The 12 best cruise ships for people who never want to grow up

The best cruise ships for those who never want to grow up – The Points Guy


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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

5 Things to Know About the Hotels.com Rewards Visa Credit Card

The Hotels.com Rewards Visa from Wells Fargo offers decent rewards value for your spending, coupled with an annual fee of $0 and the flexibility of not being tied to one hotel chain. But what about aspirations of using rewards to book a free plush room in an exotic location?

Not so much. Let’s just say if the rewards program were a hotel, it’d be less like a beachfront luxury resort and more like a suburban office-park hotel off the highway — and that’s if you’re willing to wade through the convoluted rewards program. It awkwardly marries credit card spending rewards with a “buy 10, get one free” system you’d find at a sandwich shop.

It could be a good fit for those already using the Hotels.com loyalty program. But if you’re willing to pick a hotel group and stick with it, co-branded hotel credit cards might be a better fit, even if you have to pay an annual fee. And a general travel card can offer even more versatility.

Here are five things to know about the Hotels.com Rewards Visa.

1. The sign-up bonus is just OK

With an annual fee of $0, you don’t expect a massive sign-up bonus. But even still, some might be a little disappointed with this one.

The current bonus: Earn one “reward night” worth up to $125 when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. (The reward night excludes taxes and fees, which you’ll have to pay.)

To maximize this bonus, you’d need to find a room that costs exactly $125 a night. If it costs more, you’ll owe the difference. If it costs less, you don’t get back the difference. That’s less than you get with most other major hotel credit cards, even ones with no annual fee.

A running theme here: The card’s bonus, like its rewards, is not so much a “free night,” but more like a dollar credit to use at Hotels.com.

2. Rewards are baffling …

You CAN figure out the rewards program. But after this description, decide whether you WANT to.

Earning:

  • Even without the credit card, the Hotels.com loyalty program lets you earn a “stamp” for every night you stay at any eligible property booked on that site. That’s a stamp like you might get on a loyalty wallet-card at a sandwich or coffee shop.

  • With the Hotels.com Rewards Visa credit card, you earn a stamp for every $500 spent on purchases with the card. All spending counts the same. No bonus rewards for spending on, say, restaurants or gas stations — not even for booking at Hotels.com.

But what are the rewards stamps worth? You’ll have to remember the number $110. Here’s why.

Redeeming:

You need to accumulate 10 stamps for a “reward night.” No partial redemptions for, say, seven stamps.

So 10 stamps, and I can book any hotel room on Hotels.com? Uh, no. Not all stamps are created equal:

  • Stamps you earn by racking up $500 in spending on the credit card are assigned a value of $110.

  • But stamps you earn by booking through Hotels.com are worth whatever you paid for the room.

The value of your 10-stamp “reward night” is the average of your 10 stamps — again, with credit card-earned stamps worth $110. So, if you didn’t book any rooms through Hotels.com and earned your 10 stamps only with the credit card, then your reward is worth $110. But if you have a mix of bookings and credit card stamps, your reward could be more or less than $110, depending on how expensive your bookings were, which affects the average of the 10 stamps.

Lastly, rewards expire after 12 months of inactivity (meaning you didn’t earn a stamp or redeem a reward during that time). So make sure you spend at least $500 a year on the card to earn a stamp and reset the expiration date.

Nerd tip: For rewards earned with the credit card alone, don’t get your hopes up for booking a luxurious 5-star hotel, where rooms cost far more than $110. You can book a more expensive hotel and still use the reward, but you’ll have to pay the difference. And as with the bonus offer, your free night doesn’t include taxes and fees.

3. … But reward values can be decent

Because of the confusing rewards system, it might seem difficult to assess the value of earning those rewards. But it’s essentially 2.2% back. Here’s how:

Considering only rewards earned with the credit card, you’ll need to spend $5,000 to earn 10 stamps worth $110. ($110/$5,000 =.022 = 2.2%)

Put another way, each stamp earned with the Hotels.com Rewards Visa credit card is worth $11. (But they’re worth nothing until you have 10 of them.)

That is a competitive rewards rate compared with some hotel cards. But, of course, there are 2% cash-back credit cards available. With the Hotels.com Rewards Visa, you get only an extra 0.2 percentage points to earn rewards that are far more restrictive than cash, which brings us to the next point.

4. It has flexibility pluses and minuses

Hotels.com boasts listings of 500,000 properties in more than 200 countries. So if you’re not chasing elite status with a particular brand, the Hotels.com Rewards Visa card could help get you free or discounted reward nights across a wide variety of properties, and for no annual fee.

