Best Budget Smartphones 2022

• Screen lacks the vivid colors we expect from Android devices
• Camera system could be improved
Maybe you noticed that some cameras with higher megapixels (MP) ranked lower. Why? Megapixels generally don’t matter much. The camera’s sensor technology and quality of glass are more important.

Key Features

Motorola Moto G Power: The Best Battery

Phone Best Price
Apple iPhone SE Best Budget iPhone $429
Google Pixel 5a Best Budget Android $449
OnePlus Nord N20 5G Best Under $300 $282
Motorola Moto G Power The Best Battery $199
BLU G51S The Best Under $100 $99

5 Smartphones that Don’t Break the Bank

The Apple SE phone is on display.
Photo courtesy of Apple
Key Features

  • Access to Apple software and services
  • Excellent 12 MP f/1.8 rear camera
  • Among the best built of selected budget phones
Key Features

  • The best Android smartphone under $500
  • Camera delivers great photos and videos
  • Super fast battery charging
Key Features

  • Large, vivid display for movies and photos
  • 4500mAh battery that lasts longer
  • Fast 33W charging
Key Features

  • Battery lasts up to three days
  • Fast charging: a few minutes = 1 hour of use
  • Low price tag
Key Features

  • A decent smartphone under $100
  • A large 6.4” display for easy web surfing
  • Available in four colors
Our top affordable pick from Apple is the iPhone SE (9). This budget model smartphone still features a solid display, a superb camera and the fast A15 Bionic chip, just like higher end models.
What Are Low-End Devices?
Best Budget Smartphones
If battery life is one of your top priorities, you may want to consider the Moto G Power, which — if you couldn’t tell from the name — puts an emphasis on great battery life.
US networks

Once you know which smartphone you want, there may be even more ways to save, like picking a phone with less storage space or a refurbished phone.
Which Android Phone Is the Best Value for Money?

How We Chose the Best Budget Phones

The updated Google Pixel 5a features a modern design with a large 6.43-inch display that doesn’t scream cheap. Best of all, Google is the core developer of the Android platform, so you’ll get an affordable phone that is optimized for a great experience and fast updates.

After reviewing Android phones, we found the best value is the Google Pixel 5a with 5G (9). The Pixel 5a offers a solid balance of features, including a great display and an excellent camera system. The Pixel 5a even offers fast charging abilities for topping up your battery at a moment’s notice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

• No 5G cellular support
6.4” LCD
Smartphones seem to be getting more and more expensive by the year. Even Apple’s middle-market iPhone 13 comes in at a starting price of 9.
Rear camera
64 MP f/1.8, 2 MP f/2.4 macro
AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon

Other features on the OnePlus Nord N20 5G include the large 4500mAh battery and 33W fast charging ability, which help keep you topped up if needed — great for travelers and concert goers. For those who prefer wired headphones, OnePlus kept a headphone jack on this phone, unlike many phones being released today. All starting at 2.

How Much Does It Cost to Furnish an Apartment?

Price out the essential furniture to determine your budget and start shopping.

Furnishing an entire apartment is challenging. That’s because buying furniture takes both time and money. You also need to understand your taste and how the new apartment needs to function. It’s hard to determine a furniture budget beforehand because the cost to furnish an apartment can vary widely.

So, how much does it cost to furnish an apartment? That depends.

How much space do you need to fill? Are you bringing furniture with you or do you need to buy everything after you move in? Do you prefer vintage and antiques or do you like things shiny and new? Is it an unfurnished apartment or is some furniture provided? How much time, money and energy can you devote to the project?

Determine your furniture budget

To determine the cost of furnishing your new apartment, first determine what furniture is essential to you and learn the average cost. Then, make a list of furniture you already have and a list of what you need.

Invest more in items you’ll use every day and classic styles that will stand the test of time. Buying used furniture or accepting secondhand items can keep furniture costs low.

Decide on your essential furniture

Everyone needs a place to eat and sleep. But the exact furniture we need varies from household to household. A sturdy desk and a comfortable chair are the top priorities for people who work from home, while a large dining set is a must for roommates and families who gather around the table every night.

“You do not need to adhere to the notion of needing a ‘complete set of furniture’ in any room of your home,” Tate Swanson, boutique and marketing manager of The Sitting Room in Excelsior, MN. “I suggest starting with the biggest piece, whether it be your bed or your dining room table, and then fill in from there.”

If you’re setting up a new apartment, purchase the essential furnishings first. These are just the basics, the bare minimum that you’ll need to spend the night in your own space. Budget $25 for a plastic shower curtain liner, soap and cleaning supplies to get through your first week.

We’ve listed the ballpark cost of each item. It assumes you’re purchasing the item new, but it doesn’t include tax, assembly or delivery costs. Prices might change over time or vary by region.




A quality mattress and box spring support your back and neck, so you can sleep well and wake up refreshed. A typical price is $500 to $1,200. A twin bed costs less than a queen or king.

