Tag: Life Hacks

 

10 Quotes to Remember if You Want to Achieve Financial Freedom

Do you ever dream of spending your days doing what you want? Do you visualize spending your money how you please, without stress or worry?

Indeed, achieving financial freedom is a dream for many of us, but getting there can seem out of reach. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

If your goal is to achieve financial independence, you’ve got to start taking steps to achieve your goal – right now. Here are 10 quotes to inspire you. Take a look:

1. “Rich people believe ‘I create my life.’ Poor people believe ‘Life happens to me.’” — T. Harv Eker, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

Financial freedom starts with having the right mindset to pursue wealth and all of your audacious goals. This quote reminds us that people who are rich have an active role in designing their dream life. They’re not passive players in the game of life or building wealth.

2. “Your assets are your employees. Invest more on those performing well. Let the non performers go.” ― Manoj Arora, From the Rat Race to Financial Freedom

Let your money work as hard as you do. Your assets include your hard-earned dough and you’ll want to invest that money in a place with high returns, like index funds. Don’t store all your cash in a savings account or in other assets that ultimately don’t serve your goal of financial freedom. Imagine you are the CEO of your money — your assets are your employees. Who should be fired? And who should be promoted?

3. “Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.” ― Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life

Have you ever been at work and just wished you were at home with your kids or on the beach somewhere? The process of working and making money is something we trade for our life energy — energy that we want to use elsewhere. When we save money and pursue financial freedom, we can have some of our life energy back and choose to live life as we want, not as we have to.

4. “The secret to wealth is simple: Find a way to do more for others than anyone else does. Become more valuable. Do more. Give more. Be more. Serve more.” ― Tony Robbins, Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom

Pursuing financial freedom means breaking the status quo. You can no longer live in the ‘average’ but you have to go beyond. This quote reminds us that to build wealth and be successful we must give, serve, and be a cut above everyone else.

5. “Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time.” — Margaret Bonnano

Money is an important part of financial freedom. But it’s simply a vehicle to pursue living your best life. You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. Knowing this distinction can help you build wealth in a way that frees up your time so you can be truly wealthy.

6. “To get rich, you have to be making money while you’re asleep.”  — David Bailey

I hate to break it to you but if you limit your money-earning abilities to eight hours a day, you’re not going to find financial freedom. In order to build wealth, you must make money when you’re sleeping. This means earning interest on your savings in a high-yield savings account. This means investing in retirement vehicles and the stock market. This means finding new passive income streams. The bottom line: figure out how to earn money ‘round the clock.

7. “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett

There’s some level of risk with almost everything we do, especially when it comes to the stock market and your money. You might be afraid to invest because it’s risky. But, if you understand how the stock market works, you will have more confidence to pursue financial freedom.

8. “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life.” — Suze Orman

The ‘what ifs’ of life can plague your mind. What if I get sick? What if I lose my job? It can be paralyzing. Financial freedom offers the ultimate antidote to life’s worries: peace of mind.

9. “Financial freedom is freedom from fear.” — Robert Kiyosaki

Have you ever felt stifled or stuck because you were fearful? You were scared to quit your job because of money. You were afraid to move because you weren’t sure about the opportunities you’d have in a new place. Fear can consume us and keep us stagnant. Financial freedom helps alleviate those fears so we can pursue action.

10. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” —Seneca

When we think of people that are wealthy, we may think of people with nice houses and fancy cars. But that’s not necessarily what truly wealthy people look like. In fact, if we keep wanting more and more, we will be stuck in a limitless cycle that keeps us poor. But if we take an inventory of what we already have — and stay grateful — we can enjoy what we have and build a wealthy life around what is truly important.

 

Biggest Financial Regrets Across America

For three years in a row, American adults have the same top financial regret. A May 2018 survey from Bankrate looks at the top financial regrets among Americans and how they deal with those financial regrets. By looking at the most common regrets, we know where we can best focus our future efforts on our investments, bank accounts, and beyond.

The top financial regrets of Americans

The number one financial regret among Americans is not saving for retirement early enough. This financial regret claims the top spot for the third year in a row in Bankrate’s annual Financial Security Index survey. This answer was number one for 18% of respondents.

Number two on the list is not saving enough for emergency expenses, with 14% of respondents most regretful about this. For workers in any profession, an emergency fund is an important part of maintaining financial stability. For freelancers and entrepreneurs, it is best to save at least six to 12 months of expenses in emergency savings.

The third most common regret is taking on too much credit card debt, with 10% of responses marking this as number one. This is no surprise, as Americans have over $1 trillion in credit card debt. The average household holds $8,600 in credit card debt.

Number four on the list is taking on too much student loan debt, a top regret for 8% of respondents. Americans have nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. 44.2 million Americans have student loans, according to Student Loan Hero data.

The fifth most common financial regret is not saving enough for a child’s education, coming in with 7%. Both number four and five on this list share a commonality: they relate to a high cost of college. Number one and number five also have a big common trait: they both involve savings. These two topics are an important part of Americans’ biggest financial struggles.

Last on the top financial regrets list is buying more house than you can afford, with two percent of respondents choosing this answer. Like college, housing costs generally go up, up, up over time. In some areas, buying even a modest home takes up a huge portion of take-home pay.

Here is the full results care of Bankrate:

Biggest financial regrets
via Bankrate

How Americans respond to financial regrets

The list of common financial regrets does not yield many surprises to those who follow economic news, but how people respond to their biggest regrets is a bit more interesting. A full 25% have no plans to deal with their biggest financial regret and continue to go on living with it.

Dealing with financial regrets
via Bankrate

A nice relief, however, comes from the 49% who are already working on addressing their biggest financial regret. Whether it is debt, savings, or something else, a good budget and focus on finances can help overcome most money challenges.

