6 Signs That You Are Ready For Early Retirement

Early Retirement

People work because they like to work or because they have no choice. Some of them find work that they love, and at best, they may ease off on their workload because of other interests or commitments. Others work to earn money and build a nest egg for their later years. In either case, you can always pursue your dream of early retirement if you have prudently planned your finances. 

How Do You Make Early Retirement A Reality?

How do we know when we have enough money to live on? This requires determining a reasonable estimate of how much money we will need after retirement, after adjusting for cost inflation, and the foreseeable future trends of the economy. While the economy and inflation are factors that can be uncertain, we can have greater control over our basic needs and even build a cushion for the extras. 

We can start by understanding our present financial standing and then make a plan for early retirement. Ask yourself the below questions, and the answers should help you make a detailed plan to turn your dream of early retirement a reality.

Are You Debt-free?

Being debt-free means you have no future payments to account for in your budget. Therefore, ensuring that your debts are cleared has to come first. Your monthly expenses may need to be cut down drastically while you are still working so you can pay off your debts that much faster. 

Have You Saved Enough? 

Saving money towards retirement from the time you start working may sound a little restrictive. But, it is a sound step towards building enough savings to retire on. It’s an added incentive if you plan to retire early and pursue other interests. Whether you have saved adequately can depend on your financial needs post-retirement. Retiring before social security kicks in could mean that your savings should cover the expenses that would have otherwise been covered through your social security. 

Is Your Healthcare Covered?

Healthcare is one of the most significant expenses and can make a deep dent in your savings unexpectedly as many people know since the ACA law went into effect driving up health care costs and limiting choices. Retiring earlier than the age when you become eligible for Medicare means having a backup for health insurance. There are two ways to achieve this. You can either go on your partner’s health insurance plan or get coverage through private health insurance. Starting a Health Savings Account (HSA) earlier would be helpful.

Can You Stick To Your Budget?

Retirees have to live on a fixed income, and it is usually lower than they had when they were employed. So, creating a reduced monthly budget and sticking to it is imperative. You may want to start this plan a few months before you retire to get into the habit. To be safe, have two lists drawn up: one that covers only the basic expenses that you can’t do without, and the other a slightly relaxed budget to include a few you don’t need but would like to have. 

Some of us may manage to save substantially with a basic budget bringing the retirement age even closer. Others may desire a slightly relaxed lifestyle and may plan a later retirement. Regardless of the plan, a healthy financial lifestyle is one where you have a budget, and you cultivate the habit of staying within that budget. 

Have You Made The Right Investments?

Fixed income post-retirement suggests that you aim to maintain rather than grow your income. This means that you must plan for lower-risk investments. While the returns may be lower, they are also less risky investments. Talking to a financial planner when you are still working and can make a few investments to help you later would be wise. 

Do You Have A Plan For Unexpected Expenses?

If nothing else, the COVID-19 or Wuhan virus pandemic has taught us that life is unpredictable. Unexpected expenses may crop up post-retirement. It’s smarter to have a backup plan by either accumulating a few assets that can be sold for better returns or building them into your savings plan. You may still have to prepare yourself for taking up some part-time work that can tide you over.  

Key Takeaway

Retirement brings about a profound change in our lives, no matter whether it happens early or late. It would be wise to think beyond financial security and include other retirement aspects such as the free time now that you are not working. Perhaps, a plan to occupy yourself with something you have always wanted to do but never could is in order? Having a backup plan for happy times post-retirement could be a poignant incentive to make you work towards early retirement.

10 Wealth Creation Principles That Always Work

Wealth

A lot of people mistakenly assume that true wealth is simply growing your financial net worth. If you think like that, you could not be more wrong. Wealth is a balanced and holistic concept. In this post, we have listed 10 principles that can help you in achieving true wealth in a deeply personal as well as a purely financial sense.

1. Be Deeply Motivated

You cannot sit back and let luck take over when you want to build wealth. Your motivation needs to come from somewhere deeper than regular external trappings. You need to find a cause that will transform your life and drive you to overcome all obstacles which keep you from attaining financial freedom. Internally driven goals can be:

  • Charity
  • Freedom
  • Growth
  • Leadership

2. Add Value to Whatever You Come Across

Everyone is better off when they add value to the world. Giving more will only help you in the long run. This is an important step in building true wealth. You can greatly improve your life when you help others get better. Exploitation may bring you initial riches, but they won’t provide fulfilment and happiness.

