount in new deposits.
At last glance, they had a 4.5/5 on Zillow based solely on their home loans business, so they come highly rated as well.
Folks looking for a deal often head to Costco, and you can actually shop your mortgage with the big-box retailer as well.
While not a direct mortgage lender, they have partnered with a variety of vetted lenders that have agreed to cap their lender fees.
For example, Gold star members pay lender fees of $650 or less, while Executive members only pay lender fees of $350 or less.
If the mortgage rates from their partner lenders are competitive, you might wind up with a low rate and limited fees, which is an excellent combination.
The Mortgage Program for Costco Members has a 4.8-star rating out of 5 based on Trustpilot, and the individual lenders involved have similarly-high ratings from past customers.
I added Intelliloan to this list because they won’t stop talking about their mortgage rates. In fact, the first thing you’ll see if you visit their website is mortgage rates.
Their latest refinance rates match their APRs, which means they’re advertising their interest rates without any lender fees or discount points.
The company also offers a Rate Protection Promise where they’ll refinance you without lender fees if interest rates fall significantly within three years of your initial loan closing.
They’ve got excellent reviews across all the major ratings websites, including a 4.9-star rating out of 5 on LendingTree, with a 98% recommend score.
The holy grail for homeowners is a low mortgage rate with limited or no fees.
After all, a low rate that requires you to pay multiple discount points might not truly be low, but one that only requires a $1 in fees is usually as good as it looks.
LoanFlight Lending tends to advertise on Zillow a lot, and often features some of the lowest fixed rates listed, along with just $1 in lender fees.
That’s a tough combination to beat if you’re looking to save on your mortgage. They also have very good customer reviews to boot, with a 4.76-star rating on Zillow and a 4.7 on LendingTree with a 91% recommend rate.
The only downside appears to be the fact that they’re licensed in just 12 states.
As I’ve said before, with a name like Lower Mortgage, you kind of have to offer low mortgage rates. Oh, and low lender fees too.
They say they do both, and the cherry on top is a Free Refi for Life deal, whereby you won’t be charged any lender fees on a future refinance with the company.
So if 30-year fixed rates do go down and they happen to be offering low rates relative to the other guys, you can get that new low rate sans fees.
The company also has great reviews, including a 4.9-star rating out of 5 based on LendingTree with a 99% recommendation rate.
Formerly known as Lenda, Reali Loans, Inc. is the home of “no-nonsense home loans.” What that means is you won’t be charged traditional loan commissions or any lender fees.
In the past, I found that their interest rates were quite low when I played with the little rate slider on their website.
Like other fintech newcomers in the mortgage space, they lean heavily on technology to make the loan process less cumbersome and faster overall. That tech also allows them to offer more competitive rates to borrowers.
Reali Loans currently has a 4.57-star rating on Zillow and similarly excellent reviews on Trustpilot.
If you’re buying a home in certain states, one perhaps unexpected mortgage lender to consider is Redfin Mortgage.
Yes, the real estate brokerage also launched a home lending division and seems to have really competitive mortgage rates.
Additionally, they don’t charge lender fees, so the mortgage APR should be just as low as the mortgage rate.
The only downside is they don’t offer refinance loans, at least not at the moment. But that could change in the future.
On top of the low rates and lack of fees, they offer a $1,000 mortgage closing guarantee that promises to get you to the finish line in either 25 or 30 days (depending on the type of pre-approval) or you’ll receive a check.
This so-called digital startup, which is actually the fintech arm of Cardinal Financial, a top-40 mortgage company nationally, often advertises mortgage rates with just $1 in lender fees.
In other words, you’re typically getting a no cost loan from Sebonic Financial, at least with regard to lender fees.
And they seem to still offer highly competitive refinance rates relative to other lenders, which often charge the usual fees that can amount to thousands of dollars due at closing.
They are also a highly-rated mortgage lender, with a 4.49-star rating out of 5 based on more than 3,000 customer reviews on Zillow.
Wyndham Capital Mortgage
Lastly, we’ve got Wyndham Capital Mortgage, which promises no hidden lender fees and competitive, below market mortgage interest rates
Aside from no hidden fees, they also don’t charge a loan origination fee. So if their mortgage and refinance rates are also low, that’s a pretty solid deal.
On top of that, they say they can offer discounts on costly things like title insurance because of their relationships with preferred settlement agents.
In terms of customer satisfaction, they’ve got a 4.8-star rating out of 5 on LendingTree from nearly 7,000 reviews, and 99% of customers would recommend them.
There are many more lenders out there, and you should certainly search locally as well as online to explore all of your options, including credit unions, local mortgage brokers, and more.
Remember, your monthly mortgage payment will stay with you for a long time, so putting in a few extra hours at the start can really pay dividends over the years.
Georgia offers an affordable cost of living, top-notch schools and universities, and ample attractions, like the World of Coca-Cola, Forsyth Park, and Atlanta Botanical Garden. It’s also home to a diverse selection of reputable, member FDIC banks for individuals and small business owners.
No matter what your financial needs may be, you’re sure to find a good fit in the Peach State.
14 Best Banks in Georgia
We’ve made finding the best banks in Georgia effortless with our comprehensive list, so let’s dive straight into the options.
1. First Citizens Bank
Owned by First Citizens BancShares, First Citizens Bank has 56 branches across Georgia. As long as you sign up for paperless statements and make an initial opening deposit of at least $50, you won’t be on the hook for monthly maintenance fees.
With the First Citizens standard savings account, you’ll be able to earn interest without paying a monthly service fee or meeting a minimum balance requirement. The bank offers additional banking products, like credit cards, loans, retirement accounts, investment services, and insurance.
As a First Citizens customer, you can bank in-person at a local branch or perform account management online or via the robust mobile app.
2. Ally Bank
Ally Bank is a digital bank with a reputation for industry leading interest rates and low fees. While it doesn’t have a physical presence in Georgia, you can open and manage your accounts through Ally’s intuitive online and mobile banking tools. The Ally Interest Checking account online is a solid pick if you’d like to earn interest and don’t want to worry about annual fees or minimum balance requirements.
You can use the online portal or mobile app to pay bills online, deposit checks, and transfer funds. If you’d like to withdraw some cash, you’ll be able to do so at an Allpoint ATM for free with your Ally debit card.
Ally will also reimburse you if you make any out-of-network ATM reimbursements. In addition to the Ally interest bearing checking account, you might want to open the Ally Online Savings account, which comes with an impressive interest rate and savings bucket tools to help you meet your financial goals.
3. Axos Bank
Axos Bank is a digital bank that serves Georgians. If you’re in the market for checking accounts, you’ll have several options available to you. These include the Essential Checking, Rewards Checking, CashBack Checking, Golden Checking, and First Checking. Many of these accounts earn cash rewards or pay interest.
In addition to an Axos checking account, you might want to consider a high-yield savings account, high-yield money market, or a CD. You can also invest through Axos Invest, which is the bank’s free robo advisor. In addition, the bank offers 24/7 support for personal banking customers.
4. CIT Bank
CIT Bank is an online bank serving customers in all states, including Georgia. You can earn a competitive annual percentage yield or APY on various accounts without paying an arm and a leg for maintenance fees.
The CIT checking account requires a $100 minimum deposit but comes with interest and a free debit card. There’s also the Savings Builder account, which is a two-tiered savings account that requires a $25,000 balance or at least one monthly deposit of $100 or more.
Other options include the CIT Bank Money Market Account, certificates of deposit or CDs, home loans, and business accounts. You may download the CIT Bank app on your Android or IOS device to make mobile check deposits, pay bills, and use services like Zelle, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay.
