Here’s How Much Teachers Are Paid in Every State

Teacher in a classroom
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

The coronavirus pandemic rages on, but one way or another, teachers returned to work last fall and have continued doing their jobs throughout this school year.

Elementary school teachers in the U.S. earned an average annual wage of $63,930 as of 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Middle school teachers earned an average of $63,550 at that same time. High school teachers averaged $65,930 per year.

But teacher pay varies considerably by state. States also vary as to which level pays best. Often, elementary school teachers make less than their middle school and high school counterparts, but not always.

Following are the average annual wages for elementary, middle and high school teachers in each state. The states are ranked based on elementary-school pay.

50. Mississippi

Mississippi road sign
Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $44,060
  • Employment: 12,340

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $48,170
  • Employment: 6,180

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $46,580
  • Employment: 8,850

49. South Dakota

Teacher in a face mask explaining math
Deliris / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $44,110
  • Employment: 4,070

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $44,990
  • Employment: 1,920

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $44,610
  • Employment: 3,500

48. West Virginia

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $45,390
  • Employment: 5,330

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $47,570
  • Employment: 5,160

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $47,610
  • Employment: 4,460

47. Arizona

Asia Images Group / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $45,600
  • Employment: 23,290

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $45,120
  • Employment: 12,330

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,320
  • Employment: 16,990

46. Oklahoma

sevenMaps / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $45,970
  • Employment: 17,980

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $46,360
  • Employment: 8,320

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $47,320
  • Employment: 11,680

45. North Carolina (tie)

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $48,560
  • Employment: 42,520

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $49,620
  • Employment: 18,770

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $49,930
  • Employment: 24,030

44. Louisiana

stockfour / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $48,630
  • Employment: 23,670

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $49,790
  • Employment: 7,600

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,090
  • Employment: 14,810

43. Arkansas

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $48,800
  • Employment: 13,010

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,720
  • Employment: 6,450

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $51,870
  • Employment: 11,940

42. Idaho

Teach online
Agenturfotografin / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $48,880
  • Employment: 8,380

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,970
  • Employment: 1,820

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,640
  • Employment: 6,210

41. Alabama

Young teacher using internet to remotely teach during the coronavirus crisis
Timothy Kuiper / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,270
  • Employment: 23,650

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $51,600
  • Employment: 10,310

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $51,950
  • Employment: 15,230

40. Kansas

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,650
  • Employment: 16,340

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,500
  • Employment: 6,630

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,050
  • Employment: 12,310

39. Missouri

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,920
  • Employment: 22,850

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $51,930
  • Employment: 11,080

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $50,980
  • Employment: 30,640

38. Montana

DGLImages / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,160
  • Employment: 4,920

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,710
  • Employment: 2,070

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,360
  • Employment: 3,670

37. Indiana

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,570
  • Employment: 25,530

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,450
  • Employment: 11,320

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,150
  • Employment: 21,180

36. Kentucky

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,660
  • Employment: 19,270

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,830
  • Employment: 8,160

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,100
  • Employment: 12,280

35. Maine

Young girl in online class with geometry teacher on her laptop
Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $52,860
  • Employment: 5,780

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,740
  • Employment: 3,230

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,260
  • Employment: 5,400

34. South Carolina

DGLImages / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,450
  • Employment: 22,550

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,180
  • Employment: 9,790

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,730
  • Employment: 14,050

33. Tennessee

Undrey / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,540
  • Employment: 30,620

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,880
  • Employment: 13,240

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,060
  • Employment: 20,690

32. Iowa

iofoto / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $53,950
  • Employment: 18,720

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,250
  • Employment: 7,920

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,570
  • Employment: 11,950

31. Colorado

Asian woman teacher checking homework at her desk.
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $54,670
  • Employment: 25,740

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $54,940
  • Employment: 12,980

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,370
  • Employment: 17,580

30. Florida

child reading
KK Tan / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,210
  • Employment: 77,170

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,640
  • Employment: 33,600

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $57,880
  • Employment: 50,640

29. North Dakota

Older teach wearing a face mask in an empty classroom
vladaphotowiz / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $55,630
  • Employment: 4,450

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $59,700
  • Employment: 1,380

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,250
  • Employment: 2,800

28. Texas

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,280
  • Employment: 131,880

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,290
  • Employment: 64,340

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,000
  • Employment: 107,190

27. Nevada

A female teacher in an empty classroom during the pandemic
POP-THAILAND / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $56,980
  • Employment: 10,480

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $59,150
  • Employment: 4,000

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,090
  • Employment: 5,760

26. New Mexico

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $57,330
  • Employment: 7,650

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $49,570
  • Employment: 3,250

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $57,410
  • Employment: 6,880

25. Wisconsin

GagliardiImages / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $57,980
  • Employment: 28,240

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,940
  • Employment: 13,800

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $59,180
  • Employment: 17,880

24. Georgia

Oksana Kuzmina / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,190
  • Employment: 50,250

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,830
  • Employment: 28,440

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $59,860
  • Employment: 26,500

23. Wyoming

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $58,940
  • Employment: 2,550

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $61,340
  • Employment: 1,090

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $61,400
  • Employment: 1,690

22. New Hampshire

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $59,930
  • Employment: 6,070

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $60,290
  • Employment: 3,100

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $60,720
  • Employment: 5,000

21. Nebraska

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $60,390
  • Employment: 9,810

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $62,130
  • Employment: 4,310

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $60,500
  • Employment: 6,890

20. Utah

Students in a classroom during the pandemic
saravutpics / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $60,660
  • Employment: 13,110

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,720
  • Employment: 6,540

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $61,050
  • Employment: 8,920

19. Minnesota

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,250
  • Employment: 22,420

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,790
  • Employment: 9,730

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,960
  • Employment: 20,130

18. Illinois

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,280
  • Employment: 64,270

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,630
  • Employment: 21,700

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $74,340
  • Employment: 44,810

17. Hawaii

Poznyakov / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,360
  • Employment: 5,780

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,520
  • Employment: 2,090

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $62,580
  • Employment: 4,320

