Tag Archives: News

How to Become a Career Coach: 3 Success Stories

When you hear the term “coaching,” it’s easy to think of the whistle-blowing leader of your child’s little league team or a motivational life coach who pens self-help books.

Yet a stream of young professionals are now giving that term new meaning. They are spinning off parts of their businesses — and even creating whole new businesses — on the idea of coaching a specific skill, tool or industry.

How did they get started? Where did they find clients? And, perhaps the most perplexing question in the work-for-yourself world, how did they decide what to charge?

We talked to three pioneers in the career coaching world about how they got to where they are and what they want to do next.

Coaching the Business of Freelance Writing

Jenni Gritters and Wudan Yan, The Writers’ Co-op

Freelance writers Jenni Gritters and Wudan Yan both got into coaching after a continued flurry of requests for advice. Both have a presence on social media and had written viral articles about their professional experiences.

For Gritters, it was a piece she wrote on Medium in June 2019 with an eminently clickable headline: “How I made $120,000 in my first year as a freelance writer.” For Yan, it was a piece published around the same time about her saga of successfully extracting late fees from publications that were late paying her. In both cases, Yan and Gritters found themselves inundated with requests from people who wanted to “pick their brains” and ask for career advice.

At some point, they both decided that offering their time for free was not financially sustainable.

To streamline their advice in one place, Yan and Gritters decided to start a podcast, The Writers’ Co-op, which has since become a guidebook for freelancers with worksheets, webinars and even coaching. They also started their own individual coaching businesses, offering one-hour sessions with prospective and experienced freelancers.

A woman smiles outside while sitting next to a flower bush with white flowers on it.

Finding clients was never too much of an issue. Yan’s and Gritters’ relative internet fame assured some level of success. But deciding what to focus on and how much to charge posed bigger problems. Both Yan and Gritters lowballed their rates at first — Yan was charging $35 a session while Gritters was charging $50. Both have since raised their fees: Gritters is at $150 while Yan is at $200.

They advise being realistic about how much work coaching will take and charge accordingly. Remember that a one-hour coaching session does not just take one hour: It takes time to schedule the session, prepare for it and send a follow-up email with tangible guidance, as Yan and Gritters do.

Remember, also, to be thoughtful about what topics you choose to coach. Although Gritters was a longtime editor and once taught high school journalism, she knew she did not want to teach the creative elements of writing. She wanted to save her creative energy for her own work. Instead, she focuses her coaching on the business of freelancing.

Coaching Social Media for Nonprofits

Dana Snyder, Positive Equation

When Dana Snyder initially started her own social media marketing business for nonprofits four years ago, she wanted to emulate an agency. Her plan was to be on monthly retainers with nonprofits managing their social media.

But once those contracts ended, she quickly saw that her clients went back to their previous practices. She wanted to help them long-term.

Much like Gritters and Yan, it was a sort of serendipity that pushed Snyder into coaching. In the first year of her business, a nonprofit reached out asking if she would be willing to work with an internal employee. The leaders knew enough to know what they didn’t know — and that was social media and the digital world.

The coaching paid off. At the end of the year, the nonprofit’s CEO reached out to Snyder to tell her that they had had unprecedented success on social media channels.

Since then, Snyder has made the pivot from the agency model to business coaching and speaking engagements. In a twist of fate, 2020 was the first year Snyder decided to focus 100 percent of her business on online courses, coaching and speaking engagements.When COVID-19 hit, she saw a rush of demand for virtual professional development sessions and planning virtual events.

She offers pre-recorded online courses for purchase on topics like Facebook and Instagram, planning a virtual event and reaching ideal donors. Those range from about $39 to $70 per course. She also offers social media audits to nonprofits, which function as a one-time coaching session. Snyder asks about an organization’s business goals, researches their competitors and the nonprofit’s own content before presenting them with digital strategies for the future. Those start at $1,000.

But in the age of COVID-19, Snyder has found real success in webinars. She offers professional development series for nonprofits that can book her as a speaker. She also received the unique opportunity to become an approved speaker through CharityHowTo, a site that connects nonprofits with relevant webinars. That has both increased her presence in the community and taught her more about how to make an engaging presentation.

Snyder is an example of the power of having a diversified revenue stream — audits, online courses and speaking engagements — at a variety of price ranges.

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Coaching How to Pitch to News Outlets and Brands

Austen Tosone, Keep Calm and Chiffon

Austen Tosone did not initially become a full-time freelancer by choice. After getting laid off from two different magazine jobs, Tosone decided to pursue her blog, Keep Calm and Chiffon, and while writing freelance full-time.