On the downside, unlike cards offering flexible rewards, the stamps you earn using this credit card are redeemable only for Hotels.com bookings. Plus, you can’t redeem the rewards you’ve earned until you earn 10 stamps.

And it has no travel partners to transfer rewards to.

5. It offers a few perks

  • Silver status: You get automatic Silver status with Hotels.com for 12 months from date of opening. If you already have Silver status, it will be extended for 12 months thanks to your new card. Silver status entitles you to free breakfast, spa vouchers, airport transfers, VIP access lines and more at eligible properties.

  • No redemption fee: If you’re just a Hotels.com loyalty member, you must pay a $5 fee for each redemption unless you use the app. The fee is waived if you have the Hotels.com Rewards Visa.

  • Cell phone protection: Pay your phone bill with this card and you’ll be covered in the event of damage to or theft of your phone, for up to $1,200 per year ($600 per claim) after a $25 deductible.

  • Travel perks: Like any self-respecting travel card, it charges no foreign transaction fee for making purchases abroad. It also comes with some travel protections, such as rental car insurance (secondary) and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

In the end, the Hotels.com Rewards Visa is a way to earn credit for booking rooms on Hotels.com. Its rewards value for spending on the card is decent and would be a good addition for those already immersed in the Hotels.com loyalty program. But for most people, a co-branded card with a name like Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt might serve them better if they can commit to one hotel chain.

Information related to the Hotels.com Rewards Visa has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

Source: nerdwallet.com

You’re Probably Cooking This Food the Wrong Way

Woman cooking food on her stove
Photo by Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock.com

If you eat rice, you likely are ingesting arsenic, a known carcinogen that impacts virtually every organ in the body. Arsenic exposure has been linked to:

  • Bladder, lung and skin cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Lung diseases
  • Skin lesions
  • In utero impacts on a developing immune system

Because arsenic is water-soluble, it accumulates naturally in rice grown in flooded fields. But a recent study has found that cooking rice in a specific way removes up to 50% of the naturally occurring arsenic in brown rice, and 74% in white rice, while retaining most of the grain’s nutrients.

The trick is to cook the rice using a method known as “parboiling with absorption,” say researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield in England. This involves a few steps:

  1. Add water to a pot — using 4 cups of water for every cup of dry rice that you plan to cook — and bring the water to a boil.
  2. Add the rice to the boiling water and let the rice boil for five minutes.
  3. Drain and refresh the water, this time using 2 cups of water per cup of dry rice.
  4. Cook the rice on low to medium heat until all the water is absorbed.

For years, experts have been concerned about the level of arsenic found in rice.

A 2012 Consumer Reports study discovered measurable levels of arsenic in nearly all of 60 rice varieties and rice products the publication tested. Follow-up research was even more troubling. According to CR:

“We found that rice cereal and rice pasta can have much more inorganic arsenic — a carcinogen — than our 2012 data showed. According to the results of our new tests, one serving of either could put kids over the maximum amount of rice we recommend they should have in a week.”

So, aside from cooking the rice the right way, which rice should you buy?

Brown rice — which is unmilled or unpolished and retains its bran — contains more arsenic than white rice. Unfortunately, though, the same milling process that removes arsenic from white rice also eliminates 75% to 90% of the rice’s nutrients, according to the University of Sheffield researchers.

Consumer Reports says that as a general rule, white basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S., have half as much inorganic arsenic as most other types of rice, on average.

Meanwhile, brown basmati rice from California, India or Pakistan has about one-third less inorganic arsenic than other types of brown rice, CR says.

CR also suggests steering clear of rice from three U.S. states in particular:

“All types of rice (except sushi and quick cooking) with a label indicating that it’s from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas or just from the U.S. had the highest levels of inorganic arsenic in our tests. For instance, white rices from California have 38 percent less inorganic arsenic than white rices from other parts of the country.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

7 Things That Are More Likely Than Winning Friday’s Lottery

Surprised lottery winner holding cash
Wpadington / Shutterstock.com

Friday’s Mega Millions lottery drawing will be the second-biggest jackpot ever, at an estimated $970 million.

But before you rush out and buy a ticket, understand that the odds are stacked against you. In fact, your chances of winning the jackpot are a bit under 1 in 303 million.

How unlikely is that? Following are several events where the odds are much better than winning the lottery.