While better than the quarter of Americans with no plans to address financial regrets, 19% plan to start work on their money problems within a year while six percent plan to do so later on in the future.

Only with a long-term focus on your finances can you rise above the statistics and go forward with no money regrets. While most of us would want to be wealthy someday, it takes a real effort to turn that dream into a reality.

Avoiding the biggest financial regrets

The best way to avoid many common financial regrets is simple: avoid going into debt. While it may not seem like a big deal swiping a credit card for a TV or choosing the expensive out-of-state school, credit card debt and student loan debt payments are a very real.

The next major focus to avoid a big regret is to save. Start with even $1 per week. No amount is too small. You can always increase it later. But if you don’t start saving, you will never build up savings to pay for a home, education, or retirement.

Thanks to the time value of money, the sooner you save, the better. Compound interest and compound investment values help your money grow over time. If your money has more time to grow, the impact of that growth is exponentially helpful.

Live a life free of financial regrets

Recovering from financial regrets is very difficult. Rather than turn around a difficult situation, avoid it from the start. That is one of the best paths to lifestyle satisfaction and a life free of financial strain and worry.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

4 Things to Look for in a Mate to Get Aligned with Money

If I asked you what kind of person you’d like to spend your life with, you’d probably say you’re looking for someone who is attractive, funny, smart and well-traveled. One last thing: he or she should also have a great job.

But, even if your perfect mate seems to check all your boxes, you still should dive a little deeper by considering the unsexy, real life stuff. For example, you should take into account how your prospective partner handles money. Is he or she a spender or a saver? Does she use a bank that doesn’t charge fees? Does he pay his bills on time or readily use money-saving apps?

While money is often a taboo topic when you’re dating, it’s an important part of the potential mate portfolio. In fact, money is the No. 2 cause of divorce, according to Marriage.com.

“Couples fight over different money habits because there are fundamental differences in their value systems,” says Yulin Lee, Founder of Project M: Mind and Money.

Want to know how financially savvy your mate is – before you say I do? Here are 4 indicators that will give you a glimpse into your partner’s money habits.

1. Your mate has goals

You’ve probably read inspiring stories about people who embrace FIRE (financial independence retire early) and as a result of their smart money decisions, they’re able to travel the world, volunteer, and write books about it.

These people all have one thing in common: they have goals – meaning they have hopes and dreams of achieving more in their lives. Hopefully, your mate has goals and strives hard to achieve them as well.

So, ask the hard questions before saying “I do” and open up about short and long-term goals. Do you want to retire by the age of 45? Does your mate want to start a business someday? Lay it all out on the table.

2. Your mate has awesome communication skills

Poor communication skills ranked No. 3 in the Marriage.com list for why people divorce.

When you have open lines of communication, this brings you closer to your mate, according to marriage expert John Gottman.

So, sit down with your partner and discuss what’s important – to both of you. This will help you define shared values and build a solid foundation together.

3. Your mate has the money basics down

An important indicator of how your partner handles his finances will boil down to how much (or little) money he saves. While every situation is different, you should strive to save for these two key goals:

  • Emergencies and unexpected expenses. Indeed, it’s key to have an emergency savings account.
  • Retirement. If you want to enjoy your golden years and have enough money to live comfortably and pay your bills, start saving and growing your retirement fund – now.

As your relationship with your beau becomes more serious, you should also get the scoop on more detailed financial factors such as:

  • Budget: Does your mate have one and actually stick to it?
  • Credit score: What is it? High, low or somewhere in the middle?
  • Overall debt: Does your partner have student loans, mortgages and credit card debt? If so, how much?

Understanding how your partner saves, spends and budgets will help you both work towards joint financial goals.

4. Your mate aligns money with values

Value-based spending is a great way to get aligned with your money. Why? This gives you a deeper sense of meaning as you’ll be saving or spending your money based on what’s important to you.

For example, if sustainability and recycling is a way of life for you, perhaps you only shop for clothing at thrift stores or consignment shops. Or, perhaps you value outdoor activities and limit your TV and movie expenses to free up funds to travel to national parks. Pro tip: if your mate does this, she’s a keeper.

The key here is to figure out whether you and your mate value the same things, as this will make it easier to align your spending habits. Once you’ve aligned your money with your values, it’s time to establish a routine. As a starting point, establish a budget and follow up with it each month, says Lee of Project M: Mind and Money.

“Schedule it on the calendar so it doesn’t fall through the cracks when life gets busy. Set specific saving goals, and a plan for how to invest them. Tie a reward to the goals to keep the motivation going because human beings don’t always respond well to long term benefits,” says Lee.

Opposites Don’t Attract

Perhaps certain pairings make sense: introverts and extroverts, tall and short, drinker and designated driver. But, when it comes to money, couples need to be on the same page.

It’s hard to imagine a big spender and frugal person living together blissfully. Maybe there are exceptions, but that’s probably because they communicate often and compromise to make it work. But, for the most part, the way you manage your finances is a clear view into how you lead your life.

Money is unavoidable – you need it for just about everything. So, think about your spending habits and those of your partner. Work together to align your spending and savings goals. For example, maybe you want to align your desire for more freedom to travel and don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. If your mate also feels this way, together you can create a money plan and budget that reflects these goals.

“A mutual understanding of each other’s past and a shared vision for the future are the key foundations for creating financial success together,” says Lee.

 

Grocery Hacks: 7 Ways to Save Money at a Farmers Market

Farmers markets have a reputation for being expensive. A lot of the items for sale are typically organic and local, meaning vendors can demand a premium for them. But there are some tricks to saving a bit of money at farmers markets, just like there are tricks for saving money at a grocery store. Here are seven things you can try next weekend.

