12 Ways to Increase Rental Income From Your Vacation Home

Bought a vacation rental and wondering how to maximize your income from it?

First and foremost, shift into the mindset of an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. You’re a businessperson now, and you need to think like one. In particular, focus on creating a strong product, marketing it, and building efficient business processes.

Ways to Increase Your Vacation Rental Income

Vacation rental properties rarely offer truly passive income. Even if you outsource property management, you still need to manage the manager. Instead, think of your vacation rental property as a side business you operate in addition to your full-time job.

Once you start approaching your vacation rental as a hospitality business, you can start optimizing that business to earn more revenue with less labor on your part.

1. Start With Strategic Finishes

After purchasing the property, your first project is putting it into marketable shape as quickly as possible. That includes any needed repairs, updates, and improvements. Don’t go overboard, but look for any obvious indicators of age in the property, including anything that looks dated or unattractive.

You should also be planning out your automation processes at this point, because they may impact your property updates. For example, you may decide to install a smart lock or key code lock on the front door (more on that later).

Think about any other smart home upgrades that may improve your marketing. Would guests feel more comfortable with a smart security system in place?

As you plan out your property’s finishes, keep resiliency in mind.

Aim to “tenant-proof” your property as much as possible, with scratch- and waterproof flooring such as luxury vinyl tile and door stoppers behind each door. Consider semi-gloss or glossy paint finishes to more easily wipe away scuffs, and use the same paint color throughout for easy touch-ups.

Your guests won’t be gentle with your property, so make it as indestructible as possible.

When your property repairs and updates are finished, it’s time to furnish and decorate it. You don’t need to buy furniture new; no guest expects to be the first person to have sat on the couch. But furniture needs to be tasteful and in good condition.

A word to the wise: Don’t decorate blandly. You are not operating a hotel, and one of the reasons guests choose to stay in a privately owned vacation home over a hotel is to get a more authentic experience. Tie in some local flavor and add a bit of your own personality.

Draw the line at political statements, though. I once stayed in an Airbnb filled with political posters and found them to be obnoxious and unprofessional.


2. Automate & Systematize Guests’ Stay

The less your guests must rely on you personally, the smoother their stay will be for both of you.

Find a way to automate guests’ check-in and checkout process, particularly their access to the unit. That could mean a smart door lock, a keypad lock, a lockbox, or keys left with a community office or doorman.

Note that smart door locks don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can buy the ULTRALOQ U-Bolt Pro for under $200, or go a little lower-tech with the AmazonBasics keypad lock for under $50.

Self-entry allows guests to arrive on their own schedule, rather than wasting both of your time in coordinating entry with you present.

But systematizing your renters’ stay doesn’t end at physical entry. You also need to plan for other frequent needs, such as gaining Wi-Fi access, and make them extremely intuitive and easy for your guests.

Create a concierge document that starts with bullets for the most common issues, such as the Wi-Fi network and password. You can then direct guests to longer explanations as needed. Consider a Google Document that you can both print physically for the unit and send a link digitally to guests before they arrive.

Automate this communication with guests. Create automated messages that go out to guests 48 hours before their arrival that include details like how to access the property, Wi-Fi information, and how to use any confusing appliances. Your concierge document can also include tips for local restaurants, attractions, and other entertainment.

As you systematize your vacation rental business, create policies for every contingency. That includes lost key policies and fees, late checkout procedures, pet policies and fees, your maid or cleaning service (which can be set up quickly through Handy.com), and backup contacts for times when you aren’t available.

In addition to operating a hospitality business, you also face standard landlord headaches like property repairs. Prepare for maintenance by building a network of contractors you can contact for immediate service, to minimize the risk of bad reviews and losing Airbnb guests over maintenance issues.


3. Perfect Your Pricing

One of the most fundamental building blocks for success as an Airbnb host is pricing.

To begin, ignore what long-term rental properties charge for monthly rents. Rather, look at them, but only to run a comparative cash flow analysis to determine which leasing model would generate more profit for your property.

Your competition as a vacation rental operator doesn’t include long-term rentals, but rather hotels and other comparable vacation units. Get a sense of what hotels and similar vacation rentals charge in your immediate area. Consider aiming for around 20% less on a nightly basis than nearby hotels.

Keep in mind that your pricing can and should rise as you establish yourself and your unit.

In the beginning, with few or no reviews, you’ll probably need to entice your first guests with bargain pricing. Once you establish legitimacy through reviews, you can raise your pricing to meet or slightly surpass nearby competitors. (More on building reviews shortly.)

Remember, pricing doesn’t end at your nightly rate. It also includes your cleaning fee, additional guest fees, pet fees, and any other fees you charge. By all means, charge a cleaning fee, but don’t use it as a backdoor gimmick to charge higher rates. Price it based on your actual cleaning fees, and keep your nightly rates transparent.


4. Incentivize Longer Stays

As with long-term rentals, the greatest labor and costs in managing short-term rentals come from turnovers. From cleaning to coordinating access with guests and answering their questions, it costs far more time and money to rent to 10 guests in a one-month period than to a single guest staying for an entire month.

What’s more, short bookings can actually cost you the more lucrative longer bookings. If someone rents your unit for one night, it prevents a prospective two-week guest from being able to book your unit for that block.

So, price accordingly. Charge a higher nightly rate for stays under a week, and then offer a discount for guests who stay at least seven days. Keep graduating that discount the longer they stay, up to a month.


5. Consider Pet-Friendly Policies — For a Price

Pet owners often have a hard time finding hotels and vacation rentals that accommodate their four-legged family members. That means a shortage of supply, which in turn creates an opportunity.

There’s certainly no shortage of demand. More than two-thirds of American households own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

Of course, pets cause more wear and tear on your rental property. That means you should charge extra for them to make it worth your while.

By accepting pets, you can not only collect more money on a nightly basis, but you can also attract more potential guests and achieve higher occupancy rates. And in the vacation rental business, profits come down to occupancy.

Young Woman Wearing Sweater Cuddling Pet Cat


6. Take a Multipronged Approach to Marketing

Putting together the perfect vacation rental listing is both an art and a science. Start your marketing with a killer rental listing.

First, hire a professional real estate photographer to take photos. It’s less expensive than you think, and it’s a one-time marketing expense that will continue paying off for years to come.

Photos should include several shots from different angles of each important room in the home. Pay particular attention to the kitchen, living spaces, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Show the photos to someone who has never been inside your property and ask them if they can visualize the layout and space.

Feature a few exterior shots as well, including the front of the property and any outdoor living spaces.

When filling out your listing profile, tick off each amenity, and select the bed sizes for each bedroom. Then in your written description, emphasize the property’s best features, and mention the most important amenities again.

If your location is a selling point, emphasize that as well. Include highlights like “Five-minute walk to the waterfront!” or “One block from the metro station!” Mention specific landmarks and tourist attractions nearby to boost your search rankings within vacation rental platforms — more on that momentarily.

Although Airbnb is the undisputed leader in the online vacation rental space, it is not the only player. Advertise your unit for rent on multiple platforms, including VRBO, Booking.com, and Craigslist. A previous player in this industry, HomeAway, was acquired by VRBO and merged in 2020.

But don’t stop there. Research ways you can market your vacation rental on social media, such as through local tourist groups on Facebook, or even paid Facebook ads.

The better your marketing reach, the higher your occupancy rate will be, which ultimately determines your bottom line.


7. Optimize for Search Rankings

Imagine your vacation rental is one of a hundred available in its neighborhood. A prospective guest logs into Airbnb and searches for units in that neighborhood — which ones does Airbnb display first, at the top of the page rather than buried at the end of that long list?

Vacation rental platforms have their own search algorithms, just like Google does. If you want your listings to appear first, you need to take pains to optimize for those algorithms.

First, listing platforms reward responsiveness. The faster you respond to inquiries, the higher the platforms will list your unit. Make it a priority to respond as quickly as possible, and if you can’t give prospects a precise answer immediately, at least reply back with a quick “I’ll check into that and follow up with you shortly.”

As with Google, click-through rate matters. That refers to the percent of users who see your listing title who actually click on it. So, boost your click-through rate by putting thought into your listing titles to make them irresistible. Your thumbnail photo also helps your click-through rate, so make it gorgeous.

Accept instant bookings, rather than requiring prospects to wait until you’ve manually reviewed them. Listing platforms include this as a search filter, so many prospects will never even see your listings if you don’t accept instant bookings.

Keep your calendar up to date. Airbnb rewards recency — the more recently your calendar was updated, the better.

Likewise, keep your listings up to date. Every two or three months, tweak your listings, perhaps to emphasize seasonal attractions in your area. This also makes a great time to review your listing for completeness within the listing platform, which also impacts your search rank.

“Completeness” refers to the percentage of available fields and selections that you’ve filled out. Even if you filled out every field before, they don’t remain static — listing platforms constantly add new features and options, and you need to stay current with them if you want your listings to appear before alternatives.

Be sure to mention local attractions in your listing description because some prospects search specifically for easy access to famous landmarks or other attractions. You want to make sure your listing appears front and center for those who do.

And, of course, the more positive ratings and reviews you have, the more platforms reward you with higher rankings.


8. Accrue Reviews ASAP

You can put together the best listing in the world, but if you have no reviews, guests will be reluctant to book with you.

Start with a simple two-pronged approach to scoring reviews. First, price your property competitively to beat your competition if you don’t have many reviews. Second, put together a guest follow-up strategy for securing reviews.

That strategy should include asking no fewer than three times for a review.

Mention it at the end of your checkout instructions message, then again in a post-checkout message thanking them for staying with you. Then leave a review for them as well, and message them to let them know you left a glowing review for them, and ask them if they would be willing to do the same if they enjoyed their stay.

Your goal is to reach 10 positive reviews as quickly as possible. When prospective guests see reviews in the double digits, they feel more confident in booking, and your occupancy rate will rise.


9. Create an Experience

As outlined above, you can and should automate your booking, check-in, and check-out processes as much as possible. Aim to make them so easy an 8-year-old could do it.