Always buy a new mattress. An old mattress won’t offer proper support and could be full of allergens like mold or dust mites. Even worse, it could have bedbugs that infest your whole apartment.

Bed frame

A bed frame evenly distributes your weight and supports the mattress. A basic metal frame starts at around $80. Decorative options (like platform beds, sleigh beds and trundle beds) may include storage, headboards and footboards. But they’ll also cost you more, too.

Sofa or loveseat

A sofa anchors the living room, so choose wisely. You want something comfortable that works with the budget and your style. Styles range from a compact love seat for two to a family-size sectional sofa.

Sofa prices ($300 to $2,600) reflect this variety. A slipcover can make an old sofa work in a new room for much less.

Dining furniture

Dining room furniture

Dining room furniture

You can find a dining table and chairs made of metal, stone, wood or glass. You can also find the table and dining chairs of the same material, or you can mix and match. Buy enough chairs for all household members and frequent guests.

If you have a counter, reserve $150 to $400 for bar seating. The average cost for a dining table and chairs is $400 to $1,200.

“Plan for a minimum of three feet of space from the edge of the table to the walls to allow space for chairs to move in and out,” suggests Swanson. “The table shape and size are determined by the size and shape of the room. A lot of dining rooms are rectangular, so a rectangle or oval table often works best.”

Secondary furniture

Furnishing an apartment doesn’t have to happen all at once. If your apartment budget is tight, you can buy the essentials and add them as you go. This gives you time to save money, invest in quality or find the perfect piece to reflect your style.

Bedroom furniture

Bedroom furniture includes dressers and nightstands. Small rooms might only need one or the other, while a larger room adequately accommodates both.

The amount of furniture you need depends on the number of bedrooms you have. So, the cost of furnishing a one-bedroom apartment will almost always be cheaper than a larger unit.

A typical dresser costs $150 to $350. You can find nightstands (around $100 each) that are a simple table or a larger unit with drawers for additional storage space.




Bookshelves are often living room furniture. But they’re useful in bedrooms, dining rooms and offices, too. They can also line hallways or awkward nooks.

If you have books, plants, art or a collection to display, you’ll need a few shelves. They cost between $80 and $275, so budget accordingly.

Floor lamps

As you settle into your new apartment, you’ll notice that the overhead lights don’t illuminate every inch of the space. You might need to buy a floor lamp or two.

Place them in dark corners, on either side of the sofa or provide ambient light in the dining room or bedroom. Floor lamps cost an average of $50 to $175 each.

Table lamps

Table lamps are a type of task lighting, which means they illuminate a particular activity zone. So, put a table lamp on your desk or near your favorite armchair. They also work well on nightstands, bookshelves, dressers and anywhere else you need a small pool of light.

They’re functional, so you won’t know exactly how many you need until you’ve arranged your furniture.

Desk and office chair

Desk and office chair

Desk and office chair

Choose a desk based on the work surface and storage you need. Make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the space or block doors and windows.

The average desk costs between $140 and $300. A basic chair can cost between $75 and $150. An ergonomic chair will cost more, but it’s a good investment for people who spend hours at a desk.

Additional seating

Most living rooms need seating for four or five people. This usually includes a couch and an accent chair or two. But a bench or a pair of stuffed ottomans can work if the room is small, irregularly shaped or if you have a limited furnishing budget.

A single armchair sells for $175–$500 at full retail price. Ottomans are cheaper at $50–$200 each.

TV stand or entertainment center

You can’t drill holes in the wall if you want your security deposit back. So, an apartment living room needs a TV stand. The right stand puts the television at a comfortable viewing level. It can also hide cords, video game consoles, speakers and other entertainment systems. Some offer extra storage, too. Most cost $150–$400.

The decorative flourishes

Choosing wall art, plants and home décor is one of the most enjoyable (and least stressful) parts of furnishing an apartment. You don’t need to study interior design to understand your own personal style. Pick colors and pieces you love to make your new space feel like home.




Rugs ($150 to $500) are both decorative and functional. They warm up cold floors, provide a safe surface for kids and pets and add a pop of color to a room.

Use a large area rug to anchor a dining room or living area. Smaller scatter rugs work well in front of the kitchen sink, in the entryway or inside the front door, while bathmats offer traction on slippery floors.

Decorative tables

Once you have seating in the living room, you need a place to put your coffee or display a lamp. Depending on your square footage, a coffee table or a few side tables will complete the room.

A new coffee table averages $130 to $350, while side tables cost $100 and up. You can find these tables in almost any material: wood, plastic, metal, even vintage crates and reclaimed lumber.


For some renters, the bathroom mirror is enough. But if you want a full-length mirror to check your outfit or a mini mirror to apply lipstick as you head out the door, set aside $80 to $400. (Large decorative mirrors double as art and make up the high end of this estimate.) Check your lease to see if you can mount them on the wall before you buy.

Window coverings

Even unfurnished apartments usually come with basic window coverings. Ask your landlord if you can install decorative curtains and curtain rods ($50 to $150).