1. Go late

Heading to the farmers market early in the morning will get you the best pick of everything the vendors have to offer, just like an early trip to the grocery store. But unlike the grocery store, if you wait until an hour or so before the market closes, you have a better chance of getting some good deals on the produce and other items the vendors don’t want to pack up and take home. If they don’t offer you a discount, hold off, circle the stalls and try again just before they pack up. You can often cut your costs in half.

2. Ask for discounts

If it’s getting close to the time they pack up and they haven’t offered you a discounted price, go ahead and make them a lower offer. If the tomatoes are marked as $4, it’s easy to say “I’ll take those off your hands for $2.50 so you don’t have to pack them up.” You’re not exactly asking for a discount, and chances are they’ll take your offer or counter it.

3. Get to know the vendors

Going to the market late also gives you a chance to chat a little more with the vendors since most people have already come and gone. Ask about their operations, what if any special products they’ll have in the coming weeks. The more often you visit (and the better they recognize you) the better your chances for scoring a discount or some little extras. Also be sure to ask whether they allow visitors at the farm (or where they produce their candles, jams, etc.).

4. Visit the farms

If they do allow visits, take some time to go on a tour. It can be a fun family outing, especially if you take a picnic (or if they offer foods at the farm) and make a day of it. Be sure to mention you found them at your local market and name the person you spoke with there. It’s all about making a personal connection that could lead to specials, discounts and even freebies. (Speaking of which, we’ve rounded up some of the best summer freebies here.)

5. Buy the ‘ugly’ food

Are the greens wilted from sitting in the summer heat? See if you can talk the vendor down. Are the peaches a little beat up? Ditto. Gravitate toward produce you’ll need to use that day and see if you can get it for cheaper than it’s marked.

6. Avoid the extras

Sure, there are tempting nibbly bits and drinks at the farmers market. Sometimes there are even lovely handmade products, but these artisanal items tend to come at a greater cost than you can find elsewhere. And you can bring your own snacks and a water bottle if you think you’ll get hungry and thirsty. Stick to the fresh food items if you’re serious about saving money.

7. Take cash

Farmers markets vendors are more and more likely to accept credit cards these days, thanks to the mobile technology that makes it easy for them, but it still costs them to do so and they may pass that cost on to you. Take cash and be sure and ask if there’s a discount for paying with it. They may not offer the small price drop if you don’t ask.

If organic and artisanal foods are your fav — but hard on your budget — we’ve got some hacks for saving at Whole Foods, post-Amazon acquisition editionhere.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

How to Avoid Regrets About How You Spend Your Money

How you spend your money is a loaded subject. Nearly half of Americans deem finances a hard subject to address with others. They rate it more difficult to navigate than politics or religion. Sixty-eight percentwould rather disclose their weight than talk about finances. More than 40 percent don’t even broach the subject with the person they marry before entering into holy matrimony. Even to yourself, how y0u spend your money is a topic you most likely avoid thinking about.

However, treating money as a taboo subject hurts people. Families tend to feel chronically anxious due to a lack of clear conversations about money. Many times, with little discussion about goals and expectations, people end up following some financial gurus’ guidelines to the letter. This can actually be damaging to their personal finances. Plus, it can make them feel like “financial sinners” for making different choices. That”s why it’s time to think differently about how you spend your money.

Rules About How You Spend Your Money Can Lead to Regret

James Lenhoff, CFP, the president of Wealthquest and the author of “Living a Rich Life,” has seen dozens of clients who’ve accumulated a lot of money in their later years — and a lot of regrets. “Many of them get to a stage where they realize they didn’t create many memories with their money,” Lenhoff says. “They’re watching their kids have families and regretting all the things they didn’t do — they’re seeing the breaks or weaknesses in the logic.”

These clients often see their own kids are reluctant to take vacation time or splurge on a family excursion, yet many of these behaviors have been “inherited.” However, it’s hard to lay all the blame at their feet in a society that champions short-term “good” feelings over long-term satisfaction. “Society reinforces this mistake of thinking that status symbols and things are worth more, encouraging us to buy the bigger house, the newer car. The messaging is all geared toward making us feel better about ourselves,” Lenhoff explains. “In the end, we all want experiences, but society has confused us into thinking products areexperiences.”

In order to combat that messaging, most personal finance books give us rules to follow that keep us from splurging. But, it’s a Catch-22 because the money “rules” teaches us to grit our teeth and “do the right thing.” This is always assumed to mean saving more. “There’s an assumption among some financial experts that we need to treat people like children, give them harsh black-and-white boundaries,” Lenhoff says. “Like kids, they develop a sense of shame for disappointing Mom and Dad. The behavior is so deeply ingrained that even when they have saved enough, they are paralyzed by the ‘rules,’ and they can’t let go and use some of their money to enjoy themselves.”

Forces That Impact How You Spend Your Money

These two forces are always fighting within us. That means many people end up being filled with money-driven regret for one of two reasons. First, they spent their money on products, which didn’t fulfill them. Second, they hoarded their money, waiting for the right time to spend it.

However, they could never relax enough to do so when it was time. The good news is that those outcomes aren’t inevitable. There are steps you can take to avoid financial regret.

As Lenhoff says, “Nobody lived beyond their means because they couldn’t do math; they were emotionally motivated to do something.” He recommends that younger savers and spenders approach their relationship to money in a way that may be antithetical to the “rules.”

