A Guide to Real Estate Counter Offers

Unless you’re fresh out of a Negotiating 101 final and ready to huck your textbook straight into the trash, navigating real estate counter offers might not be at the top of your mind.

That’s OK. For most folks, the wild and sometimes-bumpy ride of buying or selling a house isn’t something they’re necessarily prepared for.

homebuying process, unexpected twists and turns can arise. After sifting through hundreds of listings, attending several showings, and putting an offer in on a dream home (or two, or three), the deal can be far from done.

There are many reasons why it takes time to buy a house, and counter offers can certainly be one of them. A real estate counter offer can come into play in these scenarios:

A Change in Sales Price

One of the most commonly contested items in the closing of a house is the sales price. If buyers come in lower than the asking price with their offer, sellers might counter with the original asking price (if they’re unwilling to negotiate) or somewhere between the asking price and the offer.

Requesting a Later Closing Date

Sometimes sellers simply need more time to vacate the premises. Whether they have unfinished business or unexpected plans, they may present a counter offer that extends the escrow period to allow them more time to move out.

Increasing the Earnest Money Deposit

In some cases, the seller could up the ante by increasing the earnest, or “good faith,” money deposit the buyer submits with the offer. Earnest money deposits are typically between 1% and 3% of the purchase price, but in a hot market, there’s a chance the seller could ask for more to ensure the buyer is serious about purchasing the property.

The Removal of Certain Contingencies

Contingency clauses are actions or conditions that must be met before a real estate contract becomes binding. Common contingencies, which most sellers will see as standard in a real estate offer, are:

•   An appraisal contingency to protect buyers if the property is valued lower than the amount they offer.
•   A financing contingency that allows buyers adequate time to obtain a mortgage or other financing to purchase the property.
•   An inspection contingency that ensures buyers have the right to a thorough inspection of the property within a specified period of time.

Some contingencies, however, are considered less than standard. For example, a home sale contingency grants buyers a set amount of time to sell their existing home so they can finance the new property. Some sellers may find this contingency burdensome, particularly in a hot market, so they could make a counter offer that removes the home sale contingency. They can also counter with a “kick-out clause” that gives a real estate agent the right to keep showing the house while buyers attempt to sell their existing home.

Requesting Repairs

If a home inspection reveals necessary repairs or renovations to the property, the buyer could submit a counter offer to negotiate a lower price or ask the seller to complete the repairs before closing.

Deciding Who Covers Closing Costs

In a buyer’s market, it might be possible to negotiate some or all of the closing costs to be paid by the seller. These costs include appraisal fees, settlement fees, title policies, recording fees, land surveys, and transfer tax. Many home buyers are surprised by how expensive closing costs are, but in particularly hot markets with multiple offers, sellers can counter with a simple “no” to indicate they won’t be covering those costs for the buyer.

What’s the Typical Counter Offer Process?

While real estate counter offers vary depending on the market, the seller’s unique circumstances, and other standalone factors, there are some fairly standard parameters to the counter offer process:

What’s a ‘Normal’ Number of Counter Offers?

There’s no legal limit to the number of counter offers that can occur in a real estate transaction. Initial offers, counter offers, and subsequent counter offers could ping pong back and forth for weeks or more.

Knowing the local real estate market can be key here. In a buyer’s market with plenty of houses for sale, sellers might want to be cautious about submitting an unnecessary number of counter offers.

Similarly, in a seller’s market where inventory is low and buyer competition is high, buyers might want to limit the number of counter offers they push back at the seller.

Can a Seller Make Simultaneous Counter Offers?

Depending on the state where the real estate transaction takes place, a seller may or may not be able to make counter offers to more than one buyer. That said, most real estate agents advise against multiple simultaneous counteroffers, as it could end up in two legally binding contracts for the seller.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Number of counter offers aside, home buyers can expect a closing to take 45 days on average. But how long it takes still varies from buyer to buyer, with factors like whether they’re paying cash, how long it takes them to find an inspector, and if the house appraises at a lower value, affecting the overall timeline.

How to Counter Offer in Real Estate

To some degree there’s such a thing as real estate counter offer etiquette. Here are a few things to consider when engaging in the counter offer process:

Having a Comprehensive Picture of Costs

For buyers, having an accurate handle on what it will cost to buy the house is essential for negotiating counter offers discerningly.

mortgage calculator helps buyers break down the cost of purchasing a home.

