Categories
Homeownership

5 Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Ready to buy your first home? First-time homebuyers have a few things to consider before shopping for a home. A home is one of the largest purchases that you will make in your lifetime so its important to get it right. Here are 5 tips to consider as you start your home buying  process.

Tip 1: Check your credit

Before you even search for a home, lender, or look for picture frames to place on your new walls, you must check your credit report. Incorrect information could delay your mortgage approval process and screw up your entire moving process. Head over to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a copy of each of your credit reports for free. This will give you your credit reports, but not your FICO score. Lenders sometimes make the initial decision based on your FICO score. You can get your FICO score from myFICO.com. If you’ve noticed that you have some items to clean up, take the time to do that before you start home shopping. You can contact the credit bureaus to fix any incorrect information.

Tip 2: Create a homebuyers budget

Credit score ok? Great. It’s time to figure out how much home you can afford. Even though a lender will provide an approval number for you, that number is based on your gross income. But after taxes, retirement contributions, and expenses, your net income is what’s left. That’s what you should base your expectations on. The question is not, how much home CAN I afford, but how much home, SHOULD I afford? This calculator from CNN Money assumes that with an income of $52,000 and a 20% down payment, you can probably afford a home worth $271,000.

But what if you have monthly debt in the amount of $1,000? Well, you just slashed your home dreams in half. Now you should look for a home worth $102,000. Get rid of that debt! Here’s an easy way to figure out how much home you should afford. Use the same calculator but type a monthly savings goal in the “debt” section. Want to save $800 a month? Look for a home in the $136,000 range instead. Play around with a few assumptions until you find a monthly mortgage number that looks good in your household budget.

Tip 3: Create a homeowner budget

Being a homeowner is so much more than having a mortgage payment. There are repairs and expenses beyond the monthly mortgage payment. Real estate investor Paula Pant recommends saving 1% of the purchase price for repairs and maintenance. Purchased a $200,000 home? That’s $2,000 a year in expected costs. Take this money and put it aside for that rainy day you know is coming.

[Tweet “Being a homeowner is so much more than having a mortgage payment.”]

Tip 4 and 5: Shop for a lender and Shop for a home

Now it’s time to shop around for a lender. At this point, you want what is called a pre-qual letter. It’s not a full mortgage, simply an estimate of how much the lender is willing to give you based on your financial qualifications. The reason these two tips are together is that they go hand in hand. Here’s why. I had the opportunity to chat with a new home counselor on a recent visit to a Beazer new home site. Beazer Homes is one of the nation’s largest homebuilders and they have a program to help make the first time home buying experience easier.

Most home builders use one in-house lender and if you decide to purchase a new home from that builder, you are locked into using that sole lender. Beazer Homes offers the Mortgage Choices program so that you can shop for your own lender. They provide a list of preferred mortgage lenders and they keep the closing process on track. If you have friends that have purchased a home, you know that the closing process can be an elaborate one. Buying a home is not as easy as choosing a model and signing the paperwork.

There are forms upon forms upon forms.

Well, you get the picture.

The preferred lenders that Beazer Homes chooses to work with must meet strict performance criteria to stay a preferred lender. That means quick approvals and on-time closings. There have local lenders and national lenders on the list and you are never locked in to using just those lenders. The don’t pay or provide any kickbacks to Beazer Homes to stay on the list but they do have to meet that criteria.

Beazer builds some of the cutest homes in the nicest locations so if you are looking for a new home, I suggest you check them out. The Mortgage Choices program is perfect for first time home buyers.

Now you’re ready to find your very own home! Do you have more questions on what you need to know before buying a home? Leave them in the comment box below.

This post was created as part of a partnership with Beazer Homes.

Originally posted 2015-06-26 06:29:39.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

I Lost my Credit Card, What Do I Do Now?

Have you ever been somewhere, travelling or even in your own hometown, when you lost your credit card or even your entire wallet?

The moment of panic that ensues while you search frantically for your card is not fun to experience, but this may happen to you at some point or another.

With any luck you will come across your lost card or wallet because it’s simply misplaced. But once in a while, it’s truly lost. When this happens there are some immediate steps you need to take to ensure that your identity and financial information do not fall into the wrong hands.

