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What Is a Personal Line of Credit?

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what is a personal line of credit

When you need to borrow money, you may think to borrow a personal loan or get a credit card or home equity line of credit (HELOC). But there’s a lesser-known financing option you may not want to overlook: a personal line of credit.

Don’t confuse a personal line of credit with a credit card. It isn’t a piece of plastic you can whip out and swipe at the grocery store. Instead, it’s a line of credit from which you can draw cash that’s often offered by banks and credit unions to existing customers who meet certain requirements. Here’s what you need to know about this financial product.

What is a personal line of credit?

A personal line of credit is a loan you can use and pay back as needed. The terms of the product can vary from one lender to another.

Interest rates: In most cases, personal lines of credit come with variable interest rates. But they can come with a fixed interest rate. You can find rates starting at around 8%, but they may be as high as 20% or more.

Costs: Aside from the interest rate, personal lines of credit may have other costs. Take care to read through the fine print of the terms for these potential fees:

  • Application fees: This is the cost to apply for the account. Many financial institutions don’t charge for applications, but it’s a good idea to double-check.
  • Annual fees: This is a fee charged each year you have the account. For example, Wells Fargo and TD Bank charge $25 annually for personal lines of credit. Some banks will waive fees as long as you have an open bank account. Check the terms for details.
  • Cash advance fees: This fee may be charged each time you withdraw money from your credit line. Many financial institutions don’t charge this fee.

Credit limits: Credit limits for personal lines of credit can vary. Credit limits can be a few thousand dollars to well over $1 million.

Unsecured vs. secured personal lines of credit: What’s the difference?

As you research personal lines of credit, you’ll find that they can come secured or unsecured. An unsecured personal line of credit doesn’t require collateral. A secured personal line of credit, on the other hand, requires collateral and may be backed by the balance in a savings account, certificate of deposit or investment account.

Collateral reduces the risk for the financial institution lending you money. As a result, secured personal lines of credit generally have lower interest rates.

But a secured line of credit comes with a higher risk to you. If you fail to repay your debt, you could lose your collateral. And you may not have access to the collateral you use to secure the credit line until the debt is repaid.

Where you can find a personal line of credit

Personal lines of credit are marketed less widely than other products, but there are several available from small and large banks and credit unions. The first place to shop for a personal line of credit is the financial institution you use for banking.

Some banks, such as Citibank, only take applications from existing customers. Others, such as Santander Bank and TD Bank, will waive fees for their customers.

The requirements to qualify for a personal line of credit vary from one lender to the next. For a Citibank personal line of credit, you need to have a deposit account with a balance over $500 and a, Citibank mortgage or Citi credit card that’s at least 3 months old.

Some financial institutions may not require you to have a checking account to qualify for a personal line of the credit. Be sure to comparison shop to find a personal line of credit that makes sense for you.

How a personal line of credit works

Obtaining a personal line of credit starts with the application.

The creditor may check your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, credit score and credit history. You may have to turn in pay stubs, W-2s, tax documents and other supporting information for the application. If you already have accounts with the financial institution, it may also dig into the history to see if you have any overdrafts or other signs of misuse that could impact their decision.

Once approved, you get the terms of the agreement to sign at a local branch or online. You will likely get access to the funds within a few days.

To use the credit line, you may be able to:

  • Transfer cash from the credit line into a bank account
  • Get an advance from a physical bank location
  • Write a credit check to yourself or someone else

Some personal lines of credit give you a draw period that lasts a couple of years. During this draw period, you can draw up to the credit limit. After the draw period, the repayment term begins, and you need to pay the money back.

A monthly minimum payment is typically required. Wells Fargo’s minimum payment for an unsecured personal credit line is 1%. The Wells Fargo CD or savings secured personal line of credit has a minimum payment that’s 1/120th of your principal balance. Additional fees may apply.

Some personal lines of credit offer an interest-only payment option. With this repayment option, you’re only required to pay the interest incurred on your credit balance for a certain period. Be careful about getting into the low-cost, interest-only payment trap. Making interest-only payments can lead to much larger payments down the line when you need to start repaying principal and interest.

What can a personal line of credit be used for?

You have the freedom to choose how you use a personal line of credit. You could pay for home repairs, education expenses, unexpected bills or debt consolidation.
The benefit of a personal line of credit is that it can cover unpredictable costs. In comparison, a personal loan gives you a set amount of money with a set repayment period.

Who is a personal line of credit best for?

Personal lines of credit are generally for borrowers who have at least decent credit with some savings socked away.

A solid credit history and savings could qualify you for the best rates and avoid the need for you to put up collateral. But even if you’re opting for an unsecured credit line, a bank may ask to see additional verifiable assets.

