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Ultimate Guide to Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

With reporting by Hannah Rounds and Brittney Laryea

Becoming a schoolteacher is heralded as a rewarding profession but not one that often comes with a large paycheck. Starting salaries for public school teachers range from $27,000 to $48,000, according to the National Education Association. And yet, teachers who graduate with a Master in Education carry an average of $50,000 in student loan debt.

With salaries like these, it’s no wonder teachers can struggle to afford their student loan payments. Thankfully, classroom teachers qualify for many debt forgiveness programs. These programs can help give teachers an extra boost to help them pay down debt while working.

These are the most important student loan forgiveness programs for teachers, which we’ll review in detail in this guide.

To skip ahead to the program you’re interested in, just click the links below.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a 2007 program that originally promised to forgive federal student loans for any employees of nonprofit or public sector companies. That, of course, includes teachers.  Under the program, borrowers who made 120 on-time payments would ultimately qualify for loan forgiveness.

However, the program’s future is now uncertain. A proposed education budget from the White House appears to eliminate the program, and it is not yet clear whether or not enrolled workers will have their loans forgiven as promised. Any budget will have to receive Congressional approval, which means we may not have a certain answer for months to come.

How do l know if I’m eligible?

Teachers at nonprofit schools are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This includes public and private nonprofit schools. To qualify, teachers must make 120 on-time payments while working full time in a public service role.

The 120 payments do not have to be consecutive. However, you must pay the full amount listed on your bill. Additionally, your loans must be in good standing when you make the payment.

IMPORTANT: You can only qualify for loan forgiveness if you are enrolled in a qualified income-driven repayment option.  Learn more about income-driven repayment plans here.

Also, payments only count toward forgiveness if your loan is in active status. That means any payments made while loans are in the six-month grace period, deferment, forbearance, or default do not count toward forgiveness.

How can I be sure my employer is covered by PSLF?

There has been a lot of confusion about which employers are considered nonprofit or public service organizations. To be sure your employer is eligible, you should submit an employment certification form to FedLoan Servicing.

Although the future of the loan forgiveness program remains uncertain, borrowers may still want to prepare for a positive outcome and enroll in hopes that the program will continue.

How much of my loan will be forgiven?

After 120 payments, the government will cancel 100% of the remaining balance and interest on your Direct Federal Loans.

Direct Federal Loans include: Direct Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.

Will I have to pay taxes?

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is completely tax-free. You will not see an increased tax bill the year your loans are forgiven.

How to claim Public Student Loan Forgiveness

As the program launched in 2007 and requires 10 years of on-time payments, the first group of graduates who could be eligible for PSLF will begin submitting their applications in 2017.

But don’t expect it to happen automatically. Even if you qualify for loan forgiveness, the government will not automatically discharge your loans. You need to submit the PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness.

The applications for loan forgiveness are not yet available. The U.S. Department of Education will make them available before October 2017.

What if I have a Parent Plus, Perkins or FFEL loan?

As it stands, some types of federal student loans — such as Parent PLUS, Perkins and Federal Family Education Loans — are not included under the PSLF program. One way to get around this is by consolidating those loans through the federal direct consolidation program. If you take this route, the entire consolidation loan will be forgiven.

PSLF works best in conjunction with an income-based repayment plan. These plans lower your monthly payments.

Since you will qualify for loan forgiveness, this means more money in your pocket. Just remember, you must keep your loans in good standing — making 120 on-time consecutive payments — to qualify for forgiveness.

Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program encourages teachers to work in the neediest areas of the country. Teachers who qualify can have up to $17,500 in federal loans forgiven after five years.

How do I know if I’m eligible for Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

Teachers must complete five consecutive years of teaching at a low-income (Title I) school. If your school transitions off the list after your first year of teaching, your work in that school still counts toward forgiveness.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans can be forgiven. Loans must have originated after October 1, 1998. This is important for anyone who hasn’t paid off loans and wants to consider teaching as a second career.

Your loans may not be in default at the end of your five years of teaching. The only exception includes loans that are set up in a repayment arrangement.

You qualify for teacher loan forgiveness as long as you are on a qualified repayment option. These include the standard 10 year repayment plans or the payments required by an income-based repayment plan. If your loan goes into a default, a repayment arrangement works with this program.

How much of my loan will be forgiven?

To receive the full $17,500 in forgiveness, you must meet one of two criteria: either work as a highly qualified math or science teacher in a secondary school, or work as a qualified special education teacher for children with disabilities.

Other highly qualified teachers can have up to $5,000 of loans forgiven if they work in Title I schools.

You’ll notice that all teachers must be “highly qualified.” To meet the highly qualified standard, you must be licensed in the state you work, hold a bachelor’s degree, and demonstrate competence in the subject(s) you teach. Do you need to check whether you’re highly qualified? The U.S. Department of Education explains qualification in detail.

Will I have to pay taxes?

The Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program forgives your loans and does not result in a taxable event.

How to apply

Qualified teachers must submit this application with administrative certification. Be sure you work with your school’s administration in advance.

Tips and tricks

Consider teaching at a Title I school directly after graduation. The loan forgiveness may help you achieve debt freedom within five years. Consider an income-based repayment program to lower your payments while you’re teaching.

Teacher Cancellation for Federal Perkins Loans

If you’re a teacher who took out a Federal Perkins Loan from your school, you may qualify for loan cancellation. Teachers can cancel up to 100% of their Perkins Loans after five years.

How do loans become eligible?

The teacher cancellation program for Perkins Loans is one the most lenient programs for loan forgiveness.

You will qualify to have loans forgiven if you meet any one of these three requirements:

  • You work full time in a low-income (Title I) school.
  • You work full time as a special education teacher.
  • You work full time in a designated shortage area (such as math, science, foreign language, bilingual education, or any shortage area declared by your state).

If you work part time at multiple qualifying schools, you may qualify for loan cancellation.

Your loans may be in a grace period, deferment, or any qualified repayment plan at the time of discharge. They may not be in default.

Also, you must be enrolled in a qualified repayment option. Your payment plan could be the standard 10 year repayment plans or an income-based repayment plan. If you qualify for deferment, your loans may still be eligible for cancellation.

How much of my loan will be forgiven?

Over the course of five years, 100% of your Federal Perkins Loan will be forgiven. The discharge occurs at the end of each academic year. In years 1 and 2, the government discharges 15% of the principal balance of the loan. It cancels 20% of the loan in years 3 and 4 of service. The final year, the remaining 30% of your loan will be canceled.

In most cases, the five years of service do not have to be consecutive. However, this isn’t always the case. The university that issued your Perkins Loan administers the loan cancellation program. That means you need to check with your alma mater for complete details.

Will I have to pay taxes?

This program forgives your loans and does not result in a taxable event.

How to apply

You must request the appropriate forms from the university that holds the loans. If you don’t know the office that administers Perkins Loans, contact your university’s financial aid office.

Tips and tricks

If your Federal Perkins Loan qualifies for deferment, take advantage of this option. Under deferment, you don’t have to make any payments on the loan. At the same time, the government pays any accruing interest. Teachers who qualify for deferment can have 100% of their Perkins Loan forgiven without ever paying a dime.

TEACH Grant

The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant isn’t like other loan cancellation programs. Under the terms of the program, you accept the money during your college years. Eligible students can receive a grant of up to $4,000 per year of education. After you graduate, you agree to work as a teacher for four years in a high-need field in schools that serve low-income families.

As long as you keep your end of the bargain, you don’t have to pay the money back. Otherwise, the grant transforms into a loan. If you’re planning to become a teacher, this can be a great opportunity. But you need to understand the details before you accept the grant.

How do I qualify for a TEACH Grant?

To qualify for a TEACH Grant, you must enroll in a teacher education program, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, maintain a certain GPA (usually 3.25), and agree to a work requirement.

When you accept a TEACH Grant you agree to work as a teacher in a high-need field serving low-income families. You must complete four years of full-time teaching within eight years of graduation.

In this instance, you take the money first and agree to do the work later. That means that you’re taking on a risk.

You must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, and you must complete a training and counseling module from StudentAid.gov. Pay attention to the training; it will help you understand the risks of the TEACH Grant.

What happens if I change my mind?

If you don’t keep up your end of the bargain and meet all of the work requirements, the funds get converted into a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. What’s worse? The interest begins accruing from the point you received the grant. That means you’ll have the principal and interest to pay.

Don’t take a TEACH Grant unless you plan to meet the work requirements.

Will I have to pay taxes?

TEACH Grants are nontaxable education grants. However, you cannot claim a tax credit for education expenses paid by the grant.

Tips and tricks

The TEACH Grant offers a great way to graduate debt free, but you must commit to follow through. Don’t take the grant money unless you know that you can work as a teacher for at least four years.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs by State

Several states offer generous loan forgiveness opportunities. You can use these programs in conjunction with the federal programs above. Qualified applicants might achieve debt freedom in a few years with these programs. These are some of the highlights of state loan forgiveness programs.

If your state isn’t listed, check out the database at the American Federation of Teachers. They keep track of most major scholarship and loan forgiveness opportunities for teachers.

Arkansas State Teachers Education Program

The Arkansas State Teachers Education Program (STEP) helps teachers with federal student loans pay back their loans. Teachers must work in geographical or subject areas with critical shortages.

Arkansas teachers with federal student loans can receive loan repayment assistance if they serve geographical areas with teacher shortages. They can also receive repayment assistance if they have licensure or endorsements in designated subject areas.

Eligible teachers can receive up to $3,000 per year that they teach in critical shortage areas. There is no lifetime maximum of loan forgiveness. Licensed minority teachers can receive an additional $1,000 for every year that they qualify for STEP.

