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Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider

The ultimate question: Could you and your friend make the perfect business duo? The answer may be more complicated than you think. You love spending time with your friend and the idea of becoming entrepreneurs together. Why not fulfill your dreams with each other? Companies like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s had success in this area — they all started from friendships.

But much more goes into starting a business with a friend. You may make great business partners, or you could wish you had taken your venture solo. Before making any financial decisions, analyze the pros and cons and ask hard questions. For example, will you equally invest? Who will take on which tasks and responsibilities? Sift through the easy and hard questions to see where your business friendship lies.

To help you and your friend make a confident and informed decision, skip to our flowchart or keep reading.

karen-gordon-quote

Questions to Ask Before Going Into Business With a Friend

Before jumping into your business plan, ask the hard questions. These can be tough to ask and answer, but they could save your friendship from a business relationship gone sour.

Question 1: Do You Share the Same Values?

Depending on your life stage and goals, your values could differ greatly from those of your potential business partner. You may appreciate living a relaxed lifestyle that gives you the financial freedom to do what you love, while others may value a fast-paced lifestyle filled with activities and long workdays. Differences in values could spark tension in your business relationship.

Ask yourself: Do you and your potential business friend have the same values? If so, great! If not, note your differences and if they’re worth working through.

Question 2: Do You Share the Same Business Goal?

To make sure you’re on the same page, schedule a brainstorming session with your friend. Map out your one-month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals for your startup. Is your goal to make a certain amount of revenue? To hire a certain number of full-time employees? Or to take your business idea global?

If you have the same intentions, move on to question three. If any of your goals contrast, there may be trouble in paradise. See if you can work through your differences before investing your time and money.

Question 3: Do Your Skills Complement Each Other?

You and your friend each have your own strengths For example, you may be good at time management while your friend is better at sales. For skills you’re both lacking, think about how you’ll fill in the gaps. If you and your friend’s startup plan has a budget for hiring freelancers, or one of you has the dedication to learn something new, this may not be a concern. No matter what, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business idea, it’s essential to talk through it.

If you don’t compliment each other’s needed skills, who will step up and learn them?

Question 4: Do Your Career and Lifestyle Habits Align?

Depending on your business goals, this could be a make or break question for a professional partnership. For instance, one friend may be a morning person while the other’s a night owl. One can take over morning meetings and emails while the other’s responsible for evening website development and customer service.

If one friend’s lifestyle habits don’t suit the other, it may be best to opt for other business opportunities. While starting a business could adjust your habits, it’s easy to fall back into old ones from time to time.

baylie-carlson-quote

The Pros and Cons of Doing Business With Friends

Before entering any business arrangement, it’s reassuring to weigh the pros and cons. Could your new business idea benefit or hinder your future relationship and career?

Pros: You Have a Friend Through the Ups and Downs

Starting a business with a friend is similar to marriage — you’re there for each other through the good and bad. Whenever you’re having trouble, you know who you can go to for help. And you’ll be able to do most tasks together. For example, approaching investors as a team vs. going solo could put your nerves at ease.

Cons: You Know the Same People

Instead of getting together for your weekly catch-ups, you could spend all day together! While this can be exciting, it can also be hard to leave work at work. When you both hang out with the same people, there may be little room to disconnect from each other and your business.

Pros: You Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses

You likely already know how each other operates and your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of learning the way a new business partner functions, you already have the upper hand. On day one, you and your partner could delegate tasks that fit everyone’s strengths best.

Cons: Your Friendship Could Turn Strictly Business

Your current friendship can be hard to separate from your new work partnership. Taking your work too seriously could stiffen your current relationship. Even after your work’s done, “friend” time may slow down. To have the best of both worlds, over-communicate throughout your entrepreneurial adventures.

mike-falahee-quote

Pros: You Feel Comfortable Communicating

You may have been friends for months, years, or even decades. Having a strong friendship foundation helps bolster your communication in the workplace. Plus, you most likely know how your friend may react to a situation gone wrong. Take note of your friends’ communication habits and foster them throughout your business relationship.

Cons: It’s Easy to Let Emotions Get the Best of You

Be careful not to let your emotions dictate your business decisions. A situation could happen in your friend group that makes its way into the office. To avoid any personal matters in the workplace, come to an agreement — no drama. If situations arise, take some time off to clear your mind, rest, and come back more motivated and inspired.

Pros: You Get to Spend More Time With Each Other

You get to spend countless hours talking and doing business activities together. You could spend all day tackling business tasks and wrap up the workday chit-chatting about your lives. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your friend without letting other responsibilities slip through the cracks.

