The Real Cost of Impulsive Investing

Worried man watching stock drop as he makes an investing mistake
pathdoc /

It seems to happen every fall. The stock market is rolling right along, hitting new highs every week or so. And then by September or October something spooks the markets. Investors who have been ignoring economic warning signs all year suddenly start paying attention. Sometimes when the S&P 500 drops by 5% or so, they make a snap judgment to sell, ignoring the double-digit gains it’s posted so far.


Heirs at Law: Estate Planning Definition

"HEIR" spelled out in block lettersWhen planning your estate, it’s important to consider who will inherit your assets after you’re gone. Specifically, it’s important to understand who are your heirs at law – and what that means if you pass away without drafting a last will and testament or a trust. Generally speaking, an heir at law is anyone who would be entitled to inherit from you if you were to die intestate. The rules for defining heirs at law vary by state. It’s important to understand what rights these individuals have when it comes to claiming a share of your estate.

Take advantage of the expertise of a financial advisor as you do your estate planning.

What Is the Meaning of Heirs In Law?

Heirs in law or heirs at law refers to anyone who has a legal right to inherit the assets of another person when that person dies without a last will and testament in place. In simple terms, heirs at law are the people who get your assets if you die intestate.

Every state has laws regarding intestacy. These laws dictate who can inherit your assets if you pass away without a legal will and how much of your estate each person is entitled to receive. If you die intestate and the state is unable to locate your heirs in law, then the state holds on to all of your assets until an heir comes forward.

Who Are Considered Legal Heirs?

Each state defines heirs at law differently. But generally, heirs in law follow a hierarchy starting with people who have the first right of inheritance. They’re followed by the people who have the next right of inheritance and so on.

Here’s what a typical order of inheritance may look like for someone who dies intestate:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Nieces and nephews
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Cousins

This order assumes that the deceased person was married. If they were not married, then the probate court would look to their children next as heirs at law. If they had no children, then their parents would be next in line to inherit. If both of their parents are deceased, then their siblings would be the next heirs at law.

The probate court would continue generation by generation until they’re able to find someone who is the deceased person’s legal heir. But do stepchildren or foster children count as heirs at law? Typically no, unless they were formally adopted by the person who passed away. Common-law spouses and domestic partners may or may not be treated as heirs at law, depending on the laws of the state in which the couple lived.

States follow the intestacy laws for where the deceased person lived when determining heirs at law. It’s possible that some of your assets may be subject to another state’s rules in certain situations, however. If you lived in Massachusetts but owned a vacation home in Florida, for example, that property may be subject to Florida’s probate laws instead.

What Rights Do Heirs at Law Have?

Probate court hearing documents

If someone passes away without a will in place, the heirs at law have some important rights. First, they must be notified of the probate process. Probate is a court-supervised process of validating the will of a deceased person, known as a decedent. It involves identifying the person’s final assets, paying their last debts and distributing their estate’s property to the proper heirs.

The executor is in charge of overseeing this process. You can name an executor in a will but if you have no will, anyone can petition the probate court to become executor, including an heir at law.

Heirs at law also have the right to challenge the terms of a will if the deceased person does leave one behind. This may be necessary if an heir at law is excluded from someone’s will in violation of state probate laws.

So, say that you’re married but you’ve been separated from your spouse for several years. You draft a will leaving the entirety of your estate to your children. Since all state probate laws allow legal spouses the right to inherit, your estranged spouse could file a civil case to claim their share of assets. If the court agrees that they’ve been unfairly excluded from your estate, they can be awarded an amount that’s equivalent to what they’re entitled to under your state’s probate laws.

Who else can challenge a will? The short answer is that any heirs at will with legal standing could choose to do so. Again, if an heir believes they’ve been unfairly excluded they could raise an issue with the will in probate court.

How to Protect Heirs at Law

If you know who your heirs at law are, the easiest way to protect their inheritance rights is to draft a legal will. A will is a legal document that allows you to specify who you want to inherit your assets and which assets you want them to inherit. You can also use a will to name a legal guardian for minor children.

Drafting a will won’t supersede inheritance laws for certain heirs. For example, you can’t use a will to disinherit a spouse but you may be able to disinherit a child or another heir. If you’re ready to make a will you can do so with the help of an estate planning attorney. But it’s also possible to draft a will online using affordable will-making software.

