7 Myths About Work From Home Jobs & What It’s Really Like

I have been working from home or while traveling full-time since around 2013, and since then I have heard so many myths about work from home jobs.I have been working from home or while traveling full-time since around 2013, and since then I have heard so many myths about work from home jobs.

Some of the things that I’ve heard over the years include:

“Working from home must be boring.”

“You must have so much free time to get chores done!”

“Aren’t all work from home jobs scams?”

“Working from home isn’t a real job”

Whether you work for yourself and your office is in your home, or if you telecommute and work for someone else, I’m sure you’ve heard some of these myths about work from home jobs as well.

Truth is, so many people think that working from home is something different, until they get to experience it.

And, this is something that many people are learning in 2020 due to current events!

Now, I want to say that I absolutely love and enjoy working from home.

I would not change a single thing about working from home.

However, some people have said certain things to me that really make me laugh. I think part of that is because they’ve never worked from home before, and the reality is that working from home is still work.

Working from home can be different for everyone because we all have different jobs. Also, what your work from home situation is like makes a big difference too. 

Working from home with kids can make things more challenging. Some jobs keep you tied to your laptop, some require extreme concentration, some are more flexible, etc.

Still, it’s all work!

Today, I want to talk about some of the most common work from home facts and myths. I’m going to explain the misconceptions of working remotely and what’s really happening when people work from home.

Now, I hope today’s article doesn’t come across as a big complaint. Instead, I simply want to shed some light on the topic and explain the truth about working from home.

Content related to myths about work from home jobs:

  • 12 Work From Home Jobs That Can Earn You $1,000+ Each Month
  • Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
  • 9 Work From Home and Travel Careers
  • 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside

Here are common 7 myths about work from home jobs.

 

Myth: You can run errands for everyone during the day

“You must have so much free time to get chores done!”

When I first started working from home, I received so many phone calls from people asking me to do favors, and almost every single time it started with “since you have nothing else to do during the day…”

While I don’t mind helping others around me, I know I’m not alone – this is something that many, many people who work from home have an issue with.

It can be so hard saying no.

Many people think that if you work from home, you don’t actually do anything all day. This sometimes leads to friends and family members asking for favors from those who work from home.

I know friends who work from home who have been asked to babysit, pick things up from the store, grab dry cleaning, bring a pet to the groomer, and more. 

If you have the time and you want to, by all means say yes to every favor. It does feel good to help others.

But, don’t feel like you have to jump on every request just because you work from home.

 

Truth: People who work from home still have to stick to a schedule

One of the reasons people believe that last myth is because working from home is so flexible, and they’ve probably heard that before.

The truth is, while it’s flexible, many people who work from home still try and stick to a normal-ish schedule. 

That’s because if you have other people in your life that keep regular 9-5 hours or have kids in school, working during “normal” hours makes the most sense. It’s probably the only time you have to get any work accomplished. 

Be honest with the people around you and explain the situation. More importantly, be realistic with yourself. It feels nice to help other people out, but running errands all day for others can prevent you from completing work, force you to work late in the evening or weekends, and it can also cost you money.

It also helps to set some boundaries with those around you. Tell the people in your life if there are certain times they shouldn’t bother you, that you might not pick up the phone right away, etc.

Not everyone will understand, some people will get it, and some people probably aren’t sure what working from home means.

But, most people will happily respect your boundaries once you tell them what they are.

 

Myth: Working from home is boring

“I could never work from home, I would be too bored.”

I hear this all the time, ever since I first started working from home.

This is one of the myths about work from home jobs that people believe because they think they would miss working with other people. I understand that – I remember having lots of fun with some of the people I used to work with.

Many people believe this myth because it might sound boring to stay in your house all of the time. It can be, that’s not always the case.

 

Truth: Working from home can be both exciting and boring

Some people would probably think that blogging is boring whether they did it in an office or from home. That’s probably true for lots of jobs.

Your job can be exciting, boring, stressful, calm, easy, difficult, etc. And, it can feel like all of those things over the course of the day. 

Another thing is that while working from home might sound boring to some people, I look at what it allows me to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I don’t find it boring, at all. 

But, I also love that working from home allows me to travel full time. I have gotten to visit so many amazing places. And, I can choose when I work.

Still, there are some days when I’d rather be doing something other than working, but that doesn’t make working from home boring.

If you’re struggling with this, think about what your situation allows you to do. Focus on the positives.

Some people love what they do, and others love what their job allows them to do.

 

Myth: All work from home jobs are scams

When I tell people what I do, they usually don’t believe it. Many people think that home businesses are scams.

While this myth has eased a little bit over the years, a LOT of people thought working from home was a scam just about a decade ago.

Things have changed a lot in the last several years!

According to Stanford, 42% of the U.S. labor force currently works from home full-time in 2020.

Not all work at home jobs are scams. I have a legitimate business! Just like anyone else who has a business, mine is a business as well.

There are many, many work from home jobs that exist and are legitimate.

 

Truth: There are work from home scams

Unfortunately, there are still some scams out there. 

There are scams that say a company will pay you $10 for every envelope you stuff. There are some scams where a person says they’ll send you a big check up front, but you have to forward part of that check back to the business.

Work from home scams do exist, but that’s not at all the case with the majority of them.

Please head to How To Spot Work From Home Job Scams And Avoid Them At All Costs to learn more.

 

Myth: It’s easy to separate work and life

When you work from home or have your own business, it can be very difficult to completely stop working.

Whenever we go on a trip, I almost always continue working the same amount that I do when I am at home. When you are a business owner, especially in the beginning, you want to bust your butt off to make your business successful. 

It can go the other way too. If you are working from home and see dirty dishes in the sink or unfolded laundry, you can easily get distracted from what you’re doing and stop working. 

It’s also easy to get distracted by personal emails, phone calls, social media, etc. 

This is something I still struggle with.

 

Truth: You can make a better work from home environment

One of the things that may help you separate work from the rest of your life is making sure you set boundaries and create a good physical and mental space to work.

I recommend setting work hours for yourself, making time for vacations, taking breaks throughout the workday, and so on.

Even though you are working from home and you probably don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder to see what you are doing all day long, I still recommend having clear work hours. This will help you manage your time, complete your work, and “leave” work for the day.

If you get distracted by what else is happening in your house, try to make some space that is only for working. You don’t need an office – it can be as simple as a clean dining room table. Or, do the dishes and fold the laundry before you start working.

 

Myth: You’re not actually working when you’re at home

Working from home is still working!

You still have a job and tasks still need to be completed.

This is one of the myths about work from home jobs that gets me the most.

For some reason, many people associate working from home with not doing any work at all. Boy, are they wrong!

I have even had people not believe me and then ask for a full schedule of what I do each day to prove myself.

If me and the millions of other people weren’t actually working when they were home, how would we be holding jobs and getting paid?

 

Truth: People successfully work from home every day

The reality is that the only real thing that changes when you work from home is that the location is different.

People run multi-million dollar businesses from their home. Some hold side hustles, freelance, run Etsy shops, dog sit in their home, work jobs in the corporate world, and much more.

Sure, there are distractions and you may find more time to spend on non-work tasks, but working from home is still working.

 

Myth: You will be lonely when working from home

I’m often asked if I get lonely working from home, and this is one of the most common myths about work from home jobs.

People think that when you work from home that you have absolutely no contact with anyone else. But when I worked in an office, I hardly ever had human contact, except during meetings. That honestly felt more lonely than working from home.