Cons: Friendship Failure Could End in Financial and Business Failure

When tension builds in the workplace, it could damage your business outcomes. Not wanting to attend a meeting with your partner could halt business productivity, or worse, end it. To avoid losing profits on your friendship and investments, you should both outline an exit plan if things go wrong.

Tips for Starting a Business With Your Friend

Before toasting to your other half and investing in your passions, properly prepare yourself. Show up to your new business like you would a new job. Have your plan documented before building your business empire.

1. Nit-Pick Your Business Plan

Small issues could grow months or years after starting your business. To avoid future problems, talk through small and large inconsistencies with your partner. Having different lifestyle habits may not be an issue now, but could be difficult after a year of working together.

2. Communicate Often

About one third of projects lack proper communication. Avoid project or business failure by finding a communication method that works for you and your partner. Daily catch-up meetings or weekly email updates are a few examples. Make it enjoyable by sipping your favorite coffee or eating your lunch while playing catch up.

3. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Eliminate tension in the workplace by setting a rubric for working hours. Avoid talking about personal matters until you step away from your work tasks. If you and your partner need to establish additional boundaries, clearly outline them as they come up.

4. Make it Official With Contracts

Once you’ve worked through any complications, put it all in writing. If things were to go wrong, documents and written statements can be referenced in court. To do this, contact a lawyer and draft up a business plan. Any business promises you make should be in writing for any miscommunications. Compensation rates, profit shares, investment contributions, and business accounts are a few things that should be listed on this document.

Before investing your time, energy, or money into your startup dreams, make sure you’re fully prepared. Could you and your friend be great business partners? Take our quiz below to find out. Don’t forget to keep track of your budget and investments throughout the startup process.

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score, and How Do You Get It?

A woman sits on a couch with her laptop in her lap.

Do you keep a close eye on your personal finances? Or maybe you’ve never given them much thought. Either way, it’s time to start paying more attention to your credit score. Your credit score can control a lot—what loans you qualify for, the credit cards that are available to you, etc. To keep on top of it all, it’s important to check your credit score. But how often can you check your credit score, exactly?

You know what they say: knowledge is power. Find out how often you can check your credit score below so you can arm yourself with knowledge about your personal finances.

The Difference Between Your Credit Score and Credit Report

Before looking into how often you can check your credit score, it’s important to understand the difference between a credit score and a credit report. They can be easy to confuse, so you might think they’re the same—but they’re not.

Your credit report is a detailed document about your credit history. It shows active and past accounts, whether you paid on time and how much credit you’ve used compared to open balances. Other information might include names of your past employers if you’ve ever included them on a credit application, as well as negative records such as collections accounts and bankruptcies.

Your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that’s calculated based on all the information in your credit report. There are many credit scoring models, including popular models such as FICO and VantageScore.

While credit scoring models all work toward the same goal—providing an overall picture of how likely you are to pay your debts—they do so with slight variations in the formulas. That means your credit scores might vary between these models.

You also have more than one credit report. Not every lender or business reports to all three of the major credit bureaus, for example. So the information in your credit file can also vary slightly. That also means that you have different credit scores, too.

How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score for Free?

Here’s where the difference between credit score and credit report comes in. You can get your free credit report from each of the three major bureaus via AnnualCreditReport.com.

Usually, the reports are available once every year. Which means you could get a look at your credit information every four months by spreading out your requests for each of the bureaus. However, due to personal financial stress related to COVID-19 and to help consumers best manage credit and finances during this time, AnnualCreditReport.com and the three credit bureaus are making reports available weekly through April 2021.

Unfortunately, a free credit report doesn’t mean a free credit score. When you order your report you get the detailed information in your file. You don’t get the score the bureau might show lenders when you apply for credit. To get regular access to your credit scores, you typically have to pay for it.

Reasons to Check Your Credit Report and Score

So why do you need to keep tabs on your credit score and credit report? Here are a few reasons:

  • Keeping a regular eye on your credit report helps you identify inaccurate negative items that might be dragging down your score. The faster you catch and challenge the accuracy of these items, the more likely you’re able to prove they’re not correct. The credit bureaus have to remove them if they can’t be proven correct.
  • Checking your credit report regularly helps you see whether suspicious activity is occurring, which can indicate that you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud. Again, knowing and acting early can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
  • Knowing your credit score and how it moves up and down over time can also help you understand whether there might be issues with your report. If you see the score moving in a negative direction and aren’t sure why, you can investigate further.
  • You might want to check your credit before you apply for a loan, especially one with greater qualification requirements such as a mortgage. That way, you can fix any possible issues before a lender evaluates you for approval.
  • You may also want to ensure there aren’t any surprises on your report before you apply to rent an apartment, get auto insurance quotes or send your resume in for a job opportunity, as some of these opportunities can depend in part on your credit history.
  • If you’re working to improve your credit history and score, you may want to see that your efforts are having a positive impact.