You can take estate planning one step further by establishing a trust. A trust allows you to transfer assets to the control of a trustee who’s charged with managing them on behalf of one or more beneficiaries, according to your wishes. You might consider establishing a trust if you have a larger estate and you want to leave specific instructions for how assets are to be managed. Certain types of trusts may also yield tax benefits for estate planning. Talking to a financial advisor can help you decide if a trust is something you may need.

The Bottom Line

Man signing an estate planning documentHeirs at law is simply another way of referring to the people who could inherit your estate if you were to die without a will. Drafting a will can help your heirs to avoid legal and financial headaches after you pass away. And it’s also important to understand what your rights are as an heir at law if a family member should pass away.

Estate Planning Tips

  • When planning your estate, it’s important to consider any circumstances or situations that might lead to issues for your heirs. For example, say that you remarried after divorce. If your spouse has children, where will they fit into your estate plan alongside your own children? Or if you have a domestic partnership but are not married, how might that affect your partner’s ability to inherit? Talking with an estate planning attorney can help you to smooth the inheritance path for your heirs.
  • Consider talking to a financial advisor as well about the potential tax implications your heirs might face and how to minimize them through estate planning. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized advisor recommendations online.

Photo credit: ©, ©, ©

The post Heirs at Law: Estate Planning Definition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.


How to Get Out Of Debt Fast When You Don’t Have Much Money

The post How to Get Out Of Debt Fast When You Don’t Have Much Money appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

How do you get out of debt when you are broke? After all, if you had the money,  you would not be in debt in the first place.  Right?

I hear this from people, just like you.  It is often not how much money you make, but the debt payoff plan you are using that is not working.  It is possible to get out of debt with no money; you just need to learn how.

get out of debt

There are plenty of inspiring stories of people sharing how they got out of debt, despite not making much money. In fact, you may feel you relate.  But yet, you don’t think you can do it. For whatever reason, you think you can’t get out of debt as they did.  It is impossible.

Or is it?

My husband and I were living on one income when we decided it was time to get out of debt.  It took us nearly 2 1/2 years but were able to pay off more than $37,000 in debt.  There are countless other stories of our readers who have paid off similar amounts in even less time.

I am here to tell you that you CAN (and should) get out of debt – no matter how little money you may make!!



I am going to share the steps anyone can follow to learn how to get out of debt – no matter your income level.  If you struggle to make ends meet, you already know how to make the most of a dollar, and I’ll give you additional tips so that you can pay down that debt.

I have asked this on Facebook all of the time, and some of the comments include:

“There is no way I can do this. Not with my medical bills.”

“Sure, that only works or some people – not me.”

Many of you may be thinking similar things, and I completely understand that way of thinking. I was there myself and know that it seems like an unattainable goal.  That is why you are reading this right now – to find out how to make this dream a reality.

Debt is NOT a Good Thing.

If you are in debt, it could be because of your own decisions or even those you can’t control (such as health, job loss, etc.).  No matter how it happened, you need to get rid of it. Period.

The reason you need to eliminate your debt is that it genuinely is holding you back. How can you move forward financially with this obstacle standing in your way?  If you found that you needed to buy a new car, you would find a way, correct?  For most, that would probably mean an additional monthly payment – but you would do it because you needed to.  You need to look at debt the same way:

“Getting out of debt is not a desire – it is a need.”


I remember in 2009 when my husband and I thought there was no way we could get ever get out from under our debt.  It was an impossible dream. At that time, I was not working at that time, and so we had one income and two young children to feed.  I initially thought that there was no way at all that we could do this.  It was just not possible.

We started by looking at our finances (oh – they were awful).  Our goal was to live a great life.  We could have kept on and kept just getting by, but that was not how we wanted to live. Just “getting by” was no longer an option.

Knowing our kids would be watching us, we knew the importance of being a good role model for them.  We wanted them to learn how to handle money by following our example.

We both agreed that not having debt was pivotal in having a positive financial future. We wanted this not only for ourselves but also for our children as well. It was also essential for our marriage.  We needed to remove anything that could potentially cause stress – money, and finances being a big one.  Our relationship was good, but we knew we could even make it better.

To begin our journey, we read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. We followed much of his advice but figured out some things that worked for us as well. Being debt free is a fantastic feeling that no one can describe.  You have to live it.



The very first step to getting out of debt is to decide you want to do it.  That was the change both my husband, and I made.  Once we were ready and committed to getting out of debt, we began our journey.

You might be saying that you can’t do that though.  I’m here to say that you can – when you really, truly want to make it happen.