Find out where you stand

Because of the taboos surrounding money discussions, most people don’t actually know where they fall on the financial spectrum. Are they in a healthy position or not? Many couples, Lenhoff explains, contain a “Go” and a “Whoa”: The “Whoa” is the self-controlled saver, while the “Go” is the free-spirited spender. “Go” assumes they’re fine, but “Whoa” assumes they’re not. The problem is that neither one really knows who is right.

To overcome this, you must have a clear-headed conversation to lay out what you have and where you’re going. What does it take to make your life work right now? And, what are your non-negotiable goals for your family? A financial planner can help you outline how far ahead or behind you are on hitting those targets. Then, once you’re confident that you’re saving what you need to save each month to fund your goals, you can spend the rest as you like.

Don’t be fooled by others’ exteriors

In a world where we’re constantly cajoled to keep up with the Joneses, people often look around and feel their neighbors, friends, and family members are doing better.

But, the secrecy surrounding money — and the prevalence of living on credit cards — has erroneously led us to assume others are killing it. In reality, they could simply be swimming in debt. Don’t make decisions on how you spend your money based on how well you believe others are doing.

Use your net worth as your golden rule

Many people are overly focused on their income as a measure of progress. However, your income doesn’t matter if you aren’t using it to grow your net worth. If your net worth didn’t go up last year, that’s a problem no matter how much income you had. Your net worth changes only through saving or paying down debt.

You should be doing both. Don’t focus so much on paying down low-cost debt that you miss opportunities to save for future goals. Make sure you’re using your income to grow your assets over time. A growing net worth is the clearest indication of financial health.

Avoid budgets

Budgets are very restrictive, and they start from made-up numbers. Lenhoff says, “Most people approach budgets with ‘What can I squeeze myself into?’ They should start with ‘What’s my current reality?’” Just because you could eat freeze-dried Ramen for six months doesn’t mean it’s likely you will.

And, a shoestring budget that’s a far cry from your usual existence will feel overly prohibitive. Also, it’s impossible to stick to. Instead, create a spending plan that focuses on how you’ll spend your money rather than on how you’ll avoid spending your money. Acknowledge that you will be spending money so you can plan to spend it wisely.

Think not just about how the money will serve you in the future

There’s truth in the saying, “You can’t take it with you.” Therefore, you need to celebrate milestones along the route to your biggest goals. Enjoying the money you’ve earned while meeting your financial obligations and saving for your long-term goals shouldn’t be considered taboo but smart. It’s giving you pleasure now and later. This is what money that exceeds your necessities is intended to do.

While money may often be treated like a dirty secret, it doesn’t have to be a source of pain and regret. By shifting your mindset about how you spend your money now, you can ensure you use it in a way that brings you peace today and security tomorrow.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Buying My First House

When my wife and I bought our first home in September 2017, we made our fair share of mistakes. In hindsight, we should have done some things differently.

The good news: I won’t make the same mistakes again and am grateful that we did make the right choices in some instances. To help you learn from my mistakes as well as my smart money moves, here are 5 things I wish I had known before I started house hunting.

1. A mortgage broker won’t necessarily get you the lowest rate

A mortgage broker acts as a middleman between you and lenders. These brokers compare loan deals with several lenders to find you the best package. They charge a small fee for their efforts.

Since we were new to the game and didn’t feel comfortable doing everything on our own, we found a mortgage broker. He came highly recommended, and we were excited to work with him. Yet, when we were under contract for a house, I wasn’t impressed by the interest rate the broker was offering from one lender. I figured that this was a result of our low down payment —  just three percent at the time.

But when that deal fell through, we decided to build a house and had time to build up a 10% down payment in our savings account. Even better: the home builder told us that if we got our mortgage through one of their partner lenders, the builder would pay our closing costs. When we told our broker about the offer, he told us that was a common tactic by home builders and that we’d end up with a higher interest rate.

Not the case. In fact, the builder’s partner lender offered us a better interest rate than the broker. We gave the broker an opportunity to match or beat the rate, but he was unable to do so.

The bottom line: a mortgage broker won’t always get you the best interest rate. Do your research and explore all options before settling upon a mortgage.

2. Your emotions can work against your best interests

Once we signed an initial contract on the first home we fell in love with, we hired a home inspector to see if there were any major problems with the house.

The results of the inspection were overwhelming:

  • We would need to replace half of the roof.
  • We needed a new water heater.
  • The water pipes were cracking and the entire system needed to be replaced.
  • There was water damage in one of the bedrooms from a window leak.

To fix all of the issues, we were looking at $20,000 out of pocket, and the seller offered just $500. Yet, I loved the house and I wanted to make the repairs. I had to step back and detach emotionally. From that point, I realized this house was looking like a money pit.

The bottom line: don’t let your emotions rule as you may end up regretting your choice. Luckily, we got out before it was too late.

3. Your monthly payment is a lot more than your mortgage

Your monthly housing payment is a lot higher than your mortgage payment alone. Here are the main elements of a monthly housing payment:

  • Principal and interest: This amount goes toward paying off the mortgage loan.
  • Private mortgage insurance: You will pay this if your down payment is less than 20% on a conventional loan. You can, however, request to have it removed once your loan amount is 80% of the value of the house.
  • Homeowners insurance: This coverage protects you against damage and theft. We pay monthly into an escrow account, and the lender makes our premium payment for us annually.
  • Property taxes: These are due annually, but your lender may require you to pay a monthly portion into an escrow account.
  • Maintenance and repairs: Our home is only nine months old, and we’ve already spent money out of pocket for maintenance and repairs. To avoid any nasty surprises, real estate experts recommend saving between one percent and three percent of the home’s value each year. This way, you’ll be able to pay for those unexpected home repairs. .

When we received the final disclosure that broke down our monthly payment, it was higher than I anticipated. Yet, if we knew what the house would cost us each month from the beginning, we may have lowered our house budget even more to make more room for other things in our budget.