Send a series of messages out on an automated schedule. Spell out everything the guest needs to know about getting into your property and staying there comfortably.

Assemble a concierge document about how to use the various appliances in your unit, the best local restaurants, and standout local attractions. Mention both the famous nearby amenities they already know about and the insider scoop on local secrets.

For example: “Drop by the Bulldog for an iconic Amsterdam bar experience, but then walk over to Door 74, a tiny, hidden speakeasy with no signage and a Prohibition-era vibe.”

It’s those more unique guest experiences your renters will remember and rave about later both publicly in their reviews and privately to their friends.

Leave a bottle of wine or some other gesture that they wouldn’t receive at a hotel. You don’t need to spend much money on it, and half your guests won’t drink it anyway, but it makes a great first impression. Underneath it, leave a brief handwritten note welcoming them by name. And, of course, chocolates on the pillows don’t hurt either.

People remember the little things, the small touches that remind them why they chose an alternative to bland corporate hotels.

Bottle Of Wine Rose Red Woman Relaxing At Home Sofa Barefoot


10. Explore Co-Hosting

If you manage your own vacation rental, and other nearby units also serve as vacation rentals, start networking with the other neighboring owners. You can co-host for each other, or simply have one owner co-host for all the neighborhood units as a side hustle.

Co-hosts share property management responsibilities, such as communicating with guests, managing check-ins and checkouts, coordinating repairs, and more. See Airbnb’s explanation for a full list of responsibilities that co-hosts can perform. In compensation, the primary host can pay co-hosts a percentage of the nightly rate, a percentage of the cleaning fee, or both.

They can make an affordable and convenient way to outsource management, whether temporarily — for example, while you’re on vacation — or permanently. Or, if you live near the units yourself, co-hosting for neighboring vacation rentals offers an easy side gig to earn some extra money on other people’s properties.


11. Protect Yourself & Your Property

One way to protect your property is to physically make it damage-resistant, as mentioned above. But protection doesn’t end there.

Think carefully about the security deposit you charge. Charge as much as you think you can without scaring off guests.

Platforms such as Airbnb include some protections for hosts, and you should familiarize yourself with them. If you don’t use a platform and rent independently, look into other ways you can protect against damage, such as preauthorizing the guest’s card for an additional damage deposit, but not running the charge unless they cause damage.

But your guests aren’t the only people you need to worry about. If you buy the property with a family member, friend, or other partner, it inevitably causes conflict to one degree or another.

The most common disputes involve one partner wanting to use the property more often than the others, financial disputes over expenses, and disputes when one owner wants to sell and the others can’t afford to buy them out.

I’ve seen all of these disputes play out in my own family, and can attest firsthand to how vicious they can get — vicious enough to permanently poison relationships, even close family relationships.

Protect yourself by signing an agreement with your partners upon buying a property detailing exactly how you’ll split revenue, responsibilities, and access to the property, and spelling out the process you’ll follow if one partner wants to sell while others don’t.

A little foresight today can save a lot of stress and infighting tomorrow.

Further protect yourself with contingency plans in the event that laws or market conditions change.

Local regulation presents a real threat to vacation rental owners — cities like New York, San Francisco, and Santa Monica all but outlaw private properties being offered to short-term guests. Your city could change its regulations at any time, and you need a backup plan to protect against such seismic shifts.

Run the numbers to calculate how your property would create cash flow as a long-term rental, as one contingency plan. As another, look into leasing your property as a furnished corporate rental, for example, to travel nurses.

As a last resort, you can always sell the property, but it typically takes a few years for properties to appreciate enough to cover the closing costs from both the initial purchase and the eventual sale. But always have contingency plans in place, to protect against losses if conditions change.


12. Optimize Your Taxes

Vacation rental owners can benefit from both investment property tax breaks and small business tax breaks.

As a business owner, you can deduct expenses that you might otherwise have to itemize in order to take, allowing you to take the standard deduction while still deducting specific expenses. For example, you could potentially deduct for travel, home office, and charitable donations from your business, all while still taking the standard deduction. Just be careful not to get carried away and trigger an audit with the IRS.

Meanwhile, real estate investors get their own tax benefits. You can deduct costs from property management to maintenance, utilities to depreciation.

Beware, however, that a few cities — such as Santa Monica — require vacation rental owners to pay additional taxes. Make sure you include that expense when you run the cash flow numbers before you invest in a vacation rental in one of those cities.


Final Word

It’s a fun idea to own a vacation rental you can occasionally use yourself while earning some extra income.

But in many markets, it remains a competitive industry, and often property owners find themselves losing money at the end of the year without enough occupancy, particularly during slow seasons.

Always run conservative numbers when you calculate cash flow, and never lose sight of the fact that the property is an investment. Don’t get attached to any given property, or even to the idea. In real estate as well as stocks, emotion is the enemy of investing.

Even if the cash flow numbers work for a prospective vacation rental, run them for contingency plans such as using the property as a long-term rental. You never know when market conditions will change; look no further than the collapse of the travel industry in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and the energetic rebound in 2021.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Long-Term Rates Will Edge Higher

When the Federal Reserve signaled in June that it expects to raise short-term interest rates by the end of 2023—sooner than an earlier forecast—the response was immediate and fierce. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 800 points, and the price of the 10-year Treasury note also dropped, increasing the yield to nearly 1.6%. Rates on 30-year mortgages rose above 3% for the first time since April.

The backdrop to all this worrisome news was rising inflation, which prompted some to recall the dark days of the early 1980s, when the Fed raised interest rates sharply to curb it. Back then, home buyers were lucky to lock in a 30-year mortgage for less than 12%.

But something strange has happened in the weeks since the Fed announcement: 10-year Treasury note yields have fallen back, and with them, rates for 30-year mortgages. As of July 15, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage was 2.88%.

Economists attribute the lull in mortgage rates to several factors, ranging from worries about whether the rise in the COVID-19 Delta variant could curb economic growth to a growing consensus that the inflation spike is a short-term phenomenon. “Investors are buying into the idea that a lot of the very strong inflation figures are due to transitory factors,” such as slowdowns in supply deliveries, says Matthew Speakman, an economist for real estate website Zillow.

Still, interest rates will eventually head higher (although nowhere near what we saw in the 1980s). Kiplinger is forecasting that the 10-year Treasury will rise to 1.8% by the end of 2021 and 2.3% by the end of 2022. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage is expected to rise to 3.3% by the end of 2021 and move up to 3.8% by the end of 2022.

That means home buyers, who are dealing with limited supply, probably don’t need to scramble to lock in a rate (see How to Win in a Red-Hot Housing Market).

Short-term interest rates, which determine rates on credit cards and home-equity lines of credit, are expected to remain near zero through 2022. That’s good news for borrowers—assuming they can get a loan. Several major banks, including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citibank, halted new home-equity lines of credit during the pandemic and have yet to resume their offerings.

Credit card issuers, on the other hand, are eager to sign up customers, particularly since many borrowers used their stimulus checks or savings on canceled vacations to pay off balances during the pandemic. Credit card rates are still much higher than rates on other loans—the average rate is about 16%—but many issuers are looking to entice new customers by expanding their rewards programs (see New Perks From Our Best Rewards Cards).

No relief for savers. Meanwhile, the only good news for savers is that rates on savings accounts, certificates of deposit and other safe parking places probably won’t fall any more, says Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.com. The average rate for bank online savings accounts is about 0.45%, and major brick-and-mortar banks are paying even less than that. Locking up your money in a CD won’t boost your yield: The average rate for a one-year CD is just 0.17%, and you’ll get only 0.31% on a five-year CD, according to Bankrate.com.

It’s not just interest rates that are keeping yields low, Tumin says. The personal savings rate soared during the pandemic as consumers lowered their spending and banked their stimulus checks for a rainy day. In the first quarter of 2021, bank loans accounted for only about 58% of deposits, says Tumin, down from 69.5% in 2020. That indicates banks have plenty of money to lend and will be in no hurry to raise rates to attract more deposits, even after the Fed hikes short-term rates.

There are steps you can take to earn a higher return on money you can’t afford to lose. Some high-yield rewards savings accounts offered by local banks and credit unions offer rates as high as 5%. The trade-off is that they typically cap the amount of deposits eligible for the high rate and require you to meet certain criteria, such as using the institution’s debit or credit card a certain number of times each month, having your paycheck direct deposited, and conducting all of your business online. For example, Consumers Credit Union (Illinois) pays 4.09% on up to $10,000 if you spend at least $1,000 a month on one of its credit cards, have direct deposit and meet other requirements.

Another option for money you don’t expect to need right away is a Series I savings bond. The composite rate on Series I bonds issued through October is 3.54%. The rate consists of a fixed rate—currently 0% on new bonds—and an inflation rate, which is based on the government’s consumer price index and adjusts every six months from the bond’s issue date (see Earn 3.54% With Series I Bonds).

A big raise for seniors

Inflation can be particularly tough on retirees who are living on a fixed income, but the recent price spikes have an upside. The Kiplinger Letter is forecasting that the annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits for 2022 will be 6.3%, the biggest jump since 1982, when benefits rose 7.4%.

The projected increase reflects the rebound of consumer prices that were depressed during the pandemic. COLAs are calculated using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers.

Source: kiplinger.com

11 Ways to Avoid a Financial Midlife Crisis

Midlife crises are expensive.

From flashy cars to trendy clothes and accessories to artificially trying to look younger with Botox or surgeries, midlife crises cost you both money and stress.

It’s not easy parting with the vigor, fitness, and attractiveness of youth. Nor is it easy to accept our own mortality on a visceral rather than conceptual level. As you navigate the middle years of your adulthood, try the strategies below to stop the emotional and financial bleeding, and inject some fresh vitality into your life.

What Is a Midlife Crisis?

The idea of a “midlife crisis” was first popularized by Freudian psychologists like Carl Jung in the early and mid-20th century. Because there’s no official diagnosis or definition for a midlife crisis, and it expresses itself in many different ways, it’s difficult to study scientifically.

