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Jumbo loans 101: Do you need one?
If you’ve never heard of a jumbo loan, it might sound like something you would find in a cartoon movie. But jumbo loans are very real and have gained popularity over the last few years. For the novices in the jumbo loan game, or if you just need a refresher, we’ve compiled some info you need to know before considering a jumbo loan, plus some pros and cons to know before you borrow.
What is a jumbo loan?
A jumbo loan, or a jumbo mortgage, is a type of financing that lends more than the amount of a conventional conforming loan, according to the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA (the maximum loan amount is $510,400 in most counties as of 2020). You may also hear this referred to as a non-conforming conventional loan. While a conventional conforming loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, jumbo loans are a horse of a different color in the finance world and are not guaranteed or securitized for lenders.
Why would I want a jumbo loan?
Typically, jumbo loans are used for instances like purchasing an expensive real estate property, purchasing a home in a highly competitive market, or purchasing real estate or a residence in an area that is generally more expensive to buy in, like New York City or San Francisco. Essentially, a jumbo loan allows you to borrow more than you would get with a conventional conforming loan.
What’s the catch?
A jumbo loan sounds almost too good to be true. While many people find that a jumbo loan is a great fit for them, it’s important to understand the commitment involved and the financial implications of taking out such a large loan. Let’s look at some pros and cons of jumbo loans.
More money: As we stated above, the whole point of a jumbo loan is to get more money. If you qualify for a jumbo loan, you will be borrowing more money to buy what you want to purchase. Depending on your goals, this could continue to create a profit for you in the long run – for instance, if you were using the jumbo loan to buy real estate in a prime location that you could then rent out for more money.
Low down payment: For your conventional conforming loans, you can be required to put down at least 20% of the loan amount as a down payment. But a jumbo loan usually only asks for 10% as a down payment, sometimes even going as low as 5%. This means more savings for you up front.
More choices: Flexibility is the name of the game for jumbo loans. You can find one that is fixed over 30 years, or you can find one with an adjustable rate. Due to the nature of jumbo loans and what they are typically used for, it is easier and more common for lenders to tailor the loan to your needs, instead of you borrowing money on terms that are created for a demographic that doesn’t apply to you.
More money: Yes, we realize this is also listed in the “Pros” section. But the jumbo loan is just that – a jumbo loan, meaning you need to be able to repay a jumbo amount of money. This type of loan often even requires you to put aside 12 months of your mortgage payment in savings to ensure that you won’t fall behind on payments.
More work: You will need a high credit score to secure a jumbo loan. It isn’t enough to pay most of your bills on time – you need to have a FICO score of at least 660, and, failing that, be prepared to make a larger down payment. If you think a jumbo loan is in your future, go ahead and start taking steps to improve your credit score.
High income requirements: Most lenders are going to approve jumbo loans for people who have a high annual income. Since they do not have the FHFA backing these loans, they want to ensure that their loan to you can be repaid. This means looking closely at your income, as well as your other financial assets and your loan repayment history. So, again, if you think you will need a jumbo loan to make your real estate dreams a reality, it’s time to lay the groundwork by growing your assets now.
So is a jumbo loan right for you? That’s for you to decide. But if you are still unsure, we always recommend consulting with a mortgage professional who can help you understand exactly what a jumbo loan means for your individual situation. A jumbo loan takes a lot of consideration, so begin researching your options as you plan for your financial future.
Selling your stuff: a quick guide to the online marketplace
We all have too much stuff: whether it’s that pair of jeans from high school that are taking up space in the bottom of your drawer, or the giant kitchen mixer that you don’t use but just can’t bring yourself to throw away, we all have those one or two or fifty items that need to find a new home.
If you think your items are worth something, you might try selling them online, through websites and apps that are designed to help you make your trash someone else’s treasure.
Where to Sell
There is no shortage of options when it comes to places you can sell your items. But you want to make sure that you are selling through a site or service that has a reliable reputation and makes it easy for you to sell your items.
eBay: Ah, a classic. eBay has been around since the mid-90s, offering people the chance to sell their unwanted possessions all over the world. eBay is the preferred online selling resource for a lot of people, especially because you don’t have to meet anyone in person – everything is delivered right to your door.
eBay also boasts a wide variety of products, ranging from homemade goods to car engines to hard-to-find collectors items. One caveat: eBay does charge its sellers a fee to make more than 200 posts each month, as well as a percentage of the final value that your item sells for. Items also automatically relist each month, meaning they will count toward your free total unless you take the listing down.
