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Strategies to Save

Saving for a Baby: How Much it Costs to Have a Baby and How to Start Saving

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.

Saving for a Baby
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The topic of money can cause stress when planning to start, or expand, a family. According to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’ll cost $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015. The big-ticket expenses detailed in the report are housing, food, child care and education, although this doesn’t include the cost of college.But before you get sticker shock and decide not to have a family, read on. Early financial planning can help you manage the costs of raising a child.

How much does it cost to have a baby?

How much does it all cost is the million-dollar question for expecting parents. The answer can vary due to your circumstances.

“Getting ready to have a baby has really taught me that anything and everything can happen,” said Stanton Burns, a CFP and owner of Oakview Wealth Solutions in St. Charles, Mo. Stanton is expecting his first child and said the biggest cost at the beginning is medical bills, especially if there are complications.

Young families who are experiencing other major life events such as getting married or buying a home can find medical bills particularly cumbersome.

“Nobody shared with me the cost of having a baby from pre-pregnancy to afterbirth. That was all very surprising to me for baby No. 1,” said Angela Furubotten-LaRosee, a CFP and founder of Avea Financial Planning. To avoid any surprises, Furubotten-LaRosee, based in Richland, Wash., recommends asking questions and staying informed throughout pregnancy and delivery.

Here’s a breakdown of common costs you should be aware of when saving for a baby. Insurance may help you cover some of these expenses.

The cost of childbirth

Before-birth costs: There are prenatal appointments, ultrasounds and other health-related expenditures for the mother and child that may come up as they’re needed. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatments may be necessary as well. The average cost of IVF is $12,400 per cycle, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Beyond health care, there are items such as cribs, car seats and bottles you may need to buy.

Birthing costs: The cost of birthing a child may range from $2,000 to more than $20,000 depending on where you’re giving birth, the type of birth site (birthing center, hospital or somewhere else) and if there are complications during delivery. A 2015 study by the International Federation of Health Plans found the U.S. average for normal deliveries to be $10,808. Healthy pregnancies with normal deliveries generally cost the least amount of money. Cesarean sections with complications can cost more. Some of the cost may be covered by insurance.

Afterbirth costs: After the birth, follow-up appointments, immunizations, formula, diapers and child care costs are ones to factor into your budget. These costs will also vary depending on the health of the mother and baby.

The cost of adoption

Adoptions can cost relatively lower if you adopt from foster care. Expenses may be reimbursed through federal and state adoption assistance services in this scenario. If you opt for a private adoption agency, the cost could range from $20,000 to $45,000. This may include fees for counseling, child care during the transition, legal fees and other expenses for preparation and placement.

The cost of child care

Child care is an expense you should plan for very early, even before delivery, because of the logistics and costs. “Some places have a waiting list [of six months to a year], which is something you need to get ahead of if you plan to send your children to day care,” Burns said. According to the annual Care.com Cost of Care survey, “the average weekly cost for an infant child is $211 for a day care center, $195 for a family care center and $580 for a nanny.”

Start looking for options early to compare costs and secure your child a spot at a place you trust. To help with expenses, you may be able to claim the child and dependent care credit. The tax credit ranged from 20% to 35% of eligible care expenses. You may also be able to take advantage of a dependent care flexible savings account (DCFSA) option, which is an account with tax perks offered by some employers. A tax professional can help you devise a tax plan that’s most beneficial given your household size and income.

Understand how much your insurance will cover

The medical expenses listed above for you and the child may be offset by insurance depending on your health care plan. Reviewing your coverage should be at the top of your priority list.

Know the type of plan you have. Understand what’s covered (prenatal and postnatal) and know how your copays, deductibles and coinsurance work. Your provider may be able to give you a rough estimate of how much birth will cost given your health, delivery plan and medications.

Make appointments with the right doctors. Double-check that the providers you plan to use are covered by your insurance plan. Some plans only cover a specific group of doctors. Other plans allow you to see doctors out of network, but it costs you more.

Know how a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) impacts your wallet. High-deductible plans are ones that offer lower premiums. The trade-off is that you have to pay more before insurance kicks in. “If you end up racking up [medical] expenses, you may be paying a lot more out of pocket than you could have with a traditional plan that has a higher premium and lower deductible,” Burns said.

Burns recommends considering your insurance options before having a baby to see which type of plan will benefit you the most. Look at traditional plans to see if there are potential savings. If you have a HDHP, putting money away for medical bills is something you should also prioritize for out-of-pocket expenses. You can use a health savings account (HSA) to save for medical bills. We’ll talk about the HSA below.