1. Becoming a millionaire

Wealthy businessman with cash
jesterpop / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of becoming a millionaire depend on various factors, including your age and education level. Another influential factor is race, according to numbers that the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis ran for Bloomberg in 2016.

For example, here are odds of becoming a millionaire by race for a middle-aged, college-educated American:

  • Asian: 22.3% (about 1 in 5)
  • White: 21.5% (about 1 in 5)
  • Hispanic: 6.8% (about 1 in 15)
  • Black: 6.4% (about 1 in 16)

Want to improve your odds? Start by reading “The 10 Golden Rules of Becoming a Millionaire,” written by Money Talks News founder and self-made millionaire Stacy Johnson.

2. Being struck by lightning

Lightning
Daniel Sockwell / Shutterstock.com

If you live to age 80, the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 15,300, according to the National Weather Service. Your odds of being struck by lightning in any given year are much lower — about 1 in 1.2 million — but still much better than your odds of hitting Friday’s jackpot.

3. Getting a hole-in-one

Golf course
Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com

An amateur golfer’s odds of getting a hole-in-one on a par 3 hole are roughly 1 in 12,500. For a pro, the odds of making the same ace are around 1 in 2,500.

4. Being killed in a shark attack

Alessandro De Maddalena / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of dying in a shark attack are about 1 in 3.7 million.

5. Having identical twins

Father carrying baby twins
Zoia Kostina / Shutterstock.com

Identical-twin pregnancies account for 0.45% of all pregnancies. That translates to odds of about 1 in 222.

Identical twins are more common in pregnancies conceived with fertility treatment, accounting for 0.95% of such pregnancies. That’s about 1 in 105.

6. Drawing a flush

Royal flush with playing cards
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Your odds of getting a royal flush — that is, a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of the same suit — in a poker game are about 1 in 650,000.

For a flush — any five cards of the same suit — your odds are about 1 in 505.

7. Bowling a perfect game

Bowling
nd3000 / Shutterstock.com

For the average bowler, the odds of rolling a 300 game are 1 in 11,500. For a pro bowler, they drop to 1 in 460.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to choose the best Visa card for you

Best Visa credit cards of 2020 – The Points Guy


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Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

Historic Indiana Schoolhouse From 1883 Gets an A-Plus Transformation

The room where students at District School No. 4 once learned their ABCs has been transformed into a grand living space.

On the market for $683,000, the converted schoolhouse on Aboite Center Road in Fort Wayne, IN, is now a one-of-a-kind single-family home.

“To find an intact one-room schoolhouse is hard. Then on top of that, for it to be made into this gorgeous home with a back addition? The way they did it is just incredible,” says the listing agent, Andrea Zehr.

Built in 1883 and last used as a schoolhouse in 1938, the historic structure sat empty and forlorn for decades. The current owners began renovating it in 2016, after the former owner finally agreed to sell it.

“The prior owner would not sell it unless there was someone that was going to not tear it down and do right by it,” Zehr explains. “There were definitely other people that wanted to buy it and then take it down—and he would not sell it.”

Interior of former schoolhouse in Fort Wayne, IN
Interior of former schoolhouse in Fort Wayne, IN

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Exterior
Exterior

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Addition
Addition

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Historic photo
Historic photo

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Before renovation
Before renovation

Schoolhouse owners

During renovation
During renovation

Schoolhouse owners

During renovation
During renovation

Schoolhouse owners

Interior
Interior

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Interior
Interior

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Entry
Entry

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Inside, the former schoolhouse serves as an open space with areas for dining and relaxing. Where the kitchen island now stands is where the original schoolhouse structure ends—the space beyond was added by the current owners.

The addition to the original structure resulted in two bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a basement with an office and extra living space.

Kitchen
Kitchen

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Kitchen
Kitchen

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

The kitchen features cherry cabinets, a copper farm sink, 12-foot ceilings, and floors made from wainscoting from the schoolhouse.

Hallway
Hallway

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Interior
Interior

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Master bedroom
Master bedroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Master bathroom
Master bathroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Master bathroom
Master bathroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Master bedroom
Master bedroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Master bedroom
Master bedroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Bedroom
Bedroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Bathroom
Bathroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Bathroom
Bathroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

The master bedroom opens to a patio, and the master bathroom includes dual sinks, LED lights, Bluetooth speakers, and a heated towel rack.

Basement
Basement

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Basement
Basement

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Basement
Basement

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Basement
Basement

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Basement
Basement

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

The basement has 9-foot ceilings and a built-in sleeping area under the stairs, as well as a desk area and space for entertaining. Outside, there’s also a swim spa year-round exercise pool.