As her work was getting published in publications like Refinery29, Teen Vogue, Bustle and The Zoe Report, she started receiving messages from people wondering how she got there.

“I really want to get into pitching magazines,” they would say, “and I would love any advice.”

But Tosone didn’t have the time to answer every one-off message. She decided to compile a resource that she could hand off to anyone with questions — for a price. That’s how she created her e-book, “Right On Pitch.”

The e-book focuses on the making of a successful pitch and looks at pitching brands and publications. She also has a section on negotiating rates. The book is priced at $9, which Tosone reasoned would be the cost of an actual coffee date, if each person who messaged her were actually able to take her out for coffee.

A woman sits at her home desk.

Tosone also learned the power of sharing your work with a small group before releasing it out into the world. Before launching her e-book, she shared it with about 12 beta-testers of freelance writers and influencers to get feedback. That helped her tweak the product to be ready to go.

The bulk of Tosone’s marketing for the e-book occurs on her own social media platforms, but she has paid to advertise in freelance writer Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week newsletter. She continues to do that, because she’s seen a good return from that $25 investment.

On top of her freelance writing career, Tosone now works full-time as a beauty content director at Jumprope, a company that helps users create how-to videos. But she’s still managed to find time to grow her e-book sales. In 2019, the e-book made up nine percent of her total freelance income. In 2020, it grew to 16 percent.

Tosone found success by compiling all of her advice in one place and marketing it as a low-cost product. Her decision to use beta-testers shows how fine-tuning a product with potential clients can help identify issues on the front end.

Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Why knowing your FICO Score is important: What’s the difference between credit scores out there?

The following post has been sponsored by our partner, FICO. The analysis and opinions in the story are our own and may not reflect the views of FICO. Learn more about our editorial policy

If you recently applied for a new credit card or other kind of consumer loan from a major bank or credit union, there’s a good chance the lender viewed your FICO® Score and may have shared with you the FICO Score obtained at the time of application.

While many lenders have ongoing programs to share updated FICO Scores, you may have also seen free educational three-digit credit scores through lenders or other companies.

Most big credit card issuers offer some kind of free score to customers. Some lenders, such as Discover, are even more generous, offering free scores to anyone willing to supply their information. Discover offers a free FICO® Score to the general public, while some educational sites and card issuers share VantageScore.

But what is the difference between the versions? Why are they different when applying for an auto loan or mortgage or applying for a credit card? Also, what is the difference between FICO® Scores and educational credit scores?

Sallie Mae’s research released in 2019 found that one’s credit score is not top of mind for many young adults noting that many are less likely to be aware of their FICO® Score and the factors that impact one’s score, let alone what sets their different scores apart.

Here’s a closer look at the most widely used consumer credit scores, how lenders use them and what makes each score unique.

See related: Which credit scores do mortgage lenders use?

How credit scores are used by lenders

For nearly three decades now, consumer credit risk scores have played an important role in lending. They not only help lenders efficiently assess/gauge new borrowers, they also give other interested parties, such as landlords or cellphone companies, a window into your credit health.

Most lenders use third-party credit scores, such as the FICO® Score (used in 90% of lending decisions), for soft credit checks before you’ve even submitted an application. A lender will then use these scores to help assess if the applicant meets the lender’s credit criteria. Most lenders also use internal credit risk tools to help assess an applicant’s creditworthiness and determine a borrower’s terms.

For example, a lender may use a FICO® Score distributed by credit reporting agencies in conjunction with their own internal scoring models.  These internal risk tools may take into account additional financial information included in your application, such as your income and housing payment.

(Contrary to some persistent credit myths, your income is not shown on your traditional credit reports, nor is it included in your FICO® Score.)

See related: How debt-to-income ratio affects credit card applications

Which credit score is your lender considering?

It varies by lender. There’s a good chance, though, that your lender is using some version of a FICO® Score, since FICO continues to be the most widely used credit score. FICO has designed various FICO® Score versions that are used by different industries due to different requirements. For instance, across the three credit bureaus, FICO® Auto Score 8 is widely used in auto financing, mortgage lenders often rely on FICO® Scores 2, FICO® Score 4 and FICO® Scores 5, and credit card issuers tend to check FICO® Bankcard Score 8 or FICO® Score 8.