The bottom line: make sure you factor in the total monthly cost of owning that house. This will give you a true sense of what you can afford.

4. Your first home is never going to be perfect

After months of checking out existing homes, my wife and I were disappointed that we couldn’t find one without problems. Ultimately, we decided to build a new home.

Brand new homes, however, are not perfect and you may still have to pay for repairs or deal with issues – even in your first year in the house. For example, the insulation subcontractor didn’t blow any insulation above my kids’ rooms in the attic, and the builder made some major blunders with the landscaping that took months to fix.

Because we thought we were avoiding all of these problems by building a home from scratch, it’s been a frustrating experience.

The bottom line: be realistic and save your pennies. No house is problem-free.

5. Get everything in writing

During the building process, the construction manager for our home promised us some things that he didn’t deliver on. When we tried to get the builder to make good on the promises, he refused.

The bottom line: get everything in writing, even minor things. This will help keep the builder, seller and others accountable. After all, buying your first home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make, so take as much control of the process as you can.

The final word

While we made some mistakes buying our first home, we also learned from our experience.

When it comes time for you to buy a house, make sure you take the time to set realistic expectations and budget wisely. This will help you enjoy your new home without second-guessing yourself at every turn.

 

America’s Most Expensive Cities: How to Save on Rent in Atlanta

Welcome to Expensive Cities, a new series designed to help renters find affordable apartments in the nation’s most unaffordable metros.

If you’re mulling a move to the Atlanta, you might find a quick perusal of its apartment listings disheartening. Luxury-priced listings abound, thanks to the hordes of construction crews putting up new complexes all over the city. But where are the reasonably-priced apartments for average working Joes and Janes?

The sad fact is, there is indeed a dearth of affordable apartments in booming Atlanta.

“Atlanta’s rents are quickly on the rise,” Joshua Clark, an economist at HotPads, an apartment search site that is part of Zillow Group, says. “While the area is still more affordable than San Francisco or San Jose, rents are appreciating faster in Atlanta right now than in either of those notoriously competitive, expensive markets.”

How much does renting cost in Atlanta?

Median rent in Atlanta climbed 8.1% in the past year to $1,460 for a one-bedroom apartment, and the city ranks No. 15 among the most expensive U.S. markets for renters, according to Zumper, an apartment search site.

In Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood, where large swaths of Peachtree Street have been transformed by large residential and office developments in the past three years, apartments rent for substantially more, around $1,800 to $2,200 a month. Old Fourth Ward in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District — where you can sample South African-style beef jerky and 1960s craft cocktails in the food hall at Ponce City Market — costs renters about $1,500 to $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom unit, according to Danny Sirikoun, Zumper’s Atlanta market specialist.

Why is the rent in Atlanta so high?

Rapid job growth in the nation’s third-fastest growing metro helped attract nearly 90,000 new people to Atlanta, causing furious demand for apartments. Many came for entertainment industry jobs. Atlanta has become the third-biggest hub for the film industry, after Los Angeles and New York, producing blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

“Given that so many new rental listings have become available in the past year, and rent growth still hasn’t let up, it’s clear that the city is still seeing high demand,” Clark says.

How to find affordable rent in Atlanta

Despite the general upward price trend, budget-minded renters can still find some relatively well-priced apartments, both inside the perimeter (ITP) of Interstate-285 and outside (OTP). Check out these up-and-coming neighborhoods with lots of exposure to the ATL’s most exciting offerings that still tout affordable rents.

1. For proximity to everything, look at West Midtown

Love the museums and fancy shops of Midtown, but found the area too pricey? Consider bustling West Midtown, the neighborhood right next door to Georgia Tech. Average rents around there are $200 to $300 dollars cheaper than rents for comparable apartments in Midtown proper. You can find a studio for around $1,100 and for a one-bedroom you’ll pay around $1,300 to $1,500.

“That’s pretty cheap, considering its proximity to everything,” says Sirikoun.

In recent years, this former industrial neighborhood has seen its old warehouses rapidly converted to trendy urban lofts, galleries and live music venues. It is also easily accessible to the Westside BeltLine, a new walking and biking trail that showcases public art exhibits and links intown neighborhoods.

“People are starting to flock to Westside Provisions and Marietta Street for nightlife, restaurants and boutiques,” Sirikoun says.

2. An alternative booming area? Smyrna

An OTP alternative that offers a good lifestyle on a budget is Smyrna, or “Jonquil City,” which is about ten miles northwest of Atlanta and considered an integral part to its metro area. Smyrna is best for those who want a family-friendly community with a village-within-a-city feeling, along with easy access to downtown Atlanta.

Smyrna has boomed recently after the Atlanta Braves built their new stadium, SunTrust Park, in the area. The project included the development of a new entertainment district The Battery Atlanta, with shopping, restaurants and bars.

“It’s only a ten-minute drive into the city, which makes it popular with out-of-towners looking for a place that is affordable,” says Sirikoun.

One-bedroom apartments in older buildings start at around $900 a month, while those in new developments go all the way up to $1,500.

“The average is more on the low end of the spectrum, around $1,000 to $1,100 for a one-bedroom,” says Sirikoun.

3. Bonus tip: Budget for higher rents if you own a pet

Atlanta is famously dog-friendly. You’re fine to bring your animal companion along on your Home Depot errands or to brunch al fresco at many Atlanta restaurants. When it comes to renting an apartment, most Atlanta landlords happily welcome your furry friends — albeit for a price. (Note: You might pay more renters insurance, too. We can help you compare renters insurance quotes here.)