5. Renasant Bank
Headquartered in Mississippi, Renasant Bank has physical locations throughout Georgia. It’s a community bank with several checking account options. Each free checking account comes with perks like online bill pay, mobile banking, a debit card, and a switch kit so you can switch accounts without the hassle.
Renasant’s savings account lineup includes an interest bearing savings account, a savings account for children, a health savings account (HSA), and money market accounts.
If you’re interested in a loan, you can choose from personal loans, auto loans, and home equity lines of credit. In addition to personal banking services, Renasant provides mortgages and a plethora of business banking products. There’s also Renasant Rewards Extra, which gives you access to thousands of deals, cell phone insurance, identity theft protection, roadside assistance, and a health savings card.
6. United Community Bank
Based in Blairsville, United Community Bank is a regional bank with branch locations throughout Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina. It’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or FDIC and has been around since 1950. As a United customer, you can take advantage of more than 206 United ATMs and 1,260 Publix Presto! ATMs for free.
Its plethora of offerings include checking accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, credit cards, CDs, investing products, and business banking products. You can bank on the go via the convenient mobile app or use the online appointment scheduling tool to schedule an in-person appointment with a banker. If you have any questions or concerns, you can fill out a support form online and state whether you prefer an email or phone response.
7. Ameris Bank
Ameris Bank is a regional full-service bank with brick-and-mortar locations throughout Georgia in cities like Atlanta, Tucker, Woodstock, Marietta, and Oakwood. It offers three checking accounts with benefits such as a free Visa debit card, online banking access, e-statements, online bill pay, mobile banking, and Zelle transfers. In addition to checking accounts,
Ameris offers a plethora of savings accounts, including a personal savings account, personal money market account, minor savings account, health savings account, educational savings account, IRA, and CDs. You can also turn to Ameris for numerous mortgage options and down payment assistance. The bank provides personalized business banking solutions as well.
8. Bank of America
Bank of America is a well-known leader in the banking industry. Its financial centers and ATMs are present in various Georgia cities. From checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards to home loans, auto loans, and investing products, Bank of America offers it all.
The bank is also a great resource if you’re looking for small business banking products. Its Business Advantage Banking product is a business checking account with two settings to meet varying business needs.
While the Fundamentals setting has all the basic tools you need to manage your business, the Relationship setting is more robust and won’t charge you fees for wire transfers and electronic deposits. You can switch settings to accommodate your business needs at any time.
In addition to checking accounts, Bank of America offers small business loans, like SBA loans, commercial real estate loans, auto loans, and secured lines of credit.
9. Community Bank of Georgia
Based in Baxley, Community Bank of Georgia is a locally owned and operated bank with 24/7 ATM access. It aims to develop long-term relationships with account holders while offering a full suite of products and services.
The bank’s personal savings accounts include the regular savings account, Treasuresaver Club account for children ages zero to 13, a holiday savings account for holiday expenses, and a personal money market account for high interest savings opportunities.
Other personal banking products offered by Community Bank of Georgia include checking accounts and credit cards. The bank serves local business owners as well.
10. Chase Bank
The consumer banking arm of JPMorgan Chase, Chase is one of the largest national banks with a widespread presence in Atlanta. If you decide to open a deposit account at Chase with eligible Chase checking accounts, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify for a generous sign-up bonus.
You’ll also have access to a wide selection of products, including numerous checking accounts, two savings accounts, CDs with terms ranging from one month to 10 years, home mortgage loans, auto loans, home refinancing, and more. We can’t forget to mention that Chase offers Chase overdraft assist to help you avoid overdraft fees and inconveniences.
Thanks to Chase’s highly rated mobile banking app, you’ll be able to manage your account, make electronic transfers, deposit mobile checks, pill bays online, transfer money with Zelle, automate your savings, and set up account alerts. If you need assistance, you may reach out to Chase directly via phone or social media.
11. Morris Bank
Morris Bank is a local bank with branches in Georgia cities like Dublin, Gray, and Warner Robins. Regardless of which checking account you choose, you’ll enjoy access to free online banking, remote deposit services, online bill pay, and mobile banking.
When it comes to savings accounts, Morris offers the Savings Builder account, which will round up your purchases so you can save more money. In addition, the Blue Savings account allows for three free withdrawals per quarter.
The bank also serves small businesses in Georgia through checking accounts, savings accounts, business loans, treasury services, and merchant services. Even though it’s smaller than other banks on this list, Morris is technologically savvy and allows for online and mobile banking. Many residents believe Morris Bank is the best local bank.
12. Fifth Third Bank
Fifth Third Bank primarily serves the Midwest and has more than 33 banking centers and 80 ATMs at RaceTrac convenience stores. If you don’t want to visit a local branch, you can use the Fifth Third mobile app to transfer money, check balances and direct deposit transactions, and more.
While the bank’s most popular services are for individuals and small businesses, it also provides personalized wealth management solutions. These personalized wealth management solutions include private banking, wealth planning, trusts and estates, insurance, and investments.
As a wealth management customer, you can enjoy access to the Life360 site, which makes it easy to organize your finances and track your progress.
13. Truist Bank
Truist has physical locations in Georgia cities like Atlanta, Brunswick, Cartersville, and Pooler. Formerly known as BB&T, it offers a variety of personal and business banking products. You can select from five checking accounts, two savings accounts, one money market account, and CDs.
In addition to deposit accounts, Truist provides HSAs, prepaid cards, prepaid money account products, mortgages and home equity lines, personal loans, auto loans, investment products, retirement accounts, and personal insurance. Truist Mobile is the bank’s mobile app, which you may use to manage your account, deposit mobile checks, transfer money, locate branches, and pay bills.
14. Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is a large national bank with more than 200 branches and over 600 ATMs in the Peach State. Just like most traditional banks, it offers a wide variety of banking products and services, such as savings and checking accounts, credit cards, home loans, personal loans, auto loan accounts, and investment accounts.
If you’re a small business owner in Georgia, you might want to consider Wells for business checking accounts, business savings accounts, business credit cards, small business loans, and merchant services.
The bank also offers a mobile app with LifeSync, a unique tool to monitor your spending habits and make smarter financial decisions. Additionally, Wells Fargo, which is considered the best national bank by many people, lets you automate your investing or work with a dedicated financial advisor.
Types of Banks in Georgia
There are several types of banks in the Peach State. Here’s an overview of the most common financial institutions you’ll find.
National banks are banks with a presence across the country. Most of them have branches and ATMs in Georgia and other parts of the U.S.
These types of banks typically offer a diverse lineup of products and may be a solid choice if you have varying financial needs as an individual or small business owner.
Community banks serve specific geographic areas. They’re similar to credit unions in that they prioritize personalized customer attention. In Georgia, you may choose from numerous community banks like Ameris Bank, United Community Bank, and Morris Bank.
Also known as virtual banks or neobanks, online banks are tech forward and make it easy to perform various banking needs online or via mobile devices. While they don’t have physical locations in Georgia, they do offer many perks that you might not be able elsewhere.
Some examples of online banks that serve Georgia residents are Ally Bank, CIT Bank, and Axos Bank. With these financial institutions, you may be able to avoid a monthly fee and secure a competitive annual percentage yield or APY.
Common Banking Products
It’s wise to figure out what types of banking products meet your particular banking needs. Several of these products include:
Checking accounts are ideal for everyday purchases. You can also use them to make deposits, pay bills, and more. Some checking accounts might charge monthly service fees or impose minimum opening deposits. However, they might waive them if you take certain actions, like enroll in autopay or sign up for paperless statements. To access your checking account funds, you can visit a local branch or ATM. Depending on the bank, you may even find a checking account that pays interest.