16. Vermont

Student in face mask raising hand
Halfpoint / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,480
  • Employment: 3,770

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $61,470
  • Employment: 1,030

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $66,660
  • Employment: 2,770

15. Delaware

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,970
  • Employment: 3,800

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,800
  • Employment: 2,200

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $66,920
  • Employment: 3,330

14. Ohio

Ohio roadway sign
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,090
  • Employment: 57,220

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,510
  • Employment: 30,880

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,410
  • Employment: 47,510

13. Michigan

Teacher writing on blackboard
l i g h t p o e t / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,050
  • Employment: 37,130

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $64,920
  • Employment: 13,910

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $63,000
  • Employment: 22,820

12. Washington

Kids working with robotics.
Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,390
  • Employment: 30,440

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $70,970
  • Employment: 9,430

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $71,690
  • Employment: 14,810

11. Pennsylvania

Hurst Photo / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,630
  • Employment: 57,100

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,330
  • Employment: 26,460

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $66,920
  • Employment: 46,130

10. Virginia

Parent and child use hand sanitizer and face masks at school
1641857584 / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,690
  • Employment: 38,700

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $71,920
  • Employment: 18,300

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,070
  • Employment: 25,620

9. Oregon

Hurst Photo / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $69,980
  • Employment: 15,950

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $70,660
  • Employment: 6,250

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $71,780
  • Employment: 8,840

8. New Jersey

ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $71,880
  • Employment: 40,640

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $73,380
  • Employment: 26,590

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $78,090
  • Employment: 30,230

7. Rhode Island

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $72,310
  • Employment: 4,100

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $75,130
  • Employment: 1,670

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $75,950
  • Employment: 4,840

6. Maryland

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $75,380
  • Employment: 28,610

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $74,400
  • Employment: 14,890

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $77,050
  • Employment: 17,150

5. Alaska

Schoolboy with backpack in snow.
Romrodphoto / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $75,860
  • Employment: 3,820

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $80,730
  • Employment: 1,160

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $75,820
  • Employment: 2,790

4. Connecticut

Teacher on camera during the pandemic
Hananeko_Studio / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $78,070
  • Employment: 15,930

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $79,510
  • Employment: 8,320

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $78,540
  • Employment: 15,820

3. Massachusetts

racorn / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $82,450
  • Employment: 31,430

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $80,520
  • Employment: 15,910

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $81,070
  • Employment: 27,120

2. California

African American woman with grade school students wearing red caps.
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $82,560
  • Employment: 164,910

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $80,160
  • Employment: 39,780

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $85,080
  • Employment: 109,840

1. New York

iofoto / Shutterstock.com

Elementary school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $82,830
  • Employment: 92,560

Middle school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $87,050
  • Employment: 42,010

High school teachers:

  • Average annual wage: $87,240
  • Employment: 75,360

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Does a Year Make a Difference? How to Know Whether to Retire Now or Later

In some cases a year can make a huge difference. Think back to 2019. It was certainly different than 2020 (to say the least). But sometimes years go by and not all that much has changed. Knowing when to retire is a huge decision. It can be easy to put it off a year and then again another year.

Do those years really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? The answer largely depends on your perspective, but the answer is yes. Our choices about when to retire — even waiting just a year — impact both our financial as well as our emotional well being.

Current and Future Value of Your Decision

When figuring out when to retire, you need to think about both the present and your future. What does delaying retirement net you now? What does it mean to your future?

For example: If you retire earlier, can you still afford your future? If you delay retirement, can you be more financially secure without regretting the extra year working?

Let’s take a look at what the real differences are when you delay your retirement one year. What about if you wait another five years or longer?

Your time is your most valuable resource. And, let’s face it, how you spend your time gets increasingly more important as you age. You have fewer years ahead of you and you want to make the best use of them.

You should probably consider time as an important component in your when-to-retire decision making. What does delaying retirement for a year or more mean if you value your time?

If you are happy, fulfilled, and are finding meaning in work, then there is probably no need to rush to retirement. However, if there are other ways to spend your time that you think are more important, then you might want to prioritize retirement sooner rather than later.

Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, writes about how to think about and value your scarcest resource, your time, in her book, Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life.

She became interested in the value of time after observing that people don’t spend money for optimum happiness. (Get tips for how to spend money for happiness.)

Here is what she said on the NewRetirement podcast, “If people are not spending one resource that’s so precious in our lives, money, in a way that promotes happiness, I’m sure that they’re probably not optimizing the way they spend their time, either. And we also became really interested in trying to understand the trade-offs that we make between time and money.”

She advocates taking time seriously. “So I do hear from a lot of my MBAs, a lot of the executives I chat with, saying, ‘Well, once I get this title, once I hit this number in the bank, then I can start focusing on what I would like to do with my time. But it’s not until I achieve this title or achieve this amount of money in the bank that I’m really going to take time seriously.’”

How do you value your time? How can you use that valuation to inform your decision of when to retire?

If you have a pension, waiting a year can make a HUGE difference between vesting into income or not. For most pension holdings, when they qualify for income is the most pivotal factor for when to retire.

This could be a million-dollar decision. Don’t retire before you get your pension.

(The other big decision is whether you take your pension as a lump sum or as payments)

There are a few considerations to think about with regards to delaying retirement and what that means for your Social Security retirement income.

First, you can retire from work and delay the start of Social Security. And if this is your decision, then when you retire might not have appreciable financial considerations.

However, if you need to start Social Security right away after you retire and you haven’t yet turned 70, then you may take a financial hit. Depending on your Social Security earnings and how long you live, the difference between starting Social Security at age 62 and age 70 can be a $500,000 decision in lifetime value.

But, what is the difference of just delaying the start of Social Security for one year?

Higher Earner: Let’s say you are a relatively high earner and will be earning the maximum Social Security benefit available. If this is true, then your monthly benefit at your Full Retirement Age (66 for most people) would be around $3100. If you were to delay for a year, then you could boost your monthly benefit to around $3300. That is a $200 monthly and a $2400 a year difference. The boost would result in almost an extra $50,000 over a 20-year retirement. 