Getting out of debt doesn’t require you to be rich. Anyone can do it.  Even if you have a low income or don’t have much money. Like I said above, knowing that you want to make the changes and pay off your debt is only one small part.  The more significant issue is how in the world you actually can do this.


1. Face YOUR Reality

According to CNN Money, the average American family made around $59,000 in 2017. While that is the average, it is also true that many Americans make much less than this.

With a lower income, it is even more critical that you have no debt at all. After all, you are already stretching every dollar to cover your bills. You don’t need additional payments causing more financial stress.

Unless you win the lottery, a wealthy relative leaves you a small fortune, or you find a better job, you know your income won’t change.  That is the truth. You can’t change that.

However, what you can and must do is take the steps you can to work yourself out from under the mountain of debt you may be facing. You need to first create a budget, determine how much debt you have and then the steps to pay it off, no matter how much money you make.


2. Fully Commit

If you are not 100% ready to make changes, then you are destined for failure. It may be blunt, but it is true. If you can’t “go all in” and fully commit to making whatever difficult changes necessary (trust me, it will be challenging), then you need to stop reading right now.

If you are ready to make this lifestyle change, then read on. You’ve already made huge strides to make changes in your life.


3. Create (and use) a Budget and Debt Snowball Form

Knowing where your money goes is paramount to getting out of debt, no matter how much you make. Without your budget, you can’t even consider getting out of debt.

If you have never created a budget, it can be overwhelming.  But, it will also be eye-opening.  In addition to your budget, you should create a debt snowball, start using the envelope system and take better control of your money.  By doing this, you will get a better picture of your debts and how you can tackle them.

Look at paying off debt like a football team.  Each part of your finances is involved in the game:

Home Team – This is you and your family
Visiting Team – These are your debts and expenses
Your End Zone – This is where you will be debt free
PlayBook – Budget and debt snowball forms
Football – Your money
Refs and Penalties – Unexpected instances which set you back in reaching your goals

You would never expect a team to run onto the field and play the game without having the proper plays in mind. The same is true for you;  If every one of the members of your family has a different idea as to how to get your money down the field to pay off your debts, you will never make it there.

Instead, you design smart plays and work together to get there.  You work to get your money past all of the expenses you need to dodge.  There may be setbacks, and you may have to move back before you can get forward.  However, with hard work, you will get there.  You will get onto the scoreboard – and end up claiming victory!


4. Find extra money

Before you jump in to try to pay off your debts, you need to have savings.  The reason is that if an emergency comes up, you need to pay for it – in cash.  You do not want to run to your credit card to cover the expense.  It is best to have at least $1,000 in the bank before you get started.

So, before you jump in to pay off those debts, you listed above, make sure you’ve got money in the bank to cover your unforeseen expenses by creating an emergency fund.

Once you have that done, then you are going to have to find a way to squeeze everything you can out of every cent.  For some, it may mean no longer dining out.  For others, it could be shutting off cable television.  Where there is a will, there will always be a way to make this happen.  You just have to do what you can!

I share this true story in our budget post, but I’m putting it here again for you!  My husband and I gave up dining out. No joke. We ate dinner out very infrequently.

While I look back and think it might have been once every couple of weeks, I asked my husband recently, and he said that we were lucky to eat out once a month! It was painful, but now that we’ve cut down out all of our debts, we have income freed up so we can have dinner out more frequently (if we so desire).

For even more inspiration and ideas, you may have to find some radical ways you can get cash to help you get out of debt.  Do whatever it takes (legally and within reason, of course), to help you get out of debt.

Read More:  60 Creative Ways to Save or Make Money


5. Find ways to get more money (i.e. side hustle and selling items)

To be honest, if you are struggling to make ends meet on a low income, you won’t be able to just cut enough out of your budget to pay off your debt.  Like my mom use to say – “You can’t get blood out of a turnip” – which means if it isn’t there-there is nothing you can do about it.

That is the truth, and I’m not trying to lie to you. I am realistic and know that if you are making barely enough to cover your expenses, you won’t have any extra money for your debt.  I get that.

You can’t save enough money on your budget to eliminate your debt.  Well, I guess you could, but that is going to take a very, very, VERY long time.  So, what do you do when you’ve saved all you can and still can’t pay off your debts?  Well, you just have to get creative.

For some this may mean finding items you no longer need, which you can sell to raise money.  When we did this step, we had the same issue.  We could not cut anything more from our budget.