Consider two different models for midlife crises. In the classic model, it takes the form of an acute emotional crisis, often triggered by a single event during adulthood such as a death, divorce, or job loss.

The American Psychological Association explains that emotional crises are usually marked by a “clear and abrupt change in behavior” and can manifest through depression, trauma, eating disorders, alcohol or substance abuse, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, the suicide rate among middle-aged adults is distinctly higher than other age groups, per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Middle-aged white men see particularly high suicide rates, with men nearly four times as likely to die by suicide than women.

The other model for midlife crises is more protracted, expressed as a period of lower happiness or slow-burning depression. Studies such as a 2020 paper by Dartmouth’s David G. Blanchflower demonstrate a “happiness U-curve” over the course of adulthood, with happiness declining through our young adult and early middle years before bottoming out in middle age. Happiness levels then start to rise again, with older adults reporting greater satisfaction and well-being.

During midlife crises, adults tend to contrast the goals and dreams of their youth against their current life — and find it wanting. That can lead to thoughts like “I’ve wasted my youth,” or “What have I done with my life?”

It’s hard to imagine a worse feeling.

Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis

In response to these feelings, adults often start flailing for a lifeline — anything to make them feel young, successful, attractive, energized, or in control of their lives and destinies again.

Although a midlife crisis feels immensely personal while you’re experiencing it, you’re not alone. Over one-quarter of adults admit to experiencing a midlife crisis, according to the Midlife in the United States studies. Just imagine how many more people experience one and don’t talk about it.

The common signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing a midlife crisis can take a variety of forms. Some are physiological and psychological, including depression, changes in sleep patterns, and an uptick in substance use. This can produce effects ranging from trouble getting out of bed in the morning to maddening insomnia to abusing drugs or alcohol. (If you notice any of these symptoms, consider seeking the counsel of a doctor or therapist.)

A midlife crisis can also lead to changes in one’s attitudes and behaviors, such as a sudden obsession with physical appearance, an increased interest in status symbols, or infidelity. It often accompanies feelings of resentment or blame that can wreak havoc on personal and professional relationships, and may be characterized by feeling restless, apathetic, or unfulfilled.


Financial Impact of a Midlife Crisis

Midlife crises can ruin you financially.

Before letting yourself drift into a midlife crisis, think twice about the destruction you could sow. You can literally lose everything you own and hold dear.

Therapists are cheap by comparison.

Risk of Divorce

Few events in life are as traumatic — or expensive — as divorce. The divorce process itself can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars between attorney fees, home sale costs, and other expenses from separating all your legal assets. Which says nothing of ongoing costs like alimony or child support.

Everything you own goes under the microscope to be parsed and parceled. Anyone who tells you they came out ahead in a divorce clearly didn’t fight fair, because divorces inherently drain assets rather than build them. Only lawyers get rich off divorces.

As painful as life may feel in a midlife crisis, it can get worse. And often, “worse” looks like divorce.

Risk of Job Loss and Career Derailment

Those feelings of apathy and restlessness could cost you your job in addition to your marriage.

It’s common sense: depressed people who feel unfulfilled by their job simply won’t produce quality work. That means they won’t earn promotions, won’t secure glowing references to help them get a new job, and won’t be first on any friends’ or colleagues’ list to recommend when new opportunities arise.

That’s assuming they don’t get fired, of course. Or worse, flamboyantly quit and “go out in a blaze of glory.”

All of these outcomes can make it extremely hard to find a new job, especially a better job.

The Direct Cost of Splurges

Even people who don’t lose their jobs or spouses can still end up blowing absurd amounts of money on midlife crisis splurges.

Take your pick: sports and luxury cars, boats and yachts, motorcycles, flashy and expensive hobbies, outrageous vacations, vacation homes, cosmetic surgeries, overpriced designer clothes and accessories. The staples of midlife crises cost money, and a lot of it.

That’s money you could put toward building real wealth, toward your long-term financial goals that you’ve actually thought through rationally with your partner or financial advisor. Goals like, say, saving a down payment for your dream home, saving for retirement, or helping your children with their college costs.


Strategies for Preventing or Escaping a Midlife Crisis

Yes, every midlife crisis looks different. One person might take up with their much-younger secretary, while another goes down the rabbit hole of serial cosmetic surgeries.

But they all cost you, and usually in more ways than one.

The following strategies can all help you retain (or regain) control over your life, your happiness, and your personal finances. You’re not alone, no matter how it feels in the moment. Bring your life back into alignment with intentionality, and a focus on improving your personal relationships and progress toward long-term goals.

1. Talk Through It With Loved Ones and Professionals

Your spouse, family, friends, and other loved ones don’t know what you’re going through if you don’t tell them. Even if they suspect you’re falling into a midlife crisis, they don’t understand your perspective without you explaining it.

Try them. Be patient with them, just as you want them to be patient with you. They probably won’t fully understand it the first time you broach the topic, but that doesn’t mean you should never discuss it with them.

To meaningfully change your life, you need to bring the people who share that life with you on board with any changes. But it also helps to simply unload, to unburden yourself to a disinterested third party.

Talk to a counselor or other professional, not for advice per se — although they may offer sound ideas — but simply to get your grief and anxiety off your chest and out into the open. Left swirling inside of you, these emotions can build up pressure until they burst.

2. Retake Control With Lifestyle Design

Far too many people drift with the tides of life, falling into their jobs, their relationships, even the city where they live. It’s no wonder so many wake up one day and realize they’re living a life they don’t actually like.

Sit down and write out a description of your ideal life, starting with where you live, the kind of work you do, your family life, your social life, your hobbies, and every other detail you can put to paper. No holds barred, nothing off-limits — simply outline your perfect life.

Once you’ve written out the what, you can then start brainstorming the how. The process is called lifestyle design. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by steadily working toward a life you actually want to live, you’ll find fresh meaning and purpose.

3. Reevaluate Your Long-Term Goals

Similarly, your life should align with your long-term goals. When they no longer align, you start drifting in a direction you don’t truly want to go.

For example, my top financial goal is to reach financial independence within the next few years by building enough passive income to cover my living expenses. At that point, working becomes optional. I pursue passive income by budgeting a high savings rate (more on that momentarily) and funneling as much money as possible into investments. And despite feeling the occasional midlife pang, I can still sleep each night knowing that I ended the day closer to my goal than when I woke up that morning.

Whether you aim to buy a new home, retire early, help your kids with college, take dream vacations, or maybe even buy that dream sports car, take a second look at your long-term goals — then form a financial plan to reach them faster. And if you need some expert advice, don’t be afraid to reach out to a financial advisor or other financial professional.

4. Increase Your Savings Rate

Money can’t solve every problem — but it can solve many. And even when it can’t solve a problem entirely, it can usually help. For example, anyone can get sick or injured, but the more money you have, the better your health insurance and medical outcomes tend to be.

To paraphrase author Robert Kiyosaki: I’ve been happy and rich, I’ve been happy and broke, I’ve been unhappy and rich, and I’ve been unhappy and broke; and I can assure you that being unhappy and rich is still a lot better than being unhappy and broke.

So how do you build wealth faster? By growing the gap between what you earn and what you spend: your savings rate.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know that more wealth will better prepare me and my family for it. And I can also tell you firsthand that when I feel those midlife pangs, such as thoughts like “My old college roommates earn more than I do,” I find some comfort in my frugal but high-savings lifestyle.

5. Become Debt-Free

While you don’t necessarily have to pay off your home loan or even your car loan in full, you should definitely not carry any unsecured debts by the time you reach middle age.

First and foremost, that includes paying off your credit cards in full every month. But beyond credit card debt, it also includes student loans, personal loans, and any other unsecured loans.

Stop paying high interest rates on consumer debt. It’s awfully hard to achieve financial stability and build an emergency fund — much less build retirement savings in your IRA or 401(k) — when you have high-interest debt repayments hanging around your neck each month.

When you become debt-free, you suddenly start thinking offensively instead of defensively. It frees you to focus on building wealth, passive income streams, and perhaps even replacing your full-time salary with investment income. You gain a welcome feeling of control over your finances and your future, which does wonders in fending off midlife crises.

6. Consider a Career Change (Carefully)

Quitting in a blaze of glory might look great in movies, but it won’t do your career any favors. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stay in that unfulfilling job either.

As part of your foray into lifestyle design, spend some time brainstorming careers that better fit your passions, strengths, and long-term goals. Bear in mind that the jobs you grow up hearing about — teacher, cop, accountant, and so forth — make up a minority of the actual jobs available today. Many of the jobs in today’s workforce didn’t exist five years ago, and you may never have heard of them.

Consider meeting with a career counselor to take a career aptitude test and discuss options. Although often not cheap, you walk out with a slew of ideas that had never previously occurred to you — ideas that could well fit you better than your current job.

And, of course, they might also offer a higher salary or better benefits.

In my post-college life, I’ve been a mortgage loan officer, a real estate investor, an Internet marketer, an e-commerce executive, a founder of an online startup, and a freelance writer. Twenty years ago, I would have raised an eyebrow if you’d told me I’d end up doing any one of those jobs.

For fun, explore alternatives like jobs that provide free housing and jobs that let you live anywhere. If you need a dash of adventure, becoming a digital nomad can certainly do the trick.

Just don’t lose your spouse in the process. Talk through major career or lifestyle changes with your partner before charging forward without their knowledge or support.

7. Consider a Side Hustle

Not everyone going through a midlife crisis is ready to change careers just yet. But they may still want something more from their working life, both financially and emotionally.

In that case, consider starting a side hustle while you figure out what you want to do with your career. You can turn a hobby of yours into a business and keep it fun if you like.

Starting a business doesn’t have to mean selling off all your assets and pouring it all into inventory and a commercial lease. To keep your startup costs low and build cash flow quickly, consider starting an online business.

All the while, you can keep working your day job while you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

8. Find a Mentor or Coach

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on your own. Ask for guidance from people who have done what you want to do, and who can show you all the shortcuts.