Savings accounts are places to store your cash for various personal finance goals, like a house down payment, new car, or even a dream vacation. It’s also a great place for an emergency fund, which features three to six months worth of expenses. In general, online savings accounts pay out higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts. You’ll likely be able to make six free withdrawals per month.
High-Yield Savings Accounts
Compared to traditional savings accounts, high-yield savings accounts offer much higher interest rates. Typically, they don’t charge monthly or annual fees. If you’d like to open a high-yield savings account, consider an online bank as they’re not always available at traditional banks.
Certificates of Deposit
Certificates of deposit (CD) allow you to store your money for a certain amount of time while you earn interest. With a CD, you’ll usually be required to make a minimum initial deposit and choose a term. Typically, the longer the CD term, the higher interest rate you earn. If you’re looking for guaranteed returns, a CD is a solid choice.
Credit cards are a suitable option if you’d like to earn rewards, like cash back, travel points, gift cards, and merchandise. While some are free, others come with annual fees. Do the math and make sure an annual fee is worth the benefits before you go ahead and move forward with it.
These days, many financial institutions offer loans. Some loans are for personal use, such as personal loans, mortgages, and car loans. Other loan options are designed for businesses, like SBA loans, commercial real estate loans, and business lines of credit. Before you commit to a loan, review the interest rates and terms to ensure you can pay it back on time.
How to Choose a Bank in Georgia
As you can see, not all Georgia banks are created equal. In fact, there are many options at your disposal. To help you hone in on the right bank for your unique needs, we encourage you to consider these factors.
Most traditional banks have local branches throughout the Peach State. If you prefer an in-person banking experience, this is great news. However, you’ll likely be able to lock in better interest rates and lower fees if you opt for an online bank with less overhead costs. Fortunately, traditional and online banks usually both have mobile apps so you can bank from just about anywhere.
Some examples of common banking fees you might come across include monthly maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft fees, wire transfer fees, account closing fees, and dormancy fees. When you shop around for the perfect bank in Georgia, you’ll notice that larger banks with physical branches tend to charge more fees and higher fees than online banks.
Minimum Balance Requirements
Depending on the bank and accounts you choose, you might have to maintain a minimum balance. If you don’t, you’ll likely be on the hook for fees. Before you pursue a certain account, make sure you can comfortably afford the minimum balance requirement. The minimum balance may be thousands of dollars, so this is an important factor to consider.
Before you look for a Georgia bank, ask yourself what products and services you need. Maybe you’re seeking a personal checking account and savings account. Or perhaps you’re a Georgia business owner and in the market for business credit cards or business loans. Typically, national banks offer a greater selection of products and services than regional banks and credit unions.
There’s a good chance you’ll have questions or concerns once you decide on a bank. For this reason, it’s important to choose a financial institution with high customer service ratings and easy access to customer support. While some banks offer 24/7 customer service via phone, email, and live chat, others will only help you during select business hours.
Be sure to read reviews from real customers on reputable review sites. If you notice many negative reviews about the same topics, you may want to be cautious and look to other banking institutions. It’s also a good idea to check out ratings on websites, like Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Affairs. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for their recommendations on banks.
FDIC insurance will keep your money safe in the event your bank fails. The FDIC usually insures up to $250,000 per depositor. In addition to deposit accounts, it covers money orders, cashier’s checks, and other official products. Before you open an account at a bank, make sure it’s FDIC insured. Most banks have the FDIC insurance logo on their websites.
Some banks go above and beyond and offer more than traditional banking products and services, like checking accounts and savings accounts. You may want to look for extra perks like overdraft protection or assist credit monitoring services, introductory offers, foreign currency exchange accounts, robo advising, and credit cards with impressive rewards.
If you visit a bank’s website, you’ll know what it values. One bank might prioritize long standing customer relationships while another one is a socially responsible bank. If you’re debating between two banks, consider each institution’s values to help you make a decision.
The Peach State has no shortage of banks. However, the right one for you depends on numerous factors, like your preferred products and services, the types of fees you can afford and are willing to pay, and whether you’d like to bank online or in-person.
If you’re unsure of which bank makes the most sense for your situation, don’t hesitate to open accounts in a few of them. From there, you can hone in on the best option. Good luck with your search for the ideal bank in Georgia.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the largest banks in Georgia?
The largest banks in Georgia have the most branches throughout the state. These include Bank of America, Truist Bank, Ameris Bank, Fifth Third Bank, and Wells Fargo. All of these institutions are known for their extensive ATM networks and diverse product lineup.
How do I open a bank account in Georgia?
In most cases, you can open a bank account on the bank’s website or mobile app. You’ll likely need to submit a government-issued ID, like a driver’s license or passport, as well as personal information, such as your Social Security number.
What are some community banks in Georgia?
The Peach State has many community banks. The most popular options are Community Bank of Georgia, United Community Bank, Mountain Valley Community Bank, and Gwinnett Community Bank. Community banks are a solid choice if in-person service is important to you.
How can I avoid bank fees in Georgia?
If you don’t mind online or mobile banking, you’ll likely find fewer fees at an online bank. Also, some traditional banks may allow you to waive their fees. Since fees can eat into your savings and financial goals, you should do your best to avoid or reduce them.
Should I open an account at different banks in Georgia?
If you have large amounts of cash, you might want to open accounts at different banks. This is because the FDIC usually insures up to $250,000 per depositor and bank. This holds true even if you have several accounts with the same bank. You may also want to open different accounts if you want to take advantage of different benefits.
Is it better to choose a small bank or a large bank in Georgia?
Big banks offer a greater selection of products and services than small banks. But you might have to pay a monthly maintenance fee or make a minimum opening deposit. Small banks, on the other hand, take the time to get to know their customers and provide more personalized service. The ideal banking size depends on your particular priorities.
How can I easily switch bank accounts in Georgia?
First, gather basic information like your Social Security number or Tax Identification Number. Then, start the application process, fund your new accounts, and transfer funds from older accounts. Don’t forget to set up direct deposits and automate recurring payments. Some banks offer switch kits to simplify this process.
Investing isn’t new to me. I opened my first CD in high school back in the good old days of 5 percent interest, and I started contributing to my 401(k) as soon as I was eligible (at age 21). I did everything right according to the articles I read. I:
Contributed enough to get the maximum employer match
Saved/invested around 10 percent of my income
Opened up an IRA
Before I break my arm patting myself on the back, let me tell you that I made a huge error. I stopped too soon in my investing education. Instead of continuing to learn, I rested on my investing laurels — and who knows how much money I’ve lost out on because I forgot that no one cares more about my money than I do.
And my huge error led me to make many mistakes. For instance, I didn’t realize until (embarrassingly) recently that different funds in your 401(k) have different fees. Selecting funds with low fees can make a huge difference in returns. Or “buy and hold” is not the same as “buy and forget about it.” And then there’s the issue of investing and taxes.
But doing something (even if I didn’t evaluate or understand my choices) is better than nothing, right? So there I stayed, comfortable in my stinky 401(k), letting my financial adviser make fund recommendations for my IRA.
Until this year. This year, I vowed to tackle my investing fear and ignorance. I’ve been reading old posts on Get Rich Slowly, collecting a list of investing books I want to read and perusing investing websites. I’ve created this list (along with my impressions of each resource) to help me learn more about investing, and I hope it helps you, too. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I get no compensation for including any of these resources.
Get Rich Slowly Blog Posts
For new readers, I dug through the GRS archives to find some solid investing posts. I wanted the posts to highlight different investing strategies and philosophies. I’m sure I missed a few, but this should save you from poking around the Investing archives — at least a few minutes, anyway.