Arkansas Teacher Opportunity Program (TOP)

The Teacher Opportunity Program, or TOP, awards tuition reimbursement grants up to $3000 of out-of-pocket expenses to licensed Arkansas classroom teachers and administrators with the Arkansas Department of Education.

Arkansas classroom teachers and administrators who declare an intention to continue employment as a classroom teacher or administrator in Arkansas after completing their program are eligible for TOP. Applicants must also have at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA in the courses funded by the TOP grant when they apply.

Applicants who meet all requirements can receive reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses up to $3000 for courses related to employment. The grant reimburses educators up to 6 college credit hours each academic year.

Arkansas administrators and educators can find more information about TOP on the Arkansas Department of Higher Education website. Applicants must complete and submit an application to The Arkansas Department of Higher Education by June 1 each year.

Delaware Critical Need Scholarships

The Critical Need Scholarship program reimburses Delaware teachers for all or part of tuition and registration fees paid for courses that contribute toward the completion of a Standard Certification.

Full-time employees of a Delaware school district or charter school who teach on an Emergency Certificate in a critical need area as defined by the Delaware Department of Education. Applicants must also have a minimum 2.0 GPA.

The scholarship forgives all or part of tuition and registration fees paid up to $1,443 for undergraduate coursework or up to the cost of three credits per term for graduate coursework, not to exceed the cost of three credits at the University of Delaware.Courses must contribute toward the completion of a Standard Certification.

Teachers can find more information and application instructions here. You must apply through the school district or charter school where you are employed. The application cycles twice each year; one deadline is in January and the other is in June.

Illinois Teacher Loan Repayment Program

The Illinois Teacher Loan Repayment Program offers up to $5,000 to Illinois teachers who teach in low-income schools in Illinois. This award is meant to encourage the best teachers to serve students in high-need areas.

The Illinois Teacher Loan Repayment Program is a unique loan forgiveness matching program. Teachers must meet every qualification to receive Federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness. In addition, teachers must have served all five years in a low-income Illinois school.

Teachers who meet all requirements can receive federal loan forgiveness up to $5,000. You must apply for Illinois loan repayment funds within six months of receiving federal loan forgiveness.

Iowa Teacher Shortage Forgivable Loan Program

Iowa offers student loan repayment assistance to state-certified teachers as an incentive for educators to teach in subjects with a shortage of instructors through the state’s Teacher Shortage Forgivable Loan Program.

Current Iowa teachers who began their first teaching position in Iowa after July 1, 2007 and are completing studies in a designated shortage subject area are eligible for the Teacher Shortage Forgivable Loan Program.

Teachers must have a balance on either a Direct Stafford Loan or Direct Consolidation Loan and agree to teach in the shortage subject area upon graduation. For 2016 graduates, the maximum award is $6,858.

Recipients are awarded up to 20% of their remaining loan balance annually, up to the average resident tuition rate for students attending Iowa’s Regent Universities the year following graduation.

Teachers can find more information on the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website. The 2016-17 application window is between January 1 and March 31, 2017, for the academic year. Recipients must reapply each year.

Maryland Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program

Maryland offers loan repayment assistance to excellent teachers who teach STEM subjects or in low-income schools.

Only teachers who earned a degree from a college in Maryland or a resident teacher certificate from the Maryland State Department of Education qualify for this award. Additionally, qualified Maryland teachers must serve in low-income (Title I) schools or other schools designated for improvement. Alternatively, licensed teachers who work in designated subject areas such as STEM, foreign languages, or special education can qualify.

To qualify, you must earn less than $60,000 per year or $130,000 if married filing jointly.

Qualified teachers can have up to $30,000 repaid over the course of three years. The repayment assistance you receive depends on your overall debt load.

Total DebtOverall Award LimitYearly Payment
$75,001 – Over$30,000$10,000
$40,001 – $75,000$18,000$6,000
$15,001 – $40,000$9,000$3,000
$15,000 – Below$4,500$1,500

The Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program offers some of the most generous loan repayment terms. However, the program has stringent eligibility requirements. To find out more about your eligibility, visit the Maryland Higher Education Commission website.

Mississippi Graduate Teacher Forgivable Loan Program (GTS)

The Graduate Teacher and the Counseling and School Administration Forgivable Loan Program (GTS/CSA) was established to encourage classroom teachers at Mississippi’s public schools to pursue advanced education degrees.

Disclaimer: Due to budget constraints, only renewal applicants will be offered funds from the GTS program for the 2017-18 school year. No awards will be made to new applicants. It’s not clear whether the GTS program will resume offering funds to new applicants in the future.

Current full-time Mississippi public school teachers earning their first master’s degree and Class ‘AA’ educator’s license in an approved full-time program of study at a Mississippi college or university are eligible for the GTS program.

Selected applicants are awarded $125 per credit hour for up to 12 credit hours of eligible coursework.

Teachers can find more information about GTS program on the Rise Up Mississippi website. Complete and submit the online application with all supporting documentation by the year’s stated deadline. The application must be completed each year to remain eligible.

Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program (MTLR)

The Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program, or MTLR program, helps teachers pay back undergraduate student loans for up to four years or $12,000.

Disclaimer: Due to budget constraints, only renewal applicants will be offered funds from the MTLR program for the 2017-18 school year. No awards will be made to new applicants. It’s not clear whether the MTLR program will resume offering funds to new applicants in the future.

Mississippi teachers who currently hold an Alternate Route Teaching License and teach in a Mississippi teacher critical shortage area or in any Mississippi public or charter school if teaching in a critical subject shortage area are eligible for the MTLR program. Perkins and Graduate-level loans are not eligible for repayment.

Recipients can receive a maximum $3000 annually toward their undergraduate loans for up to four years or $12,000.

Teachers can find more information on the Rise Up Mississippi website. Complete and submit the online application by the year’s stated deadline. The application must be completed each year to remain eligible.

Montana Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program

The Montana Quality Educator Loan Assistance Program encourages Montana teachers to serve in high-needs communities or in subject areas with critical shortages. The program provides direct loan repayment for teachers who meet the requirements.

Licensed Montana teachers who work in “impacted schools” in an academic area that has critical educator shortages. Impacted schools are more rural, have more economically disadvantaged students, or have trouble closing achievement gaps.

Montana will repay up to $3,000 a year for up to four years.

New York City Teach NYC

Teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education who work in specified shortage positions can receive up to $24,000 in loan forgiveness over the course of six consecutive years.

Teachers must work in a New York City school in one of the following designated shortage areas:

  • Bilingual special education
  • Bilingual school counselor
  • Bilingual school psychology
  • Bilingual school social worker
  • Blind and visually impaired (monolingual and bilingual)
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Speech and language disabilities (monolingual and bilingual)

The NYC Department of Education will forgive one-sixth of your total debt load, each year for up to six consecutive years. The maximum award in one year is $4,000. The maximum lifetime award is $24,000.

North Dakota Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program

The North Dakota Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program encourages North Dakota teachers to teach in grades or content levels that have teacher shortages.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction identifies grades and content areas with teacher shortages. Teachers who work full time as instructors in those grades and content areas in North Dakota can receive loan forgiveness.

Teachers can receive up to $1,000 per year that they teach in a shortage area. The maximum lifetime award is $3,000.

This program is administered by the North Dakota University System. To get more information, teachers should visit the North Dakota University System website, call 701-328-2906, or email NDFinAid@ndus.edu.

Oklahoma Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program

Oklahoma’s Teacher Shortage Employment Incentive Program, or TSEIP, is a legislative program carried out by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to help attract and keep mathematics and science teachers in the state.

Oklahoma state-certified classroom teachers who are not yet certified to teach math or science are eligible for TSEIP. Teachers must also agree to teach in an Oklahoma public secondary school for at least five years.

TSEIP reimburses eligible student loan expenses or a cash equivalent. The amount reimbursed varies from year to year.

Teachers can find more information on about the TSEIP on the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education website. Fill out and submit the Participation Agreement Form to your institution’s TSEIP coordinator no later than the date of your graduation from a four-year college or university in Oklahoma.

South Carolina: Teachers Loan Program

The South Carolina Teachers Loan awards forgivable student loans to students studying to become public school teachers. The program was created as an incentive for state residents to pursue teaching careers.

South Carolina school teachers and residents enrolled at least half-time at an accredited institution. Students must already be enrolled in a teacher education program or express an intent to enroll in a teacher education program. If already certified, you must seek an initial certification in a different critical subject area.

Freshmen and sophomore recipients can borrow $2,500 for each year, all other recipients can borrow $5,000 each year, up to $20,000. Loans are forgiven only if teachers work in an area of critical need.

Teachers can find more information on about the Teachers Loan Program on the South Carolina Student Loan website.Download and complete the application and submit it to South Carolina Student Loan.

South Carolina Career Changers Loan

The South Carolina Career Changers Loan awards forgivable student loans state residents who wish to change careers to become public school teachers. The program was created as an incentive for state residents to pursue teaching careers.

South Carolina residents who meet all requirements for the Teachers Loan, and have had a baccalaureate degree for at least three years. In addition, you must have been employed full-time for at least three years.

Recipients can borrow up to $15,000 per year up to $60,000.

South Carolina residents can find more information on about the Teachers Loan Program on the South Carolina Student Loan website.Download and submit a completed application to South Carolina Student Loan.

South Carolina PACE Loan

The South Carolina Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) loan reimburses individuals who have completed a PACE program. Those who are interested in teaching who have not completed a teacher education program may qualify to participate in the PACE program.

