What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)?

Underwriters' meetingNew insurance agents can get a grounding in the basic skills, such as underwriting, needed to succeed in the field by becoming a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). After completing the required training, agents will have greater expertise in prospecting, selling, practice management as well as insight into practice specialties including life and health insurance, employee benefits and annuities. Having a LUTCF also can aid new agents in acquiring a job with an agency and in marketing themselves to prospective clients.

The LUTCF is overseen by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). The training and testing are provided by education company Kaplan through its College for Financial Planning division.

LUTCF Certification Requirements

The core of the certification requirements for the LUTCF is a set of three courses. Each course consists of eight weeks of instruction followed by a week for review and testing.

The first course is an introduction to life insurance and managing a life insurance practice. It covers business planning, ethics, life insurance product basics, risk management, prospecting, selling skills and financial planning.

The second course goes deeper into life insurance as well as annuities, mutual funds and insurance for health, disability, long-term care, group coverage and property and casualty. Risk management, retirement and estate planning are among the subjects covered in the third course.

The third course deals with risk management applications. It covers retirement and estate planning as well as special situations.

The courses are available as self-paced prerecorded lectures. They are also taught live and via interactive online classes. After completing each of the three courses, students must pass a two-hour test. To pass, they must correctly answer 70% of the 50 questions on each test.

The training costs $950 per course for a total of $2,850. The only prerequisite for the LUTCF is to belong to NAIFA, which has a sliding membership fee scale. People in their first year in financial services pay $10 to belong to NAIFA. The fee increases annually until it reaches $56 a year after a member has five years of experience in the field.

After receiving the designation, LUTCF designees can renew it by paying a $50 renewal fee every two years. As part of the renewal process, they also have to demonstrate that they have completed three hours of ethics continuing education every two years. In addition, LUTCF holders must agree to follow standards of professional conduct and be subject to a disciplinary process.

LUTCF Holder Jobs

Insurance worksheetsLUTCF seekers are usually insurance agents at the start of their careers. They may be interested in obtaining the designation as a way to convince potential employers of their commitment and knowledge about the life insurance industry. Having the LUTCF initials on a business card is also seen as an aid in marketing to prospects. The LUTCF is an optional certification and does not confer any specific powers or privileges on holders.

The designation has been around since 1984 and approximately 70,000 people have earned an LUTCF during that time.

Comparable Certifications

There are only a few entry-level certificates available to life insurance agents. In addition to the LUTCF, new agents can choose from:

Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP) is offered by the American College of Financial Services, which originally co-sponsored the LUTCF with NAIFA. In 2013 the organizations ended their association and the American College of Financial Service began offering the FSCP. It requires passing seven courses on financial services and ethics topics at a combined cost of $3,230.

Registered Financial Associate (RFA) is a designation from the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. It is offered to agents and other financial professionals who have already received a life insurance license, Series 65 securities license, bachelor degree in a related field or any of a number of professional designations, including a LUTCF. RFAs also have to pay a $250 fee. The only requirement other than that is to pass an examination on the organization’s code of ethics for financial professionals.

Bottom Line

Business meeting

The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) certification is one of the first designations sought by beginning life insurance agents. To get one, students have to learn about life and other forms of insurance, mutual funds, annuities, employee benefits and financial advising, in addition to managing a life insurance business, prospecting and selling.

Tips on Insurance

  • A consumer considering purchasing life insurance can increase the chances of making a good decision by having a relationship with a trusted and experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Entry-level designations for financial services professionals like the LUTCF indicate that an advisor is interested in learning about the field and following best practices. More advanced certifications such as Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Financial Planner are likely to indicate that a professional is a more experienced and well-informed source for financial advice.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FangXiaNuo, ©iStock.com/hfng, ©iStock.com/jhorrocks

 

The post What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

June Financial To-Do List + Calendar

Life happens, but you can be prepared for the unexpected with an emergency savings fund. These funds are designed to be set aside for unanticipated expenses, such as:

  • Unexpected job loss
  • Unforeseen medical expenses
  • Car repair
  • Family emergencies

Emergency funds serve as an important financial buffer in the event of an emergency, and it’s easy to get started with this savings task. In this month’s financial checklist, we’re going to focus on tasks that will help you build an emergency savings fund.