Beyond helping you skip costly mistakes and detours, mentors and coaches can also help you ask the right questions. They have the benefit of both experience and outside perspective, and can see angles that you can’t while in the thick of your day-to-day struggles. “I know you think you want X, but from what you’ve told me, it sounds like Y would actually be a better fit for you.”

Mentors and coaches also help you feel less alone. They can take you by the hand and guide you back to the path you actually want to walk through this life.

9. Embrace Adventure — Constructively

My wife and I may not earn enormous salaries like some of our friends do, but we lead a life of adventure, travel, and endless opportunities.

We spend 10 months per year overseas. It took some work to move abroad, between my wife finding a job as an international school counselor and me establishing income streams I can earn from anywhere. But we did it because we didn’t want to follow the same trajectory of white picket fences and overpriced mortgages that we saw our friends following.

It was one of the best decisions we ever made. We live in a country with a low cost of living, enjoy free housing and outstanding health care, and get to visit an average of 10 countries each year.

But we did it together, and we planned it carefully. We put in the work, rather than one of us just running off one day in the throes of a full-blown personal crisis.

You don’t need to go as far as moving abroad to inject some adventure into your life. Start smaller if you like, and if you’re worried about money, explore these ways to travel the world for free.

10. Take Care of Yourself Physically

Once when I was going through a depressive period, my father told me to do three things: get eight hours of sleep every night, eat healthier, and work out every day. “Go through the motions of being healthy, and one of these days you’ll wake up and realize you feel better both physically and emotionally.” As usual, he was right.

Your body and mind form a feedback loop. One of the easiest ways to jumpstart an emotionally healthier loop is to force yourself into a physically healthier routine.

It doesn’t have to cost you more money. You can eat healthy on a budget, and work out at home with no expensive equipment or gym memberships. Neither do you need expensive or habit-forming sleep aids, with all the natural sleep remedies available.

Finally, consider quitting drinking. Alcohol is expensive, both in terms of your wallet and your health. Worst of all, it correlates strongly with depression: everything in your life looks worse after you’ve been drinking.

As a byproduct of living healthier, you might just find you feel younger, too.

11. Volunteer More

How many hours do you volunteer each month?

Countless studies show that volunteering improves personal happiness levels, lowers rates of depression, and generally boosts our sense of well-being — see this study from BMC Public Health for an example.

That says nothing of all the unselfish reasons to volunteer like, say, giving back to the world.

There are plenty of ways to volunteer locally, but if you want to combine volunteering with travel, try out these ideas to volunteer abroad for free travel.


Final Word

Less than a year ago, I was clinking giant steins at Oktoberfest. Today I have a baby and have crossed into my 40s. I’ve spent more than a few nights wondering what happened to the excitement of my younger days.

Middle-aged adults can find comfort in research from the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition demonstrating a silver lining to midlife crises. Most people who experience them come out the other side with a greater sense of curiosity about the world around them — and where they fit into it. Armed with a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world, middle-aged adults emerge more thoughtful, worldly, and compassionate than their younger selves.

As fun as it is to be young and fit and glamorous, growing wiser and wealthier with age comes with its own rewards. If the price you pay for them is letting go of the trappings of youth, just remember you’re going to lose them regardless. You might as well relinquish them gracefully, and embrace the perks of more mature adulthood.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Are You Itching for an Earlier-Than-Expected Retirement?

If you’re like many people, the pandemic has had a profound impact on your worldview. The tragedy and social isolation we’ve experienced have put into sharp focus what’s most important. It’s no surprise, then, that a survey conducted by Ameriprise Financial in January found that 70% of people said the pandemic has increased their desire to enjoy life.

And this desire to live life to the fullest is leading people to accelerate their retirement plans. In fact, nearly one in five (18%) of those surveyed who had a retirement date said they are speeding up their plans to exit the workforce. In most cases, it wasn’t because they were pushed out of jobs or couldn’t find work during the pandemic. In fact, 83% said the decision to retire earlier than anticipated was their choice.

If you’re fortunate to be in the position to accelerate your plans for retirement, you may be looking forward to an exciting new chapter in life when you have more time to do the things you enjoy most. After more than a year of social distancing, perhaps you’re looking forward to traveling and reuniting with friends and family. Unburdened by the demands of work, you may finally have time to tackle projects around the house or pursue your passion for activities like writing, volunteering and exercising.

Whatever your dream retirement looks like, it’s critical you have a plan to pay for it. Before you walk away from your career and the paychecks that come with it, be sure you’ve thought through these fundamental questions about your future spending needs and available sources of income.

Expenses

As a first step, try to estimate what your living costs will look like in retirement by considering the following:

What will your typical monthly expenses be?

Some people assume, often mistakenly, that living costs will be lower in retirement. They often overlook things, such as hobbies and experiences, that can bring fulfillment to your days as a retiree but also come with a price. To avoid this miscalculation, add up your current monthly expenses today (rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, other necessities, taxes and discretionary spending, such as travel) and determine what those expenses will look like when retirement begins.

Some costs – like commuting – may go down, while others – like dining out – may increase.

What new expenses might be added when you have more free time?

You may be planning extensive travel or a major purchase (i.e., vacation home or recreational vehicle). These could add to your retirement expenses.

How will you pay for medical insurance?

If you are leaving an employer, your health care costs could become a bigger factor, particularly if you’re younger than 65 and aren’t yet eligible for Medicare. Longer term, you may need to budget for Medicare’s monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Sources of income

It’s no secret that you need enough money from various sources to meet expenses over the course of your retirement, especially one that could last decades, given today’s life expectancies. If you’re planning to start your retirement earlier than expected, it’s especially important to determine whether your funds will last.

The following questions can help you determine whether your nest egg can sufficiently cover your planned retirement:

Where are your retirement savings invested, what have you accumulated, and what is your withdrawal strategy?

Inventory all of your accounts, including any “orphaned” retirement plans that still reside with previous employers. IRAs and other accounts held at various asset management firms should also be documented and potentially consolidated to simplify the process of taking distributions. Be realistic about how much you can afford to withdraw and not run out of money (no more than 4% of your savings each year is a general rule of thumb to consider).

If you’re unsure of how much you will need, working with a financial adviser can help you to determine how much to withdraw, which accounts to take money from, and when and how to do so to potentially minimize taxes.

When will you begin collecting Social Security?

The earlier you begin, the lower your monthly benefit will be compared to its value if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which depends on your date of birth. The benefit is reduced for each month before full retirement age. 

As an example, if someone turns 62 (the earliest age for qualification) this year and starts collecting Social Security, their benefit would be about 30% lower than it would be at their full retirement age, which in this case would be 66 years and 10 months.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after your full retirement age, your monthly benefit continues to increase until you reach 70. For instance, if the same person from the previous example turns 62 this year and holds off on collecting Social Security benefits until reaching age 70, their full retirement benefit would be a little over 25% larger than the amount they’d receive at their full retirement age. However, waiting may not be the right choice for everyone.

A financial adviser can help you determine an approach that reflects your options and your personal situation.

Decisions you make today have long-term consequences

Starting off on the right foot in retirement, no matter the timing, is critical to your long-term financial security and quality of life. Don’t be hasty in finalizing your decision to retire or choosing to tap retirement income sources like Social Security. Answering these fundamental questions can help you assess whether you have a plan that will support your retirement lifestyle — not just for the initial years of retirement, but also for the long run.

Ameriprise Financial Inc. does not offer tax or legal advice. Consult with a tax adviser or attorney. Investment advisory products and services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC.

Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing, Ameriprise Financial

Marcy Keckler is the Senior Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy and Marketing at Ameriprise Financial. She also oversees the Confident Retirement program. Marcy has been with Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial Advisors) for 21 years in a variety of positions in financial planning, marketing and interactive development.

Source: kiplinger.com

10 Ways to Save Money on School Uniforms for Kids

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 public schools required students to wear uniforms as of the 2017-18 school year. These can be anything from identical outfits marked with the school’s name or logo to a basic color scheme, such as plain white shirts and tan pants.

According to 2011 research from the University of Nevada, Reno College of Education, a school uniform policy can have many benefits for students. It can make it easier to get ready for school, boost self-esteem, reduce bullying, and improve classroom discipline. But it has one big downside for parents: the cost. According to CostHelper, a school wardrobe of four or five uniforms can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000.

One reason uniforms often cost more than regular clothes is that parents have less choice about where to buy them. If you can only get your kids’ school wardrobes from the official school store, you must pay whatever that store charges. However, you can get around this problem with the right shopping strategies. The first tip to try: shopping secondhand.

Ways to Save With Secondhand School Uniforms

Clothes are one thing it nearly always pays to buy secondhand if you can. With school uniforms, that’s doubly true.

Since young children grow so fast, their outgrown uniforms can still have lots of life left in them. Naturally, these previously worn uniforms don’t look brand-new, but neither do most school clothes after a few weeks of wear. Secondhand school uniforms cost much less than new ones, and in some cases, they’re free.

1. Try Uniform Swaps

If you have two children attending the same school, the younger kid can wear the older one’s hand-me-downs. But if you have only one child or your kids go to different schools, you can end up with clothes in good condition and no one to hand them down to.

A uniform swap is a way to expand your hand-me-down family. By pooling resources with other parents, you can pass on your child’s outgrown uniforms to younger students at your school and receive uniforms from older students in turn.

Some schools hold official uniform exchanges. For example, at St. Catharine School in Ohio, you can trade in gently used school uniforms for larger sizes or pick up other people’s trade-ins at significantly reduced prices. Other schools, like St. Stephen’s Academy in Oregon, give parents points for their trade-ins, which they can use for purchases or donate.

If your child’s school doesn’t have an official uniform exchange, hold a clothing swap party of your own. Invite other parents over, lay out all your outgrown uniform items, and see who can use them.

If you don’t have the space to meet and exchange clothes in person, start a social media group where parents can post photos and descriptions of their kids’ outgrown clothes. When you find someone who has the size your child needs or needs the size you have to give, you can contact each other to arrange a pickup.

2. Shop at Thrift Stores

If you live in or near a large city with a large student population, there’s a good chance you can find outgrown school uniforms at local thrift stores. Check the stores closest to your child’s school to maximize your chances of finding them.