“Most, if not all, landlords allow dogs, with a certain pet fee, plus ‘pet rent’ per month,” Sirikoun says. “Aggressive breeds are not allowed in most, and weight restrictions are imposed as well. As a financially-responsible mom or dad, you’d be wise to budget an additional $300 to $500 per pet at move-in time, plus about $10 to $15 a month extra in pet rent.”

What cities have the savviest renters? Check out the Policygenius Renters Index to find out.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com

 

The 21 Best Financial Habits to Develop at Every Age

Your financial health and potential for building wealth are dependent on your habits. Short of winning the lottery or receiving a massive inheritance, the best financial habits involve those little decisions you make every day and every week.

Developing these habits all at once is problematic. First, there is a steep learning curve. Second, not all strategies are equally effective at every age. The best approach is to gradually master your financial habits as you grow older. There are good money habits to build at every stage of your life.

In General: The Earlier, the Better

For the most part, the earlier you learn these financial habits, the better. If you’re able to develop habits ahead of your age, you’ll stand to benefit. There are three reasons for this:

  • Habit acquisition. It’s easier to learn new things and build good habits when you’re young. If you establish good money practices early enough, it will be nearly impossible to break those habits.
  • Mistake adjustment. If you employ a habit but make a mistake in its execution, it can destabilize your financial track. Making that mistake early gives you ample time to recover from that mistake and learn from it. That way, you never repeat it again.
  • There’s also the power of compound interest to consider. Investing money early allows compound interest to grow that money exponentially over decades. It also prevents compound interest from working against you. A good example is in the case of debt.

In Your Teens

Your teenage years won’t come with much responsibility or many opportunities to make a significant income. Accordingly, there aren’t many financial habits you’ll need to focus on. These three are a good start:

  1. Saving money. Saving money is one of the best habits to learn early. In your teens, you’ll be tempted to spend every cent of your incoming paychecks. However, learning to squirrel away at least a portion of your earnings will always be beneficial.
  2. Tracking your spending. This is also the best time to start habitually tracking your spending. Instead of buying what you feel like, when you feel like it, write down how much you spend in each of several categories. Then, compare expenditures with income. This will provide you with the budgeting skills necessary to last a lifetime.
  3. Opening and using. You probably don’t “need” a credit card in your teens. However, it’s useful to have as an emergency option. Plus, it’s ideal for starting to build credit, which you’ll need in the future. Consider opening a savings, checking, and credit card account in your name. Then, focus on managing them responsibly.

In Your 20s

In your 20s, you’ll be out of school and ready to start your career so you need these financial habits:

  1. Checking your credit score. Checking your credit score is free.  Therefore, it’s good to get in the habit of checking it regularly. Knowing your credit score is valuable for making big-ticket financial decisions. It can direct you to weaknesses in your credit report to work on improving them.
  2. Contributing to a 401(k) or similar program. If your company offers a 401(k) or a similar investment program with a company match, take advantage of it. Company matches are essentially free money.
  3. Mastering your student loans. The average college student graduates with $30,000 in debt. If you don’t start addressing it now, the power of compound interest will make that debt even harder to manage. You don’t have to pay your debt down right away. However, you should have a solid long-term plan in place.
  4. Minimizing your credit card balances. Have one or two credit cards you regularly use. But, it’s important to get in the habit of keeping those balances low. If you accumulate too much debt, it could take over your life.
  5. Living below your means. This is the best way to generate more savings over the long term. Since you’ll be spending far less than you make, you’ll naturally end up with more money to save or invest every month. Opt for less expensive housing and save money on fees and subscriptions.
  6. Setting short-term and long-term goals. Get in the habit of setting and following both short-term goals (like saving up for a home down payment) and long-term goals (like investing $5,000 a year). With good goal planning and execution, all your other financial efforts will become easier.

In Your 30s

Once you’re in your 30s, you’ll have established career momentum to do these:

  1. Establishing a comprehensive emergency fund. You should have an emergency fund in your 20s.  However, by your 30s, that fund should be comprehensive. That means big enough to cover several months of expenses in case you lose your job or face some other catastrophe.
  2. Setting a course for retirement. This is when you’ll need to start thinking about your retirement goals. When do you want to retire? What accounts will you rely on to do it?
  3. Taking advantage of your credit. You’ve built and checked on your credit for the past decade or two. Now’s the time to start taking advantage of it. Buy a house you can afford or open new lines of credit to finance your business idea.
  4. Learning the value of insurance. Understand the value of insurance and take advantage of it for your financial interests. For example, you’ll want a good policy to cover your health, home, car, and other important assets. Plus, you may want to choose a different deductible or coverage policy that best suits your needs.
  5. Renting or buying (as appropriate). Know the advantages of renting versus buying in your area. There may not be a need to rush into buying a home or you may miss out on significant equity by renting. Every location is different.
  6. Navigating marriage and children. Consider the financial implications of marriage (if you’re planning to get married) and the expenses associated with raising children. Planning a family responsibly can mean the difference between affording a comfortable lifestyle and succumbing to debt.
  7. Planning for your children’s futures. If you’re planning to send your kids to college, start thinking about college savings(or a similar savings strategy for your children). For example, you may choose to open a 529 college savings plan and contribute regularly to it.
  8. Investing as a monthly expense. Think about investments and retirement savings as a monthly expense. These become necessary, regular expenditures for the sake of your future. Don’t let your other living or entertainment expenses distract you.