 June Financial Checklist: Emergency Savings

  1. Determine how much you want to put away
  2. Pick where to save your emergency fund
  3. Set up automatic contributions
  4. Pad your emergency fund
  5. Review and adjust your contributions monthly

Let’s look at ways you can boost your savings, build your emergency fund, and keep your finances on track as we enter the second half of the year.

  1. Determine how much you want to put away

Set a goal savings amount that is moderately challenging but attainable.

  • Less aggressive: 3 months of living expenses
  • More aggressive: 6 months of living expenses

Example: If you make $3,200 per month after taxes, you’ll want to have $9,600 to $19,200 in your emergency fund.

2. Pick where to save your emergency fund

Consider emergency savings as untouchable for expenses that are just wants – keep this money here for when you really need it.

To help resist the temptation of spending these savings, put your emergency fund in the right place:

  • High-yield savings account
  • Money market account
  • Certificate of Deposit (CD)
  • Roth IRA

Sometimes there’s not a one-size fits all solution. Consider putting emergency funds away in more than one of the above options. 

3. Set Up Automatic Contributions

  • Funnel some of your paycheck directly into your emergency fund
  • Start with a small percentage, and be sure you can still live comfortably
  • Make contributions more aggressive over time if possible

4. Pad your emergency savings

  • Sell old things you no longer use
  • Funnel “surprise” cash into your savings
  • Save your tax refund
  • Try a no-spending challenge
  • Take on a side hustle

5. Review and adjust your contributions monthly

  • Check in each month to see how much you’re putting away
  • Adjust your contributions if your account isn’t building quickly enough

 

Key Takeaways

Prefer to organize online? Create an editable copy of our June monthly template in three simple steps:

  1. Open our Calendar Template in Google Sheets
  2. Select “File”, then “Make a Copy”
  3. Save in your own Google Drive to make edits

Our finance tips can help you throughout the year so be sure to take a look! Improve your finances in 2020 with our series of financial to-do lists tailored to each calendar month.

The post June Financial To-Do List + Calendar appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps Explained

Whereas Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps have often been dissected one at a time, my goal in this post is to give an overview of the steps as a unit and explain why the order is essential.

dave ramsey baby steps explained

Hopefully, these steps can help you create a focused life plan for your finances, regardless of your age or financial well being.

First, the Baby Steps:

  • Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund.
  • Step 2: Pay off all debt except the house utilizing the debt snowball.
  • Step 3: Three to six months of savings in a fully funded emergency fund.
  • Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.
  • Step 5: College Funding
  • Step 6: Pay off your home early.
  • Step 7: Build wealth and give.

The Power of Focus

Dave’s premise with the Baby Steps is that people can accomplish great things IF they can just be focused. When you read over these seven steps, you think, “Yes. I need to be saving. But I also need to be investing for retirement. I should get my house paid off early. But I also need to be getting out of debt and saving for my kid’s college.”

You would readily agree that all of these goals are important for successful financial planning. The problem is that your stress level kicks into overdrive with the prospect of doing them all. You clench your jaw and do what you are capable of doing while feeling anxious about the goals you place on the back burner.

The Baby Steps plan works because when you stay focused on one step at a time, you can knowingly put some important goals on hold without the nagging feeling that you are leaving something undone.

You can also check out my YouTube video where I break down each of Dave’s Baby Steps here:

Why?

Because accomplishing each step puts you in a great position to accomplish the next one.

You begin to feel an empowerment and a sense of control as you get one step behind you and start the next one. You are making progress instead of treading water.

Why Are the Baby Steps in the Order They Are In?

Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps

Steps 1 and 2: $1,000 Emergency Fund and Debt Snowball

Notice that Steps 3 through 7 are all about using your money to do something positive for you and your family. Of course this money comes from your income, but the problem with most of America is that we are using our income on debt payments.

Because we are paying others instead of ourselves, we need to get rid of our debt (Step 2) in order to free up our income for Steps 3-7.

Ask yourself,

“What if I could use all the money I am currently paying to creditors to start “paying myself”?

For many people this is $1,000 to $3,000 a month.