Average Earner: What about someone more average? Does delaying a year still make a big difference? The average Social Security benefit at Full Retirement Age is $1,500. Delaying the start for two years boosts monthly income by an extra $200. That is a $2,400 a year difference and would result in an extra $48,000 over a 20-year retirement.

So, delaying retirement a year can indeed make a big difference in Social Security income because it is a decision that impacts you not just in one year, but over your lifetime.

Model different Social Security start ages in the NewRetirement Planner.

Retirement and retirement planning depends on a variety of inter-related levers: your income, expenses, how much you save, and how much you withdraw from savings will all be impacted whether or not you have work income.

Here are some estimates of what delaying retirement by a year might mean with regards to work income:

Let’s start with the obvious. Delaying retirement gives you an extra year of income. And that is no small chunk of change at probably $50,000 or more, perhaps much more.

Retiring early simply means that you aren’t banking that money or are able to use it for living expenses (and you need to pay for life somehow).

Work income enables you to delay making withdrawals to cover expenses. And, this delay enables the money to stay invested and continue to grow. So, the value of delaying a year can be equal to whatever you would have taken out of savings PLUS your returns on that money.

Many people withdraw about 4% of their savings a year (review 18 of the best withdrawal and retirement income strategies) and the average retirement savings for someone in their 60s is around $200,000.

So, with those averages, delaying that withdrawal for a year would net you $8,000 plus however much your money might appreciate.  (The appreciation might be $1500 over 20 years at a six percent return.)

When you are working, you might have higher (or lower) expenses than when you retire — depending on your personal situation.

You’ll want to think about commuting costs, lunches out, fancy coffee on your way to work and your wardrobe — well, if we ever get out of the pandemic anyway. And, if you choose to retire, you’ll want to carefully consider if your expenses will go up or down. Many people find that they spend a lot more after retirement. Explore best ways to budget for retirement. Or, create a detailed future budget in the NewRetirement Planner.

However, the biggest potential factor with regards to expenses and when to retire might be where you live. If you intend to relocate after retirement, this can be a pretty massive financial factor. Buying and selling a home is a big decision and timing those transactions can mean big swings in value. Relocation is another factor that can be modeled in the NewRetirement Planner.

Expenses can’t be easily generalized — delaying retirement a year might result in a higher or lower burn rate. So, let’s just call it even. (But we really recommend that if you are considering when to retire, do detailed personalized planning so that you can feel confident with your decision.)

First, do you know how much savings you need to have the retirement you want? (Use the NewRetirement Planner to get a detailed and reliable estimate.) If you don’t have enough and an extra year or more in the workforce could get you there, then keep working.

But maybe you want extra cushion or to leave behind a bigger financial legacy. Working longer could potentially enable you to contribute greatly to savings.

Extra savings — especially if you are able to do catch up savings — can be a great use of an extra year in the workforce. You are allowed to save up to $33,000 in tax-advantaged accounts after the age of 55 (as of writing).  (And, those savings might appreciate $6500 over 20 years.)

Many workplaces offer benefits in addition to salary. Health insurance and 401(k) matching are notable big ticket items that should be considered if debating if you should delay retirement a year.

If you are retiring before you are eligible for Medicare at 65, then you may face huge out of pocket insurance costs. And, if your employer offers 401k matching, then you will be walking away from that cash.

Health Insurance: Fidelity estimates that out of pocket costs for healthcare are just shy of $12,000 a year.

401(k) Matching: The most common employer match is 50 cents on the dollar of up to 6% of your salary. So, at a $150,000 salary, an employer might be adding $4,500 to your retirement account (assuming you saved at least $9,000).

Yes. Delaying retirement by a year can be meaningful. But, the reality is entirely dependent on your personal situation. Without counting appreciation on the additional savings, here is how it adds up:

Social Security: A year could mean a $0–$500,000 difference. Let’s take the modest example and say it costs you $50,000

Pension: (Because few people have a pension, and almost no one would retire before they vest, we’ll leave it out of this summation.)

Work Income: $50,000+

Work Benefits: $16,500 ($12,000 for health insurance and $4,500 for employer match)

Delayed Savings Withdrawals: $8,000+

Savings Contributions: $33,000 (if you can max out catch up contributions)

Your Time: As the TV commercial used to say, PRICELESS

There is a huge range for what delaying your retirement for just one year might cost you — but it is safe to say that $100–$200 thousand is a conservative estimate , except that your time really is priceless. At a minimum, it has some value to you that should offset whatever you might gain from working longer.

Use the NewRetirement Planner to run scenarios for what delaying retirement a year — or moving it up five years — might mean to you. Just remember to balance the financial side of the equation with how you really want to be spending time.

Source: newretirement.com

11 Ways Spending Money Can Bring You Joy

They were wrong. The answer to the question does money buy happens is… yes! In fact, the research is overwhelming. And, there are actually multiple ways to spend to increase happiness. Here are 11 ways to spend money to buy happiness.

does money buy happiness?

The following 11 tips are valuable whether you are 75, 65, 55 or 15!

Time is indeed more precious than money.

Research has found that when people spend money on time saving services like a house cleaner, gardener or take out and grocery delivery, they can feel happier than if they are spending on material goods. 

How much happier? The researchers report: “What we found is that people who spent money to buy time reported being almost one full point higher on our 10-point ladder, compared to people who did not use money to buy time,” Dunn explains. People from across the income spectrum benefited from “buying time,” she adds.”

It makes sense. People who feel time crunched are stressed and research suggests that they are less active and less able to be around friends and family — both  proven to increase happiness.

Saving is a form of spending.

People who have a written retirement or financial independence plan are more likely to adequately save and make better financial decisions. Furthermore, people with a plan are more confident and experience less worry and stress.

Use the NewRetirement Planner to create your roadmap to a more secure, wealthier and happier future. Find out how much you need for financial independence, if you are saving enough, whether or not you’ll run out of money in the future and how to get on track plus guidance for better decision making.

3. Invest in Experiences

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ―Eleanor Roosevelt

When it comes to discretionary spending, you have a lot of choices for how to spend your money.  There are two broad categories of spending. You can buy things or experiences.