FICO is considered the standard in credit scoring, trusted by lenders for decades. FICO is an independent data analytics company, meaning it’s not a credit bureau and not controlled or owned by any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). It has been an industry standard for over 30 years.

the FICO® Score Open Access program (if your lender is enrolled). This way, you will be able to stay on top of your credit score and it is a free resource.

Otherwise, you will find out which score a lender used if the lender declines to make an offer of credit or offers less-than-the most favorable terms because of your credit score. Lenders are required to disclose the score that influenced the outcome of your application and key factors (if declined). The lender must also provide you with brief explanations of their decision.

What influences varying credit score models?

It depends on the score. Technically, there are many different types of FICO® Scores, in addition to educational credit scores that are intended specifically for consumers who want to get a quick read of what their credit health might be, rather than provide the precise same number that lenders will review.

It’s also important to remember that credit score developers revisit the credit score models on a regular basis following changes in data or consumer behavior. However, lenders have the option to migrate to newer credit scoring models or use multiple FICO® Score models for different credit products so you may wish to inquire what FICO® Score version your lender will be using as part of the credit decisioning process.

For instance, while broad-based scores address the vast majority of applicants, credit scoring models that use alternative data sources such as FICO® Score XD that utilizes telecom data are available for entry-level credit products (reliably expanding credit access for over 200 million consumers), if there’s insufficient data at the credit bureau to provide a traditional FICO® Score.

The FICO® Score 8 and Score 9 models (the most widely used versions by lenders) rely on information that appears in your traditional credit reports, such as your loan payments and accounts. The UltraFICO™ Score, on the other hand, allows consumers to connect their checking and savings accounts cash flow data to potentially improve their score based on positive financial behavior.

Credit score versions matter

Making things a bit trickier, newer versions of your credit score may also look different from older versions of the same score, due to revisions in the way the scores are calculated. For example, a newer version of your credit score may treat a recent late payment with more weight than an older version.

As a result, the parts of your credit history that count most toward the success of your application will not only depend on the type of credit score that a lender uses. It may also depend on the version of that score your lender is using.

FICO® Score 10, which was released in 2020, is the first FICO scoring model to incorporate trended data, and the UltraFICO™ Score is the first score to consider recency and frequency of bank transactions and the consistent amount of cash on hand.

Similarly, the VantageScore 4.0 model expands from prior versions by placing significantly more weight on your total credit usage and your debt-to-credit-ratio than on your payment history. But VantageScore 3.0 – which is still in circulation – places more weight on your overall payment history than on any other component of your score. In addition, VantageScore 4.0 gives less weight to medical collections and it ignores new collection accounts that are younger than six months.

this page for the list of authorized FICO® Score retailers, as well as institutions and lenders that share FICO Scores with their customers through the FICO® Score Open Access program.

Bottom line

Although the term “credit score” is often used interchangeably, no matter what version is used, there’s no such thing as a universal score. The truth is you have many different credit scores – including from the same scoring developer.

But despite the differences between scores, the basic components of a good credit score remain the same: pay your bills on time, limit your credit usage, don’t close your oldest revolving account and don’t go wild applying for a whole bunch of credit at one time.

If you follow those basic rules of thumb, you should be able to build a credit score that you’re proud to show off to any lender.

 

Source: creditcards.com

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s DC Home Is Available To Rent—for $18K a Month

Ivanka Jared DC rental up for rentrealtor.com, Alex Wong/Getty Images

Here’s a real estate tip for folks joining the incoming Biden administration: A rental vacancy has opened up in the tony DC neighborhood of Kalorama—an area known for foreign diplomats and political heavy hitters.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, ex-presidential adviser Jared Kushner, have decamped for Florida, following in the footsteps of her father, former President Donald Trump.

Now, the couple’s former rental is in search of a new tenant. It’s available to lease for $18,000 a month.

The recently renovated home with six beds and 6.5 baths has all kinds of style points. It’s billed as “one of the most well-known and photographed houses on the planet—given its recent tenants.”

During the Trump years when the upscale abode served as the DC home of the first daughter and her family, it attracted protests and candlelight vigils, according to the Washingtonian. The 2017 gathering shown below was to protest Trump’s immigration policies.

On the other hand, the Washington Post recently reported that the mansion’s bathrooms were off limits to the couple’s Secret Service detail. As a result, the security team had to rent a nearby studio apartment at a rate of $3,000 a month—which ended up totaling more than $100,000 over the years, according to the Post.