Citibank extends its lowest interest rates to elite Citigold and Citi Priority customers or regular account holders with balances of over $200,000. To be a Citigold customer, you must maintain a balance of over $200,000 in eligible accounts. Citi Priority customers must maintain a balance of over $50,000 in checking, retirement and investment accounts at Citibank.

The products above are tailored to high-net-worth clients. Borrowers without six figures in the bank may still be able to qualify for a personal line of credit, but the rate and terms may be less competitive. Compare financial institutions to find which one benefits you the most.

Alternatives to a personal line of credit

Not sure if a personal line of credit is right for you? Consider these alternatives:

Personal loan

A personal loan is an installment loan. You can use the funds from a personal loan for a variety of reasons, from car repairs to medical procedures to weddings. Consolidating debt is a popular reason for taking out a personal loan.

These loans can offer a low fixed interest rate on a fixed term. If you’ve had trouble managing credit lines before, a personal loan gives you a set payment to keep up with until the debt is paid off.

Personal loan amounts can range from about $1,000 to $100,000.

How it works

You can apply for personal loans online through banks, credit unions and online lenders. Each will consider your credit, income and other variables to determine your eligibility for a loan. After you’ve been approved for a loan, the funds will be deposited into your bank account.

Who personal loans are best for

Personal loans are a product for almost anyone. There are personal loans available for people with stellar credit, as well as those who have less-than-perfect credit.

The best interest rates are usually given to borrowers with good to excellent credit scores — generally 640 and above. The good news is you can shop for personal loans to check rates without a hard inquiry for most lenders.

HELOC

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is secured by your home. HELOCs usually have a variable interest rate that can start out fairly low if there’s an introductory period. Be sure to ask about introductory rate expirations and rate caps to get a clear picture of costs.

How it works

HELOCs are offered through banks, credit unions and other lenders. You may be able to borrow up to 80 percent to 90 percent of your home equity value.

When you apply for a HELOC, your credit score, DTI ratio and the amount of equity you have in your home will be considered.

Some HELOC products allow for interest-only payments. That could be a perk if you need to settle other obligations. But it does come with the risk that you could be stuck in debt longer than you’d like.

Often, HELOCs have a draw period where you’re able to use the line of credit as needed. You may be able to renew the credit line after the draw period ends. If you don’t renew it, you’ll no longer be able to draw money and the repayment period will begin.

HELOCs may have closing costs, annual fees and prepayment penalties. Take care to read the interest rate and fee terms to avoid any surprises.

Who it’s best for

A HELOC is going to be best for borrowers who have sufficient equity in their home and decent credit. You may need a credit score of at least 620 to qualify. A score of 680 or above could make it easier to get approved.

Like a personal line of credit, a HELOC is a product for borrowers who have a history managing available credit responsibly. But a HELOC is secured by your home. If you fail to repay your debt, you could lose your house.

If you’re interested in shopping for a HELOC, you can compare products at the LendingTree marketplace. (Note: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree.)

Credit card

A credit card is a form of credit with which you’re probably pretty familiar. A credit card is a line of credit you can use on the fly. Some credit cards also offer rewards for transactions. You could, for instance, get cash back or earn miles toward free flights with a credit card.

Credit cards are offered by banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

How it works

You can apply for credit cards online within a few minutes. Your financial information will be taken into account, including your credit history. If approved, the credit card issuer will provide you with a variable interest rate, spending limit, and any other fees associated with the card offer.

A minimum payment is due each month on your account. Over time, your rate can rise or fall. Depending on the card for which you apply, you may be responsible for paying an annual fee. Expect to pay fees for late payments and cash advances as well.

Who it’s best for

You can find credit cards for bad credit, but the best rewards programs and rates are reserved for those with excellent scores.

One major advantage to credit cards is sign-up promotions. Some cards offer a cash reward or bonus miles for signing up. You could even score an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for periods of 15 to 20 months. Pay off your balance within that promotional period, and you essentially had a no-interest loan.

Credit cards are best for borrowers who are committed to using plastic and paying it off each month. That’s how you avoid interest charges. If you’ve had a problem with credit cards before, adding a new card to the mix may not be the best idea.

Making the right move for your finances

A personal line of credit has its merits. But you should weigh your options carefully. You may find a personal loan, HELOC or credit card is a better fit.

Ultimately, the right product for you will depend on your goals and financial situation. The best way to find the most competitive product for your needs is by shopping around and considering which products and features matter most to you.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
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Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor here

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The Most (And Least) Charitable Places in the U.S.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

iStock

In order to find the most charitable places in America, researchers analyzed data for the 100 largest metro areas.