Call the Credit Card Company ASAP

The first thing you need to do is call your credit card company. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that number memorized or readily available since it’s usually listed on the back of the card you just lost. Some experts suggest writing down the phone number and storing it somewhere separately from where you keep your card.

But often we are not near that safe storage place when we lose our wallets or credit cards. My suggestion is to store it as a contact in your cell phone.

discover freezeitIf you are a Discover customer you can simply use Freeze ItSM an on/off switch that you can access on your mobile app and online to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers in seconds if you misplace your card.

Another option is to use the internet to search for the phone number you need, or to ask a friend or family member for the phone number if they have the same type of credit card.

Request a Hold or Account Freeze

Credit card companies act very quickly when you report a card lost or stolen. They will ask you about your last transaction and then put a hold on your account so nothing else goes through on your card. This will prevent a thief from using your credit card and racking up fraudulent charges.
Sometimes when you lose your credit card it’s gone for several hours, or even days, before you notice it. When this happens you still need to call the credit card company right away. As a Discover customer, the $0 fraud liability guarantee means you are never responsible for unauthorized transactions on your Discover card account. However, you must request an account freeze if your card is lost or stolen.

Document Your Calls

Occasionally mistakes occur and your card does not get cancelled or a hold does not get placed on your account. Whenever you report a card lost or stolen you should keep a written record of when you lost it, when you called the credit card company, and more.

It’s also a good idea to follow up with a written letter to your credit card company as soon as possible so they also have a written record of the activity on your account and they have written confirmation that you want your account frozen or cancelled. If you send a written letter, be sure to follow up to make sure it reached them.

Of course, if you simply use Discover Freeze ItSM, you can immediately verify the account freeze you have requested via your mobile device.
Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with the loss of your wallet or credit card, but chances are it will happen to you at some point in your life. At least with these tips you’ll know exactly what to do when you lose your credit card.

This post was created as part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-06-19 10:36:51.

Categories
Earn Extra Income

Your Network Equals Your Networth

College students often dread the word network. I remember when I first heard the term, I thought it was ridiculous. Why should I become friends with someone just for what they could offer me? I don’t like to be taken advantage of, and I wouldn’t want to do that to someone else.

Once I graduated from college the first time with an spanish degree, I realized that I should have networked more. I would ask friends and fellow graduates, how did you get that job. I always heard the same thing. “A friend of mine told me about it.” How did they have friends that I didn’t have? Where could I find these friends with all of the connections? It took me a while but I finally realized that these so-called friends that knew about all of the jobs were really just acquaintences to my friends. I made it my mission to learn to network and meet the right friends.

You don’t have to be a leech to build a great network. The first thing I think of when I meet someone new is how can I help them? By thinking of a way to help them first, I am shifting the focus from myself. This allows me to be more approachable and friendly. Most people can sniff out a ‘user’ from a mile away. When I notice that someone only wants to talk with me because of what I can offer them, I generally shy away. However, in order for you to build your networth, it’s important to have a few key people in your network. Here are the 9 Key People to Have in Your Professional Network.

1) Recruiter

It’s important, no make that essential, to have an updated resume. Not only will it keep you on top of your professional brand, but it will make your on-the-job review that much easier. When you ask for a raise and point out all of the ways you’ve added value to your company, you will have that much more leverage. Having a recruiter in your network will keep your options open. If you ever feel like your talents and skills are going unnoticed at your current position, you will have an immediate link to new positions and opportunities.

2) Accountant

Having an accountant in your network will be an asset to you in one of two ways. It will position you as the go-to person for accounting needs; since people will know that you know who to turn to, and it will keep you in the know about tidbit accounting laws and changes. But probably the most important reason to have an accountant in your network is because of the IRS. Who really wants to be audited?

3) The Sports Guy/Gal

If you are the one who is the authority on sports then you might be able to skip this one. Business and sports go hand in hand, period. You can avoid it all you want, but if you can’t talk about the epic fadeaway from last night’s basketball game, or the 2 point conversion that had everyone in shock, you will miss out on deals. If you don’t want to make it a point of watching games or checking ESPN everyday then network with a sports guy/gal. You’ll know them by the fact that they are always at the ‘watercooler’ talking about last night’s game. Steal some sound bites from them and network away!