Even in smaller cities and towns, thrift stores are an excellent place to look for basic pieces that are often part of a school uniform. Dress shirts, solid-color polo shirts, and chino pants are likely to show up on their racks. You can’t count on finding the pieces you need in your child’s size, but if you do, they’ll be significantly cheaper than new clothes.

To find thrift stores in your area, do an Internet search on “thrift stores” or “thrift shops” with your town’s name or zip code. Also, check the websites of the largest store chains — such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village — to find their nearest locations.

3. Find Sellers Online

If you can’t find suitable secondhand clothes for your child’s uniform at local stores, try looking online. Start consulting your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace groups in early July, and look for new listings every other day or so. That gives you roughly two months to find all the pieces you need to build a complete school wardrobe for your child. Just be sure to contact sellers quickly when you find something you need so someone doesn’t beat you to it.

Another reliable source for secondhand uniforms online is eBay. You can create saved searches for each specific garment your child needs, such as “navy shorts size 8,” and receive daily emails of all new listings for your saved search. You can pick up pieces one at a time or — if you’re lucky — find a lot of uniform clothing all in the same size.


Ways to Save on New School Uniforms

The biggest downside of secondhand shopping is that you can’t be sure of finding what you need. If the start of the school year is approaching and you still don’t have a complete school wardrobe for your child, don’t panic. There are ways to buy new uniform-appropriate clothes and still keep costs down.

4. Buy the Minimum

For starters, don’t buy more of any component than you really need. Your child may need a clean shirt for school every day, but kids can usually get away with wearing the same skirt, pants, or sweater several days in a row. Jackets and ties can go even longer between cleanings.

How many pieces your child needs depends on how often you intend to do laundry. Mothers discussing their kids’ school wardrobes on Mumsnet generally say they include:

  • Five to 10 shirts
  • Two to five sweaters
  • Two to five skirts or pairs of pants or shorts

On top of that, you can add one or two school blazers and one or two dresses or jumpers if your uniform includes these pieces. And your child also needs at least one pair of school shoes and enough socks and underwear to last the week.

If you shop smart, you can put together this minimalist kids’ wardrobe for less than the $240 average parents reported spending on back-to-school clothes in a 2019 National Retail Federation survey. CostHelper says it’s possible to find pants and skirts for as little as $5 each, tops for as little as $3, and shoes starting at $15. That’s less than $100 for the whole wardrobe.

5. Visit Cheaper Stores

If your school’s uniform consists of basics like solid-color tops and pants, there’s no need to buy them at the official school store. Many major retail chains sell uniform-appropriate clothes for kids at quite reasonable prices. In fact, several retailers offer lines of kids’ clothes designed explicitly for this purpose, such as:

6. Shop Online

If stores in your area don’t carry the school uniform pieces you need at prices you like, try shopping online. Some online retailers specialize in school uniforms, and others have sections devoted to them. Good places to shop online include:

  • Amazon. The e-tail giant has an entire section called The School Uniform Shop. It provides links to uniform-appropriate garments from many popular brands, including Nautica, Izod, and Dockers. Alternatively, you can search for “school uniforms” to find apparel for girls and boys. Check out these Amazon savings tips for more ways to save.
  • French Toast. Online retailer French Toast deals in school uniforms for all ages, which you can search by school or gender. The site also offers two- and three-packs of identical shirts or pants for a discounted price per piece.
  • Lands’ End. The school uniform shop at Lands’ End offers sturdy clothing in all sizes, from toddler to adult. Clothes are covered by the brand’s unconditional lifetime guarantee. There’s even a selection of adaptive garments for kids with disabilities. This apparel combines easy-to-use magnetic closures with decorative buttons for a uniform look.
  • Lee Uniforms. For teens and young adults, the Lee Uniforms store on Amazon offers school- and work-friendly pieces. The selection is limited, but the prices are excellent.
  • SchoolUniforms.com. As its name implies, SchoolUniforms.com specializes in uniform basics, from blazers to plaid pleated skirts. Garments come in a range of sizes to fit children ages 3 and up, including plus sizes.

When shopping for uniforms online, you can save still more by using a mobile coupon app like Rakuten or Ibotta. If you prefer to shop from a computer, install a money-saving browser extension like Capital One Shopping to help you find great prices and available coupon codes.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links provided.

7. Wait for Sales

If your school has an official uniform store, call that store and see when it plans to offer discounts or promotions. In many cases, uniforms go on sale in October, after most parents have already bought their kids’ clothes for the year. You can save money on school uniforms by buying just enough pieces to get through September and waiting until October to stock up.

If the school uniform is a generic outfit available from many stores, keep an eye out for sales at all the stores in your area. Consider signing up for emails from your favorite local stores to let you know when uniform clothing goes on sale. Sometimes, these emails also provide coupons, which can boost your savings still more.

Timing your purchases can help at department stores too. Clothes often go on sale at the end of the season — for example, summer clothes in September or winter coats in March. If you plan ahead, you can save by buying school uniforms for next year during these end-of-season sales.

If you’re unsure when and where school uniforms are most likely to go on sale in your area, create a Google Alert for the term “school uniform sale” with your location or zip code. Whenever a new sale pops up, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also use the term “school uniform clearance” to learn about end-of-season clearance sales.

8. Check Out Clearance

Even when a department store isn’t having a sale, there’s usually a clearance rack you can check for marked-down clothing. Since school uniforms tend to be plain clothes without a lot of eye appeal, there are often at least a few pieces that don’t sell and end up on the clearance rack.

For example, the frugal-living bloggers at Life Your Way and Joyfully Thriving both report finding uniform pieces for less than $5 on the clearance racks at stores like Gap and Macy’s.

9. Buy Bigger Sizes

If your child is still growing, there’s a good chance the uniforms you buy now won’t fit by the end of the year. However, you can make them last as long as possible by sizing up.

Choosing clothes with an extra inch to spare in the legs and sleeves gives your kid room to grow into them. Some uniform pants and skirts come with adjustable waistbands, so they’ll accommodate your child’s growth in width as well as height.

And if you find a great price on a particular piece your child needs, you can buy next year’s sizes now. Assuming they plan to attend the same school for the foreseeable future, you know they’ll need the same uniform next year, so buying multiple sizes at once lets you get them all at the best possible price.

10. Buy to Last

If your child has stopped growing but still has a few more years of school to go, you can save money by choosing quality clothing that will last. These well-made pieces may cost more upfront than cheaper brands, but they pay off in the long run. A $50 blazer that wears out after one year costs $50 per year, but a $100 blazer that lasts for four years costs only $25 per year.

For example, clothes from Lands’ End come with a lifetime guarantee. If they don’t last your child until graduation (or they outgrow them), you can return them for a full refund. Clothing from Dickies, available at Walmart, is also guaranteed for its “expected life,” though they don’t define the term. Clothes from Target’s Cat & Jack line come with a one-year guarantee.

Another way to make school uniforms last as long as possible is to choose the darkest colors allowed. On light-colored clothes, minor spots or stains show up more vividly, making them unfit for school wear. Darker-colored clothing, such as maroon, navy, or forest green, hides these minor flaws.


Final Word

Saving on school uniforms doesn’t end when you’ve made your purchases for the year. If your kid’s uniforms become unwearable due to rips, stains, or lost buttons, you’ll have to replace them in a hurry — possibly at full price. To avoid this problem, handle school uniforms with care to make them last as long as possible.

Always follow the washing instructions and line dry or dry flat when possible to avoid wear and tear from the dryer. Treat stains promptly, repair rips, and replace buttons.

If your sewing skills are up to it, you can even get another year or two of life out of garments by letting down the cuffs or adjusting the waistband to fit your child’s larger size. Following all these steps reduces waste, so you can also pat yourself on the back for being green.

One final tip: Label all your kids’ school clothing with their names. When all the students in a school wear the same outfit, it’s easy for them to grab someone else’s sweater or jacket by mistake. Sewing in a name tag or writing on the care tag with a permanent marker increases the chances misplaced clothes will find their way home again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I’d Change)

Dave Ramsey has helped thousands of people around the world through the 7 Baby Steps for financial peace and freedom.

The process works.

His book titled the Total Money Makeover has had some impressive sales numbers. The book has sold over 5 million copies and has been on the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling list for over 500 weeks. (That data is from August 2017, over 4 years ago, so it’s sold more by now.)

So, we know that the 7 Baby Steps work. There’s a lot to love above the process, and we will address 4 of those attributes here. We will also cover 4 things that we think could be updated this year (as it has been almost 30 years since the Baby Steps were created).

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7 Baby Steps really do work. There are three great reasons why the plan actual works:

a. The Baby Steps Force You To Get Gazelle Intense When It Comes To Paying Off Debt

I’ll mention this later, but I really appreciate that Dave Ramsey keeps the emergency fund smaller to force you to be gazelle intense. Having such a small emergency fund of $1000 really does force you to get out of debt faster because having too much money in the bank can cause you to stagnate. 

b. Dave Strongly Encourages Your Behavior Modification

Too many financial gurus don’t give it to you straight. They may tell you that you need to invest in real estate or cryptocurrency.  It often feels like a lie that you can achieve financial freedom without putting in a lot of work.

Dave Ramsey comes off as blunt many times, but he forces people to confront that the debt is often our fault (with some exceptions). His bluntness, along with the Baby Steps, forces you to self-reflect.

c. The Plan Is Simple And Shows How You Need To Focus On One Step At A Time

I’ll mention this more below, but it’s evident that his focused intensity on the Baby Steps plan helps you stay focused on the task. You complete the first 3 steps consecutively and the following 4 steps concurrently in a prioritized order. 

You don’t have to multitask. Also, you don’t need to think about another step. You just need to focus on the step at hand.

2) Dave Ramsey Is Right That You Need A Plan

Dave Ramsey has many helpful quotes. One of my favorite of Dave Ramsey’s quotes is, “You must plan your work and then work your plan”. 