Giving to charity is a good thing, generally speaking. Not only may you support a cause you care about, but it could help lower your tax burden if you itemize deductions.

However, despite these benefits, our researchers found that certain places in the U.S. are more charitable than others. They compared 2017 itemized tax returns and analyzed data for the 100 largest metro areas to determine which places in the U.S. were the most charitable.

Key findings

  • Ogden, Utah, is the most charitable place in the U.S., followed by Birmingham, Alabama and Memphis.
  • In Birmingham, more than 89% of tax returns itemized deduction donations to charity.
  • Southern metro areas tended to be the most charitable. Seven of the top 10 most charitable places are in the South.
  • Religious centers tended to be more charitable than non-religious. The religious South and Utah tended to be the more charitable, while the less-religious Northeast tended to score the worst in our metrics. One obvious explanation for this is that church donations are tax-deductible for people who itemize.
  • Springfield, Massachusetts was the least charitable metro area in the study. People itemizing their tax returns there gave just 2% of their income.
  • Springfield’s neighbors were also stingy when it came to giving to charity. Worcester came in second-to-last. Here, tax returns with itemized deductions showed an average of 1.8% of income donated to charity.
  • The poorest who gave to charity tended to be the most generous, although the poorest tended to donate the least often, a fact that has not changed over time. According to 2016 data, Americans who earned at least $1 but less than $10,000 donated 14% of their income on average, though just 58.5% of them had charitable deductions.
  • The rich are more likely to have charitable deductions but tend to give a smaller portion of their income.

Rankings: The most charitable U.S. metro areas

This map shows how the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. ranked according to the percentage of people who took charitable donation deductions on their tax returns in 2017. Areas represented by a blue dot are the most charitable, while those represented with orange dots are the least charitable. Purple and red dots represent areas that fall in the middle of our rankings.
The most charitable metro areas are located in states that are known for being heavily religious — Utah and the Bible Belt in the Southeast. The Northeast tends to be less religious and is blanketed with metro areas that have low donation rates.

Utah is a standout state when it comes to charitable giving, with two metro areas in the top 10. Ogden claims the top spot, and Salt Lake City comes in sixth place. Most of the rest of the top 10 is made up of metro areas in the Southeast: Birmingham, Ala. (second), Memphis, Tenn. (third), Atlanta (fourth), and Augusta, Ga. (fifth).
Springfield, Mass., is at the very bottom of our list rankings, with Worcester, Mass., following in the 99th slot. The rest of the bottom five includes: Scranton, Penn. (98th), Allentown, Pa. (96th), and Providence, R.I. (95th). Portland, Ore., represents the west coast as the 97th least charitable metro area on the list.

How charitable Americans are at different income levels

The following graphic shows how rates of charitable giving differ at various income levels. Each blue bar shows the percentage of tax returns on which itemized charitable donations were claimed at each income level. Each purple bar shows the average percentage of one’s income those charitable donations make up in each income bracket.

Overall, 81.9% of people itemized charitable deductions on their tax returns, and those donations make up an average of 3.4% of their income. Those who make more money tend to give to charity more often. Of people making $200,000 or more per year, 91% claim charitable deductions, while only 58.5% of those making less than $10,000 do so.

It’s not those who make the most who give the biggest portion of their income to charity, though. Those who make less than $10,000 a year give the biggest portion of their earnings (14%). Americans who make $100,000 to $199,000 give the smallest proportion of their income at just 2.7%.

Changes in charitable giving by year

In order to determine how charitable Americans are over time, we looked at charitable donations over a 12-year span. The following graphic reveals charitable giving as a percentage of income across various income levels.

Overall, the average percentage of income that’s claimed as a charitable donation has remained at fairly consistent levels between the years of 2004 (3.6%) and 2016 (3.5%). It dipped to a low of 3% in 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession.

Lower income brackets tend to have more ups and downs in charitable giving. In 2004, those making $5,000 or less donated an average 19.4% of their income to charity. But in 2007 and 2012, that average dropped to 14.6%.

Those in the highest income bracket on the graph ($10 million or more) made a significant jump in charitable donations in the last two years we analyzed, with their charitable donations going from 7% to 9.1% of their income.