Bathroom access aside, the 1923 home has been “meticulously maintained by the landlord and former notable tenants,” the listing asserts. Details of the 7,300-square-foot layout include crown moldings, recessed lighting, and wood floors throughout.

Plus, the “very contemporary” interiors boast high-end finishes and electrical updates made within the past four years.

And you might catch a glimpse of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in the neighborhood. The couple live just a “stone’s throw away,” the listing notes. That proximity to power might appeal to a house hunter joining the Biden administration.

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Watch: The D.C. Neighborhood That Power Brokers Ivanka Trump and the Obamas Call Home

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While new listing photos aren’t yet available, the images from 2017 showcase a modern, minimalist living space in a neutral palette decorated with abstract art.

Stone stairs lead to the front door.

realtor.com

Exterior shot of a deck

realtor.com

The living room features a fireplace and plenty of space for oversized furniture. The sleek kitchen with a long, white island looks to have everything you need to whip up a meal (or unpack takeout). The kitchen also has room for a table and adjoins a family room.

A formal dining room features a fireplace and recessed lighting. The master suite includes French doors, another fireplace, and cool tones.

Down south, the home’s former residents are apparently leasing a luxury condo in Miami, according to the Wall Street Journal. But their long-term plans look to involve a 2-acre lot they reportedly purchased on ultraexclusive Indian Creek Island for the jaw-dropping sum of $32 million.

Rodrigo Valderrama with Keller Williams Capital Properties holds the rental listing.

The post Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s DC Home Is Available To Rent—for $18K a Month appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home

Reality TV star Ty Pennington, known for changing people’s lives with his energetic personality on the original version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is now looking to cash in on his own home makeover. Pennington has just listed his house — a beautiful and bright 1927 Craftsman in Venice, Calif. — for $2,795,000.

Pennington put his home design expertise to good use and carefully restored the property earlier this year with the help of his trusted interior designer, Patrick Delanty. Delanty, also known to be Halle Berry’s designer, has long been working alongside Ty Pennington, serving as his design director for Extreme Makeover and running his on-air design segments, most notably his presence on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rachel Ray Show, NBC’s Nightline and Good Morning America.

Just like its reality TV star owner, the home is bright, cheerful and quirky, with colorful interiors exuding creativity and style. The property is listed by Patrice Meepos of Compass.

inside ty pennington's bright home in venice, california
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

Tucked away on a one-way street near the beach, Venice Boardwalk, canals and Abbot Kinney’s hot spots, the original 1927 dwelling has 3 beds, 3 baths, and a sizable living room with decorative fireplace, along with a sunken family room with large windows overlooking a newly landscaped, private back yard with koi pond.

inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
living room in Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington bedroom
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
sunken living room in ty pennington's house
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA.
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

The ground level hosts the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom with direct backyard access, as well as a full bath. On the upper level, there’s a master retreat and a second bedroom. 

Ty Pennington added quite a few special touches to the 2,102-square-foot home, including bamboo flooring, baths adorned in vintage-inspired ceramic tile, a master bath sporting a standalone shower and an antique cast-iron freestanding tub, kitchen with concrete countertops and a wraparound, porcelain-tiled porch. There’s also a beautiful backyard that looks like a great place to entertain guests.

ty pennington kitchen
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington kitchen island
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard entertaining area
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

While Ty Pennington did not return to host HGTV’s 2020 version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which is hosted by Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson), you can catch the two time Emmy award winner in his other home improvement series, Trading Spaces — which recently restarted airing after a 10-year hiatus.

You can also get more tips from the home design expert from his latest book, Good Design Can Change Your Life, which is an intimate look at Ty’s design inspirations and is full of décor advice and tips. While we haven’t yet had the chance to pick up the book ourselves, according to his website the book is part reference, and part behind-the-scenes from Ty’s own home remodeling, which means the Venice home is already a bookshelf hit.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion After Cashing Big on Previous Home
5 Fabulous Homes of Your Favorite Formula 1 Drivers

The post Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

We Bought a House Sight Unseen—and It Turned Out To Be a Total Nightmare

buying sight unseenKatsumi Murouchi; ablokhin; Anna Peisl/Getty Images

I thought I was up to the challenge of a long-distance home purchase during a pandemic. After all, I was moving back to my hometown after only three years away. I knew the area. Family members could fill in the rest. I had a trusted real estate agent from my last house purchase. Plus, I look at real estate listings as a hobby even when I’m not in the market for new property. What could go wrong?

But after purchasing a midcentury modern ranch sight unseen and trekking 1,800 miles across the country to finally get an in-person look at it, my husband and I couldn’t be more shocked.