Wall art

Wall art

Art is an easy way to add personality to your apartment. The price ranges from a few dollars for student work, mass-produced prints and postcards to thousands of dollars for art purchased in a gallery. Budget $100 to $150 for art and frames.

Miscellaneous home décor

Set aside $50 to $100 for the little details that make a house a home. Put soft bath towels and a decorative shower curtain in the bathroom. Put fresh flowers in a pretty vase, burn candles and display plants along the windowsill. These individual touches make the space your own.

A fully furnished apartment

If furnishing an apartment feels overwhelming, you can rent a furnished apartment instead. A fully furnished apartment will contain a sofa, coffee table and living room seating. The kitchen and the bathroom will be functional. (You may have to provide cleaning supplies and towels.) The bedroom will contain a bed and basic storage, although the add-ons vary widely.

Buying new apartment furniture

You can buy new furniture at several price points. The average person sources furniture from a variety of new and used vendors to keep the cost of furnishing their apartment within their budget. To avoid bedbugs, allergens and water damage, buy upholstered chairs, sofas and mattresses new.

Furniture stores

furniture store

furniture store

Furniture stores let you see and test furniture before you buy it. Most stores offer delivery and assembly assistance. This furniture is high-quality and designed to last, so it’s more expensive.

Many stores offer financing and specials like 0% interest or deferred payments to counteract the higher prices. Just remember, if you have to begin paying immediately or have a high-interest rate, you’re not really saving money. Wait for holiday discounts, instead. Presidents Day and Labor Day are some of the most popular times for furniture sales.

Home furnishing stores

Specialty home shops like Pottery Barn, Anthropologie and West Elm offer an artfully edited selection of furniture and décor. From budget-friendly IKEA to high-end RH (formerly Restoration Hardware), there’s a home furnishings shop for most budgets.

The merchandise is seasonal, so buy before it’s gone. The store’s aesthetic will be consistent from season to season, so the items you buy over the years will work together.

Big box stores

Big box stores have traditionally offered decorative accents, textiles and art. But now, they’ve branched out into furniture, as well.

Target offers the items listed above, as well as lighting, TV stands and a selection of living room furniture and storage options. Walmart sells all that, too, plus dining room sets, office furniture, bedroom sets and mattresses.

Shop online

Shop online

Shop online

Shopping online can save you money. You can’t try things before you buy them, but having something shipped to your door is very convenient. Many home furnishings stores and big-box retailers also offer online shopping.

Amazon is a good place to browse many vendors. You can also add assembly assistance to your cart before checking out for a small fee. Wayfair offers a variety of styles and financing options. Burrow specializes in modular, expandable furniture.

Liquidation stores

For new furniture for less, head to a liquidation store. These companies purchase unsold inventory from other shops, then sell it to customers for less than retail value. The furniture selection and style vary from store to store, but most have mass-market appeal.

Pre-owned furniture

Buying used furniture has many benefits. The cost of furnishing an apartment goes down when you can buy at least some items secondhand. Buying more affordable furniture means you can splurge on other items.

Since you’re buying something that already exists, you reduce waste and shrink your carbon footprint. And when you purchase old furniture, you’re giving a time-tested gem new life. Furniture from many eras makes your home feel curated and distinctive.


Friends, relatives, old roommates and colleagues are a great source of secondhand furniture. They might give you the furniture. Or, you can trade or offer cash.

Buy nothing groups

Buy nothing groups have popped up on social media over the last decade. Participants can trade, lend, gift or share items, but they can’t pay money for goods and services.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for items you need,” suggests Sarah Cottrell, a Minneapolis resident who has sourced children’s furniture and books this way. “I think it’s best to approach it with less of a scarcity mindset and only take things into your home that you truly want.”

Resale shops, consignment stores and thrift shops

Consignment furniture

Consignment furniture

Resale shops sell previously owned goods at a discount. The average prices are much lower than retail, so your dollar goes further. And your local thrift store is often a non-profit organization that gives back to the community, so your money helps others.

There are over 25,000 resale, consignment and thrift shops in the U.S., according to the Association of Resale Professionals. Some, like Habitat ReStore, focus on building materials, furniture and appliances. Others offer home décor and furnishings.

Craigslist, online classifieds and Facebook yard sale groups

After scouting the thrift shops, Craigslist and other online classifieds are a logical next step. They make it easy to search for used goods in your own city. Study photos carefully, don’t pay without seeing something first and only meet strangers in public places.

Yard sales and garage sales

Garage and yard sales are a great way to keep the cost of furnishing an apartment low. They’re a good source of furniture, home décor and accent pieces. Look for listings on Facebook or Craigslist. Or, search the Garage Sales Tracker for sales near you.

Flea markets, antique shops and estate sales

Find vintage items with character at antique shops and antique malls. Or, search for treasures at flea markets and estate sales.

Antique sellers and flea market vendors often specialize in certain styles and eras and can guide you to items you’ll like. Estate sales often include the contents of an entire house, condo or apartment. They’re a great source for well-made but cheap furniture that has already lasted for generations.