3. Don’t Compromise on Integrity

People think they need to sell their soul to get rich. That’s not true. You don’t need to do things that would prevent you from meeting your father’s eye. You don’t need to harm others, encroach on their property, or violate moral law despite what we may see the FBI doing and all those rioters undermining their own cities. You don’t need to lie, cheat, insult, or damage the environment in your pursuit of wealth – we’ve seen that too much in certain cities in America that many people have moved away from.

You don’t even have to stretch the truth even though we see that all the time in California and New York politics and the White House. Never compromise on your integrity for expediency. There is no amount of money that can replace a clear conscience, a good night’s rest and a peaceful mind.

4. Be Brave and Courageous

You need to have courage to be responsible and a self-starter. You need to be brave to develop new skills and walk new paths. Courage is needed to put extra efforts for standing out from the crowd. In short, you cannot build wealth if you don’t have what it takes.

5. Stay Disciplined

Wealth is an accumulated mass of many small things that are compounded together over a person’s lifetime. Your daily habits play an important role in making and breaking your success. Investing, reinvesting, saving and growing your business and financial intelligence are vital to building wealth. You need to be consistent and persistent in your efforts. You risk falling prey to procrastination without discipline in your life.

6. Don’t Indulge in Conspicuous Consumption

Wealth is not instant gratification. Instead, you become wealthy when you invest your today’s wealth for a more comfortable tomorrow. You should consider living modestly in terms of time, energy, and money. Happiness is not directly related to material trappings. They only keep one from fulfilling their purpose. You have a decision to make every day – consume today or be wealthy tomorrow.

7. Create Supportive Environment

Life has an endless stream of distractions that can sidetrack your plans for building wealth. You can overcome these distractions with focused, persistent and consistent action. The best way to do this is by creating a support system which helps keep you focused on your financial goals.

Your relationships, family environment, financial habits, work environment, and daily rituals should be designed proactively for keeping you interested in creating wealth. They should support and reinforce your plans.

8. Build Wealth by Applying Leverage

You cannot get wealthy on your own. You cannot build wealth by trading time for riches. You need to work smarter instead of harder. These are a few principles of leverage you need to apply:

  • Marketing Leverage
  • Network Leverage
  • Knowledge Leverage
  • Financial Leverage
  • Time Leverage
  • Systems and Technology Leverage

9. Make Your Wealth Work

Wealth is not a one-off standalone concept. It is similar to a business entity. You need to run your money the way you would run a business. Use competitive advantage, accountability, accurate record keeping and leverage to get where you want.

10. You Don’t Possess Wealth

You need to understand that you are a steward to your wealth and not the owner. You would eventually need to move it to others. Money comes with tremendous responsibility. You need to ensure that you create maximum benefit for others who come across the wealth created by you. This can be done using your temporary stewardship wisely.

Best Practices to Take Control of Your Personal Finances

Personal Finances

You could win the Powerball jackpot and still end up broke simply because you did not manage your money well. You could also be earning a huge salary and find that most of the money’s gone before the month is out, leaving you strapped until the next paycheck (Allen Iverson almost knows about this – as do many others). That’s why it is good to be proactive and take control of your finances instead of asking yourself where the money went.

Here are 10 prudent tips to help you manage your personal finances effectively.

Set up separate bank accounts

You must set up a savings account and a checking account as soon as you land a job. Keeping your salary in these 2 accounts will ensure that you only spend the money from your checking account leaving the savings account intact for future goals.

Save first, spend later

Make sure that you have set up automatic withdrawal and deposit on the same day that you get paid. The deposit might go towards a retirement fund or an emergency fund. Do not miss out on the retirement plans offered by your employer (even the US military has TSP). What is important is to not wait until the end of the month to make that saving. Your spending budget should not take your entire income into account. Automatically moving a percentage of your income first will make sure that you can only access the spending money you have allocated in your budget.