How Can You Get Your Credit Score?

You might have access to your credit score via your credit card provider. If this is a benefit you get as a card holder, you can typically see the score by logging into your credit card account online or via a mobile app. The downside is that this is only one possible version of your score.

You can see another version of your score by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. You’ll get a score that updates every 14 days as well as information about the five major factors that go into determining credit scores and how you’re faring with each.

If you want to get more bang for your buck, it might be time to look at ExtraCredit. You’ll get access to five useful services, including TrackIt, which will give you a look into 28 of your FICO Scores. 

How Many Points Does Your Credit Score Go Down for an Inquiry?

Requesting your own score or credit report doesn’t impact your score at all. That’s because this is considered a soft inquiry. Only hard inquiries impact your credit score. Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit to evaluate you for a loan or other credit.

So, whether you’re requesting your credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com or investing in a service such as ExtraCredit, get as much information about your credit as you can. It won’t hurt your score to do so.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score, and How Do You Get It? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

8 401(k) Investing Tips to Maximize Your 401(k)

woman with laptop and clipboard

The best kind of 401(k) plan is one that is used. The employer-sponsored retirement plan is typically easy to open and fund (with pre-tax dollars often deducted straight from your paycheck), and offers tax benefits vs. saving and investing in a brokerage account.

Understanding the nuances of this all-important savings vehicle may help catapult investors into full-blown expert territory, helping them maximize their 401(k) investing.

While everyone’s financial and retirement situation is different, there are some useful 401(k) investing tips that could be helpful to anyone using this popular investment plan to boost their retirement savings. These 401(k) should apply no matter what stage of retirement saving you’re in—as long as you’re participating in a 401(k).

1. Take Advantage of Your Employer Match
2. Consider Your Circumstances Before Contributing the Match
3. Understand Your 401(k) Investment Options
4. Stay the Course
5. Change Your Investments Over Time
6. Find—and Keep—Your Balance
7. Diversify
8. Beware Early Withdrawals

#1 Take Advantage of Your Employer Match

This first 401(k) tip is admittedly basic, but also probably the most important. Understanding your employer match is essential to making the most of your 401(k).

Also called a company match, an employer match is a contribution made to your 401(k) by your employer, but only when you contribute to your account first.

Withdrawing money early from a 401(k) can result in a hefty penalty.

There are some exceptions, depending on what you’ll use the withdrawn funds for. For example, qualified first-time home buyers may be exempt from the early distribution penalty. But for the most part, if you know you need to save for some big pre-retirement expenses, it may be better to do so in a non-qualified account.

Another consideration is whether to put all of your eggs in your 401(k) basket. Of course, these accounts can offer big benefits in terms of tax deferral and may come with a matching contribution from your employer as well. But individuals who are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, may consider splitting contributions between the two accounts.

While 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax dollars and taxes are paid when you make a withdrawal, Roth IRA contributions are the opposite—taxed on the way in, but not on the way out (with some exceptions).

If you’re concerned about being in a higher tax bracket at retirement than you are now, a Roth IRA can make sense as a complement to your 401(k). The caveat is that these accounts are only available to people below a certain income level.

#3 Understand Your 401(k) Investment Options

The first step is contributing to a 401(k); the second is directing that money into particular investments. Typically, plan participants are able to choose from a list of mutual funds to invest in for the long-term. Some 401(k) plans may give participants the option of a lifecycle fund or a retirement target-date fund.

To pick the right mutual funds, you may want to consider what is being held inside those mutual funds. For example, a mutual fund that is invested in stocks means that you are now invested in the stock market.

With each option, ask yourself: Does the underlying investment make sense for your goals and risk tolerance? Are you prepared to stay the course in the event of a stock market correction?

You may also want to consider the fees charged by your mutual fund options, because any management fee will be subtracted from your potential future returns. When analyzing your options, look for what is called the expense ratio—that’s the annual management fee.

#4 Stay the Course

Many investors will have at least a part of their 401(k) money invested in the stock market, whether through mutual funds or by holding individual stocks.

If you’re not used to investing, it can be tempting to panic over small losses. This is also known as a day-trader mentality, and it is one of the worst things you can do—especially with a 401(k). Remember, investing in the stock market is generally considered for the long haul.

Getting spooked by a dip (or even a stock market crash like the one in 2008) and pulling your money out of the market is generally a poor strategy, because you are locking in what could possibly amount to be “paper” or temporary losses. The thinking goes, if you wait long enough, that stock might rebound and your loss will go away. (Though as always, past performance is no predictor of future success.)

