One of the biggest questions millennials have today is: should I own a home, or should I just rent?
If you buy, you get a return on your money and an opportunity to build real wealth. If you rent, you are just throwing that away or financing your landlord's funds to put their kids through college.
On the other hand, renting means more freedom, more flexibility. It means you can move across the world in an instant (okay - as long as it takes you to sublet your apartment on Gypsy Housing). There's a lot of appeal to that.
If you know you want to buy a house, there's a bigger challenge: "Do I even make enough money to own my own home?" It's probably the most important question you will ask yourself in the process of becoming a homeowner. However, the results of what this really looks like can be astounding.
According to Forbes, the cost of living in some of the fastest growing cities in America can range from $42,161 (Detroit, MI) and $53,384 (Albuquerque, NM) to $58,504 (San Antonio, TX) and $58,973 in Columbus, OH. These figures include not only your mortgage payment, but enough financial resources to live comfortably, make your mortgage, pay your utilities, and maybe even save a little to put away for retirement.
The median cost of homes in areas such as San Antonio is about $172,400, according to Zillow. This means if you put down a $25,000 deposit and financed $152,400, you would be looking at around $800 per month for the mortgage payment, at 5% interest for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. This rate assumes you have a credit score in the range of 680-700. Plus, you may need to add escrow fees, which include homeowners insurance and real estate taxes if your loan terms require it.
So owning a home can actually be pretty affordable. The first step is to start saving up for a down payment. It's usually recommended to put down about 20% of the purchase price. This will also reduce the size of the loan you need to borrow from a lender. There are also certain mortgage programs–like the FHA loan program–that allow qualifying buyers to make small down payments in exchange for agreeing to pay for private mortgage insurance.
Another important factor in obtaining financing is your credit score, according to Tyler Frist from Citizens Bank. This is why credit is so important. It's how banks assess the likelihood that you'll be able to pay back your loan. This will also impact the interest rate you qualify for and the terms of your loan.
If you're applying for a mortgage with a significant other, it's also important to note that they'll take the lower score between the two of you. So when you are working on building your credit, you may find it more strategic to pay off one person's debt sooner than the other.
When it comes to your credit score, don't blame the bank. They're just trying to protect their investment. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, get ahead and work on your credit before it comes time to make major purchases and life-altering decisions.
Keep an eye on your credit score with apps like Credit Karma. Smart moves like paying credit card debt and submitting bill payments on time will help you to maximize your score.
Another great way to build wealth when saving for a home is to automate your savings, so that when you get paid through direct deposit, like most of us, money is automatically put aside into a housing fund. Create a plan to tackle debt and reduce spending on frivolous items so that you can save in the long run.
Owning your own home means owning equity. This gives you leverage when making financial decisions and taking on debt. We often think of debt as a bad thing, but it can be a good thing, even necessary, such as when you're taking a line of credit to start your own business or obtaining a mortgage to finance a home purchase. And even if you're not ready to commit to a mortgage, you'll have the resources to make an educated home purchase in the future.
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When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.