4) Media

Everyone needs to know that someone that is always the first to know everything. They may write an entertainment blog, you may always see them out hob-nobbing (that’s the word for networking with famous people), and you will see their pictures EVERYWHERE. You may have a hard time meeting this one person because everyone wants to know them, but if you can do it, you will be one step closer to the pulse. Who knows, they might want to take the time to talk about you to fellow hob-nobbers.

5) Banker

This one is an obvious one. You should have someone that keeps up with the market and world news. They will constantly know what is going on and how it will affect their portfolio. And if you listen well, you might get some tips for your own portfolio even if it’s finding a good passive investment.

6) Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur is the person you met who is always trying to network. They either want to sell you something or figure out how you can build their business. But don’t get offended, that’s what they do. Good entrepreneurs will figure out a way to help you as well and that’s why it is good to meet one and stay in touch regularly.

7) Teacher/Professor

When was the last time you talked about the state of our educational system? I’ve met many teachers and, I always leave the conversation with a new look at politics. Because the educational system is so flawed and the government runs it all, they will usually be up to date with new laws and provisions that may affect you or your kids or your lifestyle.

8) College Student

I bet you didn’t think you would need to network with a college student, huh? You’re probably thinking, what do they have to offer me? But didn’t we just talk about networking with those that you can help? Have you been listening? But you can benefit as well. You will get more fresh perspective from a college student than you will get from your other sources.

9) Author

Finally, you should know at least one person who writes for a living. Or at least someone who enjoys organizing their thoughts onto paper. When you decide to begin writing that interesting life story of yours, you’ll know who to talk to.

Did I miss one? Who would you include in your network?

Originally posted 2015-06-01 10:00:19.

Categories
Career Earn Extra Income

#QUIZ: Should I Start a Business or Get a Job After College?

This is a question that many college students ask themselves. Most people like to set their own schedule. We want to be able to be in control of our time and be rewarded for our efforts. Starting a business will give you that freedom but it also comes with a price. Often you will have to put in hours and hours before you reap the benefits. Getting a job will allow you to get your reward immediately and every two weeks in the form of a paycheck, but you will be much more constrained. I’ve created a simple quiz that will help you begin to decide if you should start a business or get a job.

FYI, if you are reading this through your feed reader, hop on over to the site. The quiz is a jump page quiz. Small business facts sourced from the National Federation of Small Businesses small business polls.

Start the Quiz Here

But Don’t Scroll Down, Click Your Answer Choice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any debt?

Yes, I have some debt.

No I am debt free.

Since the beginning of early September, 30 percent of small employers applied for credit or commercial loans in one form or another, at least half of which applied more than one time. Seventy (70) percent did not apply of which 12 percent, or 8 percent of the population, did not apply because they thought they could not get credit they wanted.

 

Do you have a business idea already?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, I have a business idea.

No, I don’t know what business I want to start.

Forty-two (42) percent of all small businesses introduced at least one new or significantly improved product, service, process or design into their sales inventory in the prior year. Most often the introduction was a product (55%), followed by a service (29%), a process (8%) and a design (7%). Thirty-four (34) percent have never introduced a new or significantly improved product, service, process or design. It has been three years or more since another 11 percent have.

 

Do you have any savings?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, I have some savings.

Savings, what’s that?

Small-business owners believe that the primary reason they experience cash flow problems is the difficulty they encounter collecting money due them (30%). The second most frequently cited reason is seasonality (23%). The third is unexpected variations in sales (15%) and the fourth, weak sales (13%).

 

How much business knowledge do you have?

Photo via Flickr

I have a business degree.

I’ve learned from experience.

I have no business experience.

The most frequent course of study completed by small employers was business administration and related subjects. Fifty-five (55) percent did so. The second most frequently completed course of study was one of the hard sciences including engineering. Except for the few who took advanced degrees in law and health/medicine, those who took business were most likely to find their studies directly relevant to their current enterprise.

 

Have you ever worked in a management position?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, retail or some other management position.

No, I have no management experience.

Seventy (70) percent of small employers supervised people prior to entering their current business. Most now manage fewer people than they once did. This is particularly characteristic of those owning ventures now employing fewer than 10 people.

 

Do you have a hard time getting along with others?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, I often find that others are wrong.

No, I’m pretty easy going.

 

Do you consider yourself an active person?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, I work out, get outdoors, etc.