Baby Step 2 debt snowball is designed to do just that. Step 1 is necessary before Step 2 because you don’t want to start paying off debt without having a small cushion to absorb the little unplanned expenses that will occur during Step 2.

Step 3: 3 to 6 months of Savings

After completing the first two steps, you are out of debt (except for your house) and now have that cash flow you dreamed about: all of the money you used to pay others is at your disposal. The temptation is to start investing for retirement or saving for your kid’s college or pay off your house early.

NOT SO FAST! You will get to those, but doing so prematurely is way too risky.

Stop, take a deep breath and use that cash flow to build up your emergency fund so you will indeed be ready for emergencies. This fund needs to be liquid (in a top savings account or money market account).

If you skipped the step and started any of the ensuing steps, how would you handle emergencies? Pull money from your retirement account? Rob the kid’s college savings? Borrow money against your house? All bad ideas.

Step 3 is therefore always ahead of the following steps

Steps 4, 5, and 6: Saving for Retirement, College Funding, Pay Off Home

dave ramsey baby steps

You may be asking,

“Why is retirement ahead of college funding? Wouldn’t a good parent put his children ahead of himself?”

Good question. But what if you end up without sufficient retirement income because you made college funding a higher priority? Who will you be depending on in your later years? Your kids!

The thing about retirement planning is that you only get one shot at it. The years go by and you will someday be retirement age. You don’t have a choice. On the other hand, college funding is full of choices: kids can get scholarship, they can work, they can attend community colleges, they can find work/co-op programs, etc, etc.

Step 4 is therefore ahead of step 5. But notice that Step 4 is 15% of your income. If you have cash flow greater than 15% you can apply that to college funding immediately, and if you have more than enough cash flow to accomplish both steps 4 and 5, you can use all of the extra to pay off your house early (step 6).

Note that Step 6 comes behind retirement and college funding because reversing the order could possibly give you a paid for house at the expense of a dignified retirement or helping your kids through college. Most of us wouldn’t want that.

Not sure where to start investing for retirement? Here are some tips:

  • Best Places to Open a Roth IRA – Figuring out where to start investing your 15% of income can be confusing. A great place to start is a Roth IRA, but deciding a broker is confusing. This list will help you pick the best broker for your Roth IRA.
  • Best Online Stock Broker Sign Up Bonuses – You can get hundreds of dollars or thousands of airline miles just for opening up a brokerage account.
  • Beginner Investing Strategies – If you’ve never invested before it can be overwhelming. This list breaks down getting started into manageable pieces.

Step 7: Build wealth and give.

Life is now very good! You have no debt, a great emergency fund, and a paid for house. All of the cash flow that used to go toward debt reduction and house payments is now at your disposal.

This, by the way, is the step Mandy and I are on. Being semi-retired, we don’t have a huge income, but it is very sufficient because we also don’t have any debt. We continue to invest every month and we are able to give more than we have ever given before.

Once we got our house paid off, we started to budget “bless” money, which we put into an envelope every month just to have available so we can bless others as we see the needs. We are also able to help our grown daughter and daughter-in-law cash flow their college.

As I said, life is good. Mandy and I are experiencing great financial peace and we are very grateful for Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.

I wish the same for you.

This article is a general overview of what Dave Ramsey has to offer and is not intended to replace his course, nor is this sponsored or endorsed by Dave Ramsey or the Lampo Group.

The post Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps Explained appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

What is the AAMS certification?New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.

AAMS Defined

An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.

The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.

AAMS Certification Requirements

What is the AAMS certification?

To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.

The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session.  The 10 modules cover the following material:

1.:The Asset Management Process

2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance

3. Asset Allocation & Selection

4. Investment Strategies

5. Taxation of Investments

6. Investing for Retirement

7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans

8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients

9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients

10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors

The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.

Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.

The AAMS Test

To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.

The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.

Time and Money Requirement

Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.

Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.

The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.

To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.

AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.

AAMS Certificate Holder Jobs

AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.

The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.

Comparable Certifications

What is the AAMS certification?

In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.

Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.

Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.

Bottom Line

The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.

While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.

Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to identify investment opportunities, consider using an AAMS as your advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An AAMS can help you with college savings, taxes, and retirement savings if you know what your goals are. However, if you are unsure how much you want to invest, what your risk tolerance is, or how inflation and capital gains tax will affect your investment, SmartAsset’s investing guide can help you take the first steps.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/Suwanmanee99

The post Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Secured vs. Unsecured Loans: Here’s the Difference

Whether you’re trying to buy a home or looking to get a college degree, you may need to take out a loan to finance your goals. If you’re seeking out your first loan, know that borrowing money is a common practice and you don’t need a degree in economics to understand it! Learning more about loans and the different types can help you make informed decisions and take control of your finances.

Loans take many forms but they all fall within two common categories: secured vs. unsecured loans. Whether you’re approved for either type of loan depends on your creditworthiness. Creditworthiness refers to how responsible you are at repaying debt and if it’s worthwhile or risky to grant you new credit. It’s helpful to be aware of your credit prior to seeking out a loan so you know where you stand.

Now that you’re familiar with the role creditworthiness plays in getting a loan, let’s discuss the differences between secured and unsecured loans, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which one may be right for you.

What’s the Difference Between Secured vs. Unsecured Loans?

What’s the Difference Between Secured vs. Unsecured Loans?

The main difference between secured and unsecured loans is how they use collateral. Collateral is when something of economic value is used as security for a debt, in the event that the debt is not repaid. Usually collateral comes in the form of material property, such as a car, house, or other real estate. If the debt is not repaid, the collateral is seized and sold to repay all or a portion of the debt.

Key Difference: A secured loan requires collateral, while an unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral.

What Is a Secured Loan?

A secured loan requires collateral as security in case you fail to repay your debt. If secured debt is not repaid, the collateral is taken. In addition to seizing collateral, lenders can start debt collection, file negative credit information on your report, and sue you for outstanding debt. This generally makes secured loans more risky for the borrower.

Conversely, collateral decreases the risk for lenders, especially when loaning money to those with little to no credit history or low creditworthiness. Less risk means that lenders may offer some leeway regarding interest rates and borrowing limits. See the list below to review other typical secured loan characteristics.

Characteristics of a Secured Loan:

For borrowers:

  • Presence of collateral
  • Typically more risky
  • May require a down payment
  • May sell property to repay loan
  • Generally lower interest rates
  • Longer repayment period
  • Higher borrowing limits
  • Easier to obtain for those with poor or little credit history

For lenders:

  • Typically less risky
  • Lender can take your collateral
  • Lender can hold the title to your property until loan is repaid

Secured Loan Examples

The most common uses of a secured loan are to finance large purchases such as a mortgage. Usually, these loans can only be used for a specific, intended purchase like a house, car, or boat. A home equity loan is another example of a secure loan. Some loans like business loans or debt consolidation can be secured or unsecured.

Secured Loan Examples

What Is an Unsecured Loan?

An unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral to secure the amount borrowed. This type of loan is granted based on creditworthiness and income. High creditworthiness makes an unsecured loan more accessible.

The absence of collateral makes this type of loan less risky for borrowers and much riskier for lenders. If unsecured debt is not repaid, the lender cannot seize property automatically. They must engage in debt collection, report negative credit information, or sue. As a result of the increased risk, unsecured loans have characteristics that attempt to reduce the risk. These may include higher interest rates or lower borrowing limits, and you can see more in the list below.

Characteristics of an Unsecured Loan:

For borrower:

  • No collateral required
  • Typically less risky
  • Qualify based on credit and income
  • Stricter conditions to qualify
  • Generally higher interest rates
  • Lower borrowing limits

For lender:

  • Typically more risky
  • Lender can’t take property right away if you default

Unsecured Loan Examples

Common unsecured loans include credit cards, personal loans, student loans, and medical debt. Debt consolidation and business loans can also be unsecured. In each of these instances, collateral is not required and you are trusted to repay your unsecured debt.

Unsecured Loan Examples

Advantages and Disadvantages to Consider

When it comes to deciding on the type of loan you need, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Secured Loans

Secured loans present advantages for repayment, interest, and borrowing amount, but have disadvantages regarding a borrower’s risk and limitations of use.

