Rising Interest Rates and Refinancing


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Rising interest rates can mean many things for the U.S. economy, but one thing is always certain when it comes to homeowners: when rates go up, refinancing goes down.

With the Federal Open Markets Committee — the 12-member group that helps decide monetary policy as part of the Federal Reserve — set to meet on Dec. 13 and 14, mortgage rates could be on track to do something they have rarely done in recent years, which is to move higher. While a rise in mortgage rates is not ideal for the home refinance market, it calls more for a shift in tactics rather than completely giving up on the idea of refinancing.

5 ways to refinance when rates rise

Here are five ways you can think about refinancing when rates are rising:

  1. Shift to a shorter loan. 15-year mortgage rates have been running about 80 basis points below 30-year rates, so even if rates overall have moved a bit higher, there might still be room to lower your interest rate by shifting to a shorter loan. Also, even without dropping your rate a shift to a shorter loan should save you interest costs in the long run because you will be paying interest over fewer years.
  2. Consider variable rates for short time horizons. If you anticipate being able to pay of your mortgage in a few years, consider a shift to an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). These offer even lower rates than 15-year loans, and if you choose an ARM with a long initial reset period, you can reduce your exposure to rising rates.
  3. Take advantage of improved credit. The job market has gotten stronger in recent years, and now that you’re a few years older perhaps your income and credit rating have improved from when you first got your mortgage. If so, this might help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate, and make refinancing worthwhile even though average rates have started to rise.
  4. Use refinancing for payment management. Lowering your mortgage rate is not the only reason to refinance. If you are having trouble making your monthly payments, refinancing to a longer repayment period can help make those payments more manageable. Even though this is likely to result in you paying more interest over the life of the loan, it is preferable to risking default. Another option is using cash-out refinancing for debt consolidation, because mortgages are still cheaper than most other sources of debt, such as credit cards.
  5. Do some comparison shopping. When rates are on the move, comparing mortgage quotes from different lenders becomes especially important. Different lenders are going to react to a rising rate environment at different times and to different degrees, so shopping around might make an especially big difference.

Related >> Refinancing Made Easy: Our Story

Most of all, a rising rate environment calls for decisiveness about mortgage decisions. If you see a worthwhile opportunity, you need to act before higher rates eliminate that opportunity.

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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How to Get Passive Income


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Side jobs are always a popular topic on Get Rich Slowly.

Whether your goal is to boost savings, supplement retirement income or pay down debt faster, you are not alone in choosing to work nights, weekends or in-between other demands.

This can mean Uber driving, dog walking, freelance writing, even assembling IKEA furniture for a fee, essentially wherever skills and interests intersect with demand for those services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says about 20 million Americans are working part-time for so-called “non-economic reasons,” meaning issues such as childcare or income restrictions prevent them from working full-time or they simply do not want to work full-time.

One topic close to the classic “side hustle” is passive income. But what is it and how does it stack up to other types of earnings? The concept is called passive income because it requires little to no time on your part, yet can yield some serious recurring money.

If you have a website or own a domain name, joining a CPS affiliate network is relatively easy and there are some very good and reputable affiliates, including Amazon and eBay. Lesser-known affiliate programs are just as noteworthy and can generate revenue for use of your website as well. We’ll get to that list in a bit.

First things first, though: consider if your website is poised to become an affiliate website. Are you an authority on a particular subject? Does your website focus on a definable niche?

Determine Your Audience

If you can say “yes” to either one of these questions, your next step is to evaluate what kind of affiliate advertising would parallel your mission and serve your visitors. For example, writers and linguists who visit Grammarist, a website for word junkies and students surfing for extra grammar help, will find a banner ad for Maxwell House and Adobe’s Creative Cloud. I guess they think people who write love coffee and cool technology. (Right on both counts.)

Assume it’s a successful pairing, you’d be paid on the basis of clicks, purchases or leads that come from your pages.

How Affiliate Websites Work

The affiliates provide all the marketing muscle you might need, including banner ads, logos, tracking applications and tips on how to optimize your site to attract more viewers, and ultimately, clicks. Most have a team of managers who will help you get started and make sure you are on the right path. The goal is for your website to drive people to purchase name brand and not-so-name-brand retail products.

Additionally, some affiliates compensate you for posting on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and other social media sites. Taking this a step further, some will pay you for sending out links via email. One thing: if any affiliate marketer asks for money upfront, shut them down. You should never have to pay someone else to host ads on your website.

Related >> Reader Story: Turning a Side Hustle into Self Employment

If this is something you are looking into as an additional household or business revenue stream, I would recommend talking to the affiliate’s support team, asking a lot of questions, giving it a test run and determining how much time and energy you are expending relative to the actual return on investment. The key is building traffic to the sales page. For example, if you are a blogger and the ads are on your blog page, the more you promote your content, the greater your return as an affiliate. Use your affiliate link in the target page URL ad on Google Adwords too.

Here are some networks you may want to consider.

Noteworthy Affiliate Networks

The Blue Book Top 10 affiliate networks (in alphabetical order) for 2016 are:

Amazon Associate Network is offering up to 10 percent fees for selling the various retail product offerings on its site.

Avangate claims its merchants offer commissions up to 75 percent, special bonuses and payment for licensing services.

AvantLink stresses quality over quantity and does not promote gaming or adult content sites. Ten years in business.