Aerial view of exercise pool
Aerial view of exercise pool

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Outdoor space
Outdoor space

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

The current owners make a living dismantling old barns and reclaiming the wood. They used some of that material as well as other repurposed items for this project.

“They restored everything that they could. The things they couldn’t salvage or had to replace were replaced with things that were repurposed,” Zehr explains.

For example, there’s barn wood from a 1950s barn, lighting from an old building, a door that came from an elementary school in the Iowa town where the two owners met, and much more.

Original chalkboard on display
Original chalkboard on display

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Before renovation
Before renovation

Schoolhouse owners

They also gave a proper nod to the property’s past—using original chalkboards as wall decor.

“The original slate chalkboard was still there when they purchased this property. The writing on it predates 1938, when the last classes were held there, so it’s pretty special,” Zehr says.

Exterior
Exterior

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

The exterior of the original schoolhouse is brick, with a slate roof. The addition features a metal roof and vinyl siding.

“The reason why they didn’t try to do more brick on the exterior for the addition is because it’s so hard to match. So they went with siding and a barn kind of look,” Zehr explains.

The agent noted that the addition was carefully designed to align with the slim profile of the schoolhouse, so that it didn’t look like an afterthought. It’s the same width, going straight back, and doesn’t interfere with the front view of the original structure.

Aerial view
Aerial view

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Sadly, the school’s original bell tower was unstable and could not be salvaged.

The schoolhouse design was the work of the architect John F. Wing, a well-known Indiana architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His firm designed several buildings, including the gymnasium at Purdue University and many schools.

The owners spent several years converting the schoolhouse into their home, but are ready to move on.

“I think that perfect buyer is someone that really loves and appreciates the history,” Zehr says. “It’s just a really amazing sight.”

Bathroom
Bathroom

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Kitchen and interior space
Kitchen and interior space

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Hallway and stairs
Hallway and stairs

Tony Frantz/ DasFort Media

Source: realtor.com

Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care?

Medicare does not pay most costs of nursing home care. But there are alternative ways to pay much of these expenses, which reached a median of $105,850 annually in 2020 for a private room, according to a survey by Genworth, a provider of long-term care insurance.

A third of people who are 65 in 2021 might never need long-term care, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. But 20% of this age group will need such custodial care for five years or longer. So it makes sense to start planning early, while you can still act to improve your late-life circumstances.

Medicare doesn’t cover most long-term nursing home care

Nonmedical custodial care in a nursing home — like help with eating and bathing — is not covered by Medicare. However, Medicare may pay for short-term skilled care in a nursing home if it’s deemed medically necessary because of an injury or illness.

But Medicare Part A does cover professional medical care provided in a skilled nursing facility (not to be confused with a nursing home), a time-limited benefit available when medically necessary for recovery and rehabilitation after a hospital stay. There are substantial limits to this Medicare coverage, chiefly a 20% copay for days 21 through 100, and no coverage beyond 100 days.

For people who are medically and financially able to age in place, Medicare does fully cover many home health care services, such as occasional skilled nursing. Medicare also covers 80% of some other costs, from physical therapy to durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs.

Medicare Advantage (an alternative to Original Medicare offered by private insurers) also generally does not cover long-term custodial care, but plans may include supplemental coverage to assist with some home health care costs. If you have Medicare Advantage, check your plan for details on coverage.

Medicaid covers some nursing home costs, for those who qualify

Medicaid covers some costs of long-term custodial nursing home care and home health care for individuals with little savings and income. People who exhaust their financial resources while in a nursing home often eventually qualify for Medicaid.

Because it’s a joint federal and state program, Medicaid benefits vary. Contact your state’s Medicaid office for coverage details.

Even if you financially qualify for Medicaid, there may be copays for some services that you’ll need in long-term care. Especially when it comes to nursing home coverage, it’s important to understand the differences between Medicare and Medicaid.

Long-term care insurance is an option for some

Long-term care insurance can work as a way to pay for nursing home care if you can afford the hefty premiums for years or even decades into retirement. This insurance can cover much of the expense of custodial care in a nursing home, assisted living facility or your home.

Be sure to read the fine print on any long-term care policy you consider — and seek advice from a professional who doesn’t stand to gain from your insurance purchase. After years of paying premiums, some people with long-term care policies have faced large and unanticipated rate increases.

Some can afford to pay out of savings

People who have accumulated significant wealth may be able to pay out of pocket $100,000 or more annually for nursing home care for five years or more. But that’s not most of us.