Going In With a Strong Offer

A “strong” offer is backed by data that defines what’s happening in the market, and research (with the help of an agent) around what’s considered “fair market value.”

Coming in at 15% or more under the fair market value is generally considered a “lowball” offer and can start buyers off on the wrong foot. In some cases, sellers might skip right over anything that isn’t considered a strong offer.

Knowing What Can Be Negotiated

One of the first steps in making a real estate counter offer is knowing what can be negotiated:

•  Possession date. Giving the sellers more time to move out could mean an exchange for a condition the buyer desires. Buyers hoping to move in sooner might make a counter offer requesting an earlier possession date.
•  Personal property. Some of the seller’s personal property like furniture, window treatments, artwork, or gardening tools could be negotiated into the contract in a counter offer.
•  Home warranty. Older houses can come with their own unique sets of systems and appliances, so buyers might make a counter offer asking the sellers to cover the cost of a one- to two-year home warranty ($350 to $600 annually, on average) if unexpected repairs need to be made after move-in.
•  Earnest money deposit. Whether buyers are trying to reduce their risk of something going wrong during closing or strengthen their offer, they can negotiate a lower or higher earnest money deposit with a counter offer.

Being Timely and Responsive

Real estate offers and counter offers often come with a set expiration date, so time is usually of the essence. Forty-eight hours is a standard acceptance window in many real estate markets, but in hot markets offers might expire within 24 hours or less.

Some sellers take this concept to a whole new level, setting stringent requirements around offer acceptance. It’s up to buyers to determine whether or not they’re willing to reply quickly enough to meet the sellers’ time demands or risk losing the deal.

Trying Not to Take Things Personally

It might not feel like “all’s fair in buying and selling a home” since it’s one of the biggest financial transactions many will make in their lifetime. But buyers and sellers shouldn’t be surprised if it comes with a little bit of literal give and take.

And while it might seem like a personal affront to have a real estate offer rejected, it’s possible (and even likely) that the seller has multiple offers or was simply able to strike a better deal.

When push comes to shove and purchase comes to close, buying a house is a matter of business, no matter how personal the home buying journey can feel.

The Takeaway

Real estate counter offers are a common form of business negotiation, and a first step in making a counter offer is knowing what can be negotiated. Being cognizant of counter offer etiquette can be helpful.

Having your home financing lined up can also be helpful. SoFi offers home loans with competitive rates and no hidden fees.

Get pre-qualified for a SoFi home loan in two minutes.



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I Dropped Out of College: My Student Loan Repayment Options

No one intends to drop out of college. If you show up to campus for your freshman year, chances are you plan to graduate in four years and use your degree to land a job. Maybe you even have the whole thing mapped out, step-by-step.

But then life happens. Whether it’s a family emergency, deteriorating health, stress burnout, or just the realization that college isn’t the right choice, plenty of people choose to drop out of their university every year. The problem is, your student loans don’t go away just because you never ended up with a degree.

So how should someone in this position approach student loan repayment? Are there any unique considerations to take into account? Here’s what you need to know.

Choose an Income-Based Repayment Plan

If you have federal student loans, you’re eligible for the same repayment options available to borrowers with a degree.

You may currently be on the standard 10-year repayment plan, which will have the highest monthly payments and the lowest total interest. You have the option of switching to a less expensive option if you’re struggling with those payments. Use the official repayment calculator to see which plan lets you pay the least.

When you choose an extended, income-based, or graduated repayment plan, you’ll pay more interest overall than if you stuck with the standard plan. If you’re not working toward a specific forgiveness program, then it’s best to switch back to the standard plan as soon as you can afford it to minimize the interest.

Refinance Private Loans

Private student loans have fewer income-based repayment options than federal loans, and they rarely offer deferment or forbearance options. But you can refinance private loans for a lower interest rate, even if you dropped out.

There are a few lenders that service borrowers with uncompleted degrees.

These may include:

  • MEF
  • RISLA Student Loan Refinance
  • EDvestinU
  • PNC
  • Wells Fargo
  • Purefy
  • Discover Bank
  • Advance Education Loan
  • Citizens Bank

To be a good candidate for a student loan refinance, you must have a high credit score and no recent bankruptcies or defaults on your credit report. You also need a low debt-to-income ratio, and some lenders may have income requirements.

Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz of SavingforCollege.com said borrowers are unlikely to be good refinance candidates immediately after college because lenders usually require a minimum amount of full-time employment.

If you dropped out recently, you may want to wait a year before trying to refinance private loans. During that time, check your credit score through Mint, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new loans or lines of credit, and pay your credit card bill in full every month.

Explore Deferment and Forbearance

Once you leave school, you’re eligible for a six-month grace period where federal student loan payments are put on hold. You won’t accrue interest during this time if you have subsidized loans, but you will if you have unsubsidized loans.

If you still need more time after the grace period has expired, you can apply for deferment or forbearance. Borrowers have to apply for deferment and forbearance manually and wait to be approved.

Deferment and forbearance are both federal programs that let borrowers avoid paying their student loans while still remaining current. The main difference between the two options is that interest will not accrue on your loan balance during deferment, but it will accrue during forbearance. For that reason, it’s harder to qualify for deferment.

Be careful about putting your loans in deferment or forbearance for a long time. The interest that accrues will capitalize, meaning it will be added to your loan’s principal. This will increase your total monthly payments and could delay your debt payoff timeline.

Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that encourages borrowers to choose a non-profit or government job. In exchange, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after 10 year’s worth of payments, which do not have to be consecutive. It’s even available to borrowers who dropped out and never finished a degree.

“PSLF is always an option because it’s employer-dependent,” said student loan lawyer Joshua R. I. Cohen.

PSLF is only available for federal loans, and only those loans that are part of the Direct Loan Program. If you have FFEL or Perkins loans, you’ll have to consolidate them as part of the Direct Consolidation Program. This process will render them eligible for PSLF.

Be sure not to consolidate loans that are already part of the Direct Loan Program. If you’ve already been making payments, consolidating loans will restart the clock on PSLF, and you could lose credit for eligible payments you’ve already made.

The employer you work for must also be an eligible non-profit or government entity. Only full-time employees qualify for PSLF, which excludes part-time workers and independent contractors.

To be eligible for PSLF, you should fill out the employment certification form every year. This form asks for your employer’s contact information, your employment status, and more.

Once you submit the form, you should receive a notice verifying your employer and how many eligible payments you’ve made. Doing this every year will make it easier when you apply for forgiveness after your 120 payments have been made.

“It also gives borrowers an opportunity to dispute any errors or undercounts well before they reach eligibility for loan forgiveness, giving them plenty of time to address disputes,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.

Borrowers can save money while working toward PSLF by choosing an income-based repayment plan instead of the standard 10-year plan. They also won’t owe taxes on the forgiven amount, so it’s best to choose the least expensive monthly option.

Try to Discharge Your Loans

If you couldn’t complete college because the department you were studying in closed, or your school committed fraud, you may be a good candidate for discharging your student loans completely. If this happened to you, contact a student loan lawyer who can help you file a case.

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Options for Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness is a trade-off. It’s about incentivizing graduates to work in low paying or otherwise undesirable positions in exchange for erasing or significantly reducing their student loan balance. Without these programs, important community institutions would be severely understaffed.

If you’re a teacher or education student reading this, those criteria probably sound familiar.

Many school districts struggle to fully staff their schools, especially when it comes to certain positions. Loan forgiveness programs are one of the best ways for them to attract job candidates and retain them for long enough to make an impact.

Teachers have several options when it comes to loan forgiveness. Here’s what you should know about each one.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is the only federal loan forgiveness program specifically designed for teachers. Math or science teachers who teach in secondary schools or special education teachers can have up to $17,500 worth of loans forgiven. Any other kind of teacher can only receive up to $5,000 worth of loan forgiveness.

The program has strict requirements. Teachers must hold a license or certification in their state and teach for five consecutive years in a school that primarily serves low-income students. A list of eligible schools is available here.

Teachers qualify even if they work at different schools for each of the five years, but each of those schools must be eligible.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is only available for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, as well as Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. Perkins loans are not eligible.

If you have a Direct Consolidation Loan or a Federal Consolidation Loan that includes a Perkins loan, that portion won’t be eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness. PLUS or graduate school loans are also not eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is arguably the best forgiveness option for teachers. Unlike the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, borrowers don’t have to work consecutive years to qualify. This is especially helpful for teachers who take a year or two off.