CJ Affiliate by Conversant allows its affiliate publishers to post retail coupons, set up email campaigns and distribute links to third party affiliates. The business model is based on loyalty or rewards.

ClickBank sells lifestyle products created by “passionate” entrepreneurs and claims to be a top 100 internet retailer.

eBay’s Partner Network currently is offering double commissions for the first three months that you join its affiliate network. Just post interesting items that you find on eBay to your blog, website or social media sites and you will receive a commission for each time an item sells.

LinkConnector offers fraud-free protection. Has been in business more than a decade.

Rakuten Affiliate Network claims it’s a Top 3 ecommerce company in the world. Offers more than 17 million products.

RevenueWire’s Affiliate Wire claims it partners with the best advertisers in the industry, as well as with the best software and digital merchants.

ShareASale focuses on technology, service and community responsibility. In business 16 years.

These are not endorsements. Rather it is a quick review of the affiliate marketplace and the major players within it. Please do your own research before signing up with any affiliates.

Let us know what has worked for you when it comes to passive income.

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Why I’m Still Glad We Bought Our Mexican Home


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In 2005, my husband and I bought an old house in the center of Guanajuato, Mexico. I wrote a post about it for Get Rich Slowly at the time.

The benefits — some of which we didn’t foresee when we bought the house — are many: having a stable investment during economic uncertainty in the U.S, especially the 2008 downturn; a potential future home if I’m widowed; enhanced fitness simply by walking everywhere; a community of both Mexican and expat friends to broaden our outlooks; and access to a world of home-exchange opportunities as a result of having an attractive home in a beautiful city.

Retiring on Less

The overall contours of our lives haven’t changed much in 11 years: our primary home remains an apartment we rent for $850/month near the bay in Eureka, on California’s North Coast; and our second home, the house in Mexico, where we usually live between Thanksgiving and March.

When we bought our home, Barry was 63 and I was 54, and neither of us was thinking about retirement. Today, we still work professionally, but not as intensely as 20 or even 10 years ago, and we’re more conscious of long-term security than we were.

As I discussed in my original article, we paid $107,000 for the house, and spent another $80,000 over the next three years of no-rush remodeling. We wanted to be on a quiet, pedestrian street in el centro, near everything, without a car. Guanajuato is pricier than some cities in Mexico because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a university town. Other lesser-known towns are also very attractive but less expensive. Zacatecas, for example, is a beautiful colonial city barely known outside Mexico.

How Much to Save for Retirement

Rental Income and Home Exchanges

When we aren’t staying in our home, we cover expenses by renting it through Vacation Rental by Owner, or VRBO, a basic cost of $349/year, which includes access to VRBO’s efficient — but rather inflexible — payment system.

We also list our home on Craigslist, but most of our bookings come from VRBO. An expat up the street avoids the listing fee by renting her apartment through Craigslist exclusively and using Paypal to manage her rental payments.

We rent our home for $1,200/month. We don’t make a huge profit, but we like having the house occupied, and the extra amount we make pays our airfares.

We’ve had several property managers and are very happy with our present one, Mario, who is bilingual, originally from Guanajuato, and has lived and worked in the U.S. He meets our guests at the airport, walks them through the home upon arrival, is on call during their stay, and makes sure the house is in good condition when they leave.

Besides paying Mario, our costs include our cleaner, Mari; our on-call handyman, Juan (with an 160-year-old adobe home, maintenance is never-ending!); and our occasional gardener, Feliciano, who helps us with our little patio garden.

We also belong to a home exchange agency, homeexchange.com, for $120/year. Since joining, we’ve had delightful (and free, of course) home exchanges with people in Brittany, Prague, Ireland, and Portland, OR.

Aging Considerations

If Barry died before me, I could see our Mexican home becoming my base, as I’m comfortable speaking Spanish and have friends there. Guanajuato is a very human-scale, appealing, walkable town. Walkability is a priority for me, as I witness the drawbacks my (no longer driving) 95-year-old father is facing in his typical U.S. car-centric suburb. I do not want to live in a car culture when I’m in my 80s and 90s (or now, for that matter).

Related >> Essential Guide to Retirement at Every Age and Stage

Medicare is not covered outside the U.S., however, and some expat friends have moved back to the States as they aged and became more frail. Others have applied for Mexican health care insurance. As anyone familiar with “medical tourism” knows, you can get excellent and more affordable health care outside the U.S. We get our dental work done through our Mexican dentist, Gonzalo, who is the best, most thorough dentist we’ve ever had. I also had cataract surgery in Mexico.

Thinking About Living in Mexico?

It’s possible to live on very little in Mexico. We know many foreigners who earn an income in a variety of ways, including blogging, writing, offering workshops, leading tours, managing properties and teaching English. Creativity, initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit are essential.

If you’re interested in buying property in Mexico, you can go online and browse expat forums, but ultimately you can’t figure it out from a distance: you need to set aside some time to get to know the culture, find out about all the different options, and learn at least some Spanish. (We visited Guanajuato five times before we bought our house, renting various apartments and house-sitting, and two of those visits spanned several months). With a standard six-month visa, you can explore different parts of the country, travel around on comfortable long-distance buses, rent a room or apartment in a town that appeals to you, and meet both locals and expats. Only then will you be able to decide if retiring in Mexico is right for you.

For us, buying a home in Mexico was one of the best things we ever did.