Teachers must be enrolled in the South Carolina Program of Alternative Certification for Educators (PACE) program and have received an Educator’s Certificate for the current year. You must be teaching full-time in a South Carolina public school.

Participants can borrow up to $750 per year, capped at $5,000.

Teachers can find more information on about the PACE Loan program on the South Carolina Student Loan website.Download and submit a completed application to South Carolina Student Loan.

Tennessee Math & Science Teachers Loan Forgiveness

The Tennessee Math & Science Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program is offered through the Tennessee Student Assistance Coalition. The program awards up to $10,000 of forgivable loans to public school teachers working toward an advanced degree in math or science or earning a certification to teach math or science.

Tenured Tennessee schoolteachers working toward an advanced degree in math or science or earning a certification to teach math or science at an eligible institution. Recipients Must work in a Tennessee public school system for two years per each year of loan funding received.

Recipients are awarded $2,000 per academic year up to $10,000.

Teachers can find more information on the Tennessee Student Assistance Coalition website. Teachers must reapply for the program each academic year. The application has two cycles; one deadline is in February, the other is in September.

Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program

The Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Assistance Program encourages Texas teachers to serve high-needs areas. Qualified teachers can receive up to $2,500 in loan repayment per year with no lifetime maximum.

Any Texas-based teacher with outstanding loans can apply for loan repayment assistance. However, funds are given out with priority to teachers who work in shortage subjects in schools with at least 75% economically disadvantaged students. Shortage subjects include ESL, math, special education, science, career education, and computer science.

If funds remain, they are given out in the following order:

  1. Teachers who work in areas with 75% or more economically disadvantaged students in nonshortage subjects.
  2. Teachers who work in shortage subjects in schools with 48.8%-75% economically disadvantaged students.
  3. Teachers who demonstrate financial need.

Eligible teachers can receive up to $2,500 in loan forgiveness each year with no lifetime maximum.

West Virginia Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarship Loan Assistance Program

West Virginia teachers who work in critical need positions may qualify for the Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarship Loan Assistance Program. This scholarship helps qualified teachers pay back student loans.

Teachers and school professionals who work in a designated critical position can qualify for the Underwood-Smith scholarship. Critical positions include all teachers in underserved districts and certain teachers who teach subjects with designated shortages.

Qualified teachers can receive up to $3,000 per year in federal loan forgiveness and up to $15,000 over their lifetime.

West Virginia teachers can learn more about the scholarship on the College Foundation of West Virginia website. The most recent list of critical needs can be found here.

Pros & Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness

While some or all of a student loan balance magically disappearing is a dream for many Americans, student loan forgiveness programs aren’t always a walk in the park. Here are the pros and cons.

Pro: Poof! Your debt is gone.

A huge upside of student loan forgiveness is obvious: borrowers can get rid of a significant amount of student loan debt. Beware of caps on the total amount of debt that can be forgiven with some programs. For example, the federal government’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program caps loan forgiveness at $17,500.

Con: Eligibility

It’s tough to first qualify and then remain eligible for student loan forgiveness. For example, teachers are eligible for the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, but those who got teaching degrees before 2004, only qualify to have $5,000 worth of loans forgiven. To top that, borrowers must also remember to update their repayment plans each year or risk losing eligibility for the program.

Pro: No tax…sometimes.

The federal repayment plans don’t tax the forgiven amount as income, so you won’t need to pay taxes on the forgiven balance there. However, other programs may not grant the same pardon. If your loans are repaid through a different program, you might be required to count the money received towards your income and pay taxes on it. Look at the program carefully and prepare to set aside funds in case you do need to pay up.

Con: Limited job prospects

Loan forgiveness is give and take. You might be limited to teaching in a particular subject or geographic location for a period of time in order to get your loans forgiven. This could mean relocating your family or a long commute if you unable to live near the location. If you fall out of love with teaching, you might be stuck with the job, just to get your loans paid off.

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Strategies to Save

How Much it Costs to Have a Baby — And How to Start Saving

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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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. In this post, we’ll cover:

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 having 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 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.

You can check out some of the best online savings accounts here. Account APYs on some of the highest yield savings accounts range from 1.80% to 5.12%.

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 financially when having 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
Taylor Gordon |

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

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

BB&T CD Rates and Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Trying to find BB&T CD rates
Source: iStock

As you may know if you’ve done a search for BB&T CD rates, their website is not a helpful place to turn for information. Beyond a basic overview of their CDs on their website stating that they have CDs with terms ranging from seven days to five years, they do not give details on their current rates. BB&T did not respond to email and phone inquiries from MagnifyMoney asking why the bank does not publish its CD rates online. When we called their customer service number, a representative said BB&T’s CD rates change on a daily basis and said the best way to learn about CD rates is to call or visit a local branch.

So that’s what we did.

We reached out to BB&T branches on October 5th. After conducting this research, it’s not surprising BB&T makes their CD rates hard to find — they’re terrible.

BB&T CD rates and products

BB&T offers CD terms ranging from as short as seven days to as long as five years. They have eight CD options, each with different investment goals.

7-day to 60-month

For short-term investments, BB&T offers CDs ranging from seven days to 60 months. These personal CDs offer a fixed rate of return along with the flexibility to focus on developing either a short- or long-term investment.

BB&T CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

3 Months

0.03%

$1,000

6 Months

0.05%

$1,000

1 Year

0.10%

$1,000

18 Months

0.15%

$1,000

2 years

0.20%

$1,000

3 Years

0.40%

$1,000

4 Years

0.45%

$1,000

5 Years

0.50%

$1,000

Rates as of October 5, 2018

Not only can you find better CD rates at other banks and credit unions for each of the terms BB&T offers, you can get those better rates with smaller minimum deposits. BB&T’s offerings are far from the best in every term length above — you can see some of the top options in our monthly roundup of the best CD rates.

With the seven-day to 60-month BB&T CDs, there are no penalty-free options for withdrawing your funds prior to the CD reaching maturity. The early withdrawal penalty is the lesser of $25 or 12 months of interest for longer-term CDs. So with smaller initial deposits, early withdrawal penalties will negate any interest you may have earned.

Can’t Lose

As the name of this CD implies, whether rates go up or down, you can’t lose. Well, actually, you can: The APY is so low, you’re almost certainly going to lose money to inflation.

At the 12-month mark of the CD’s term, you may make one withdrawal without paying any fees. So if the market rate is higher than what you’re currently getting, simply withdraw the money and reinvest at the higher rate.

If, however, the interest rate you’re receiving is better than what’s currently available, you also have the option of making a second deposit into the Can’t Lose CD, up to $10,000. This locks in the rate for the new investment amount for the remainder of the term. So whether rates go up or down, you’ll lock in the higher rate.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

30-month "Can't Lose"

0.25

$1,000

No penalty for one
withdrawal after 12 months

As of October 5, 2018

Still, you can find many CDs with better APYs than BB&T’s Can’t Lose, whether you’re looking for a 12-month investment or longer.

Stepped Rate

Laddering is a way to stagger your CD investments so you’re able to take advantage of increasing rates. With the Stepped Rate option from BB&T, laddering is built into the CD product. The initial CD starts out at a lower rate and increases each year. For example:

Months

APY

12

0.30%

24

0.40%

36

0.55%

48

0.75%

As of October 5, 2018

This product also allows you to make an additional deposit each year (up to $10,000). So if the interest rate you’re receiving is better than the market, you can invest more money into your existing CD to make a higher return. But if the current CD market is offering better rates than your existing CD, you can simply take advantage of that offer and still make a higher return.

In addition, you may make a withdrawal from what you initially deposited into your Stepped Rate CD after two years. So, again, if the market changes dramatically, you may withdraw your money with no penalty and reinvest in a better option.

Or you could create a CD ladder on your own, choosing CDs with better rates than BB&T’s — higher rates are certainly available.

Add-on

The Add-on CD option from BB&T offers a 12-month CD at 0.10% and an opening deposit of $100. You’ll need a BB&T checking account and a $50/month automatic deposit from your checking account into the CD. To get a personal account, you’ll just need to set up direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

12-month Add-on

0.10%

$100

Greater of $25 or
6 months’ interest

As of October 5, 2018

Home Saver

If you’re in the market for a new home, and you want to earn a little more interest on the money you’re saving, consider the Home Saver CD. Starting with as little as $100, you’ll be able to deposit money earmarked for your new home every month and earn 0.40% APY. With this CD, as long as you’re withdrawing the money for use toward the purchase of your new home, you won’t pay any penalties for the withdrawal. But you will need a BB&T checking account set up for a monthly deposit of $50 into your Home Saver CD.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month Home Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
home purchase

As of October 5, 2018

College Saver

Similar to the Home Saver CD, the College Saver CD is meant for parents or students saving for college. It offers the benefit of starting at a higher APY (0.40%) with the flexibility of withdrawing the money up to four times per year to pay for the cost of attending school. As with the Home Saver, you’ll need to have a BB&T checking account with an automatic monthly deposit of $50. The College Saver offers terms of 36, 48, and 60 months.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month College Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

48-month College Saver

0.45%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

60-month College Saver

0.50%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

As of October 5, 2018

Treasury

This CD offers the ability to make additional deposits of at least $100 into your CD at any time and one monthly withdrawal without penalty. The CD has a six-month term with a variable interest rate tied to the U.S. Treasury Bill — if the rate goes up, you’ll make more money, but if the rate declines, you’ll make less. Right now, rates start at 1.96% and adjust quarterly. Throughout 2017, Treasury Bill rates increased almost every month and have continued to rise in 2018, reaching 1.969% in July. So this is a great option if you have the $5,000 minimum deposit amount and want a short-term investment with the option to add or remove funds from the CD.