What if you don’t have insurance? You may be able to qualify for health care through the marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Families who earn between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level may qualify for subsidized costs. You can find out if you qualify here. Families who meet low-income limits may also be eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Review your savings options

There are several accounts you can consider when saving for a baby. You’ll want to save up for prenatal costs, delivery expenses and other baby needs as they grow. Some of these saving methods even have tax benefits.

Put away cash in an HSA if you have an HDHP. HSA accounts are only for high-deductible insurance plan holders. HSAs are triple tax-exempt, according to Burns. “You can put money into this account tax-free, it can grow tax-deferred and you can take money out of it without paying taxes either,” Burns said.

Your account must be used for qualifying medical related expenses such as prescriptions, medical care and dental care. You can carry over a balance in your HSA from year to year. Funds can be used for you, your spouse and dependents. The maximum you can deposit into an HSA for 2018 is $3,450 for individuals and $6,900 for families. Learn more about HSA accounts here.

Save in a medical flexible spending account (FSA). FSAs are accounts typically established by your employer to help pay for medical costs. Money contributed to the account by you or your employer is not taxed. Money from the account is meant to reimburse you for eligible medical expenses. The 2018 contribution limit for the FSA is $2,650 per year. Unlike the HSA, there’s a use-it-or-lose-it policy for the year unless your plan has a grace period or carryover provision. Learn more about the medical FSA here.

Use a DCFSA. The DCFSA is another account offered by some employers where you can put in pretax dollars to cover eligible child care expenses for children younger than 13. Eligible expenses may include before- and after-school care, baby-sitting and nanny expenses, day care and summer camp. If you are married and filing a separate return, you may be able to contribute up to $2,500 per year in this account. The contribution limit is $5,000 per household.

Open up a high-yield savings account. For other savings, a simple high-yield savings account could be the right place to put money away. A regular high-yield savings account doesn’t have the same tax perks, but you can get a higher return on your cash.

“The interest rates of most brick-and-mortar banks that you’ll have in your town aren’t that great. [An interest rate of] less than half a percent is what I’ve seen, but there are some online savings account options that offer higher,” Burns said.

Here are some of the best savings accounts to consider while you’re saving for a baby:

Institution
APY
Minimum Account Balance to Earn APY
Synchrony Bank
High Yield Savings from Synchrony Bank

1.70%

$0

LEARN MORE 

Member FDIC

Barclays
Online Savings Account from Barclays

1.70%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Barclays’s secure website

Member FDIC

Ally Bank
Online Savings Account from Ally Bank

1.60%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

You can check out some of the other best online savings accounts here. Account APYs on some of the highest yield savings accounts range from 1.70% to 6.17%.

Make a family leave plan with your employer

Coming up with a family leave plan is another factor to consider when weighing your financial options. You need to know how long your job will allow you to be on leave and how much you’ll get paid.

“[Some employers] say they’ll give you family leave of, let’s say, three months, but they’re only going to pay you for the first three weeks,” Burns said. Having a spouse go unpaid after having a baby can cause financial strain. Adjust your budget beforehand and bump up your savings to make up for any loss in income you may experience.

Save for education costs

Education costs may not be at the top of your mind when you’re waiting for the water to break, but the earlier you plan, the less financial burden you’ll encounter when it’s time for your children to go off to school. “Every dollar saved is one less dollar borrowed,” Furubotten-LaRosee said.

Savings may not cover the entire cost of tuition or college, but at least it’s something. “You could save in a traditional brokerage account. Because it’s long term, you have 18 years to invest in some blend of stocks and bonds that you’re comfortable with,” Furubotten-LaRosee said.

Here are a few accounts to consider:

Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts: The UGMA and UTMA are both custodial accounts you can use to invest money for your child. Accounts may be made up of mutual funds, stocks and bonds. UTMA accounts can also be used for real estate. You can generally contribute up to $15,000 per year per child without worrying about the gift tax. Couples can contribute up to $30,000 per year per child. The child typically gets access to the funds when they’re between 18 and 21, depending on the state where the account is opened. The money doesn’t have to be used just for school.

529 plan: A 529 plan lets you prepay tuition or set up an investment account with tax benefits for education expenses. Depending on your state, the contributions you make into the savings account may be tax deductible. The withdrawals may also be tax-free as long as the money is used for eligible education expenses. Eligible education expenses include tuition, computers and equipment, room and board, and fees. Up to $10,000 per year from a 529 plan may also be used to pay for tuition at a public, private or religious elementary or secondary school.