Teachers can work for an elementary or secondary school, in either a public or private school setting. They must work at least 30 hours a week to qualify. After 120 qualifying payments, they can apply to have their remaining loan balance forgiven. There is no limit on how much will be discharged, and teachers won’t owe taxes on the forgiven amount.

Only Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. If you have FFEL or Perkins Loans, you’ll have to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify.

Teachers should submit the PSLF employer certification form every year, which will verify the employer and calculate how many qualifying payments have been made.

PSLF can be used with Teacher Loan Forgiveness, but borrowers will only receive credit for one program at a time. If $5,000 of your loans is forgiven after five years through Teacher Loan Forgiveness, those five years’ worth of payments will not count toward PSLF.

While working toward PSLF, teachers will have to choose from one of the income-driven repayment plans. These options will lower your monthly payment.

Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

Teachers with Perkins loans can have their loan balance entirely discharged. To be eligible, they must work full-time in a school with low-income children or as a special education teacher. Teachers can also become eligible by teaching a subject that has a shortage of teachers in their state.

Private school teachers and those who have two part-time teaching jobs also qualify. Preschool and kindergarten teachers may only be eligible if their state considers those grades to be part of elementary education.

Unlike PSLF or the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, teachers can earn partial loan forgiveness. They’ll get 100% forgiveness after five years of service.

Here’s how much will be forgiven each year:

  • 15% forgiven after one year of work
  • 15% forgiven after two years of work
  • 20% forgiven after three years of work
  • 20% forgiven after four years of work
  • 30% forgiven after five years of work

State Forgiveness Programs

Your state may have its own teacher forgiveness program. Go here to see what options are available. You can also try Googling your state and “teacher forgiveness program” and see what comes up. You may have to teach in an underserved area or teach a specific subject to qualify.

Options for Private Student Loans

Teachers with private loans rarely have access to loan forgiveness. Here are some options available to them:

Refinance private loans

If you want to save money on private loans, your best option is to refinance to a lower interest rate.

Private lenders often require a credit score of 650 or higher to qualify for a refinance. Some lenders may also have an income requirement, but this depends on the specific lender. For example, LendKey accepts borrowers with low salaries.

When you refinance private loans, make sure you understand the term you’re signing up for. For example, if you have five years left on your private loans and refinance to a 10-year term, you may end up paying more interest over the life of the loan because the term is doubled.

If you can afford it, keep making the same payments as you were before. Assuming you haven’t significantly changed your budget or lost your source of income, this should be doable. Keeping the same payment rate will let you repay the loan faster and save on interest.

Take out a home equity loan

If you’re a homeowner, you can withdraw extra equity from your house and use it to repay your student loans. Generally, you’ll need to have 80% or more equity in the home to qualify.

Home equity loans may have lower interest rates and longer terms than private student loans. It may also be easier to qualify for a home equity loan because the bank has collateral behind it.

The downside to this strategy is that if you default on a home equity loan, the bank may repossess your house. Comparatively, refinancing your private student loans has much lower stakes.

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My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do?

When most parents offer to fund their child’s tuition, it’s with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.

Unfortunately, what these plans don’t tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.

Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.

So if you’re a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.

Contact the University

Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parent’s income has decreased.

Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, you’re out of luck.

Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if you’ve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.

Try to Graduate Early

Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.

Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.

Fill out the FAFSA

If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.

Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it won’t show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.

Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools won’t even provide merit-based scholarships to students who haven’t filled out the FAFSA.

Get a Job

If you don’t already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.

Try to think outside the box. If you’re a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If you’re a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while you’re working.

Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if you’re in a different city.

It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.

Take Out Private Loans

If you still need more money after you’ve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.

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Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.

Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.

Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and there’s little recourse if you graduate and can’t find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.

Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School

Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.

If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.

Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so it’s better to be conservative.

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Which Companies Offer Discounts for Students

For most college students, trying to save money is a way of life. Whether it’s pirating textbooks, dumpster diving for food, or “borrowing” toilet paper from the library bathroom, students tend to find clever ways to pinch pennies.

But one of the best ways to save money as a college student goes largely ignored. Students can get discounts at many of the places they already shop, just by flashing their student ID or using their student email address. Here are some of the best offers – and how to get them.