CDARS

CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service and protects your principal and interest by making sure your money is placed into multiple CDs across a network of banks to keep your CDs insured by the FDIC (maximum limit for each CD is $250,000).

Other things to know about BB&T CDs

Does BB&T allow customers to take advantage of rising rates once they’ve opened a CD?

BB&T has two CD options that allow you to take advantage of rising rates: the 30-month Can’t Lose CD and the 48-month Stepped Rate CD. Both allow you to make a withdrawal before the CD comes to maturity in case rates increase (terms apply). They also allow additional deposits in case rates drop and you want to invest more at the existing rate of your CD. However, the current rates on those products are very low, negating the value of their flexibility.

About BB&T

BB&T (Branch Banking and Trust Co.) is a North Carolina-based bank with locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

BB&T offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. While their website is easy enough to use, finding specific information, particularly about rates, is impossible. Their customer service number isn’t much help in that regard either, with most questions answered with a suggestion to visit a branch location. As a result, if you don’t live in an area with a branch, we don’t recommend using BB&T’s CDs. To find the BB&T branch closest to you, use their branch locator.

Pros and cons of CDs

A certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher return than you’ll get with your savings accounts, without the risk of loss that accompanies other investment options with higher return rates. The drawbacks associated with CDs are the inability to access your funds during the term of the investment without suffering a penalty and the risk of interest rates increasing while your money is locked into a CD for a specified term.

The bottom line: Are BB&T CDs right for you?

BB&T does offer some flexible deals to its customers, but in general, better CD rates can be found at both banks and credit unions with comparable terms. You can find them on our list of the best CD rates, which we update every month.

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.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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Earning Interest, Reviews, Strategies to Save

Review of Live Oak Bank’s Deposit Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Year Established2008
Total Assets$3.4B

LEARN MORE on Live Oak Bank’s secure websiteMember FDIC

Chances are you haven’t heard of Live Oak Bank. After all, this lender, based mostly on the web, has only been around since 2008, and it mostly focuses on giving out small business loans to businesses in specific industries, such as veterinary practices or craft breweries.That’s no reason to pass it up for your personal banking needs, however. In fact, this little gem of a bank has one of the best-kept secrets in the personal banking world: it has one of the highest savings account interest rates you’ll find from an online bank. (More on that below.) And, most of its other personal deposit accounts offer relatively high rates as well.Let’s take a more in-depth look at its deposit accounts to see if they’re right for you.
Live Oak Bank’s Most Popular Accounts

APY

Account Type

Account Name

1.10%

Savings

Live Oak Bank Business Savings

LEARN MORE Secured

on Live Oak Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Live Oak Bank’s savings account

When it comes to the best savings accounts with high interest rates, Live Oak Bank currently has one of the highest rates.

APY

Minimum Deposit

1.85%

Up to $5 million

(but only up to $250,000 is FDIC-insured)

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $0
  • ATM fees: None
  • ATM fee refunds: None

Live Oak Bank currently has one of the best savings account rates available. This means that Live Oak Bank is lowering the bar and allowing anyone to take advantage of these high interest rates, no matter how much is in his or her pocket right now.

Live Oak Bank wants you to use your savings account, and use it often, which is one reason why it has no monthly maintenance fee. If there is no activity on your account for 24 months and your balance is less than $10.01, Live Oak Bank will take the remainder of your balance as a Dormant Account Fee and close your account.

Getting money into a Live Oak Bank savings account from an external bank account can take a little bit of time depending on how you do it. If you request the money through Live Oak Bank’s online portal, the funds won’t be available for up to five or six business days. But if you opt instead to send the money to Live Oak Bank from your current bank, the money will be available as soon as it’s received. Your Live Oak Bank savings account will start earning interest as soon as the money posts to your account.

You can easily withdraw your money at any time via ACH transfer. Simply log into your Live Oak Bank savings account and electronically transfer it to whichever bank account you wish. It’ll be available in two to three business days.

You are limited to making just six withdrawals per month with this savings account. That’s not a Live Oak Bank thing; that’s a federal regulation imposed upon savings accounts in the U.S. If you absolutely can’t wait until next month to make another withdrawal past your allotted six per month, you’ll be charged a $10 transaction fee for each additional action.

Live Oak Bank CD rates

Live Oak Bank also has some of the best CD rates with a decent deposit amount.

Term

APY

Minimum Deposit

6-month CD

2.20%

$2,500

1-year CD

2.65%

$2,500

18-month CD

2.70%

$2,500

2-year CD

2.80%

$2,500

3-year CD

2.85%

$2,500

4-year CD

2.90%

$2,500

5-year CD

3.05%

$2,500

  • Minimum opening deposit: $2,500
  • Early withdrawal penalty:
    • CD terms that are less than 24 months — 90 days’ interest penalty
    • CD terms that are more than 24 months — 180 days’ interest penalty

Live Oak Bank currently offers the highest CD rates. This bank’s minimum deposit requirements also seem to be right on par with other bank’s minimum deposit requirements. Currently, the best CDs out there have minimum deposit requirements both above and below Live Oak Bank’s $2,500 benchmark.

Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to open these accounts. It’s a relatively straightforward process to open a CD: Simply complete the forms online, provide any needed documentation (such as your current bank account details), and wait for an account approval. Once your account is open, you can transfer over your deposit, where it will be held for five days before officially launching your CD.

If you need to take out your deposit early, bad news: As with many CDs, you’ll face an early-withdrawal penalty at Live Oak Bank. If your original CD term was for six months, one year or 18 months, you’ll be charged 90 days’ worth of interest. If your original CD term was for longer than that, you’ll be charged a higher rate of 180 days’ worth of interest.

If you are able to resist the urge to withdraw your money early, congratulations! Your CD will automatically renew into a second CD with the same term length. However, don’t panic if that’s not what you want: You have up to 10 days after the CD has matured to withdraw your money penalty-free and park it in your own bank account (whether it’s with Live Oak Bank or not).

It’s easy to overlook Live Oak Bank for other larger, more established consumer banks like Ally or Discover Bank. But Live Oak has some of the best CD rates around, and the best savings account available on the market today.

Lest you be scared away by its smaller name, consider this: This tiny-but-growing bank is getting rave reviews from customers and employees alike. It carries an “A” health rating, and has a top-notch online banking portal. About the only thing missing is a checking account to let you seamlessly do all of your daily banking with this great company.

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

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Reviews, Strategies to Save, Uncategorized

American Express® Personal Savings Account and CD Rates Review: A Solid Choice for Online Banking

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Year Established1989
Total Assets$114.2B
If you’re working hard to stay disciplined and stash away a portion of your income, you’ll want to earn the highest interest rate possible on your money. Unfortunately, that’s difficult as bank savings accounts earn an average of 0.08% in interest annually, according to September 4, 2018 data from the FDIC. Our advertiser, American Express National Bank, offers a rate on the American Express Personal Savings high yield savings account that is nearly 20 times that rate. It's currently advertised (as of 9/5/2018) at 1.90% annual percentage yield (APY). What’s better, the high yield savings account does not require a minimum deposit or charge fees, so you don’t need anything but your personal information on hand to open the account.
American Express National Bank’s Most Popular Accounts

APY

Account Type

Account Name

3.00%

CD Rates

American Express National Bank 60 Month CD

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

2.60%

CD Rates

American Express National Bank 24 Month CD

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

2.50%

CD Rates

American Express National Bank 18 Month CD

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

1.90%

Savings

American Express National Bank High Yield Savings Account

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

American Express Personal Savings Account

This account is a great option for anyone who wants the flexibility of earning a high interest rate without the withdrawal restrictions that come with a CD.

APY (%)

1.90% Variable

Minimum Deposit Amount

$1

Account Minimum

$1

Permitted Monthly Withdrawals

6

Annual Fee

$0

FDIC Insured?

Yes

Mobile App?

No

Transfer Time

Deposits will be available within five business days.
Transfers from savings to a checking account
take one to three business days.

In an American Express® Personal Savings account, your money earns 1.90% variable APY. It’s currently one of the best rates you can earn from an online savings account. The account does not have a monthly fee and they don’t require a minimum deposit, which makes it an affordable account to open. You will have to fund your account within 60 days of applying, and the FDIC insures your deposits up to full legal limit.

How the American Express Personal Savings account works

The American Express savings account compounds daily at a variable 1.90% APY, and interest earned is credited to your account on your monthly cycle date. The rate is variable, so American Express can raise or lower the interest rate at any time without notice to you before or after the savings account is opened.

Account holders must fund the account within 60 days, which you can do by setting up a bank transfer or direct deposit to the savings account, as well as by sending a check.

What we like about the American Express Personal Savings account

  • High interest rate The 1.90% variable APY is better than what you would earn putting your money in the accounts most brick-and-mortar banks offer. While there are higher rates to be had, American Express has a good offer.
  • Automatic savings It’s easy to make saving automatic when you have an online savings account. With the American Express Personal Savings account, you can easily set up a recurring deposit to pull funds from an external savings or checking account. To make it even easier to resist touching your savings, you can even have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited to the account.
  • Discourages spending With your money in an online account like the American Express Personal Savings account, you can only get your cash after making a transfer to an external checking account to which you have debit card access. The inconvenience makes it that much more difficult to spend your savings.