In Your 40s

In your 40s, you’ll have mastered the vast majority of important financial habits, but there are still a few to learn:

  1. Rebalancing your portfolio. Now, you should be in the habit of routinely rebalancing your portfolio. This includes adjusting your assets to favor the current market conditions or to help gradually reduce risk as you prepare for retirement. Slowly move toward a bond-heavy distribution of assets in your investment portfolio.
  2. Prepping for divorce. No matter how happy you are currently, there’s a significant possibility that your marriage will end in divorce. This event can be financially devastating to one or both parties. It’s imperative that you plan how to handle those expenses.
  3. Intelligently managing your assets. If you’ve had good financial habits for the past few decades, you should have significant assets to manage. These include properties, vehicles, and other investments. Make sure you’re managing them intelligently and improving their resale costs. Also, cite them properly on your taxes and sell them when appropriate.
  4. Splurging when appropriate. Retirement isn’t everything. By now, you should know the difference between a healthy splurge and reckless spending. However, don’t be afraid to pamper yourself every once in a while. Start doing more things that make you happy.

Beyond Your 40s

At this point in your life, your efforts should focus on maintaining the status quo and learning from your past mistakes. Additionally, it’s about concentrating your savings and investments on retirement prep. By the time you hit 50, all these financial habits should have prepared you for a stable future. There should be enough resources and experiences to help you achieve long-term goals.

Don’t regret your financial decisions. Take the time to learn and master these money habits as early as possible. And, be grateful for the discipline you exercised.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

The 10 Golden Rules of Money Etiquette

We know how awkward – and frightening – talking about money can be. Yup, it’s oftentimes considered more taboo to chit chat about the “M” word than about sex and politics.

While shooting the hay about your job may be less anxiety-inducing than your debt situation, having convos about financial matters is super important.

Yet, as the saying goes, “there’s a time and place for everything.” If not well-timed or in the proper context, chatting about finances can simply create tension. To avoid socially awkward situations, money faux paus, or full-on blow-ups, here are the 10 golden rules of money etiquette:

1. Thou shall not inquire about one’s debt during family functions

 That’s right. No meddling about Uncle Harold’s outstanding credit card balance or cousin Ave’s student debt load in front of spectators at a 4th of July grill-out or during Thanksgiving dinner.

Or even worse, it’s probably not a good idea to start a convo about how much debt is owed to you. What’ll most likely happen? Probably nothing productive. Instead, you’ll probably painfully endure mad-dog glances for the duration of the meal.  

What to do instead: If a family member’s debt involves you (can you say authorized user, or long-overdue loan?) carve out some private time to suss things out. If the person is in a bad financial situation, see if you can talk to him one-on-one about how to build solid credit card habits. But tread carefully! You don’t want to set off any landmines.

2. Thou shall not ask to split the bill afterward.

Does this sound like a likely scenario? You’re enjoying a lovely patio brunch with some pals. Your meal companions order double espressos, bottomless mimosas, while your frugal self meagerly gulps on tap water. When the check drops, your friends say they’re too tipsy to do math, and suggest splitting the bill evenly. You know, for the sake of convenience.

What to do instead: Oy vey, this is one of my personal pet peeves. Figure out the payment sitch beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll be tasked to be the “uptight one” who wants to divvy up the bill according to what each person ordered. Note that you may be expected to be the one that has to calculate the tab. This is far better than paying more than you budgeted. You can also decide ahead of time to use an app to split the tab. Easy peasy.

3. Thou shall not text about serious money matters with your partner.

This is a money faux paus I’ve ashamed to admit to. This happens when I’m feeling particularly brave and resolute about having “a talk” on budgeting or how to best split bills. I’ll then send my partner a mini-novella of a text. In turn, he gets agitated or feels blindsided. A likely reply: Let’s discuss IRL.

What to do instead: It’s simply not in good taste to bombard your partner with long-winded texts about serious money topics. Instead, carve out some time to discuss spending habits or your financial future. It doesn’t have to involve a five-course dinner. You can chat en route to the supermarket, or during an evening walk around the neighborhood. Just make sure it gets done.

4. Thou shall not outright ask about another’s salary.

While discussing salaries isn’t always a social no-no, it’s deemed outright rude to ask someone how much she earns. Why? It can easily lead to feelings of inadequacy, or cause your friend to go into “compare and despair” mode.

What to do instead: If you suspect you make more than your friends and family, it’s easy to be the one mouthing off about how much you take home. It’s quite a different story if your friend earns more than you. But please, don’t be the clueless one who lives in a self-absorbed, more financially-astute than-thou bubble.

If you’re dying to talk salary, start by broaching topics with lighthearted money topics. For instance, mention a great deal you nabbed at a sample sale. Or how you’re trying to cut back on eating out. Or… you might even start out with a general discussion on career planning or investing in your professional life. Then feel things out, and take it from there.

5. Thou shall not hide important financial information.

If you have outstanding debt, or made a money boo-boo in your younger years, you’ll need to let the cat out of the bag eventually. You loved ones deserve to know the truth. Plus, remaining silent is a borderline act of financial infidelity, and can lead to feelings of hurt and betrayal.

What to do instead: Be upfront with those who could be negatively impacted by information you don’t share. Otherwise, this may just lead to more problems down the line.

6. Thou shall not ask for one’s credit score on a first date.

…Or net worth for that matter. A relative of mine once had his date ask him what tax bracket he fell into. The proper response? “None o’ your business.” You’ll probably want to make sure you have similar interests and values before prodding about someone’s net worth. Just sayin’.

What to do instead: As you know, talking about money matters is a super sensitive topic. When you’re just getting to know someone, you want to be extra careful. When on a date, I’ve learned to look for subtle cues on how my date manages money. Granted, as a personal finance writer, many times my date will outright express an interest in money management or flat-out admit they’re terrible with money. It’s a start, and will lead to more serious discussions as the relationship progresses.