Now, I talk to people all day long. I talk with other bloggers, I answer emails from my readers, and I interact with people on social media. I probably talk with more people now than I did when I worked in an office.

 

Truth: It can be lonely to work from home, but there are ways to make it less lonely

If you do start feeling lonely when you work from home, I have a couple of suggestions to beat the lonely feeling.

You can start a Slack chat with those that you work with or hop on a video call. There are also meetups you can attend that relate to work or your hobbies. There are also lots of online groups, like Facebook groups or subreddits, where you can network with others in your field.

Working from home doesn’t have to feel lonely all of the time.

 

Myth: You will spend all of your time in pajamas

When I first started working from home, I spent a lot of time in my pajamas.

However, that’s not the case anymore.

Now that we live on a boat and have to walk the dogs regularly, I have to go outside often and I’d prefer if everyone around me didn’t have to see me in my pajamas all the time, haha.

 

Truth: It’s okay to work in your pajamas

Some people get completely dressed up for work every day, even though they work from home full-time. It helps get them in the mood for work, and I completely get that.

Some put on a nice top, but still wear athletic shorts or pajama pants.

You will have to find what works best for you.

But, if you want to work in your pajamas, do it. That’s one of the perks of working from home. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about wearing pajamas if that’s what you want.

 

What are the pros and cons of working from home?

I am a big fan of working from home. You can probably tell that now, haha!

The reasons these myths about work from home jobs bother me is because I love what I do and I love helping other people realize that they can work from home too.

Being able to work from home is one of the best things I’ve been able to do. Some of the pros are:

  • It allows me to spend more time with my family
  • I can travel full-time
  • My schedule is flexible
  • I can make a great income from home, and more

Now, what are the negatives of working from home?

Some of the cons are:

  • It can be hard to separate your work and life
  • Some people may find it lonely
  • Some people in your life may struggle with the boundaries you set
  • It can be a big adjustment if you’ve never done it before

The reality is that there are pros and cons about any kind of job. The negatives don’t just apply to work from home jobs. It’s about finding what works for you.

 

Is working from home right for you?

After reading all of the above, you may be wondering how you can make working from home work for you.

Here are some of my tips:

  • Set working hours for yourself
  • Create a dedicated work area
  • Hire help if you need it
  • Cut out distractions
  • Socialize with others
  • Don’t run errands for others all day long
  • Take time off work when you are sick

I recommend reading My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed to learn more about how you can work from home most efficiently.

Even with talking about all of the myths above, there are still many benefits to working from home.

Being able to work from home is one of the best things I’ve been able to do, and I know many people who feel the same way.  I know it can be hard at times, but it’s all just the reality of working from home.

What common myths about work from home jobs have you heard?

The post 7 Myths About Work From Home Jobs & What It’s Really Like appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How to Make a Great Impression in a Virtual Interview

Global pandemic got you thinking this is no time for a job change? Think again! Unemployment did soar to alarming rates in the early days of Covid. According to the Harvard Business Review, U.S. unemployment jumped from 3.5% in February of 2020 to 14.7% in April. But as of November 2020, it’s back down to 6.7%.
 
There is a job market, and it’s yours to partake in if you so choose. But the search is likely to be virtual.
 
So whether you’re out of a job or just looking for a change, let’s talk about strategies that will help you shine on screen and land your dream job.

1. Polish that profile

Keeping your online presence current and polished is a good idea in any moment or market. But according to Fast Company, there’s a particular urgency to sprucing it up right now. 
 
“Because many HR professionals are relying on video interviews, they’re also looking for ways to get a better feel for who the candidates are… [so] many are turning to social media profiles and looking for evidence of the candidate’s work online.”
 
This is a moment to assess your professional online presence. Personally, I focus on LinkedIn.
 
What’s your headline? What achievements are you highlighting? Do you have links in your profile to samples of your work?  Can you ask for testimonials or endorsements from people in your network? Ask a few friends to check out your LinkedIn profile as if they were looking to hire. Get their feedback and make adjustments. 
 
This is your moment to use LinkedIn like a Rockstar.

2. Set the scene for success

My family has this little holiday tradition. Every year we watch the 1989 classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It gets worse every year, but you don’t mess with tradition. This year, my 13-year-old was savvy enough to recognize that no one in Clark Griswold’s office had a computer on their desk. She simply couldn’t fathom the idea of work getting done in a pre-technology world. I can barely believe it myself.
 
Technology has evolved in ways the workforce of 1989 could never have imagined. It’s amazing what we can do today. But while videoconferencing technology has technically enabled amazing things, we all know it can be clunky and awkward by 2020 standards. So do your best to make your virtual interview as smooth as possible.
 
Here’s a quick checklist:
 
  • Check your tech. Internet connection, microphone, webcam—are they all working? If not, make sure you troubleshoot ahead of time.
     
  • Create a professional setting. Your background—real or virtual—should be as professional as possible.
     
  • Test the platform in advance. Make sure that wherever you’re meeting (Zoom, Teams, etc.) you have everything downloaded or updated, and you'll be able to get into the virtual interview without a hitch. Do a practice run with a friend if you’re anxious.
     
  • Strip out distractions where you can. Kids, dogs, landscapers, snowblowers—they're all noisemakers of the highest order! Be aware, and do your best to minimize.
     
  • Acknowledge distractions you can’t control. In a tiny apartment or homeschooling kids solo? Don't stress! Just call this out as the meeting begins so no one is caught off guard. Any interviewer with a shred of humanity will offer you some grace.

If the interviewer isn't willing to cut you some slack, pay attention to that vibe! I mean, is a workplace that can't roll with real-world challenges graciously really where you want to be?

3. Account for the floating head syndrome

Videoconferencing is the best we’ve got, but it’s not perfect. There is so much about in-person interaction that we didn’t appreciate until we lost it! We’re now trading in floating heads. We’ve lost our access to body language which helped us read the room or sense how we were being received by our conversation partner.
 

In the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice, so check in with the interviewer.

 
In a pre-pandemic world, the savvy among us might read subtle cues from the interviewer indicating we’ve gone off-topic, or we’re going into too much detail. But in the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice.
 
So check in—not constantly, but periodically. Ask the interviewer “Am I answering the question you asked?” or “How’s this level of detail? I can provide more or less if that would be helpful.” 
 
The interviewer will appreciate your checking in. It demonstrates an emotional intelligence many of your competitors may not show.

4. Keep that energy soaring

We all know Zoom-fatigue is real. Energy tends to be lower on video, so find ways to express enthusiasm that the interviewer can’t help but experience.

Focus on being fully present.

This isn’t about singing and dancing (though some solid choreography would certainly make you memorable!) Focus instead on being fully present. Close all of your tabs or windows besides the videoconference. The temptation to multi-task or be distracted by an email is dangerous. This will help you stay focused on the conversation at hand.
 
Be prepared to share stories or examples about projects you were really excited about being a part of. Oh, and find moments to just smile! Let your interviewer know, visually, you’re just happy to be there. Your enthusiasm will shine through.

5. Ask questions of the moment 

It’s good practice in any climate to ask thoughtful questions in an interview. Hiring leaders respond well to curiosity. Especially the kind that shows you did some prep work.
 
In this particular climate, be sure you ask a question or two that is relevant to the experience we're all having. You might ask how they’ve shifted their strategy or service delivery or what they’ve learned about their customers during Covid.
 
This line of questioning shows not only a spirit of curiosity, but that you’re thinking about the need to redirect, be agile, and consider the context when engaging with their products or customers.