Too often we go through life without a plan, but we expect that everything is going to work out just fine. I remember the first time I budgeted.  I thought that I spent a certain amount of money on eating out each month, only to realize that number was much higher.

We need plans. It could be a debt payoff plan to stay on top of your debt. It could also be a budget to understand your income and expenses. Or it could be a plan to pay off your home early as per Baby Step 6.

Dave Ramsey understood that which is why the Baby Steps plan is so useful. You stick to the plan and you get out of debt. Voila.

3) The Baby Steps Get Progressively More Challenging

One thing I noticed early was that the Baby Steps seems to get progressively more challenging. This helps build momentum. It is much easier to save $1000 than to pay off your house early. By starting and taking baby steps, the baby steps themselves actually don’t feel very babyish. 

Paying off your home early per Baby Step 6 feels much more like a big kid step, but it’s still just a Baby Step like the others. It’s impressive how Dave structured these baby steps.

4) The Community Around Dave Ramsey Baby Steps Is Incredible

You don’t have to look far to realize that the community around Dave Ramsey is incredible. You can take a Financial Peace University class at your local church. These classes are excellent to encourage you and help keep you accountable while you eliminate debt. You’ll learn the baby steps inside and out with others in your community. 

You can also be a part of a vibrant Dave Ramsey Facebook Community. Personally, I am a part of many of these communities where I receive a ton of encouragement when sharing wins and losses in the process of debt elimination.

There’s a lot to love about the Dave Ramsey Baby Step method.

Now, let’s cover a few things that could use a refresh.

1) Can Creating A Budget Be Baby Step #1?

I am a budget fanatic. I would love to see a Baby Step dedicated to budgeting. Why? Because budgeting helps you understand where every dollar goes. I used “every dollar” like that on purpose because Dave Ramsey himself created a budget app called EveryDollar for that very purpose.

What better way to understand how much money you have to put towards your emergency fund than starting with a budget.

I am not sure why Dave doesn’t start with a budget, but I would be keen to start the Baby Steps with creating one.

2) Dave Ramsey’s Emergency Fund May Need A Refresh

Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund calls you to save $1,000 in Baby Step 1. Is $1,000 enough? It really depends. 

First, adjusted for inflation, $1,000 in 1990 is now worth $2,043.26 per the US Inflation Calculator.

Dave Ramsey's emergency fund needs to be larger due to inflation

There’s a plethora of questions you can ask yourself when considering whether the emergency fund is big enough, such as:

  1. How much debt do you have to pay off?
  2. Do you own a home?
  3. How old is your car?
  4. How many kids do you have?
  5. Do you have insurance?

Another question I like to ask is, “where do you live?”. Personally, my family and I live in the Bay Area, California where the cost of living tends to be quite high. $1,000 wouldn’t get us very far.

3) Is The Snowball Method The Best Way To Pay Off Debt?

As a refresh, the debt snowball method means that you line up your debts from smallest to largest and pay your monthly extra to your smallest debt first then snowball into higher debts. The debt avalanche method is where you line up your debts from the highest interest rate and use your monthly extra to pay off the highest interest first. The savvy debt method is where you pay off 1-2 of your smallest balances first via snowball before reverting to the avalanche method to save the most in interest.

Dave Ramsey loves the debt snowball method. It has worked for many people, so why wouldn’t he? He feels the opposite for the debt avalanche where he mentions that it doesn’t work.

The challenge is that you could lose thousands in interest if your smallest debts also have the smallest interest rates. This can be possible because higher debt amounts carry a higher risk to the lenders, meaning potentially higher interest rates.

You can see how much the snowball method loses in comparison through this debt payoff calculator which compares interest paid from snowball to savvy methods. For reference, we are comparing 4 debts: $23,000 at 22%, $18,000 at 19%, $12,000 at 9% and $8,000 at 7% interest rate. The monthly payment is $1,825.00

debt snowball versus other debt payoff methods

In this example, you would lose over $3,500 in interest by choosing the snowball method.

Does that mean that the snowball method is always worse? Absolutely not. The snowball method may provide the psychological benefit that you need to exterminate your debt.

You choose the debt payoff app and debt payoff method that is best for you.

4) Should You Follow Dave Ramsey’s Advice And Pay Off Your House Early Or Invest?

Dave Ramsey loves mutual funds and paying off your home early. My question is what if your mutual funds are making so much more in interest than paying off your home would save you?

Wouldn’t the prudent thing be to continue to pay off your home and then get the higher interest from investing in mutual funds?  It’s not a one size fits all solution, but it is something to consider.

There are also often benefits of not paying off your home early such as interest paid being tax-deductible. That said, you would really need to determine whether you would make more money from mutual funds than saving from interest payments to determine what’s best for you.

What Do You Think About The Baby Steps?

The Dave Ramsey Baby Steps have helped thousands around the globe. What do you like about the Baby Steps? Do you agree or disagree with what we would change in 2021?

4 things I love about Dave Ramsey's baby steps and 4 things I'd change

Top 4 Things I Love About Dave Ramsey Baby Steps (And 4 Things I'd Change)

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Income-Driven Repayment Plans for Federal Student Loans – Guide

According to first-quarter data released in May 2021 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loans are now the second-largest source of consumer debt, outpacing both credit card and car loan debt and second only to mortgage debt. And for many Americans, that debt has become unmanageable. According to CNBC, more than 1 million borrowers default on their student loans every year. And the nonprofit public-policy research organization Brookings expects up to 40% of all borrowers to go into default before 2023.

Unfortunately, defaulting on student loans can have dire consequences, including wage garnishment and destruction of your credit, making it nearly impossible to get another loan — private or federal.

Fortunately, there are multiple repayment options for federal student loan borrowers, including deferment and forbearance, student loan consolidation, and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. If your federal student loan payments exceed your monthly income or are so high it’s difficult to afford basic necessities, you can lower your monthly student loan payment by taking advantage of one of the various IDR plans.

Pro Tip: If you have private student loans, the federal options are unavailable to you. But you can refinance them through Credible to earn a $750 bonus exclusive to Money Crashers’ readers. Learn more about refinancing through Credible.

How Income-Driven Repayment Plans Work

The default repayment schedule for federal student loans is 10 years. But if you have a high debt balance, low income, or both, the standard repayment plan probably isn’t affordable for you.

But if your payments are more than 10% of your calculated discretionary income, you qualify for the federal definition of “partial financial hardship.” That makes you eligible to have your monthly payments reduced.

That’s where IDR plans come in. Instead of setting payments according to your student loan balance and repayment term length, IDR plans set them according to your income and family size. Even better, if you have a balance remaining after completing your set number of payments, your debt may be forgiven.

These plans are beneficial for graduates right out of school who are not yet employed, are underemployed, or are working in a low-salary field. For these graduates, their paychecks often aren’t enough to cover their monthly student loan payments, and IDR means the difference between managing their student loan debt and facing default.

How IDR Plans Calculate Your Discretionary Income

IDR plans calculate your payment as a percentage of your discretionary income. The calculation is different for every plan, but your discretionary income is the difference between your adjusted gross income (AGI) and a certain percentage of the poverty level for your family size and state of residence.

Your AGI is your annual income (pretax) minus certain deductions, like student loan interest, alimony payments, or retirement fund contributions. To find the federal poverty threshold for your family size, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Using these guidelines, some borrowers even qualify for a $0 repayment on an IDR plan. That’s hugely beneficial for people dealing with unemployment or low wages. It allows them to stay on their IDR plan rather than opt for deferment or forbearance.

And there are two good reasons to take that option. Unless it’s an economic hardship deferment, which is limited to a total of three years, time spent in forbearance or deferment doesn’t count toward your forgiveness clock. However, any $0 repayments do count toward the total number of payments required for forgiveness.

Additionally, interest that accrues on your unsubsidized loans during periods of deferment and on all your loans during a forbearance capitalizes once the deferment or forbearance ends. Capitalization means the loan servicer adds interest to the principal balance. When that happens, you pay interest on the new higher balance — in other words, interest on top of interest.

But with IDR, if you’re making $0 payments — or payments that are lower than the amount of interest that accrues on your loans every month — most plans won’t capitalize any accrued interest unless you leave the program or hit an income cap. The income-contingent repayment plan (a type of IDR) is the sole exception. It capitalizes interest annually.

Student Loan Forgiveness

Any of your student loans enrolled in an IDR program are eligible for student loan forgiveness. Forgiveness means that if you make the required number of payments for your IDR plan and you have any balance remaining at the end of your term, the government wipes out the debt, and you don’t have to repay it. For example, let’s say your plan requires you to make 240 payments. After doing so, you still have $30,000 left on your loan. If you’re eligible for forgiveness, you don’t have to repay that last $30,000.

There are two types of forgiveness available to those in an IDR program: the basic forgiveness available to any borrower enrolled in IDR and public service loan forgiveness (PSLF).

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program forgives the remaining balance of borrowers who’ve made as few as 120 qualifying payments while enrolled in IDR. To qualify, borrowers must make payments while working full-time for a public service agency or nonprofit. Public service includes doctors working in public health, lawyers working in public law, and teachers working in public education, in addition to almost any other type of government organization at any level — local, state, and federal. Nonprofits include any organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They do not include labor unions, partisan political organizations, or government contractors working for profit.

PSLF can potentially benefit those required to have extensive education to work in low-income fields, like teachers. Unfortunately, it’s notoriously difficult to get. According to Insider, the program is still rejecting 98% of applicants after an ongoing history of rejecting borrowers who believed they qualified but weren’t granted forgiveness.

But there may be hope. In May 2021, the Biden administration announced ongoing plans to review and overhaul all the federal student loan repayment, cancellation, discharge, and forgiveness programs, including public service loan forgiveness, to better benefit borrowers, according to Insider.

For the best chance at receiving PSLF, the ED recommends you fill out an employment certification form annually and every time you change jobs. Additionally, once you reach 120 qualifying payments, you must complete a PSLF application to receive the forgiveness.