Set up short and long-term financial goals

It is always best to set specific goals, for instance, do you want to buy a property when you reach a certain age? Do you have a clear idea of how much it will cost, even if it cannot be an exact figure as land and property prices can fluctuate? Then, count backwards to calculate the amount you will need to have on hand when that time comes and start saving. It will help to write your goals and the saving plan and place it where you can see it regularly.

Budget

Make a budget and stick to it. This is an important step to take if you wish to be in charge of your finances. When you list down your monthly expenses, you will find that it helps to know the bills that are to be paid routinely and the amount that is left over for saving, investing, or extra spending. This is vital when taxes and costs for goods are increasing because of new policies.

Monitor your spending

Once you know your monthly income and your budgeted amount for monthly bills, you will have a clear picture of how much money you can spend. This requires careful monitoring because it is way too easy to spend money thinking that you can just because you have paid all your bills. This will also help you see if there is an expense you can do without.

Live within your means

It is frugal living that fattens your bank balance. When you understand that you are not deprived of anything by living within your means, you will also realize that it is pretty easy to maintain a lifestyle that takes care of your needs without going overboard.

Set aside money for emergencies

Set aside some of your income each month towards emergencies. If there are no emergencies, you can be happy with the fact that you have saved a lump sum. If there is an emergency, you won’t have to panic and wonder where you will get the money from.

Educate yourself

You would do well to keep abreast of the latest tax laws to make sure that you maximize your savings. Keeping yourself well informed of the stock market and following the financial news will allow you to find safe investment opportunities.

Go for the discounts

There is no shame in looking for discounts and taking advantage of the offers made by retailers. If possible, take a more direct approach and master negotiation skills by working with small businesses. It can be a win-win for the business and you. Buying in bulk could get you a discount just as much as a long term relationship with a vendor. The idea is to avoid wasteful spending.

Take care of your health and property

Health – The body can throw in a lot of surprises along the way. It is best to be self-aware and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Make sure that you schedule regular doctor appointments, including dental care. Eating right and exercising will also keep you away from avoidable health risks.

Property – Regular upkeep and careful handling of the things you own, big and small, can shave a lot of repair costs from your monthly expenses. This is a great habit to cultivate and will also teach you to value what you own.

Regardless of how much money there is to manage, these tips can help you stay on top of your spending and saving, and leave you financially secure.

5 Ways to Practice Self-Control With Finances

person holding dollar bills

Money can provide relief, but it can also be a source of stress. If you find yourself struggling when it comes to practicing financial self-control, here are some helpful tips.

Resist Temptation

Start by cutting yourself off at the source. Yes, we’re talking about fewer trips to the mall and anywhere else you may find yourself at the mercy of impulsive tendencies.

Another effective strategy is to leave home without your debit and credit cards. That way, even if you’ve got your eyes on something, you simply won’t be able to buy it.

Unsubscribe

Once retailers get their hands on your email, they keep those discounts, special offers, and end-of-season sales coming. We know how tough these can be to resist, so do what we did. Simply unsubscribe from those dreaded email lists.

Don’t Save Your Autofill Info

Saving your information after a purchase sounds convenient, but this is actually a marketing strategy. The option to automatically fill out those boxes favors retailers more than it benefits you. When you have to type in your information each time you shop, you may second-guess your purchases. This is the biggest fear retailers have.

We’re pretty sure you can do without that floral scarf; your summer will be perfect without it.

Keep Tabs on How Much You Spend

This tip should really be filed under Financial Self-Control 101. Even someone who’s not actively trying to save will tell you just how important it is to track your expenditures. Maintain a budget sheet; looking at those numbers alone should help curb your spending.

Monthly Deductions

When you get your paycheck each month, immediately set an amount aside as savings. Refer to it as the ‘touch-me-not’ pile. You can even automate this process by setting up a separate bank account for the purpose.

Conclusion

Just like any other habit, financial self-control will become second nature once you start applying these tips. Trust us, it will pay off in the long run…literally and otherwise.

4 Budgeting Tips You Need to Follow

Budgeting tips for beginners

Do you hate budgeting because you think it robs you of your freedom to spend your money?

Well, you’re not alone. But it doesn’t mean you’re right.

By making you create a spending plan for the month, budgeting actually ensures that you’ll always have enough money to spend on things you want. It is the best way to stay out of debt or pay off what’s due on you.    

Here are some practical budgeting tips to help you get started.