It may help to remember that although stock market crashes are disappointing, they are a normal and natural part of the growth cycle. Remember, the goal is to be patient and let the stock market do its thing.

Some investors find it helpful to only check their 401(k) balance occasionally, rather than obsess over day-to-day fluctuations.

#5 Change Your Investments Over Time

Lots of things change as we age, and one of the most important 401(k) tips is to change your investing along with it. While some principles of retirement saving are eternal—use the employer match as much as you can, don’t trade too much, pay attention to fees—some 401(k) advice is specific to where you are relative to retirement.

While everyone’s situation is different and economic conditions can be unique, one rule of thumb is that as you get closer to retirement, it makes sense to shift the composition of your investments away from higher risk but potentially higher growth assets like stocks, and towards lower risk, lower return assets like bonds.

There are types of funds and investments that manage this change over time, like target date funds, that make this strategizing easier. Some investors choose to make these changes themselves as part of a quarterly or annual rebalancing.

#6. Find—And Keep—Your Balance

While you may want your 401(k) investments to change over time, at any given time, you should have a certain goal of how your investments should be allocated: a certain portion in bonds, stocks, international stocks, American stocks, large companies, small companies, and so on.

But these targets and goals for allocation can change over time even if your allocations and investment choices don’t change. That’s because certain investments may grow faster than others and thus, by no explicit choice of your own, they take up a bigger portion of your portfolio over time.

Rebalancing is a process where, every year or every few months, you buy and sell shares in the investments you have in order to keep your asset allocation where it was at the beginning of the year.

For example, if you have 80% of your assets in a diversified stock market fund and 20% of your assets in a diversified bond fund, over the course of a year, those allocations may end up at 83% and 17%.

To address that, you might either sell shares in the stock fund and buy shares in the bond fund in order to return to the original 80/20 mix, or adjust your allocations going forward to hit the target in the next year.

#7 Diversify

In addition to employer matching, diversification is considered one of the few “free lunches” for investors. By diversifying your investments, you can help to lower the risk of your assets tanking while still being exposed to the gains of the market.

difference between stocks and bonds.)

Within stocks, diversification can mean investing in US stocks, international stocks, big companies, and small companies. But rather than, for example, owning shares in one big American company, one big Japanese company, a multi billion-dollar company, and a smaller company, it might make sense instead buy diversified funds in all these categories that are diversified within themselves—thus offering exposure to the whole sector without being at the risk of any given company collapsing.

#8 Beware Early Withdrawals

Perhaps the most important 401(k) tip is to remember that the 401(k) is designed for retirement, with funds withdrawn only after a certain age. The system works by letting you invest income that isn’t taxed until distribution. But if you withdraw from your 401(k) early, much of this advantage disappears.

With few exceptions, the IRS imposes a 10% tax penalty on withdrawals made before age 59½. That 10% tax is on top of any regular income taxes a plan holder would pay on 401(k) withdrawals. While withdrawals are sometimes unavoidable, the steep cost of withdrawing funds should be a strong reason not to, as it wipes away much of the gains that can come from 401(k) investing.

If you would like to buy a car or a house, or pay off debt, there are other options to explore. First consider pulling money from any accounts that don’t have an early withdrawal penalty, such as a Roth IRA (contributions can be withdrawn penalty-free as long as they’ve met the 5-taxable-year rule) or a brokerage account.

The Takeaway

If you have a 401(k) through your employer, you may want to consider taking advantage of it. Not only might you have a company match, but automatic contributions taken directly from your paycheck and deposited into your 401(k) may keep you from forgetting to contribute.

That said, a 401(k) is not the only option for saving and investing money for the long-term. One such option is a Roth IRA. While there are income limitations to who can use a Roth IRA, these accounts also tend to have a bit more flexibility when withdrawing funds than 401(k) plans. (If you don’t qualify for a Roth IRA, ask your tax professional for additional guidance.)

Another option is to open an investment account that is not tied to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Sometimes called a brokerage or after-tax account, these accounts don’t have the special tax treatment of retirement-specific accounts, but can still be viable ways to save money for people who have maxed out their 401(k) contributions or are looking for an alternative way to invest.

Find out how SoFi Invest® can help you start saving for your future.


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term “SoFi Invest” refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital Assets—The Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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The post 8 401(k) Investing Tips to Maximize Your 401(k) appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

Zero-Based Budgeting: The Ultimate Guide

When you create a budget that works for you, you gain a sense of peace and freedom that comes with taking ownership of your finances. Although there are many approaches to budgeting, certain systems prove to be more effective than others. Zero-based budgeting is an easy and reliable method to achieve your financial goals. The concept of zero-based budgeting is simple: When you create your budget, you assign a role for every single dollar of your income.