6. Put your resilience on display

The great buzzword of 2020 will surely carry into 2021. You may have skills, experience, and connections, but every company wants to know: Are you resilient?
 
Buzzy though it may be, companies want, now more than ever, to recruit people who know how to deal with setbacks, handle rejection, learn from failure, and keep on truckin'!

Every company wants to know: Are you resilient?

So as you move through your conversation, find spots to highlight moments of failure that taught you something new; challenges you overcame; or difficult feedback you used to improve yourself. You can even talk about how you transitioned to working while homeschooling, nursing, and doing whatever else the pandemic has demanded of you.
 
These are the rules of the road when it comes to virtual interviewing. And of course, it goes without saying that what mattered in traditional interviewing—being on time, being professional, doing your research, sending a thank you note—all still applies.
 
Now go get ‘em, tiger!
 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Financial Considerations When Getting a Divorce

In a recent episode, I shared that I would be doing a 4-part series on divorce.  I’ve been divorced for 5 years now and wanted to share what has worked for me, my ex-husband, and our 8 kids during this time. While divorce is not easy, time does help heal, and when your focus is putting your kids first, it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy, happy family relationship.

My first episode in this series was 5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce.  My second episode in this series was 5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse. 

There really isn’t anything easy about divorce. Thankfully, as I discussed in the first two episodes, there are strategies and thoughtful ways to navigate through some of divorces issues, especially if the two parents are willing to put their personal differences aside and focus on their kids. In addition to the emotional turmoil that encompasses divorce, there is also another difficult component that couples must deal with and that is the financial aspect. 

After 25 years of marriage and 8 kids, Mighty Mommy had to get her financial house in order and make some significant adjustments going from a two-income household to a single income.

Here are four financial considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind if you are thinking of or getting a divorce.

1. Get Your Financial Documents in Order

The entire divorce process is completely overwhelming, and when you begin to delve into the financial ramifications, the stress is taken to a whole new level. Once we began having our small tribe of kids, we decided I would leave my career to be home with our family. During the last 10 years of our marriage I went back to work part-time as a freelance writer but by no means was I contributing significantly to our income. My ex-husband managed the majority of our financial affairs so when the reality of our divorce settled in, I knew the first thing I had to do was get a handle on every aspect of our financial status. I honestly wasn’t sure where to begin, but my divorce attorney recommended I start by gathering all my financial documents.

Maryalene LaPonsie, contributor to USNews.com writes in 7 Financial Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce that “as soon as you know you’re getting a divorce, collect all the financial documents you can.” She continues, by stating that these include:

  • “Bank statements”
  • “Credit card statements”
  • “Tax returns”
  • “Retirement account balances”
  • “Appraisals for valuable items, if available”

In addition, other documents to consider are:

  • Mortgage Statement, including any Home Equity Loans and purchase information
  • Checkbook Registry for the last year
  • Any other long-term debt account statements you may have, including car loans

2. Know Your Income and Expenses

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances. 

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances.  Because my ex was the one who paid all the bills and the sole provider for most of our marriage, I never worried much about the details of our 401(K) plan, life insurance policies or what our overall assets and debt totaled.

One piece of advice I received many times over was that I needed to know what our budget was so I could begin to realistically know what my living expenses would be. 

Jason Silverberg, CFP at Financial Advantage Associates, Inc. and author of The Financial Planning Puzzle, told me via email: “If there was one singular, most important piece of financial advice that I could offer someone going through a divorce, that would be to understand where everything is and what everything’s worth. Without knowledge of what you own and who you owe money to, you really are going to have a hard time moving forward. You’ll also want to understand all of your sources for income and all of your monthly expenses as well. This will help you have a good handle on your budget to provide you critical understanding, so you can make smart financial decisions.”

He went on to say, “This exercise should be done both prior to as well as after the divorce. This way you can get a sense for how your household budget will operate on one income.” To help divorcing couples realize these figures, Silverberg has created the Personal Financial Inventory (1 page worksheet) inside the Picking up the Pieces eBook.

This exercise was extremely enlightening as I realized exactly where every penny (and then some) was going on a monthly basis. I was also able to gauge how much income I would need to start making in order to support these bills in addition to the child support and alimony payments I was receiving. One important factor to consider with child support is that it will decrease as your children get older, so I had to continually modify my budget based on this decrease. At first, it was overwhelming to see how much money I would need to keep our household running, but when you are armed with the figures and you pay attention to your monthly cash flow, it becomes easier to make adjustments. The fact of the matter is that some of the extra splurges such as frequent trips to the hair salon or buying my kids their usual top-of-the line items like sneakers or sports equipment had to be adjusted to what I could now afford. My kids have had some disappointments in this department, but they appreciated how we were trying to work together as a family-unit so that their lifestyle wasn't affected as drastically as it could've been which balanced everything out.


3.  Consider What Professionals Will Represent You

There are important considerations to keep in mind when choosing which divorce professionals will represent you. Adrienne Rothstein Grace writes on the Huffington Post, 3 Steps to Prepare for Your Divorce, that you must align yourself with the right professionals.  She explains “First, think about the divorce process you and your spouse will want to undertake and ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Is this going to be an acrimonious divorce? Or will my spouse and I cooperate?”
  • “Do I already know about all of our household and personal finances? Or do I suspect that I may be out of the loop on some assets, debts or income sources?”
  • “Do I trust my spouse to be cooperative and forthright?”
  • “Do I have any reason to believe that I will feel intimidated by my spouse during these proceedings?”
  • “Are we both focused on the wellbeing of our children?”

Grace says that “If you believe that you and your spouse will cooperate and will have joint best interests in mind while negotiating, then you might want to choose a divorce mediator or embrace a collaborative divorce. Those options are less costly, more private, and usually result in a more peaceful settlement process. However, if you’re not certain about finances, or cannot trust your spouse to be completely above-board and cooperative, then you might hire a traditional divorce attorney, who will only have your interests in focus while they help negotiate the complexities of your divorce.”

My ex-spouse and I decided to retain individual divorce attorneys. In addition, we also hired a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, (CDFA) at the recommendation of each of our lawyers, who met with us jointly to give us a complete overview of what our financial future was going to look like. It's a huge wake-up call when you see all the numbers in front of you on paper.  At our first meeting with the CDFA I learned quickly that I was going to have to go back to work, full-time to sustain the home we lived in as well as the upkeep, taxes, insurance, and basics like groceries for our large family. 

It's a huge wake-up call when you see all the numbers in front of you on paper.

If you surround yourself with competent, caring professionals who will guide you through this very delicate journey, you will have made an important investment in your family’s future, financial well-being.

4.  Stay in the Financial Know Throughout Your Divorce

Throughout your divorce, you’re bound to get all kinds of advice from friends, family, co-workers and other concerned individuals that will be looking out for you and have your best interest at heart.  This can be both helpful and draining depending on your relationship with these people.  When I began divorce proceedings, I too received lots of comments and suggestions from well-meaning folks, but I also decided I wanted to be armed with my own facts so I began reading lots of articles and books as well as listened to informative podcasts about divorce, particularly financially-related pieces.