1. Start from Zero

If you want to stay on top of your personal finances, creating a zero-based budget is the way to go. This means you should get a big fat zero when you subtract your expenses from your income. Simply put, you must assign each dollar to something before the month even starts.

Start by calculating your monthly expenses and subtract the amount from your income. If you get a negative value, bring your costs down. You can start a side hustle or sell some items if you need extra money. In case you have a few dollars left, they can go into savings.

2. Set Your Priorities Straight!

No month is the same as the last, which means you’ll have to figure out a spending plan for each month. Some months you’ll be spending on home and car maintenance and other routine expenses, and other months, you may be saving for special occasions or vacations.

When you set priorities for a month, giving and saving should always come first. Then come food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and transportation. Once these categories are sorted, move on to others.   

3. Pay Your Debt

One of the most important budgeting tips is to set aside your debt amount first. Pay off what’s due as fast as you can so that you can have complete control over your money.   

4. Create a Plan and Stick to It

To eliminate stress from the equation, pick specific dates for your expenses. Follow the plan religiously and track your progress. If you’re afraid of overspending, try the envelope technique and use cash for each category.

Budgeting doesn’t mean you can’t spend as you will. With these budgeting tips, get ready to manage your money in a smarter, more efficient manner!  

How Long Does It Take To Close On a House?

Home Closing

It is important for homebuyers to know how long it may take to close on a house once their purchase offer is accepted. Except where the deal is all-cash, the buyer’s lender will take some time to process the loan and close.

If you are well-prepared with all the necessary information and documents your lender may require, the closing process could be hastened.

However, chances are that you may still face situations where you have to discuss or negotiate with the other party. Indecisiveness or inaction will only make the closing process longer in these situations.

Average Time Taken for Home Closing

For a new home purchase, according to Fannie Mae, the average closing time is 46 days, while for mortgage finance it is 49 days. A similar time period for closing is also involved in FHA loans.

The closing process is often expedited if the loan has been pre-approved (rather than pre-qualified). If the buyer’s bank statements, employment record, and credit report have already been verified, closing on the property will usually take place within one to two weeks.   

Estimated Timeline for Closing

  • Completing the official loan application – 1 day
  • Official loan disclosures (and loan estimate) – up to 3 days
  • Additional document requests and review – 4 to 7 days
  • Appraisal process – 7 to 14 days
  • Underwriting – 1 to 3 days
  • Conditional loan approval – 7 to 14 days
  • Cleared to close – 3 days
  • Closing and loan disbursement – 1 day

Factors that can Delay Home Closing

In many cases, delays in closing on a house occur at a stage when the file has been submitted to the underwriters. While an experienced loan officer would be well-versed with underwriting guidelines, it is difficult to predict how an underwriter would respond.

Delays are more frequent with institutional lenders than with mortgage brokers because their procedures may be longer and slower. Here are some of the key issues that could delay or even prevent closing on a home.

Credit Report Issues

If your credit report reveals questionable items, such as a sudden decline in credit score, new debts, errors, or a major late payment reported recently, it could cause a delay in closing.

Lower Appraisal

Lenders usually ask for an appraisal of the home before they finance it. If the property appraisal turns out to be lower than the asking price of the seller, your loan may be refused. You may either have to pay the difference from your pocket or renegotiate your terms with the seller for the loan to be cleared.

Home Inspection Raises Concerns

The home inspection may result in adverse findings, such as faulty wiring or leakage in the bathroom. Repairs will have to be undertaken before the home closing can be done.

Need for Additional Documents

In some cases, the lender may ask for additional documents to explain some doubtful aspects related to your finances. For instance, a document may have a discrepancy about your marital status, or a bank statement may show your maiden name, or some insurance information may be missing. 

Problems with the Title

The home sale may be delayed if there are problems with the title, such as lien. Clearing the title may take time and cause a delay in home closing.

Unforeseen Changes with Financial Impact

Right before the closing, any unforeseen life changes with substantive financial impact, such as a divorce or loss or job may also result in a delay.

Inexperienced Loan Professionals

In some cases, both the buyer and the seller may be diligent in accomplishing their role in the process, but the professionals handling your loan may be inefficient.

What can you do to Minimize Delays in Home Closing?