Let Go: This app has risen in popularity over the last few years, and many people find that it is a convenient one-stop-shop for selling their items. The app takes steps to verify and authenticate users, and allows you to communicate over its chat feature so you don’t have to give out any personal information. Let Go also partners with SafeExchangePoint.com, which helps users find safe, public places to meet up to complete the sale. The app also makes it convenient to check messages and the status of your items even if you are out running errands or working.
Craigslist: This website has everything – and we mean everything. With the ability to search for items within a certain radius of your home, Craigslist makes it easy for you to get what you need in a timely manner. However, it’s important to note that Craigslist does not employ a high level of identity authentication, nor do they closely monitor posts for fraud or scams.
This means you will be to be extra diligent in deciding what information to list, where to meet up with buyers, and how you will take payment. The good news is that you will reach a broader audience very quickly, and there is no fee to join. Depending on what you want to sell, you may be charged a low fee to post certain items, like job openings or vehicles for sale.
Facebook Marketplace: Social media has joined in on the virtual garage sale gig, and they do a decent job helping you find what you need in your area. As with the other services we mentioned, Facebook Marketplace can be very successful, but shouldn’t be relied on for steady income. But if you are looking to declutter and make a few bucks, start posting and see what interest you can find.
One advantage of using Facebook Marketplace is that you can post in multiple selling groups at once to increase your chances of selling all of your items. And, of course, Facebook is free to join and the marketplace does not charge any fees. You can also comment on your own post periodically (unless the rules of the group say otherwise) to keep your items at the top of the list for new buyers.
What else do I need to know?
There are a few more tips you’ll want to know before you start selling online…
Always meet in a public place
Safety first – always find a safe or public spot to meet up to sell your items to your buyer. You can even meet in the parking lot of a local police station if that makes you feel better. If you are giving someone your address to pick up an item, only send that info through a private message; don’t add it to the post for everyone to see. Let someone know where you are going to meet your buyer and when you expect to return so they can check in with you once the item is sold.
If you post an item for sale online, you need to be prepared to follow through. This means checking for messages from interested buyers, as well as making sure you make and follow a plan to drop off the items they buy from you. Many websites ask buyers to rate sellers on their level of responsiveness, so answering messages and questions quickly will help build your reputation as a seller.
Take lots of photos
If you want your items to sell quickly, be sure to take some photos to go along with your post to catch the eye of interested buyers. Make these photos as clear and uncluttered as possible to showcase your items and set yourself up for success. Include your asking price and any relevant details with the photos, such as whether your home has pets or how long you have owned/used the item.
Know the rules
Every virtual selling platform will be different, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules of each one. Some Facebook groups require you to let potential buyers know if you have posted in more than one group. Or you may need to disclose the type of condition your item is in so people know what they can expect. Review the rules before you make any posts to sell your items so the process can go smoothly and efficiently for all involved.
If you have some extra items around the house that you think can make you a few bucks, there is no harm in finding out! Remember that your safety needs to be a priority, and that the more effort you put into making your post look great, the more likely it is someone will want to buy your items. Happy selling!
Can you get paid to take online surveys?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the internet has never been more vital. But if you are stuck inside longing for the day you can sit inside your favorite restaurant once again, you might as well take the opportunity to make a few extra bucks, courtesy of online surveys.
While this concept isn’t new, the experience and results of those who tried it have varied, so read on for some tips and tricks on the best ways to get paid for taking online surveys.
Why Would I Want to Do This?
Let’s be real – you’re on the internet most of the day anyway. Getting paid to do that is just a bonus. Taking the surveys and getting paid for it can be done from virtually anywhere you have your phone or laptop or any other access to the internet.
While each survey will vary in length and topic, you won’t spend more than a few minutes at a time answering them, which means you can fit it in between work meetings or before you get ready for the day.
Where Do I Go?