For us, this meant selling items we no longer needed. We did a large cleanout and got rid of furniture and other things we were holding onto, just in case we needed them. By doing this, we were able to come up with several thousand dollars — 100% of which went immediately towards our debt.

If that isn’t an option, you might want to consider getting a second job or side business to bring in income to indeed help you get out of debt.  We also did this. I started my website.  Now, let me be Frank in saying that this is not a great way to make money.  Most blogs make little to nothing in the first couple of years.  I was lucky, and we did pretty well, and I was able to bring a bit more each year – all of which helped us to pay off our debts.

It may not be a blog, but perhaps babysitting, or cleaning houses, raking leaves, shoveling snow — there are all sorts of ways that you can make money.

Read More:  Unique Ways to Make Money From Home

It is not the income that is holding most people back, it is the understanding and knowing even where to start.  You might have to scale back on various spending aspects of your life, but when you get to scream from the rooftops — WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!! — it will be worth it all.  I promise you!!!


get out of debt

The post How to Get Out Of Debt Fast When You Don’t Have Much Money appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.


[Targeted] 30,000 Membership Rewards Points For Enrolling In Pay Over Time

Update 12/3/21: New link. Hat tip to MtM

Update 10/23/21: New link. Hat tip to MtM

Update 10/3/21: New link to try. Hat tip to krokodil83

Update 9/15/21: More people targeted. Hat tip to YouFoundSugarMan

Update 8/26/21: More people targeted.

Update 7/2/21: More people targeted.

Update 4/29/21: More targeted.

Update 4/24/21: More people targeted.

Update 4/12/21: More people targeted for the 20,000 offer.

Update 3/25/21: 20k offer showing for more people under the statements & activity screen, can also try this link. Hat tip to reddit user BUT_WHY_MALE_M0DELS

Update 3/2/21: Some people are now seeing a 20,000 point offer when logged in.

Update 2/16/21: Another round has gone out at this link. Hat tip to abmo224

Update 9/10/20: Another round has gone out. Surprised to see this after American Express started auto enrolling cardholders. Hat tip to
Adam K.

Update 6/9/20: Another targeted link now available. Hat tip to TwelveBall

Update 5/19/20: Another link now available. Hat tip to DDG

Update 2/18/2020: Another link now available. Hat tip to corxion

Update 2/11/2020: Another link now available. Hat tip to trumanthepug

Update 1/15/2020: Another link now available. Hat tip to OMGitzSARS

Update 1/3/2020: Another link now available. Hat tip to coljung

Update 11/15/19: Another link now available. hat tip to MtM

Update 10/15/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to reader kcihtred2

Update 9/20/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to reader qmc

Update 9/17/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to JonLuca

Update 8/27/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to jasonalanmorgan

Update 8/13/19: Another link available here. Hat tip positivecontrol

Update 8/2/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to mc1nc4

Update 7/31/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to garettg

Update 7/2/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to Andrew D

Update 6/24/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to Andrew D

Update 6/21/19: Another link available here. Hat tip to BUT_WHY_MALE_M0DELS 

Update 6/2/19: Another link here. Hat tip to ClosertothesunNA.

Update 5/27/19: Another link here. Hat tip to CericRushmore

Update 5/21/19: More people targeted, new link here. Hat tip to reader ping

Update 5/9/19: More people targeted, new link here. Hat tip to lobonomnom

Update 5/3/19: More targeted, new link here. Hat tip to alexischase

Update 4/23/19: More people targeted, doesn’t seem to be a link to try this time unfortunately.

Update 4/10/19: Another day, another link to try. Hat tip to garettg

Update 4/4/19: Try this link. Hat tip to Aloha808

Update 3/12/19: Try this link. Hat tip to syr_eng

Update 3/7/19: New round has gone out.

Update 2/19/19: Here’s a new link (login required) which is working for a lot of people. You can also try calling 1-866-281-4438 and mentioning Offer Code: GCOR:0004. Hat tip to Uscreditcardguide.

Update 2/16/19: Another round, this time the link to try is: Hat tip to krex42

Update 1/24/19: Another round of offers has gone out.

Update 12/20/18: Another round of offers has gone out, check your e-mails to see if you are targeted.

Update 12/5/18: Another new link. This time courtesy of veeRob.

Update 11/27/18: Looks like another round went out. This time the link is: Hat tip to zackiv31

Update 11/21/18: MtM is reporting another round of targeted people. I don’t see any new links, but if anybody finds one please share it in the comments.