Share in the comments: Would you consider retiring outside of the U.S.?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Alternatives to Day Jobs


Work + Freedom

I’ve been earning a living since the Bronze Age (circa 1973), without ever holding a day job. Over the decades I’ve had my share of money struggles, but I found my way around them and am now, at 65, in the best financial shape of my life.

Here are seven lessons that helped me arrive where I am today.

1. Take risks. My final semester of college, while attending Tulane University, I decided after graduation to leave the swampy lowlands of New Orleans and live near mountains. While researching possibilities, I read an article about the exciting, vibrant city of Vancouver, British Columbia and decided to apply for Canadian residency. To my shock, I was accepted just two months later. After taking the train across Canada, I started my new life in Vancouver in July 1973.

Tip: Avoid rash risks (don’t throw all your savings away on the lottery!), but do take strategic risks.

2. Develop a needed skill. After a year of doing odd jobs, I signed up for a one-year course that certified me to teach English as a second language. In 1975, I taught my first ESL class to a roomful of Chinese students. ESL turned out to be perfect for me: part-time, well-paying, and flexible. When I wasn’t teaching, I began freelance writing for magazines and newspapers. I taught ESL to adults for 10 years in Vancouver, Boston and Seattle, while on the side I published essays, articles, and columns on self-help and travel.

Tip: Look for needs in the community that you can help meet — and turn into income.

3. Live carefully. Instead of buying a car, I rode a bicycle and used public transit, which allowed me to avoid hefty fees for car payments, insurance, registration, gas, parking, maintenance, and all the rest . When I married in 1978, my husband and I had a joint car, but I rarely used it. I didn’t acquire a car of my own until I was 36.

Tip: Question every major purchase, especially those deemed “essential” by our culture.

4. Capitalize on personal interests. While teaching ESL, I lost 25 pounds. Eager to share my strategies, I approached the local university’s continuing education department and offered a workshop on alternatives to dieting. The class filled immediately, with a waiting list. After a reporter from The Seattle Times interviewed me, I was invited to lead more workshops and give talks. Meanwhile an article I wrote for Weight Watchers Magazine was reprinted in magazines in the UK, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. My weight-loss “side” business was doing so well, I decided to make it my primary focus.

Tip: Study your areas of success with a view to how they might help other people, and turn into profit centers.

5. Promote yourself. My experience with The Seattle Times taught me that access to media can work to your advantage. After learning how to write a press release, I approached local print media, radio and TV, offering myself as a guest on shows and inviting reporters to attend my workshops. One journalist who interviewed me about how women could succeed in the workplace wrote a column about a workshop of mine that she attended. Her column was syndicated in newspapers all over the country. Soon I started receiving calls from Phoenix, Chicago, and Boston, and my business went national.

Tip: Take advantage of all media, and don’t overlook traditional sources like your local newspapers, radio and TV stations.

Related >> The Essential Guide to Retirement

6. Cross-pollinate. In a weight-loss workshop, I discussed the importance of healthy communication with family members. Afterwards a participant asked me if I’d be interested in leading a seminar on communication skills in her professional workplace. Would I?! Not only did I enjoy working with a larger group, I discovered a new word and a new field: “training.” I also learned it was much easier to get paid generously by a business with an Accounts Payable department than by a string of individuals who often asked for a discount or a delay in paying.

Tip: Be open to opportunities to apply your existing skills to new, more lucrative markets.

7. Find your tribe. After I ‘discovered’ training, I joined the American Society of Training & Development, and later the National Speakers Association. In both organizations, I met colleagues, accepted leadership positions, learned about clients’ needs, got referrals and business, and gained visibility. Colleagues with more experience helped me avoid “OPM” (other people’s mistakes). The more questions I asked of senior colleagues, the more I learned.

Tip: Surround yourself with people who have been in your field longer than you, and ask a lot of questions. Don’t be embarrassed to be a beginner.

In many ways, I was lucky. I started off debt-free in an era of economic opportunity. More than once, I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. But I also made smart decisions, said ‘yes’ to opportunities, and found allies. These are timeless skills that will help anyone succeed, no matter how old — or young — you are.

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Retirement Savings


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It’s a common set of questions: How much will I have in savings when I retire and am I using the right tools to get there?

Let’s tackle the first one first.

There are four components to this kind of retirement savings projection:

1. Investment returns

While financial planners often use historical average returns for these assumptions, you may be wise to be more conservative. Assuming lower-than-average returns will help you prepare for sub-par market conditions, and is especially appropriate these days since bond yields are much lower than their historical norms.

2. Inflation

Over the past 50 years, inflation has averaged 4.07 percent a year. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to cut the purchasing power of your money in half every seventeen years or so. When planning for future needs, you have to use inflation-adjusted targets rather than thinking in terms of today’s dollars.

3. Savings rate

Based on your income and budget, figure out how much you can plan on saving each year. This is a key component to focus on, because unlike investment returns and inflation your savings rate is something you can control. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can catch up with higher savings rates in later years — challenge yourself to save aggressively from the start, because it often does not get any easier as you get older.

4. Spending

Forget about rules of thumb about replacing a certain percentage of your income. What you need to focus on is projecting your retirement spending so you have a feel for what expenses your savings will have to cover.