Keep calm and furnish on

Buying furniture can feel overwhelming at first. And, the cost to furnish an apartment can vary. But learning how to furnish an apartment is a life skill. And just like any skill, it gets easier with time and practice.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute financial advice. Furniture prices listed here do not constitute a pricing guarantee as they can vary by source.


Bonds Are Having a Rough Year. Here Are 3 Actions That Can Help

During the past few weeks, several clients have asked the question, “Why are my bond investments losing money?” They were surprised to see the results of their bond portfolio over the last year.

I understand why investors are perplexed. The Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index is down 8.9% in 2022 through May 31. It’s no secret inflation, high gasoline prices and the war in Ukraine are causing stock market volatility. However, most investors view bonds as the safe part of their portfolio. While they are generally less volatile than stocks, rising interest rates are causing bond yields to increase. When yields rise, the price of a bond will drop.

Here’s an example of how this works.

Let’s say one year ago a person bought a $1,000 corporate bond from a company, and the bond yields 1% annually. One year later, interest rates have risen and the same company now issues new bonds for $1,000 with a yield of 2.5%. This makes the older bond less attractive. If the holder of the older bond wants to sell it, they would have to take a loss since any buyer would want a 2.5% yield.

As the Federal Reserve moves to fight inflation, interest rates are expected to continue to climb for the next several months and possibly into 2023.

While there are no magic bullets to quickly reverse the performance of an investor’s bond portfolio, here are three moves for investors to consider.

Try a Different Bond-Buying Strategy

When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near 0% overnight two years ago to offset the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, we advocated investing in bond funds and decreased our investment in individual bonds where it made sense. We did this because the bonds in those funds were already providing higher yields than if we had purchased individual bonds.

Now, as rates have started to rise, the reverse could make sense.  Investors may look to replace these bond funds with individual bonds, which have a better yield since the funds now hold bonds with lower yields.

As part of this strategy, investors can look to purchase short-dated bonds that will mature within a few years. While bonds with longer maturity dates – such as 10+ years – often have higher yields, the increase isn’t all that much (because of what is called a flat yield curve). For investors expecting rates to rise, the longer-dated bonds will be hit hardest if rates do rise.

For those investors who expect rates to hold or fall, or those who tend to pull a low percentage of their portfolio for living expenses, it could make sense to go out a little further than a few years and “lock in” the yields that we are seeing now, despite them not being much higher than the short-term rates.  While the price of the bond could still go down if rates rise, the investor is locked in to the yield at the time of purchase.

Consider Building a Bond Ladder

The second strategy we used was a bond ladder to help provide a steady performance over a longer period. Think of each bond as one of the rungs on a ladder. Once a bond matures, its proceeds are reinvested in a new bond that has a higher yield.

Here’s a hypothetical example of the potential benefit of the bond ladder for an individual investor:

A retiree may want to hold seven to 10 years of their cash flow needs in safe assets. To do this they can use a mix of bonds and cash.  If the retiree spends $200,000 annually, they may look to target between $1.4 million and $2 million in this bucket.

To achieve this goal, purchasing individual, shorter-term bonds can maintain flexibility to invest in attractive yields. As the short-term bonds mature, it may be possible to reinvest with longer-dated bonds with better yields if rates have risen. This approach enables the retiree to live off these safe assets for their targeted time period, without needing to dip into the rest of their portfolio, which consists of stocks or other investments.

As a result of this strategy, the shorter-term volatility of the equity markets often means much less to the retiree. While there is both an art and a science to managing the balance of increasing the portfolio value and meeting the retiree’s future needs, it is comforting to many retirees to know that, in a down market, it could be several years before they even need to look to that part of their portfolio for living expenses.

Know that Bond Losses May Provide a Tax Benefit

As investors begin the process of selling bond funds, there is one benefit. Most bond funds purchased in the last five years have likely declined in value. Investors holding them in a taxable account, the investor can use the loss from the sale to offset part of their tax bill. This is called tax-loss harvesting.

By selling an investment that is a loss, a person can reduce their capital gains taxes and potentially offset up to $3,000 in ordinary income. The money from the sale of the bond fund is then reinvested in a different security – in this case, an individual bond – that meets the investor’s financial goals.  Therefore, an investor can not only get a tax benefit, they can also lock in a better yield – a win-win.

Despite losses in 2022’s first quarter, bonds have an important role to play in nearly every investor’s portfolio. While each person has different needs and goals, they can work with their adviser to develop a bond strategy generating steady returns over the long term, providing the security any investor needs.

Adviser, Moneta

Matt Schaller brings more than a decade of experience in the financial services industry to his role as an adviser with Compardo, Wienstroer, Conrad & Janes (CWCJ) Team at Moneta, a Top 10 Registered Investment Advisory Firm, according to Barron’s. Matt is both a Chartered Financial Analyst® Charterholder and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional. His extensive background in client service, coupled with his previous experience as an investment research analyst, offers a unique lens for clients’ investment decisions.