Planning to pay for nursing home care means confronting complex, unpredictable and potentially enormous costs, not to mention your own mortality. With all these challenges, you owe it to yourself to speak with a professional about how long-term custodial care figures into your overall financial plan. The sooner you get started, the better.

Source: nerdwallet.com

The 10 Most Affordable Beach Towns for 2021

Couple sitting on beach under umbrella
Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

Living by the beach can be expensive. Mortgage payments, property taxes and space can make your dream home unattainable. But if you know where to look, you can find a shore home without breaking the bank. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the U.S. has over 95,000 miles of shoreline, which includes all the coastal states and Alaska, as well as the island state of Hawaii.

SmartAsset took a look at popular oceanfront communities in America to rank the most affordable beach towns in 2021.

We compared data for 218 beach towns and ranked them by four key real estate metrics: median home value, average number of rooms per house, median monthly property taxes paid and monthly housing costs. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section at the end.

This is SmartAsset’s sixth annual study on the most affordable beach towns in America. Check out the 2020 version here.

1. Biloxi, MS

Fishing boats in Biloxi, Mississippi
CrackerClips Stock Media / Shutterstock.com

Biloxi, Mississippi, ranks at the top of our list as the most affordable beach town in America. It overtook 2020’s winner Gulfport, a Magnolia State neighbor located approximately 13 miles west. The Gulf Coast city has a median home value of $161,700, which is the ninth-lowest value for this metric in the study. Biloxi ranks sixth overall for its low median monthly housing cost, at $737. Median property taxes in Biloxi are $1,196, finishing just outside the top 10 at 13th, but still well within the top quartile of our study.

2. Gulfport, MS

Gulfport, Mississippi
Norm Lane / Shutterstock.com

With almost seven miles of white sandy beaches, Gulfport, Mississippi, ranks as a strong second. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 80 miles northeast of New Orleans, its median home value is $122,300 (fourth-lowest across all 218 cities in our study). Property taxes and monthly housing costs are also fairly low, ranking 11th overall for median tax payment, at $1,069, and ninth for its median monthly housing cost at $811.

3. Port Arthur, TX

Port Arthur Texas
Matias Wilson / Shutterstock.com

Historically known as a prosperous oil-refining city on the Gulf of Mexico, Port Arthur, Texas, ranks third. Located less than 90 miles east of Houston, this city has the lowest median home value in the study, at $65,800. Port Arthur also ranks first for its low median monthly housing cost, at just $455. But overall, the city comes in at No. 3 because it falls in the bottom half of the study for average number of rooms per house, at just 5.7.

4. Pensacola, FL

Pensacola Florida
Matt Buikema / Shutterstock.com

Located on the Florida panhandle, Pensacola has a long-standing military history that helped earn its nickname as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” It ranks in the top quartile for three metrics — 18th for median property taxes at $1,291, 19th for median home value at $182,800 and 22nd for median monthly housing costs at $940.

5. Ocean Springs, MS

Ocean Springs Mississippi
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

Just east of Biloxi and Gulfport on the Mississippi coast, Ocean Springs ranks in the top quartile for all four of the metrics we analyzed. It has the 15th-lowest median home value at $174,000 and ranks 24th out of 218 for median property taxes at $1,445. The median monthly housing cost in Ocean Springs is $1,021, ranking 33rd for this metric in our study. For its average number of rooms per house, at 6.8, the beach town ranks 27th.

6. Bay St. Louis, MS

Bay St Louis Mississippi
Lewis Directed Films / Shutterstock.com

Known for its white sand beaches and charter fishing, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is located a little more than 60 miles east of New Orleans. This Gulf city places in the top 20 for three of our metrics, ranking eighth for median monthly housing costs at $782, 12th for median property taxes paid at $1,140 and 14th for median home value at $172,600. Bay St. Louis homes tend to be slightly smaller, though, ranking in the bottom half of the study (tied at 118th place) with an average of 5.9 rooms per house.

7. Freeport, TX

Freeport Texas
vagabond54 / Shutterstock.com

Located almost 62 miles south of Houston, and about 45 miles southwest of Galveston, Freeport, Texas, has the second-lowest median home value across all 218 cities in the study, at $81,000. And the town also has the second-lowest median monthly housing cost, at $479. Freeport homes, however, are on the smaller side, ranking in the bottom half of this study with just 5.6 rooms on average.