By knowing exactly where your hard-earned cash is going, zero-based budgeting eliminates uncertainty and increases confidence in your financial decisions. Could a zero-sum approach to budgeting be the key to helping you regain your financial freedom? We’ll walk you through the specifics of this detail-oriented budgeting method so you can decide if it’s the right choice for your situation.

What Is Zero-Based Budgeting?

In short, zero-based budgeting is when you allocate every dollar you earn so that your income minus your expenses equals zero. If you earn $3,000 a month, the entirety of that $3,000 is accounted for in a zero-based budget. The goal is to avoid having extra money at the end of the month so you make wise spending choices.

Your budget should allow for spending money on monthly expenses like groceries and utilities, as well as “fun money.” Rather than waiting to see what’s left over after taking care of bills and other essentials, a zero-based budget forces you to make financial decisions in advance. If you truly want to align your actions with your financial goals, you’ll realize that every penny needs a purpose to make the most of it.

zero based budgeting

By forcing you to decide how much of your income will go towards goals like paying off debt or saving for a house before you even receive your check, zero-based budgeting encourages you to stick to your goals.

Is Zero-Based Budgeting Right For You?

Zero-based budgeting can be for everyone. A damaging myth of budgeting is that it’s only for people who lack the discipline to hold themselves accountable. No matter how much you’re struggling or thriving financially, you can benefit from taking control of your money with a zero-based budget. If you’re still skeptical about zero-based budgeting, take a look below at how it compares to the four other most popular budgeting alternatives, including the 50/30/20 method:

  • Zero-Based Budget: Make sure your expenses match your income each month so that your earnings minus your costs equal zero.
  • “Pay Yourself First” Budget: Dedicate money to savings and then the remainder is free to be spent how you choose.
  • Envelope Budget: Divide cash into physical envelopes filled with the exact amount of money you can spend on that category.
  • 50/30/20 Budget: 50% of your income is for essentials, 30% is for personal expenses, and 20% goes towards savings.
  • Value-Based Budget: Calculate the monthly cost of each need based on your values, then choose how to stretch your income to meet those needs.

When you don’t know exactly how you intend to divide your money each month, it’s easy to fall into spending traps. A zero-based budget using a digital budgeting tool is a great way to set yourself up for success and stick to your plan.

How to Create a Zero-Based Budget

Develop a zero-based budgeting plan by making it as simple as possible. Your main objective is ensuring your expenses match your income during the month. Don’t overcomplicate the process by stressing about making the “perfect” plan. The best part about creating a zero-based budget is that it’s easy to adjust month-over-month.

how to create a zero based budget

1. Record Your Monthly Income and Expenses

Write down every single monthly and seasonal expense to set yourself up for success. If you don’t know where to start, you know you’ll always have to factor in the cost of housing, utilities, transportation, and groceries.

Next, consider expenses you’re saving for, like a new car, a birthday or anniversary gift, etc. With a little bit of forethought, there shouldn’t be any surprises. It’s wise to set aside cash for unexpected or one-off expenses so you’re not immediately dipping into your emergency fund.

2. Adjust Your Budget Until Income Minus Expenses Equals Zero

When you’re new to zero-based budgeting, don’t worry if your income and expenses don’t balance each other out at first. It’s likely that you’ll have to reduce recurring costs or increase your earnings to reach a zero-sum. Canceling unnecessary subscriptions, packing your own lunch, skipping Starbucks, and starting a passive income-generating side hustle are all helpful.

Using an app with a budget categorization feature is particularly useful when you’re in the trial and error phase. Otherwise, it can be tedious and discouraging to manually re-adjust your budgeting strategy.

3. Track and Optimize Your Monthly Spending Accordingly

A zero-based budget is rarely flawless the first time around. Thankfully, you can optimize your spending by reallocating your funds as often as you need to during the month. Be sure to set yourself calendar reminders to have budget check-ins on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, especially if you’re working on budgeting as a family.

There are countless ways to increase and decrease your dollar allocations according to what makes the most sense for your circumstances. Oftentimes, three to six months are required to master zero-based budgeting. Once you get the hang of it, chances are that you’ll enjoy reaping the rewards so much that you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Pros and Cons of Zero-Based Budgeting

There’s no right or wrong answer to how you choose to manage your finances, but the key is that you need some kind of systematic approach to handling your money. Budgets are essential to help you build an emergency fund, save for retirement, pay off loans, or grow wealth through investing. If you aren’t sure that zero-based budgeting is the best strategy for you, we’ve outlined the pros and cons below.

pros and cons of zero based budgeting

Business management expert Peter Drucker is well-known for saying, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.” If you want to make progress towards your financial goals, you need a way to define and track where your money will go. If you’re not convinced that a zero-based budget will work for you, don’t force it. You can always give it a try for a month or two and fall back on a different budgeting solution.

