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3 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Rising Credit Scores

3 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Rising Credit Scores

There are many perks that come with having good credit. Not only do you get to live a life without fear of rejection from lenders and creditors, but you also get better interest rates that save you money. That’s why so many of us are consistently working to improve our credit and perhaps even atone for past mistakes

So what happens after you’ve managed to turn things around and bring your credit scores up to a respectable level? Great question! There are a few ways you can welcome yourself to the good life and take advantage of your newly-improved credit. Here are three such examples:

Apply for a rewards credit card and/or do a balance transfer

One of the biggest advantages to having good credit is that credit card companies actually offer you incentives to use their card. Depending on what appeals most to you, this could mean savings on airfare, hotel stays, or just straight-up cash back. When used wisely, and perhaps even a bit creatively, these rewards can save you money, while also helping to further improve your credit scores.

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Speaking of continuing to raise your scores, paying off your debt is a great way to do just that. Once again, as counterintuitive as it may sound, this is where getting approved for a new credit card can actually help. In some cases, credit cards will offer 0% interest for a set period of time. If that’s the case, you can transfer your existing balances from other cards over, allowing you to save on interest.

A word to the wise: just be sure to pay off the balance before the introductory offer expires. Without any new interest accruing, your entire monthly payment will go towards paying off the balance. This makes paying off the debt before the introductory period not only a wise goal but a realistic one as well.

Refinance your car loan

Seeing as cars and other personal vehicles are the preferred method of transportation for most Americans, there’s a good chance you own one. There’s also a strong likelihood that the interest rate you got stuck with when purchasing your car back in your poor credit days is costing you more than it should. While it’s not (yet?) possible to go back in time and get a better deal, it’s not too late to get a lower interest rate.

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Auto refinancing is a fairly straightforward process that in recent years has been growing in popularity. Part of the reason for that is auto loan terms have swelled over the years. In fact, while auto loans once averaged 60 months (5 years) in length, the availability of 6 and even 7 year financing terms have skewed that average upwards. As a result more lenders have stepped in to offer customers the opportunity to pay off their current loan and take out a new one with a better rate. Overall this is great news for first-time car buyers who may have been forced to overpay for a loan or anyone else who has recently turned their finances around.

A new twist on auto refinancing is peer to peer loans. Lending Club recently introduced a new auto refinancing program where borrowers get funds directly from individual investors instead of a bank. If the program proves popular, it’s likely other peer to peer lenders will enter the market. More competition will likely result in lower interest rates for consumers.

Reshuffle your debt by refinancing your mortgage

This one can get a little complicated, but stay with me. First, if you have a home, you’re aware that a mortgage can typically last for 30 years. That’s a long time to stay at the same interest rate you were given when your credit wasn’t so hot.

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Similar to your car loan, you can also refinance your mortgage in order to secure a better rate. However, this also gives the option of doing what’s called debt reshuffling, meaning you can take your other outstanding debts and bill them into your mortgage payment instead. One of the most common uses of this technique is to wipe out the dreaded student debt cloud that hangs over many Millennials.

Why would you bother doing this? Generally speaking, mortgage interest rates tend to be lower than those of other debt types, including student loans. Additionally, mortgage holders are entitled to tax deductions that other types of debt aren’t, making this a double win in some cases. All that being said, debt reshuffling might not be right for everyone, so you’ll want to do some extra research before pulling the trigger.

Get Your Finances in Order

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Getting your finances in order and raising your credit scores is not easy. Now is the time to take advantage of some of the perks that come with having good credit that you’ve missed out on over the past few years. In fact, by getting yourself a new rewards credit card and refinancing your current loans, you will save yourself some extra cash for some new adventures.

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Published on May 7, 2019

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Will you spend more time with your family?
  • What does retirement mean to you?
  • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

2. Figure out When to Invest

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

Why?

Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

  1. Vanguard
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. Charles Schwab

5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

Robo Advisors

Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

Bonds

Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

  1. Treasury bonds
  2. Government bonds
  3. Corporate bonds
  4. Foreign bonds
  5. Mortgage-backed bonds
  6. Municipal bonds

Mutual Funds

Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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Real Estate

Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

Savings Accounts

Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

So how can you master delayed gratification?

By building your discipline.

Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

But, how can you invest yourself?

Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

Retire Happy with Excess Money

The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

Reference

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