Each state has different programs, so you should educate yourself on the type of program offered and its tax perks, Furubotten-LaRosee said. Unlike the UGMA and UTMA account, there are penalties if your child doesn’t use the money for school. The child may pay state and federal taxes on the money, plus a tax penalty of 10%.

There’s a lot to think about when saving for a baby. Adding another person to the family is a lifestyle change. Take a look at your spending and budgeting habits to make room for upcoming expenses for the child, and review the options above to make a smooth transition.

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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Strategies to Save

Understanding the Various Types of Deposit Accounts

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.

A deposit account is an account at a bank or credit union that allows you to safely and easily manage your money. Deposit accounts fall into two major categories: demand deposits and time deposits.

Demand deposit accounts, which include checking and savings accounts, may let you withdraw up to the full amount of your savings at any time without gaining permission from the bank or credit union. Time deposits, like CDs, restrict your access to funds for a set time period.

What are the types of deposit accounts?

The two key features of deposit accounts

All deposit accounts offer two primary features: security and interest.

Security

When deposited into an insured financial institution, your money is protected in the event of bank failure up to the legal amount per account by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), or up to the legal amount per credit union account by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Joint accounts with two account owners get double the protection from the FDIC or NCUA. You can find out if the bank you’re considering is insured by the FDIC here.

Interest

You’re not just putting money into a deposit account to keep the funds safe — you also want to be rewarded for letting the bank hold your money. After all, banks and credit unions use funds held in deposit accounts to make loans to other customers, and earn profits. Interest payments is how banks and credit unions reward their deposit account customers, and incentivize them to keep funds in their accounts.

The longer you leave your money and earn interest in the bank, the greater the interest the account will earn. This is called “compound interest.” Depending on the bank and the account, interest may compound on a quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily basis. The more often interest compounds, the faster your balance grows.

When comparing prospective deposit accounts, you’ll want to review the annual percentage yields (APY). The APY advertised by your bank or credit union is the amount of interest you’ll earn in one year — the APY factors in the interest rate on the account as well as how often it compounds, so comparing APYs is the best way to compare the earning potential of different accounts.

Features of the main types of deposit accounts

These are the five main kinds of deposit accounts — let’s take a look at how they work and when you need them.

Checking accounts

Checking accounts are demand deposit accounts that let you deposit or withdraw money whenever you want. A checking account provides easy access to your money via paper check, ACH transfer, debit card, or cash withdrawal at a branch or ATM.

Some checking accounts pay interest, with our list of best accounts available paying upwards of 4.00% APY or more, as long as minimum balance requirements are maintained. But note that many checking accounts pay minimal or even zero interest, and regulations do not require institutions to offer interest payments on checking accounts.

Checking accounts may charge fees, including monthly maintenance charges; however, fees may be waived if you maintain a minimum balance or set up recurring direct deposits. You can be charged for money orders or cashier’s checks, and there may be limits on the amount you can withdraw in a given day or per ATM visit. Writing checks or swiping your debit card for amounts you don’t have can result in costly penalties like overdraft fees, insufficient-funds fees, or returned-check fees.

When to open a checking account

  • Checking accounts are one of your most important personal finance tools. This is where you manage the money you earn and spend on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.
  • If you’re earning a low APY or earning no APY on your checking account, now might be the right time to examine your options. There are plenty of high-yield checking accounts available on the market today.
  • Look for checking account with zero fees. There are simply too many zero-fee options for you to be paying monthly account fees for your checking account.

Savings accounts

Savings accounts are demand deposit accounts that offer interest on your balance. Interest may be compounded daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. The benefits of savings accounts can vary widely based on requirements for a minimum opening deposit, monthly service fees, interest rates, and how the interest is calculated.

Savings accounts aren’t meant to offer the ease and frequency of access you get with checking accounts, but some do offer debit cards and even checkbooks. The Federal Reserve’s Regulation D mandates certain types of telephone and electronic withdrawals, including transfers from savings accounts up to 6 per statement cycle. If you exceed your transaction limit, the bank may charge you a fee, close your account or convert it to a checking account, so check with your bank about requirements and penalties.

When to open a savings account

  • You may want to look into moving your savings into a high-yield savings account if you can get a better rate than what you’re earning with your current savings account.
  • When considering a new savings account, look for the highest possible APY you can find — most often, that means looking at our list of online savings accounts, which we have found consistently offer the best rates in the business.
  • Skip accounts with any monthly maintenance fees, as they eat into your returns. Also keep an eye on minimum balances to earn the highest possible APY.