5 tips if you’re donating to charity

While your intentions to donate to charity may be purely altruistic, if you’re making them, you may as well get credit for them if you can. Here are five things to keep in mind when making charitable contributions:

  • Research charities before donating. Sites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar provide information about charity missions, as well as how they operate and spend money.
  • Ask for verification of an organization’s tax status before donating. In order for your donation to be tax deductible, it must be made to an organization that qualifies under IRS guidelines as tax-exempt.
  • Remember: You can only claim charitable donations if you itemize your taxes. You won’t qualify for a deduction if you take the standard deduction. If your deductible expenses including charitable donations are greater than the standard exemption ($24,400 for married couples and $12,200 for single taxpayers in 2019) then itemizing can save you money. (If you’re unsure whether itemizing your taxes makes sense, you may need to seek out a pro.)
  • Request and keep your receipts. While you don’t need to submit them with your tax return, if you ever get audited, you want to have them on hand.
  • Keep these two dates in mind. Remember that even though taxes must be filed by April 15 each year, charitable deductions must be made by the end of the calendar year (December 31) in order to be claimed on your taxes for that year.

Methodology

In order to find the most charitable places in the U.S., researchers analyzed data for the 100 largest metro areas. Specifically, we compared them across the following three categories:

  • Percent of itemized returns with charitable donations. Data comes from the IRS and is for the 2017 filing year.
  • Percent of adjusted gross income given to charity. This is the total deducted amount from charitable donations divided by total adjusted gross income for itemized returns. Data comes from the IRS and is for the 2017 filing year.
  • Average itemized charitable donation. This is the total amount donated to charity divided by the number of returns deducting charitable donations. Data comes from the IRS and is for the 2017 filing year.

We then created a score averaging the three percentile ranks each metro scored in each metric. Each metric was given the same weight. For the over-time data, we looked at the percent of adjusted gross income given to charity for each income bracket from 2004 to 2016.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Julie Ryan Evans
Julie Ryan Evans |

Julie Ryan Evans is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Julie here

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Marcus by Goldman Sachs Review: GS Bank Takes on Online Savings, CDs, and Personal Loans

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs savings account

A very high interest rate and no fees make this one of the best savings accounts out there.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount

1.90%

None

  • Minimum opening deposit: None. However, you’ll need to deposit at least $1.00 if you want to earn any interest
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: None

This is a great account for almost anyone. However, before you click that “Learn More” button below, there are a couple of things to know.

No ATMs. First, Marcus by Goldman Sachs doesn’t offer ATM access to your savings account. You’ll either need to deposit or withdraw money by sending in a physical check, setting up direct deposits, or by moving the money to and from your other bank accounts via ACH or wire transfer.

No checking account. Second, Marcus does’t offer a corresponding checking account. That means you can only use this account as an external place to park your cash from your everyday money flow.

Keeping a separate savings account does have its benefits. For example, it’s harder to tempt yourself to withdraw the cash if you’re a chronic over-spender. But, it also means that there might be a delay of a few days if you need to transfer the money out of your Goldman Sachs online savings account and into your other checking account.

How to open a Goldman Sachs online savings account

It’s really easy to open an online savings account with Marcus by Goldman Sachs. You can do it online or over the phone as long as you’re 18 years or older, have a physical street address, and a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

You’ll be required to sign a form which you can do online, or by mail if you’re opening the account over the phone.

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How their online savings account compares

Marcus’ online savings account can easily be described with one word: outstanding.

You’ll get a relatively high interest rate with this account, which is among the best online savings account rates you’ll find today. In fact, these rates are currently over seven times higher than the average savings account interest rate.

Even better, this account won’t charge you any fees for the privilege of keeping your money stashed there. It’s a tall order to find another bank that offers these high interest rates with terms this good.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs CD rates

Sky-high CD rates, but watch out for early withdrawal limitations.

Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

6 months

0.60%

$500

9 months

0.70%

$500

12 months

2.10%

$500

18 months

2.10%

$500

24 months

2.10%

$500

3 years

2.15%

$500

4 years

2.20%

$500

5 years

2.25%

$500

6 years

2.35%

$500

  • Minimum opening deposit: $500
  • Minimum balance amount to earn APY: $500
  • Early withdrawal penalty:
    • For CDs under 12 months, 90 days’ worth of interest
    • For CDs of 12 months to 5 years, 270 days’ worth of interest
    • For CDs of 5 years or over, 365 days’ worth of interest

Marcus’ CDs work a little differently from other CDs. Rather than having to set up and fund your account all at once, Goldman Sachs will give you 30 days to fully fund your account.

Once open, your interest will be tallied up and credited to your CD account each month. You can withdraw the interest earned at any time without paying an early withdrawal penalty, but heads up: If you withdraw the interest, your returns will be lower than the stated APY when you opened your account.

If you need to withdraw the money from your CD, you can only do so by pulling out the entire CD balance and paying the required early withdrawal penalty. There is no option for partial withdrawals of your cash.