What to Know Before Accepting Unsubsidized Student Loans

When financial aid like scholarships and grants comes up short, federal student loans can help bridge the gap.

Unsubsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergraduate and graduate students in a financial aid package.

Subsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergrads only, and have benefits in terms of who pays the interest during certain periods.

When a college sends an aid offer, the student must indicate which financial aid to accept.

What Is an Unsubsidized Student Loan?

The Department of Education provides Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans as one of four options under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. (Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans are the other types.)

The unsubsidized loans provide undergraduate and graduate-level students with a fixed-rate financing option to help fund their college education.

Unlike Direct Subsidized Loans, unsubsidized student loans are not based on financial need. This means that any student may receive unsubsidized loan funding, as long as it meets the Department of Education’s general eligibility requirements.

How Do Unsubsidized Student Loans Work?

If you’re eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans, the amount you’re offered for the academic year is determined by your school, based on its cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received (such as scholarships, grants, work-study, and subsidized loans).

You will need to complete entrance counseling to ensure you understand the terms and your obligation to repay the loan. Then you’ll sign a master promissory note stating that you agree to the loan terms.

The government will send the loan funds directly to your school. Your institution will then apply the money toward any unpaid charges on your school account, including tuition, fees, room, and board.

Any remaining money will then be sent to you. For example, if you were approved for $3,800 in unsubsidized loans but only $3,000 was applied to your education costs, the school will send the remaining $800 to you.

The Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office recommends accepting grants and scholarships first, then work-study, then loans. And it advises accepting a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan, and an unsubsidized loan before a PLUS loan.

A Matter of Interest

As soon as any student loan is disbursed, it starts accruing interest. For federal student loans and most private student loans, you can defer payments until after your grace period, which is the first six months of leaving school or dropping below half-time status.

Here’s the kicker: With a subsidized student loan, the government pays the interest while you’re in school and during your grace period and any hardship deferment.

With an unsubsidized federal student loan or private student loan, unpaid interest that accrues will be added into your loan’s principal balance when you start repayment.

Pros and Cons of Unsubsidized Student Loans

Although unsubsidized student loans offer many benefits, there are also some downsides to know.

Unsubsidized Loan Pros Unsubsidized Loan Cons
Eligibility is not based on financial need Interest accrues upon disbursement
Available to undergraduate and graduate students You’re responsible for all interest charges
Can help cover educational expenses up to an annual limit Graduate students pay a higher rate
No credit check or cosigner required Interest capitalizes if payments are deferred
Can choose to defer repayment
Multiple payment plans are available

Applying for Unsubsidized Student Loans

Applying for federal financial aid starts with the FAFSA® — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students seeking aid complete the FAFSA each year.

Where to Apply

Applying for the FAFSA can be done at, or you can print out a paper FAFSA and mail it.

Based on the information you included in your FAFSA, each school that you listed will determine your financial aid offer, including whether you’re eligible for an unsubsidized loan.

Typical Application Requirements

You must have an enrollment status of at least half-time to be eligible for a Direct Loan. You must also be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program.

The Department of Education has general requirements to be eligible for federal aid. Applicants must:

•   Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a Social Security number

•   Prove that they qualify for a college education

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress

•   Sign a certification statement

In the certification statement, you’ll need to confirm that you aren’t currently in default on a federal student loan and don’t owe money on a federal grant, and affirm that you’ll only use aid funds toward educational costs.

How Long Will You Have to Wait?

After submitting your FAFSA, it can take the Department of Education three to five days to process your application. If you submitted your FAFSA by mail, processing can take up to 10 days.

Once you’ve told your school which financial aid you want to accept, loan disbursement timelines vary. Generally, first-time borrowers have up to a 30-day waiting period before they receive their funds. Other borrowers may receive funding up to 10 days before the start of the semester.

How Much Can You Borrow?

There are annual limits to how much in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can borrow. These limits are defined based on the year you are in school and whether you’re a dependent or independent student.

Here’s an overview of combined subsidized and unsubsidized loan limits per year for undergraduate students:

Undergraduate Year Dependent Independent
First-year student $5,500 $9,500
Second-year student $6,500 $10,500
Third year and beyond $7,500 $12,500

Graduate students are automatically considered independent and have an annual limit of $20,500 for unsubsidized loans (they cannot receive subsidized loans).

There are also student loan maximum lifetime amounts.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Student Loans

Another type of loan available through the Direct Loan Program is a subsidized loan. Here’s a quick comparison of subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans.

Subsidized Loans Unsubsidized Loans
For undergraduate students For undergraduate and graduate students
Borrowers aren’t responsible for interest that accrues during in-school deferment and grace period Borrowers are responsible for interest that accrues at all times
Borrowers must demonstrate financial need Financial need isn’t a requirement
Annual loan limits are typically lower Annual loan limits are generally higher

Alternatives to Unsubsidized Student Loans

Unsubsidized student loans are just one type of financial support students can consider for their education. Here are some alternatives.

Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are fixed-rate loans available to undergraduate students. As discussed, borrowers are only responsible for the interest charges that accrue while the loan is actively in repayment.

Scholarships and Grants

In addition to accessing potential scholarships, grants, and loans through the FAFSA, students can seek financial aid from other entities.

Scholarships and grants for college may be found through your state or city. Businesses, nonprofits, community groups, and professional associations often sponsor scholarships or grants, too. The opportunities may be based on need or merit.

Private Student Loans

Private lenders like banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer private student loans. Some schools and states also have their own student loan programs.

Private student loan lenders require borrowers, or cosigners, to meet certain credit thresholds, and some offer fixed or variable interest rates. Many lenders offer pre-qualification without a hard credit inquiry.

Private student loans can be a convenient financing option for students who are either ineligible for federal aid or have maxed out their federal student loan options. One need-to-know: Private student loans are not eligible for federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment.

SoFi Private Student Loan Rates

If your federal financial aid package doesn’t quite cover all the bases, or if you’re not eligible for federal aid, a private student loan from SoFi could be just the ticket.

You can borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance, at a low fixed or variable rate, and pay no loan fees.

Find your rate for a SoFi Private Student Loan in three minutes.


What are unsubsidized loan eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, undergraduate and graduate students must be enrolled at least half-time at a qualifying school. They must also meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal aid, including being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a Social Security number, and complete the FAFSA.

How long does it take to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

Loan disbursement for first-time borrowers can take up to 30 days after the first day of enrollment. For others, disbursement takes place within 10 days before classes start.

What is the maximum amount of unsubsidized loans you can borrow?

Dependent students can borrow a maximum of $5,500 and $6,500 per year during their first and second academic years, respectively. Students in their third year of school and beyond can borrow an annual maximum of $7,500. The aggregate loan limit for dependent students is $31,000 in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Graduate or professional students may receive up to $20,500 per year in unsubsidized loans. Their aggregate loan limit is $138,500 (which includes all federal student loans received for undergraduate study).

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
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Financial Stocks – What They Are & Why Should You Invest in Them

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The financial sector is one of the darling sectors on Wall Street for good reasons. Financial stocks are known for steady, reliable growth that outpaces the rate of inflation. At the same time, the sector comes with some of the best dividends on the market.  

Perhaps that’s why two of the largest holdings in the legendary value investor Warren Buffett’s portfolio are in the financial sector. 

But what exactly are financial stocks, what are the pros and cons of investing in them, and how much of your investment dollars should you allocate to the sector? Read on to find out!

What Are Financial Stocks?

The financial sector is a broad category of companies that work in the financial services industry. The sector includes:

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  • Retail and Commercial Banks and Lenders. Banks and lenders offer deposit accounts like checking and savings accounts and loans like mortgages and auto loans. Two of the most popular companies in this subcategory include Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC). 
  • Asset Managers and Investment Banking Services. Brokerages, investment banks, and other companies that provide services surrounding the management of assets fall into this subcategory. Some of the most popular players in this corner of the financial sector include JPMorgan (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS). 
  • Credit Card Companies. Credit card companies, also known as card issuers, offer revolving loans that can be accessed at the point of purchase using a credit card. Some of the most popular players in this space include Citi (C) and American Express (AXP). 
  • Fintech Companies. Fintech companies blend finances with technology to provide services that make managing your finances easier. Some of the most popular fintech players include Block (SQ) — previously Square — and PayPal (PYPL). 
  • Insurance Companies. Insurance companies that provide health, life, auto, home, and other forms of insurance fall into the financials category. Metlife (MET) and Humana (HUM) are some of the most popular insurance stocks. 

Pros & Cons of Financial Stocks

As with any other sector, there are advantages and disadvantages to investing in the financial sector. Although the sector is known for stable growth and dividends, it’s not the best option if you’re looking for market-leading price appreciation. Some of the most important pros and cons to consider before investing in the space are detailed below.


The financial sector offers a relatively low-risk way to access stable growth and dividends, but that’s not the only perk of investing in the sector. Some of the biggest advantages of financial stocks include:

  1. Lower Risk. The financial sector comes with lower risk than some other sectors like technology and health care. This stability has improved significantly in recent years. According to Davis Funds, the largest U.S. banks are now holding record volumes of cash on their balance sheets thanks to lessons learned during the financial crisis of 2008. Stock prices tend to be more stable in the sector as well. 
  2. Dividend Income. Financial stocks are known for providing strong dividend payments. As of mid-2022, the sector produced a 3.11% average dividend yield, according to 
  3. Strong Growth When Interest Rates Rise. Banks make more money when the Federal Reserve increases the Fed funds rate. As inflation rises, the Federal Reserve has hinted at steady increases throughout the foreseeable future, which suggests bank stocks are worth your attention. 
  4. Outpace Inflation. Historically, financial sector investment returns have significantly outpaced the rate of inflation, making them a great inflation hedge.  


Although there are plenty of reasons to consider diving into financial stocks, there are also a few big drawbacks that you should consider before taking the plunge. 