Update 11/07/2018: Another round of people targeted. New links to try:

  • One

Update 10/27/18: Three new links available to try:

  • One
  • Two
  • Three

Hat tip to The_Fartful_Codger

Snail mailers have also been sent out, so keep an eye out for those as well. Hat tip to nickohrn

The Offer

Links seem to be unique this time, check your regular mail & e-mail to see if you’ve been targeted (share any subject lines of e-mails in the comments below). One subjectline is ‘

  • American Express are currently offering selected charge cardholders 10,000 points when they enroll Extended Payment Option

The Fine Print

  • Email subject line is ‘You Qualify for a Flexible Payment Option’. People also being targeted via snail mail.
  • Another: Congratulations, <name>! You’ve Been Selected to Enroll in a Flexible Payment Option

Our Verdict

Fingers crossed we get a generic link to see if you are targeted or not. This is a fairly common offer, it’s not worth enrolling without this 10,000 bonus (sometimes they offer an interest free period but I’d wait for this offer). You should (hopefully) be paying off your credit card balance in full every month anyway.   If you have any questions about Pay Over Time (e.g hard/soft pull) I’d recommend reading through our F.A.Q on the topic found here. You don’t actually need to use the pay over time feature to get the 10,000 bonus points, you must simply enroll in it. The short of it is that it’s definitely worth doing if you’re targeted, just don’t actually use the feature and pay all of your credit card bills in full and on time.

Thanks to reader @MrBillington for providing the picture


How to stack cards to get the most on your everyday spending

Running an errand to fill up your gas tank or restock your pantry may not be the most glamorous part of your day, but, with the right cash back card, you can make those everyday tasks much more rewarding.

Best credit card combinations for everyday spending

  • For maximizing points
  • For maximizing cash back
  • For Amex loyalists

There are many cash back credit cards that offer bonus rewards on everyday purchases such as gas and groceries. One of our favorites is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which gives you a whopping 6% cash back on U.S. supermarket purchases and (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services 3% cash back on transit and U.S. gas station purchases and 1% cash back on everything else.

The card does charge an ongoing $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year), but we think that fee is well worth it if you want to earn the most cash back on your everyday spending. We figure that the average shopper who spends $15,900 on the card would earn around $323 in cash back each year.

Combination one: Maximizing points

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is another great card to pair with the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. Just like the Cash Magnet card, it offers at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase. However, the rewards that you earn with the Freedom Unlimited card are a little more versatile than the Cash Magnet card and it comes with additional cash back categories: 5% on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel, plus 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. You can transfer them to certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which awards a 25% bonus on those points when you redeem them for travel for the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

If you prefer to earn points rather than cash back on purchases that fall outside the Blue Cash Preferred card’s bonus categories, Ultimate Rewards cards are a great way to go:

Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Chase Freedom Unlimited

Combined Rewards Average Rewards Rate Estimate cash back earned (after ongoing annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 5% Chase Ultimate Rewards travel with the Freedom Unlimited card
  • 3% dining and drugstore purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
  • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 1.5% other purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card
3.49% $459.91

Combination two: Maximizing cash back

If you prefer cash back rewards and want to earn the most cash back possible, the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Blue Cash Preferred cards is one of the ultimate card pairings. The Citi Double Cash card offers up to 2% back on every purchase – 1% when you make the purchase and another 1% when you pay your bill on time.

Combined with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the Citi Double Cash card pushes the rewards rate to 3.19% cash back for the average cardholder. We figure that a cardholder who spends around $15,900 per year on these two cards can earn nearly $412 in cash back per year.

Estimated yearly rewards: Amex Blue Cash Preferred + Citi Double Cash

Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after ongoing annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 3% transit & U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 2% other purchases with the Citi Double Cash card (1% when you buy, 1% as you pay)
3.19% $412

Combination three: Amex all the way

If you love American Express cards, or you just want to keep things as simple as possible for yourself by sticking to a single issuer – the American Express Cash Magnet® Card* that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase makes a great partner to the Blue Cash Preferred card.

By swapping in the Cash Magnet card to earn 1.5% cash back on purchases that don’t qualify for a bonus with the Blue Cash Preferred card, the average cardholder can push their cash back rate to 2.91%, amounting to $368 in cash back with $15,900 yearly credit card spend.