The front of the house.

Wendy Schuchart

There were so many shoddy details that hadn’t translated through video and photos. The ceilings were lower and the rooms were narrower than they seemed in photos. The countertops that had looked like granite in photos were actually laminate. Every single counter and bathroom fixture was customized for a short person. After seeing broken fixtures and a layer of grime over everything, it was clear that I would have to cure decades of bad maintenance.

Grime discovered in the kitchen on move-in day.

Wendy Schuchart

And then there was the constant noise pollution from the nearby interstate. Our ground team thought the sound was minimal, but a month after we moved in, the surrounding trees dropped their leaves and the dull murmur grew to a roar heard through closed windows.

So what were our mistakes?

Don’t depend on listing photos

In general, experts agree that buying a home without setting foot in it can be a dicey proposition at best and a nightmare at worst. And online listing photos, while helpful in narrowing down your property search, won’t give you the full picture of a house’s condition.

“I’ve visited homes only to discover that the yard is steeper than it looked online, the rooms are smaller, and you couldn’t tell there were power lines right behind the house,” says Steve Heard, a Realtor® with The Heard Group in the Sacramento, CA, area.

There were so many deal breakers that I would have noticed had I been able to set foot inside the home instead of relying so heavily on listing photos and videos. Case in point: Visitors at the front door of my new home have a direct sightline to the main bathroom’s toilet.

“Much like anything you buy online, a home’s listing is created to sell, not inform. They’re marketing,” says Shana O’Brien, owner of Cascadia NW Real Estate in Washington and Oregon.

Go beyond standard due diligence

A home inspection is standard operating procedure for anyone buying a home, but a long-distance purchase should always go through rigorous vetting to make sure you’re not buying a money pit.

Typically, the buyer pays for the home inspection during the escrow period. This can cost around $300 to $500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But to cover your bases and make sure there aren’t any major system failures before you sign a purchase agreement, experts advise bringing in an additional pair of eyes.

Go to the American Society of Home Inspectors, where you can search by your home’s address for a local inspector who can examine the house on your behalf.

Barton L. Slavin, a senior litigation and transaction attorney on Long Island, NY, advises hiring an experienced licensed and insured engineer to inspect the premises before the purchase.

That would have been great in my own long-distance home purchase. After the home inspection, the seller had “fixed” some conditional electrical work that my home inspector found, but those fixes broke other things, which resulted in an electrician visit on my dime. And on the first cold day, when I turned on the furnace, it failed to heat, which was another big repair bill that would have been covered by a warranty.

In my first two months in this house, I’ve also found faulty plumbing hacks and a massive rodent infestation.

How to beat the odds

“The key to success is extreme buyer due diligence,” O’Brien says. “That means having a team of trusted ‘boots on the ground’ to physically visit and inspect the home.”

In retrospect, my live-video walk-through was fairly quick, less than 15 minutes. At the time, it felt like it was enough, but now I realize it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Our experts advise an extensive live-video walk-through with a long-distance home purchase.

“FaceTime works great,” O’Brien says. If buyers see something they have questions about during the walk-through, the real estate agent can zoom in. They can even take still photos and close-ups, which have better detail than streaming video.

Pay attention off-property, too.

“Walk around the block, video camera on, and capture the neighborhood, the condition of the sidewalks, the level of pride of ownership in the surrounding homes,” says O’Brien. “Is the narrow street jammed with parked cars? Are the sounds from the elementary school super loud at recess? What’s the street traffic and street noise like? The buyer will not know unless their agent does the investigation.”

Be realistic

Despite all of your best efforts, though, there’s still a chance your long-distance home purchase will not be all you bargained for. When that happens, O’Brien suggests taking it all in stride.

“Real estate is almost always a good investment,” she says.

As for me, I’m already planning out my investment strategy and making the best of my midcentury modern surprise fixer-upper.

The post We Bought a House Sight Unseen—and It Turned Out To Be a Total Nightmare appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later

unemploymentthianchai sitthikongsak / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has led to record-high unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. And this is particularly worrisome for would-be home buyers.

If you were among the 23.1 million Americans who were laid off or furloughed, you might be worried about your financial future. And if you were hoping to buy a house—either now or in the next few years—you might also wonder how your current jobless status might affect those plans.

While the situation might seem dire, unemployment does not mean that home-buying plans have to be put on hold for long. Here’s how to navigate a period of unemployment so that it doesn’t derail your hopes to buy a home.