Between financial market returns and inflation, there is a strong element of unpredictability to retirement saving. Even so, making a reasonable estimate based on conservative assumptions gives you a starting point in terms of savings targets. As long as you are prepared to make regular course corrections to keep your savings rate on track, the picture should steadily become clearer as you approach retirement.

Related >> The Essential Guide to Retirement

Another central retirement question is whether target date funds are worth it. Here’s more on that:

Target date funds are a convenient approach for retirement savers who do not want to make complex investment decisions. They provide an easy way of giving people an asset mix that is generally appropriate for their time horizons. In doing so, they should also provide adequate diversification because they not only invest across a range of different stocks, but they also invest in different asset classes.
With that said, it should be noted than an inherent limitation of target date funds is that they essentially assume that all people with the same time horizon have identical investment objectives, but this may not be the case.

Some people are just more comfortable with taking risk than others, and so may want a more aggressive asset mix. Your investment approach may also vary according to how much money you have accumulated so far. If you have already put together a substantial nest egg, you may want to dial down the risk a little so as not to jeopardize it. On the other hand, if you have gotten a late start on retirement saving, you might be inclined to take a more aggressive investment approach in an effort to catch up.

So, two people of the same age and with the same number of years until retirement might reasonably wish to take different investment approaches. Therefore, it might be helpful to view a target date fund as a starting point, from which you might do some fine tuning to make it fit the specifics of your situation.

One final note about target date funds – make sure they do not get too conservative when you reach retirement age. You may live twenty or thirty years in retirement, meaning that you are likely to continue to need some active investments. In other words, the target date should not be thought of as an end date for your investment program.

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Buy Power Capital One Card Review


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Buy Power Capital One Card Review

Thinking of using a credit card for more than cash rewards or a free hotel stay? What if a credit card could help you save for something more substantial, like a new car or a flexible lease?

It is possible. The BuyPower Card from Capital One® card gives users 5% back on their first $5,000 worth of purchases without any opt-ins or rotating categories and then 2% thereafter. You can redeem rewards against the lease or purchase of a Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac car or truck.

[See a full review on CardRatings.com]

There are other perks that make this a card to consider for anyone in the car market: 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months.

Let’s dive in:

The Pros

  • Rewards never expire. This is a big deal because you can really take advantage of the fact most people plan their new car purchases well in advance. Expect to buy sometime in the next five years? This could be a good addition to your wallet if you plan to use it frequently.
  • No rotating categories, no limit on how much you can earn or redeem, and no required opt-ins, which can pose a problem for someone who forgets to check on such things. With those cards if you forget to opt-in you miss out on that quarter’s reward.
  • There are actually several car makers to choose from: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac. GM is the #1 car maker in the U.S. currently according to data from Edmunds.com.
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • You can combine your Buy Power rewards with dealer offers, which could be lucrative if you are willing to shop around. You can use your rewards at any dealer in the country.
  • A great card for General Motors brand loyalists.

The Cons

  • If you don’t use your card very often, the rewards might not be all that impressive. Ditto if you are in the market for a car in a hurry – you’ll need to use the Buy Power card for a while to really bulk up on the rewards.
  • For example, you spend $5,000 out of the gate and earn the full 5% — that’s only $250. But then you put an additional $3,000 a month for the rest of the year on your card at the 2% unlimited, and net another $720. Perhaps not enough to take you from base model to completely tricked-out, but plenty to justify a fancier navigation system or higher-end finishes.
  • This is not the card for balance transfers. There is an initial 0% on purchases, but not balance transfers. That APR is quite high considering the great zero balance transfer options for those with solid credit, such as with the Chase Slate. The cards says balance transfers receive a variable rate of 13.15%, 17.15%, 20.15% or 23.15%, based on your creditworthiness. Same for cash advances – which you should never use a credit card for anyway – are around 25%. Also good to know: If you are a part of the GM Employee Purchase Program, earnings from the card don’t count against that program.

The Takeaway

Capital One has made the Buy Power a strong addition to their existing line-up of cards, which are generally positively reviewed for their customer service.

Some consumers have questions about what credit score you need in order to be approved for this card. In general, this card is tiered toward those with good to excellent credit. That is generally considered to be around a 660 FICO score or higher, but your credit score is not the sole factor in credit decisions.

Get Rich Slowly experts recommend you pay attention to your credit health and get your free report yearly to check for any mistakes.

Related content: A step-by-step guide to getting your free credit report online

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company.



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Best Cities for Retirement


Best Cities for Retirement - Get Rich Slowly

Retirees may have different tastes in culture and recreation, but there are some basic aspects of a retirement living environment that have fairly universal appeal. Getrichslowly.org ranked the 20 best cities for retirement to help you decide where to spend your golden years, coming up with a diverse list, with choices that span across the country. There are some names on the list you might expect, and some that will probably come as a big surprise.

Methodology

Getrichslowly.org took into account the following criteria when deciding where retirees may want to put down roots:

• Personal safety
• Low property taxes
• An affordable cost of living
• A moderate climate

The study looked at where 113 major U.S. cities ranked on each of those criteria, and then averaged those rankings to come up with a list of the 20 best cities for retirement.

With reputations misleading at times, the quantitative approach taken for this study and objective look at the data might cause you to consider a location you would not otherwise think of as a retirement haven.