If you want to buy happiness, invest in experiences.

Over the past 15 plus years, an abundance of psychological research has concluded that  buying experiences improves our well being far more than buying stuff. A new car, sweater or bike simply aren’t going make you feel as good as going on a hike, concert, vacation or almost any other experience.

In 2003, Thomas Gilovich was the first to put forth this idea.  He has added to his research and has shown time after time that experiences are what bring us happiness. And, he has also shown that experiences trump material possessions for pleasantness and excitement as well as happiness.

Part of the reason that experiences are better at returning happiness is that experiences enable you to anticipate an event and, more importantly, you are left with memories to draw on for the rest of your life.

NOTE: Additional research has shown some interesting demographic differences.  The happiness advantage of experiential spending is stronger for women than for men. And, other studies suggest that it is more relevant to young people and those who are highly educated.

Throw a party! Meet up for lunch! Travel across the country to reunite with college buddies! Take your kids or grandkids on a cruise.  These things cost money (and may have to wait until after the pandemic), but they connect you to other people. And, money spent on strengthening social bonds is money well spent if happiness is your goal.

However, if you can’t make the experience social, additional research suggests that talking about what you did — telling stories, showing pictures and sharing how it made you feel — can also increase your happiness return on investment.

Experiences that put you in a state of flow are some of the surest to deliver an immediate sense of well being. Flow? What is flow?

Psychology Today defines flow as follows: “Flow is when a person [1] is engaged in a doable task, [2] is able to focus, [3] has a clear goal, [4] receives immediate feedback, [5] moves without worrying, [6] has a sense of control, [7] has suspended the sense of self, and [8] has temporarily lost a sense of time.”

Think about experiences where you are so totally engrossed in a task that you lose the sense of time. Flow activities can be physical, intellectual, work related, anything.

In addition to improving happiness, flow has been proven to improve well being, concentration, self esteem and performance.

A 2008 study gave participants $20 to spend on themselves and $20 to spend on someone else.  Guess which expenditure delivered greater happiness? Yep. Spending on someone else.

Treating others — even with a minor amount of money can deliver happiness. (Did you hear about the recent “pay it forward” chain that happened at a Minnesota Diary Queen? A succession of 900 strangers bought the meals of the car behind them! Dairy Queen manager Tina Jensen told the Washington Post, “This was a feel-good moment at a time when we really needed to hear some happy stories.”

A 2011 study suggests that — for happiness — it is important that you spend money on people you are close to and care about. Study participants who recalled spending a modest amount of money on someone close to them reported feeling more positive emotion than those who remembered spending on a mere acquaintance. 

Charitable giving is a solid recommendation for how to spend money for happiness. 

However, research suggests that if you know exactly how your money will be spent and, ideally, can see the spending in action, then you will feel happier than just giving the money to an organization without knowing or seeing the impact.

Not all material purchases deliver less happiness than experiences.

Studies have shown that if you can think about how you experience things, then you are more likely to experience happiness (or, at least, less regret) from a purchase.

So, if you buy a new car, think about the purchase in terms of the exciting road trips you’ll take, how you can see better out the windows and will better enjoy the view or how the stereo system will enable you to belt out your favorite tunes on the way to the grocery store.

Whether possessions or experiences, spending that is a reflection of your personality or identity can make you happy.

A 2016 study found that people with a better match between their personality and the personality of their purchases reported more satisfaction with life. So, if you love travel and identify with an adventuresome lifestyle, then spending money on travel (an experience) or even a travel gadget (possession) will both give you joy. Whereas, if you consider yourself a technology geek, then the new iphone (a possession) might indeed give you happiness.

And, follow up research focused on the differences between spending by introverts and extroverts. Your personality type will define the type of spending that makes you happy.  Introverts found happiness spending $10 in a quiet bookstore whereas extroverts loved spending on a drink in a crowded bar — but not vice versa.

11. Spend Within Your Lifetime Means

Even if you are spending on experiences or people you love, if you are spending beyond your means, you are bound to be stressed and unhappy.

And, over spending is not just a matter of your monthly finances.

It may be useful for you to think about your finances not as a monthly inflow and outflow, but rather as a big pool that you fill up or drain over your entire life. Think in terms of the lifetime value of your financial decisions rather than simply how it impacts you today.

You see, in life, you have a finite amount of time to create a finite amount of money. That money is used to fund your entire life.  Spending more now, means that you have less to spend later.  Saving more now means spending less in the near term, but more in the future. 

Creating and maintaining a detailed retirement plan is a great way to visualize and manage your total pool of resources over your entire lifetime.

Dive in! Get your pool started now with the NewRetirement Planner.

Source: newretirement.com

4 Top Retirement Planning Tips from Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett earned his nickname honestly. The Oracle of Omaha’s success at investing is legendary, and he has ranked among the world’s wealthiest people time and again. But Buffett isn’t your typical wealthy business magnate. His retirement planning advice isn’t just for the rich and famous – it works for everyone.

President Barack Obama meets with Warren Buffett, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, in the Oval Office, July 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

He’s known as frugal, still living in the same home in Nebraska that he’s owned for decades, and surprisingly down to earth, especially considering his net worth. If anyone knows how to build wealth, it’s him. And here are some of his best tips for creating a comfortable retirement.

Investing isn’t for the faint of heart. But because most everyone should be investing, that leaves a large portion of society at odds with a bad case of nerves every time the market wobbles. Jeff Rose, a certified financial planner, writes for U.S. News & World Report that Buffett’s strategy is long-haul investing. The people who weather the storms usually come out on the other side in a better position.

If the daily ups and downs get to you, you’re selling yourself short. Buffett believes that investors should stay the course, even when you’d really rather cash in your chips and go home. Pay more attention to stocks using index funds, and less attention to short-term gains and you’re more likely to come out ahead.

Bonds and other cash-based investments might seem safe, but Buffett believes that they’re anything but. In the book, “Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012: A FORTUNE Magazine Book,” he warns that currency-based investments, even money-market funds, can be downright dangerous.