  1. Financials Aren’t Strong Growers. Financial stocks are known for steady growth, not necessarily strong growth. If you’re looking for growth stocks, you may find a few in the fintech space, but growth investors will be better served by stocks in the tech sector.  
  2. Lower Earning Potential When the Fed Funds Rate Is Low. Although the Federal Reserve has hinted at increasing its rate ahead, the rate is currently below 1%. This low rate means companies in the sector, particularly lenders, have limited revenue potential.  
  3. Lack of Excitement. The best investments are educated investments, meaning you need to research opportunities to be successful in the market. Unfortunately, the financial sector isn’t sexy like technology and biotechnology is for most people. The research process to evaluate financial companies may be daunting for some investors.

Should You Invest in Financial Stocks?

Financial stocks fit well into most investment portfolios. Even aggressive investors who seek to beat the market find them useful as a means of diversification. Nonetheless, there are some investors who won’t find diversification with these assets beneficial. 

You might be a great candidate to invest in financial stocks if:

  • You’re an Income Investor. The financial sector is known for providing some of the strongest dividends on the market today. So, income investors benefit from the outsize dividend yields that come with investments in some of the most established companies in the industry. 
  • You’re Risk-Averse. If you have a low to moderate appetite for risk, financial stocks may be a great home for your investment dollars. These stocks are known for relatively low volatility when compared to stocks in other sectors, and most banks have beefed up their cash and cash equivalent holdings since 2008, making them a force to be reckoned with on the financial stage. 
  • You’re an Aggressive Investor Who Needs Balance. If you’re an aggressive investor who wants to beat the market, chances are you’ll want to invest most of your assets in other sectors. However, you can use financial stocks as a way to diversify your holdings and reduce the overall risk in your portfolio. 
  • You’re a Beginner. If you’re a beginner investor, it’s best to stick with large, safe companies that you know and do business with before venturing into other investments. Financial institutions often fit this bill. In fact, one of the best first investments you can make is often an investment in the stock of the bank you use. That is, as long as you work with a major financial institution. 

How Much of Your Portfolio Should You Allocate to Financial Stocks?

The amount of allocation you should direct to the financial sector is heavily dependent on your goals and risk tolerance. Here’s how you should decide how much to invest in financial stocks: 

  • Your Goals. Your goals play an important role in determining the best style of investing. If your goals include producing slow, yet meaningful and stable gains while generating income from your investments, the financial sector is a great place to start. Consider allocating a large portion of your stock portfolio to stocks in the sector. However, if you want to produce market-leading gains and you’re not so concerned about income, minimal allocation to financials is best. 
  • Your Risk Tolerance. Financial stocks experience less volatility than stocks in other sectors and are known for maintaining a hefty sum of cash on their balance sheets. As a result, they’re relatively low-risk plays. If you have a low-to-moderate risk tolerance, a large allocation to financials fits the bill. However, if you have a moderate-to-high risk tolerance, you may want to keep allocation to the sector to a minimum. 
  • Your Need for Investment Income. Financial stocks are a great option for retirees because they’re known for high dividend yields. Financial stocks are a great option if you depend on the income your investments generate. So, if you’re a retiree, a heavy allocation to this sector is warranted. 

Don’t forget your safe-haven allocation. Fixed-income investments, gold, and other safe havens protect you from significant losses when stocks take a dive. So, always keep safe havens in mind when determining your portfolio’s asset allocation.  

Consider Financial ETFs

If you don’t know how to research and maintain a balanced portfolio of stocks or don’t have the time to do it, you have another option. You can invest in financial exchange-traded funds (ETFs).  

These funds collect investment dollars from a group of investors to purchase financial stocks and other securities. When the stocks rise in value, investors share in the price appreciation. Moreover, when the stocks held in the fund’s portfolio pay dividends, shareholders receive their share of dividends based on the number of ETF shares they own. 

The best part is that financial ETFs are managed by professionals yet very inexpensive to tap into. With a little research on the best performing funds in the financial sector, you can take a largely hands-off approach to financial sector exposure. 

The best financial ETF for you depends on your investment goals. Popular financial ETFs on the market today include the Financial Select SPDR Fund (XLF), the Vanguard Financials ETF (VFH), and the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE). 

Final Word

Financial stocks are a great addition to just about any investment portfolio. If you’re an income investor or a risk-averse investor, you’ll enjoy the relatively stable price appreciation and meaningful dividends in the financial sector. If you’re a more aggressive investor who’s interested in growth, financial stocks are a great way to bring balance to your portfolio through diversification. 

It’s no wonder that nearly every investing mogul from Warren Buffett to George Soros seems to have at least some allocation to the sector. 

Financial stocks tend to do best when economic conditions are positive and interest rates are on the rise. As of mid-2022, that seemed to be the case. Consumer prices are rising, and the Federal Reserve has hinted at coming interest rate hikes that will bode well for financial corporation profitability. This suggests financial stocks will head up moving forward.