Estimated yearly rewards: Blue Cash Preferred + Amex Cash Magnet

Combined rewards Average rewards rate Estimated cash back earned (after ongoing annual fee)
  • 6% U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases, 1% thereafter) with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 6% select U.S. streaming services with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 3% transit and U.S. gas stations with the Blue Cash Preferred card
  • 1.5% other purchases with the Cash Magnet card
2.91% $368

Other tips for stacking cards

Make it a trio of cards

You can further increase your earning rate by adding in an additional card that offers a bonus on other categories of purchases. For instance, you can earn 3 points per dollar on dining purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Use the right card for each category of spend

Stick to using your Blue Cash Preferred card for U.S. supermarket, select streaming, transit and gas station purchases. The card’s rewards rate on the rest of your purchases is low – only 1% cash back – so try to rotate in a card with a higher rewards rate for the rest of your purchases.

Max out the 6% bonus category

To get the most out of the Blue Cash Preferred card, you need to use up every dollar of spend for the 6% bonus category. The card cuts you off at $6,000 in purchases per year for the 6% bonus rate – that’s only $500 in grocery spend per month, which we think is a pretty manageable amount for the average family. However, if that’s outside your food budget, you might think outside the box and look for other items that you can purchase at the supermarket, which brings us to our next suggestion:

Buy gift cards

If you’re full up on groceries, many supermarkets will allow you to purchase gift cards with your credit card. You can stock up on restaurant, Best Buy or Amazon gift cards with your Blue Cash Preferred card to earn 6% cash back.

Switch to another card once you’ve hit the $6,000 spending cap

Keep close tabs on your supermarket purchases with the Blue Cash Preferred card. Once you hit the $6,000 spending cap, switch over to another credit card for your grocery purchases (such as the Cash Magnet card or the Citi Double Cash card) to earn a better rate than 1% cash back.

Bottom line

With the right credit combination, you can earn hundreds of dollars in rewards on your everyday purchases. While the average cash back card earns a mere 1.5% cash back, you can easily double that amount by pairing the right cards – not a bad incentive for running errands!

*All information about the American Express Cash Magnet® Card has been collected independently by and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


Discover Your Spark with Jonathan Fields

When you’re humming along at work, nothing significant to complain about…but you just feel like something is missing…that missing thing may just be your spark—the thing that just makes you come truly alive.

Consciously or not, we all strive to feel that spark. And today you’re in luck. I spoke with Jonathan Fields, award-winning author, executive producer, and host of one of the top-ranked podcasts in the world, Good Life Project. He’s also the Founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors and author of the new book Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive
He shared with me some of his favorite stories and bits of actionable wisdom to help us all unlock our potential, motivation, impact, and joy.
Listen to the full conversation on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, or just click the audio player above.

What does it mean to truly feel “sparked”?

Based on years of research within organizations yielding more than 25 million data points, Fields knows of what he speaks when it comes to feeling sparked.
A spark refers to “what I often call coming alive. And for me, that’s the confluence of 5 different states”:
1. Meaningfulnessdo you feel like your work matters?
2. Floware you able to just get lost in it, losing all sense of time?
3. Engagement—are you excited and energized by what’s capturing your attention?
4. Expressed potentialdo you feel great at what you do, like you’re putting your gifts to work?
5. Purposeare you doing what you’re meant to do?

How can we discover our own spark?

Through his research, Fields identified 10 unique archetypes (and combining the word spark with archetype, he’s landed on Sparketypes) that represent our primary impulses. You may be a maven, maker, scientist, essentialist, performer, sage, warrior, advisor, advocate, or nurturer. 
The assessment will feed you a primary sparketype, a shadow (secondary) sparketype, and an anti-sparketype, the thing that “most readily empties you and requires the greatest recovery.”
I took the free assessment which showed my primary type is Advisor, my secondary is Sage, and my anti is Performer—all of which resonated completely.
You too can take the free assessment to “get some really interesting insights about who [you] are and [what your] strongest impulse is that makes [you] come alive.”

What can we do with the results?

