What is a Savings Account?

Money Bag With Dollar Sign

Everyone knows that saving money is important, but not everyone knows how to start planning for the future. That's where your savings account comes in! What is a savings account, and why is it such a great way to build your future fortune? We're here to explain the benefits of savings in simple terms, so you can start collecting interest!

Why Should I Open a Savings Account?

Between checking accounts and retirement funds, you might feel like your paycheck is being split into a million pieces. So, why invest extra money into a savings account? Savings account interest typically pays more than a checking account, which means you get extra bang for your buck. The drawback is that you are limited in the number of transactions that you can perform every month, due to federal regulations. However, this can actually be a good thing for long-term savings. If you are building a rainy day fund, you'll feel less tempted to withdraw money for splurges with your funds in a savings account. And if you're trying to save money for a vacation or a downpayment, you can reach your goal faster from the higher interest accrued.

What is Interest?

When you open your bank account, you start earning interest - but what is it? Interest is the money that the bank gives you as an incentive to keep your money there. This is one way that different banks compete for your business, which is why it's such a good idea to shop around when deciding where to open your account. Additionally, there are two types of interest to consider: simple and compound. Simple interest is paid out based on the money that you originally had in the bank. Compound interest pays based on your original amount plus interest, which means you earn interest on your interest! Compound interest is more common, and also preferable if you want to earn money quickly.

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Budgeting for Your First Home

house model house concept

If you’re taking the plunge into home ownership for the first time, it can be a little scary, especially when it comes to finances. In order to create your first home budget, you’ve got to crunch a few numbers. The important thing is to be realistic and stick with something you can truly afford. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get started!

How Much House Can You Afford?

To come up with your house budget, begin with the 25% rule, which is that your mortgage shouldn’t be more than 25% of your gross income. Simple enough, right? Sticking this rule can be difficult in more expensive areas of the U.S., so you may need to save up for a higher down payment. Also, if you have existing debt, you should add that to your total and make sure it doesn’t represent more than 29% of your gross income because lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio when they’re deciding if you’re a good risk.

What About Other Housing Expenses?

Remember that lenders want to lend you the absolute max that you can afford, but you’re also going to have other things in your housing budget besides the mortgage costs. Be sure you’re estimating the costs of homeowners insurance, homeowners association fees, maintenance costs, and utilities. And don’t forget property taxes! These aren’t exactly hidden costs, but people don’t always realistically estimate them when they’re making their purchase decision.

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How to Avoid Wasting Money

Its Raining Money

Congratulations! You’re about to learn how to avoid wasting money, and it’s going to make a huge impact on your life. There are so many little habits that cause us to spend money on things that aren’t worth it, usually because we’re crunched for time.

Ways to Save Money

Small Stuff:

Little things can add up to big bucks, and they’re some of the biggest ways we waste money. For example, every time you choose to buy an individual bottle or water or soda rather than buying in bulk, you’re paying a major markup. And it’s even worse if you’re buying at a convenience store because prices are much higher than at your local grocery or superstore. Why? Because they can’t command the same pricing from the manufacturers that supermarkets can, and also because you’re paying for how easy it is to run in and out quickly. Speaking of drinks, you can keep the costs of your restaurant bill down simply by choosing water instead of soft drinks, which can add $3 or $4 per person to your check.

Entertainment:

Your cable bill and Internet bills are probably quite expensive. It pays to stay on top of what you’re paying for versus what you use. Always try to renegotiate your plan, and consider cutting the cable “cord” so you pay only for what you watch. Your cell phone plan is another biggie. Take the time to review it - are you paying for minutes, data, and features that you don’t even use? Is there a family plan available that will bring your costs down? Moving your newspaper subscriptions to the online version will keep you in the know and save you money at the same time.

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Rent vs. Buy

For Rent Real Estate Sign

Is buying or renting right for you? Many factors go into the choice to rent vs. buy, so it's important to really weigh the pros and cons of each before you fall in love with a home. Let's start with a quiz to determine whether renting vs. buying a home is better for you:

  • Do you have debt? If you do, consider renting. If you don't, homeownership may be in your future.
  • Are you staying in the area for 3 or more years? If not, renting is a better option. If so, buying could be a good choice.
  • Are you financially stable? If you have doubts, then play it safe and wait until you are sure. If you have money saved and income to spare, you might be ready for a house.