Best Discounts for College Students

The following retailers and merchants offer special pricing for students:

Spotify

The Spotify Premium Student program offers a one-month free trial. After that, students will pay $4.99 a month for Spotify Premium, Hulu, and Showtime’s streaming service.

The discount is available for 48 months total. Subscribers may be required to provide extra documentation to verify their status as a student. Unfortunately, you are not eligible for this offer if you’ve previously used Spotify Premium before. You may still be eligible if you already have a Hulu or Showtime account.

Apple

Apple offers lower prices for students as part of the Apple education program. For example, a 13-inch Macbook Pro costs $100 less and a 16-inch Macbook Pro is $200 less.

Apple does not require proof directly at the time of purchase, but they do reserve the right to audit the purchase after the fact. If you can’t prove you’re a student, they may charge you the difference between the regular price and the student price.

Samsung

Samsung offers students and teachers up to 30% off on tablets, smartphones, and laptops. They can also receive special pricing on other electronics and appliances like headphones, portable chargers, and monitors.

Unlike Apple, Samsung verifies student status before they receive the discount. You may have to upload documents to prove you’re a student.

Adobe Creative Cloud

The Adobe Creative Cloud suite includes programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Lightroom.

Students can receive access to the Adobe Creative Cloud for $19.99 a month, compared to $52.99 a month for regular users. This offer lasts for a year, after which the price will change to $29.99 a month. Use a school email address to have your identity verified immediately during checkout.

Amazon Prime

While Amazon Prime normally costs $119 a year, students can get a free six-month trial. After that, the membership will only cost $6.49 a month, which is half off the normal price.

Students can get Showtime for only $0.99 a month for one year, a two-month trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited, and discounts on textbooks.

Microsoft Office 365

Students get free access to Microsoft programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more when they sign up using their student email address.

Microsoft may ask to verify your school enrollment at any time. If you are no longer a student, they can cancel the membership immediately.

HP

Students can save up to 35% off on HP products like computers, printers, and laptops. To receive access to the HP Education Store, you have to register with a student email address ending in “.edu”.

Dell

Students can save $100 off certain computers and up to 10% off monitors and other accessories.

Nike

Nike normally offers a 10% discount for students but has recently increased it to 20%. Students have to prove their eligibility online before receiving a special coupon code.

The code can only be used once every 30 days.

Local attractions

Many movie theaters, museums, and other attractions have specific student prices available with a student ID.

Cell phone carriers

Verizon and AT&T both offer student discounts on cell phone plans. Students can save $10 a month for the unlimited package on one line or $25 off for two lines.

Students have to apply for the AT&T Signature Program, which determines eligibility based on your email address.

Gyms

Many local and national chains offer special membership pricing for students. Some, like the YMCA, may offer a sliding scale membership based on your income.

Clothing stores

Many clothing stores offer a discount to students. Retailers including J.Crew, Madewell, Uniqlo, and H&M offer 15% off to students.

In general, these discounts can range from 10 to 20% off depending on the company. You usually have to show a student ID when shopping in-person or use a student email address if shopping online.

YouTube

Students get a one-month free trial to YouTube Premium and then a $6.99 monthly membership, compared to the $11.99 standard price. This subscription includes ad-free videos, the ability to download videos for offline watching, and access to YouTube Music Premium.

Students have to verify their status every year.

Goodwill

Students who already love to save money should shop at Goodwill. Some locations provide an extra 10% off if you show a student ID. Other locations may have certain days of the week where students get an extra discount.

Call your local Goodwill and ask about their specific policy.

How to Get the Student Discount

Most in-store retailers require that you show a student ID as proof. If you forget the ID at home, they may deny the request.

If you’re shopping online, your student email address will be used to verify your status. You may not get the discount if you try to use a regular Gmail address.

Other companies will go a step further and verify your enrollment directly with the school. Getting a discount may not work if you’ve already graduated, even if you still have a student ID or a university email address.

Even if there’s no explicit student discount on a store’s website, it never hurts to ask. They may have an unwritten rule or be willing to extend a special offer.

Sometimes the student discount cannot be combined with other sales, offers or coupons. If that’s the case, you may be better off buying an item on sale than applying the student discount to a full-price item.

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How to Teach Your Teen to Budget Like a Pro

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It amazes us how quickly our girls are growing up. Next month when school starts up again, we’ll have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener.