Can you buy a home if you’re unemployed?

For starters: If you lose your job while in the midst of home shopping or after you’ve even made an offer, you might have to put the purchase on hold.

The reason: Given your reduced income, the odds of lenders loaning you money for a property purchase are slim, unless your spouse or partner has a sizable income that can carry the mortgage alone.

And even if you’re getting unemployment checks every week, that money is considered temporary income, so it can’t be used to qualify for a mortgage, says Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at Money Management International, a nonprofit providing financial education and counseling.

In short, “unemployment could have an effect on your ability to purchase a home in the short term,” Boies says.

But the good news is that once you find a new job, you can likely resume home shopping without trouble, Boies adds. “Unemployment shouldn’t have a long-term effect on being able to buy a home.”

How long after unemployment can you buy a home?

But even once you do find a new job, that doesn’t mean you can easily buy a house just yet. That’s because lenders like to see a steady history of employment before loaning someone money.

“Regular employment must be reestablished as stable, reliable, and dependable,” says Karma Herzfeld, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Alliance in Little Rock, AR.

So how long is enough? Lenders typically require borrowers to have six months of employment at their current job, and two years of continuous employment. Breaks in employment older than two years shouldn’t affect getting a mortgage.

How unemployment affects your credit score

While unemployment doesn’t jeopardize future home-buying hopes per se, financial experts warn that what can put those plans at risk is how you handle your finances while jobless. Unemployment, after all, can stress your budget in ways that can damage your credit history and credit score.

Lenders check your credit score to assess how well you’ve managed past debts. Scores between 650 and 700 range from fair to good; scores below 650 are considered subpar, which could limit which lenders are willing to loan you money for a house. (You can check your score for free on sites like Credit Karma.)

Credit scores can be damaged in a variety of ways during unemployment. For one, if you get behind on paying bills, this will put some blemishes on your credit history and drag your score down.

Unemployment can also lower your credit score by negatively affecting your debt-to-income ratio, a calculation used by mortgage lenders to compare how much you make against how much you owe.

If you’re unemployed, you may face a double whammy as your income is lower and you’re charging more to your credit cards, thus increasing your debt. Both moves can negatively affect your debt-to-income ratio, which may make lenders leery of loaning you money.

“Any factor that affects income or debt may affect the debt-to-income ratio,” Herzfeld explains.

In sum, hopeful home buyers should be careful not to take on too much debt, even while unemployed. You need to preserve cash as best you can.

“I recommend, if on unemployment, [you] cut back on all discretionary spending and make every effort to keep bills current so that the credit score may not get negatively impacted,” Herzfeld says.

Debt-to-income ratio will likely rebalance once you return to work, as long as you haven’t racked up too much debt during the period of unemployment, Boies says.

How to handle your finances while unemployed

“My recommendation is to always try as best as you can to pay at least the minimum required payment on all monthly debt obligations, otherwise credit may be negatively affected,” Herzfeld says.

Boies suggests reaching out to landlords, credit card companies, utilities, auto lenders, and others to find out what options you have, such as payment plans, deferments, or forbearance. You might also be able to reduce some bills, such as insurance, by reviewing your policy.

“Don’t think that if you can’t pay that bill, you just can’t do anything about it,” Boies says. “You need to reach out to see what options they have available to you.”

How to bounce back from unemployment

If your credit score is negatively affected while you’re unemployed, it’s not the end of the world—but it will take time to repair.

Six months to a year or more of positive credit rebuilding could get you on track to buy a home, Herzfeld says.

“The sooner past-due debts can be remedied, the sooner the score may begin to improve,” she says.

The post How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

The Risks of Playing The Stock Market

child's hand playing chess

To the uninitiated, the stock exchange can seem like a casino, with news and social media feeds sharing stories of investors striking it rich by playing the stock market. But while there are winners, there are also losers—those who lose money playing the market, sometimes pulling their money out of the market because they’re afraid of the potential of losing money.

Playing the stock market does come with investment risks. For new investors learning how to play the stock market can be a frustrating, humbling, and in some cases, incredibly rewarding experience.

While investing is a serious business, playing the stock market does have an element of fun to it. Investors who do their research and tune into the news and business cycles can take advantage of trends that might better enable them to earn good returns on investment.

This is what you need to know about how to play the stock market, the risks involved, and what makes the market so alluring.

Playing the Stock Market: What Does it Mean?