Best Cities for Retirement 2017

Here is the top 20 list and why each place is great for retirees to settle:

1. Norman, Oklahoma

Best Cities for Retirement: 1. Norman, Oklahoma

A college town like the home of University of Oklahoma might not be an obvious choice for a retirement destination. However, an influx of young, well-educated people provides both economic stimulus and cultural diversity to add life to a community. But why did Norman in particular win the top spot on this list? It was above average in each of the four categories examined, and outstanding in two of those categories: cost of living, where it was the second most affordable, and safety, with one of the 10 lowest crime rates.

2. Raleigh, North Carolina

Best Cities for Retirement: 2. Raleigh, North Carolina

As part of North Carolina’s thriving Research Triangle, Raleigh offers healthy growth and a lively cultural and recreational environment. Quantitatively, it placed in the top quartile for safety, affordability and its moderate climate. Also, North Carolina’s property taxes are generally well below average.

3. Tampa, Florida

Best Cities for Retirement: 3. Tampa, Florida

This is one of the more traditional retirement locations on this list, offering a warm climate and proximity to beaches. With its major league sports and plenty of cultural options, Tampa also offers a big-city feel. In terms of the data looked at for this study, Tampa had the most moderate climate statistics, as measured in terms of avoiding extremes of temperatures and rainfall. It also ranked in the top 15 percent for safety, based on violent and property crime rates.

4. Savannah, Georgia

Best Cities for Retirement: 4. Savannah, Georgia

The coastal city of Savannah is so well-regarded for its beauty and architectural landmarks that it has become a popular locale for filming movies and television programs. As for what it can offer to retirees, the greatest strengths identified by this study were its safety and moderate climate, with Savannah ranking in the top 20 percent in both categories. It also is an affordable place to live, with Georgia’s property tax burdens and the overall cost of living in Savannah being lower than average.

5. Shreveport, Louisiana

Best Cities for Retirement: 5. Shreveport, Louisiana

Whether your vision of how you like to spend time in retirement involves a leisurely stroll through a rose garden, checking out some live music, or sampling some distinctive local cuisine, this Louisiana city has something to offer a variety of lifestyles. The study’s statistics show Louisiana generally has some of the lowest property tax burdens of any state. In addition, the cost of living in Shreveport is well below the national average. One caution though: Shreveport’s overall crime rate is a little higher than that of most cities in this study.

Related -> How much do you need to save for retirement?

6. Durham, North Carolina (tie)

Best Cities for Retirement: Durham, North Carolina

Since Durham is generally thought of as a sister city to nearby Raleigh, it is no surprise that it should also earn its way onto this list. Naturally then, Durham shares many of Raleigh’s favorable characteristics, though its higher crime rate (while still below that of most cities studied) pushed Durham further down in the rankings.

6. Round Rock, Texas (tie)

Best Cities for Retirement: 6. Round Rock, Texas

Most readers will probably find this to be one of the more obscure names on the list. However, that is one of the merits of crunching the numbers – it can unearth some previously unlikely retirement possibilities. Round Rock is very close to Austin, so it shares many of the latter’s attractions, but with a much lower crime rate and a lower overall cost of living.

8. Charleston, South Carolina

Best Cities for Retirement: 8. Charleston, South Carolina

History buffs will appreciate Charleston’s colonial architecture, while outdoors types will enjoy the fact that Charleston is convenient to both the Atlantic Coast and Francis Marion National Forest. Statistically, what stands out about Charleston for retirees are its low crime rate coupled with South Carolina’s generally low property taxes. Be advised though that despite those low taxes the overall cost of living in Charleston is a little higher than in most of the cities studied.

9. Los Angeles, California

Best Cities for Retirement: 9. Los Angeles, California

The first West Coast city on this list, L.A. has many well-known attractions. Still, you might think that L.A. is too big a city to be very retirement-friendly, but the stats show it has a few things going for it. Perhaps surprisingly, it ranked in the top 5 percent for safety due to its low crime rates. Naturally, the Southern California climate is another plus, and L.A. also benefits from California’s generally low property tax burdens. Those low taxes come in handy because, as you might expect from a city of its size, the cost of living in L.A. overall is among the most pricey found in this study.

10. McAllen, Texas

Best Cities for Retirement: 10. McAllen, Texas

Arts and technology come together to enliven the McAllen community, and it benefits from its proximity to both the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico. It scored well primarily on the strength of having the most affordable cost of living out of any city in this study.

Related -> 11 things you may not know about retirement accounts

11. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Best Cities for Retirement: 11. Fort Wayne, Indiana

It’s not a warm-weather site, nor is it located on one of the coasts. So what does Fort Wayne have to recommend it to retirees? Primarily affordability, as Fort Wayne was in the top 10 percent of most affordable cities in this survey. It also scored fairly well for safety.

12. San Diego, California

Best Cities for Retirement: 12. San Diego, California

In contrast to Fort Wayne, San Diego is one of those cities many people would think of as a natural retirement choice. So why does San Diego rank below Fort Wayne on this list? Cost of living is the main issue as San Diego is one of the most expensive of the 113 cities studied. However, if you have the wealth to afford it, you might enjoy the fact that San Diego not only ranks in the top 10 percent for climate, but also for safety.

13. Charlotte, North Carolina

Best Cities for Retirement: 13. Charlotte, North Carolina

North Carolina has the distinction of being the only state with three cities to make the top 20. Charlotte combines a moderate climate with reasonably good rankings for safety and property taxes. The only flaw is the overall cost of living, which is a little on the high side.