Money market accounts

A money market account (MMA) is a high-yield deposit account that offers interest rates very similar to those offered by savings accounts. Money market accounts often provide access to your funds via debit cards or checks. However, like savings accounts, they too are subject to Regulation D which mandates certain types of telephone and electronic withdrawals, including transfers from savings accounts up to 6 per statement cycle. You should check with your credit union or about any transaction limits and potential penalties. Minimum deposit requirements for MMAs are frequently higher than those for savings accounts.

When to open a money market account

  • Money market accounts have many of the same benefits and restrictions as savings accounts. MMAs generally require higher minimum deposits to open than savings accounts, and in exchange for that, you may be able to secure a higher APY. If you have a large sum you wish to keep as a liquid asset, a money market account may be your best option.
  • If you need easy access to your funds, a debit card or even a checkbook can be reasons to choose an MMA — although many savings accounts offer these conveniences as well.
  • Like with savings accounts, you need to understand the minimum balance required to earn the account’s highest advertised APY.

Certificates of deposit

Certificates of deposit (CDs) offer a way to earn higher rates of interest than those offered on savings accounts. CDs are time deposits, with common terms between one month and ten years. With a CD, you cannot withdraw money before the CD matures without incurring a penalty.

Penalty rates vary across the industry and by CD term length, but penalties generally amount to losing some or most of the interest you’ve earned on your investment at the time you withdraw. The interest rates are fixed over the term of the CD. The CD may automatically renew upon the maturity of the original deposit, so check with your bank or credit union for details.

CDs are insured by participating institutions up to the legal amount per account, per institution by the FDIC for banks and the NCUA for credit unions. Larger principal deposits and longer terms may fetch more competitive rates, although investors need to be sure they are comfortable losing access to their money for long durations.

You can stagger multiple CD maturity dates to create a CD ladder as a way of maintaining liquidity, capitalizing on increasing rates, and hedging against falling rates.

When to open a certificate of deposit

  • CDs are only a good option if you don’t need access to your money for whatever term you choose — either a short-term certificate with a term numbered in months, or a long-term CD lasting years.
  • Some CDs offer higher interest rates than savings accounts. Again, though, you must be prepared to leave your funds untouched for the term of the CD. Beware of high penalties for early withdrawals, before the end of the CD’s term.
  • Locking your money up in CDs could be a good strategy when market interest rates are falling: You can maintain a higher APY while other deposit accounts see declining rates. Conversely, they might not be the best choice when market rates are rising: By locking in a CD, you might miss out on higher APYs on other deposit accounts from higher rates.

Individual retirement account CDs

Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are tax-advantaged vehicles designed to help people save for retirement. With an IRA CD, you may use funds saved in your IRA to invest in designated CD products. Credit unions, banks and brokerage firms offer IRA CDs, available as either traditional IRAs or Roth IRAs.

IRA CDs share most characteristics with regular CDs. IRA CDs may renew automatically like traditional CDs, so it’s important to keep track of your CD maturity dates so you can make educated investment decisions when the CD term ends. Keep in mind that deposits into an IRA account are subject to annual IRA contribution limits.

Like regular CDs, IRA CD investors need to beware of early-withdrawal penalties. Not only are there penalties for withdrawing from the CD before it matures, but if you remove the funds from your IRA, there is an IRS tax penalty of 10% on any distribution you take before you reach 59½ years of age. Still, the IRS may waive early distribution penalties for certain situations, such as a withdrawal of funds applied to a first-time home purchase.

When to open an IRA CD

  • IRA CDs are a great option for conservative retirement investors who want a decent rate of interest, without exposure to volatile stock or bond markets. 
  • Unlike stock and bond investments in IRAs, IRA CDs are insured by the FDIC and NCUA up to the legal amount per account, per institution.
  • Like standard CDs, IRA CDS prevent you from accessing principle for whatever term you choose.

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.

Yolander Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel |

Yolander Prinzel is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Yolander here

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Strategies to Save

Fresh EBT App Review

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.

The government distributes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — also known as food stamps — via Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) cards. The Fresh EBT app allows recipients of SNAP benefits to use a smartphone to check the balance on their EBT card. The Fresh EBT app has more than 2 million users and works with food stamp programs in every state.

What is the Fresh EBT app?

Until recently, people who receive SNAP benefits could only check their monthly benefit balance by calling a hotline — or keep a running tally of their grocery store receipts. More than 42 million people receive SNAP benefits, and 26% of low-income Americans rely on cell phones as their main internet connection.

In 2015, software startup Propel launched the Fresh EBT app, providing a quick and easy way for people who receive SNAP benefits to check their EBT balance. Users can also check their benefits from other federal programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The free app is available for both iOS and Android and can be downloaded from the iTunes app store and the Google Play site.