What we don’t like about the American Express Personal Savings account

  • No ATM card Not having card access is great when you need to prevent yourself from spending your savings, but the hassle of setting up and making an ACH transfer from your online American Express Personal Savings account can be problematic in a pinch. (American Express says transfers will take one to three business days for funds to become available in your checking account.) If you’re worried about this, you can instead turn to an online bank like Synchrony Bank that makes it easier to access your savings by issuing an ATM card tied to your high yield savings account.
  • Variable interest rate The annual yield rate American Express is offering on this savings account is high at 1.90%, but the bank can change that rate at any time for any reason, as the rate is variable. If you’re looking for a more predictable rate of return, consider a certificate of deposit.
  • Limited withdrawals Because this is a high yield savings account, banks are limited by Federal Reserve Board Regulation D to a maximum of six withdrawals and/or transfers from your online savings account per statement cycle without penalty. With that in mind, before you decide how much you’ll put away each month, make sure it’s not more than you can afford to, so you aren’t repeatedly reaching into your savings.

How the American Express Personal Savings account compares

As indicated earlier, the American Express Personal Savings account offer is strong, but how does it compare to other savings accounts?
Institution
APY
Minimum Deposit Amount
High Yield Savings Account from American Express National Bank
American Express National Bank

1.90%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

We'll receive a referral fee if you click here. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations

Synchrony Bank – 1.90% APY and no minimum balance

Institution
APY
Minimum Deposit Amount
High Yield Savings from Synchrony Bank
Synchrony Bank

1.90%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Synchrony Bank’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

We'll receive a referral fee if you click here. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations

With $0 to open the account, you can earn an annual yield of 1.90% on savings account balances through Synchrony Bank and there are no monthly fees.

Savings accounts through Synchrony interest is compounded daily and is credited to the account monthly. An ATM card is offered through this account and you can still easily transfer or deposit funds through an ACH transaction or online.

Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 1.95% APY* and $0 minimum to open

Institution
APY
Minimum Deposit Amount
High-yield Online Savings Account from Goldman Sachs Bank USA
Goldman Sachs Bank USA

1.95%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

We'll receive a referral fee if you click here. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations

Goldman Sachs Bank USA currently offers an APY of 1.95% on their Marcus Online Savings Account. You don’t need to deposit a minimum amount to open the account, but you will need to have a minimum balance amount of $1* to earn the APY. Interest on the Marcus Savings Account starts accruing the business day you deposit funds into the account. Goldman Sachs Bank USA doesn’t apply any service charges to their savings accounts.

Barclays Bank – 1.90% APY and no minimum balance

Institution
APY
Minimum Deposit Amount
Online Savings Account from Barclays
Barclays

1.90%

$0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Barclays’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure

We'll receive a referral fee if you click here. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations

With $0 to open the account, you can earn an annual yield of 1.90% on savings account balances through Barclays. While there are no monthly fees, an account that has a balance that is less than $1 for 180 days or more may be closed by Barclays. Savings accounts through Barlcays will start accruing interest the day your initial deposit posts to your account, and interest is compounded daily. While an ATM card is not offered through this account, you can easily transfer or deposit funds through an ACH transaction or online through your account.

American Express CD Rates

These CDs are great for those who don’t have a lot of money to deposit, but the rates are slightly lower than the best CD rates available.

Term

APY

6 months

0.40%

12 months

0.55%

18 months

2.50%

24 months

2.60%

36 months

2.65%

48 months

2.70%

60 months

3.00%

CDs from American Express do not come with a minimum deposit amount. You’re free to deposit as little or as much as you want to begin earning interest on any of its CD terms. This is great for individuals who don’t have a lot of money to deposit in CDs offered by other online banks. The downside is that you won’t be receiving as high of an APY as you could at other online banks. While the rates aren’t terribly low, they just don’t compare to most of the best CD rates currently available.

How CDs offered by American Express work

American Express offers terms spanning from 6 months to 5 years. Interested is credited on a monthly basis and compounds until it matures. You can choose to have the interest transferred out of the CD and into the American Express Personal Savings Account on a monthy basis, transferred into a linked account, or mailed to you monthly, quarterly, or annually via a check. If you touch the principal, however, you’ll incur an early withdrawal penalty. The penalty is based on your CDs term:

  • For CDs with a term of less than 12 months: 90 days worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 12 months, but less than 48 months: 270 days worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 48 months: 365 days worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 60 months: 540 days worth of interest

If you’re able to keep your principal and interest within the CD, you’ll receive notice, either by mail or email, that your CD is about to mature in ten days. If you don’t tell American Express that you do not wish to renew your CD, they’ll automatically renew the CD with the same term unless they no longer offer that term. You can call American Express any time before your maturity date to tell them that you do not wish to have your CD automatically renewed.

Online banks vs. brick-and-mortar banks

Online banks have been having a moment not only because of the rise in mobile banking among consumers, but also because they can simply offer consumers more benefits because they don’t have to worry about as many overhead expenses as brick-and-mortar banks. An August 2017 study by DepositAccounts.com, another subsidiary of LendingTree, shows the annual percentage yield internet banks offer on savings accounts is more than four times what brick-and-mortar banks or credit unions offer. The same analysis shows annual percentage yields on internet bank savings accounts have surged 29 percent since January 2016.

Simply put, the main benefit of putting your money in an online savings account is your money does more for you. To show this, DepositAccounts provided an example, based on the average APYs in those savings categories: If a saver were to put $100,000 in a savings account and leave it alone for 10 years, they would earn $8,338.79 at an online bank versus $1,747.04 in a brick-and-mortar bank and $1,895.28 in a credit union, assuming a fixed APY.

Overall Review of the American Express Personal Savings Account and CDs

Overall, the American Express Personal Savings Account is a solid online savings option. The interest rate they offer is high and the features of the account are comparable to other online banks’ savings accounts. While there are certain aspects of the Personal Savings account that could use improvement, other online banks present the same obstacles. As was mentioned earlier, the American Express Personal Savings account is one of the best options available.

The CDs American Express offers, on the other hand, aren’t quite as good. The 6 and 12-month CDs are nowhere near the best rates offered by other online banks and the 18 – 60-month CDs fall short of the other rates offered. The only feature that makes American Express stand out from most of the other online banks is that this bank doesn’t require a minimum deposit to open an account or start earning interest. If you’re not quite ready to deposit a huge chunk of money into a locked account, you may want to start out with on of the CDs offered by American Express.

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.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Strategies to Save

Understanding How Overdraft Protection Works

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Understanding how overdraft protection works
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Have you ever written a check for an amount you didn’t have in your account and incurred a fee? Or have you ever been embarrassed by a declined debit card transaction? If the answer’s yes, you’ve had experience with overdrawn checking accounts.

You may have heard about overdraft protection and how it may help you pay for expenses when you lack the funds in your account. While this service has the potential to help you in times of need, it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks. In this post, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of the various types of overdraft protection, and how you can avoid overdrawing your account in the future.

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What is overdraft protection?

Overdraft protection is a way to fund an account that has been overdrawn. Without this service, you would most likely be charged an overdraft or non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee and have your transaction declined. The fees can add up every time your account is overdrawn, but this service can provide a safety net if you withdraw too much money.

How does overdraft protection work?

There are three types of overdraft protection that work in slightly different ways. While they ultimately transfer funds to your overdrawn checking account, the fees charged differ.

Here are the three options you may have for overdraft protection:

  1. Opt in for overdraft coverage for ATM and one-time debit card transactions. By opting in, you authorize the bank to pay any overdrafts from ATM and one-time debit card transactions. Beware banks often charge you high fees.
  2. Link your checking account to an eligible savings, secondary checking, money market account or line of credit like a credit card. If your account is overdrawn, funds will be transferred from your linked account. There is often an overdraft protection fee associated with the transfer of funds.
  3. Overdraft protection line of credit. If you overdraw your account, the line of credit transfers funds to cover the amount overdrawn plus any fees charged. The amount you overdraw is subject to a variable interest rate and a fee. Note, some banks may require a minimum annual income to open an overdraft protection line of credit.

Overdraft protection fees

If you have overdraft protection and overdraw your account, you will most likely be charged a fee. This fee is often a fixed amount that is charged per overdraft item and varies based on the protection you have.

Here are the fees associated with the options detailed in the previous section:

  1. Opt in for overdraft coverage for ATM and one-time debit card transactions: Typically $34 per overdraft item and an extended overdraft fee may apply if your account is overdrawn for a certain amount of days.
  2. Link your checking account to an eligible savings, secondary checking, money market account or line of credit like a credit card: Typically $10-$12 per transfer.
  3. Overdraft protection line of credit: Typically $10 or more per transfer, plus an APR of around 20% charged on the amount transferred.

While you can potentially be charged the fee multiple times in one day if you continue to overdraw your account, banks typically limit the amount of times you can be charged the fee in a day.

Understanding the overdraft protection law

In 2010, the Federal Reserve passed a law regulating overdraft practices for one-time debit card and ATM transactions. The law banned banks from automatically enrolling customers in overdraft protection for these transactions.

Prior to this law being passed, banks were allowed to process one-time debit card and ATM transactions in which consumers lacked the necessary funds and were charged an overdraft fee. But, the law changed that practice and required banks to allow customers to opt in or opt out of overdraft protection at any time.

If you opt in, the bank will process your one-time debit card and ATM transactions and charge a fee. While if you opt out, the bank will decline your transaction and won’t charge you an overdraft fee — but they may still charge an NSF fee.

The benefits of opting in to overdraft protection

Transactions are approved. This service may be helpful if you need a transaction to go through and can’t afford to have it declined in cases of emergencies or upcoming due dates on bills.

Less embarrassment when paying. If you’re someone who lives from one paycheck to the next, you may run into instances where you’re short of funds for needed expenses like groceries. It can be embarrassing to have your debit card declined due to insufficient funds, and this service may help you avoid those situations.

