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Monthly Archives: November 2021
How much do influencers make and can I become one?
Are you influenced by influencers? Are you wondering what they’re all about, how they possibly make money, and even if you should become one? We have all (well, at least some) of the answers here, so read on to become an influencer expert.
What are influencers?
Great question. Simply put, influencers are individuals who have the ability and resources to persuade others to make purchasing decisions. In other words, influencers are the reason you bought a new brand of yogurt during your last grocery store trip. Influencers use their relationships, usually cultivated through social media, to sway their followers into backing a product or service. The company that provides the product or service pays the influencer to mention or promote their products, which in turn gains the company more business.
Where can I find influencers?
If you have any type of social media platform, odds are good that you’ve run across an influencer or two. Instagram and TikTok are both popular places for influencers to cultivate a following and tell them about the company they represent. Typically, influencers are part of or representing a very specific niche—like bloggers who target young working moms between the ages of 25 and 35 as their audience. Scroll through your Instagram feed today, and you will probably see a video in your feed from someone you don’t follow who is talking about your favorite brand of socks.
Is this a real job?
As crazy as it sounds, some people make very a great living as an influencer. If they can partner with a big brand and have the time it takes to create the right kind of social media presence required to affect potential consumers, they can earn some decent money. It’s probably a good idea to note that, while more and more people are calling themselves influencers, the ones who actually have success in the field are few and far between.
What kind of money are we talking about?
One recent report suggests that influencers with an average following can make between $30,000 and $100,000 a year. If they gain a large following, as in over a million people, they can even make up to $250,000 a year. While this money does sound pretty good, it’s also important to note that the average range is very wide, and that’s assuming you can even make it to that point.
Should I do this?
We understand the appeal that being an influencer can have. But before you decide to quit your job and download the Instagram app to start your new career, you should consider a few things first:
You need a following. You might have a lot of Facebook friends, and that’s awesome. But it takes more than a couple thousand online friends to have success as an influencer. You need to work up to hundreds, and then thousands, of followers, not just friends, before you can make it into the influencer world.
You need a niche. Why would someone buy a product because you recommend it? Is it because you’ve established that you’re a part of the target community this product was made for? If not, you may need to develop your social media presence a little more if you hope to convince someone that buying a product or service is a good idea. Think about what you know and who you are—how can you use those things to influence others?
You need another job. We’re being completely serious—becoming an influencer that makes a livable wage will take time. Don’t quit your job and assume that you will find success overnight. Instead, keep your job and develop your influencer persona on the side. Eventually, you may find that you can make enough as an influencer to support yourself—then you can reconsider the other job.
You need social media expertise. Social media has a lot of ups and downs, and navigating different platforms is tricky. Throw in the fact that most of these platforms undergo changes and updates on a regular basis and you’ll find that there is a learning curve to achieving a following. Even if you are a seasoned TikTok user who makes videos every day, doing it for your job requires a different set of skills.
Influencers are becoming more and more prevalent, so if you think you want to jump on this train, go ahead. Just be sure to remember that for every successful influencer you come across on Twitter, there are probably 50 others who just couldn’t make it happen. We don’t want to discourage you—we want you to succeed! Do your research, put in the time, and work towards becoming the type of influencer that everyone just can’t stop talking about—and keep your existing job for now.
Buy your first home and avoid these seven mistakes
You’ve been looking at online home listings for months, driving through neighborhoods on the weekends, and saving every spare dime for a down payment. You’re finally ready to take the plunge and buy a home.
Buying a house is one of the most exciting—and stressful—times in your life. You’re eager to find your dream home and start the next chapter of your life, but let’s be serious—a home is a big investment, and you can’t afford to make a hasty, uninformed, or emotional decision.
Here are seven of the most common blunders homebuyers make and how you can avoid them, or at least learn from their mistakes.
1. Failing to check your credit report
Amazingly, Consumer Report’s latest study of credit reports found that 34 percent of consumers had at least one inaccuracy in their credit report. Not all of those errors would have impacted their credit rating to the point that it resulted in a higher mortgage interest rate, but it certainly would have for some.