In Summary…

Zero-based budgeting is an easy and effective method to help you achieve your financial dreams. Don’t miss the chance to get the most value from your money by budgeting. We’ve summed up our main points below.

  • Zero-based budgeting is when all of your income minus all your expenses equals zero. Every dollar of your hard-earned cash has a specific, purpose-driven role.
  • Having a zero-based budget allows you to make your income go further by proactively allocating your funds to different areas of spending and saving.
  • Using a digital budgeting tool like Mint helps to set yourself up for success and hold you accountable in your zero-based budgeting goals.

 

The post Zero-Based Budgeting: The Ultimate Guide appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Buying a home, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, can be daunting and nerve racking.

But it does not have to be. LendingTree’s online loan marketplace has got you covered – at least when it comes to getting a mortgage.

A 2016 study by the Office of Research of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection reveals that prospective buyers who shop for a mortgage when buying a home for the first time report “increases consumers’ knowledge of the mortgage market and increases consumers’ self confidence in their ability to deal with mortgage related issues.”

The importance of shopping for a mortgage as a first-time home buyer is that it saves you money in the long term and “reduces the cost of consumers’ mortgages,” the study found.

The home-buying process can be intimidating. So being aware of these mistakes when buying a home for the first time can help you save thousands and thousands of dollars in the long term.

Tips for Buying a Home
To guide you through a major financial decision like the purchase of a home, you may want to talk to a financial advisor.

Luckily, SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool can help you find a suitable financial advisor in your area to work with.

Get started now.

10 Mistakes to avoid when buying a home for the first time.

1. Not knowing your credit score.

We are all aware that the higher your credit score, the better.
Yet, despite this fact, many people fail to check their credit score before
buying their first home.

And a low credit score can lead to a high interest mortgage loan, or even worse, a loan rejection. Given the fact that your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lender looks at, it pays off to know where you stand.

Credit Sesame will let you know what your credit score is for free and monitor it for you. It will also offer tips on how to raise your credit score and reduce your debt.

Just sign up for a free account – it only takes 90 seconds.

2. Not shopping and comparing mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates and fees vary across lenders. In other words, two applicants with the identical credentials can get different mortgage rates. Despite this, however, many fist-time homebuyers fail to shop and compare mortgage rates before buying their first home.

The study reveals that 30 percent first time homebuyers do not
compare and shop for their mortgages, and more than 75 percent reported
applying for a mortgage with only one mortgage lender.

The study further reveals that “failing to comparison shop for a
mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands
of dollars over the life of the loan.”

An easy way to shop and compare for a mortgage is with LendingTree. Their simple and straightforward platform can help you find and apply for the right loan all in one place.

3. Sticking with the first mortgage lender you meet.

While it’s tempting to work with your local mortgage lender who’s
only a few blocks away from your home, this decision requires more time. Take
time to meet with at least three mortgage lenders before picking the best match
for you.

Fortunately, LendingTree free online platform, allows you to quickly browse several mortgage rates with several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

4. Not knowing what loans are available to you.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, one thing you need to address is what types of loans are available to me. Sometimes the answer to this can be quite simple: conventional loan. This is because most people know about this type of loan.

But conventional loan requires at least 20% down payment. And the credit score needs to be in the 700. *Note: You can put less than 20% down payment, but you will have to pay for a private insurance mortgage (PMI).

Sometimes it’s not feasible to come up with that type of money as a first time home buyer. So knowing if other loans are available to you is very important.

FHA loan

One type of loan that is popular among first time home buyers is FHA loan. It is so popular because it’s easier to get qualified for it. And the down payment is very little comparing to that of a conventional loan.

For example, FHA loans require a 580 credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price. This makes it easier to qualify for a home loan when you’re on a low income.

VA loans

VA loans are another great option for first-time homebuyers. However, you have to be a veteran. Unlike a FHA or a conventional loan, VA loans require no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This can save you thousands of dollars per year.

So if you’re in market for a loan to buy your first home, you need to educate yourself about the different available loans.


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


5. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first time home buying mistakes you should avoid making is not getting a pre-approval letter. You can simply contact a lender and request it. The mortgage lender will pull your credit report to make sure you have the minimum credit score requirement.

They will also need your bank statements, W2s, recent income tax returns, pay-stubs to verify your employment and ability to afford the loan.

Why this is important? A pre-approval letter means that you’re a serious buyer. It signals that you’re able to commit to the house once an offer has been accepted. It also makes you more desirable than the other potential buyers.