There are a lot of options for online surveys, but be on the lookout for scams and sites that do not pay as advertised. It’s smartest to stick to the ones that people have verified as being legitimate and that have actually paid their participants as promised. According to some researchers who actually signed up and took surveys from several sites, there are several reputable options:
Survey Junkie: This website received top marks from multiple sources. It’s free to sign up and create an account to take your surveys, and you can also use existing platforms like Facebook or Google to add your information to make that process even simpler. When you take a survey, you earn points. You’ll get your first points by completing your profile, and from there, it’s up to you. Once you reach 1000 points, or $10, you can choose to cash out or keep taking surveys. Payment is made through either PayPal or through e-gift cards.
Swagbucks: This company made big news when it first rolled out the idea of paying people to take surveys. Since then, thousands of people have taken online surveys to earn extra cash. Swagbucks uses a similar point system as Survey Junkie, and also requires minimum point amounts be met before you can cash out your earnings. Aside from online surveys, Swagbucks also offers opportunities to earn points by watching videos and referring friends, along with other ideas you can find here.
OneOpinion: With a reputation for being one of the easiest online survey websites to sign up for, OneOpinion also makes a name for itself by being easy to navigate and providing customer support when needed. They also operate on the points system, though you may have to wait a little longer to cash out – 1,000 points equals $1, and you can only cash out at a minimum of 25,000 points. Still, they provide ample opportunity for you to earn those points, especially if you have some extra time.
Can I Take Every Survey?
Most of these websites are looking for a specific demographic to fill out their survey. Some of them may be more general, like anyone between the ages of 18 and 45. Others may be looking only for women between the ages of 30 and 35 who have two children. Most of the surveys have a screening process in place to determine if you are eligible to take the survey. Some sites, like OneOpinion, have a much lower disqualification rate than places like Swagbucks, which has a lot of survey options but is quicker to disqualify you based on its demographic needs.
Is it Worth It?
As with many of the treasures we discover on the internet, the success of this endeavor really depends on how much time you can devote to it. Taking surveys won’t replace your nine-to-five job. But if you are just interested in making a few extra bucks before the holidays and you have the time, you can definitely make these online surveys work for you.
Is it Safe?
There is always a risk involved when you give anyone your personal information. Before you decide to move forward, take some time to review each site’s policy on privacy and what information they will be sharing with others. If you decide to sign up using an existing account like Facebook, it’s a good idea to change your password every few months to ensure your information remains secure. You can even create a whole new email just for taking surveys, because you will likely be spammed with promotions from the site once you sign up.
Taking online surveys is not a guarantee, and it has its drawbacks. But if you are safe with your information and just want to add a little bit of spending money to your wallet, these surveys might be exactly what you need.
Life insurance 101: Do you need it and how much does it cost?
No one likes to think about needing life insurance. But the only way to understand is to, well, understand it. Before you decide that you do or don’t need life insurance, you need to understand what it is, what it costs, and what it could mean for you and your family.
What is life insurance?
Life insurance is a service provided by insurance companies – in exchange for monthly payments, they provide a lump sum payment, known as a death benefit, to the beneficiaries of the person paying when that person passes away. For most people, the beneficiaries would be their family members.
How do I get it?
If you (or your spouse) receive insurance benefits through your workplace, it is likely that there is a life insurance plan available as well. Reach out to your Human Resources department to find out if life insurance is an option for you through your company, and what you need to do to learn more about it. There are also insurance companies that offer life insurance to anyone who qualifies – you do not have to go through the insurance provided by your work.
But wouldn’t using my current insurance provider make it easier?
There are pros and cons to acquiring life insurance through your work. On one hand, it is much more convenient to do a work-sponsored plan, and you will likely get a better rate. On the other hand, that means your life insurance is tied to your job, so if you lose your job for any reason, you would lose those benefits, and potentially have a gap in coverage where you would no longer have life insurance until you found your next job.
What does it cover?
Life insurance, much like your typical medical insurance, can be tailored (to a degree) to fit your needs. For instance, if you have children, you will want to ensure that the payment amount of the death benefit would be sufficient to cover their expenses until other resources are available.