It’s critical to review your credit report at least three months before you plan to buy a home and apply for a home loan. If you find an error, you’ll have time to dispute it and have it corrected before lenders check your credit report for preapproval. If your credit report is clean, it will improve your credit score and likely impact the interest rate on your mortgage. All consumers can access a free copy of their credit report annually from annualcreditreport.com.
2. Skipping the mortgage pre-approval
There’s pre-qualified and pre-approval. Both show the seller that you’re a serious buyer, but pre-approval requires a credit check and the submission of supporting documentation for income and assets. It will also help you save time by allowing you only to view homes that you already know you can afford instead of falling in love with one that’s outside of your price range. Put in an offer, and a buyer who already has pre-approval has a leg up on a buyer who doesn’t.
3. Missing the hidden costs
Once you find your dream home, most buyers simply calculate their mortgage payment and say, “Sure, I can afford that.” When reality sinks in, you soon figure out that you’ll need to pay taxes, insurance, utilities, HOA, and maintenance fees. These are the hidden costs that may just push you over the top of your budget. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it might be the closing costs, appraisal fees, escrow fees, and moving costs, among others. You can’t forget about the added costs that come with purchasing a home and the extra responsibility of being a homeowner.
Ask the sellers about their summer and winter utility costs, HOA fees, and property taxes. Talk with your insurance agent about the cost of a homeowner’s insurance policy and ask your broker for an estimation of your closing costs. Gather as many quotes and estimates as you can so that you can make a more informed decision about whether you can afford to buy this home. It’s better to know the truth sooner than later.
4. Waiting for everything on your wish list
In the real world, when do we get everything we want? Even when you’re spending $100K, $300K, or $500K, there will always be a compromise. Here’s our advice: keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that any one home will have everything on your wish list. You’ll need to separate those wishes into wants, like a fireplace or a fenced yard, and needs, like a garage or four bedrooms. You might even label some of them deal-breakers, such as a specific town, school district, or its proximity to your office. Flexibility is a critical component in the house-hunting processes. The goal is to find the home with the most wants and needs that still fits within your budget.
5. Assuming the neighborhood is just fine
You may have found love in a home, but if the neighborhood isn’t up to par, it could be a costly mistake. With a house comes the neighborhood, so take a good look around before you buy—and do your research. Not everything a homebuyer should consider is out in the open.
Think about the reasons you’re purchasing this home. Do you have children? The quality of schools in the area might be an important factor to consider. Visit the schools personally and take a tour. Review information, rankings, test scores, and other analytics online. Drive through the neighborhood at different times of the day and chat with parents as they wait for their kids to come home on the school bus.
Does the neighborhood feel safe at night? How’s the local shopping? Where’s the nearest grocery store or park? These are all questions you should investigate before purchasing a home.
6. Not considering the resale value of your home
You’re buying a home, not selling one, so why worry about resale value? It’s simple. Sooner or later you’re going to want to sell this home, and you’ll need someone to buy it. Don’t buy the home with the railroad tracks running through the backyard just because it has a gourmet kitchen that you’ve fallen in love with—there’s a reason it’s priced below market value and a bonus if you can close in 30 days.
The best approach is to look for a home that offers the general preferences of a typical homebuyer. You can paint, decorate, and furnish to add your personal style, but when you’re ready to sell, whether in a year due to a job transfer or in 40 years when you retire to the beach, your home will appeal to the highest number of prospective buyers.
7. Letting your emotions rule your decision
The decision to purchase a home should be made primarily with your head, not your heart. Yes, you should love your new home. After all, you’re investing a ton of money to own it, and you’ll be living in it every single day. But, you shouldn’t be so enamored that you’re blinded to what it can do to your budget. When you’re already spending such a large amount of money, another $10K or $15K doesn’t seem like very much, but it can put you in a tighter financial situation than you’re prepared to handle. One layoff, job change, illness, or any other situation that causes a reduction in salary can easily cause your dream home to become a burden.
One recommended guideline is to spend no more than one-third of your monthly income on housing costs, which includes your total mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance–no matter how tempting it is.