Fresh EBT lets people keep up with the benefits available to them and also lets them see what they’ve purchased and where they bought it. The app also shows nearby stores and farmer’s markets that accept food stamps — although it doesn’t indicate which items are eligible to be purchased with funds from federal assistance programs.

How Fresh EBT works

The Fresh EBT app is linked to a user’s card via their state of residence’s EBT portal. Every time someone uses the card at a grocery store or farmer’s market, the total adjusts and users can check their remaining balance on the app.

When you log in, you’ll see a “recommended weekly budget” right underneath your EBT balance. This can help you plan your monthly EBT balance ahead of time, so that you don’t run out of money before the month is over. If you stick to this number each week, you’ll have enough EBT money to buy food for the whole month.

Other Fresh EBT features include free affordable and nutritious recipes and digital coupons you can use to make your EBT dollars stretch even further. Plus, as the average monthly SNAP benefit for one person is $134, Propel has partnerships with local and national nonprofits like Feeding America and Double Up Food Bucks to help people who find their SNAP benefits aren’t enough to get them through the month.

The app also shows the locations of nearby food pantries, offers coupons for participating retailers — users have accessed close to $15 million in savings so far — and provides access to healthy and inexpensive recipes.

The Fresh EBT app even touts that it offers job postings. You can see a list of jobs available in your area, along with a link that’ll take you to that job posting’s webpage. From there, you can get more information about the job and even apply directly for it.

How to sign up for Fresh EBT app

To use the Fresh EBT app, you must provide sensitive personal information like your Social Security number, although Propel reports that the information is encrypted. You also will need to have your EBT card number and PIN handy when you sign up. However, Propel notes that it does not store EBT card numbers or PINs on their servers, for extra security.

Although the Fresh EBT app is available to all U.S. states and territories, there have been problems in the past for some users who live in one of the 25 states where the food stamp program is managed by the government contractor Conduent.

Some users in these states reported that their balance data was unavailable for large stretches. And while Conduent does offer its own balance checking app, ConnectEBT, it’s only available in seven states on the Google Play store — Arkansas, Maryland, Maine, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. If you’re using an iPhone or iPad it’s even worse: the app is only available in three states: Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah. But while people can always check their balances through the hotline if they have any Fresh EBT app troubles, it’s also a good idea to hang on to grocery receipts as a backup.

Pros and cons of Fresh EBT

Among the common complaints about the Fresh EBT app are discussions about difficulties in connecting, or getting locked out of an account and having trouble signing back in. Positive reviews note the ease and speed of the app in comparison to calling the hotline to check a balance. Many users also like the coupons, the ability to see past purchases, and the recipes.

Pros of Fresh EBT

  • Provides a great way to check updated food stamp benefit balances: You can see your balance instantly, without having to call up the EBT hotline or finding your balance at the bottom of the receipt from your last food purchase.
  • Maps nearby food pantries and stores that accept food stamps: You can search on a map to see nearby stores and farmer’s markets where you can use your food stamp benefits. You can also find nearby food pantries, food stamp offices, and WIC clinics.
  • Offers digital coupons: You can download coupons for specific food items at specific stores right through the app. This can also help you make the most of your EBT benefits.
  • Special offers: In the “All Offers” section of the app, you can find other helpful money-saving resources for lower-income families. For example, you can get more information about discounted Amazon Prime membership, or access to lower-cost cell phone services.
  • Available in every state, with versions in English or Spanish: No matter which of these languages you speak — you can use Fresh EBT. And unlike some other EBT balance-checking apps, Fresh EBT is available no matter which state you live in.

Cons of Fresh EBT

  • Can have some bugs and loading issues: Since each state manages its own EBT program, there are a lot of different technologies that the Fresh EBT app has to navigate. Sometimes that can cause some difficulties with the app. For example, Conduent is a company that manages EBT benefit information in many states and it’s had some troubles in keeping up with Fresh EBT, causing some users to not see their current balance in the app for a period of time.
  • Does not provide a list of items that can be purchased with food stamps: The app can tell you which stores allow you to use your EBT benefits, but it isn’t able to tell you how much items cost there. Some stores can charge a higher price than others.

Who should use Fresh EBT?

Anyone who regularly uses SNAP food stamp benefits through an EBT card, owns a smartphone and wants an easy way to keep track of their benefits will likely find the Fresh EBT app useful.

The app saves you money by offering coupons and directing users to stores offering specials. The app is also a one-stop shop for other information about early childhood education programs, local doctors, mental/health substance abuse programs, heating assistance and more.

All told, the Fresh EBT app is an efficient and data-driven way for people to get the most out of their SNAP benefits.

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