When can you benefit from overdraft protection?
You may benefit from overdraft protection if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the money to cover the cost of an unexpected emergency. For example, say you have a $0 balance in your account but your car broke down because of a flat tire. In this situation, you have your checkbook but don’t have the needed cash or credit card to pay for the tow and service on your card.

If you enrolled in this service and linked an eligible savings account that has the needed funds, you could write the check. Then, the bank would transfer the funds from your savings account to your checking account. You would be charged a $10-$12 overdraft transfer fee, but that’s minor compared to the typical $34 NSF you would be charged if the check bounced.

The drawbacks of using overdraft protection

Fees may still apply. If you enroll in overdraft protection, you may still be charged fees, such as an overdraft protection fee or an NSF fee. And you may incur multiple fees in one day.

High fees for overdrafts funded by credit cards. If you use a credit card to fund your overdraft, it is considered a cash advance which often comes with high APRs over 25% and a cash advance fee that is 3% or 5% of your withdrawal.

When is overdraft protection not worthwhile?
If you opt in for overdraft protection on ATM and one-time debit card transactions and make unnecessary transactions when you have a $0 balance, you can see fees add up quickly. For example, say your account charges a $34 overdraft fee up to four times a day. You’re unaware you currently have a $0 balance in your checking account.

You decide to go to the mall and use your debit card to make three separate purchases: pants for $20, a shirt for $10, and a hat for $8. In total you spent $38 on clothes, but incurred $102 in overdraft fees. That makes the effective cost of your clothing purchase an alarming $140. It’s pretty obvious that it would’ve been a better decision to opt out of the service for ATM and one-time debit card transactions so those transactions would’ve been declined.

Which type of accounts can be linked to a checking account for overdraft protection?

You can link several accounts to your checking account for overdraft protection, including: savings, secondary checking account, money market or line of credit like a credit card. Note that linkable accounts may vary by bank, so refer to your overdraft protection agreement for eligible accounts.

How to avoid overdrawing your account

If you want to prevent future overdrafts, the tips below may help you avoid overdrawing your account, and are general best practices when it comes to financial products:

  • Open a checking account with no overdraft fees. There are banks that offer checking accounts with no overdraft fees. So, instead of being hit with the average $34 fee, banks most likely will decline the transaction — if you aren’t opted into overdraft protection.
  • Don’t overspend. You may have trouble managing your spending, which may lead you to overdraw your account. You can create a budget to get a better picture of your finances and see where you can cut costs to avoid overdrawing your account. A good rule of thumb is don’t spend more than you can afford.
  • Set up low balance alerts. Many banks allow you to set alerts when your balance reaches a certain amount. This is a helpful feature that can make you aware when funds are running low and when you should minimize spending.
  • Review your account balances. It’s important to keep track of how much money is in your checking account. You can keep a register or log in to online banking to stay up-to-date on your account balance. This way, you know how much you can afford to spend.
  • Don’t write checks before you have the money in your account. You may run into issues if you write checks in advance of having the necessary funds in your account. While you expect to have the needed funds in your account when the check is cashed, things may change and result in you lacking the funds to fulfill the check.

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.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Strategies to Save

How to Choose a Financial Planner

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

How to choose a financial planner
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As you age, your financial needs tend to become more complex. This is often a result of taking on more responsibilities like having children, taking care of aging parents or owning a home, all while managing your own career, student loan debt and retirement savings. Naturally, it can be overwhelming to create a plan, update it and monitor it while maintaining a busy schedule. That’s where hiring a financial planner can be valuable.

What is a certified financial planner?

Financial planners can help guide you through complicated financial situations and use their expertise to help make tough decisions and manage your emotions. A financial planner may have a variety of qualifications or certifications, but one of the most widely known and accepted is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.

The designation was created in 1985 by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) to promote “the value of professional, competent and ethical financial planning services, as represented by those who have attained CFP® certification.” CFPs must have have between 4,000 and 6,000 hours of experience, maintain high ethical standards, complete a rigorous set of education requirements and pass the CFP exam.

Those who have obtained the designation have mastered several key areas of financial planning including: retirement planning, income taxes, investment analysis, estate planning, ethics and insurance.

What does a financial planner do?

As mentioned earlier, financial planners help guide you through some of life’s most challenging financial decisions. When doing this, most financial planners will generally perform the following set of steps with each client. For many planners, this entire process could occur over several meetings and will not be completed in one sitting.

First, the planner will gather information and key details about your financial situation. This often includes a discussion about where you are financially and where you plan to be. A planner may also ask for some documents, including tax returns, any investment statements, trust and insurance documents. Next, the planner typically analyzes the data and determines whether there are any changes that need to be made and will present their findings to you.

After discussing the data and potential changes, the next step is implementing the items in the plan. Depending on the scope of your financial plan, this could be done in one meeting or over several meetings.

Lastly, you and your financial planner will typically agree on how often to monitor the plan and make changes. You may re-evaluate the plan every year or once a quarter, depending on the plan’s depth and complexity. However, most planners ask that you come in when major life changes occur like getting married, having a child or a experiencing a significant change in income.

The challenges in choosing a financial planner

It can be tricky to pick a financial planner, including finding someone with the right credentials and experience at a cost you can afford. In the following sections, we discuss some of the biggest challenges consumers face when looking for a financial planner.

The difference between a financial planner and a financial adviser

There is plenty of confusion around the term “financial planner” and “financial adviser.”

“Just about anyone can use the title ‘financial planner,’” said Dan Drummond, CFP Board’s director of communications. “There are also over 170 financial services designations out there — an alphabet soup of letters that may seem overwhelming.”

Not every person who calls him or herself a financial planner or financial adviser has the CFP designation, as the designation is optional and not required to practice. And someone who goes by the title, financial adviser can be a certified financial planner so long as they have completed the designation and are in good standing with the CFP board. CFPs will almost always have the “CFP®” behind their name.

Practically speaking, the differences between a planner and adviser are a bit more clear, though the terms are often used interchangeably. Typically, financial advisers spend the majority of their day focused on selling investment and insurance solutions to clients mostly (but not exclusively) for a commission. While financial planning is something that an adviser may do, it is often a service done on the side and not their main function. On the other hand, a financial planner’s main function is planning and less about selling products. Keep in mind that in this situation, both positions could still be called certified financial planners if they meet the board’s requirements.

Determining whether or not you need a financial planner

Whether you need a financial planner or not will be determined by the complexity of your situation.

The people in the following situations tend to see the most value in a financial planner:

  • New parents and newlyweds
    • Starting a family is not only expensive, it’s also easy to overlook some of your financial needs while you’re adjusting to all the changes you’re experiencing. For example: Newly married couples should check their beneficiary information on their accounts to ensure they are up-to-date and that their life insurance coverage is sufficient.
  • Business owner
    • If you own a business, you have a different set of financial tools at your disposal. One quick example is choosing the right retirement plan for your business. While most people have to choose between a Roth and traditional IRA, business owners have more options with different limits and requirements. Also, depending on how your business is set up, you may need a succession plan to exit the business as well.
  • High-income earners and people with a high net worth
    • Those with a high income or high net worth may find a financial planner useful when navigating tax liabilities and investments.
  • Close to or in retirement
    • If you’re getting close to retirement, a financial planner can help determine how prepared you are for it and how long your money may last in retirement. For those who are already retired, a planner may help you avoid running out of money.
  • Complicated health or estate issues
    • Health care can get very expensive in retirement. Health care expenses for retirees rose to an average of $275,000 per couple, excluding long-term care expenses, according to a 2017 estimate from Fidelity. This is an increase of $15,000 from 2016.
    • For those who own multiple properties and businesses, a financial planner may be able to help determine the types of wills, titles or trusts needed to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

How much does a financial planner cost?

It can be difficult to compare the costs for a financial planner. This is because each planner may base their cost on different metrics (see below). In some cases, they may charge a flat fee based on a percentage of your total assets, also known as assets under management (AUM), or just a flat dollar amount. The important thing here is that your planner is transparent and upfront with their costs. One way to ensure this is by asking if your financial planner is held to the fiduciary standard. This standard requires that the planner act only in your best interest when providing recommendations.

Commission-based: These planners only receive payments through commissions on products they sell. These products could include life insurance, mutual funds or annuities. This can present a major conflict of interest. They’re incentivized to sell products whether or not those products make sense for you.

Fee-based: Fee-based advisers can earn commissions off product sales, but they also offer services for flat fees paid by their clients. While this eliminates some conflicts, fee-based service models still leave the door open for a planner to make a recommendation that isn’t necessarily the best for their clients.

Fee-only: Fee-only financial advisers are not the same as fee-based. Fee-only advisers are paid a set fee by their clients for the services they provide. They do not earn commissions off product sales. For this reason, there are inherently no conflicts of interest between you and your adviser if they’re fee-only. Fee-only planners are only getting paid by you to provide advice.

How to choose a financial planner

Choosing a financial planner goes beyond picking someone based on their credentials alone. Though the CFP is widely regarded as the gold standard, there are many designations that make it difficult to accurately compare one planner to another. You should also take experience and compatibility into account. Your financial planner should have experience with dealing with clients that fit your profile (e.g. income, business ownership, age) and needs.

Some also prefer planners who have had experience investing in down markets. Additionally, you should seek out a planner you trust — one you feel comfortable speaking openly with and one who listens to you.

Questions to ask a financial planner

The following questions are designed to help you not only understand your financial planner’s background but find out what areas they specialize in and if those areas fit with your goals.