Advantages

  1. Bigger borrowing limits
  2. Less risk for lenders usually means lower interest rates for borrowers
  3. Longer repayment period
  4. Available tax deductions for interest paid on certain loans (e.g., a mortgage)

Disadvantages

  1. Risky for borrower (potential for loss of collateral like home, car, stocks, or bonds)
  2. Specifically for intended purpose (e.g., a home, but home equity loans are an exception)

Unsecured Loans

Unsecured loans can be advantageous for borrowers regarding risk and time, but they pose a disadvantage when it comes to interest rates and stricter qualifications.

Advantages

  1. Less risky for borrower
  2. Useful loan if you don’t own property to use as collateral
  3. Quicker application process than for a secured loan (e.g., a credit card)

Disadvantages

  1. More risky for lenders usually means higher interest rates for borrowers
  2. Hard to qualify for if you have low creditworthiness or inconsistent income (can qualify with a cosigner)

Take a look at the chart below to compare the key advantages and disadvantages between secured and unsecured loans.

Secured Loans

Unsecured Loans

Advantages

• Lower interest rates
• Higher borrowing limits
• Easier to qualify
• No risk of losing collateral
• Less risky for borrower

Disadvantages

• Risk losing collateral
• More risky for borrower
• Higher interest rates
• Lower borrowing limits
• Harder to qualify

Which Loan Type Is Best for You?

After considering the advantages and disadvantages of both loan types, it’s helpful to know which one is the best for certain circumstances. Here are some common contexts in which one may be better than the other.

  • A secured loan may be best if you’re trying to make a large property purchase or don’t have the best credit. The piece of property that you are purchasing can be used as collateral if you don’t already own other property. Additionally, this loan is more accessible for you if you have low creditworthiness and may be more advantageous with lower interest rates.
  • An unsecured loan may be best if you have high creditworthiness and a steady income. High creditworthiness helps you meet strict qualification criteria and can also help you obtain better interest rates (given that this type is characterized by higher interest).

Overall, secured and unsecured loans are each useful in different situations. Remember that the key difference is that unsecured loans don’t need collateral, while secured loans do. Secured loans are less risky for the lender and may allow for some advantageous repayment conditions. On the other hand, unsecured loans are risky for the lender, and they often come with stricter conditions that try to lessen that risk.

It is important to make smart financial decisions such as repaying debt on time and maintaining a good credit history. High creditworthiness is the key to getting the best conditions on any loan. No matter your circumstances, identifying which loan type is best for you depends on your specific credit and goals. Visit our loan center for help in deciding which loan is right for you.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

 

The post Secured vs. Unsecured Loans: Here’s the Difference appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How To Get A Car Loan in 5 Easy Steps

Need a car loan soon? Whether you’re about to buy a car soon or just thinking about it, chances are you will likely finance it (unless, of course, you have the cash to buy it right away). So why not learn a few steps along the way to help you get a car loan. A little knowledge about the process can go a long way; so far as saving you thousands of dollars in the long run!

Ready to start comparing car loan already? Start now… it’s Free.

Step One: Review your credit file

You may need to get a free credit report and make sure you have a good credit score before applying for a car loan. The better your credit score, the higher your chance to get approved and save on interest.

Step Two: Compare interest rates

You should shop around, compare auto rates and fees before you apply for a car loan. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to apply for multiple loans at the same time, as this can affect your credit score.

So, look at multiple rates at one place so you can make the best decision. Also, remember you can choose a fixed rate or variable rate on a car loan.

Whichever you choose depends on what you’re comfortable with. Remember that a fixed rate will stay the same for all of the term of the loan. That means, your repayment will be predictable and you’ll be able to budget for a lot easier than with a variable rate.

Click here to compare car loan rates through LendingTree.

Step Three: Dealer Finance or Car loan?

You should always compare bank/independent loan to dealer finance.

Granted dealer financing may get you a auto loan with a very low rate, but that does not mean you get the best deal. Sometimes dealer financing can be more expensive in the long run. So you may want to compare rates from 2-3 lenders with a dealer finance rate to make sure you get the best rate possible.

Step Four: Get pre-approved

Before you commit to a car you should get pre-approved first. Plus, walking into the car dealership with a pre-approval letter in your hand, gives you greater negotiating power.

