Apps to Make Saving Easier

Saving for a home, retirement, a vacation or anything else can be difficult.The median retirement savings of all working-age families in the United States is $5,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Given that many financial advisers recommend having about $1 million in retirement, that leaves many families far short of their retirement plans.Don’t let such big goals keep you from striving for them. Many mobile apps help people reach multiple savings goals, often in painless ways that only require the change you’d normally get at the cash register.For a retirement plan, home down payment or other large financial goal, you’re probably best off by maximizing automatic paycheck deductions or contributing regularly to a savings account. For smaller savings goals, here are some apps to check out:Qapital: Set multiple savings goals and have money moved into savings based on rules you set. The service is free.You won’t have to sacrifice the things you love buying. Buying an espresso every morning at your local coffee shop? Tell the app to save $5 every time you buy coffee. Or it can round up that coffee purchase by a lower amount, such as moving a $3.50 coffee to $4 and putting that extra 50 cents in your account.Digit: This service has a different way of helping users save money. It connects to your checking account and analyzes your income and spending and finds money it can set aside for you. It never transfers more than you can afford, so you don’t have to worry about overdrafting your account.Digit used to be free, but now charges $3 per month for its service. A 100-day free trial is available.Acorns: This micro-investing app turns every purchase you make into an investment.It connects your accounts and cards that you use to make everyday purchases and rounds your purchases to the nearest dollar. That spare change is automatically invested. You can also set up recurring or one-time investments.Acorns costs $1 per month to use. For accounts of $5,000 or more, the fee is 0.25 percent per year.SmartyPig: This online saving account lets you save for specific goals by making automatic transfers from your linked bank account. Want to save for a new TV? SmartyPig can help you set up an account for that.The service is free. Up to six withdrawals per account can be made each month.I hope you found this helpful. Contact me for more insights and info.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

What Couples Should Discuss Before Retiring

Compromise is an important part of marriage. From deciding how much to spend on a new living room set to what to watch on TV tonight, compromise is constant.It can also be a big part of retirement conversations. While agreeing on the financial and logistical issues around retirement is great if you can get there, chances are, there are some aspects of a life together without work that will be a compromise. Getting on the same page before retirement can make it a lot easier.Here are some topics couples should talk about before retirement:When to RetireDo you both plan on retiring at the same time? Maybe one person wants to wait until age 70 to receive the most Social Security benefits, while the other wants to collect them when they’re first eligible at age 62.What Are Your Retirement Goals?Each person may have different dreams of what retirement should be. One may want to travel immediately, while the other wants to stay home.Both can be done, of course. Discussing what you want to do in retirement is one of the best things about planning for it. Doing those things together-after figuring out what they are-can make your retirement dreams come true.How to Pay for ItSocial Security is an important part of funding retirement, but it shouldn’t be the only way. If your goals are bigger than your assets, you’ll have to make some adjustments. To determine how much money you’ll have in retirement, a couple should meet with their financial advisor.Each spouse should have access to their savings, investments, pension, insurance and other accounts, and have a short monthly meeting on where they stand. Make sure each person is listed on the paperwork for each account, and that beneficiary information is complete.What’s in Your Will?This is the unpleasant part of planning for retirement, but it’s something worth doing. Set up a will together so that your family knows how your estate will be handled, and what they should do about taxes and other financial issues. Your financial advisor should be able to help, as should an attorney.This is the final step of retirement, and of life, and it’s one you don’t want to avoid. With proper planning, it will be after a long and enjoyable retirement.Where toFind Free Help With TaxesPreparing your tax returns can be a chore. The good news is that filing your taxes is free-if you can figure out how to fill out the forms accurately. If not, you may want to buy some tax preparation software or hire a tax preparer to do the detailed work for you.If you prefer not to spend money for tax prep help, or don’t have the money for it, there are some free alternatives. Here are a few ways to get free help preparing and filing your taxes:Free E-File Forms From the IRSThe IRS offers free file forms that can be completed online. The program operates from January through mid-October, when accounts are erased from the server. Estimated tax payments can be paid online, and tax refunds can be paid through direct deposit to your bank.For incomes above $64,000, free file forms are available. The forms offer only basic guidance, and you must know how to do your taxes yourself. You must have your tax return available, and state tax prep isn’t available.Free FileFor incomes below $64,000, another IRS program, called Free File, offers help. It works with a dozen tax software companies in the Free File Alliance to provide free tax filing assistance.The program is geared toward low- and moderate-income taxpayers. Some may have restrictions on age and where you live, and the program will walk you through programs that meet your criteria. After selecting the software that works best for your tax situation, you’ll be transferred from IRS.gov to the company’s website to complete your returns.AARP AideThe AARP Foundation offers free help through its Tax-Aide program that’s run by volunteers.The program has helped nearly 50 million low- to moderate-income taxpayers since 1968, and is available to anyone 50 and older who can’t afford a tax preparation service.It’s offered at more than 5,000 locations in libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers. AARP membership isn’t required.Volunteer Income Tax AssociationKnown as VITA, this program from the IRS offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing.Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)The TCE program is another IRS program, offering free help for all taxpayers, but focusing on people 60 and older. Its volunteers specialize in questions and pensions and retirement issues that are unique to seniors. It’s offered at the same types of sites where the AARP program is, and many of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Tax-Aide volunteers. Some sites also offer free help with web-based tax prep software to file basic federal and state tax returns.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