8. Melbourne, FL

Melbourne, Florida
Stephen Wood / Shutterstock.com

Melbourne, Florida, is the highest-ranked beach town on the Atlantic Ocean. Located approximately 35 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center, Melbourne residents average $853 for a median monthly housing cost, ranking 12th for that metric. This city also ranks just outside of the top 10, with the 13th-most affordable median home value, at $169,000. However, Melbourne houses tend to be on the smaller side, ranking in the bottom half of this study (tying with Bay St. Louis, Mississippi at 118th) with an average of 5.9 rooms.

9. Daytona Beach, FL

Daytona Beach Florida
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Widely recognized as a mecca for automobile racing, Daytona Beach, Florida, is located almost 57 miles northeast of Orlando. This Atlantic Coast city is a popular vacation destination, but with a median home value of just $153,000 — the seventh-lowest in our study — it is an attractive option for those who want to live on the beach full-time for relatively cheap. Daytona Beach residents pay only $723 for the median monthly housing cost, the fifth-lowest across all 218 cities we considered.

10. Fort Pierce, FL

Fort Pierce Florida
Laurel A Egan / Shutterstock.com

Rounding out the top 10 on our 2021 list of most affordable beach towns is Fort Pierce, Florida, located approximately 54 miles south of Melbourne. Homeowners in this city pay only $908 in median property taxes, ranking seventh for that metric. Fort Pierce ranks third overall for its affordable median monthly housing cost, at $655. And the median value of a Fort Pierce home is $113,600, also ranking third. But the city falls near the bottom of the study for house size, with an average of just 5.3 rooms per house.

Data and Methodology

A senior couple looks at a tablet on the beach
Lucigerma / Shutterstock.com

In order to find the most affordable beach towns in the country, SmartAsset compared 218 cities located directly on an ocean (including bays and sounds). Specifically, we examined the following four metrics:

  • Home value. This is the median home value in each city. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Number of rooms. This is the average number of rooms per house. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Property taxes. This is the median amount of property taxes paid. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Monthly housing costs. This is the median monthly housing cost. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. Next, we found each city’s average ranking, assigning an equal weight to each metric except for the average number of rooms, which received a half-weight. We then ranked the cities according to this average. The city with the best average ranking received a 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a 0.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Steps to Ensure Your Money Lasts Through Retirement

If you’re reading this, you’re likely someone who: saves money, has built up some assets, and is starting to think about how to create a retirement drawdown strategy – a plan for how to turn your assets into income that will last for life.

Retirement Drawdown StrategyHaving a sound retirement drawdown strategy and keeping to it is crucial if you want to be able to live comfortably in retirement and not spend time worrying about outliving your savings. Most of the financial services industry has been focused on helping people accumulate or save and invest (and their business models are built on this).

How to decumulate, or drawdown, and generate retirement income in a tax efficient way is a complex topic that is starting to get more attention. Here are five steps to decumulation – a retirement drawdown strategy:

In order to set your withdrawal plan you first need to know how much you’ll need and want. From a risk management perspective – try to get the “need to live on” amount as low as possible.

Optimize Your Lifestyle & Expenses

Take a hard look at your expenses and find ways to get as efficient as possible – this is a huge driver of how much you need in retirement. Build a budget, go through all of your expenses – especially recurring expenses. Get rid of bad debt (credit card, car payments, student loans – ideally pay off your mortgage). Consider where you want to live, since that is a huge driver of taxes and expenses in retirement – here are some lower cost/higher quality of life places in the US, and here are some places to retire abroad.

Consider health care and insurance costs. Out of pocket healthcare costs for a 65 year old couple are more than double what the average household has saved. Read up on how Medicare and Medicare Supplemental Insurance work

There is an interesting movement called Financial Independence Retirement Early (FIRE) – the FIRE Community has some great lessons for traditional retirement people around being frugal/efficient and mindful.

What you are spending today. Is not what you’ll be spending next year or in 10 years.  The reality is that for most people their expenses drop by ~ 10% per decade in retirement.

Here are 9 tips for estimating future expenses.

The more income you have in retirement, the less you need to draw down from your assets, so think carefully about this one.

Factor in Part-Time Work

When many people think of retirement they think “no more work” – the reality is that part-time work is part of many people’s retirement – for income, for engagement, to give back, or for social reasons.

It can be a way of breaking down the problem of retirement income into smaller pieces – for example, if you were making $100K a year and think you only need $75K in retirement, then Social Security ($25K) + part-time work ($25K) + drawdown savings ($25K) sounds like a more achievable plan.