Dividend-paying stocks This is a fairly recent post, focusing on dividend-paying stocks.
Roth IRAs Here is a great post on Roth IRAs.
Developing an investment policy statement – Before starting to invest, analyze why you are investing. What’s the point? Figuring that out first will help you form an investing strategy.
How the stock market works – The day this post ran was the day I understood more about the stock market. Sure, things have changed since this 1952 video, but the basics are still the same.
DRIPs This post succinctly covers dividend reinvestment programs.
Mutual funds Here is a great introduction to mutual funds.
Index funds This post describes why many people (including J.D.) have most of their portfolios in index funds.
Bonds No list would be complete without mentioning bonds.
Mutual fund prospectus Part of becoming an educated investor involves understanding where your money is going. Here’s how to read (and understand) a mutual fund prospectus.
Best books on investing – This post covers eight well-known investing books, but it’s missing some good ones.
One of the good ones it’s missing is Peter Lynch’s “One Up On Wall Street.” It’s old, but I like his focus on simplicity and buying what you know.
“Control Your Cash” by Greg McFarlane and Betty Kincaid is another favorite. This book actually covers all the usual financial topics (credit scores, buying a car and a house, taxes, etc.), but has a couple of chapters on investing and securities. What I like about this book is that it explains investing in a way that I can understand, using a writing style that is funny and still pertains to a wide variety of investors.
Other Blogs and Websites
Bite the Bullet Investing This just-launched blog appears to be created for the investing novice. Posts cover terms such as equity and return and topics like using other people’s money. Great if you’re just starting out.
SEC guide Use this guide to learn how to read financial statements. I think this is a very easy to understand set of terms.
The Oblivious Investor This site is organized well and Mike Piper writes clearly, without a lot of “fluff.” I found his information on index funds to be easy to understand. I haven’t checked out any of his books, but he’s written several on various topics. I think he appeals to a wide variety of investors.
Seeking Alpha This site has been mentioned several times in the comments of various GRS articles, so I thought it was worth checking out. It covers individual stocks and has some great articles. To read the entire article, you must register (though it’s free, I dislike the extra step). If you’re serious, it has a Pro subscription service in addition to the free information. I think there is some great information here, but it’s too advanced for me at this time.
The Motley Fool One of my favorite articles on the site is “13 steps to investing foolishly.” Like Seeking Alpha, they offer a premium subscription service along with their free information. This site has something for a range of investors. (GRS contributor Robert Brokamp is the Fool’s adviser for its Rule Your Retirement service.)
Morningstar has 172 free investment courses. Topics include “Investing for the long run” and “The magic of compounding.” Did I mention they were free?
Guide to Transparent Investing Frankly, I’m overwhelmed reading my own list. But if you pick anything from this list, please read this guide. Published in 2007, this 53-page discusses DIY financial planning, risk tolerance, and how to create a portfolio to minimize the bite of taxes. It explains fundamental concepts well and includes charts. I wish I’d read this guide years ago.
When doing a list like this, it’s so easy to miss lots of great resources. Which ones would you add?
Weddings are a big deal. You plan them for months or even years and invite everyone you know, then you have the highly-anticipated, heavily-photographed event and they all live happily ever after. (Cue the end credits.)
So much goes on behind the scenes before the big day, as anyone who’s ever attended or been in a wedding should know. But what you don’t really find out until you plan one for yourself is just how expensive and wasteful they can be.
The true cost of a wedding
When I was planning my wedding between 2018 and 2019, I learned pretty quickly what weddings actually cost. And I’m not just talking about the bill.
Each year in the U.S., couples spend thousands of dollars on average on their weddings. In 2022, the national average price of a wedding was around $30,000, according to The Knot. Of course, these averages vary by state and city but could be much higher. And destination weddings can add another several thousand onto your final total.
And every year, these averages go up.
I didn’t know any of this when I got engaged. But once I started actually planning and crunching the numbers using quotes from vendors and venues, I realized that there was no way I could afford the “average wedding,” and I wasn’t sure I wanted to.
Creating my lists also had me thinking about how all of these different “to-do” items would eventually become “to-dump” items. Those flowers would have to go somewhere, right? The table decorations would need to be disposed of, the cards tossed, and the wrapping paper from the gifts thrown in the trash.
So I decided to try to do things a little differently. Both out of necessity because I was poor when we got married – like still in college, barely 22 years old poor – and out of a desire to be eco-friendy.
I’m going to share seven real ways I made my wedding greener and some ideas for making your big day low(er)-waste too.
Read more: Are you financially ready to get engaged?
1. Swap the flowers
My flower total: $94.55
Swapping real flowers for sola wood, paper, fabric, or anything else that will last is a smart place to start. Because the fact of the matter is, flowers are incredibly expensive. And then they wilt and die, as cut plants are prone to doing.
For my flowers, I opted for sola wood. This is a material that comes from tapioca that can be treated and shaped almost like paper. It’s lightweight and looks darn close to the real thing.
I found a shop on Etsy that sold individual sola wood flowers in a bunch of different colors and varieties, and I used 24 of these for my bridal party. For myself, I purchased a pre-made sola bouquet from another store so I didn’t have to cobble one together.
The great part about using sola or another material for your flowers isn’t just that it’s inexpensive but also that you get a keepsake.
I let my bridesmaids keep theirs as a memento and I have the leftovers in vases.
For me, that was it in the way of flowers. I used other decorations for everything else, including repurposed antiques and some DIY items. But there’s nothing saying you couldn’t go all out with the sola since it’s a fraction of the cost of live flowers.
Tip: Purchase sola flowers in large quantities to save even more, and buy them early so you can match them to your other decorations and customize them.
2. Buy your dress secondhand
My dress total: $700 (without alterations)
I know, I know. This one is a harder sell. Many brides have very clear visions in their heads about how they want their dresses to look and make them feel, and purchasing secondhand limits your options. Plus, thrifting a top or a pair of jeans is different from thrifting one of the most important outfits of your life.
But hear me out. No one is going to know someone else wore your dress before you. Wedding dresses usually get worn once, maybe twice, before collecting dust. And creating gowns is so labor and resource intensive that even repurposing one has an impact.
For my dress, I went to The Brides Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a nonprofit bridal boutique that collects donated dresses, sells them, and uses the profits for charitable causes. The Brides Project donates to the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor and everyone who works there is a volunteer.
Buying secondhand saves serious money and prevents a dress from being wasted. At the end of the day, I spent $700 on my dress and I loved it. This was in 2018 when the average cost of a wedding gown was right around $1,750.
Tip: If you don’t have access to a secondhand bridal shop, check out your local consignment and thrift stores, go on eBay and Poshmark, or browse a marketplace specializing in pre-owned bridal gowns.
Secondhand marketplaces include:
Point is, you’ve got options.
3. Use one venue
My venue total: $1,850
If you can find a venue with enough room for both your ceremony and reception, book it. This is one of the best decisions we made. Venue rental fees will eat up a big chunk of your budget no matter where you go, but choosing one for the whole event can help you save a little money and make things easier on yourself – and your guests.
With one venue, nobody has to kill time in between, you don’t have to get multiple places set up, and you don’t need to pay for twice the decorations. You save your elderly relatives from climbing into a car more than necessary and nobody gets lost.
This creates less waste and simplifies your planning. Plus, without all those cars on the road getting from one place to another, you’re not responsible for as many carbon emissions.
Tip: To pull this off, you have to love whatever venue you choose. Rather than picking a “blank canvas” venue you’d have to style from floor to ceiling, consider one with some personality. If you choose a place that suits your style, you don’t need to do as much decorating.
We got married in a city club that had vintage art, furniture, and accents throughout, and our wedding was in spring when the flowers were blooming. It felt timeless and setup was minimal.