Renting

Most people rent an apartment or house at some point in life. Whether you've just graduated from college or relocating to a new city, the flexibility of this short-term commitment can be a huge asset. And while some people scoff at the idea of paying a landlord, you'll get plenty in return. There's no need to worry about DIY work if the toilet breaks or the roof leaks. Simply call maintenance to have an expert at your door. However, don't forget about renter's insurance just in case of an emergency!

What are the disadvantages of renting? You might deal with rising rent costs from year to year due to inflation and property value changes. That means higher costs for you without any benefits. Additionally, there are no tax breaks for renters. That can be a huge factor in more established workers, though not as big of an issue for those who are just starting a career. Some people dislike the lack of control in a rented space. You can't make changes to the property, you might have loud neighbors, you might have an undesirable parking situation. There are a lot of things that are beyond your control.

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How to Protect Inheritance from Creditors

Inheritance Court

If you find yourself with a sudden inheritance, you might feel overwhelmed! While this large chunk of change can make a huge impact on your finances, it's important to learn how to protect inheritance from creditors who might try to collect on your sum. Let's say you want to use your funds to finally buy a house, but you're concerned that your past debt will whittle your inheritance down to nothing. What are the rules of inheritance, and how can you use them to your advantage? Let's go through the hypothetical steps.

Check Your Credit

Is your credit score perfect? Less than perfect? Non-existent? Before you jump the gun, it's important to check your credit score to be sure. You might be surprised if you've been expecting the worst. Everyone can check their credit score one time per year for free from each of the following bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While these records should be up-to-date, unpaid medical debt doesn't appear until it is sent to collections. Keep that in mind if you are wrestling with any costly hospital visits. And be sure to examine your credit report carefully. Even the best businesses make mistakes, so it's crucial to report any inaccurate listings with the bureau to prevent a simple error from costing you the prime credit score that you deserve.

Weighing Your Options

Now that you know your credit score, you are better prepared to make a game plan for the future. If your credit score is in the prime range, you're good to go! Feel free to apply for a mortgage the traditional way and find the house of your dreams. But if your credit score isn't ideal, you have a few options. If your credit score is pretty dire, you might only qualify for high-interest loans that burn through that inheritance quickly. You might find that waiting and improving your credit score can save you money in the long run. If your credit score is merely less than perfect, then you have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Consider consulting a financial advisor and explain that you want to learn how to protect your inheritance the right way.

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How to Handle Your First Credit Card

credit card

Getting your very first credit card is an exciting time of financial independence, but it's important to proceed with caution. We've all heard horror stories of people racking up debt by being a little over enthusiastic with fresh plastic. However, it's easy to make good decisions if you use common sense and do the right research. Find out how to handle your finances like a pro with our first time credit card tips!

Choosing the Best First Time Credit Card

Before you select your plan, it's important to assess all of your options. While there's no definitive best first time credit card, some options will be much better than others for your unique needs. How do you choose the right credit card? Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction:

  • Rewards Cards: Rewards cards give you something back when you spend, like cash back or travel miles. Depending on your spending habits, you might enjoy the kickbacks from an incentivized credit card.
  • Low-Interest Card: Don't have much credit to your name? A low-interest credit card has a low APR, which helps you build credit slowly while learning the ropes of good financial planning.
  • Rotating Category Cards: These credit cards feature different cash back options and rewards rates depending on the time of year. You could reap big benefits if you can keep up with the criteria of the month, but if you don't want to plan that much, you might not see the benefits.

Understanding Your Options

You've picked the category, but what do all these terms mean in the fine print? Be sure to take a second glance and scan for the following:

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What is a Co-Signer on a Loan?

Man in a Suit Offers to Sign a Contract

If you have prime credit, then you have a winning ticket toward securing the investments that you need toward a bright future. From auto loans to mortgages, those with prime credit are often rewarded for their smart spending.

But if friends and family have less than perfect credit, you might soon find yourself wondering "What is a co-signer on a loan?" Co-signing a loan allows someone with good credit to help out someone who isn't as financially secure. While this can be a lifesaving gesture to those who are building a new life, co-signing a loan is not without risk. Find out whether or not you should co-sign in our guide to personal finance. Does co-signing a loan affect credit?

What are the Perks of Co-Signing a Loan?