My QDT colleague, Laura Adams, Money Girl, recently did an wrote about divorce in Getting Divorced? Here's How to Protect Your Money. She interviewed Stan Corey, a divorce expert and author of a new book, The Divorce Dance. This podcast had some terrific insight and some of the topics she and Corey cover in this interview include:

  • Different types of divorce proceedings that you can choose
  • The biggest mistakes that can cost you financially in a divorce
  • Why relying on a single family law attorney can be a bad idea
  • Tips for dividing up financial assets the right way—especially when you’re not so financially savvy
  • How to get divorced when you don’t have much money to pay for it

As you continue down the path of your divorce, surround yourself with as much information as you can, so that you will be able to make the best decisions possible for you and your children.

Five years later, I am still watching my financial picture very carefully.  I work full-time and do freelance work on the side in order to maintain my home and other living expenses.  I am extremely grateful that my ex-husband is very supportive of many of our 8 children’s extracurricular expenses, but the reality is I’m responsible for my own financial future so I have learned to be extremely careful with purchases and expenses.

The final topic in this divorce series will revolve around putting your kids first after the divorce.

How have you managed your finances during a separation or divorce?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Be sure to sign up for the upcoming Mighty Mommy newsletter chock full of practical advice to make your parenting life easier and more enjoyable. 

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.
Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.
Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

1. Crackle

And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

2. Tubi TV

The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”
Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.
The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”
You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

3. Pluto TV

Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

Pro Tip
You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.
Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.
Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

4. NewsON

Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

5. Funny Or Die

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Pro Tip
Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

6. PBS Kids

Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

Pro Tip
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

7. Xumo

In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.
While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.
Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

Pro Tip
Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

8. Crunchyroll

Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

9. Twitch

One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.
Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

Pro Tip
While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

10. IMDb TV

Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package
Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.
As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.
With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

11. YouTube

For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.
Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

12. Peacock

Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.
It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

Get camera-ready: From masterclasses to gear, The Penny Hoarder Shop has all things photography.

There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

Is It Real? The Creepy Mansion in ‘The Haunting of Hill House’

We recently covered the new Haunting of Bly Manor, director Mike Flanagan’s so-called sequel to the epic mini-series The Haunting of Hill House. And while we were anxiously waiting for the series to drop on Netflix, we thought we’d try to distract ourselves by taking a trip down memory lane and re-watching the first season. 

Are the two seasons connected? Kind of.

Now, the two parts have nothing to do with each other in terms of plot, but you’ll get to see some familiar faces from the first series. Director Mike Flanagan is obviously taking cues from American Horror Story, which tends to re-cast the same actors in each season, much to our delight. 

Another thing that the two seasons have in common is a central character in the form of a mansion that brings all the other characters together. Both The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor are based on iconic gothic novels, namely Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw

While Bly Manor, according to James’ short novel, is welcoming and warm, bearing no signs whatsoever of anything evil lurking inside it, Hill House is a different story. Mike Flanagan might have strayed from the plot and the characters found in Jackson’s novel, but the central character is the same: a classic, creepy, dark and mysterious haunted mansion. 

The House in The Haunting of Hill House.
The House in The Haunting of Hill House. Image credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

Hill House’s dark allure

Hill House, both in the novel and in the Netflix adaptation, is sinister-looking, unwelcoming, ominous even, like a warning to those who dare enter. In Flanagan’s version, Hill House is a living and breathing organism that manages to haunt the Crain family for decades, luring them back one by one. 

The Crain family, which includes Hugh and Olivia and their children, Theo, Nell, Shirley, Luke, and Steven, moves into Hill House as the parents have a passion for flipping houses. Hugh and Olivia plan to renovate the crumbling mansion and then sell it to build their dream house, designed by Olivia herself. However, Hill House has other plans in store for the Crains.

Repairs take much longer than anticipated, as if the house itself was committed to causing trouble and keeping the family close. Gradually, the family starts experiencing some strange phenomena. Kids are seeing ‘bent-neck ladies’ in the night, hearing strange noises, while Olivia becomes increasingly unhinged, much to Hugh’s concern. 

Inside the house in The Haunting of Hill House
Inside the house in The Haunting of Hill House. Image credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

Things progress and get worse, until one fateful night when Hugh and the kids are forced to flee and escape Hill House, apparently leaving Olivia behind. What truly happened that night is only explained at the end of the series, when the kids, now adults, return to Hill House with their father to finally learn the truth. 

We don’t want to give too much away, in case you haven’t seen the series yet – if that’s the case, stop reading right now for crying out loud and go binge-watch some Netflix. Basically, the house has a strange grip on each of the members of the Crain family, and many years later it manages to lure them back, one by one, for reasons that are only revealed in the final episode. 

Inside the house in The Haunting of Hill House
Inside the house in The Haunting of Hill House. Image credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix

Is Hill House a real place?

Fortunately, Hill House is an entirely fictional place, so no worries about being inexplicably lured to it like the Crains. However, there is a real place that inspired the look and feel of Hill House, located in LaGrange, Georgia. 

bisham manor
Bisham Manor (courtesy of Zillow)

Dubbed Bisham Manor, the imposing estate at 1901 Old Young’s Mill Road might look like the house in the series, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. The interior shots were filmed on a set, and they look nothing like the interior of Bisham Manor, which is far from creepy. In fact, Bisham Manor is a popular and charming wedding and event venue, so it’s safe to say it’s attracting visitors for non-evil purposes. 

Bisham manor
Bisham Manor (via Zillow)

Bisham Manor, according to Zillow, boasts roughly 11,000 square feet of space, and is a 1920s English Tudor-style home that was redeveloped in the early 2000s by master-builder Ben Parham. The four-story estate is being used as an event venue for corporate events, meetings and team buildings, weddings, parties, and so on.

Though it might look like an old English castle, it comes decked out with modern amenities like a gym, spa, sauna, steam, wine cellar, and an outdoor pool. Nothing evil about that, as far as we can see. But Bisham’s former owners might disagree.

Interiors at Bisham Manor
Interiors at Bisham Manor (via Zillow)

Neil and Trish Leichty purchased Bisham Manor in 2013, and they reported that the house is definitely haunted by a couple of ghosts of its own. The couple described music playing in the basement despite there being no sound system installed, strange smells permeating throughout the house, and things disappearing in the night.

The Leichtys soon moved to a different home, but continued to experience strange events, much like the Crains were haunted by Hill House decades after they left it. Coincidence? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

If you haven’t watched The Haunting of Hill House, you still have some time until The Haunting of Bly Manor drops on October 9. Prepare to be spooked, but don’t worry, the house is purely fictional. If, on the other hand, you’ve already seen it twice, then check out these other haunted houses we’ve covered here on Fancy Pants Homes. Halloween season is not too far away, so you better start getting ready!

More haunted houses

Behind the Evil Eyes: The (Real) Story of the Amityville House
The Haunting of Thornewood Castle – Where Stephen King Filmed the Rose Red Miniseries
Is It Real? The Creepy House in Stephen King’s ‘It’
The Winchester House — The Haunted Mansion that Inspired the Name of Supernatural’s Winchester Brothers

The post Is It Real? The Creepy Mansion in ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

7 Easy Ways to Use Less Water Around the House

How Fixtures Can Save You Big on Water Usage

The easiest way to lower your water usage (and utility bill) is to screw low-flow aerators into your sink’s faucets. Aerators are easy to install, cost $5 or less, and can save you $50 or more per year. If the showerheads in your home were installed before 1994, you should seriously consider replacing them with their modern, energy-saving equivalents. Check out your local hardware store for low-flow alternatives, and remember that just because it’s low-flow doesn’t mean it has to be weak!

