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Ways to Save Big on the Big Three: Car, House, and Education

Ways to Save Big on the Big Three: Car, House, and Education

There are three big-ticket items that most people need to pay for in life: a car, a home, and a good education. However, doing your due diligence can help make these purchases a bit less painful to your paycheck.

Car

Everyone remembers their first car. Turning those keys and hearing the engine roar feels like a graduation to adulthood. Unfortunately, part of being an adult is dealing with the payments along with the thrill of the open road. Here are some ways to make sure to save.

1. Buy at the Right Time

As far as car dealerships go, it pays to do your homework. The end of the month, end of the summer, and end of the year are all great times to snap up some deals. At the end of the month, dealerships may be close to qualifying for sale bonuses from manufacturers. If they are nearing their quota, they make be more ready to make a deal.

At the end of the summer, dealerships are trying to clear out inventory to make room for next year’s models. And, at the end of the year, customers are thinking about Christmas shopping and not car shopping. It’s a lean time for car dealerships, which means they will be very happy to make you happy. This concept also works during periods of inclement weather. If there has been a longer period of ice and snow or an unusually hot spell, many people may not feel like car shopping. Yet, dealerships still need to report good sales numbers. If you can brave the elements, you may find a reward in a much better deal because you visited the dealership when others stayed home.

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2. Increase Your Loan Payments to Save Interest

Of course, the best scenario is to save over time to pay cash for a vehicle. However, realistically most people need to take out some sort of financing. With any loan, you never want to pay the minimum payments if you can help it. Always remember, a loan is set up to benefit the lender, not you. You can easily pay multiple times your original purchase price in interest if you simply follow your lender’s payment timeline.

There are several great sites that can motivate you to pay off your debt faster by showing how much you save over time by just increasing your payments. One fun trick if you can’t afford a lot of money for extra payments is to just round up. So, for example, if your payment is $360 per month, you pay $400. When paying off loans every little bit helps, and that $40 extra per month put toward your principle will equal big savings over time.

3. Buy Used

You pay a price for that new car smell. The minute you drive your new car off the lot, it loses about 9% of its value. During the first year, you lose a total of 19% in depreciation. The following year, you lose another 12%. After this, your car depreciation holds steady at 9% per year. Therefore, it makes sense to look for well-maintained cars that are over two years old. When buying, make sure to take it to a mechanic whom you trust for a full inspection. Also do a background check to verify that it hasn’t been in an accident. If you really just have to have the smell of a new car, save yourself some serious money and get the fragrance spray.

House Savings

When buying a house, the amount of time you take to educate yourself can mean thousands of dollars in savings. You can passively buy a house through normal channels, but you will spend more for the convenience. Remember, many real estate investors don’t have a realtor license. They just took the time to become educated on the process.

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1. Know Your Spending Power – Get Approved for a Loan

Meet with a loan officer, review your credit, and determine your buying potential. You don’t want to waste your time looking at homes that you can’t afford. You can also see if there are any blemishes on your credit report that are easy to fix so you can qualify for a better interest rate. Make sure you research the costs involved with buying a home in your area. You need to know how much you will need for a down payment based on your credit score and debt-to-income ratio. If your credit is strong enough, you may not have to put any money down for the loan. You will still need to pay closing costs and other fees (unless you can get your seller to pay them), so make sure you have enough extra cash on hand before signing the mortgage.

2. Know your market

Knowing the housing market is crucial to making educated real estate purchases. There are several sites you can use to research public records online. Mortgage records are public information. You can easily see how much someone still owes on their property vs. their asking price. This is useful to know when negotiating on a home.

You can see when someone has the breathing room to negotiate down and when someone is trapped in a mortgage and must stick to a certain price. The more equity someone has in their home, the better the chance they will drop their asking price if they need to sell quickly. Also, get comp reports of home sales in the area either through a site or a realtor. See if home sales are rising or falling. Location is key when buying real estate. Look for homes in areas with good schools, strong infrastructure, pleasant neighborhoods, and other amenities that would increase resale value.

3. Look into REOs, Short Sales, FSBOs, and Foreclosure Sales

Not going the traditional route to buy a home can be scary, but if you put some effort into learning the system, the rewards are huge! I want to stress that this is just to an overview of areas you can research. You will need to study these topics in depth to become educated to the point where you can properly evaluate risk vs. return on investment. There are entire books written on these topics, so I will just pique your interest in this article. This is where the investors play. It pays to become educated and comfortable with alternative sources of home purchases.

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FSBO

Our first home we bought was a FSBO (For Sale By Owner). We literally drove through the neighborhood, saw the sign, and knocked on the door. Because the owners didn’t do their homework and comp their home correctly, we saved about $10,000 just in the initial purchase price of the home. Since we didn’t utilize a realtor, the seller didn’t have additional realtor fees to work into the asking price, so we both benefited.

REO

REOs (Real Estate Owned) are properties that are owned by a lender. When a home goes into foreclosure, the bank puts it up for auction. If no one buys it, it clogs up the lender’s inventory. Banks don’t want to hold actual properties and care for their upkeep; they just want mortgages. Many times, a bank will cut a great deal on an REO property just to get it off their books.

Short Sales

Short sales happen when a bank agrees to work with the seller in foreclosure and accept less than the mortgage amount from a qualified buyer. This helps the bank avoid the hassle of going through the foreclosure process. Again, most banks don’t want REOs, and if a buyer shows up with cash to do a deal, the banks may be willing to talk even before the house goes to auction.

Foreclosure

When a home goes into foreclosure, and no short sale deal is made, it is put up by the bank for auction for investors to bid on. If you spend some time understanding this process, you can be right there in the action and pick up a great deal on a nice property. Again, to ensure you aren’t buying a lemon, arraign to visit the house beforehand and get it inspected. Also, make sure there are no additional liens on the title. Since you are representing yourself in this deal, you must do your homework to make sure you are getting a good return on your investment.

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Education Savings

The price tag of a quality education has been steadily increasing in recent years. Student loan debts follow most people well into their career. It pays to limit them as much as possible.

1. Find Free Money

If there is anything more fun that going to college, it has to be finding free money to pay for it! There are so many sites that show you how to find scholarships. You will have to do some digging to see if you qualify. You may also have to write essays explaining your education worthiness over your competition. But, a little bit of work goes a long way if you can decrease the total amount of loans you will need to take out.

2. Choose Federal over Private Loans

Federal loans have a fixed interest rate that is lower than private loans will offer you. Private loans also do not have locked-in interest rates and, therefore, your payments can increase if your interest rates go up. This means you pay more money over a longer period of time. Avoid private loans at all costs unless you have no other option. Also, only borrow what you honestly need and live modestly. You don’t have to take out the full qualification amount. Take a side job for extra income while in school and over summers to make sure you have the smallest possible debt upon graduation.

3. Utilize Community Colleges

You can still have the diploma from the four-year college of your choice without carrying the full amount of debt. Spend your first two years at a community college to get your base credits out of the way. These colleges are usually much less expensive than state or private colleges, which are about triple the price tag. Also, if there is a community college close to your home, you can save additional money on living expenses by staying with family. You can then transfer to the college of your choice for the final two years.

While I’ve given you some ideas on how to save on the three big-ticket items in your life, the work still falls to you. All of these avenues are very doable, you just have to be willing to work harder than the average consumer. This is why most American’s work to pay off huge debts instead of building up their net worth. With some smart planning, research, and applying a bit of knowledge know how, you can spend more time working to build up your nest egg instead of paying off years of unnecessary debt.

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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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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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