  • What kind of designations do you have?
    • Common designations other than CFP are the certified public accountant (CPA), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC). If they do not have a designation, you may want to ask if they are working toward them. Many of these designations require three years or more of industry experience and certification tests that are only offered a few times per year.
  • What services do you offer?
    • Not every financial planner will offer the same services, and can vary significantly based on the planner’s comfort level, team and experience. You will want to ask this information early in the conversation to ensure they can help you meet your needs.
  • What is your specialization?
    • Some financial planners choose to specialize in a particular area such as taxes or estate planning. If your situation is more complex, you’ll want to seek out a planner who specializes in your needs.
  • Do you work with any outside specialist? If so, are you compensated for that?
    • Some areas of your financial plan cannot be executed by your planner unless they are an attorney. This includes things like wills and trust agreements. You’ll also want to know if they are being paid by that outside specialist, as this could be a conflict of interest.
  • What kind of clients do you work with?
    • This will give you more information on the planner’s experience level and expertise.
  • Are you a fiduciary?
    • A fiduciary is required to act in the best interest of the client. If the planner answers no, you should ask them to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
  • How are you compensated?
    • Generally a financial planner’s compensation will fall into three categories: commission based, fee-based, fee-only (discussed in detail above).
  • What happens if I am unable to get in contact with you?
    • Is there a 24-hour hotline you can call to get help? Is there a backup staff? When you have a financial emergency and your planner is not available, you will still need guidance. Your planner should have some system in place.
  • How often do you communicate with clients?
    • Having a planner is not valuable if you do not communicate with them. At a minimum, you should be having an annual sit-down with your financial planner.
  • What is your investment philosophy?
    • The answer to this question will help you assess your fit with the financial planner. Your financial planner’s philosophy will depend on their investment experience and any additional credentials they may have.
  • How are you evaluated?
    • Some financial advisers are evaluated by management solely on the amount of commissions they generate or the amount of money they manage. Others are evaluated by client surveys or a combination of all three. Ask how they are evaluated, and this should give you insight about how you will be treated as a client.

How to find a financial planner

Now that you know what to look for, your next step is to find a financial planner. Each of the following are all groups who feature fee-only financial planners that uphold the fiduciary standard.

XY Planning Network: XYPN is the leading organization of fee-only financial advisers who specialize in serving Gen X and Gen Y clients. All of their members can work virtually, which means you can choose the best adviser for you regardless of physical location.

Garrett Planning Network: GPN is another organization of fee-only planners who serve clients from all walks of life. Their advisers offer planning services on an hourly basis.

National Association of Professional Financial Advisors: NAPFA is the largest organization of professional advisers who meet the highest set standards in the financial planning industry.

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.

Kevin Matthews II
Kevin Matthews II |

Kevin Matthews II is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kevin here

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Strategies to Save

How to Build Wealth at Any Stage in Your Career

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Your individual financial wealth, or net worth, is built over a lifetime. Financial situations vary widely at birth, and as you go through life, your situation changes. A host of factors can alter your “wealth.” Your income may rise, or it may fall. You may start a new career; you may change careers. You may experience setbacks, large and small.

You can read plenty about what you should do, but real-life wealth-building strategies rarely go according to plan. So we asked several people at various stages in their lives to share how they cultivated their personal wealth — including the setbacks, regrets and breakthroughs they experienced along the way.

Building wealth when you’re just starting your career

When Meredith Dean, 25, was getting ready to move from Georgia to New York City to start her first post-grad job, she was terrified.

“I was told by everyone that it was going to be super expensive and it was not going to be feasible,”’ said Dean, who at the time had just graduated from The University of Georgia with a bachelor’s in Journalism.

She immediately focused on keeping her expenses in check: She sold her car and used the savings to kickstart her life in New York. She also made sure she wasn’t spending more than 40 percent of her salary on housing. Dean lived in a tiny three-bedroom apartment with no kitchen and two roommates. It was close enough to walk to work, and when she had to travel anywhere else, she used public transportation.

But keeping her costs low was only the first step to building wealth at the start of her career.

Wealth-building strategy

Dean’s advice for those in their first years out of school: monetize a hobby you love.

Just a few months into her new job, Dean started a business that builds online portfolios for students and recent grads trying to land their first jobs. She got the idea for it after making a website for her then-boss and created the company, The Dean’s List, in the hours after her 9-to-5.

“I thought, ‘Man, I’m doing this for a lot of people and I’m loving this. Why don’t I start doing this for students?’” said Dean. After the idea struck, she pulled an all-nighter to create a website for her new company and never looked back. Today, Dean serves one or two clients a week through The Dean’s List, in addition to her full-time work.

“I now have these extra funds that I can rely on in case there is an emergency or if there is a trip I really want to go on,” said Dean. “It’s really nice to feel comfortable at 25 and not have any debt.”

Top tips

Start early

For Dean, a crucial component to building wealth at the beginning of her career was not starting in a hole: She started working as a restaurant hostess in her hometown of Milton, Ga., at age 15, and around the same time, she learned she could have almost all of her college tuition paid for if she graduated high school with at least a 3.0 GPA under Georgia’s Zell Miller Scholarship program. Primarily because of that scholarship, Dean didn’t have any debt when she completed her undergraduate degree in 2014.

Don’t quit your day job

Although Dean started her own company, she kept a full-time position. And she really lives the ideal that having multiple income streams is crucial to building wealth — at one point, she even picked up a third job.

Surround yourself by people who support your goals

While living in New York, Dean attended a Jeffersonian dinner at another recent UGA graduate’s place. At a Jeffersonian dinner, all guests must stay on one topic for the entire dinner — and it just so happened on that night the conversation topic was personal finance and women in finance.

“I learned so much from that dinner,” said Dean. Not only did she pick up a little newfound knowledge on everything from saving to investing, she also connected with a supportive group of friends.

“Surround yourself with the right people that push you forward, that motivate and inspire you,” Dean said. “That’s going to help you build wealth.”

Lessons learned

“I just really wish I would have taken a personal finance course,” said Dean, when asked about her biggest wealth-building regret.

She’d been saving in her retirement account and had an emergency fund. But after two years exclusively using her debit card, Dean hadn’t learned much about building credit. She didn’t get her first credit card until she left New York for her current home, Charlotte, N.C., in 2016.

Once in Charlotte, she found she needed a car. “I had no established credit to get a car, so my dad had to cosign for it,” Dean said.

She ended up educating herself about personal finance, but recommended college students take at least one personal finance course before they graduate, as long as they can afford to take the course (or if their school even offers one).

Building wealth early on in your career

Building wealth when you’re just starting your career

Although Jimmy Chan, 35, and his partner, Sue, 36, landed good jobs and bought a house together shortly after they earned undergraduate degrees in 2008, they still weren’t the best with money.

“We had to borrow money just to furnish our new home because we didn’t have extra savings,” said Chan. At the time, Chan, a computer engineer, was paying down his student loans on an entry level IT salary. Having to borrow money for furniture completely wiped them out, he said. But, it was the wake-up call they needed to avoid getting into any more debt.

The Montreal couple managed to pay off the IKEA debt, and Chan repaid his C$10,000 in student loan debt in his 20s. Still, they didn’t really start getting their financial lives in order until a few months shy of Chan’s 30th birthday.

Wealth-building strategy

Chan and his partner took the approach of starting with small goals and sticking to them. To kickstart their wealth-building, they found ways to live more frugally with the goal of living below their means. They cooked at home, packed lunches and avoided taking on more debt. They worked their way up to setting aside 20 percent of their income, on average, Chan said.

“Once we started to make small adjustments and were seeing results we were motivated,” said Chan. “It may take you 3 months, or 6 months, until you gain that confidence. Once you achieve [your] goal you can say, ‘Wow, we did it again.’”

That strategy allowed the couple to max out their retirement contributions, pay down their mortgage faster and launch Chan’s photography business, Pixelicious, which he operates in addition to his day job in IT.

“You work, you earn money, you save and you invest and you just keep on that cycle,” said Chan. “The payoff is that it gives us options. If we wanted to go on a vacation we would just go because we were able to save diligently.”

Top tips

Start now, start small

Chan’s two pieces of advice for people building wealth early in their careers are

  1. Start small with what you can handle.
  2. Make the most of the time you have to invest and earn compound interest on their savings.

Chan said he’s seen an increase of about 30 percent in his salary since he started his first job, so most of the wealth he and his partner have established has been through staying ambitious and disciplined.

Avoid paying interest on debt

After the IKEA loan, the couple avoided debt.

“We made a priority very early on that besides the mortgage we did not want any outstanding debt,” said Chan. “We have kept it a priority as long as I can remember.”

Keep multiple income streams

In 2015, the couple said they used some $20,000 of their savings (non-retirement, non-emergency fund savings) to launch Chan’s professional photography business. Chan operates the business in his free time, outside of his job in IT. Today, the business is profitable and has increased the household’s income by about 10 to 15 percent, Chan told MagnifyMoney.

“The business venture is a cherry on top,” said Chan. “It helps us to diversify our income streams.” He adds that the business’s income gives the couple more options and helps avoid financial stress overall.

Work together

Chan said the one of the most impactful parts of his wealth-building journey has been being on the same page with his partner.

“Every financial decision was decided as a team,” said Chan. “We both contribute. It doesn’t matter if one earns more than the other one.”

With the exception of his student loans, the couple has tackled their debts and savings goals together. When it came to Chan’s business, Chan said, Sue was supportive and they made the decision to invest the money together. They would both delay taking a vacation and instead put the money toward the business.

“Be honest and upfront about your financial goals from the get go and work together to realize your dreams,” said Chan.