IDR Loan Forgiveness

For all other IDR borrowers, each program requires them to make a set number of payments — from 240 to 300 — before they qualify to have their loan balances forgiven. At this time, because the program isn’t yet 20 years old and no borrowers have qualified, there is no specific application process for student loan forgiveness.

According to the ED, your loan servicer tracks your number of qualifying payments and notifies you when you get close to the forgiveness date. No one yet knows if there will be a standard application form or if it will be automatic. Hopefully, as the program reaches the age when borrowers can start using the benefit, the process will become standardized.

Drawbacks to Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the biggest advantages of IDR, especially for borrowers with high balances relative to their income. But there are pros and cons of standard student loan forgiveness. First, while forgiveness sounds like it could be a significant financial benefit, the reality is after making 20 to 25 years of IDR payments, the average borrower doesn’t have any balance remaining to forgive.

And if the government does forgive your balance, the IRS counts that as income, which means you have to pay income taxes on the amount forgiven. If you have a high balance remaining and can’t pay your taxes in full, that means making multiple additional payments — this time to the IRS — just when you thought you were finally done with your student loans.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, makes a crucial change to this student loan policy. According to Section 9675, borrowers receiving a discharge of their student loans no longer have to pay income tax on any balances forgiven through Dec. 31, 2025.

That won’t help most borrowers currently enrolled or who plan to enroll in IDR. The first to become eligible for forgiveness only did so in 2019 — those who’ve been enrolled in income-contingent repayment since its beginning in 1994, as noted by the National Consumer Law Center. But some experts believe this change could become permanent, according to CNBC.

Note that balances forgiven through PSLF are always tax-exempt.

What Loans Are Eligible for IDR?

You can only repay federal direct loans under most IDR plans. But if you have an older federal family education loan (FFEL), which includes Stafford loans, or federal Perkins loan — two now-discontinued loan types — you can qualify for these IDR plans by consolidating your student loans with a federal direct consolidation loan.

Note, however, that consolidation is not the right choice for all borrowers. For example, if you consolidate a federal Perkins loan with a direct consolidation loan, you lose access to any Perkins loan forgiveness or discharge programs. Further, if you consolidate a parent PLUS loan with any other student loans, the new consolidation loan becomes ineligible for most IDR plans.

Private financial institutions have their own programs for repayment. But they aren’t eligible for any federal repayment program.


4 Types of Income-Driven Repayment Plans

There are four IDR plans for managing federal student loan debt. They all let you make a monthly payment based on your income and family size. But each differs according to who’s eligible, how your loan servicer calculates your payments, and how many payments you have to make before you qualify for forgiveness.

If you’re married, some calculations can depend on your spouse’s income if you file jointly. Because you can lose some tax benefits if you file separately, consult with a tax professional to see whether married filing jointly or married filing separately is more advantageous for your situation.

Regardless of your marital status, each IDR plan works differently. Your loan servicer can help you choose the plan that’s best for you. But it’s essential you understand the features, pros, and cons of each IDR type.

1. Income-Based Repayment Plan

Income-based repayment plans (IBRs) are likely the most well-known of all the IDR plans, but they’re also the most complicated. Depending on when you took out your loans, your monthly payment could be a more substantial chunk of your discretionary income than for newer borrowers, and you could have a longer repayment term. On the other hand, unlike some other IDR plans, this one has a favorable payment cap.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 15% of your discretionary income if you were a new borrower before July 1, 2014, and 10% if you borrowed after that date. If the amount you’re required to pay is $5 or less, your payment is $0. If the repayment amount is more than $5 but less than $10, your payment is $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For IBR, discretionary income is the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty level for your family’s size and state of residence. Your loan servicer includes spousal income in this calculation if you’re married filing jointly. They don’t include it if you’re married filing separately.
  • Payment Cap: As long as you remain enrolled in IBR, your payment will never be more than you’d be required to pay on the 10-year standard repayment plan, regardless of how large your income grows.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payments are less than the interest that accrues on your loans, the government pays all the interest on your subsidized loans — including the subsidized portion of a direct consolidation loan — for up to three years. It doesn’t cover any interest on unsubsidized loans.
  • Interest Capitalization: If your monthly payments are no longer tied to your income — meaning your income has grown so large you’ve hit the payment cap — your servicer capitalizes your interest.
  • Repayment Term: If you borrowed any student loans before July 1, 2014, you must make 300 payments over 25 years. If you were a new borrower after July 1, 2014, you must make 240 payments over 20 years.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, you must meet IBR’s criteria for partial economic hardship: The annual amount you must repay on a 10-year repayment schedule must exceed 15% of your discretionary income. If you’re married and filing jointly and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your loan servicer includes this debt in the calculation. IBR excludes only the parent PLUS loans from eligibility.
  • Forgiveness: Your remaining loan balance is eligible for forgiveness after you make 20 or 25 years of payments, depending on whether you borrowed before or after July 1, 2014.

2. Pay-as-You-Earn Repayment Plan

The pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) plan is possibly the best choice for repaying your student loans — if you qualify for it. It comes with some benefits over IBR, including a potentially smaller monthly payment and repayment term, depending on when you took out your loans. It also has a unique interest benefit that limits any capitalized interest to no more than 10% of your original loan balance when you entered the program.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 10% of your discretionary income but never more than you would be required to repay on the standard 10-year repayment schedule. If the amount is $5 or less, your payment is $0. If the amount is more than $5 but less than $10, you pay $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For PAYE, your servicer calculates discretionary income as the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty line for your state of residence. If you’re married and file jointly, they include your spouse’s income in the calculation. They don’t include it if you file separately.
  • Payment Cap: As with IBR, as long as you remain enrolled, payments can never exceed what you’d be required to repay on a standard 10-year repayment schedule, regardless of how large your income grows.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payments are less than the interest that accrues on your loans, the government pays all the interest on your subsidized loans for up to three years. It doesn’t cover any interest on unsubsidized loans.
  • Interest Capitalization: If your income has grown so large you’ve hit the payment cap, your servicer capitalizes your interest. But no capitalized interest can exceed 10% of your original loan balance.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 240 payments over 20 years.
  • Eligibility: To qualify, you must meet the plan’s criteria for partial financial hardship: the annual amount due is greater than 10% of your discretionary income. If you’re married and filing jointly and your spouse owes any student loan debt, this debt is included in the calculation. Additionally, you can’t have any outstanding balance remaining on a direct loan or FFEL taken out before Sept. 30, 2007. You must also have taken out at least one loan after Sept. 30, 2011. All federal direct loans are eligible for PAYE except for parent PLUS loans.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you stay enrolled, you remain eligible for forgiveness of your loan balance after 20 years of payments if any balance remains.

3. Revised Pay-as-You-Earn Repayment Plan

If you don’t meet the qualifications of partial financial hardship under PAYE or IBR, you can still qualify for an IDR plan. The revised pay-as-you-earn (REPAYE) plan is open to any direct federal loan borrower, regardless of income. Further, your payment amount and repayment terms aren’t contingent on when you borrowed. The most significant benefits of REPAYE are the federal loan interest subsidy and lack of any interest capitalization.

However, there are some definite drawbacks to REPAYE. First, there are no caps on payments. How much you must pay each month is tied to your income, even if that means you have to make payments higher than you would have on a standard 10-year repayment schedule.

Second, those who borrowed for graduate school must repay over a longer term before becoming eligible for forgiveness. That’s a huge drawback considering those who need the most help tend to be graduate borrowers. According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of those with six-figure student loan debt borrowed it for graduate school.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay 10% of your discretionary income. If the amount you must pay is $5 or less, your payment is $0. And if the repayment amount is more than $5 but less than $10, your payment is $10. If you’re married and your spouse owes any student loan debt, your payment amount is adjusted proportionally.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: Your discretionary income is the difference between your AGI and 150% of the poverty line for your state of residence. If you’re married, they include both your and your spouse’s income in the calculation, regardless of whether you file jointly or separately. However, if you’re separated or otherwise unable to rely on your spouse’s income, your servicer doesn’t consider it.
  • Payment Cap: There is no cap on payments. The loan service always calculates your monthly payment as 10% of your discretionary income.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: If your monthly payment is so low it doesn’t cover the accruing interest, the federal government pays any excess interest on subsidized federal loans for up to three years. After that, they cover 50% of the interest. They also cover 50% of the interest on unsubsidized loans for the entire term.
  • Interest Capitalization: As long as you remain enrolled in REPAYE, your loan servicer never capitalizes any accrued interest.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 240 payments over 20 years if you borrowed loans for undergraduate studies. If you’re repaying graduate school debt or a consolidation loan that includes any direct loans that paid for graduate school or any grad PLUS loans, you must make 300 payments over 25 years.
  • Eligibility: Any borrower with direct loans, including grad PLUS loans, can make payments under this plan, regardless of income. If you have older loans from the discontinued FFEL program, they are only eligible if consolidated into a new direct consolidation loan. Parent PLUS loans are ineligible for REPAYE.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you remain enrolled, your loans are eligible for forgiveness after 20 years of payments for undergraduate loans or 25 years for graduate loans.

4. Income-Contingent Repayment Plan

The income-contingent repayment plan (ICR) is the oldest of the income-driven plans and the least beneficial. Your monthly payments are higher under ICR than any other plan, and you must make those payments over a longer term. Additionally, although they limit the amount of capitalized interest, it’s automatically capitalized annually whether you remain in the program or not.

There is one major plus: Parent PLUS loans are eligible. But you must still consolidate them into a federal direct consolidation loan to qualify.