Get a Pre-Approval for a Mortgage Today

6. Not knowing how much you can afford

Buying a home is probably going to be the biggest expenses you’ve ever made. But buying a house you cannot afford can lead to financial trouble along the road. Paying an expensive mortgage for 15 to 30 years on a low income can be hard.

So it pays to know how much house you can afford before you start searching for your home.

The best way to know how much house you can afford is to look at your budget. Take into account your expenses and income and other costs associated with owning a home.

7. Not knowing other upfront costs

If you think that the only cost to buying a home is a down payment, then think again. There are several upfront costs associated with owning a house. These upfront costs include private mortgage insurance, inspection costs, loan application fees, repair costs, moving costs, appraisal costs, earnest money, home association dues.

As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough money to cover these costs.

8. Failure to inspect your home.

Although some banks would prefer you inspect your home before they offer you a loan, it’s not mandatory. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Not inspecting your home can cost you a lot. Inspection discovers defects that you may not know about. Inspection costs can be anywhere from $300 to $700.

Don’t be stingy with these costs. It’s better to find out about any hidden defects , like a faulty wiring and plumbing, than finding about them later. To avoid regretting your decision or having to spend thousand of dollars on repairs down the road, consider an inspector.

9. Failure to check out the neighborhood.

Just because the street or the neighborhood your potential house is located is quiet or is not run down doesn’t mean crime is not a problem. So before buying your home, you should check out the neighborhood. Take a trip at night to get a feeling of the environment. Talk to residents. Most importantly, check with the local police station – they can be a great resource when it comes to crime rates in a particular location. This is simply one of the first time home buying tips you shouldn’t ignore.

10. Searching for a mortgage on your own.

There are several mortgage lenders available to you. But choosing one that is right for you can be tough.

The LendingTree online platform makes it easy and simple for you to find the right home loan for you. Now you can get matched up to several mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. And the whole process just takes a few minutes.

Follow these steps to get matched with the right mortgage:

  1. Go to www.lendingtree.com;
  2. Answer a few questions regarding the type pf loan yo need and you’ll use it. Within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple, competing offers from several lenders;
  3. You then shop and compare offers side by side.

Ready to get started? Find your best loan!

The bottom line is when it comes to buying a home for the first time, you should not take any shortcut. Doing so can cost a lot of money down the road. So before buying your first home, make sure you get the right mortgage loan, inspect the home, and have enough money to cover some of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with owning a house.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

Still looking for first time home buying tips? You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you’ve been keeping your eye on real estate home listings, you might’ve seen more foreclosed properties for sale at a reduced price. 

With record levels of unemployment and underemployment, many homeowners are falling further behind on their mortgages. Currently, there’s a federal moratorium on the most common mortgage programs through December 31, 2020. Unless further homeowner protections are in place, the foreclosure market will see an unfortunate rise.

In fact, according to mortgage and real estate analytics company Black Knight, 2.3 million homeowners are already seriously past-due on their mortgages. 

As devastating as it is to have more homes undergoing foreclosure, it also means that prospective home buyers, who were otherwise priced out of buying a home, might have greater access to homeownership. Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about buying a foreclosed home.

Buying a Foreclosed Home 

There are many ways you can buy a foreclosed home, depending on what stage of the process the foreclosure is in:

  • Pre-foreclosure. Many homeowners are willing to sell before they’ve officially been foreclosed on. Depending on how much equity they have, they might need to do a short sale. 
  • Short sale. Homeowners can seek approval from their lenders to sell you the home for less than they owe on the mortgage. The bank will get less than it’s owed, but it still often approves short sales since they usually cost less than a foreclosure. 
  • Auction. Once a home is foreclosed it’ll often be auctioned off by the bank. But you’ll need cash on hand for this, and that’s not an option for most folks who need mortgage financing. 
  • Real-estate owned (REO) properties. Alternatively, banks can simply sell the foreclosed home through more traditional markets, just like a normal home.

It’s usually easiest to buy the foreclosed home once the bank takes over and it becomes an REO property. That’s because you can take your time and go through the mortgage underwriting process. You can also work with a realtor, and — importantly — write contingency clauses in the contract that let you pull out of the deal if a home inspection reveals more repairs than you expected. 

7 Caveats to Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t exactly the same as buying one directly from the homeowner. You’re potentially buying a home from a bank who took over after the previous homeowners were unable to afford the home anymore. This introduces a few twists into the home-buying process for you. 

1. You’ll Need a Realtor Who Specializes in Foreclosed Homes

The world is full of realtors, even including your Uncle Bob and Cousin Carolyn. But not everyone is equipped to handle the nuances of buying a foreclosed home. There are a lot of issues that can crop up — unplanned property damage, squatters, homeowners who settle the bill and try to reclaim ownership, etc.