In order to close on your house in a smooth and timely manner, be prepared to respond actively to the requests made by your real estate agent and your lender. While you have no control over how other parties in the value chain perform their role, you can make sure that no delay occurs because of you.

Any time you receive a request for information or documents from the lender, you should be ready to produce it as soon as possible.

Anticipate the requirements and keep ahead of the curve to ensure your home closing process does not drag on like an episode of that 90s show Mad About You.

Don’t move out of your current place of residence until you can actually move into the home you are buying. You don’t want to be sleeping in your car for a few nights or have to get a hotel.

It is important for homebuyers to know how long it may take to close on a house once their purchase offer is accepted. Except where the deal is all-cash, the buyer’s lender will take some time to process the loan and close.

If you are well-prepared with all the necessary information and documents your lender may require, the closing process could be hastened.

However, chances are that you may still face situations where you have to discuss or negotiate with the other party. Indecisiveness or inaction will only make the closing process longer in these situations.

Average Time Taken for Home Closing

For a new home purchase, according to Fannie Mae, the average closing time is 46 days, while for mortgage finance it is 49 days. A similar time period for closing is also involved in FHA loans.

The closing process is often expedited if the loan has been pre-approved (rather than pre-qualified). If the buyer’s bank statements, employment record, and credit report have already been verified, closing on the property will usually take place within one to two weeks.   

Estimated Timeline for Closing

  • Completing the official loan application – 1 day
  • Official loan disclosures (and loan estimate) – up to 3 days
  • Additional document requests and review – 4 to 7 days
  • Appraisal process – 7 to 14 days
  • Underwriting – 1 to 3 days
  • Conditional loan approval – 7 to 14 days
  • Cleared to close – 3 days
  • Closing and loan disbursement – 1 day

Factors that can Delay Home Closing

In many cases, delays in closing on a house occur at a stage when the file has been submitted to the underwriters. While an experienced loan officer would be well-versed with underwriting guidelines, it is difficult to predict how an underwriter would respond.

Delays are more frequent with institutional lenders than with mortgage brokers because their procedures may be longer and slower. Here are some of the key issues that could delay or even prevent closing on a home.

Credit Report Issues

If your credit report reveals questionable items, such as a sudden decline in credit score, new debts, errors, or a major late payment reported recently, it could cause a delay in closing.

Lower Appraisal

Lenders usually ask for an appraisal of the home before they finance it. If the property appraisal turns out to be lower than the asking price of the seller, your loan may be refused. You may either have to pay the difference from your pocket or renegotiate your terms with the seller for the loan to be cleared.

Home Inspection Raises Concerns

The home inspection may result in adverse findings, such as faulty wiring or leakage in the bathroom. Repairs will have to be undertaken before the home closing can be done.

Need for Additional Documents

In some cases, the lender may ask for additional documents to explain some doubtful aspects related to your finances. For instance, a document may have a discrepancy about your marital status, or a bank statement may show your maiden name, or some insurance information may be missing. 

Problems with the Title

The home sale may be delayed if there are problems with the title, such as lien. Clearing the title may take time and cause a delay in home closing.

Unforeseen Changes with Financial Impact

Right before the closing, any unforeseen life changes with substantive financial impact, such as a divorce or loss or job may also result in a delay.

Inexperienced Loan Professionals

In some cases, both the buyer and the seller may be diligent in accomplishing their role in the process, but the professionals handling your loan may be inefficient.

What can you do to Minimize Delays in Home Closing?

In order to close on your house in a smooth and timely manner, be prepared to respond actively to the requests made by your real estate agent and your lender. While you have no control over how other parties in the value chain perform their role, you can make sure that no delay occurs because of you.

Any time you receive a request for information or documents from the lender, you should be ready to produce it as soon as possible.

Anticipate the requirements and keep ahead of the curve to ensure your home closing process does not drag on like an episode of that 90s show Mad About You.

Don’t move out of your current place of residence until you can actually move into the home you are buying. You don’t want to be sleeping in your car for a few nights or have to get a hotel.

Is an AARP Membership Worth It?