No, I don’t have time for extra activity.

 

How many hours a week are you willing to work?

Photo via Flickr

40 hours

Less than 40

More than 40

 

Do you work best with a coach or motivator?

Photo via Flickr

Yes, I find it helps me.

No, I motivate myself.

 

Do you consider yourself to be persistent?

Photo via Wikipedia

Yes

No

 

Why do you want to go into business?

Photo via Flickr

If you’ve made it to this question then you might have what it takes to start a business.

About one in 10 adult (18-64 years) Americans are currently taking active steps to create a business. Virtually all are doing so because they want to (or see an opportunity to do so) rather than because they have no alternative economic opportunity. This puts the United States at the top of the industrialized world (second to Australia in 2006), a position Americans traditionally occupy. The reason that this number is important is the direct relationship between the number of people trying to start a business and national economic growth (Source: Neils Bosma and Rebecca Harding, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2006, Babson College, 2006.)
 
 

Are you willing to take advice?

Photo via Flickr

Yes

No

This is probably not the best time for you to go into business. Either you have too much debt or no savings, both will make starting a business very hard. If you expect to work only 40 hours a week and you give up easily then entrepreneurship may not be for you. However, may entrepreneurs are successful based on their networks and desire for more. If you can find the passion then there’s still a chance for success.

Originally posted 2015-05-30 10:00:11.

Categories
Career

What to Expect in an Entry-Level Job Interview

As you start the process of finding, interviewing for, and landing your first entry-level job, you might feel a bit apprehensive. I know I felt that way.
As a type-A personality, I like to be prepared. I want to know exactly what I should expect and when I should be expecting to expect this thing I’ve been expecting.

With this in mind, I set off to research as much as I could about landing my first job.

Click here to get my 5 interview tips for recent college graduates.

I found that I could expect a few of the same typical questions. These are the questions that I have laid out below along with suggested answers.
As a unique candidate, your suggested answer will be different than the answer of the next candidate simply because you have different life experiences.

Top 10 Entry-Level Interview Questions

1) Tell me about yourself.

This question presents an opportunity for you to give your elevator pitch. Don’t give your life story. I remember one time I started talking about my childhood and I got a weird look from the interviewer. Stick to personal and professional accomplishments that directly relate to the position for which you are applying.

2) What are your strengths?

This question is also an opportunity to emphasize your key selling points. But get ready for what is coming next…

3) What are your weaknesses?

Use this question as an opportunity to show personal growth. You can throw in an old weakness and how you’ve developed professionally. Or, you can use a strength disguised as a weakness. My favorite one goes something like this, “I have a hard time sharing responsibility. I always like to see a project to the end.” I have a few that I alternate but I always have at least one weakness prepared.

4) What motivates you?

This question helps the interviewer decide how well you will do in the company. If you are motivated by praise, for example, then they know how to squeeze that extra productivity out of you.

5) Tell me about a time you experienced ___. What did you do?

It may be a bit more difficult to prepare for this question. You’ll have to think on your feet. They may ask you for a time that you had to struggle, or a time that you had to deal with a lazy coworker. If you can’t think of something, use an experience from college. They will understand. Most importantly, you have to show that you have experience dealing with tough situations.

6) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

You should discuss that you see yourself growing with the company. Even if you think that you will likely leave in a few years for a higher salary, don’t say it. Make sure they know that you are willing to stay for the right opportunity.

7) Why did you leave your previous job?

You might think this is an opportunity to bash your previous employer but it’s not. That is in bad taste. Instead, discuss opportunity. You wanted to stretch yourself and reach for a better opportunity. Don’t discuss pay or conflict as a reason for leaving your previous job.

8 ) Why do you want to work for us?

“Um..because I want to get paid?” Sorry but the logical answer is not the proper answer. Demonstrate your desire to work for this company in particular. Maybe you appreciate how they do business. Talk about that. Keep it short but powerful.

9) Why should we hire you?

You are not the only candidate. You have to show that you are the best one for the job. Emphasize your skills and play down any concerns that the interviewer has brought up.

10) Do you have any questions for us?

Always. You should have at least 3 questions prepared. Ask about the interviewer, maybe why they like the company. Ask about the company and its goals. And finally ask about the position. When they expect to fill it, if they see you as a good fit. Leave on a high note and after the final questions, thank the interviewer for their time.