Currency-based investments are dependent on the value of the dollar, which means that even mortgages as investments are risky. He says “the dollar has fallen 86 percent in value since 1965.”

Retirement isn’t the end. If it was, you wouldn’t need to spend so much time and exert so much effort planning the financial side of it. So while you should devote a healthy amount of attention to retirement income, don’t forget to plan what you’ll do after retirement.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Buffett says retired folks need a purpose. Without it, you risk losing your health. Plan for retirement as if it’s the next phase of your life (which it is) instead of the slow wind down (which it otherwise could become).

You shouldn’t devote too much time to planning what you’ll one day leave to your family. Retirement is about your life, not how you can finance everyone else’s. That doesn’t mean that you should only think about yourself, but that you shouldn’t risk your own security and happiness for the sake of people who should also be working toward their own.

In “Tap Dancing to Work … ” Buffett suggests that “the perfect amount is enough money so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” He intends to leave more (by far) to charity than to his family.

It’s sometimes difficult to think about following the advice of people who might as well be considered professional billionaires. Sure, they can invest a certain way because they can afford to. But Warren Buffett uses plain common sense when it comes to investments, and you can, too.

NewRetirement can also help you create the best possible life after you decide to leave the workforce full time. Whether you’re beginning from the ground up or just looking for ways to improve on what you’ve already got, we can help. For the best place to start, check out our retirement calculator. You’ll see where you stand, and find out more about how to get to where you want to be.

Source: newretirement.com

The 9 Top Reasons Mortgage Loans Are Denied in the U.S.

Although interest rates have inched up recently, they remain at historic lows, spurring demand in both home purchases and mortgage refinancing. However, many lenders have tightened up their borrowing standards due to the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, and hopeful loan applicants may find it hard to get approved. According to loan-level mortgage data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the denial rate for conventional, single-family loans was 18.8% (excluding withdrawn and incomplete applications) in 2019.

Mortgage application denial rates vary by purpose of the loan. When considering total loan applications for conventional, single-family loans, 2,055,774 applications were denied. At 43%, denial rates were highest for home improvement loans. Loans for home purchases had the lowest denial rate, at just 10%. Refinancing applications, both with and without a cash-out component, had denial rates in between, at 16% for non-cash-out and 18% for cash-out refinance loans.

Mortgage application denial rates vary not only by purpose of the loan but also by the race and ethnicity of the applicant. Non-Hispanic White applicants and co-applicants of different races (“Joint”) had the lowest denial rates at 17%. Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and applicants of two or more minority races all had a denial rate that was more than twice as high as that for White applicants. Hispanic or Latino borrowers also had high denial rates, at nearly 30%. The difference in denial rates reflects differences in credit profiles and application types across different demographic groups, but it also may reflect racial and ethnic discrimination in lending behavior.

Loan approvals and denials also vary widely by location. Denial rates skew higher in the South, Southeast, and parts of the Northeast, while denial rates are much lower in the Midwest. This could be due to varying demographic makeups and local job market conditions. At the state level, Mississippi and Florida have the highest mortgage denial rates in the U.S. at 27.3% and 25%, respectively. At the opposite end of the spectrum, North Dakota has the lowest mortgage denial rate in the country, at just 10.2%.

To find the top reasons mortgage loans are denied, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The researchers ranked reasons mortgage loans are denied based on the percentage of all denials mentioning each reason. For each reason that mortgage loans are denied, researchers also calculated the total annual denials and the percentage of denials that were due to that reason for several loan types: home purchase, refinancing, cash-out refinancing, and home improvement.

The Top Reasons Mortgage Loans Are Denied

Couple stressed about bills

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Debt-to-income ratio

  • Percentage of all denials: 37.2%
  • Total annual denials: 765,772
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 36.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 38.0%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 35.4%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 37.2%

The debt-to-income ratio (DTI) ratio is the share of gross monthly income (pre-tax) that goes towards debt payments (rent or mortgage, car payment, credit cards, student loans, etc.). A lower DTI can help applicants get approved for a mortgage.

Paying with a credit card

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Credit history

  • Percentage of all denials: 34.8%
  • Total annual denials: 715,393
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 34.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 24.8%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 25.8%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 44.8%

A mortgage applicant’s credit history gives lenders an idea of how risky it is to loan an applicant money. Credit history is a record of how an individual repays debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and other bills.

Fixer upper house in disrepair

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Collateral

  • Percentage of all denials: 19.7%
  • Total annual denials: 404,084
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 13.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 18.5%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 19.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 23.4%

Insufficient collateral means that the home an applicant is trying to purchase, refinance, or borrow against is not worth enough compared to the proposed loan amount.

Mortgage loan

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Other

  • Percentage of all denials: 12.9%
  • Total annual denials: 265,772
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 13.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 12.9%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 15.0%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 12.0%

The “Other” category covers all other reasons that an applicant could be denied a home loan besides the eight covered by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and listed here.

Woman filling out paperwork

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Credit application incomplete

  • Percentage of all denials: 8.9%
  • Total annual denials: 183,024
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.5%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 14.4%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 14.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 4.1%

Incomplete credit applications lack the necessary information for the lender to make a credit decision, resulting in a loan denial.

Tax forms

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6. Unverifiable information

  • Percentage of all denials: 6.7%
  • Total annual denials: 137,968
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 5.8%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 4.5%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 6.4%

Mortgage denials due to unverifiable information often arise from inaccuracies in an applicant’s employment history or tax records or discrepancies between the application and credit report.

Writing a check

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Insufficient cash (down payment, closing costs)

  • Percentage of all denials: 4.0%
  • Total annual denials: 82,354
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 8.6%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 4.0%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 4.4%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 1.4%

Mortgage applicants must have sufficient funds to cover down payments and closing costs and fees, or lenders may deny their application.

Woman learning on the job

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Employment history

  • Percentage of all denials: 1.8%
  • Total annual denials: 37,567
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 3.9%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 1.4%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 1.6%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 1.0%

Mortgage lenders prefer that applicants have worked in the same field for at least two years. However, a new job is not necessarily a hurdle to securing a loan as long as it pays a steady salary.