Knowing your Sparketype helps you to look at the work you’re doing and either validate that you’re in the right place doing the right things or may prompt you to do a bit of discovery.
It facilitates “…the process of asking, is [my work] giving me what I want, what I need to feel like I’m flourishing as a human being?”
“We're all in this moment,” Fields shared, “where we have an opportunity to reimagine how we play together. And it starts with the individual and really understanding what is that deeper impulse within me. And then it ripples out into the entire ecosystem that might allow us to bring that forward, to express it and contribute in a meaningful way.”
Some people, upon discovering a mismatch between their Sparketype and their job description, take the “nuclear career option” where they choose to blow it all up and start fresh. It’s an option, but not often the recommended path. Jonathan calls this the “option of last resort.”
Instead, he counsels, try to “reimagine the way that you're doing what you're doing, potentially build more sparked activities around it…” that honor your values. Choosing activities that give you purpose and meaning can often provide the compromise we’re seeking.
“I talk about work…as basically anything that requires us to exert effort in a sustained way. That could be our job, an activity, an endeavor, a hobby, a role, a devotion, and those all fold in to give us the opportunity to feel those things that we want to feel to come alive. 
Start looking outside of the boundaries of the thing that you get paid to do and ask, ‘what else can I do? What else can I say yes to what else can I create that would give me this feeling?’  And very often the blend of an optimized, main job and a compliment of things that you wrap around it, they get you there.”

Can this self-awareness help us manage burnout?

When I asked Fields the burnout question, he said, “A lot of people are pointing to the lack of boundaries between work and life as the central problem now. And I think that's a superficial overlay.”
The deeper issue, he explains, is the misalignment between the descriptions of our jobs, and our interior sense of purpose, of values, and of what lights us up.

How can teams use the assessment for good?

As this is a podcast about workplace success, I had to ask how leaders might utilize the assessment with their teams. And he offered a three-step recommendation:
  1. Leaders themselves should take the assessment to enhance their own sense of self-awareness around what makes them feel most alive and show up most authentically
  2. Leaders should then encourage team members to do the same
  3. Finally, leaders should facilitate an open dialog with the team about everyone’s natural sparketypes—finding spots where joy and purpose may be bumped up.
As we closed, Jonathan called attention to the unique moment we’re in (as we close out 2021).  
“There is universal groundlessness. And everyone [seems to be asking these big questions and making bold decisions. [Someday] that window's going to close. “
In other words, he leaves us with a call to action. Take the assessment, gain some self-awareness, and give yourself the gift of feeling fully alive.


5 Mortgage Misconceptions Set Straight

Getting a mortgage can be a breeze or a slog, depending on what you know about the process. To get organized and set your expectations properly, let’s debunk some common mortgage myths.

1. Lenders use your best credit scores

If you’re applying for a mortgage jointly with a co-borrower, logic suggests that your lender would use the highest credit score between both of you.

However, lenders take the middle of three credit scores (from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) for each borrower, and then use the lowest score between both borrowers’ “middle scores.”

So, if you had a middle score of 780, and your co-borrower had a middle score of 660, most lenders would qualify and approve you using the 660 credit score.

Rates are tied to credit scores, so in this example, your rate would be based on the 660 credit score, which would push your rate up significantly - or potentially even make you ineligible for the loan.

There are exceptions to this lowest-case-credit-score rule. Most notably, if you have the higher credit score and are also the higher earner, some lenders will allow your higher credit score on the file – but this is mostly for jumbo loans above $417,000.

Ask your lender about exceptions if you have credit score disparity between co-borrowers, but know that these exceptions are rare.

2. The rate you’re quoted is the rate you’ll get

Unless you’re locking in a rate at the moment it’s quoted, that rate quote can change. Rates are tied to daily trading of mortgage bonds, so most lenders’ rates change throughout each day.

Refinancers can often lock a rate when it’s quoted – as long as you’ve given your lender enough information and documentation to determine if you qualify for the quoted rate.

You typically receive a quote when you’re beginning your pre-approval process, but a rate lock runs with a borrower and a property. So until you’ve found a home to buy, you can’t lock your rate. And while you’re home shopping, rates will be changing daily, so you’ll need updated quotes from your lender throughout your home shopping process.

Rate quotes also come with an annual percentage rate (APR), which is a federally required disclosure that shows what your rate would be if all loan fees are incorporated into the rate.

This can make you think that APR is the rate you’ll get, but your loan payment will always be based on your locked rate, and the APR is just a disclosure to help you understand fees.

3. Fixed-rate mortgages are always better than adjustable-rate mortgages

After the 2008 financial crisis, many borrowers started preferring 30-year fixed loans. For good reason too: The rate and payment on a 30-year fixed loan can never change. But the longer the rate is fixed for, the higher the rate.

So before settling on a 30-year fixed, ask yourself this question: How long am I going to own this home (or keep the loan) for?