Despite the phrase “playing” the stock market, it’s important to make the distinction between investing and gambling up front.

safe investment—in a way each investment can feel like a gamble. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the market is not a casino, and just because there’s risk involved doesn’t mean that “playing the market” is the same as playing roulette.

So what does “playing the stock market” actually mean? In short, it means that someone has gained access to and is actively participating in the markets. That may mean purchasing shares of a hot new IPO, or buying a stock simply because Warren Buffett did. “Playing,” in this sense, means that someone is investing money in stocks.

Playing the Market: Risks and Rewards

Learning how to play the stock market—in other words, become a good investor—takes time and patience. It’s good to know what, exactly, the market could throw at you, and that means knowing the basics of the risks and rewards of playing the market.

Potential Risks

In a broad sense, the most obvious risk of playing the market is that an investor will lose their investment. But on a more granular level, investors face a number of different types of risks, especially when it comes to stocks. These include market risk, liquidity risk, and business risks, which can manifest in a variety of ways in the real world.

A disappointing earnings report can crater a stock’s value, for instance. Or a national emergency, like a viral pandemic, can affect the market at large, causing an investor’s portfolio to deflate. Investors are also at the mercy of inflation—and stagflation, too.

For some investors, there’s also the risk of playing a bit too safe—that is, they’re not taking enough risk with their investing decisions, and as such, miss out on potential gains.

Potential Rewards

Risks reap rewards, as the old trope goes. And generally speaking, the more risk one assumes, the bigger the potential for rewards—though there is no guarantee. But playing the market with a sound strategy and proper risk mitigation tends to earn investors money over time.

Investors can earn returns in a couple of different ways:

•  By seeing the value of their investment increase. The value of individual stocks rise and fall depending on a multitude of factors, but the market overall tends to rise over time, and has fully recovered from every single downturn it’s ever experienced.
•  By earning dividend income. Dividends can also be reinvested, in order to further grow your investments.
•  By leaving their money in the market. It’s worth mentioning that the longer an investor keeps their money in the market, the bigger the potential rewards of investing are.

How to Play the Stock Market Wisely

Nobody wants to start investing only to lose money or otherwise see their portfolio’s value fall right off the bat. Here are a few tips regarding how to play the stock market, that can help reduce risk:

Invest for the Long-term

The market tends to go up with time, and has recovered from every previous dip and drop. For investors, that means that simply keeping their money in the market is a solid strategy to mitigate the risks of short-term market drops. (That’s not to say that the market couldn’t experience a catastrophic fall at some point in the future and never recover. But it is to say: History is on the investors’ side.)

Consider: If an investor buys stocks today, and the market falls tomorrow, they risk losing a portion of their investment by selling it at the decreased price. But if the investor commits to a buy-and-hold strategy—they don’t sell the investment in the short-term, and instead wait for its value to recover—they effectively mitigate the risks of short-term market dips.

Do Your Research

It’s always smart for an investor to do their homework and evaluate a stock before they buy. While a gambler can’t use any data or analysis to predict what a slot machine is going to do on the next pull of the lever, investors can look at a company’s performance and reports to try and get a sense of how strong (or weak) a potential investment could be.

Understanding stock performance can be an intensive process. Some investors can find themselves elbow-deep in technical analysis, poring over charts and graphs to predict a stock’s next moves. But many investors are looking to merely do their due diligence by trying to make sure that a company is profitable, has a plan to remain profitable, and that its shares could increase in value over time.

Diversify

Diversification basically means that an investor isn’t putting all of their eggs into one basket.

For example, they might not want their portfolio to comprise only two airline stocks, because if something were to happen that stalls air travel around the world, their portfolio would likely be heavily affected. But if they instead invested in five different stocks across a number of different industries, their portfolio might still take a hit if air travel plummets, but not nearly as severely as if its holdings were concentrated in the travel sector.

Use Dollar-cost Averaging

Dollar-cost averaging can also be a wise strategy. Essentially, it means making a series of small investments over time, rather than one lump-sum investment. Since an investor is now buying at a number of different price points (some may be high, some low), the average purchase price smooths out potential risks from price swings.

Conversely, an investor that buys at a single price-point will have their performance tied to that single price.

The Takeaway

While playing the market may be thrilling—and potentially lucrative—it is risky. But investors who have done their homework and who are entering the market with a sound strategy can blunt those risks to a degree.

By researching stocks ahead of time, and employing risk-reducing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification when building a portfolio, an investor is more likely to be effective at mitigating risk.