Step Five: Gather your documents and go car shopping

Once you decide on an auto loan that you’re happy with, it’s time to go car shopping! So gather your financial documents such as your pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and W2s.

Want to explore your car loan options? Visit LendingTree to compare the best car loan rates.

Related: How to save money for a car

Speak With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How To Get A Car Loan in 5 Easy Steps appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

The Average Salary of an Architect

The Average Salary of an Architect

The average salary of an architect is $76,100 per year.

Have you ever wondered how much an architect earns? Becoming an architect requires an investment of money and time, but pays off in the form of a rewarding career that comes with above-average earnings. And for those lucky few who become “starchitects,” it’s a path to fame. Let’s take a closer look at the average salary of an architect. 

The Average Salary of an Architect: The Basics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that the average salary of an architect was $76,100 per year, $36.59 per hour in 2015. There is wide range of architect salaries, however. The top 10% of architects earn an average salary of $125,520 per year, $60.34 per hour. The bottom 10% of architects earn an average salary of $46,080 per year, $22.15 per hour.

Architects’ salaries are fairly high, but what do the future job prospects look like for architects? The BLS releases a “job outlook” for the fields it studies. The job outlook predicts the percent by which the number of people in a given job will grow between 2014 and 2024. For architects, the BLS job outlook is 7%, which is around the average for all the jobs the BLS studies. The field isn’t shrinking, but it’s not growing at faster-than-average rates either.

Related Article: The Average Salary of a Doctor 

Where Architects Make the Most

The Average Salary of an Architect

The BLS examines state- and metro-level data on earnings, too. Where does it pay the most to be an architect? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for architects is California, where the annual mean wage for architects is $97,880. Other high-paying states for architects are Georgia ($93,940), Massachusetts ($90,430), New Jersey ($89,130) and Minnesota ($88,680).

What about metro areas? The top-paying metro area for architects is West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL, where the mean annual wage for architects is $117,870. Other high-paying metro areas for architects are Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA; Syracuse, NY and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA.

Related Article: The Cost of Living in California

The Cost of Becoming an Architect

The first step to becoming an architect is to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture. A poll by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) found that poll respondents (all architecture school graduates) had an average post-graduation student debt of $40,000. The students also reported spending thousands on extra costs such as modeling materials, textbooks and more.

After obtaining a degree (often a five-year degree), budding architects do an average of three years at an architecture internship. Finally, they must take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). That means that even the fastest path to becoming an architect in the U.S. takes eight years, but most people take around 11 years. In the meantime, most of these aspiring architects are paying back student loans. The ARE also comes with stiff fees. Depending on which version of the exam you take, the exam fee itself is either $1,470 or $1,260. If you have to cancel your exam, the fees you pay are non-refundable.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of an Architect

The job of an architect comes with glamour and prestige, as well as a high salary and a solid job outlook. However, the path to becoming an architect is a long and expensive one and not everyone who wants to become an architect makes it through the multi-year process. Still, if you have the discipline, talent and funds architecture is a financially rewarding career path.

Update: Have financial questions beyond an architect’s average salary? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave

Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.

But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sure—the answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.

Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:

1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last

To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.

The amount of unpaid maternity leave you take will determine the budget you’ll need while you’re away.

When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.

Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.

Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.

As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.

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Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.

2. Babyproof your budget

When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.

In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).

“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.

Figure out what new expenses might be added to your budget and which existing ones might reduce to financially prepare for maternity leave.

As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:

  • What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
  • Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.

3. Tighten up the budget—then tighten some more

Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.

Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget work—which included three months of unpaid leave—she and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.

Find ways to reduce costs on bills like insurance and groceries to help save for maternity leave.

Cut existing costs

As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.

“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”

Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?

Find ways to earn

Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.

Reduce new costs

As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.

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4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose

When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.

In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.

Setting a savings goal and tracking expenses before the new baby arrives is an easy way to save for maternity leave.

As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.

Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.

For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:

  • Planned baby expenses
  • Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
  • Mother and baby healthcare

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“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”

– Lauren Mochizuki, budgeting expert at Casa Mochi

Budgeting for maternity leave—and beyond

Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.

Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.

Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memories—instead of stressing over money.

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