14. Lexington, Kentucky

Best Cities for Retirement: 14. Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington is close to the state capitol of Frankfort, and is also reasonably convenient to Louisville and Cincinnati. The primary thing that helped Lexington make the top 20 is the city’s overall affordability, which is in the cheapest 20 percent of cities studied. Property taxes are relatively reasonable as well, and Lexington also ranked well on the basis of safety.

15. New Orleans, Louisiana

Best Cities for Retirement: 15. New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is well-known as one of the world’s premier party places and for being a veritable gumbo of multi-culturalism, but is it really a suitable place for retirees? Specifically, what about the high-profile crime issues New Orleans has had over the years? Surprisingly, the average crime rate in New Orleans is toward the safer end of the spectrum compared with other major cities, and New Orleans also has a cheaper-than-average cost of living. Most of all, retirees might appreciate Louisiana’s low property taxes.

Related -> How to open a Roth IRA

16. Boise, Idaho (tie)

Best Cities for Retirement: 16. Boise, Idaho

This is one of the more surprising names on the list, and of course its climate ranks near the bottom. However, this is offset by a very reasonable cost of living and low property taxes, and most of all by safety. Boise’s low crime rate put it in the safest 10 percent of cities. There are plenty of warm weather cities on this list if that’s your priority, but Boise might be an off-beat choice if affordability and safety are more what you are after.

16. Montgomery, Alabama (tie)

Best Cities for Retirement: 16. Montgomery, Alabama

With little or no employment income, many seniors find their biggest tax worry is property tax. That could be a reason to consider retiring to Alabama, which on average has one of the lowest property tax burdens of any state.

18. Richmond, Virginia

Best Cities for Retirement: 18. Richmond, Virginia

While not outstanding in any one area, Richmond made the list by being above-average in all four categories of this study: safety, property taxes, cost of living and climate.

19. Gainesville, Florida

Best Cities for Retirement: 19. Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville scored well for its climate, which being in the northern part of Florida is less rainy than what you are likely to find in the southern part of the state.

20. Columbus, Georgia

Best Cities for Retirement: 20. Columbus, Georgia

Columbus scored well for affordability and its moderate climate. Be advised, though, that it is in the bottom half of the rankings for safety.

Again, there are some surprises on this list, along with more conventional retirement locales. That diversity is a benefit for retirees – not everybody’s priority is to move near a beach, so this list provides you with solid candidates representing a variety of very different lifestyles.

Comment: Did your city land on the Best Cities for Retirement? Where are you planning to retire?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Best Checking Accounts for 2017


Best checking accounts

Checking accounts are notorious for just sitting there and doing nothing for you except holding onto your cash until you need to pay a bill. But there are accounts out there that do pay interest – albeit minuscule – and offer other benefits and enticements! We’ve done the research for you.

Several things to look for in a checking account:

• No minimum to open
• No minimum to earn interest
• No ATM fees (plus a large network)
• No monthly maintenance fee
• Free checks
• Mobile check deposit and transferring

Here are the best checking accounts for 2017:

360 Checking Account

Capital One 360

With its large network of no-surcharge ATMs, Capital One 360 offers a free checking account that is attractive for consumers looking to avoid common fees while earning interest. There is no minimum to open a 360 Checking account and customers have a variety of tools to manage their finances. These include online and mobile banking, including bill pay and mobile check deposit. Additionally, customers can easily access their money through a network of more than 40,000 free ATMs.

Interest Checking Account

Ally Bank

Online checking accounts provided by banks like Ally Bank give traditional brick-and-mortar institutions a run for their money in terms of annual percentage yield (APY). Not only do Ally Interest Checking account customers earn at least .10% interest on their balance, they could earn up to 0.60% for daily balances $15,000 or more. The high interest checking offered combined with no maintenance fees make Ally a great online bank for customers to grow their money.

High-Rate Checking Account

Alliant Credit Union

Alliant has one of the highest interest rates among the financial institutions featured on this list, advertising a rate 10.8 times the national average. To qualify for a High-rate Checking account, customers must sign up for eStatements and set up one or more monthly electronic deposits to the account. After, they have access to more than 80,000 free ATMs and even qualify for up to $20 per month on rebates when they are charged for using an ATM out of the Alliant network.

Total Checking Account

Chase Bank

Customers who want the benefits of both online and brick-and-mortar checking accounts frequently choose Chase for good reason. Chase has a wide network of 16,000 ATMs combined with 5,200 branches in addition to 24/7 customer support to meet your banking needs. This long-standing bank is also well-known for its online and mobile banking tools, including a popular mobile app. There is a $25 minimum deposit to open an account with a chance to waive a monthly service fee through any of the requirements listed on its website. Unlike some of the other banks listed, the Total Checking account does not earn interest.

Hybrid Checking Account

Radius Bank

If you’re willing to deposit $2,500 or more in a Hybrid Checking account, you can take advantage of up to 0.90% APY advertised by Radius. Checking account balances under $2,500 do not earn interest. To open an account, customers must deposit $10, but Radius does not require a minimum balance after depositing this amount. The bank offers free ATMs, not charging a fee when withdrawing from an ATM belonging to another bank and rebating out-of-network fees at the end of the statement cycle.