7. Thou shall not ask for money during a friend’s birthday.

Sad but true: I have been guilty of this. Granted, I was a broke college student at the time. My good friend checked out some books at the university library using my card. He lost them during a bad breakup, and I was fined three hundred dollars.

On his birthday, I brought up the topic and suggested coming up with a repayment plan. The lighthearted chit chat in the room dramatically faded into dead silence. #majorfail

What to do instead: Approach the situation with kid gloves. In private. You really don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life. My friend eventually paid part of it of back, only to have his car towed, and he needed the moola to get his car back. We were both riding the broke student train. While three hundos was nothing to scoff at, especially at a time when I subsided on mac and cheese, I realized it was best to just let it go.

8. Thou shall not push your frugality on another person.

Yup, this was former me. I used to assess people’s capacity for frugality with a harsh, critical stare. And just like how some youngins would only choose friends who drove certain cars and carried certain brands of handbags, I picked my friends based on how good they were at scouting a killer deal.

What to do instead: While hanging out with frugal folks can help you stick to your budget, it’s also great to have friends with different money philosophies and habits. It’ll not only help you be more open-minded and compassionate, but you’ll build your resistance to FOMO.

9. Thou shall not judge others on their money decisions.

There’s no point in harshly judging others on how and why they spend their money. People have varying relationships with money, mindsets, and ways of being. Just because you may decide to do something differently doesn’t mean what they’re doing is plain wrong.

What to do instead: If you really want to help others with their finances, be the cheerleader or accountability buddy they need in their life. Only help out if they ask for it. Sure, you’ll want to tout the benefits of auto-transferring a portion of your paycheck, or saving for an emergency fund. But, put a lid on it – for the time being. Otherwise, you’ll come off as intrusive, which will just lead to ill feelings of resentment.

10. Thou shall not debt shame.

Debt shaming can feel just as bad as looking down on someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. You just don’t know what kind of situation someone is in, and what factors led them to their current state of affairs. Debt can create a lot of stress, anxiety and depression.

What to do instead: Be a pal. If someone shares tales of debt woes, nod and commiserate. Offer up resources and tips if you think it would be useful.

Bottom Line

Stick to these golden rules of money etiquette, and I assure you, you’ll be a well-regarded money nerd. It sure beats being the insensitive, out-of-touch one who just doesn’t get it and is privy to an eyeroll – or two. Trust me, your relationships and social life will be better off for it.

 

 

Does the 20% Savings Rule Actually Work?

When it comes to saving money, experts often suggest saving at least 20% of your income. While this may be a good financial rule of thumb, it doesn’t work for everyone.

To figure out whether the 20% savings rule is the best option for you, it’s first important to understand more about this method of saving money. From there, you can decide whether it’s right for you. To learn more, read on.

A Quick Review of the 50/20/30 Rule 

The 50/20/30 rule is a minimalist-style budgeting tool that refers to how much of your take-home pay you should save and how much you need to allocate for expenses and other goals.

The rule simply states that 50% of your income should be devoted to essential expenses like housing, food, and utilities. Another 30% should go toward discretionary spending on the fun stuff. This leaves 20% for your savings, which can be earmarked into a savings account,  an emergency fund, and a retirement account.

Is 20% Always the Right Amount to Save?

I know what you may be thinking. While it sounds pretty simple, saving 20% of your income can be unreasonable it you’re just starting out or trying to make ends meet.

For this reason, 20% isn’t always the magic number. If saving this amount is out of your reach, then start with a lesser amount. The most important thing is that you start somewhere and save a set amount of money that works for you.

I can remember how awful I felt when I was laid off from my job during the Great Recession and was forced to stop contributing to my retirement accounts. At the time, I had no other choice. I could either continue to invest for my future or I use that money to buy groceries. Fortunately, I knew that this time in my life would pass, and that I would be able to get a handle on my finances and start saving again. I was right. As time went by, I was able to increase my savings rate until it exceeded my original savings goals.

With this in mind, remember that the 20% savings rule is really just a rule of thumb.

Does the 20% Savings Rule Work?

Yes, the 20% rule works – at least for the most part. If it didn’t work, financial experts would not continue to praise its simplicity. So, if possible for you, it’s a good idea to start saving 20% of your income today.

The bottom line: if you can consistently devote 20% of your income to savings over the long-term (think: decades), you’ll have a better shot of retiring comfortably.

But, just because the 20% rule works, keep in mind what was discussed above: it may not work for you. If your financial situation is less than stellar due to debt or other unfortunate circumstances, you may need to find an alternate route to a healthy financial future. If you think you need another savings method, take a look at the helpful tips below:

  • Create a budget. To start saving whatever you can, it’s a smart idea to first figure out how much money is coming in and going out each month. To do this effectively, we suggest tracking your expenses and creating a budget. This way you can identify areas where you can trim the financial fat, freeing up funds to save. For instance, if you track your expenses and realize you’ve been spending an average of $400 in restaurants for the past three months, you’ve just identified something you can significantly cut back on. Not only is cooking at home good for your waistline, but it’s good for your bottom line. And that’s a win-win.
  • Automate your savings. Life can easily get in the way when it comes to saving money. Too often than not, the end of the month rolls around and you realize you didn’t set anything aside for savings. To help get around this, try making saving money automatic. In fact, Chime makes it simple with its Automatic Savings feature. Here’s how it works: each time you use your Chime debit card, your transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the round up amount is deposited into your Chime Savings account. Plus, you can set up your account to automatically transfer 10% of each paycheck into your savings account. This makes saving money a no brainer!

Start Saving Money Now

There you have it: an explanation of the 20% savings rule, why it’s so popular, and what you can do if you need other savings options. Remember, there is more than one route to a healthy financial future. Are you ready to start saving more money today?

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