Staging: The Secret to Sealing the Deal

Given that an overwhelming 90% of home searches begin online, how can we move buyers from behind the screen to inside your home? Staging. As your local real estate professional, I thought I’d share this home staging infographic with you. This will help put staging into perspective, and give you some ideas of just how to go about it.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

6 Small and Easy Steps to Improve Your Credit Score

The best way to improve your credit score is simple, but not always that easy: Reduce your debt.Paying off your credit cards, or at least paying them down substantially, will not only increase your credit score, but having less debt will probably be more satisfying than a great credit score. And not using your credit cards anymore and paying off the balances is easier said than done.But there are smaller, easier steps that can improve a credit score. Here are six:Set payment reminders: Making credit payments on time is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. Set payment reminders on your phone or whatever calendar you use, and check if your bank offers online reminders through email or text messages.Don’t open new accounts: If you have a short credit history, then opening a lot of credit accounts too rapidly will lower your average account age and can drop your scores if you don’t have a lot of other credit information.Fix errors: Get a copy of your credit report and check it for errors. These can include accounts that are listed as open but closed, incorrect late payments and wrong personal information, such as your birthday. If you find any credit report errors, fix them online with the credit reporting agencies.Don’t move debt around: How much you owe accounts for 30 percent of a FICO credit score, one of the most common types of credit score. It can be tempting to pay off one credit card with another, but that type of shell game can hurt a credit score. Instead, pay down the debt and have fewer open accounts.Don’t max out: Stay away from hitting the top of your credit limit on your credit cards so that your credit utilization level is low. Credit utilization is the amount of your credit card balance relative to your credit limit. The higher it is, the worse it can affect your credit score.This may be easier said than done, but keeping balances to 30 percent or less of your credit limits will improve a credit score just as much as paying your credit bills on time will.Pay your bills twice a month: This is easier than you think and can be done with the same amount of money you were going to pay for the full month anyway.If you’re paying down a credit card with $500 per month, for example, pay half of it just before the statement closing date and the second payment just before the due date. The first will reduce the balance that credit bureaus see and the second will ensure you won’t pay a late fee.I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate information needs today!

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

How to Haggle on the Phone for Better Prices

Haggling may not be one of the funnest things you’ll do on any given day, but if you’re anywhere near good at it, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.For people who don’t want to haggle in person or don’t want to send emails back and forth, the simplest option is calling on the phone. This can be done to reduce your costs for phone, cable TV, Internet service or other monthly bills, and for big-ticket purchases such as a car or household appliance.Here are some tips for haggling over the phone:ResearchIf you’re looking for a better price on your cable TV package, for example, look online for deals your cable provider and other companies are offering new customers, and ask for the same deal. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to haggle by suggesting you’ll go to a competitor that has a better price.Know who to callMost businesses have customer service phone numbers. If you get lost in a phone tree, press the number “0,” which should usually connect you directly to an operator. Ask for a customer service representative. If that person isn’t much help within a few minutes, ask to be transferred to their supervisor or a customer retention specialist who can usually offer the bigger discounts that you want.Don’t argueDon’t debate the person on the other end of the line. Being mad will likely cause the other person to lose interest in helping you, so stay calm and on point. Ask for what you want and explain how long you’ve been a loyal customer and how much longer they’ll have you as a customer if they offer the discount.Use silenceBeing silent can give the other person the incentive to fill the space by talking and hopefully offering options. These may include a free add-on service, such as free delivery of a new mattress if you’re negotiating the price of a new bed, or they may all of a sudden find a deal on their computer that they didn’t offer during the first few minutes of your conversation.Say goodbyeIf the rep or retention specialist didn’t offer you the best deal you expected, then thank them for their time and say goodbye and that you’ll be checking with their competitors. This message that you may soon be dropping their service gives them one last chance to put you on hold and come up with a solution. If they don’t, then either go find a better price at another company, or call back a few days later and talk to another customer service representative. The people you talk with later may be willing to help you.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

Quick Ways to Get More Cozy

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Want to up your homes cozy factor? Here are some simple ways to add some warm and cuddly.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