Even though we have some time before they are ready to move out of the house, we want to spend time now prepare them for the big transition. As a parent, you probably feel the same way too. 

One crucial piece of a financial foundation kids and in particular, teens, need to master is learning to budget (and sticking with it),

While they’re home now, you have a fantastic opportunity to get them comfortable with handling their money.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips from fellow parents and experts in the personal finance space to make teaching this life skill a bit easier less stressful for you and your teen!

Teach Your Teen to Budget for Real Life

Teens or not, whenever most people hear the word budget, they also hear the word ‘no’. To them, budgets feel like a strict diet. Just as fad diets fail, an unrealistic or extreme budget will more than likely discourage your teen and they will quit.

The first step before you even talk about the numbers is to discuss exactly what a successful and sustainable budget should be. When done right, a budget is something that helps you move your money towards your goals. Explain to them that at its root, budget is simply a plan about what they’d like to do.

You want a budget that can cover:

When your teen’s budget covers those goals, they’re not only putting their finances in a good spot, but they’re moving closer to their specific long term dreams.

Creating a Doable Budget (They’ll Actually Enjoy!)

Once your teen(s) understands how a budget works, it’s important for them to create a budget that they can use in the real world. You can honestly budget however you want, but an easy budget to get your teen started is the 50/20/30.

Quite simplify, the 50/20/30 budget puts money into those three main buckets:

I appreciate how easy and flexible this budget can be. You can adjust the percentages for your teen’s needs, but it gives them some ballpark idea of how to portion their finances when they are out on their own.

How do you start them out on this budget?

With teens, you may have expenses like clothing or their cellphone bill count as essentials, or you may want to give your child the experience of being responsible for a small, shared family bill while they are still at home.

For older teens, you could even charge them a nominal ‘rent’ to offset their portion of the bills. In some cases, parents give that money back to their child as a gift to help with moving expenses (like for their security deposit) or use as additional savings. 

However you decide, talk it over so your teen understands why you’re doing it this way.

Share Your Family Budget

Creating a budget isn’t complicated, but it can difficult if your teen has no idea what to expect. Knowledge can be empowering.

While we may take it for granted since have to deal with the numbers, but your teen may not be aware of how much it takes to keep the lights on and roof over their heads. If you haven’t already shared your own budget already, now is the time.

Not knowing also puts them at a disadvantage when they start searching for a place or are comparing prices on expenses. Being armed with the numbers makes your teenager a more informed consumer.

When Your Teen Breaks Their Budget

Will there be times where your teenager will mess up with their budget? Probably so. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As parents, we tend to want to protect our kids, but we also have to prepare them for the real world. As Ron Lieber, author of The Opposite of Spoiled, pointed out we should let our kids make financial mistakes. 

Wouldn’t it be better for your child to break the clothing budget while they’re still at home allowing you to help guide them through rather than having break their monthly budget while they are on their own and have bills to pay?

Mistakes will happen, they’re a part of life so giving your teen time to work those them and adjust their budget is a blessing for their future selves.

Essential Accounts for Your Teen  to Have

Since we’re talking about budgets, we should also mention some essential accounts you’d want your kid to have so they can practice managing their money.

Opening up student checking and savings accounts (usually free low on fees as well as not having minimum balance requirements) are good foundational accounts for your teen. They can deal with real-world situations pending charges, automatic transfers, and direct deposits.

As Family Balance Sheet founder Kristia Ludwick pointed out, teens should have the skill of balancing a checkbook even if they decide to go all-digital with their banking.

If they work, talk it over together and see if they can open up an IRA and start contributing. It doesn’t have to be much. The idea is to get them familiar and comfortable with the basics of investing.

Even if they put in $25 a paycheck, having them practice setting aside money in their budget for both long and short term goals is an invaluable lesson. You can also encourage them to contribute by offering a match for what they put in.

How Teens Can Easily Stay on Top of Their Money

With several accounts to keep tabs on, your teen is going to need an easy system to track their budget and goals.

With Mint, they can link up their accounts in one secure spot. They can also add their budget along with any savings goals they want to hit and make sure they stick with them.

Hopefully, these ideas and tips will make it easier to help your teen transition into a self-sufficient adult.

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Source: mint.intuit.com

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Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

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If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

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Source: mint.intuit.com