Working part time also gives you a hedge if there’s a big market correction – you’ll give yourself more time for your investments to rebound and you might be able to dollar cost average into the lower market prices. Here are some ideas to find a new chapter for yourself by working in retirement.

Maximize Social Security

Recently more people have started getting smarter and are delaying the start of Social Security benefits.

However, about 33% claim Social Security at 62 – which is generally a bad idea. Basically – if you think you’ll have a long life – then you should delay as long as possible since you’re effectively “buying” an inflation adjusted lifetime annuity backed by the US government at a lower rate than you could buy it on the private market. You can explore your breakeven age Social Security here. If you’re married, have the highest earner delay until 70 – here’s why.

Explore Income-Generating Investments

Originally, most equity investments were made with an eye towards how much income they would pay to the stock holder; today dividend paying stocks (or ETFs or mutual funds) play that role along with fixed income (bond/debt) investments, and increasingly more sophisticated investors are looking into alternative investments (“alts” include private equity, hedge funds, managed futures, real estate, commodities, and derivatives contracts). In an ideal world, your investments generate enough income to cover your expenses, but very few people achieve that.

Consider Whether You Want to Buy an Annuity

Annuities are contracts with insurance companies that allow you to “buy” guaranteed income – they can be purchased with qualified or non-qualified money. Qualified Lifetime Annuity Contracts (QLACs) are growing in popularity. These allow you to use qualified savings to buy an annuity for guaranteed income, and as an added bonus, they allow you to delay RMDs until 85.

There are a lot of types of annuities and you need to be careful to make sure you buy one efficiently if you go down this path. See how much lifetime income you can buy with a lifetime annuity calculator.

Many people have some other big levers that they could potentially pull which could significantly impact their retirement drawdown strategy, so it’s worth considering them before they execute their drawdown plan.

Manage Longevity Risk

The single biggest risk that everyone worries about is outliving their money, because no one knows how long they will live. There are a couple of ways to manage this risk:

  • Set your own planning timeline by buying Longevity insurance via a deferred annuity – this effectively lets you set a specific planning time horizon vs. having an open-ended timeline. The basic idea is that you buy an annuity today that doesn’t start until close to your expected mortality date – the cost is cheaper since the insurance company doesn’t think you’ll be around to collect. However, if you are going strong you’ve got income for life. You can get an annuity estimate here if you want.
  • Limit your withdrawals so that your portfolio will last a very long time – otherwise known as the “The 4% Rule.” Limiting withdrawals from your retirement account to be four percent annually in retirement age was thought of as a safe way to ensure that you will not outlive your retirement savings. The concept of limiting your withdrawals has merit (the idea being you mainly draw from expected returns and not principle), but realistically the “four percent rule” must be considered in conjunction with projected life expectancy, taxes, and actual portfolio returns.

Consider Home Equity

For most homeowners, their home equity is about half of their net worth – it ranks within the top ten retirement income tips on NewRetirement for good reason. There are several ways you can access this asset:

  • Downsize – Have property values increased since the time you moved to your current neighborhood? Connect with a residential real estate broker and have a conversation about downsizing, pocketing the equity your home has gained over the years, and potentially slashing more than the cost of your mortgage but of utilities and expenses as well.
  • Co-housing/renting out part of your home – if your home or property is large enough, you could rent out a room or portion of your house to collect a steady flow of rental income.
  • Rent out your entire home and move to a lower cost area or country.
  • Consider getting a reverse mortgage with a line of credit or lifetime income stream of payments.

Stay Healthy and Hedge Healthcare Risk

The main part of enjoying and getting the most out of your retirement is being healthy. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, don’t stress out, be mindful, stay social with your friends, and get out for some nice long walks in the woods – preferably with your dog.

If your health is compromised, you’re much more likely to burn up your hard earned savings. Consider different ways to hedge the risk you’ll need Long Term Care – many people can self insure or buy an annuity or hybrid annuity/LTC product vs. pure long-term care insurance which is being offered by fewer insurers each year.

There are two key parts to a tax efficient retirement drawdown strategy.

Understand How Drawing Assets Impacts Taxes

Drawing assets from different kinds of accounts will impact the taxes you’ll need to pay when you draw down in retirement. There are essentially three places to hold your retirement savings, which are covered below. Ideally, prepare for your drawdown by positioning your savings and investments into the appropriate accounts so they can can be drawn down tax efficiently. The reality for most people is that most of their savings are in qualified accounts. How this money is held goes to the next item – tax efficient drawdowns of these assets.