So you just turned 50, and all of a sudden you start seeing online ads for AARP, seeing the magazines everywhere you go, and getting the pamphlets in the mail. I know, you’re just trying to come to terms with the fact that you are now 50 years old, all you need is another reminder that your mid life crisis is sure to start any minute now. Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to embrace your new age with a new attitude. You now get to take advantage of senior citizen discounts all over town, so why not also take a peek at those AARP benefits? Is it worth it? I’ll lay everything out for you now.

How Much Does it Cost? 

An AARP membership costs $16 a year. But the more years you pay for in advance, the cheaper it is. See below for the discounted breakdown.

$63 for 5 years — $12.60 per year, with a 21 percent discount
$43 for 3 years — $14.34 per year, with a 10 percent discount
$12 for the first year if you choose to auto-renew — 25 percent discount

Sponsored: Purchase a new membership today and Save 25% off your first year by enrolling in automatic renewal

No obligation. Cancel anytime. Click the banner below.


What Discounts are Included?

Members get a variety of discounts at the following popular stores and restaurants.

Retail: Tanger Outlets, 1-800-Flowers.com, Harry & David
Restaurants: McCormick & Schmick’s, Saltgrass, Outback, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Denny’s and Rainforest Cafe
Entertainment: Ticketmaster, Regal Cinemas, Cirque du Soleil
Home & Technology: AT&T, UPS Store, Consumer Cellular

What are the Travel Deals? 

Rental cars: Members get a discount with several popular rental car companies, as well as a 30 percent discount on Zipcar memberships.
Hotels: Members get up to 20 percent off at several hotel chains, such as Days Inn and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, as well as up to 35 percent off from Endless Vacation Rentals.
Flights: You’ll get access to the AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia, which has members-only flight deals, plus you’re entitled to a discount at Park Ride Fly USA for off-airport parking.
Cruises: Members can get discounts on select cruises by Norwegian Cruise Line, Windstar and Grand European Travel.

What are the Health & Wellness Deals? 

Exams: Members get a free hearing test once a year, as well as special rates on eye exams and eyeglasses at participating eye doctors.
Insurance: Members get access to exclusive insurance plans through the AARP® Auto & Home Insurance Program from The Hartford.
Medication: Members have access to the AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by OptumRx program and save an average of 61 percent on all FDA-approved medications
Family: Add a spouse or partner to your plan for free so you can both enjoy the benefits
Dating: Members can sign up for the AARP dating site and meet other 50+ singles who are ready to mingle.

This is only a small portion of the discounts and benefits you can get from an AARP membership. You can read the full list of discounts by checking out the AARP Member Benefits Guide.

As you’re nearing retirement, I understand you want to be intentional with how you spend your money. I’ll let you do the math, but if dine out frequently, travel, and want access to health and financial resources to assist in your retirement transition, it might be worth trying AARP for one year to see if you like it. That $16 you spent on the membership will be saved in no time. 

How to Choose a Travel Credit Card That Delivers The Best Value to You?

Travel Credit Card

The right credit card can make or break your travel budget and costs, regardless of whether you are planning an annual family trip or are a regular business traveler.

Your credit card should not give you a nagging worry of losing out a significant amount on foreign transaction fees and currency conversions while paying for hotels, flight tickets, and other things.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key elements that need to be considered when you are comparing various credit card options for your next travel.

Annual Fee

You should be aware that most travel cards come with an annual fee. This can range anywhere from $90 to $100 for regular travel cards and even in a strong economy with stellar tax cuts these fees should not be ignored.

But the fees can go up to $450 or more for premium cards that come with a host of perks and rewards. You need to weigh these perks against the annual fee to make sure that it evens out.

If you are wondering whether there are any good travel credit cards without the unnecessary annual fee, then you are in luck. There are many no-fee travel cards, but then they have a few drawbacks, like rewards of lower value, reduced perks, and a smaller sign-up bonus.

Rewards Rates

Rewards can be primarily segregated into the following two categories:

Burn rate

Burn rate is the value you receive for the miles or points when you go in to redeem them. The standard industry burn rate is 1 cent for every mile or point. However, some cards, especially hotel cards offer a lower value on the ‘burn’ end, but make up for it by offering more points for every dollar spent on the earning side.

Earn rate 

Earn rate signifies the number of miles or points you receive on every dollar spent. There are some standard travel credit cards that only offer rewards on a flat-rate. This means that you get the same type of rewards on all kinds of purchases, such as 3 miles per dollar or 2.5 points per dollar.