High-Interest Checking Account

Bank5 Connect

While Bank5 Connect’s online checking account is not a widely known compared to other banks’, it has features and an interest rate that makes it competitive in the market. Bank5 Connect has an APY of 0.76% and customers only need $100 to start earning this high interest rate. This high-yield checking account has other perks, like not having a monthly maintenance fee and a debit card rewards program, that distinguish the bank.

Online Advantage Checking Account

Mutual of Omaha Bank

In exchange for a $1,500 daily balance, Mutual of Omaha’s online-only checking account provides an advertised rate of 0.50% to gradually build your balance. Customers can open an Online Advantage Checking account with $100 and eligible to receive free checks for their first order. There is a $10 monthly maintenance fee, but for a low average balance of $100, the bank will waive the fee.

Compare Best Checking Accounts for 2017

Bank/Credit Union Account Interest Rate (APY) Monthly Fee Balance to Waive Fee
Capital One 360 360 Checking 0.20% Free N/A
Ally Bank Interest Checking 0.10% Free N/A
Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Checking 0.65% Free N/A
Chase Bank Total Checking N/A $12 $1,500
Radius Bank Hybrid Checking 0.90% Free $10 Opening Deposit
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking 0.76% Free N/A
Mutual of Omaha Bank Online Advantage Checking 0.50% $10 $1,500

 

Comment: Do you have a checking account from our Best Checking Accounts list? What accounts would you add?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Best Online Brokers for Small Investors and Beginners 2017


Best online brokers

Investing for the first time is a lot like taking that plunge into a new activity – you are intimidated by everything you think you don’t know and you don’t want to appear clumsy in front of others. With the plethora of online brokerages, the opportunities for first-time investors are wide open. However, this wide variety of investment options means you do need to be educated before you begin. You don’t want to put your money in the wrong hands when you start to invest.

Keith McGurrin, Certified Financial Planner and a lead financial planner at T. Rowe Price has some tips for newcomers.

“Investing has the potential to build funding for long-term goals,” McGurrin said. “But, investing can also be risky, especially in the short-term. Having a plan can help – here are considerations for investors starting out.”

Assess readiness to invest: Since there is a possibility to lose part or all of an investment, starting from a strong financial foundation is important. Do you have money in a safe account to support your needs in case of an emergency (3-6 months’ worth of expenses)? Would you be better off paying down an outstanding debt rather than investing this money? If eligible, are you already contributing to a tax-deferred retirement plan? Will you be able to add to your investments on an ongoing basis?

Watch the costs: High costs can lower investment returns. Costs might include trade charges, account fees and the costs of the underlying investments such as fund management fees. Taxes can be another cost of investing. An effective strategy to lower costs and taxes over time can be to buy and hold and avoid unnecessary short-term trading.

Research the risks: The research capabilities available through a brokerage platform should help in understanding the risks of various investment opportunities. Generally, but not always, investments with the potential for higher reward also come with a higher risk of loss. Can you hold on to an investment if it begins to lose value?

Diversify: Spreading money across different investments can provide an effective way to manage risk. A mutual fund, for example, can provide effective diversification. Does your investment portfolio rely on the prospects of a single company, industry or investing style?

Best Online Brokers for New Investors 2017

We’ve compiled a chart of some of the most well known and best reviewed online brokerages for new investors:

Betterment

As you invest money into your account, Betterment automatically purchases exchange traded funds (ETFs) on your behalf, based on your previously set asset allocation. There are no trade or transfer fees. Betterment charges a 0.25% to 0.50% annual fee, depending on your desire to be connected to a team of financial experts. The plus brokerage account features an annual call with licensed financial experts and requires a $100,000 minimum balance. In exchange for a $250,000 minimum balance, the premium account offers unlimited calls with CFPs and financial advisors.

Trade King

This broker provides a unique combination of investment and trading tools and services, along with some of the lowest trading fees in the industry, and generally no required account minimums. TradeKing was the first online broker to have an online trading network to connect with other investors and has tools like its Trade Note to help you make investment decisions. The broker also has a live chat feature to get answers to your investment questions immediately.

Scottrade

Scottrade is for investors who want to be able to invest in individual stocks with an online discount broker but have many of the same benefits you’d get working with a full-service broker. The broker has a variety of online trading and investing tools, such as Scottrade Streaming Quotes, to get market data fast. Scottrade will also refund account transfer fees up to $100 when transferring an account worth $10,000 or more from another broker to Scottrade.

TD Ameritrade

A leader in the industry, TD Ameritrade offers a wide array of investments that are suitable for new and experienced investors alike. This broker is better suited for long-term investors than to active traders. TD Ameritrade’s web platform provides free access to independent third-party research and financial news. There is no initial deposit requirement and it offers more than 100 commission-free ETFs.

Motif Investing

While it stands to be a powerful investing tool, Motif is not for beginners as “motifs” are groupings of stocks that are based on a single idea. Users can trade stocks and ETFs in bundles of up to 30, each based on the specific theme, idea, sector, industry or trend. Motif offers investors customized portfolios built in seconds. There is the option for automated trading and rebalancing via a monthly subscription with Motif BLUE, with subscriptions between $4.95 and $19.95 per month depending on the number of motifs you would like to auto-invest.

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab offers a lower fee for online equity trades compared to its major competitors. It also offers a Satisfaction Guarantee where investors will have eligible fees refunded if they are not satisfied. There is no fee to open an individual or joint brokerage account and accounts are free of maintenance fees. Investors can expect no transaction fees per executed trade for Mutual Fund OneSource Funds for online trades and no commission fees per trade for Schwab ETF OneSource for online trades.