Stressed out man

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Mortgage insurance denied

  • Percentage of all denials: 0.1%
  • Total annual denials: 1,665
  • Percentage of home purchase denials: 0.2%
  • Percentage of refinancing denials: 0.1%
  • Percentage of cash-out refinancing denials: 0.0%
  • Percentage of home improvement denials: 0.0%

Mortgage insurance protects the lender and allows borrowers making a down payment of less than 20% to still qualify for a home loan. Applicants who are denied mortgage insurance that need it are also likely to be declined for their loan.

Detailed Findings & Methodology

A low debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is the number one reason that mortgage applications are denied. Over 37% of denied applications had a low DTI as a reason for denial. This rate is constant across home purchase loans, refinancing loans, and home improvement loans. The second most common reason for mortgage application denials is credit history, accounting for almost 35% of denials. Indeed, credit history was a reason that almost 45% of home improvement loans were denied. The third most common reason for mortgage application denials is collateral, which was cited in about one out of five mortgage denials. Together, these top three reasons account for the vast majority of mortgage denials.

Less common reasons for mortgage denials are an incomplete credit application, unverifiable information, insufficient cash, employment history, and mortgage insurance denied. While most applications list one denial reason, some applications list two or more.

To find the top reasons mortgage loans are denied, researchers at Construction Coverage analyzed the latest data from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The researchers ranked reasons mortgage loans are denied according to the percentage of all denials mentioning each reason. For each reason that mortgage loans are denied, researchers also calculated the total annual denials and the percentage of denials that were due to that reason for several loan types: home purchase, refinancing, cash-out refinancing, and home improvement.

Only conventional, single-family mortgage applications were considered in the analysis. In the calculation of denial rates, withdrawn and incomplete applications were excluded.

Source: constructioncoverage.com

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Doctor examining a senior patient's ear
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Turning 65 brings access to senior discounts galore, but there is no benefit of senior citizenship quite like Medicare.

The federal program extends subsidized health insurance primarily to folks age 65 and older. But, while Medicare coverage comes with numerous freebies, it is hardly free.

Medicare beneficiaries pay into the system via taxes withheld from their pay during their working years. Additionally, Medicare coverage is not all-inclusive: Beneficiaries must cover all or part of certain medical expenses.

If you are already on Medicare, you already know that — perhaps painfully well. But the costs associated with coverage can come as a surprise to folks who have yet to sign up for Medicare.

So, here’s a look at some of the most expensive, most common and most surprising health care costs that Medicare does not cover.

First, though, note that your out-of-pocket costs under Medicare will vary depending on your coverage type. When enrolling in Medicare, you’ll choose between two main types of Medicare:

  • Original Medicare (aka traditional Medicare), which is offered directly by the federal government’s Medicare program
  • Medicare Advantage plans (aka Medicare Part C plans), which are offered by private insurers that are approved by the Medicare program

Medicare Advantage plans must cover all the same services that Original Medicare covers. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover other expenses, too. So, as you read on, remember that some of the following costs may not apply with certain Medicare Advantage plans.

1. Care you receive outside the U.S.

Tourists on a street in Europe.
goodluz / Shutterstock.com

For many, retirement is a perfect time to see the world. Just be sure you first understand what your insurance will and won’t cover when you travel.

With a few limited exceptions, Original Medicare does not pay for health care that you receive while traveling outside of the United States or its territories. Medicare prescription drug plans — which are supplemental plans that people with Original Medicare can opt to buy — don’t cover prescriptions you buy outside of the U.S., either.

How to lower your costs: If you have Original Medicare, you have the option to buy a supplemental Medicare health insurance plan, also known as a Medigap plan, from a private insurer. Depending on the specific plan, it might cover any care you receive while traveling.

Another option is to buy travel insurance that includes coverage for health care.

2. Premiums

A senior lifts his eyeglasses in surprise at a bill while working at his kitchen table with a laptop computer
Proxima Studio / Shutterstock.com

You might be surprised to learn that even federally subsidized health insurance can have premiums, but that is the case with Medicare.

For 2021, the monthly premium for Part B — the component of Medicare plans that primarily covers services you receive outside of a hospital — is $148.50 or more, depending on your income. Usually, this premium is deducted from your Social Security benefits check.

Seniors with Medicare Advantage usually pay a premium for their plan in addition to the Part B premium.

One bit of good news: A vast majority of seniors do not pay a premium for Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital services.

How to lower your costs: The Part B premiums are fixed. There’s nothing you can do about them.

Again, if you have Original Medicare, you could buy a supplemental Medigap policy, which would pay for some expenses that Original Medicare does not cover.

The Part B premium generally isn’t among the costs that Medigap plans cover, though. So, if you bought a Medigap plan, you will still have to pay the Part B premium — plus the Medigap plan premium.

Still, a Medigap plan is worth the extra cost in some cases — especially if you were to face big medical bills. To learn more, see “How to Pick the Best Medicare Supplement Plan in 4 Steps.”

3. Long-term care

Nursing Home
Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com

Long-term care refers to medical and nonmedical services for people who are unable to perform basic daily tasks like dressing or bathing on their own. You may receive long-term care in your home, in the community or at an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Like most health insurance plans, Medicare generally does not cover long-term care costs, which are notoriously high.

The national median cost of long-term care ranges from $1,603 per month for adult day health care to $8,821 per month for a private room at a nursing home, as we report in “11 Huge Retirement Costs That Are Often Overlooked.”

How to lower your costs: Start by considering long-term care insurance. For help determining whether it would be a smart buy for you, check out Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s advice in “Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?”

4. Dental care

Dental patient
Kulniz / Shutterstock.com

Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover some dental services. It depends on the specifics of the plan.

Original Medicare does not cover most dental care, procedures or supplies — including:

  • Cleanings
  • Fillings
  • Tooth extractions
  • Dentures
  • Dental plates
  • Other dental devices

There are some exceptions. For example, Original Medicare covers certain dental services that you get while in a hospital. But aside from exceptions, seniors on Original Medicare plans are stuck paying for 100% of their dental expenses.