How to Use Less Water on Your Lawn

Have you ever set the sprinkler on the lawn and forgotten it was there? Purchasing a water timer will take care of that problem for you. Available at your local hardware store, these hose attachments work like egg timers and turn off the water supply after the amount of time you specify, usually between 10 minutes and two hours. It's a minimal investment with a worthwhile return!

Make Sure Your Toilet Doesn’t Leak

Does your toilet tank leak into the bowl after each flush? If it does, you could be wasting up to 73,000 gallons of water per year! To find out, put a drop of food coloring in the tank when it’s done flushing and see if it shows up in the bowl. If you see the color in the bowl, check out how to fix a toilet tank leak.

Savings with Each Flush

If you don’t have a modern, water-saving toilet, a great way to save water is to fill a plastic bottle or two with sand and put them in your toilet tank. You’ll use a lot less water with each flush. Just make sure you place them away from the operating mechanism. Also, don’t use bricks—they disintegrate and can damage your toilet.

Save Water During Each Shower

We’ve already shared with you some easy ways you can heat less water to lower your water bill. But what about the time spent waiting for the water to heat up? Keep a bucket in your shower to use to collect cold water as the shower is heating up. Then, use it to water plants, soak stained clothes, or other jobs that you don’t need warm water for. Meanwhile, quit fiddling with the knobs on your shower to find where you want it before it gets hot. Find your favorite setting, then mark where the knob is pointing on the tile with a dab of nail polish or a waterproof marker. This water-preserving trick is great for kids, who often take a long time adjusting the water before they get in.

Does Your Teenager Take 45-Minute Showers?

Does your teenager take 45-minute-long showers? If you have teenagers, try giving them an incentive to take shorter showers. A great one is five minutes added on to their curfew (or phone time) for every minute they shave off their showering time. 

For more ways to save money from all over the internet, check out our Saving Money board on Pinterest. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook!

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Popular Housing Markets During the Pandemic

There’s something weird happening with the real estate markets today. Normally in a recession, demand for rentals goes up while demand for houses goes down. But if there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that everything is turned on its head right now. 

Instead, we’re seeing an interesting trend: despite the ongoing pandemic, home-buying is experiencing higher demand now than they have been since 1999, according to the National Association of RealtorsⓇ (NAR). If you’ve been hoping to buy a home soon, you’re probably already aware of this weird trend, and excited. But is it the same story everywhere? And is a pandemic really the right time to buy? 

How the Pandemic is Changing Homeownership

This pandemic is different from any other in history in that many people — especially some of the highest-paid workers — aren’t being hit as hard as people who rely on their manual labor for income. This, coupled with an ultra-low mortgage rate environment and a new lifestyle that’s not fit for a cramped apartment, is creating the perfect storm of high-dollar homebuyers. 

“I didn’t want to pay someone else’s mortgage to have three roommates,” says Amy Klegarth, a genomics specialist who recently purchased a home in White Center, a suburb of Seattle where she was formerly renting. “I moved because I could afford to get a house with a large yard here for my goats, Taco and Piper.” 

Whether you have goat kids or human kids (or even no kids), you’re not the only one looking for a new home in a roomier locale. According to the NAR report, home sales in suburban areas went up 7% compared to just before the pandemic started. In some markets, it’s not hard to understand why people are moving out. 

Where Are People Going?

Apartments are small everywhere, but they’re not all the same price. For example, homes in cities tend to be 300 square feet smaller than their suburban counterparts. Some of the hottest home-buying markets right now are in areas where nearby rents are already too high, often clustered around tech and finance hubs that attract high-paid workers. After all, if you can’t go into the office and all of the normal city attractions are shut down, what’s the point of paying those high rental costs?

According to a December 2020 Zumper report, the top five most expensive rental markets in the U.S. are San Francisco, New York City, Boston, San Jose, and Oakland. But if you’re ready to buy a home during the pandemic, there are nearby cheaper markets to consider.

If You Rent in San Francisco,  San Jose, and Oakland, CA

Alternative home-buying market: San Diego, Sacramento 

  • Average rent: San Francisco, $2,700, San Jose, $2,090; Oakland; $2,000
  • Average home value (as of writing): San Diego ($675,496) and Sacramento ($370,271)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: San Diego ($2,255) and Sacramento ($1,236)

Big California cities are the quintessential meccas for tech workers, and that’s often exactly who’s booking it out of these high-priced areas right now. Gay Cororaton, Director of Housing and Commercial Research for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), offers two suggestions for San Francisco and other similar cities in California. 

San Diego

First, is the San Diego-metro area, which has a lot to offer people who are used to big-city living but don’t want the big-city prices. An added bonus: your odds of staying employed as a tech worker might be even higher in this city. 

“Professional tech services jobs make up 18% of the total payroll employment, which is actually a higher fraction than San Jose (15.5%) and San Francisco (9.3%),” says Cororaton.

Sacramento

If you’re willing to go inland, you can find even cheaper prices yet in Sacramento. “Tech jobs have been growing, and account for 7% of the workforce,” says Cororaton. “Still not as techie as San Jose, San Francisco, or San Diego, but tech jobs are moving there where housing is more affordable. It’s also just 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe.”

If You Rent in New York, NY

Alternative home-buying market: New Rochelle, Yonkers, Nassau, Newark, Jersey City

  • Average rent: $2,470
  • Average home value (as of writing): New Rochelle ($652,995), Yonkers ($549,387), Nassau ($585,741), Newark ($320,303), or Jersey City ($541,271)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: New Rochelle ($2,180), Yonkers ($1,834), Nassau ($1,955), Newark ($1,069), or Jersey City ($1,807)

Living in New York City, it might seem like you don’t have any good options. But the good news is you do — lots of them, in fact. They still might be more expensive than the average home price across the U.S., but these alternative markets are still a lot more affordable than within, say, Manhattan. 

New Rochelle and Yonkers

Both New Rochelle and Yonkers are about an hour’s drive from the heart of New York City, says Corcoran. If you ride by train, it’s a half hour. Both New Rochelle and Yonkers have been stepping up their appeal in recent years to attract millennials who can’t afford city-living anymore (or don’t want to be “house poor”), so you’ll be in good company. 

Nassau

“NAR ranked Nassau as one of the top places to work from home in the state of New York because it has already a large population of workers in professional and business services and has good broadband access,” says Cororaton. If you have ideas about moving to Nassau you’ll need to move quickly. Home sales are up by 60% this year compared to pre-pandemic times. 

Newark or Jersey City

If you don’t mind moving to a different state (even if it is a neighbor), you can find even lower real estate prices in New Jersey. This might be a good option if you only need to ride back into the city on occasion because while the PATH train is well-developed, it’s a bit longer of a ride, especially if you live further out in New Jersey. 

If You Rent in Boston, MA

Alternative home-buying market: Quincy, Framingham, Worcester

  • Average rent: $2,150
  • Average home value (as of writing): Quincy ($517,135), Framingham ($460,584), or Worcester ($284,936)
  • Estimated mortgage payment with 20% down: Quincy ($1,726), Framingham ($1,538), or Worcester ($951)

Boston is another elite coastal market, but unlike New York, there’s still plenty of space if you head south or even inland. In particular, Quincy and Framingam still offer plenty of deals for new buyers.

Quincy

If you like your suburbs a bit more on the urban side, consider Quincy. Although it’s technically outside of the city, it’s also not so isolated that you’ll feel like you’re missing out on the best parts of Boston-living. You’ll be in good company too, as there are plenty of other folks living here who want to avoid the high real estate prices within Boston itself.