If you’re serious about buying a foreclosed home, seek out a realtor with extra experience in this area. There are even special designations that some realtors can get, such as Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) or Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE).

2. Houses Are Sold “As-Is”

With a typical home sale, you have the change to get the property professionally inspected before signing on the dotted line. It’s not uncommon for new issues to arise, and in a normal home buying transaction, you can often negotiate with the sellers to either fix the damage or discount the price. 

That’s not the case when you buy a foreclosed home. If a home inspection reveals unexpected damage — like the need for a full roof or a septic system replacement — banks often aren’t willing to negotiate. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it sale. 

3. Expect to Put In Some Work

The above point is especially important considering that most foreclosed homes do, in fact, need a lot of fixing up. 

Think about it: the previous homeowners lost the house because they couldn’t afford the mortgage. There’s a good chance they also weren’t able to keep up with routine maintenance either. From their perspective, even if they did have the cash, what’s the point of spending money on repairs, if they know they’ll lose the home in a few months?

You can save money by putting in some sweat equity (HGTV, anyone?), but even then you’ll need the cash to pay for materials. This also means that the home might not be move-in ready. If you do move in, you might need to put up with construction debris for a little while. On the bright side, though, this does give you a chance to upgrade the home to your own aesthetics. 

4. You Might Need Creative Financing

This brings up another issue: how do you pay for those renovations? Generally, you can’t just ask for a bigger mortgage to cover the necessary repairs. Most lenders will only lend you as much as the current home appraisal is worth, minus your down payment. 

You have a few options, though. You can hold some money back from your savings to pay for it in cash, but this means you’ll have a smaller down payment. An alternative is getting a loan from a different lender, like a personal loan, a 0% APR credit card, or even a home equity loan or line of credit if you’re lucky enough to start from a position with equity. 

Finally, there are some special “renovation mortgages” available through Fannie Mae and other lenders. These mortgages actually do allow you to take out a bigger mortgage so you can pay for renovations. You might need to provide a higher down payment or have a higher credit score to qualify, however. 

5. Watch for Liens on Foreclosed Homes at Auctions

If you have a big pot of cash and can pay for a home on the same day, an auction might be your best bet. But then you have to worry about a new factor: liens. 

If the property had any liens attached to it (such as from the previous homeowners not paying their taxes, or a judgement from unpaid debt), you’ll inherit that bill, too. 

This is usually only the case for auctioned homes. If you buy a foreclosed home as an REO sale, the bank generally pays off any liens attached to the property. Still, it may be worth double-checking if you have interest in a specific property. 

6. Be Prepared to Act Fast

You’re not the only one with the bright idea to get a low-priced, foreclosed home. Chances are good that there are a few other buyers interested in the property, which increases competition. Even though the home is listed at a big discount, this competition can still drive prices up. You might need to be ready to act fast, just the same as in any hot real estate market. 

7. Be Prepared to Wait

On the flip side, there’s a lot of extra bureaucracy involved in buying a foreclosed home once the seller accepts your offer. There’s often extra paperwork to fill out or other complications. 

For example, the home appraisal might come back lower than expected, which might make it harder to get enough financing for the agreed-on purchase price. If it’s a short sale, it might also take longer for the bank to approve the lower sale price for the home, based on what the homeowner’s mortgage is currently worth. 

Pros and Cons of Foreclosed Homes 

Buying a foreclosed home isn’t necessarily a good or bad idea on its own. It all depends on your own goals — for example, are you willing to figure out financing for repairs to get a deal on the home purchase price? Also consider how important it is for you to have a “move-in ready” home with no hassle. 

Weigh these pros and cons carefully, and what’s most important to you when buying a home. 

Pros Cons
Can get a deal that’s lower than market price Property is sold “as-is” and might not be move-in ready
Can customize the home to your specifications with repairs and upgrades Likely needs a lot of repairs and upgrades 
Requires creative financing for repairs and upgrades
Foreclosure process is long and might fall through 

The Bottom Line

Buying a foreclosed home can be a win-win situation. You get a home at a good price, and (usually) you can bring the property back to good, working order by fixing it up. As long as you go into the deal knowing that it’s not the same experience as a typical home purchase, buying a foreclosed home is a great way to launch into homeownership or real estate investing.   

The post What to Know Before Buying a Foreclosed Home appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

6 Top Robo-Advisers for Investing

Getting started on retirement saving can be daunting when there are so many confusing options. There are thousands of stocks, not to mention other complex-sounding things to buy: bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, futures. And when you start reading about them, you’re liable to run into an impenetrable wall of investment jargon. So do you go it alone, taking shots in the dark with your…

Source: moneytalksnews.com

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