Or if you are about to get married, look for policies that cover things like student loan debts, home expenses, and other daily needs. If you have a family member with special needs who requires medical equipment or therapy, you will want to consider those costs as well.
Can anyone get it?
There are eligibility considerations when it comes to life insurance. The majority of people will qualify for life insurance without an issue. But, just like other types of insurance, there is an underwriting process that takes place to determine your eligibility.
The underwriter will look at things like your health, medical history, family history, lifestyle habits (i.e., smoking, any dangerous activities you undertake regularly, etc.), and you may also need a physical exam before the insurance company makes a final decision. You may learn that you have to pay more than you expected because you are a higher risk to insure, but there is little chance you will not be eligible at all.
Are there different kinds?
There are three different types of life insurance policies that you may have to choose between: term, universal, and whole. The main differences are the longevity of the policy, the flexibility of the policy, and the cost. For instance, term life insurance is designed to cover a specific period in your life, such as the next 20 or 30 years. But it also costs less than a whole life insurance policy, which is more expensive but covers your entire life instead of just the pre-determined time period. Work with your insurance provider to understand all of your options.
Do I really need it?
Again, this is not a pleasant subject for anyone to consider. But it is a necessary one. Only you and your family can determine together if life insurance is the right step; however, we would encourage you to give it some serious thought before making a decision.
It is a financial obligation, and if you have other ways of providing for your family in the unlikely event of your death, you may decide life insurance is not for you. Or if you are worried about how your family would function without your income, you might realize that having this extra insurance policy is worth the extra cost in the long run. It all depends on what you need and what you’ve already planned for your future.
Who can help me understand this better?
When you Google “life insurance,” you will be greeted with a page full of ads, but very little information. Look for resources like this Fidelity website, which breaks down some of the basic questions, or this website that takes you through the underwriting process.
Your best bet is to call the insurance company directly and ask, or, if you are comfortable doing so, talk to a coworker who uses your insurance to see if they are satisfied with the service they receive. Human Resources will also be able to give you additional help and places for research.
Five best side hustles to earn extra money
This year more than most, you may have found yourself getting creative to stretch your budget a little farther than usual. Some extra income would be ideal, but you are not able to take on a job right now in addition to the other responsibilities in your life. But if you could find a source of income that worked with your schedule and skills while also allowing you some breathing room for your budget, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity? Read on for five great ways to bring in a little extra money each month.
Were you a teacher in a past life? Or, if not, do you feel you have always had a talent for understanding algebra or chemistry? Put those skills to work for you and find some local students who need tutoring. Tutors are needed now more than ever, as many students find they need extra help to navigate learning during this unusual school year.
You can even expand beyond your local community and offer tutoring over a video service like Zoom, or sign up with a program like VIPKid to have a more steady schedule. If you have the time and space, you could also set up a weekly tutoring session for multiple kids in your home or at a local park.
If you have a gift for writing, consider looking into opportunities to do some freelance work. Many websites or magazines are looking for writers who can assist them in creating new content and covering relevant topics for the audience they want to reach.
Websites like Upwork will even help you sort through various opportunities and find which jobs may be a good fit for you. Make a note that Upwork and other similar websites often charge a fee for their services; however, if you can swing the extra funds, the eventual payoff will be much greater.
As much as we wish shopping for shoes or golf clubs could bring in extra money, we are talking about the grocery shopping service, Instacart. This relatively new service has gained a lot of popularity in 2020 as more people opt to do their grocery shopping online. Instacart allows people to pay a personal shopper – which would be you – to help them find the grocery items they need and deliver them to their home. If you are a champion at your local grocery store and are looking for the next challenge to test your skills, this could be your time to shine. Much of this income relies on tips, so if you want to try this out, be prepared to put your best foot forward.
When is the last time you had a yard sale? There are probably a few things around your home that you don’t really need anymore, and selling them could bring in a little extra cash. Shoes, clothes, baby items, books – these are all things that take up a lot of space in your house, even though you don’t use all of them. Get together with a neighbor or two and host a garage sale to not only add to your wallet, but also declutter your home. If you are not a fan of garage sales, take some pictures of the items you want to get rid of and use online selling options, like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
If you have a creative outlet that can benefit someone else, make a plan to sell some of your products! You might be really handy with power tools, or maybe you are always getting comments on your custom-made t-shirts, or people can’t stop raving about your hand-knit scarves – your ability to create could also create an opportunity to bring in some money. Set up a free account for your new business on places like Facebook or Instagram, and let your community know that you are selling some high-quality, one-of-a-kind items.