With SoFi Invest®, members can devise their own investing strategy, and play the market how they want, when they want. Whether you’re interested in short-term trading or have your eyes on a longer-term prize, SoFi Invest is a way to dip your toes into the stock market and start investing today.

Find out how to get started playing the stock market with SoFi Invest.


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

Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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The post The Risks of Playing The Stock Market appeared first on SoFi.

Source: sofi.com

Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic

2020 has shaped all of us in some way or another financially. Whether it is being reminded of the importance of living within our means or saving for a rainy day, these positive financial habits and lessons are timeless and ones we can take into the new year. 

While everyone is on a very unique financial journey, we can still learn from each other. As we wrap up this year, it’s important to reflect on some of these positive financial habits and lessons and take the ones we need into 2021. Here are some of the top financial lessons:

Living Within Your Means

It’s been said for years, centuries even, that one should live within one’s means. Well, I think a lot of people were reminded of this financial principle given the year we’ve had. Living within your means is another way of saying don’t spend more than you earn. I would take it one step further to say, set up your financial budget so you pay yourself first. Then only spend what is leftover on all the fun or variable items.

Setting up your budget in the Mint app or updating your budget in Mint to reflect the changes in your income or expenses is a great activity to do before the year ends. Follow the 50/20/30 rule of thumb and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Are there fixed bills you can reduce so you can save more for your financial goals? 
  • Can you reduce your variable spending and save that money instead?

The idea is to find a balance that allows you to pay for your fixed bills, save automatically every month and then only spend what is left over. If you don’t have the money, then you cannot use debt to buy something. This is a great way to get back in touch with reality and also appreciate your money more. 

Have a Cash Cushion

Having a cash cushion gives you peace of mind since you know that if anything unexpected comes up, which of course always happens in life, you have money that is easy to liquidate to pay for it versus paying it with debt or taking from long-term investments. Having an adequate cash cushion this year offered some people a huge sigh of relief when they lost their job or perhaps had reduced income for a few months. With a cash cushion or rainy day fund, they were still able to cover their bills with their savings.

Many people are making it their 2021 goal to build, replenish, or maintain their cash cushion.  Typically, you want a cash cushion of about 3- 6 months of your core expenses. Your cash cushion is usually held in a high-yield saving account that you can access immediately if needed. However, you want to think of it almost as out of sight out of mind so it’s really there for bigger emergencies or opportunities that come up.

Asset Allocation 

Having the right asset allocation and understanding your risk tolerance and timeframe of your investments is always important. With a lot of uncertainty and volatility in the stock market this year, more and more people are paying attention to their portfolio allocation and learning what that really means when it comes to risk and returns. Learning more about which investments you actually hold within your 401(k) or IRA is always important. I think the lesson this year reminded everybody that it’s your money and it’s up to you to know.

Even if you have an investment manager helping you, you still need to understand how your portfolio is allocated and what that means in terms of risk and what you can expect in portfolio volatility (ups and downs) versus the overall stock market. A lot of people watch the news and hear the stock market is going up or down, but fail to realize that may not be how your portfolio is actually performing. So get clear. Make sure that your portfolio matches your long term goal of retirement and risk tolerance and don’t make any irrational short term decisions with your long-term money based on the stock market volatility or what the news and media are showcasing.

Right Insurance Coverage

We have all been reminded of the importance of health this year. Our own health and the health of our loved ones should be a top priority. It’s also an extremely important part of financial success over time. It is said, insurance is the glue that can hold everything together in your financial life if something catastrophic happens. Insurances such as health, auto, home, disability, life, long-term care, business, etc. are really important but having the right insurance policy and coverage in place for each is the most important part.

Take time and review all the insurance coverage you have and make sure it is up to date and still accurate given your life circumstances and wishes. Sometimes you may have a life insurance policy in place for years but fail to realize there is now a better product in the marketplace with more coverage or better terms. With any insurance, it is wise to never cancel a policy before you a full review and new policy to replace it already in place. The last thing you want is to be uninsured. Make sure you also have an adequate estate plan whether it’s a trust or will that showcases your wishes very clearly. This way, you can communicate that with your trust/will executor’s, beneficiaries, family members, etc. so they are clear on everything as well. 

Financial lessons will always be there. Year after year, life throws us challenges and successes to remind us of what is most important. Take time, reflect, and get a game plan in place for 2021 that takes everything you have learned up until now into account. This will help you set the tone for an abundant and thriving new financial year. 

The post Financial Lessons Learned During the Pandemic appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com