Suppose the answer is five years. If you got a five-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) instead of a 30-year fixed, your rate would be about .875 percent lower. On a $200,000 loan, you’d save $146 per month in interest by taking the five-year ARM. On a $600,000 loan, the monthly interest cost savings is $438.

To optimize your home financing, peg the loan term as closely as you can to your expected time horizon in the home.

4. Real estate agents don’t care which lender you use

A federal law enacted in 1974 called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) prohibits lenders and real estate agents from paying each other fees to refer customers to each other. So as a mortgage shopper, you’re always free to use any lender you choose.

But real estate agents who would represent you as a buyer do care which lender you use. They’ll often suggest that you use a local lender who’s experienced with your area’s nuances, such as local taxation rules, settlement procedures and appraisal methodologies.

These areas are all part of the loan process and can delay or kill deals if a nonlocal lender isn’t experienced enough to handle them.

Likewise, real estate agents representing sellers on homes you’re interested in will often prioritize purchase offers based on the quality of loan approvals. Local lenders who are known and respected by listing agents give your purchase offers more credibility.

5. Mortgage insurance is always required if you put less than 20 percent down

Mortgage insurance is a lender-risk premium placed on many home loans when you’re putting less than 20 percent down. In short, it means your total monthly housing cost is higher. But you can buy a home with less than 20 percent down and avoid mortgage insurance.

The most common way to do this is with a combination first and second mortgage – often called a piggyback – where the first mortgage is capped at 80 percent of the home’s value, and the second mortgage is for the balance of what you want to finance.


Originally published January 12, 2016.


Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees

We rated every state, plus Washington, D.C., on how retirees are taxed. We considered taxes on Social Security and other retirement income, tax exemptions for older residents, and the state’s overall income, property and sales taxes.


The Half Payment Budget Method Explained

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The half payment budget method might be what you need.  If traditional budgets do not work, you really might want to consider this method instead.


half payment budget method


If you do any research, you will find many ways to budget.  However, many times, the options you find do not work for you.  That is why it is important to find the right budget for your needs.  A new one you may not have tried is the the half-payment budget method.

This system helps many people stop living paycheck to paycheck.  Simply explained, it is where you take your regular, recurring payments and divide them in half.  Each payday, you set aside the necessary money out of each check so that you have the full payment available when it is due.  The half payment is not paid at that time, but rather you hang onto it and pay it on the due date.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.


In order to explain this in a simple manner, here is how this system might look for you:

Monthly income: $2,500 (paid $1,250 every other week)

Recurring monthly payments (other than utilities):

Mortgage/Rent: $900
Vehicle Payments: $450
Auto insurance: $100

When you apply the half-payment method, your weekly budget would look something like this:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250

Set aside $450 for rent/mortgage
Set aside $225 for vehicle payments
Set aside $50 for insurance

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Take $450 from previous paycheck and add $450 and pay $900
Take $225 from previous paycheck and add $225 and make full $450 payment
Take $50 from previous paycheck and add $50 to make $100 payment

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses from each check


Now, let’s compare this to the method that many use – to just pay when the bill is due:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250  

Rent – $900

Leaves $350 for all expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Vehicle payments – $450
Insurance – $100

Leaves $700 for additional expenses

If you do the math, you will notice that you still have the same to spend over the course of a month, however, you will see a difference in the amount from each paycheck.  You might show that you have more money left after your 2nd paycheck of the month, but will you really save that?  Most people do not. If they have extra month to spend, they just spend it.


How to Start

I would not recommend that you jump in and change all of your bills so that they are paid using this method.  That may be too much and you might quit before you even really get started!  Instead, select one bill, such as a car payment, and try using the half payment method for a few months.  Once you see it works, you can transition other bills into this same payment method.


Why it Works

So, why would you use the half payment method?  For many it works better because you have around the same income to spend out of every check, rather than cutting your spending in half like you see in the second example.  For many, there is always that paycheck that makes spending tough.  When you have to pay a few larger bills all out of one check, it often leaves little to no money left for other purchases.

By changing to the half method, you are still paying your bills, but you are just earmarking money to pay a bill due later in the month.  You still have the same income.  You still pay your bills on time. However, you have more disposable income every two weeks by doing it in this way.

What is great about this method is that it works no matter how you are paid.  If you are paid monthly or weekly you might try using a quarter payment method every week (breaking out your check to leave spending weekly).


If you want to learn more about understanding your money attitude, change your spending habits and get out of debt once and for all, check out the Financial Rebook eBook.

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.