Pros and Cons of Wedding Insurance

Rain, the bride falling into a pool, a wedding cake falling over, and deposit money that’s lost because the venue went out of business a week ago.What do all of these have in common? They’re all things that can go wrong at a wedding that can be covered by wedding insurance.Some problems can’t be fixed with money, but this type of insurance – also called special event insurance – can provide financial protection if a wedding has to be put off due to bad weather, natural disasters, death, illness or serious injury to key participants.Insurance riders can also be added to the policy, covering things such as crashing cakes, a guest slipping and falling, or gifts were stolen.Medical coverage can also be added to pay the medical expenses of anyone injured at a wedding. Also, personal liability coverage can be added to cover bodily injury or property damage caused by an accident during the wedding.Wedding insurance prices range from $125 to $550 or so, depending on coverage. Policies usually have a specified maximum amount for each area covered, and a deductible applies.The company WedSafe, for example, offers minimal coverage of $7,500, providing up to $1,000 for problems with photos, and $500 for professional counseling.There are some things, however, that wedding insurance is unlikely to cover. Wedding rings may be covered, but an engagement ring probably won’t be covered by insurance.Wedding insurance also doesn’t cover a change of heart by the bride or groom. If either person gets cold feet, you’re both out of luck – financially and otherwise.The good news is that you may not need wedding insurance if you or the site you’re having the wedding at has enough insurance. Rental halls and other sites often have their own liability insurance, though they may require couples to have additional insurance.Your homeowner’s insurance may cover you for liability if the wedding is taking place at your home, and it may cover losses away from home if you buy a rider.Credit cards used to buy food for the reception, for example, may reimburse you if the food doesn’t arrive. Auto insurance should cover any wedding day accidents. Trip insurance can cover a honeymoon.I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate information needs today!

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

Qualifying for a Credit Card If You Have Bad Credit

Having bad credit can be worse than having no credit at all. A lousy credit score can lead to a steeper credit hole to climb out of, and can take years to fix.All is not lost. Borrowers with bad credit scores can still get approved for a new credit card, though they’ll have to jump through a few more financial hoops than other people.If you’re trying to qualify for an unsecured card because you have bad credit, here are some things you’ll need to provide:Proof of IncomeThe Credit Card Act of 2009 requires that borrowers be checked that they have an “ability to pay” to have credit extended to them. That can include proof of your annual income, as well as your partner’s.The credit card issuer may have minimum income requirements of $10,000 or $12,000 per year. If you earn less than that, or you already have too much debt, you may be denied.Bank AccountA checking or savings account may be needed to determine your financial stability. If you can’t find a bank that will let you open an account because you have a poor banking history, look for a bank or credit union that offers “second chance” accounts.These accounts often don’t have overdraft protection, but can have low or no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements, so you can rebuild your banking history.NoCredit History Red FlagsMost credit cards run credit checks to look for signs that your financial life is getting worse. Bankruptcy, liens, lawsuits and debt, among other things, could hurt your chance of getting approved.Before applying for a credit card, clean up your existing accounts by getting caught up on payments and paying your bills on time.A bankruptcy can be one of the biggest roadblocks, so you may want to try getting a credit card from your local bank or credit union, which might have less strict requirements for their credit cards.No Bad BloodLastly, having a clean history with the credit card company that you’re trying to get a new credit card from can help your application. If you’ve defaulted on payments with a certain company, you may be better off not seeking a credit card from them for a while and focusing on a company that you’ll have a clean slate with.Bear in mind banks are always looking for business, so finding a credit card somewhere while you try to rebuild your credit shouldn’t be impossible.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

Home Sweet Home: What Matters Most to Millennials

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

5 Bank Accounts Every Family Should Have

Having all of your family’s money in one bank account can make keeping track of your money easier, but it might not help your family meet its financial goals.Instead of one big fund for everything – such as a checking account – you might be better equipped to meet several small financial goals with multiple bank accounts. If you’re smart about them, you might also save on fees and make more money off of your money.Here are five bank accounts every family should have:1. Regular savings. This is an account to hold money in and only use when needed. You can attach a goal to it, such as saving for a down payment on a house or a family vacation, or it can just sit around for life’s unexpected expenses. Try to save up to three months of living expenses in this fund in case of a short-term emergency.2. Emergency savings. This account should be used as a last resort and is for big emergencies, such as losing a job and having enough money set aside for 6 – 12 months of living expenses.3. Joint checking account. This is used to pay your regular bills and other family expenses, though not medical bills, which we’ll get to soon. It’s an account you probably already have and is where most of your income should go before it’s used to pay bills or moved to other accounts. This account should at least cover your monthly expenses.4. Spousal checking accounts. Each spouse should have their own checking account so that they can buy something however they see fit. The amount shouldn’t be a secret from the other spouse, and it can be used as “fun money.” If everything else in your budget has been paid for, the money in this account is each person’s spot to use as they’d like to.5. Health Savings Account. Also called an HSA, this is a tax-free account to hold money for medical expenses, from prescriptions to hospital stays. There are some rules to understand before using an HSA, so ask your Human Resources department at work or search online for details. If you’re spending a few thousand dollars a year on your family’s medical costs, a tax-free HSA can make it less expensive.How much money you put into these accounts is up to you, but do yourself a favor and make it easy by using direct deposit so that a specified amount of money is automatically deposited into each account each month.

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Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
Tiffany Booker | Posted in Uncategorized |

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