Co-branded cards and others offer a base rate (say a point per dollar) and then raise the stakes for certain categories. For instance, you may be paid a higher reward rate for hotel stays, airline tickets, restaurant meals, and other general travel expenses.

Don’t just blindly look at the numbers while comparing reward rates. You need to take a closer look at the category those numbers apply to and find a travel card that best matches your spending pattern.

It may seem great to receive 5 points every dollar. But, if those 5 points only come with purchasing office supplies and you don’t intend to use your travel card in an office supply store, then you may just end up getting a lousy deal.

Foreign Transaction Fee

Foreign transaction fee is never charged by a good travel card. These fees refer to the surcharges on purchases that are made outside the United States. The industry standard where foreign transaction fee is concerned is 3%, which is just enough to wipe out all the rewards you may have earned during your travel.

This is not of much concern if you don’t travel outside the US much. But, anyone who leaves US frequently should invest in a travel card with no foreign transaction fee. There are many issuers, like Capital One and Discover that offer cards without foreign transaction fee.

Reputation of the Issuer

You need to make sure that your travel card is backed by a reliable international company, especially if you are a globe-trotter. All credit cards don’t make for dependable travel companions.

MasterCard and Visa are used pretty much worldwide. But you may encounter trouble with acceptance in some countries where American Express and Discover are concerned.

However, this is very destination specific and you should not dismiss Discover and Amex outright. Just make sure that you take a back-up card along when you intend to use these. In fact, having a back-up card for your travels within the U.S. is also a prudent thing to do.

Travel Protections

You should compare various cards on the basis of the travel protection they offer. You can pick from trip cancellation coverage, car rental insurance, and lost baggage protection, among others. No, there’s no card that can protect you from the Patriots cheating in the NFL!

Bottom Line

It can be difficult to find a travel card that offers everything you require. There will always be minor disappointments because no issuer offers high reward rates, top-notch perks, generous sign-up bonuses, and no annual fee in a single card.

However, by being smart about the features listed in this guide and carefully choosing the right combination, you can find the ideal credit card that suits your unique travel needs.

Legitimate Ways to Save Money if You’re Living Payslip to Payslip

According to a recent study, about 25 percent of British adults have no savings. No matter what your reason is, have hope that there are ways to get out of debt and give yourself access to extra cash. Every cent earned is one less cent worth of debt, and even the smallest measures can make a big difference if you live payslip to payslip.

Here are some examples of things people across the UK are doing to get more cash in their hands without ever leaving their flat.   

Step #1 – Switch banks to take advantage of significant bonuses.

Many banks try to attract new customers by offering switching bonuses for opening new accounts. They tend to even double those offers if you have your payslip direct deposited. With that bonus, consider opening a savings account that earns interest. An initial £150 deposit can double over time if you simply leave it alone.

Step #2 – Search the web using InboxPounds.

Next time you need to search for something online, skip Google and instead use InboxPounds. It’s powered by Yahoo, and you can earn up to £0.70 per day doing something you would normally do anyway. That’s £21 in one month, so it adds up quickly. All you have to do is use their search engine. Plus, you get a £1 bonus simply for trying InboxPounds.

Step #3 – High credit card balances? Shop around for lower interest rates.

If you’re only paying the minimum balance when your credit card payment is due, it can take quite a long time to get out of debt. Interest continues to build on the balance, making it difficult to put a dent in high balances. Try shopping around for a card with a lower interest rate, and transfer your balance to that card. Some cards even offer promotional rates where you pay no interest for a specific period. So if you have £10,000 in credit card debt and are paying a 16% annual percentage rate, you could save $133 per month during the promotional period.

Step #4 – Play games on InboxPounds.

Besides paying you to use them as a search engine, they also pay you to play games. If you pay for online games anyway, do it through  InboxPounds to get as much as a £15 credit. Examples include Gala Bingo, Ladbrokes games, Betfair Sports and LottoGo.  

Step #5 – Charged a late fee? Ask for a one-time courtesy refund.

Nobody is perfect, and late fees can easily happen. However, you may be surprised at how simple it is to get a fee reversed if you simply ask. Realize that your credit card company will probably only do this once or twice a year, so don’t assume you’ll get your fee reversed every time. Also, If you’re habitually late only because you forgot to pay, consider setting automatic payments so you it doesn’t happen again.