Overall, highly recommend.
4. Skip (some of) the cards
My card total: $117.19
Physical engagement announcements, save-the-dates, invitations, and programs are nice to look at. But that’s a lot of material that’s probably just going to get recycled. And wow is it pricey.
The only paper I purchased was invitations and RSVPs. We ordered these from Paper Culture, a company that creates custom eco-friendly cards using recycled paper and bamboo.
The cards included links to our wedding website where people could RSVP and find out everything they needed to about the event. We did receive some physical RSVPs back, but the majority of our guests used the website to “joyfully accept” or “regretfully decline.”
There are so many wedding planning websites and apps that organize everything from responses to registries in one place. You can pretty much skip most of the cards if you want to.
Great wedding websites include:
Tip: Send invitations a little earlier than recommended if you’re doing digital. This will give guests more time to “save the date” and you more time to track down RSVPs. And you might need to give your tech-averse relatives a call if they don’t respond.
As for programs, you might not need them. I wrote down the schedule of events with times on an extra-large mirror (that I got on sale for $35) and displayed this centrally at the venue. I still have this mirror today, with the writing on it, on my wall.
Bonus tip: Not everybody needs a plus-one
Maybe this seems selfish, but we gave out plus-ones very sparingly. If we had met a person’s significant other, they were invited. Otherwise, we didn’t really want to give them hugs in the receiving line or pay for their dinner.
We made a note on the RSVPs that if someone wanted to request a plus-one they could, but no one actually did this. People get it.
5. Choose food wisely
My food total: $3,077.50
For many couples, the food and drink bill ends up being the biggest. The Knot 2022 Real Weddings Study found that the average food bill for a wedding comes out to $75 per person.
But most people don’t go to a wedding for the food. In fact, this is often the worst part (just stating facts). Don’t put too much pressure on the meal you’re serving to be a highlight of the day or evening, and don’t fork over more cash than necessary.
That said, we decided to do a menu of just appetizers. We ordered enough that everybody would be able to pile their plates with several individual bites and have plenty to eat, but not so many that we’d have leftovers to deal with.
Every venue is different, but ours charged a per-plate or per-head price on dinners and a per-item price on appetizers (or hors d’oeuvres if you want to be fancy). By choosing apps instead of plates, we saved a ton of money and gave our guests more options. They were able to enjoy dinner-sized portions and we still hear from people about how fun this was.
Tip: Some venues require you to use their caterers and might place a minimum on how much you need to order. Try to get this information before signing a contract to rent a venue. And if your venue doesn’t offer appetizers or you’re not into the whole strolling dinner thing, buffet-style meals can be an economical alternative to plated dinners.
For 130 guests, we could have spent over $9,000 going the traditional route. I’m glad we didn’t.
6. Ask for money
It’s not weird anymore to tell people you just want cash.
Especially if you and your partner already have most of the things you need or have been living together for a while, chances are you don’t need a gift from everybody coming to your wedding. Feel free to ask for money.
Many wedding planning websites have built-in options for collecting cash contributions (we called ours the “Honeymoon Fund” but I’ve also seen “Newlywed Fund”). This is easier for your guests because they can just virtually send cash without having to buy and wrap a gift and better for you because you can get what you really need. Bonus, there are no boxes or piles of wrapping paper to get rid of.
Tip: Don’t worry about offending anyone. A lot of your guests have been in your shoes. They know weddings are expensive and would probably be more than happy to help you out this way instead of buying you a pan or sheet set.
7. Rethink the diamond
My ring total: $2,000
Okay, so this one isn’t technically for the wedding. But it’s important.
Consider an alternative to a diamond engagement ring if you’re planning to get engaged. There are much more sustainable options out there than the standard diamond, and ones that won’t break the bank.
Moissanite is one of the trendiest non-diamond stones but precious gems like sapphires, emeralds, morganite, and opal can be fantastic choices for couples looking to save money.
And if you love traditional diamonds, that’s great too! There are so many ways to buy diamond rings that don’t involve going to a big box store.
Tip: Antique shops and estate sales are perfect for finding vintage rings and many online retailers carry gorgeous rings without the markups you typically see. Try Blue Nile for discounted conflict-free diamonds.
You can also choose an “imperfect” diamond. This is what I did. I have a salt-and-pepper diamond from Alexis Russell and it’s pretty perfect to me. It’s certified conflict-free and made with recycled gold.
When I got engaged in 2018, my husband spent $2,000 on this ring. That year, couples were spending over $7,800 on average for engagement rings.
Read more: Where’s the best place to buy diamonds?
When to splurge
The great thing about getting married is that you get to do what you want. It’s your day.
You and your partner can strive for a greener wedding if you feel compelled, and that can look however you want it to look. Compromising in some areas and splurging in others is the best way to have the wedding you’ve been dreaming of without too much guilt or sticker shock.
You should splurge on the parts of your wedding that matter most to you and your partner, and try to save on the things that don’t. For example, maybe you love fresh flowers. You can’t imagine a wedding without fresh flowers, so you get these and rent the rest of your decorations or buy them used.
Or maybe the pictures are most important to you. To balance out this cost, maybe you serve cupcakes or cookies instead of a tiered wedding cake.
There are no wrong answers, as long as you’re doing what makes you happy.
The wedding industry is due for a shake-up, and enough people making tiny changes to their big days could have a huge impact on the planet.
With careful planning and some compromises, we were able to completely recoup what we spent on our wedding in gifts and cash contributions. That means we got married without debt, and that was worth celebrating in and of itself.
Our wedding was by no means the most eco-friendly it could have been. And if I were to plan it again today, I’d probably try to do better. But I feel good about the little changes we did make.
On average, it costs $23,890 a year to attend an out-of-state school versus $9,410 for an in-state school. That’s $14,480 more per year you could pay — just to attend a college in a different state than where you grew up.
Over four years, you could end up paying $60,000 more than someone who attends school in-state. So, what are some ways you can lower the cost of out-of-state tuition? Here are seven of our biggest tips.
1. Research Regional Reciprocity Programs
Many schools have “regional reciprocity agreements” or “tuition exchange programs” that let you attend certain out-of-state colleges for in-state rates.
For instance, 18 colleges in Georgia offer in-state tuition to residents of border states. This includes Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.
On a much broader scale, several states have banded together to create regional reciprocity programs that give you reduced out-of-state tuition at hundreds of public and private schools.
The four biggest regional reciprocity programs include:
Midwest Student Exchange — Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
The New England Regional Student Program — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Academic Common Market — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Western Undergraduate Exchange — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Some schools will offer in-state tuition to any student in a neighboring state, while others may require you to meet certain criteria — such as having a specific high school GPA or declaring a certain major.
MU30 Tip: Already have a few colleges in mind? Look on their websites or contact financial aid to see if they have any tuition exchange or reciprocity programs in place.
2. See If You Qualify for a Tuition Waiver
In some cases, you may be able to get a tuition waiver that allows you to attend an out-of-state college at a reduced rate. Tuition waivers are usually granted to students with special circumstances:
You (or someone in your immediate family) is a veteran or active duty military member.
You were valedictorian or a high achiever.
You’re enrolled in a special degree program, such as STEM or health care.
You work for the school you wish to attend.
You were or are a part of the foster care system.
You’re a nontraditional student.
You’re of Native American heritage.
You have a financial hardship.
To see if you qualify, search for the phrase “tuition waiver” on your favorite schools’ websites. This should pull up a list of all the tuition waivers currently available. (For example, I found 13 waivers on the University of Washington’s website.)