If you’re in the market for a new home, consider Georgia’s Own for all your home-buying needs. From fixed-rate mortgages and ARMs to jumbo loans and options for first-time homebuyers, we offer dozens of options that can get you into the home of your dreams with little or no money down—and our team of knowledgeable mortgage specialists is ready to help you through each step of the mortgage process. Click here to learn more or call 800.533.2062 to get started today.
How does a health savings account work and do you need one?
Health insurance is probably not on the top of anyone’s list of favorite subjects to discuss. But what you might not realize is that there are options within your insurance that may be able to help you save money—which, of course, is a favorite thing for everyone. So if you’re wondering what a health savings account is and if you could benefit from one, keep reading: we have some answers for you.
What’s a health savings account?
Put simply, a health savings account, or HSA, is an account that is essentially designated for medical expenses, funded by your own contributions and often contributions from your employers. Much like health insurance, you set a monthly percentage aside in your HSA fund to use as needed for doctor’s appointments, medical tests, lab work, and other related items.
Can everyone have one?
In order to contribute to an HSA, you need to be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) for your health insurance. An HDHP is essentially an insurance plan that usually lowers your monthly premium payments but will likely increase your deductible, meaning you pay for more healthcare services or items until your deductible has been met for the year.
Why would I increase my deductible?
An HDHP may seem counter-intuitive, but in conjunction with an HSA, it can be very beneficial. You can pay toward your deductible with your HSA funds, meaning you are essentially only using money you have designated for healthcare and not spending out of your other financial resources.
Who does an HSA benefit most?
Whether you need or would benefit from an HSA depends on a few factors, including:
- Your health
- Your budget
- Your age (i.e. how close to retirement you are)
- Your job
Not everyone wants or needs an HSA to cover their medical expenses.
Who should avoid an HSA?
Again, deciding to open a health savings account depends on a lot of your individual needs and circumstances. But for some people or families, an HDHP/HSA may not make as much sense. For instance, if you have a chronically ill family member that requires a lot of tests and specialized appointments, it may be more difficult to pay the higher deductible on top of the out of pocket expenses, even if you utilize your HSA. On the other hand, if you have a family member who requires regular testing that is always expensive, you may meet your deductible earlier than you think, meaning you will be able to enjoy the benefits of lower monthly premiums. You are the only one who can decide which scenario best applies to your situation.
How do funds get to my HSA?
The amount you decide to contribute to your HSA is up to you—consult your budget and see how much you think you can add each month without compromising other financial needs. You will work with your employer to set that amount and can speak with an HR rep to learn what the company average is to give you a starting point. Your company may also contribute to your HSA fund—many companies often match your contribution up to a certain percentage, meaning it may be worth it to do contribute a little more of your own paycheck if your employer is going to add more, too.
What if I don’t use it?
You may have a banner year with few visits to the doctor, which is what everyone hopes for. In this case, you may not use all of your HSA funds, but no need to worry—those funds will roll right over into the next year and remain available for your use. The HSA funds also stay with you even if you change jobs, meaning you can start saving now for a lifetime.
What are the pros and cons?
Pro: Having designated funds for healthcare may allow you to seek treatment that would be otherwise financially unavailable.
Con: Because funds are added monthly, it can be tempting to skip appointments or avoid testing because you want to wait for HSA funds to be available. Your healthcare provider can tell you what can wait for now and what needs to happen immediately.
Pro: The money in your HSA account is yours to spend. You are not obligated to see a specific medical practice or use certain medication brands—you have a choice.
Con: In emergency situations, you will need to receive treatment from the closest medical facility available, which may not be one you have budgeted for. Try to leave some extra funds in your HSA when possible.
Pro: The money you contribute to your HSA is tax-free, meaning you will get the full value of each contribution.
Con: Health is hard to predict. Just because you have an HSA doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan for your health expenses outside of your HSA funds. Hope for the best but always plan for emergencies.
Using an HSA can be immensely helpful for many people, so talk to your employer this week about whether that’s an option for you and how you find out more information. Remember, your budget is always up to you—don’t trade necessary expenses for additional funds. Look at your finances, review your health history, and learn how an HSA may make a difference for you.
