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How to Safely Buy a Used Car on Craigslist

How to Safely Buy a Used Car on Craigslist

So you’re in the market for a used car and you’ve decided to turn to Craigslist. Maybe you want to have the flexibility of negotiating a great deal, or perhaps you just want to avoid pushy or sketchy used car salespeople. Great idea! But you’re unsure of how to go about looking for the right car or maybe you’re nervous about being stuck with a lemon. You’re not alone.

Here are some tips and tricks for protecting yourself when buying a used car from Craigslist:

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What the law says:

I’m sure you’ve heard of lemon laws which provide protection to consumers who buy used cars that have been misrepresented as being in good condition or otherwise fail to meet quality and performance standards. But did you know that lemon laws only apply to auto dealers in most states?

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That’s right, there is almost no legal protection when you’re buying from a private seller. The large majority of states view private car sales as “as is” sales. That means that whatever condition the car is in when you receive it is your problem to deal with. For the most part, used private car sales are “buyer beware”.

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Still, there are basic ways to protect yourself from getting a dud, from being tricked by sneaky private sellers, and even ways to secure possible legal recourse if something does goes wrong with the sale.

Rules to follow:

  • Always get it in writing. Whether it’s a promise of the condition of the car on the whole or the condition of a particular part or system, print out the Craigslist ad before you ever contact the buyer. Pay special attention to listings that have promises of new or recently repaired parts. Get evidence of the promises they are making. Keep any and all correspondence in writing, whether it be through email or text message. Secure a paper trail.
  • Always ask important questions before you go to inspect the car. Ask if it has had repairs recently and where they were done. Ask for a copy of receipts for proof. Ask if the seller has had any issues with the car. Ask for the VIN if you want to go the extra mile and do an online check like CarFax. Make sure the seller’s answers are in written form, if you ever need to reference them later.
  • Always ask to test drive. Not every private seller is comfortable allowing this, because if you’re test driving their vehicle and something happens to it, the seller is on the hook legally and financially. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Never buy a car without having a mechanic inspect it. If the mechanic finds issues with the car, ask him or her to itemize their findings on the inspection report. Use the issues as a point of negotiations. Often the seller wants to get rid of the car, so they may be willing to work with you on splitting the repair bill or lowering the purchase price of the car.
  • Never let the seller choose the mechanic. You don’t want to take the chance that the mechanic is actually the seller’s buddy who may be willing to fudge information to help a friend. Always choose a mechanic you trust. You may have to foot the inspection bill yourself, but it is money well-spent.
  • Never complete a private sale without a receipt. It doesn’t matter if the receipt is written in crayon on a piece of toilet paper. A receipt is needed to prove what you paid, when you paid it, and to verify the condition of the car. Make sure both you and the seller signs and dates the receipt. A receipt may make or break your case in civil court.
  • Never pay for a private sale in cash. I know cash can be a powerful tool in price negotiations, but there is no way to track how much cash you paid and when, aside from your word. Make sure you pay in a way that’s easy to track, like PayPal or by check.

Signs you need to walk away:

Here are some serious signs that you may just need to walk away:

  • The seller can’t produce a title.
  • The title the seller produces looks sketchy.
  • The title shows a lien on the car whose status the seller won’t or can’t verify.
  • There are signs of water damage in the car (new upholstery, rust under the seats, waterlines).
  • The car has fresh paint (a sign of covering up damage after an accident).
  • The 17 digit VIN on the dashboard doesn’t match the VIN on the car door (a sign the car was stolen).
  • There are signs of fluid leaks around the car which is an indicator of a major problem.
  • The seller is jerking you around when it comes to arranging an meeting, test drive, or inspection with a mechanic. If the seller has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to work with you.

When it comes to a private used car sale, check the laws in your state by visiting your DMV’s website or calling your local DMV chapter. Remember to always take safeguards to protect yourself and don’t let the buyer pressure you in any way. Be prepared to negotiate and be prepared to walk away. If you put yourself first, you should be able to successfully buy a safe used car from Craigslist.

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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

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