Step #6 – Take surveys on InboxPounds.

Get something for nothing by taking a survey on  InboxPounds and simply sharing your opinion. It’s a simple three-step process:

  1. Select a survey from the list of available surveys to complete.
  2. Qualify for the survey by answering the screening questions honestly.
  3. Complete the survey, and earn cash.

Be sure to check back regularly to see if there are more surveys available.

None of these tips require too much work, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to see if you can make a few quid or even a couple hundred. Remember that when it comes to money, every little bit counts. A few extra pounds in your hand can help you stop living payslip to payslip and erase unnecessary financial stress in your life.

6 Reasons Why Living in New York, California, And Illinois Does Not Make Sense

Living in New York

Every year, thousands of people in the US pack up their bags and move from one state to another.

While some people move to attend school or start a new job, others move due to things like the high cost of living, bad weather, and lack of employment opportunities.

According to the Mises Institute, some of the states that saw a massive exodus of its residents between 2016 and 2017 include New York, California, and Illinois. Recently, the New York Business Journal reported that the state is the top in the US where people migrate from.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Big Apple’s population dropped from 19.5 million to 19.3 million. A report released by the US Census Bureau in December last year highlighted the same disturbing trend.

Between 2017 and 2018, New York was ranked the top state where people were moving out of with a population loss of about 48,510. Illinois followed closely in second place with about 45,116 people moving away. See ya! Just remember why you are moving – socialism does not work!

In this article, we’ll look at six reasons why people are moving away from New York, California, and Illinois.

  1. Difficulty Finding Jobs

One of the reasons why people are moving out of these states is due to difficulties finding jobs. It is not that jobs aren’t available, but since a lot of people have to compete for the few available positions, many people are left out.

In 2017, Illinois ranked 42nd in the country in terms of job growth. While the situation may be somewhat better today in Illinois as well as in New York and California, highly skilled workers are in a better position to take advantage of employment opportunities.

  1. High Taxes

Another reason why people are migrating from these states is taxes. New York, Illinois, and California are among the states with the highest tax burden in the country. California is even losing football teams and the A’s should have left at least 10 years ago.

We all know that taxes can be a headache for Californians – even wealthy people are moving away for this reason. Meanwhile, a study published in 2018 by WalletHub revealed that Illinoisans pay more taxes than people living in other states in the country.

The situation is no different in New York. Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that high taxes in the state is forcing people to migrate but he does nothing about it!

New York even kicks out corporations who are about to hire 25,000 citizens! Genius! Amazon – have you heard of Phoenix? Atlanta? Dallas? I have no idea why you are even in Virginia or even considered locating to another location in the northeast.

  1. High Cost of Living

The high cost of living in New York, California, and Illinois is also driving people away. Apart from taxes, people have to contend with the fact that it is hard to find affordable housing in these parts of the country.

The housing market is more affordable in Illinois than it is in New York and California, but even the median home price of $172,000 in the Prairie State is a lot to contend with.

  1. Weather

The unforgiving winter in cities like New York and Chicago is one more reason why people are opting out of these states. Many people from these states are moving to warmer states like Florida and Texas.

While California has temperate weather, the drought, earthquakes, and frequent wildfires can be a major put off on top of the crime, smell of urine in the cities, homelessness, and low quality of life.

  1. High Population

If you’ve ever experienced rush hour, then you’d understand why people would want to move away because of the high population density in some states in the country.

California, New York, and Illinois are among the top states in the country with the highest population with a headcount of 39.5 million, 19.8 million, and 12.8 million respectively (but many of these people don’t work). Most families with small children prefer to stay in places that are not densely populated.

  1. Crime Rate

If you want your family to live in a relatively safe part of the country, New York, California, and Illinois are unlikely to be part of your options. These are some of the states in the country with the highest crime rates. On the other hand, states like Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Virginia have a much lower crime rate.

Texas, Arizona, and Georgia – Three Winners

New York, California, and Illinois continue to be decrepit places to live. Hey though, if you live in California you can hope for a high speed rail train that will pick you up when you don’t want to leave and take you somewhere you don’t want to be. Outstanding!