3. Apply for Out-of-State Scholarships
There are several scholarships specifically for students who are attending college out-of-state. These scholarships can help you cover the costs of tuition, room and board, and other expenses.
To find out-of-state scholarships, start by checking with your college’s financial aid office. There’s a good chance the school has scholarships earmarked for nonresidents.
From there, do a scholarship search using a tool like the College Board Scholarship Search or Fastweb. You may find some private scholarships to help lower your out-of-pocket costs.
Read more: Scholarships and Grants: How To Score Free Money for College
MU30 Tip: Does your parent or guardian work in higher education at one of these Tuition Exchange member schools? If so, you can apply for a reciprocal scholarship that lets you attend hundreds of schools in the U.S., Canada, Greece, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland at a free or reduced rate!
4. Think About Becoming a Resident Assistant
If you’re planning on attending college out-of-state, one way to lower your costs is to become a resident assistant (RA). RAs typically receive free or reduced-cost housing in exchange for their duties, which can include things like leading tours and organizing social events.
So while you may not get a tuition discount, it could help you save on housing while you’re there.
To become an RA, start by talking to your college’s housing office. They should be able to tell you about any open RA positions and their requirements. You may also need to fill out an application and go through an interview process.
5. Negotiate Out-of-State Tuition With the Financial Aid Office
It’s not widely advertised, but you can technically negotiate the cost of tuition and fees with the financial aid office. In fact, doing so could save you anywhere from 5% to 15%. On a four-year degree that costs $60,000, that’s a savings of $3,000 to $9,000.
Beyond negotiating, the financial aid office is also a way to find out what types of aid are available to you as an out-of-state student.
6. Become an In-State Resident
This tip may seem a little far-fetched, but hear me out. If you’re taking a gap year, for instance, and have time to establish residency in the state where you want to attend college, it could be worth it.
Every state has different requirements for residency, but you’ll typically need to live there for at least a year before you can apply for in-state status.
Start by researching the requirements for the state you want to move to, then get working on completing them. This could include getting a job or an apartment in the state, getting a driver’s license, and more.
7. Look for Schools With Lower Out-of-State Tuition Rates
If all else fails and there’s no way for you to get reduced out-of-state tuition, another option is to simply look for schools that charge lower rates for out-of-state students.
MU30 Tip: Want to see which colleges have the lowest tuition rates? Check out this affordability calculator from the U.S. Department of Education.
Once you have out-of-state tuition rates for different colleges, you can start to compare your options and make a decision about which school is the best fit for you.
Read more: Not Enough Financial Aid? Here are 10 Ways To Pay for College
Out-of-state tuition can be costly, but there are ways to minimize costs without racking up a ton of student loan debt. Use these tips to see how much you can save.
Featured image: Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock.com
Let’s talk mortgage basics: “What is the loan-to-value ratio?”
If you’re currently shopping for a home or already going through the mortgage loan process, chances are you’ve heard the phrase loan-to-value ratio get thrown around on more than one occasion.
You may have also encountered the acronym “LTV” while perusing mortgage advertisements or playing around on mortgage rate comparison websites.
Regardless of what’s going on in the housing market, you should know all about this very important term when applying for a home loan.
Why? Because it can greatly affect mortgage rate pricing, refinance options, and overall loan eligibility.
How to Calculate the Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV)
It’s actually one of the easiest calculations you can make
Simply divide the loan amount by the appraised value or purchase price
And you’ll wind up with a percentage known as your LTV
The tricky part might be agreeing on a sales price and getting the home to appraise at value
Simply put, the loan-to-value ratio, or “LTV ratio” as it’s more commonly known in the industry, is the mortgage loan amount divided by the lower of the purchase price or appraised value of the property.
If we’re talking existing mortgages (in the case of refinance loans), it’s the outstanding loan balance divided by the appraised value.
When calculating it, you will wind up with a percentage. That number is your LTV. And the lower the better here folks!
It’s actually very easy to calculate (no algebra required) and takes just one step. You don’t even need a mortgage calculator. In fact, you might be able to run the numbers in your head. Honest!
Let’s calculate a typical LTV ratio:
Property value: $500,000 Loan amount: $350,000 Loan-to-value ratio (LTV): 70%
In the above example, we would divide $350,000 by $500,000 to come up with a loan-to-value ratio of 70%.
Using a basic household calculator, not a so-called “LTV calculator,” simply enter in 350,000, then hit the divide symbol, then enter 500,000. You should see “0.7,” which translates to 70% LTV. That’s it, all done!
This means our hypothetical borrower has a loan for 70 percent of the purchase price or appraised value, with the remaining 30 percent the home equity portion, or actual ownership in the property.
LTV ratios are extremely important when it comes to mortgage rate pricing because they represent how much skin you have in the game, which is a key risk factor used by lenders.
A Lower LTV Ratio Means More Ownership, Better Mortgage Rate
The lower your loan-to-value ratio the more home equity or down payment you have
Which is another way of saying ownership or skin in the game
A low LTV equates to a lower mortgage rate because you’re viewed as less risky
It means the bank is risking less since you are more invested in the underlying property
Essentially, the lower the loan-to-value ratio, the better, as it means you have more ownership (home equity) in the property.
Someone with more ownership is less likely to fall behind on payments or foreclose, seeing that they have a greater equity stake, aka financial interest to keep paying the mortgage each month.
They’ve also got more options if they do struggle with payments, as they could just sell the property without taking a loss (or the bank losing money).
Not only that, but banks and mortgage lenders also set up pricing adjustment tiers based solely on the LTV ratio.
Those with lower LTV ratios will enjoy the lowest interest rates available, while those with high LTVs will be subject to higher mortgage rates and/or closing costs.
For example, if you’re being “hit” by the lender for having a less-than-stellar credit score, that adjustment will grow larger as the loan-to-value ratio increases (higher LTV ratio = greater risk).
So if your mortgage rate is bumped a quarter percent higher for a loan-to-value ratio of 80%, that same pricing hit may be increased to a half percentage point if the LTV ratio is a higher 90%.
This can certainly raise your interest rate in a hurry, so you’ll want to look at all possible scenarios with regard to down payment and loan amount to keep your LTV ratio as low as possible.
More importantly, just maintain an excellent credit score and you’ll have plenty of loan options, regardless of your chosen down payment or available home equity.
80% LTV Is a Very Important Threshold!
Keep your mortgage at/below 80% LTV if you want to save money
You won’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI)
And it should result in a lower mortgage interest rate with fewer pricing adjustments
You’ll also enjoy greater lender choice as most banks will lend up to 80% LTV
Most borrowers (who have the means) elect to put 20% down when buying a home, as it allows them to avoid mortgage insurance and the much higher pricing adjustments often associated with LTVs above 80%.
Fewer adjustments mean you can secure a lower interest rate on your mortgage. And if you can avoid PMI at the same time, it’s a win-win for your monthly housing payment!
You may also find it easier to get approved, as virtually all banks and mortgage lenders will accept LTVs of 80% or less.
But you don’t necessarily need to put 20% down to enjoy the benefits of a low-LTV mortgage.
Also Get to Know the Combined Loan-to-Value Ratio (CLTV)
Looking at the above example again, if you were to raise the first mortgage amount to $400,000 and add a second mortgage of $50,000, the combined loan-to-value ratio, or CLTV as its known, would be 90%.
Banks and mortgage lenders have both LTV and CLTV limits, meaning they won’t allow homeowners to borrow more than say 80, 90, or 100 percent of the property value.
These limits came down after the Great Recession but are creeping back up again…
Let’s do the math here; again, no mortgage calculator required!
You would have a first mortgage at 80% LTV, and a second mortgage for an additional 10% LTV, making the CLTV 90%. Simply add up both numbers.