Framingham

Framingham is undergoing an active revitalization right now in an effort to attract more people to its community. As such, you’ll be welcome in this town that’s only a 30-minute drive from Boston.

Worcester

“Now, if you can work from home, consider Worcester,” says Cororaton. “It’s an hour away from Boston which is not too bad if you only have to go to the Boston office, say, twice a week.” Worcester (pronounced “wuh-ster”) is also a great place for a midday break if you work from home, with over 60 city parks to choose from for a stroll.

Renting Market(s) Average Rent for 1-Bedroom Apartment Housing Market Options & Avg. Monthly Mortgage*
San Francisco, CASan Jose, CAOakland, CA $2,700 San Diego ($2,255) Sacramento ($1,236)
New York, NY $2,470 New Rochelle ($2,180) Yonkers ($1,834)Nassau ($1,955)Newark ($1,069)Jersey City ($1,807)
Boston, MA $2,150 Quincy ($1,726)Framingham ($1,538)Worcester ($951)

*Average home mortgage estimates based on a 20% down payment.

Should You Buy a House During a Pandemic?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s a good idea to consider your long-term housing needs versus just what’ll get you through the next few months. 

For example, just about everyone would enjoy some more room in their homes to stretch right now. But if you’re the type of person who prefers a night on the town, you might be miserable in a rural area by the time things get back to normal. But if you’ve always dreamed of a big vegetable garden or yard for the family dog, now could be the right time to launch those plans. 

Another factor to consider is job security. And remember that even if you’re permanently working from home today — and not everyone has this ability — living further from the city could limit your future opportunities if a job requires you to be on-site in the city.

Finally, consider this: most homes in outlying areas weren’t built with the pandemic in mind. For example, “… open floor plans were popular, pre-pandemic,” says Cororaton. “If the home for sale has an open floor plan, you’d have to imagine how to reconfigure the space and do some remodeling to create that work or school area.” 

Here are some other things to look for:

  • Outdoor space
  • Area for homeschooling
  • Broadband internet access
  • Proximity to transport routes
  • Office for working from home

Is It More Affordable to Buy or Rent?

There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy. Each of these choices has associated costs. To rent, you’ll need to pay for your base rent, pet fees and rent, parking permits, deposits, renters insurance, and more. To buy, you’ll have an even bigger list, including property taxes, maintenance and upgrades, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, closing costs, higher utility bills, and on.

Each of these factors has the potential to tip the balance in favor of buying or renting. That’s why it makes sense to use a buy vs. rent calculator that can track all of these moving targets and estimate which one is better based on your financial situation and the choices available to you. 

In general, though, most experts advise keeping your housing costs to below 30 percent of your take-home pay when setting up your budget. The lower, the better — then, you’ll have even more money left over to save for retirement, your kid’s college education, and even to pay your mortgage off early. 

The post Popular Housing Markets During the Pandemic appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Mint Money Audit: Making the Most of a Side Hustle

This week’s Mint audit introduces us to Selena, 48, a mom of two living in San Antonio, Texas. She is a community college director and her husband, 51, is a full-time graphic designer who also manages a booming side hustle in the same industry.

Selena and her husband have already achieved some impressive financial accomplishments, thanks to tracking their finances on Mint, leveraging coupons and shopping at thrift stores. They’ve paid off $52,000 in student loans and invested in a piece of land next door for $26,000, which they believe has appreciated by nearly 40% since purchasing it a few years ago.

But with retirement looming and two children (currently ages 9 and 12) to possibly put through college, Selena wants to learn about additional money moves that could better prepare them for future expenses. She would also love to pay off the family’s 30-year mortgage before she retires in the next 10 to 12 years. Currently they’re on track to pay it down by 2030.

First, a breakdown of their finances:

NET INCOME

  • Hers: $56,000
  • His: $40,000 plus an additional $40,000 in freelance work
  • Total: $136,000 per year

DEBT

  • Just paid off student loans and a property loan (for the lot next door)
  • Credit Card Debt: $0
  • Mortgage: $163,000 (Monthly payment, including real estate tax, is $1,985)
  • Car note: $5,300 (should be paid off within the year)

RETIREMENT SAVINGS

  • Selena’s teacher pension: Roughly $5,000 per month at retirement if she retires in 12 years ($3,800 if she retires in 6 years).
  • Various IRAs between the two of them: $65,000
  • Estimated social security payments: $2,500 to $3,000 (combined)
  • Husband does not have a 401(k)

RAINY DAY SAVINGS

In an emergency, the family has at least six months of expenses saved up or roughly $35,000.

COLLEGE SAVINGS

Selena and her husband haven’t specifically saved for their children’s college education. They’re concerned that a 529-college savings plan might limit their children’s options, if they didn’t choose to attend a traditional college program.

Recommendations

Leverage the Side Hustle

All in all, I think the family’s finances are in solid shape. But if they’re interested in further securing their future, I would suggest investing the annual side hustle income (which currently sits in a bank account earning no interest) to advance retirement savings and carve out an account for their two children.

Starting that side hustle was a very smart money move because it effectively boosted the family’s net income by 40%. And according to Selena, the business, which they operate out of their living room, is only growing, with profits expected to grow another 30% in the future.

Income from side hustles is how I managed to pay off debt in my 20’s and boost savings. Today, it’s more prevalent among working Americans. More than 44 million Americans have a side revenue stream, according to a recent survey by Bankrate. “Having a side hustle is fiscally responsible,” says Susie Moore, founder of the program Side Hustle Made Simple and the new book, “What If It Does Work Out: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life.” “It’s an economic hedge that mitigates disruption to wealth building and future planning. There is no such thing as a fixed income,” she says.

So, let’s do some math and see how far this $40,000 per year side revenue stream can go using a compound interest calculator.

Retirement

The couple’s retirement nest egg is not too shabby. Not including their existing IRAs, the couple has about $8,000 a month coming to them in retirement between social security and Selena’s pension. That amount, alone, basically replaces their current full-time income. (And I do recommend Selena wait 12 years before retiring so that she can take advantage of the maximum pension payment.)

But with all the uncertainty around social security and future health care costs, it can’t hurt to save a little more, right? By placing $6,500 in a Roth IRA each year for the next, say, 15 years (Selena’s husband can qualify for the catch-up contribution since he is 5- years old), they’ll have an additional $142,000 for retirement that won’t be subject to taxes. This assumes an average annual return of 4%. They can open a Roth IRA at any bank.

Future Savings for Children

While a 529 plan may not be the best fit for this family, Selena still would like to carve out savings for her kids’ future endeavors, be it to start a business or attend an alternative school. For this, I’d recommend opening a 5-year certificate of deposit or CD and placing $25,000 in it this year. The going yield right now for a 5-year CD at that deposit level is averaging a little more than 2%.

Then, every year, as income rolls in from the side hustle, create a new 5-year CD and deposit $25,000 in it. Do this for the next four or five years. All CDs will have matured by the time her youngest is starting college (or pursuing something else). And they’ll have at least $100,000 plus interest reserved for their kids. If they do choose to go to college, the family’s prepared to help pay for in-state tuition at one of the fine Texas universities.

Mortgage Payoff

After funding the Roth IRA each year ($6,500) and the annual CD contribution ($25,000), the family’s left with $8,500. They could choose to put this toward the mortgage principal to knock a few years off their payoff schedule. Or, they may want to just hold onto it for that annual family vacation. And if I’m being honest, I’d say, go for the vacation! They deserve it!