  1. Pre tax/Qualified (401(k), IRA, HSA) – This is where most people have accumulated their savings since they were able to deduct it from their income when saving it. You save on income taxes now, but will pay income taxes (not lower long-term capital gains taxes) when you draw it out later. The hope is that income taxes are lower in retirement (which may not be the case). Note: if you have a bunch of company stock in your 401K, then read this.
  2. Post Tax /Non-Qualified (normal savings/brokerage accounts) – Some people that are good savers/investors have built up money here. You’ve already paid income taxes and you’ll only be subject to short- or long-term capital gains taxes (which are significantly lower than income taxes; for example, 15% long term capital gains vs. 25% income tax for married people making between $75K to $150K).
  3. Roth IRA – This is an IRA that is subject to the rules applying to a traditional IRA, except that it is post tax money that is invested in a Roth IRA where the savings grow tax free and are also not taxed when you withdraw the money. Note: Roths are not simple, but if you can manage to get more of your money into the Roth vehicle, it can be worth it for you and your heirs since it is not subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) and it can be inherited.

Tax Efficiently Draw Down Assets

Tax efficiently drawdown these assets by managing how you draw the assets from each one. The order in which you approach your retirement matters greatly and can have a huge impact on your retirement income. If you have enough assets, you’ll need to plan your drawdown in a way to try to avoid being pushed into higher tax brackets. The rule of thumb for tax efficient drawdown is the following:

  1. Deplete assets that are already tax effected (non-qualified money above) since it buys you more time for your qualified money to grow.
  2. Use tax-deferred (qualified money) since it allows your tax free (Roth) money to grow. Note that your qualified money will be subject RMDs after age 70 ½ – the IRS has required minimum distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s.
  3. Use Roth tax free money.

Otherwise known as “don’t be forced to sell during a downturn.” A huge risk that anyone living off of their investments faces is being forced to sell assets during a downturn in order to create income to cover living expenses. There are a few big levers to manage this risk:

  • Limit the amount of money you need to generate from selling assets (see expenses, Social Security, and part-time work above).
  • Many people use a “bucket strategy” to divide your retirement savings into “buckets” so your mind can be at ease knowing that you likely won’t need to immediately sell in a downturn. For example:
    • Keep two to five years of retirement income in cash, or cash equivalents like Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS).
    • Keep 25–50% of your retirement savings in a medium risk portfolio with a 5–10 year timeframe.
    • Keep the remainder in a longer term higher risk higher return portfolio.
  • Use some kind of low interest revolving credit facility that you can tap into and payback – for example a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), also known as a reverse mortgage line of credit.

It is always interesting to see how other people are planning. Here is my retirement drawdown strategy: I’m still under 50 years old and more on the accumulation side of things and also facing more than 10 years of college tuition, but here’s how I look at our situation.

Savings

  • Continue to monitor our spending and try to stay as efficient as is practicable .
  • Keep working hard and saving into qualified savings vehicles.
  • Develop a plan to migrate assets into a Roth for tax efficiency.

Investing

  • Like many risk averse investors, I’ve got too high a cash allocation, but I’m invested across a mix of roboadvisor, alts (commercial real estate, hedge fund, Angel investments), home equity, business, and cash.
  • Continue to work hard to make NewRetirement all that it can be and thus more valuable.

Life and Health

  • Continue to try to balance work and life and family and health. 
  • Keep Climbing Mt Tamalpaias on my mountain bike. Plus, other stuff like surfing, hiking, soccer, and skiing.

Drawdown

  • Maximize Social Security for myself and my wife by delaying my claim date until age 70.
  • Work part-time deep into “traditional retirement,” since I like working and find it engaging and rewarding.
  • Over time, shift our investments into income producing, lower volatility, inflation hedged vehicles. For example, commercial real estate.
  • Consider longevity insurance (deferred annuity) and leveraging our home equity (renting and relocating, maybe a HECM line of credit).
  • Continuous tax optimization as the tax regime evolves.

Retirement planning and decumulation is complex and involves big, sometimes long-term decisions. It can pay to have experts in your corner to review your plan or to help you take action to get it implemented. I have a CPA to help me with taxes and sometimes talk with expert legal or financial advisors who act as a fiduciary.

Today, you can find experts who you can pay for a specific service if you need or want help. The NewRetirement Planner is a comprehensive online tool that enables you to model and document most of the ideas and strategies outlined here. It’s a great way to build a free DIY retirement plan that is personalized for your situation. 

Source: newretirement.com

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