Sometimes borrowers elect to break up home loans into a first and second mortgage, known as combo mortgages.
This keeps the loan-to-value ratio below key levels, thereby reducing the interest rate and/or helping the homeowner avoid private mortgage insurance.
Tip: The undrawn portion of a home equity line of credit (HELOC) typically isn’t included in the CLTV calculation.
Max LTV by Home Loan Type
FHA loans go as high as 96.5% LTV (3.5% down payment)
Conforming loans (Fannie/Freddie) go as high as 97% LTV (3% down)
USDA and VA loans go to a full 100% LTV (zero down)
Jumbos, cash-out refis, and investment properties are much more restrictive
And there is no maximum LTV in many cases for streamline refinances
There are certain LTV limits based on home loan type, with conventional loans (non-government) typically being more restrictive than government loans.
And mortgage refinance programs often less accommodating than home purchase loans.
At the moment, you can get an FHA loan as high as 96.5% LTV, which is just 3.5% down payment.
You can get a conventional loan as high as 97% LTV, which at just 3% down is higher than it used to be.
In recent history, the maximum was 95% LTV, but now Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are competing directly with the FHA.
[See FHA vs. conventional for more on that.]
You can get either a VA loan or USDA loan at 100% LTV (which represents no money down).
These are the most flexible loan programs LTV-wise, but they are also only available to veterans or those living in rural areas, respectively. So not everyone will qualify for these types of mortgage loans.
There are also proprietary home buying programs from various private mortgage lenders that allow for 100% LTV financing if you take the time to shop around.
If it’s a jumbo home loan, a cash-out refinance, or an investment property, the loan-to-value will be a lot more limited, potentially capped at just 70-80% LTV, depending on all the attributes.
And finally, those underwater or upside down borrowers you hear about; they owe more on their mortgage than the property is currently worth.
This can happen due to negative amortization and/or home price depreciation.
A quick underwater loan-to-value ratio example:
Property value: $400,000 Loan amount: $500,000 Loan-to-value ratio (LTV): 125%
As you can see, the underwater borrower has a LTV ratio greater than 100% (this equates to negative equity), which is a major issue from a risk standpoint.
For the record, you get 1.25 by dividing 500 by 400.
The problem with homeowners in these situations is that they have little incentive to stick around, even with a modified mortgage payment, as they’re so far in the red that there’s little hope of recouping home value losses.
However, the popular Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) allowed millions of underwater homeowners to refinance to lower rates with no LTV limit. And many of these folks are probably now back in the black.
Today, this type of program still exists, but is a permanent option known as a high-LTV refinance, or HIRO for short.
So there are options to refinance and get a lower interest rate, as long as your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, no matter the mortgage balance relative to the property value.
Same goes for FHA loans and VA mortgages thanks to the FHA streamline refinance and the VA IRRRL option.
Despite being far behind new homeowners entering the market in terms of building home equity, many of these formerly-underwater borrowers now have lots of equity thanks to rising home prices and several years of paying down their mortgages.
That’s why you have to consider the long-game in real estate and never give up, even when times get tough. This also illustrates why home buying shouldn’t be a quick or hasty decision.
A Lower Loan-to-Value Can Save You Money!
A lower LTV generally results in a better interest rate
Which means cheaper monthly mortgage payments
It puts more of your hard-earned dollars toward the principal balance each month
Potentially saving you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan!
As noted, a lower LTV will likely result in big savings thanks to a lower interest rate.
Additionally, you may be able to avoid costly private mortgage insurance, enjoy expanded loan program eligibility, and have an easier time getting approved for a mortgage.
If your LTV is higher than you’d like it to be, there are some creative options to lower it.
Borrowers Can Reduce Their LTV in a Variety of Ways
Come in with a larger down payment if it’s a home purchase loan
Ask for gift funds to increase your down payment
Or break your mortgage up into two separate loans (combo loan)
Make extra payments or a lump sum payment for a refinance to get the LTV down before you apply
Or simply wait for natural amortization and home price appreciation to lower your LTV over time
If we’re talking about a home purchase, simply bring in more down payment money and the LTV will be lower. Easier said than done, sure, but possible for some.
Perhaps someone will gift you the money or act as a co-borrower?
Alternatively, you can look into breaking up your financing into two loans, with both a first and second mortgage.
If it’s a mortgage refinance, simply pay down the mortgage balance a bit more before you apply, whether on schedule or by making extra mortgage payments.
This can be especially helpful if you’re super close to a certain LTV threshold, or just above the conforming loan limit.
Speaking of, pay close attention to your LTV – if it’s just above 80% or some other meaningful tier, think about adjusting your loan amount down (your loan officer should advise you here!).
Lastly, there’s another way existing homeowners can get their LTV down and it requires no effort whatsoever.
You don’t have to do anything except sit back and watch your property value increase over time, thereby lowering your LTV in the process. Of course, the opposite can happen too if home values drop!
But as noted, real estate should be treated with a long time horizon, so be sure you have the ability to ride the ups and downs and make moves when it’s most favorable to you.
Step into a realm of unparalleled vacation rental mastery, where insider secrets await to catapult your property to five-star excellence. In this Redfin article, we explore these closely guarded secrets that will elevate your guests’ experience during their stay at your vacation rental
Whether you’ve already established your venture on Airbnb and VRBO, or are beginning to enter the industry in unique destinations, like the beautiful shores of Virginia Beach or the charming community of Katy, Texas, our guide will equip you with distinct strategies to unlock your property’s true potential. Ready to transform your vacation rental into an enchanting sanctuary where guests revel in unforgettable moments and glowing reviews naturally follow?
1. Become an informed and successful host in the travel and hospitality industry
Heather Bayer from Vacation Rental Formula states, “The moment you exchange your accommodation for money, you have entered the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. It is not a passive business. Gain comprehensive knowledge through continuous learning: engage in networking, read industry-related materials, listen to informative podcasts, attend conferences, and enroll in relevant courses. Being the best-educated host on the block will be the key to your success.”
2. Set the stage for a memorable stay in the first 10 minutes
“The first 10 minutes of your guests’ stay is pivotal to their overall experience,” says Heather. “Ensure entry is easy, the temperature is right, it looks just like the photos, it smells fresh, the Wi-Fi code is prominently displayed, and there is a welcome message.”
3. Leverage the pre-stay period by sharing your local knowledge and expertise
“Don’t leave your guests wandering in tumbleweed time,” says Heather. “This is the period between booking and the stay when travelers are eagerly anticipating their vacation, yet most hosts and managers ignore this opportunity to share their local knowledge and expertise. Share your best recommendations for restaurants, tours, activities, and events way before your guests arrive. They will be able to plan and make reservations and avoid the disappointment of finding the things they want to do are sold out.
4. Make a direct booking website for your vacation rental
“Savvy owners and managers are creating content-rich websites that serve as a showcase for their location,” shares Heather. “They no longer rely on the big platforms to deliver their guests – instead, guests are being encouraged to book directly for the best value and experience.”
6. Control the guest experience by owning the entire rental stack
“In our experience, the key to maintaining a five-star rental property lies in a balanced blend of hospitality, high-quality amenities, and efficient communication. Our motto is ‘Strive not just to meet, but exceed guest expectations,’” says Murat Gocmen from MG Vacation Rentals.
“Owning the entire stack, from the cleaning company to the hot tub cleaning and snow plowing businesses, is a cornerstone of our vacation rental management strategy. It allows us to ensure an exceptional level of service and quality that’s consistent across all aspects of a guest’s experience.