The post Mint Money Audit: Making the Most of a Side Hustle appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Why You Need to Open a UGMA/UTMA Account for Your Kids

From the Mint team: As you know, Mint is a free product you can use to help stay on top of your finances. So, how do we make money? We get paid by the advertisers on our site. This compensation may affect how and where products appear on the site (and in what order). Mint.com does not include all products or all available offers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

 

Saving and investing for college expenses may seem overwhelming, but setting aside even small amounts can give your child a head start. While many people are aware of tax-efficient investing accounts like 529 plans, you may not know about UGMA/UTMA accounts – another way to save for educational and other expenses.

In this article, we’ll take a look at UGMA and UTMA custodial accounts, what they are, and how to determine the best way to save for your kids’ future, while getting tax advantages.

What are UGMA and UTMA accounts?

UGMA stands for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act and UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Account-holders are “custodians,” and may transfer money into the account to benefit the minor, but the money is managed by the custodian. Typically the money is released to the minor at the age of majority (usually 21 but sometimes 18 or other ages).

How do UGMA and UTMA accounts differ from 529 plans?

529 plans differ from UGMA/UTMA account in a few key areas:

  • 529 plans can only be used for educational expenses, while UGMA/UTMA accounts can be used for anything that benefits the child. .
  • 529 plans are owned and controlled by the person who created the account – with UTMA/UGMA accounts, the funds are transferred to the beneficiary at the age of majority.
  • Unlike 529 plans, custodial accounts are considered the property of the child, which means that it counts for a higher percentage in financial aid calculations.

The two types of plans share some similarities:

  • Both types of accounts are considered custodial accounts that can be used for the benefit of a minor.
  • Anyone can contribute to either type of account — there are no restrictions based on one’s personal income

If you have a medium to long-term horizon, either a UGMA/UTMA account or a 529 account is usually better than just putting your money in a savings account at a low-interest rate. And don’t forget that it is possible to have both a 529 plan AND a UGMA/UTMA account for the same child.

Why You Need to Open a UGMA/UTMA Account for Your Kids

Unlike with a 529 plan, the funds in a custodial account do not have to be used solely for higher-education expenses. The custodian can withdraw money in a UGMA/UTMA custodial account for any expense that benefits the child, like technology, transportation, housing, or any other expense for the child.

The biggest advantage of UGMA/UTMA custodial accounts is their flexibility. Because they can be used for a wide array of expenses, you can use the money in the account even if your child chooses not to go to college. While earnings do not grow completely tax-free like in a 529 plan, earnings in a UGMA/UTMA account are tax-advantaged, but in a different way.

Depending on how you file your tax return, a guardian can choose to include their child’s unearned income with their own tax return. Unearned income is money that doesn’t come from employment, like from interest or investments. In 2020, the first $1,100 of a child’s unearned income can be claimed on the guardians’ tax return tax-free, and the next $1,100 is taxed at the child’s tax rate, which is likely much lower than their parent’s.

Things to watch out for with UGMA or UTMA accounts

If you’re looking to save money or transfer assets to your kids for a variety of expenses beyond education, a UGMA/UTMA custodial account can make a lot of sense. One thing to watch out for is that a UGMA/UTMA account is tied specifically to one named beneficiary. Unlike a 529 plan, where you can transfer the money in an account to a sibling or other beneficiary, with a UGMA/UTMA account, any unused funds must be used or distributed by the time the child reaches their age of majority or their state’s maximum age for custodial accounts.

Apps like Acorns are making it easy to start a UTMA/UGMA account with their new product, Acorns Early. You can start in under a few minutes and set Recurring Investments starting at $5 a day, week, or month. Fun fact: If you invest $5 a day from birth, considering a 7% average annual market return, you could have more than $70,000 by the time the child turns 18. To learn more, visit Acorns.com/Early.

The post Why You Need to Open a UGMA/UTMA Account for Your Kids appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Here Are The Best Student Loans of 2020

The best student loans can help you earn a college degree that will lead to higher earnings later in life. They also come with low interest rates and reasonable fees (or no fees), which will make it easier to keep costs down while you’re in school and once you’re in repayment mode.

For most people, federal student loans are the best deal. With federal student loans, you can qualify for low fixed interest rates and federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans. To find out how much you can borrow with federal student loans, you should fill out a FAFSA form. Doing so can also help you determine if you qualify for any additional student aid, and if so, how much.

While federal student loans are usually the best deal for borrowers, many students need to turn to private student loans at some point during their college careers. This is often the case when federal student loan limits have been exhausted, or when federal student loans are no longer an option due to other circumstances. We’re providing the top 8 options, at least according to us, as well as a guide to help you get the best rate.

Most Important Factors When Applying for Student Loans

  • Start with a federal loan. Fill out a FAFSA form prior to applying for a private loan to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you can.
  • Compare loans across multiple lenders. Consider using a comparison company like Credible to do so.
  • Always read the fine print. Fees aren’t always boasted on the front of a lender’s website, so take time to learn about what you’re getting into.
  • Start paying as soon as you can to avoid getting crushed by compound interest.

Best Private Student Loans of 2020

Fortunately, there are many private student loan options that come with low interest rates and fair terms. The best student loans of 2020 come from the following private lenders and loan comparison companies:

  • Best for Flexibility
Get Started
  • Best Loan Comparison
Get Started
  • Best for Low Rates and Fees
Get Started
  • Best for No Fees
Get Started
  • Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Get Started
  • Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Get Started
  • Best for Fair Credit
Get Started
  • Best for Comprehensive Comparisons
Get Started

#1: College Ave — Best for Flexibility

College Ave offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents who want to take out loans to help their kids get through college. Variable APRs as low as 3.70% are available for undergraduate students, but you can also opt for a fixed rate as low as 4.72% if you have excellent credit. College Ave offers some of the most flexible repayment options available today, letting you choose from interest-only payments, flat payments, and deferred payments depending on your needs. College Ave even lets you fill out your entire student loan application online, and they offer an array of helpful tools that can help you figure out how much you can afford to borrow, what your monthly payment will be, and more.

Qualify in Just 3 Minutes with College Ave

#2: Credible — Best Loan Comparison

Credible doesn’t offer its own student loans; instead, it serves as a loan aggregator and comparison site. This means that, when you check out student loans on Credible, you have the benefit of comparing multiple loan options in one place. Not only is this convenient, but comparing rates and terms is the best way to ensure you get a good deal. Credible even lets you get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and you can see loan offers from up to nine student lenders at a time. Fixed interest rates start as low as 4.40% for borrowers with excellent credit, and variable rates start at 3.17% APR with autopay.

Compare Dozens of Rates at Once with Credible

#3: Sallie Mae — Best for Low Rates and Fees

Sallie Mae offers its own selection of private student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parents. Interest rates offered can be surprisingly low, starting at 2.87% APR for variable rate loans and 4.74% for fixed-rate loans. Sallie Mae student loans also come without an origination fee or prepayment fees, as well as rate reductions for students who set up autopay. You can choose to start repaying your student loans while you’re in school or wait until you graduate as well. Overall, Sallie Mae offers some of the best “deals” for private student loans, and you can even complete the entire loan process online.