Top identity theft scams on the rise
Did you know that in 2020 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly five million fraud reports from consumers? And while we hate to be the bearer of (more) bad news, that statistic does not include those consumers who may not have realized they had experienced fraud, meaning the number is probably even higher. One of the top categories of reported fraud is identity theft, which is becoming more of an issue as we venture further into the digital age. So how do you avoid becoming an identify theft scam’s next victim? In this case, information is power—so read on to learn how to recognize some common identity theft scans.
Prizes, lotteries, and contests
We’ve all gotten those spam texts that congratulate us for entering a contest we don’t remember signing up for, complete with a link to click on to claim our prize. Read carefully: never click on strange links.
Even if you just click on one of these fraudulent links without entering additional information, many of these website and services have the ability to gain valuable information that is stored elsewhere—like on your Google Chrome account or from your Facebook app. If you do click on a link by mistake, exit ASAP and monitor your credit and other activity to ensure your personal info stays safe.
It’s hard to keep up with all your passwords—between social media, email, job-related resources, and even your home alarm keycode, you probably feel the need to keep your passwords simple and easy to remember. But you should know that using these simpler passwords makes it easier for scammers to gain your personal info—especially if you don’t change your password often.
Create passwords that don’t include your birthday, kids’ names, favorite pet, or your mother’s maiden name—this is all info that anyone can look up online. Instead, create passwords that are difficult to guess and include a lot of variables, like capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Bonus: you can use an online password storage system to help you out… just be sure to change your password to whatever service you use.
Unsolicited calls or emails
Raise your hand if you have gotten at least three calls today about your car’s supposed warranty expiring. The rate of spam calls has risen dramatically over the last few years, and while many of us know better than to trust the person talking about a nonexistent warranty, you should also know that many spam callers are working smarter to get you to take their call.
For instance, many spammers now use a local number that will increase the odds of you answering the call. Spammers also use email to personalize messages to you that seem legit enough to stay under the radar of your system’s spam filter. Use your common sense for these—if you didn’t purchase a “car warranty,” it can’t have expired. Send those calls to voicemail and then block the number or hit the “mark as spam” button and delete any weird emails you receive.
You’re on LinkedIn when you get a private message asking you to consider a job opportunity. The person’s profile seems legit, Googling the company yields some results, but something about the message doesn’t ring true. Before you can answer, the person messages again, telling you that you must decide quickly. This is a red flag situation—legitimate potential employers will not ask you to decide on a job online within a matter of seconds.
These high-pressure tactics are also used by some spam callers who try to convince you that your social security number has been compromised or that you are under arrest and the police are on the way. If you’re not sure about the legitimacy of a caller or messenger, ask for their info to call them back (which they will probably not give) and do some research on your own. If it feels wrong, trust your instincts.
Ignoring data breaches
As much as we wish it didn’t happen, data systems can fail, sometimes leaving your information vulnerable. When this happens, the company who was breached will contact you or post a public announcement, but it’s up to you to update and secure your information, usually by changing a password. Even reputable businesses can experience data breaches, so don’t think you don’t have to take a threat seriously just because you feel confident in the business.
While you may not think that a data breach from your favorite pizza place matters, consider how many times you have ordered online from this restaurant, and whether your credit card info may be stored in their data. Small issues can turn into big ones when it comes to strangers having access to your finances.
Scams designed for kids
It seems especially wrong to scam a child, but, unfortunately, it’s been known to happen. Even older kids don’t always understand that a nice person asking them for personal information may have bad intentions, so it’s important to talk to your kids about what kind of info they should share with strangers.
If your child enjoys playing online games where purchases can be made, lock down the accounts as much as possible to avoid being defrauded by another player. Even features like the chatrooms available on many games can be used as avenues to gain personal info, so monitor your kids’ chats (or turn the feature off) to make sure they are not oversharing.
It may seem like identity theft is inevitable—but it doesn’t have to be. You can take steps to ensure the safety of you and those around you by implementing some simple safeguards. Change your passwords often, don’t answer sketchy calls, always double check that your emails are from a legitimate source, and get into the habit of treating your personal information like the invaluable resource it is. Not saving passwords on websites might seem unnecessary now, but the potential of undoing a web of financial fraud makes these extra steps worth it.