Our hot tub cleaning company makes sure that this popular amenity is always in top condition, while our snow plowing company ensures clear and safe access to the property regardless of the weather, and our in-house professional cleaning service is employed after each stay to ensure a thoroughly cleaned and comfortable experience for the next guest.
By controlling these critical services, we have the ability to directly address any potential issues swiftly, maintain high standards, and uphold our promise of a pristine environment for every guest.”
In Courtesy of MG Vacation Rentals – North Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental Management Company
7. Address guest’s needs promptly
“Our most successful strategy for ensuring guest satisfaction and positive reviews has always been proactive communication,” insists Murat. “We believe in the power of listening to our guests’ needs and promptly addressing any concerns. This creates a trust-based relationship that often results in repeat bookings and glowing reviews.”
8. Personalize your amenities
“We’ve found that offering personalized amenities, like local coffee or guidebooks for local attractions, adds a special touch that enhances the guest experience. These thoughtful extras show guests that we care about their stay and are invested in making it memorable,” recommends Murat.
9. Provide feedback-driven improvements
“The main focus of creating a five-star rental experience lies in continuous improvement based on valuable guest feedback. While meticulous upkeep and personalized service are crucial, understanding guests’ unspoken needs and consistently enhancing your property based on their input is key,” shares Lotus West Properties.
“By prioritizing immaculate cleanliness and providing amenities that offer a true ‘home-away-from-home’ experience, you establish a strong foundation for guest satisfaction. Moreover, incorporating a personal touch, maintaining open communication, and actively implementing improvements based on feedback become the pillars of a rewarding and unforgettable rental experience for your guests.”
10. Deliver impeccable cleanliness
“As a frequent traveler and hospitality industry professional, I leverage specific elements to create a wow factor that ensures an exceptional experience for my guests. Anyone can provide basic accommodation, but to maintain a five-star experience, I always want to ensure immaculate cleanliness,” says ResortCleaning. “Guests should have peace of mind that your rental is cleaned to the highest standards.”
11. Shift your focus from ratings to guest care and unique experiences
“My first advice is to stop pursuing five-star ratings. It makes you one-dimensional. Instead, make it clear that your top priority is to genuinely welcome and care for your guests,” insists founding member Alan Colley of Host2Host and co-owner of Summit Prairie. “Caring is the secret sauce of superior hosts. Do your honest best to ‘sell the sizzle’ that makes your place one where a guest feels comfortable and enthusiastic about telling others why they chose you.”
12. Build a top-notch management team for the unexpected
“In my opinion, to maintain a five-star rental managed by a property management team, it is essential to uphold the highest cleaning standards, incorporate pre-checks between cleaning crews and guest check-ins, hire experienced reservationists for top-notch guest communication, and ensure the amenities are delivered as advertised,” recommends Reservation Specialists.
“Setting accurate expectations is critical. In case of unexpected circumstances, maintaining upbeat and positive communication is essential, along with providing alternative options if advertised amenities are unavailable.”
13. Have a single, dedicated point of contact for guests that can streamline communication between all channels
“The key to maintaining a five-star rental property goes well beyond mere upkeep and starts with having a dedicated point of contact for seamless communication,” suggests Jim Lagan from Home Realty LLC. “From there, having a mindset for meticulous maintenance, an unwavering focus on cleanliness, and a commitment to providing swift resolutions is what creates an exceptional experience for every guest or resident.”
14. Creating unforgettable stays goes beyond cleanliness with thoughtful details
“When it comes to running a five-star rental, it’s the details that make the difference. Immaculate cleanliness, combined with thoughtful touches like curated amenities, crafts an unforgettable guest experience,” explains Soda Stays. “It’s more than just maintaining high cleaning standards. It’s about putting your heart and soul into creating an environment where guests don’t just stay, they feel valued and appreciated. This unwavering dedication not only ensures an exceptional stay but also engraves an unforgettable experience.”
15. Manage your guest’s expectations
“I’ve managed everything from mansions in Malibu to cabins in the woods, but the best thing you can do for five-star ratings is manage guest expectations,” recommends Jeff Iloulian, CEO of HostGPO. “You should take great photos and your place should look like the photos. Is there anything guests should know about your place? Send them a message to let them know in advance. Share the amenities you provide in your listing so guests know what will be there for their stay.”
16. Provide the guests with a guidebook and all essential information about their stay
“I’ve found that answering all guests’ questions before they even have a chance to ask them through the use of a digital guidebook such as Touchstay, is essential,” says Avery Carl from The Short Term Shop. “Many guests are traveling in the evening to an area they are unfamiliar with, and having a resource prior to arrival that provides them with all the necessary information, such as the nearest grocery store and the type of coffee maker in the rental, can really take the stress off of guests after a long day of travel.”
17. The importance of high-quality products in vacation rental properties
“High-quality and durable products are crucial in a vacation rental property as they enhance the guest experience and reduce operational hassles. By providing reliable appliances, comfortable and well-kept furniture, and durable fixtures, vacation rental owners can ensure guest satisfaction, receive positive reviews, and minimize the need for frequent repairs or replacements,” insists Minoan Experience. “This not only leads to repeat bookings but also contributes to the long-term success and profitability of the vacation rental property.”
18. Positively set the ground rules
“One of the biggest keys to keeping any rental – as in not getting banned – is ensuring your guests behave respectfully in your community,” says Alexa Nota, Co-Founder and COO of Rent Responsibly. “Frame your house rules positively but clearly before guests arrive so they know what to expect. For example, for noise hours, you can say, ‘We love our neighbors and our neighborhood, so we kindly ask all guests to honor local quiet hours of 10 AM to 7 AM.’
Another tip is to offer an alternative. If you can’t accommodate many cars, for example, recommend a great parking area nearby so guests don’t park where it disrupts nearby homes.”
19. Quick tips for managing your vacation rental listing
Lifty Life provides a straightforward list of tips and tricks with managing rental vacation properties “to enhance the guest experience and satisfaction”:
Clear and accurate property descriptions: Provide detailed and accurate information about your vacation rental in your listings. Highlight the unique features, amenities, and any restrictions or limitations. Use high-quality photos that showcase the property’s best aspects.
Transparent communication: Be transparent about your rental policies, pricing, and any additional fees. Clear communication helps build trust and ensures guests have the necessary information before booking.
Thoughtful welcome pack: Create a welcome pack or basket that includes small but meaningful items such as bottled water, snacks, local maps, and guides. You can also leave a handwritten note to greet guests upon arrival. These small gestures make guests feel welcomed and appreciated.
Guest feedback and reviews: Encourage guests to leave feedback and reviews after their stay. Positive reviews can attract more guests, while constructive feedback helps you identify areas for improvement. Respond to reviews promptly and professionally, addressing any concerns or issues raised.
Flexibility and personalization: Whenever possible, try to accommodate special requests or preferences from your guests. This could include flexible check-in/check-out times, arranging transportation, or offering additional services like grocery shopping before their arrival. Personalized touches can leave a lasting impression.
24/7 support: Provide a reliable point of contact for guests in case of emergencies or any issues that may arise during their stay. Make sure they have access to a phone number or email address they can use to reach you at any time.
20. Invest in your vacation rental
“The number one trick to keeping your property rated as a five-star rental is understanding that, as owners, we must be willing to invest each year in the upkeep and maintenance of our properties,” suggests Norman Block from Block & Associates Realty. “Everyone who buys a car knows and expects that they will spend money annually to maintain the vehicle and protect their investment in that car. Yet, when it comes to rental homes, I am always amazed that landlords are reluctant to do the same.
Every property owner should expect to spend somewhere around a fourth to a half percent of the property value annually for repairs, fix-ups, and improvements. Real estate properties are most people’s biggest assets and these properties often carry our largest debts.”