This is the time to think outside the box – even if you never saw yourself taking a writing job or being a personal grocery shopper, 2020 has taught us to expect the unexpected, and to roll with the changes life brings us. Decide what direction you want to go, make a plan, and see where your new side-hustle takes you.
12 ways to make distance learning a success for your family
Distance learning has been an adventure for parents, students, and teachers alike as they work to maintain the high quality of in-person learning through a digital platform. This is new territory for a lot of people, and we have some ideas on how you can make the digital days a little more manageable.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
There are so many unknowns that come with digital learning, so taking care of the known obstacles will help you free up some time. For instance, you might go ahead and plan and prep your meals for the week over the weekend, or arrange for work calls to be taken during school breaks if you are working from home.
2. Make a Schedule
You may think you can keep everything organized in your head, because that’s what you do as a parent anyway. But for distance learning, consider making a schedule that everyone can see. If your children aren’t reading yet, you can use pictures instead of words to give everyone an idea of how the day will go.
3. Set the Scene
If possible, create a space that is exclusively for digital learning. That way, you can keep your school materials organized, while also giving your kids the chance to leave school behind at the end of the day, just like they would if they were there in person.
4. Be Flexible
There will be a day where nothing works right. The laptop won’t turn on. A rogue tree limb will knock out the power. Your internet connection will be spotty. These days will be frustrating, but it’s important to go with the flow as much as you can. Distance learning is new to everyone, so keep an open mind and do some deep breathing to get through the tough times.
5. Communicate Often
The only way to get answers to your questions is to ask them! If you or your child are struggling to navigate the distance learning world due to a lack of understanding or communication, reach out for help, either to other parents or the teacher. Your question may be shared by other people, and working together will allow you to find a solution more quickly.
6. Take Breaks
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that many people, and especially kids, do not love being trapped inside their houses for months at a time. Be intentional in planning and taking breaks with your family, whether that means taking a walk around the yard or having a movie night together. School will be waiting for you when you return, so go ahead and take five minutes to relax.
7. Get School Supplies
Just because you’re learning from home doesn’t mean you won’t need those glue sticks! Many schools have released modified supply lists that will allow your child to thrive from home. You can even let your kids be part of the fun and pick out some supplies of their own, like a hot pink pencil box or some neon markers.
8. Create a Local Group
If you have some neighbors or local friends who have children, why not create a group where you can all get together for distance learning? This will allow you to reach out to other parents who are in the same boat and give you some much-needed mental and emotional support. Meanwhile, your kids can benefit from having older kids to help them understand more difficult concepts.
9. Prepare for Video Calls
Many teachers are doing live lessons over video platforms to teach new material. This means your child will need to be able to access video calls – and it also means you need to remember that you may be on camera. It’s up to you to determine what that means for your family, but if your child decides not to wear pants that day, odds are high that his teacher and class will know.
10. Pretend Everyone is at School
No, we are not suggesting you leave your six-year-old at home and head to the store alone. But you and your children should act like a typical school day is in session. This means making appointments for after-school hours as much as possible, eliminating other distractions, and showing up on time and prepared to learn.
11. Set Expectations
When your child is on a computer or tablet most of the day, they will eventually find their way to Minecraft. Talk with your child ahead of time about what they need to be doing during school hours, and set up a time in your schedule for them to have some free time. This is a win-win – they get the information they need while still having the freedom to do what they love later in the day.
12. Find a Balance
While it is important to treat distance learning like a regular day, it’s also important to remember that some days will be harder than others. Don’t be afraid to skip a lesson and come back to it later if it’s causing your child to stress. You’re their caregiver and you know better than anyone what will help them thrive and learn.
Distance learning has been an interesting turn of events for everyone, but you can make it work! Prepare as much as possible and team up with others to handle the unique aspects that will make this school year a memorable one.