However, not all stocks in the financial sector are created equal. Some grow while others fall. Some pay dividends while others don’t. Simply put, some are winners and some are losers. Always do your research and get a good understanding of what you’re investing in before risking your hard-earned money. 

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Joshua Rodriguez has worked in the finance and investing industry for more than a decade. In 2012, he decided he was ready to break free from the 9 to 5 rat race. By 2013, he became his own boss and hasn’t looked back since. Today, Joshua enjoys sharing his experience and expertise with up and comers to help enrich the financial lives of the masses rather than fuel the ongoing economic divide. When he’s not writing, helping up and comers in the freelance industry, and making his own investments and wise financial decisions, Joshua enjoys spending time with his wife, son, daughter, and eight large breed dogs. See what Joshua is up to by following his Twitter or contact him through his website, CNA Finance.


How To Decorate Your Home On A Budget

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

While finding the right house is important, the way you furnish and decorate a space is what really makes it home. But when you’re on a tight budget, it can be difficult to create the vibe you’re looking for.

The good news is, you can drastically drive down the cost of furnishing and decorating with a little creativity. Here are some of our best tips.

How to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

Decorating a new house can be more expensive than you realize. Read below for ideas on how to find furniture, decor and accessories without busting your budget. 

Shop at consignment stores

Many high-end consignment stores carry furniture and decor for half off of their original cost. You can find a West Elm dining room table for hundreds of dollars less than the retail price. 

Do a Google search for the best consignment stores in your area and visit their websites to see if they sell furniture and decor. If they do, plan to visit or follow them on social media to see what they post. 

Local liquidation stores often carry furniture and decor from name brands and designers. One liquidation store near me only carries items from Target, so you can find cute throw pillows, candles, mirrors and home accessories at clearance prices. 

Some furniture stores may also have outlets near you where they sell last season items for a huge discount. 

Visit flea markets

While antique stores carry expensive furniture pieces, flea markets can have hidden gems for much lower prices. Flea markets can be a fun place to find decor and furniture items like chairs, coffee tables and dressers. 

Flea markets usually don’t help with delivery, so you’ll need to bring a large car, rent a van or ask a friend for help. Make sure to include the cost of renting a car or truck when deciding if the price is fair. 

Flea markets and thrift stores can also be a fun place to find knickknacks and tchotchkes. Also, look through old boxes of childhood items and family heirlooms for things to display around the house.   

Find frugal picture frames

Custom framing can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead of getting your art or pictures custom framed, scour through your nearby thrift stores for a suitable frame. Make sure to measure the art beforehand. If you can’t find a perfect-sized frame, find one that’s slightly bigger and buy a mat that fits the picture online.

You could also visit a framing store and pay them to add a mat. You’ll still be saving hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of custom framing.

Find second-hand furniture and decor 

Every day, homeowners post furniture and decor for sale on sites like OfferUp, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You can also find special Facebook groups devoted to selling furniture and other items within your neighborhood. Your neighborhood NextDoor community is another place to find cheap or free items. 

Freecycle is a site where you can find free items that people are donating. You can subscribe to get daily emails to see what people are giving away. 

Sometimes you can find people who will deliver the furniture to you for free or for a small fee. The fee may be less than what you’d pay buying new furniture. 

Look for plants and planters that people are donating. These are another easy way to spruce up a place without spending a bunch of money. 

Bring out your crafty side

You can save a lot of money on home furnishings by getting a little crafty. Try spray painting furniture or frames a different color. If you have more time, you can also sand wooden furniture and stain it a different shade. 

Find ways to update old furniture that you already own. For example, your grandma’s dresser may look frumpy now, but with some new knobs or handles, it can look like a completely different piece of furniture. 

Print pictures

If you have high-resolution photos of beautiful locales, consider printing and framing them. Printing large pictures can cost less than $10, and if you print a standard frame size, you can buy a regular picture frame instead of needing a custom frame.

Use sites like Shutterfly or the Costco photo center, which offer low prices for printing services. Choose a matte finish, which will look more refined and high-end than a glossy finish.

Don’t underestimate the power of paint

Decorating a white wall with art and pictures can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, consider painting the wall a bold color, which can have a huge visual impact. 

When you paint a wall, you don’t have to hang as much art. If you already have art or pictures in mind that you want to hang, make sure to pick a paint color that will match those frames. 

Use social media

Before you visit a furniture store, post on social media what you’re looking for. You never know who might be getting rid of the exact item you need. People may also have suggestions on where to get a good deal on what you want. 

If social media doesn’t work, you can also make a post on your local group or on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor page. 

Don’t Feel the Pressure to Decorate Quickly

When you buy a new house, you’re likely spending a lot of money on moving expenses, minor upgrades and basic necessities. You may feel pressure to put the house together quickly, but this can result in you buying cheap furniture instead of quality pieces you’ll have for years to come.

Instead, take your time to save up and invest in items that you’ll enjoy for a while. Don’t worry if a room or wall is blank for several months.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Mahima Dutt


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