How to lower your costs: Check out “5 Ways to Slash Dental Care Costs.”

5. Hearing aids

Otolaryngologist putting hearing aid in woman's ear
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

Some Medicare Advantage plans may pay for hearing aids, but Original Medicare doesn’t cover them. So, if you have Original Medicare, you are responsible for 100% of the cost of hearing aids themselves and exams to fit hearing aids.

Original Medicare generally does cover 80% of the Medicare-approved cost of diagnostic hearing exams — meaning those that a health care provider orders to determine whether you need medical treatment. The patient or the patient’s Medigap plan pays the other 20%, though a deductible applies.

How to lower your costs: Check out “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Hearing Aids.”

6. Routine vision care

Older woman in eyeglasses
Diego Cervo / Shutterstock.com

Some Medicare Advantage plans cover some vision-related expenses, but Original Medicare typically does not cover eyeglasses or contact lenses or exams for eyeglasses or contacts. So, 100% of those costs is on you.

Original Medicare does cover eye exams for patients with diabetes. It also covers tests for glaucoma and macular degeneration. It even covers artificial eyes that your doctor orders. So, a senior on Original Medicare is responsible for only 20% of such expenses, after a deductible.

How to lower your costs: Check out “Lookin’ Good! How to Get a Killer Deal on Eyeglasses.”

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

The Average Homeowner Could Reap $4,000 a Year by Refinancing

Tips for Your Mortgage Refinance Savings | Money

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Source: money.com

Never Buy These 10 Things on Amazon

Shopper upset about an online purchase
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It’s hard to beat having things delivered straight to your door — even when you’re not stuck at home due to a pandemic.

Amazon has made it easy for anyone to order just about anything and have it delivered to their doorstep. But just because you can purchase something on Amazon, it doesn’t mean you should.

Following are some purchases that we don’t think you should ever make on Amazon — and our reasons why.

1. Kirkland-branded items

Costco's Kirkland Signature brand of organic creamy almond butter
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When you buy Kirkland-branded products on Amazon, you are buying from a third-party reseller, as Costco doesn’t sell its private-label products on Amazon. Costco says on its website that “Costco.com will not be liable for merchandise once it has been signed for and approved by the third party facility.”

Additionally, because Kirkland products on Amazon have gone through a third-party reseller, it’s possible that some of those products could be counterfeit or expired. A 2019 Quartz analysis also found that Kirkland products tend to be more expensive on Amazon.

If you have a Costco close to you, consider shopping there. Many items are also available to order on Costco.com and can be shipped to your home.

Even if you don’t have a membership, you still can shop at warehouses if you pay with a Costco gift card and shop online if you pay a surcharge, as we detail in “7 Ways to Shop at Costco Without a Membership.”

2. Add-on items you don’t need

Amazon boxes seen piled up on a doorstep
Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock.com

Amazon offers what it calls “add-on items” — items that are low-priced but only available for purchase if your order totals $25.

While many of the add-on items are great deals, you will end up spending money to save money — which is never a good idea — if you buy an add-on item you don’t need.

Stick to buying add-on items that are already on your shopping list and avoid buying ones that simply looked good at the time.

3. Trader Joe’s products

R.A. Walker Photography / Shutterstock.com

Trader Joe’s items sold on Amazon can come with a high markup compared with buying in a store. They are sold by third-party sellers who may list damaged, expired or even counterfeit products.

A Trader Joe’s representative told Refinery 29 in 2019, “We do not authorize the reselling of our products and cannot stand behind the quality, safety or value of any Trader Joe’s product sold outside of our store.”

For more TJ’s shopping guidance, check out “15 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s.”

4. Paper towels

Couple using paper towels
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

It’s easy to assume that household items such as paper towels are cheaper on Amazon. However, Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher has a different take:

“Every single time I’ve compared per-square-foot prices, Costco’s Kirkland paper towels have been cheaper than even Amazon’s own brands of paper towels (Presto and Solimo). That was even the case on Prime Day.”

You might also find cheaper paper towels at stores like Walmart. So, compare prices before pulling out your credit card.

5. Ikea products

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Since Ikea locations can be out of the way, it’s tempting to order their products online via Amazon. But Ikea no longer sells products online via Amazon, so everything you see on Amazon comes from third-party sellers.

Ikea offers many of its items online. You’ll pay at least $5 for shipping, but you’ll know that what you are getting is a new and genuine Ikea item.

6. Off-brand accessories for Apple devices

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Acessories for Apple devices are not cheap, so it’s tempting to hop on Amazon and search for off-brand versions. But knock-off chargers, for example, can damage your iPhone’s motherboard — which isn’t easily or cheaply repaired.

Vice explains:

“The Geniuses at the Apple won’t be able to help, either — they can’t make repairs to the motherboard. So if you don’t want to be stuck buying a new phone, you’ll have to go to an independent repair shop that offers microsoldering services. They’re the only ones who will be able to revive a mangled motherboard. Of course, it’s much easier to just avoid knock-off chargers in the first place.”

7. Almost anything else that is cheaper elsewhere

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Don’t assume that Amazon has the best price on everything. At least comparison-shop at other online retailers before clicking the “buy” button.

Amazon’s prices also fluctuate, so something may be cheaper one day and more expensive the next. But free tools like CamelCamelCamel can tell you how the price for a certain item has fluctuated over time, which gives you a sense of whether Amazon’s current price is good.

To learn about other tools like CamelCamelCamel, check out “7 Free Tools for Saving More Money on Amazon.”

8. Fresh produce

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If you order your food through Amazon Fresh — Amazon’s grocery delivery and pickup service — the quality of fresh produce can vary. You are relying on a shopper to select produce for you, so you may not get what you want.

When you go to a local store, on the other hand, you can pick out your own produce, ensuring you get the best size and quality for the price.

9. Anything with reviews you didn’t vet

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You find what seems like a great product at an even better price and all the reviews are glowing. That’s an automatic buy, right? Not necessarily. Amazon has had issues with fake reviews in the past — as CNET reported in 2019, for example — so you might not want to take Amazon reviews at face value.