Get Access to Chegg Study FREE with Sallie Mae

#4: Discover — Best for No Fees

While Discover is well known for their excellent rewards credit cards and personal loan offerings, they also offer high-quality student loans with low rates and fees. Not only do Discover student loans come with low variable rates that start at 3.75%, but you won’t pay an application fee, an origination fee, or late fees. Discover student loans are available for undergraduate students, graduate students, professional students, and other lifelong learners. You can even earn rewards for having a 3.0 GPA or better when you apply for your loan, and Discover offers access to U.S. based student loan specialists who can answer all your questions before you apply.

Apply for a Loan with Discover

#5: Citizens Bank — Best Student Loans from a Major Bank

Citizens Bank offers their own flexible student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parent borrowers. Students can borrow with or without a cosigner and multi-year approval is available. With multi-year approval you can apply for student funding one time and secure several years of college funding at once. This saves you from additional paperwork and subsequent hard inquiries on your credit report. Citizens Bank student loans come with variable rates as low as 2.83% APR for students with excellent credit, and you can make full payments or interest-only payments while you’re in school or wait until you graduate to begin repaying your loan. Also keep in mind that, like others on this list, Citizens Bank lets you apply for their student loans online and from the comfort of your home.

#6: Ascent — Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required

Ascent is another popular lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Variable interest rates start at 3.31% whether you have a cosigner or not, and there are no application fees required to apply for a student loan either way. Terms are available for 5 to 15 years, and Ascent even offers cash rewards for student borrowers who graduate and meet certain terms. Also note that Ascent lets you earn money for each friend you refer who takes out a new student loan or refinances an existing loan.

Get a Loan in Minutes with Ascent

#7: Earnest — Best for Fair Credit

Earnest is another online lender that offers reasonable student loans for undergraduate and graduate students who need to borrow money for school. They also offer a free application process, a 9-month grace period after graduation, no origination fees or prepayment fees, and a .25% rate discount when you set up autopay. Earnest even lets you skip a payment once per year without a penalty, and there are no late payment fees. Variable rates start as low as 3.35%, and you may be able to qualify for a loan from Earnest with only “fair” credit. For their student loan refinancing products, for example, you need a minimum credit score of 650 to apply.

Learn Your Rate in Minutes with Earnest

#8: LendKey — Best for Comprehensive Comparisons

LendKey is an online lending marketplace that lets you compare student loan options across a broad range of loan providers, including credit unions. LendKey loans come with no application fees and variable APRs as low as 4.05%. They also have excellent reviews on Trustpilot and an easy application process that makes applying for a student loan online a breeze. You can apply for a loan from LendKey as an individual, but it’s possible you’ll get better rates with a cosigner on board. Either way, LendKey lets you see and compare a wide range of loan offers in one place and with only one application submitted.

Pay Zero Application Fees with LendKey!

How to Get the Best Student Loans

The lenders above offer some of the best student loans available today, but there’s more to getting a good loan than just choosing the right student loan company. The following tips can ensure you save money on your education and escape college with the smallest student loan burden possible.

Consider Federal Student Loans First

Like we mentioned already, federal student loans are almost always the best deal for borrowers who can qualify. Not only do federal loans come with low fixed interest rates, but they come with borrower protections like deferment and forbearance. Federal student loans also let you qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income Based Repayment (IBR) as well as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

Compare Multiple Lenders

If you have exhausted federal student loans and need to take out a private student loan, the best step you can take is comparing loans across multiple lenders. Some may be able to offer you a lower interest rate based on your credit score or available cosigner, and some lenders may offer payment plans that meet your needs better. If you only want to fill out a loan application once, it can make sense to compare multiple loan offers with a service like Credible.

Improve Your Credit Score

Private student loans are notoriously difficult to qualify for when your credit score is less than stellar or you don’t have a cosigner. With that in mind, you may want to spend some time improving your credit score before you apply. Since your payment history and the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits are the two most important factors that make up your FICO score, make sure you’re paying all your bills early or on time and try to pay down debt to improve your credit utilization. Most experts say a utilization rate of 30% or less will help you achieve the highest credit score possible with other factors considered.

Check Your Credit Score for Free with Experian

Get a Quality Cosigner

If your credit score isn’t at least “very good,” or 740 or higher, you may want to see about getting a cosigner for your private student loan. A parent, family member, or close family friend who has excellent credit can help you qualify for a student loan with the best rates and terms available today. Just remember that your cosigner will be liable for your loan just as you are, meaning they will have to repay your loan if you default. With that in mind, you should only lean on a cosigner’s help if you plan to repay your loan amount in full.

Consider Variable and Fixed Interest Rates

While private student loans offer insanely low rates for borrowers with good credit, their variable rates tend to be lower. This is why you should always take the time to compare variable and fixed rates across multiple lenders to find the best deal. If you believe you can pay your student loans off in a few short years, a variable interest rate may help you save money. If you need a decade or longer to pay your student loans off, on the other hand, a low fixed interest rate may provide you with more peace of mind.

Check for Discounts

As you compare student loan providers, make sure to check for discounts that might apply to your situation. Many private student loan companies offer discounts if you set your loan up on automatic payments, for example. Some also offer discounts or rewards for good grades or for referring friends. It’s possible you could qualify for other discounts as well depending on the provider, but you’ll never know unless you check.

Beware of Fees

While the interest rate on your student loan plays a huge role in your long-term loan costs, don’t forget to check for additional fees. Some student loan companies charge application fees or prepayment penalties if you pay your loan off early, for example. Others charge origination fees that tack on a few additional percentage points to your loan amount right off the bat. If you can find a student loan with a low interest rate and no additional fees, you’ll be much better off. Since loan fees may not be prominently advertised on student loan provider websites, however, keep in mind that you may need to dig into their fine print to find them.

Make Payments While You’re in School

Finally, no matter which loan you end up with, it makes a lot of sense to make payments while you’re still in school if you’re earning any kind of income. Even if you make interest-only payments while you attend college part-time or full-time, you can save yourself from paying thousands of dollars in additional interest payments later in life. Remember that compound interest can be a blessing or a curse. If you can keep interest at bay by making payments while you’re in school, you can squash compound interest and keep your loan balances from growing. If you let compound interest run its course, on the other hand, you may wind up owing more than you borrowed in the first place by the time you graduate school and start repayment.

What to Watch Out For

A private student loan may be exactly what you need in order to finish your degree and move up to the working world, but there are plenty of “gotchas” to be aware of. Consider all these factors as you apply for a new private student loan or refinance existing loans you have with a private lender.

  • Interest that accrues while you’re in school: Remember that subsidized loans may not accrue interest until you graduate from college and enter repayment mode, but that unsubsidized loans typically start accruing interest right away. Since private student loans are unsubsidized, you’ll need to be especially careful about ballooning interest and long-term loan costs.
  • Getting a cosigner: Make sure you only apply for a private student loan with a cosigner if you’re entirely sure you can repay your loan over the long haul. If you fail to keep up with your end of the bargain, you could destroy trust with that person and their credit score in one fell swoop.
  • You’ll lose out on some protections: Also remember that private student loans come with fewer protections than federal student loans. You won’t have the option for income-driven repayment plans with private loans, nor will you be able to qualify for federal deferment or forbearance. For this reason, private student loans are best for students who are confident in their ability to repay their loans on their chosen timeline.

In Summary: The Best Student Loans

Company Best Of…
College Ave Best for Flexibility
Credible Best for Loan Comparison
Sallie Mae Best for Low Rates and Fees
Discover Best for No Fees
Citizens Bank Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Ascent Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Earnest Best for Fair Credit
LendKey Best for Comprehensive Comparisons

The post Here Are The Best Student Loans of 2020 appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com