  • Monthly Payment Amount: You must pay the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or what you would pay over 12 years on a fixed-payment repayment plan. If you’re married and your spouse also has eligible loans, you can repay your loans jointly under the ICR plan. If you go this route, your servicer calculates a separate payment for each of you that’s proportionate to the amount you each owe.
  • Discretionary Income Calculations: For ICR, your servicer calculates discretionary income as the difference between your AGI and 100% of the federal poverty line for your family size in your state of residence. If you’re married filing jointly, your servicer uses both your and your spouse’s income to calculate the payment size. If you’re married filing separately, they only use your income.
  • Payment Cap: There is no cap on payment size.
  • Federal Loan Interest Subsidy: The government doesn’t subsidize any interest.
  • Interest Capitalization: Your servicer capitalizes interest annually. However, it can’t be more than 10% of the original debt balance when you started repayment.
  • Repayment Term: You must make 300 payments over 25 years.
  • Eligibility: Any borrower with federal student loans, including direct loans and FFEL loans, is eligible for ICR. For parent PLUS loans to qualify, you must consolidate them into a federal direct consolidation loan.
  • Forgiveness: As long as you remain enrolled, your loans are eligible for forgiveness after 25 years of payments.

How to Apply for Income-Driven Repayment Plans

To enroll in an IDR plan, contact your student loan servicer. Your servicer is the financial company that manages your student loans and sends your monthly bill. They can walk you through applying for IDR and recommend the most beneficial plan for your unique situation. You must complete an income-driven payment plan request, which you can fill out online at Federal Student Aid or use a paper form your servicer can send you.

Because your servicer ties payments on any IDR plan to your income, they require income information. You must submit proof of income after you complete your application. Proof of income is usually in the form of your most recent federal income tax return. Have this handy when applying over the phone. They also need your AGI, which you can find on your tax return. You must also mail or fax a copy of your return before your application is complete.

It generally takes about a month to process an IDR application. If you need them to, your loan servicer can place your loans into forbearance while they process your application. You aren’t required to make a payment while your loans are in forbearance. But interest continues to accrue, which results in a larger balance.

You can change your student loan repayment plan or have your monthly payments recalculated at any time. If an IDR plan is no longer advantageous to you, you lose your job, you switch jobs, or there’s a change in your family size, contact your student loan servicer to either switch your repayment plan or have your monthly payments recalculated.

You aren’t obligated to do so if the change would result in higher monthly payments. However, you must recertify each year.

Recertification

You must recertify your income and family size annually by providing your student loan servicer with a copy of your annual tax return. You must recertify even if there are no changes in your family size or income.

Loan servicers send reminder notices when it’s time to recertify. If you don’t submit your annual recertification by the deadline, your loan servicer disenrolls you, and your monthly payment reverts to what it would be on the standard 10-year repayment schedule.

You can always reenroll if you miss your recertification deadline. But there are a couple of reasons not to be lax about recertification.

First, if your income increases to the point at which your monthly payment would be higher than it would be on the standard 10-year repayment schedule, you can’t requalify for either the PAYE or IBR plans. But if you stay in the program, your payments are capped no matter how much your income increases.

Second, if you’re automatically disenrolled from your IDR plan because of a failure to recertify, any interest that accrues during the time it takes to get reenrolled is capitalized. That means your servicer adds interest to the balance owed. Even after you reenroll in your IDR plan, you begin earning interest on the new capitalized balance, thereby increasing the amount owed. And that’s true even if you place your loans into a temporary deferment or forbearance.


How to Choose an IDR Plan

The easiest way to choose the best IDR plan is to discuss it with your loan servicer. They can run your numbers, tell you which plans you qualify for, and quote you monthly payments under each plan.

Don’t just choose the plan with the lowest monthly bill unless you can’t afford a higher payment. Instead, balance your current needs with the long-term costs of any plan. For example, one plan might offer a lower monthly payment but a longer repayment term. Further, although your interest rate remains fixed on all the IDR plans, some offer benefits like interest subsidies that can reduce the overall amount you must repay.

Even if you think you’ll qualify for PSLF, which could get you total loan forgiveness in as little as 10 years, it’s still worth it to weigh your options. Currently, too few borrowers qualify for PSLF, so it might not work out to pin your hopes on it until the program becomes more streamlined.

Note that IDR plans aren’t suitable for everyone. Before enrolling in any IDR plan, plug your income, family size, and loan information into the federal government’s loan simulator. The tool gives you a picture of your potential monthly payments, overall amount to repay, and any balance eligible for forgiveness.


Final Word

If you’re struggling to repay your student loans or facing the possibility of default, an IDR plan probably makes sense for you. But they aren’t without their drawbacks. It pays to research all your options, including the possibility of picking up a side gig to get those student loans paid off faster.

Student loan debt can be a tremendous burden, preventing borrowers from doing everything from saving for a home to saving for retirement. The faster you can get rid of the debt, the better.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Approach Your Landlord If You Can’t Pay Rent Next Month

If you’ve been out of work and can’t pay rent, the end of the federal moratorium on evictions is guaranteed to dredge up a ton of stress. But now’s not the time to bury your head in the sand.

By exercising your negotiation muscle, you may be able to strike a deal with your landlord that prevents the worst-case scenario: getting kicked out of your home.

Negotiating a Deal With Your Landlord If You Can’t Pay Rent

When you think you can’t pay rent for the upcoming month, it’s best to talk to your landlord sooner rather than later. Even if you’ve been letting late payment notices stack up, coming to a fair agreement with your landlord can help alleviate some of that financial stress.

Here’s what you should do.

First, Know Your Rights

Matt Koz, finance director for the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, Wisc., recommends that renters do their due diligence to research the eviction laws in their area and see if their city, county or state has a moratorium on eviction proceedings during the pandemic.

There may be an eviction moratorium in your local area that extends past the federal moratorium. For example, New York City’s rental eviction moratorium is in place through the end of August.

Being educated about the tenant laws in your state doesn’t just give peace of mind about whether or not your landlord can evict you during this crisis. It can also help you decide how to best proceed when reaching out to your landlord.

For example, Koz said there could be laws where you live that make it disadvantageous to pay partial rent, if you were thinking of suggesting that to your landlord.

“In some cases, it may be better not to offer terms and wait to see what recourse is available to you,” he said.

Approach Your Landlord with Empathy

You may just think of your landlord as a faceless entity that takes the biggest single chunk of your money every month. But a little kindness can go a long way.

“Lead with empathy,” advises Michael Thomas, an accredited financial counselor and faculty member at the University of Georgia. “It’s very easy to become self-absorbed when we’re experiencing a financial shock.”

He says taking the time out to ask how your landlord is doing and working to establish a relationship can make them more willing to work with you. Understanding where each person is coming from can lead to a resolution that’s best for both parties.

Provide Realistic Solutions

Offering up a solution to your situation can show your willingness to work with your landlord.

You might propose to make a partial payment with a promise to pay the remainder of the rent by a certain date. If you don’t know when you’d be able to make the remaining payment, Koz said it’s reasonable to make an agreement based upon a specific occurrence.

For example, you might ask if you can pay the remainder once your kids’ school starts and you can pick up more hours at work.

Instead of suggesting a partial payment, you could ask to skip paying for one month and spread that payment over the remainder of your lease if you think you’ll be able to pay the following month. Or you could negotiate for an overall reduction in rent given that you sign a new lease locking you in for a longer term.

Another option: Ask your landlord to apply your security deposit to the upcoming rent payment, agreeing to replace it at a later date. Or if you paid your last month’s rent upfront when you first signed your lease, you could ask to apply that money to next month’s rent.

Pro Tip

When trying to come up with a rent solution for the upcoming month, make sure you’re not creating a worse financial situation for yourself later on.

Something else you might consider is bartering. For example, you could agree to do landscape work for your landlord’s properties in exchange for a break on rent.

When trying to strike a deal, Thomas suggests coming up with at least three plausible solutions that work for your budget.

“Go with your best-case scenario first,” he said.

If your landlord won’t agree to that, ask for their input on mitigating the situation before presenting your other options.

Get Agreements in Writing

If you and your landlord are able to agree on an alternative plan for paying rent, make sure to get that deal in writing.

“If [your landlord] were to come back and say we didn’t agree to that, [you can say]: Actually we did and here’s proof,” said Pamela Capalad, a New York-based Certified Financial Planner and founder of Brunch and Budget.

Putting things in writing also helps eliminate misinterpretations of your agreement, she said.

However, when signing a lease addendum or other paperwork, don’t rush into a contract with terms you don’t understand.

“If you’re not sure what you’re signing, you can always try to contact a tenants rights organization or an attorney,” Koz said. “Whatever you sign is something that you’re held to. If you don’t meet the terms of that agreement, you’re back where you started.”

Remember, You’re Not Alone

You may experience shame over not paying rent or fear over potentially losing your home, but try not to let that lead you to making drastic decisions.

“The thing I would recommend, if you can avoid it, is to not take out loans to pay rent,” Capalad said.

It can be comforting to put things in perspective and realize you’re not the only one who can’t pay your rent right now, she said.

4 Additional Solutions If You Can’t Pay Rent

In the event that your landlord won’t budge on requiring you to pay your rent in full, it’s good to have a backup plan. Here are a few ideas.

1. Seek Housing Assistance

Look into local housing assistance or eviction prevention programs for emergency funding to help keep you in your home.

The United Way’s 211 network is a great way to connect to resources in your community. Other charities, like Modest Needs, may also be able to help. Your landlord may even know of housing assistance options in your area.

2. Bring In a Roommate

If you can find a good roommate, you can split housing expenses and lower your financial obligation. Just make sure you properly vet the potential roommate and your landlord approves of the new tenant.

Subleasing your place could be another route to take, provided your landlord allows it and you have somewhere else you can crash in the meantime.

3. Sell Something

Make some extra dough by selling unwanted items around your home. Put that money toward the rent.

You can even make sales while practicing social distancing. Check out these 14 websites for selling things online.

4. Get Another Gig

Get money for rent by landing a new job — or securing a second source of income.

Consider a side gig, like a food delivery driver or a pet sitter, where you’re paid based on how much work you take on. These jobs often pay faster than traditional jobs that run on a biweekly schedule.

Many retailers and restaurants are hiring to make up for a shortage of workers. Some are even offering sweet sign-on bonuses.

Now is also a great time to find a job where you can work remotely. There are several gigs that are perfect for doing virtually, like freelance writing. Check out The Penny Hoarder’s work-from-home job portal for new job opportunities posted every weekday.

Feeling overwhelmed? Create a budget that works for you with our budgeting bootcamp!

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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