Fortunately, free tools like Fakespot and ReviewMeta can help by giving you an idea of how authentic reviews of a particular item are.

10. Designer items sold by third parties

Nejron Photo / Shutterstock.com

While some designers sell their products through Amazon, many of the listings you will find are from third parties. So, it’s important to scrutinize each listing to ensure that the item you’re buying is sold by the company or an authorized reseller.

When buying through a third-party seller that is not an authorized reseller, there is no way to verify that what you’re getting is authentic.

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 Ways Couples Can Maximize Credit Card Rewards

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Rewards points are good. What’s even better? Wringing all you can from credit card rewards programs by teaming up with your spouse or partner.

Couples who plan together and coordinate their spending can reap bigger benefits.

Here’s how to get started.

1. Become an authorized user on your partner’s card

When you are the primary credit card account holder — meaning you applied for and were approved for the card — you can authorize a spouse or partner to be a user on your account.

The authorized user gets their own copy of your card in their name and can charge purchases with it. You are still responsible for paying the bill, but this move gives an authorized user who can qualify only for secured credit cards or high-fee cards on their own the opportunity to use a no-fee rewards card.

2. Run up rewards points faster

When partners become authorized users on each other’s rewards cards, they also can rack up points, cash back and other rewards faster than each person would earn alone.

Suppose, for example, that your rewards card pays extra points for gas and grocery purchases, but your partner’s card offers better rewards on travel. If each one of you carries both cards, you both can make sure to use the first card whenever buying groceries, for example, no matter who goes to the store.

This way, you get the maximum possible reward for every single purchase, no matter what type of purchase it is or which partner makes it.

3. Earn a double sign-up bonus

When you find a card you want that offers a big signup bonus, double your rewards by both applying — but separately — for the card.

One example: The Alaska Airlines Visa card through Bank of America offers 50,000 free airline miles to new cardholders. You can double that — earning 100,000 air miles altogether — if you both get your own card.

Pay close attention to the promotion’s rules. To collect this reward, for instance, you’ve got to make at least $2,000 in purchases with the card in the first 90 days.

Unless you have a big purchase in mind, it may harder than you’d think to hit that spending goal. One possible solution: Apply at least several months apart to give yourselves a realistic amount of time to reach the card’s initial spending minimum.

Caution:

  • Don’t go nuts. Before applying, check your budget. (We recommend Money Talks News partner YNAB, short for “You Need A Budget.”) Can you afford the minimum spending without buying stuff you don’t need or stretching your budget?
  • Applying for new credit cards can ding your credit your score, so it’s not something you want to do if you also are, say, looking to get a mortgage soon. Would it hurt you if your credit score dropped a bit?

4. Snap up a referral bonus

Some cards offer a bonus if you refer a friend who also gets that card. You might earn, for example, $100 cash back, 15,000 bonus points or 10,000 frequent flier miles.

To get those rewards, spouses or partners can refer each other. Do this only if you want to have the card anyway, and it has no fee. Or, if there is a fee, it is less than bonus or points you stand to collect.

5. Boost a low credit score

An authorized user with a low credit score may be able to boost their score if the primary user’s credit is strong. (Be sure the authorized user’s status will be reported to credit bureaus.)

This works best “if the primary user’s card has a long record of on-time payments and the authorized user doesn’t have recent blemishes on their credit report,” Nerd Wallet says.

For more help in this department, check out “7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast.“

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 Ways to Get Your FICO Credit Score for Free

Man checking his credit score
Photo by garagestock / Shutterstock.com

A good credit score is the key that unlocks the door to better loan terms, an improved chance of getting a rental apartment and even the odds of landing a job.

So, this three-digit number packs a punch. Knowing the score reveals whether you need to work to improve your credit score.

In the past, you’d have to pay to see your credit score. But that has changed. Today, you can get a free score from any of the following sources.

1. Discover

Anyone can access their credit score for free through the Discover Free Credit Scorecard program.

You don’t have to be a Discover customer to sign up for the service. It not only provides your credit score, but also will notify you of new accounts on your Experian credit report and send an alert if your Social Security number is found on the dark web.

2. Credit cards

Through the FICO Score Open Access program, FICO works with more than 200 financial institutions to provide their partners’ customers with free access to credit scores. The following credit card issuers are among those participating in the program:

  • Citi
  • Barclaycard
  • HSBC

3. Lenders

If you have student loans, an auto loan or a mortgage, you may also be able to get a free FICO score through your lender. Here are a few of the loan companies that have partnered with the FICO Score Open Access program:

  • Sallie Mae
  • Payoff
  • Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance

4. Banks and credit unions

Dozens of banks and credit unions across the country also offer access to free FICO scores through FICO Open Access. These include both large and small institutions. Here are a few examples:

  • SunTrust
  • Bank of America
  • Affinity Federal Credit Union

Depending on the institution, free scores may only be available to customers enrolled in certain products, and the program may change.

5. Credit counselors

If you’re using the services of a credit-counseling program to improve your finances, you may be eligible for a free FICO score through that organization via the FICO Score Open Access program.

Partner organizations (see them listed below participating banks and credit cards) include companies with national or regional clients.

These are a few of the credit counseling organizations offering free FICO scores:

  • DebtHelper.com
  • Operation Hope
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Savannah

6. Experian

The credit reporting company Experian offers free access to FICO credit scores through its website FreeCreditScore.com.

You won’t have to enter any credit card information to create a free account and see your FICO score. The company says it does not sell your information to third parties. It updates scores every 30 days.

7. Credit applications

A sometimes overlooked option for getting a free credit score is simply to ask to see it when applying for a loan.

If your credit is being pulled by a dealership, mortgage lender or bank, see if they will be willing to share your score with you. While this won’t work for an automated credit application, such as for a credit card, it is an option anytime you have contact with a company representative.

Keep in mind, though, that a major reason for checking your score is to provide you time to repair or boost your credit score before applying for a loan. If possible, try one of the options above first.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com