Sometimes good people end up with bad credit. Maybe your spouse is working off college credit card debt, or your son or daughter has no credit history at all. In these cases, you can become a co-signer to a loan in order to look more appealing to lenders. This can help pave the way for your friend or family member to become more independent by securing that car, home, or other investment that they need for a better tomorrow.

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How Does a 401k Work When You Retire?

401k plan

We all know that it's wise to put away money for the future, but not everyone knows what happens after retirement comes. So, how does a 401k work when you retire? The answer isn't so simple. Depending on your age and financial needs, you might spend your retirement funds a little differently than your coworker or neighbor. From qualified distributions to 401k rollovers, we'll let you know all the ins and outs of your 401k retirement plan so you can make the best decisions possible about your future.

Qualified Distributions

Qualified distributions are the most traditional way to withdraw money from your retirement fund, but you have to meet certain criteria to get this penalty-free funding. You must be over the age of 59.5 in order to avoid the 10 percent early withdrawal fee. Depending on your plan, your money may or may not be subject to income taxes. Traditional 401k funding is taxed, while Roth IRA money is not as long - provided you have had the account for at least five years.

Early Withdrawal

Let's say something comes up unexpectedly and you need to dip into your 401k retirement money early. You're free to do so, but you'll have to pay a fee. Before the age of 55, you'll have to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal fee on your money. Between the ages of 55 and 59.5, you may be able to avoid it. However, you can only withdraw money from the 401k from your previous employer. This does not apply to plans from any other employers in the past.

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Co-Signer vs. Co-Borrower Rights

Meeting in a bank

When making a large investment, sometimes it takes a team to get the job done - and that's where the co-signer comes in. What is a co-signer on a loan? A co-signer is someone who agrees to share the responsibility of the financial investment of another party. Maybe a parent will co-sign an auto loan for a son or daughter, maybe a spouse will co-sign a loan for a mortgage. And while most partnerships go off without a hitch, it's important to be aware of your co-signer vs. co-borrower rights to protect yourself from issues down the line. In this guide, we'll go through the pros and cons of co-signing - and what to do if you need to get out of a bad deal!

Getting a Loan on Your Own

When you're seeking a great loan, you need to present yourself as the best candidate possible to get the best deal possible. Let's say you have prime credit. That means your credit score is nearly perfect, which makes you a very desirable candidate for potential lenders. A good credit score indicates that you have a record of paying off past debts promptly, so there's a low risk of lending you the money that you request. Prime credit holders generally have very little issue getting the auto loans, mortgages, and other payments that they seek. But what if you have less than perfect credit? That's where the problem comes in. A lower credit score indicates that you have had a few issues paying off your debts, and lenders will notice. You are seen as a higher risk candidate, so there's a chance that your application will be rejected.

Co-Signing a Loan

If you find yourself outside the prime credit zone, one way to give lenders more confidence is to find a co-signer. A co-signer is someone with a good, established credit history who looks more trustworthy to the lender. Often, co-signers are close family members like parents or spouses, but they can be anyone who is willing to lend a helping hand. However, the co-signer takes on the burden of responsibility if you drop the ball on your payments. Let's say you skip a payment on your auto loan. That means both you and your co-signer are legally responsible for the debts accrued. This can be a huge problem for all parties involved - and why it's so crucial to only co-sign loans for people whom you can trust.

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Benefits and Drawbacks of Online Shopping

Shopping Online

While brick and mortar stores used to reign the retail world, online shopping has become the new king of the industry. From textbooks to clothing to furniture, more and more people are heading online for future purchases. But what are the benefits and drawbacks of online shopping?

Advantages

Online shopping wouldn't be as popular as it is without tons of perks. Whether you're short or time or searching for some specific, there are tons of benefits of online shopping that any savvy spender can appreciate:

  • Convenience: No need to beat traffic and circle the parking lot of the local shops. You can access thousands of online marketplaces from the comfort of your own home on your laptop or even a smartphone.
  • Variety: While physical stores have limited shelf space to budget, online shops do not. That means you might have different and more interesting choices to explore, like unique features and colors than traditional stores offer.
  • Comparison: If you want to compare prices at different shops, you'll have to make multiple trips. Not so with the online marketplace. Some sites even offer one-click comparison shopping for your convenience.

Disadvantages

Shopping online might be a fun experience, but it's not without its share of disadvantages. Here are just a few of the concerns that you may have when shopping online:

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