Compare Online Brokers

Broker Commissions/Fees Other Fees Account Minimum New Account Bonus
Betterment No transaction charges 0.25% to 0.50% annual fee No minimum initial deposit or balance requirement Open with $10,000 & get 1 month free
Tradeking $4.95 for stock and ETF trades See website for regulatory fees No minimum initial deposit or balance requirement Open with $500 & get $500 in free trade commission
Scottrade $7 per online trade for stocks and ETFs $7 + $0.70/contract for options online $2,500 minimum initial deposit Open with $25,000+ & get up to $2,500 cash bonus
TD Ameritrade $9.99 for online stock trades
More than 100 commission-free ETFs
$9.99 + $0.75 fee/contract for options online No minimum initial deposit, $2,000 for margin and options privileges Open & get up to $600 & 60 days of free trading
Motif Investing $9.95 per portfolio trade, $4.95 per stock trade $4.95 per stock/ETF to buy/sell outside of motifs owned $300 to invest in a motif, $2,000 to trade on margin Open with $2,000+ & get $150 cash bonus
Charles Schwab $6.95 per online stock trade $6.95 per online trades of ETFs other than Schwab ETF OneSource $1,000 minimum initial deposit, waived with automatic monthly deposits of $100 Open with $10,000+ & get up to $500 cash bonus

Readers: Do you invest with any of the online brokers above? Which online brokers should be added to the list?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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Best Savings Accounts for 2017


Best Savings Accounts, list of accounts with best savings rates

Most Americans aren’t saving much these days, but if they knew how to better grow their money with high savings rates, they may change their mind. One recent survey found 62 percent had less than $1,000 in a savings account, and only 29 percent had over $1,000 put aside for emergencies.

Many will point to low interest rates as the reason they are not saving in an account, adopting an almost “why bother” attitude. But having a savings account is smart for several reasons:

  1. In case of emergency, there’s actual money to cover the cost, so you don’t end up overloading credit cards or having to take out a loan.
  2. It makes you more aware of your overall financial picture, especially if you set up a schedule to make deposits into the savings account.
  3. Saving money up front also saves you on interest if you do need to cover an unexpected cost or save for something specific like a new car or a vacation.
  4. If you lose your job or find your hours reduced, a savings account is a nice addition to whatever severance or unemployment you receive.

With all the reasons to open a savings account, where do you turn to for the right one?

Here are the best savings accounts for 2017:

Online Savings Account

Ally Bank

With a high savings rate of 1.00% annual percentage yield (APY), Ally Bank customers benefit from no monthly fees or minimums. Using the Ally Bank mobile app, customers can pay bills, perform money transfers and make deposits via mobile check deposit or other methods like electronic transfer, direct deposit or mail.

High Yield Savings Account

Synchrony Bank

In addition to a top-rated APY of 1.05%, Synchrony Bank offers a rewards program to get more out of your savings account. Synchrony Bank customers are automatically enrolled in its Perks program when they open a savings account (or other account like a certificate of deposit or individual retirement account). Synchrony Bank Perks gives customers a chance to earn rewards like ATM fee reimbursements and travel discounts.

Discover Savings Account

Discover Bank

While Discover Bank is a big name among credit cards, its savings account is also deserving of attention, featuring no monthly maintenance charges. There is no minimum to open an account with Discover and after opening your savings account, there are no other minimum balance requirements to earn a high APY of 0.95%.

Online Savings Account

Barclays Bank

Barclays Bank offers an online savings account that has no minimum balance to open and a small minimum of just 1 cent to grow your money with an APY of 1.00%. The bank’s mobile app has various features to manage your account like reviewing balances, transferring money and more.

MySavings Account

MySavingsDirect

For a no frills online savings account, look to MySavingsDirect with its MySavings Account with no minimums to earn APY. Although MySavings Direct does not have a mobile app to oversee finances, customers can access their account information via online banking.

High-Interest Savings Account

Bank5 Connect

Though Bank5 Connect has minimum balance requirements unlike some of the other banks on the list, it still has a similarly high savings rate. The bank has a minimum opening balance of $10. To earn the advertised APY of 0.90%, customers must deposit $100.

High Yield Savings Account

CIT Bank

True to its name, the High Yield Savings account offered by CIT Bank has one of the highest savings rates among the Best Savings Accounts with 1.05% APY. This free savings account has a low minimum opening deposit requirement of $100 to get this rate and no minimum daily balance requirement.

Compare Best Savings Accounts for 2017

Bank/Credit Union Account Interest Rate (APY) Monthly Fee Minimums Mobile Banking
Ally Bank Online Savings 1.00% Free None Mobile App
Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings 1.05% Free None Mobile Browser
Discover Bank Discover Savings 0.95% Free None Mobile App
Barclays Bank Online Savings 1.00% Free $0.01 To Earn APY Mobile App
MySavingsDirect MySavings 0.85% Free None No App
Bank5 Connect High-Interest Savings 0.90% Free $100 To Earn APY Mobile App
CIT Bank High Yield Savings 1.05% Free $100 Opening Deposit Mobile App

Comment: Do you have a savings account featured on our Best Savings Account list? What other accounts should make the list?

GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, and more.



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