Finally, once your CD has fully matured, you’ll have a 10-day grace period to withdraw the money, add more funds, and/or switch to a different CD term. If you don’t do anything, Marcus will automatically roll over your CD into another one of the same type, but with the current interest rate of the day.

How to open a Goldman Sachs CD

Marcus has made it super simple to open up a CD. First, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, and have either a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

You can open an account easily online, or call them up by phone. You’ll need to sign an account opening form, which you can do online or via a hard-copy mailed form. Then, simply fund your CD account within 30 days, and you’re all set.

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How their CDs compare

The interest rates that Marcus offers on their CDs are top-notch. In fact, a few of their CD terms are among the current contenders for the best CD rates.

If you’re interested in pursuing a CD ladder approach, Marcus is one of our top picks because each of their CD terms offer above-average rates. This means you can rest easy that you’ll get the best rates for your CD ladder without having to complicate things by spreading out all of your CDs among a handful of different banks.

The only downside to these CDs compared with many other banks is that you can’t withdraw a portion of your cash if you need it. It’s either all-in, or all-out. However, once out, you’re still free to open a new CD with the surplus cash, as long as it’s at least the $500 minimum deposit size.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs personal loan

Personal loans offered by Marcus have low APRs, flexible terms, and no fees.

Terms

APR

Credit Required

Fees

Max Loan Amount

36 to 72 months

6.99%-28.99%

Not specified

None

$40,000

Marcus by Goldman Sachs® personal loans can be used for just about anything, from consolidating debt to financing a large home improvement project. They offer some of the best rates available, with APRs as low as 6.99%, and you’ll not only be able to choose between a range of loan terms, but you can also choose the specific day of the month when you want to make your loan payments.

While there are no specific credit requirements to get a loan through Marcus, the company does try to target those that have “prime” credit, which is usually those with a FICO score higher than 660. Even with a less than excellent credit score, you may be able to qualify for a personal loan from Marcus, though, those that have recent, negative marks on their credit report, such as missed payments, will likely be rejected.

Applicants must be over 18 (19 in Alabama and Nebraska, 21 in Mississippi and Puerto Rico) and have a valid U.S. bank account. You are also required to have a Social Security or Individual Tax I.D. Number.

No fees. Marcus charges no extra fees for their personal loans. There is No origination fee associated with getting a loan, but there are also no late fees associated with missing payments. Those missed payments simply accrue more interest and your loan will be extended.

Defer payments. Once you have made on-time payments for a full year, you will have the ability to defer a payment. This means that if an unexpected expense or lost job hurts your budget one month, you can push that payment back by a month without negatively impacting your credit report.

How to apply for a Marcus personal loan

Marcus by Goldman Sachs offers a process that is completely online, allowing you to apply, choose the loan you want, submit all of your documents, and get approved without having to leave home. Here are the steps that you will complete to get a personal loan from Marcus:

  1. Fill out the information that is required in the online application, including your basic personal and financial information, as well as how much you would like to borrow and what you will use the money for.
  2. After a soft pull on your credit, and if you qualify, you will be presented a list of different loan options that may include different rates and terms.
  3. Once you have chosen the loan you want, you will need to provide additional information to verify your identity. You may also be asked for information that can be used to verify your income and you will need to provide your bank account information so that the money can be distributed.
  4. You will receive your funds 1 – 4 business days after your loan has been approved.

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How their personal loans compare

Marcus offers low APRs and flexible terms with their personal loans, but their main feature is that they have no fees. If you are looking for a straightforward lending experience with no hidden fees or costs, Marcus will be perfect for you since you won’t even have to worry about late fees if you happen to miss a payment.

While Marcus offers some great perks, you may be able to get a lower rate if you choose to go with another lender, such as LightStream or SoFi. Both of these lenders offer lower APR ranges and they don’t charge origination fees, though, LightStream will do a hard pull on your credit to preapprove you.

LendingClub and Peerform both have lower credit requirements than Marcus, but they also charge origination fees and, being P2P lending platforms, you will need to wait for your loan to be funded and you run the risk that other users might not fund your loan.

Overall review of Marcus by Goldman Sachs‘ products

Marcus has really hit it out of the park with their personal loans, online savings, and CD accounts. Each of these accounts offers some of the best features available on the market, while shrinking the fees down to a minuscule, or even nonexistent, amount. Their website is also slick and easy to use for online-savvy people.

The only thing we can find to complain about with Marcus is that they don’t offer an equally-awesome checking account to accompany their other deposit products. Indeed, it seems like Marcus has turned their former hoity-toity image around: Today, they’re a bank that we’d recommend to anyone, even blue-collar folks.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here