Starting with a phone interview? Watch this video with 3 tips for phone interviews.

Oddball Interview Questions That You Shouldn’t Expect

I found these questions very interesting and super odd. What would you do if you were asked one of these weird questions?

I wouldn’t expect that you would hear these questions but if you are interviewing for the employers below, you might want to go in prepared.

“How lucky are you and why?” – Asked at Airbnb.
“If you were a pizza deliveryman how would you benefit from scissors?” – Asked at Apple.
“If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” – Asked at Bed Bath & Beyond.
“How many square feet of pizza is eaten in the US each year?” – Asked at Goldman Sachs.
“What’s the color of money???….” – Asked at American Heart Association.

View answers to these questions and the remainder of the top 25 oddball interview questions at GlassDoor.

Preparing with questions is the first step in having a successful interview. When you know what to expect, you can avoid any awkward silences. Obviously, there is no way to know exactly how the interview will go but preparing with these top interview questions will help you get that much further in the interview process.

Are there any questions that you would add?

What question do you remember as being the hardest?

Originally posted 2015-05-29 10:00:21.

Categories
Investing

Simple Steps to Become a Millionaire

“I want to be a millionaire, so freaking bad.” You might have been thinking it, but Bruno Mars sang it first. Many people strive to become a millionaire. In fact, there is even a day dedicated to those people. This year Be a Millionaire Day is May 20th. On this day we answer the question, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” with a resounding shout, “Me! I do!” While it may seem difficult to save a million dollars, there are a few tips you can use today to make it to millionaire status sooner rather than later.

Steps to Become a Millionaire

Start a Savings Account

If you plan to reach the Millionaire’s Club by saving money, then you must first open a savings account. In order to accumulate one million dollars within 30 years, you will need to save around $750 per month at a 4% interest rate.

Use this calculator to determine your required savings rate.

Lately, interest rates have been pretty low on traditional savings accounts. Instead of simply shopping at your local bank, try an online bank. Then, look into a certificate of deposit. A certificate of deposit or CD is a way for your money to earn more. CD’s sometimes have higher rates than traditional savings accounts. A Discover Certificate of Deposit is great option with flexible terms from 3 months to 10 years and you can open your FDIC insured CD account with as little as $2,500.

Begin Investing

Let your money work for you. Investing your dollars gives each dollar a job and that job is to earn more money. When you invest, each dollar has the ability to earn a return. If you decide to invest by purchasing 100 shares of stock in a company, and those shares rise in value, your money just earned more money!

However, you have to be careful because if those shares drop in value, then so does your investment and you could lose money. Investing is not as safe as saving in an FDIC insured savings account. However, over the last ten years, investments in the broad market index, as measured by the S&P 500 have averaged 8.3% per year.

Mind the Gap

The gap separates a potential millionaire from a person that will never make it. What’s the gap? The gap is the difference between how much you earn and how much you spend. That unspent portion is available for saving and investing. Growing the gap will allow you to accelerate your millionaire status. How large should that gap be? Well that depends on how soon you want to become a millionaire. A larger gap means faster millionaire status.

“The amount of money you have has got nothing to do with what you earn… people earning a million dollars a year can have no money and… People earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It’s not what you earn, it’s what you spend.” -Paul Clitheroe

Here are a few examples.

Patrick and Jenny are 25 and both earn $50,000 per year. After taxes they each earn a take home pay of $3,000 per month.

Patrick keeps his expenses low and saves $1,500 per month or 50% of his take home pay.

Jenny enjoys shopping, dinners out, traveling, and attending concerts. She saves $300 per month or 10% of her take home pay.

In ten years, Patrick has saved a total of $220,876 with an interest rate of 4%. If he maintains the same saving rate he will become a millionaire by the time he is 55.

In the same ten years, Jenny has saved a $44,176 at a rate of 4%. If Jenny lives long enough, she will become a millionaire by the time she is 88.

Ultimately, becoming a millionaire is a simple process that requires diligence and persistence. Ready to become a millionaire? Open a savings account, begin investing, and create a budget that allows you to spend less and save more.

This post was created as part of the Discover partnership program.

Originally posted 2015-05-20 10:00:28.