Lessons learned

Chan said that there was a point when he thought money was the most important thing in the world — and then he lost money in the stock market.

“I’ve made mistakes. I’ve put money in places, in stocks, where I should not have been,” said Chan. “I lost a few thousand bucks in a stock that crashed I thought it was the end of the world. We started arguing. We started fighting.”

Chan told MagnifyMoney that he, like everyone else, is destined to make mistakes or lose some money along the way. But he said that he’s learned that money is only one aspect of your life and that it’s not the most important component, even as you’re working to build wealth — your relationships are. He added that you should accept your mistakes and come back even stronger.

Wealth-building in the middle of your career

Wealth-building in the middle of your career

Shortly after he graduated from Pepperdine University with a bachelor’s in business, Terence Michael began his career as a film producer in Los Angeles. It was the early 1990s.

Michael, now 49, worked for three months with other producers, then launched his own production company. He said it took several years to get his first couple of films going, and the income was inconsistent. He often stayed at his parents’ house and did odd jobs to scrape by.

Eventually at 29, after producing a few successful films, Michael bought a house. He fixed it up and sold it two years later, and he took a break from producing at age 31 to continue this pattern of real-estate investing. Even as he returned to producing a few years later, he kept the real-estate side hustle going. A couple of decades into his career, his resume includes highlights like “Duck Dynasty” (executive producer) and “Planet Primetime” (executive producer), as well as his own film and TV company, 100 Percent Terry Cloth. On top of that, he’s continued to build wealth through a host of real estate and investing activities.

Wealth-building strategy

Michael said his greatest wealth building strategy has been making the most out of what he calls “proximity potential” — combining the things he knows with the worlds or business industries he knows. He coined the term in his book “Produce Yourself.”

Instead of paying fees to brokers and agents to buy and sell houses, Michael got a mortgage broker’s license after his first few sales. He sat at a Starbucks and took courses online until he earned his real estate broker’s license.

With the license under his belt, he could act independently as a self-employed broker representing clients and form an independent mortgage company. Knowing that people in the entertainment industry may receive income sporadically, and understanding the difficulty that presents when getting a mortgage, Michael focused his business on helping that population.

Top tips

Make money off of what you own

“You can find some financial independence by having a good job, but you’re never going to have real wealth unless you have ownership vehicles,” said Michael.“I don’t know if anyone in history has ever created financial wealth [just] by working for someone else, with just a paycheck.”

In addition to running his production company, Michael:

  • works as a showrunner on other production projects;
  • brokers mortgages;
  • is a superhost on Airbnb;
  • hosts the “Produce Yourself” podcast;
  • coaches entrepreneurs and young couples on how to invest and grow their money

Michael said having his side hustle in real estate allowed him the financial stability to pursue his main purpose and passion, film and TV.

“Whenever I’m developing, raising money, and trying to sell, it’s nice to have all of these other streams flowing,” said Michael.

Lend and receive

Michael saves for retirement, but puts any extra funds into online platforms that lend money to other people and businesses.

He started off with investments in peer-to-peer lending platforms like LendingClub and Prosper. Then, he realized he could do the same with real estate and have his money secured by an asset, so he invested heavier on platforms like Ground Floor, Patch of Land and Yield Street.

“That I would call my savings, because if you keep laddering in eventually after a year, year and a half, it starts laddering it out,” said Michael.

Teach what you know

Michael wrote his book, “Produce Yourself,” in 2017 and started a podcast with that same title later that year. He said he decided to write the book after friends and colleagues asked him about his side hustles, multiple streams of income and how he did it all while working in Hollywood — and the book and podcast led to yet another income stream.

Lessons learned

Although Michael’s never lived “a story where [he] was in the gutter and crying for help,” he still attributes his success to a network of family and friends: “I know that whatever risk I take, I won’t go hungry and I will have someplace to sleep.”

Having a support system is important, but so is understanding what you’re getting into. Michael said he has experienced things like bad tenants and investments that have fallen through. It happens all the time, but having multiple investments going at once makes it easier to weather.

Building wealth when you’re making a career change

Building wealth when you’re making a career change

In 2017, police officer Adam Doran in Kansas City, Mo., wanted to make a career change. A few years prior, he had found himself deep in debt, facing foreclosure and trying to cover fixed expenses that exceeded his income by about $1,100 each month. On top of that, the recently divorced Doran had a 5-year-old daughter to care for.

“I can’t adequately describe the anxiety of that situation, but it was incredibly stressful,” said Doran.

That was about six years ago. Last year, having bounced back from that low place and growing increasingly tired of police work, Doran put together a six-week finance class at his church. It went so well, he said, people were asking him if he would be their financial adviser and his wife suggested a career change. Doran has since obtained his life and health insurance licenses and has started working towards certification in financial advising. He retired from his policing career in January 2018.

Of course, making a career switch can be very difficult. Doran was going from a steady job in law enforcement to becoming an entrepreneur, all while trying to continue paying down his debt and building wealth.

Wealth-building strategy

Though Doran is only a few months into his new career, he has attributed his stability during this time of change to strict discipline. After his divorce, his faith played a significant role in his ability to move forward, Doran told MagnifyMoney.

“I prayed a lot,” he said. “And I made a renewed commitment to giving 10 percent of my gross income back to God.”

His decision to tithe (give 10% of his income to church) and save money consistently became the foundation of his financial recovery. Maintaining that discipline helped Doran learn that finances are mainly behavioral, he told MagnifyMoney.

“The kind of person that has the discipline to faithfully give and save a percentage of their money, consistently without fail, regardless of the circumstances, is bound to encounter success financially,” Doran said.

Top tips

Diversify your income

While leaving the police force meant Doran was leaving behind a steady paycheck, it wasn’t his only stream of income. Doran fully owns a rental property and has multiple assets growing in value, he told MagnifyMoney. So when he decided to make a professional shift, he wasn’t betting his entire financial future on the new career.

Stay the course

When it came time to transition into his new line of work, Doran focused on staying the course. He’s continued to pay off his debts to free up more and more of his income. His investments in real estate also supply him with passive income streams.

“It was pretty cool that I had monthly checks coming in from rents on rental properties and payments on private loans,” said Doran.

His properties and business also allow him to take tax deductions he didn’t have before, so he gets more money back from the government at tax time.

Read and network

Doran looked to books and mentors to learn about personal finance and investing. He went online, searched LinkedIn and attended in-person investor gatherings to meet people who had spent years in the field he was just starting to get to know.

“I also did my best to connect with those who had gray hair, because I figured they would, and they did, have success and failure stories and experiences I could learn from,” said Doran.

He read books like “Think and Grow Rich,” “Conversations with Millionaires” and “How Successful People Think” to change his mindset about money and help him make decisions that could grow his business.

Lessons learned

So far, he hasn’t learned any of the tough lessons that are sure to come with his career change, but Doran has plenty of other things in his past that have helped him better approach his finances. He’s said that he wouldn’t change anything about his recovery and wealth-building process, but has expressed regret over the bad decisions that got him into the situation.

“I wish I hadn’t borrowed money on vehicles or gotten into a house that was too expensive for me. But, I suppose that was all part of the process of living and growing that I was supposed to go through to help me become who I am today,” he said.

Building wealth in retirement

Building wealth in retirement

Markus Horner, 69, of Sachse, Texas, ran his residential maintenance business for just over 25 years before a knee injury forced him to retire at 67. During his working years, Horner struggled to save much money for retirement.

“I was able to contribute a little bit but not a whole lot,” said Horner about his retirement nest-egg. “I wasn’t making enough to be able to do that back then, but now I can.”

That’s because just before he retired two years ago, one of the customers he was installing a front door for introduced him to swing trading: short-term trading on the stock market.

Wealth-building strategy

Horner said the money he used to start his swing trading business is money he had saved up over a long period of time while working as a maintenance man. Swing trading is a short-term trading method one can use on stocks and options. Swing traders look for stocks with short-term price momentum, and they hold assets for two days to two weeks before they sell.

Now, in addition to Social Security and the income he receives as a disabled veteran, Horner is able to use income from swing trading to help support his family, fund his hobbies and pad his retirement savings.

“It’s not for everybody, but it’s something I find very, very interesting,” said Horner about the business.

He said he uses some of the extra funds to cover bills here and there, but the majority goes to his savings, helping his daughter pay for graduate school and to an expensive, longtime hobby: building hot rods.

“Hopefully I will make enough that when I do pass away — whenever that occurs, hoping its a number of years from now — there will be enough money that my wife will be able to live comfortably,” Horner said — although, he noted that the family doesn’t necessarily need his income, since his wife, Lourdes, 59, still works as an opthamologist.

“She makes enough there that we could live off of her income if we chose to,” said Horner; his wife also has a pension and ample retirement savings in a 401(k) and Social Security she can tap into when she retires. “But I like to work and make my own money so I will have something to help me build my hot rods.”

Top tips

Don’t limit yourself

Those looking for additional income to help them through their retirement years shouldn’t feel limited in their search. Horner advises they look for something they like to do that they find interesting.

“I did not know that swing trading even existed until two years go,” said Horner. “Look around, don’t limit yourself to just one or two or even three things.”

Set up a savings account

Horner said it’s “absolutely critical” for those strapped for cash in retirement to set up a savings account if they haven’t already, and they should automate the savings.

That’s something he and his wife did in the years just before he retired. They set up an automatic transfer to their savings account for every Friday, and increased the amount over time as their incomes rose. They started out saving $25, Horner said, and now, they are saving about $200 every Friday.

“We are at a point where we can do that and not struggle. But we couldn’t do that in the beginning,” said Horner.

That’s why he suggests people start small, and gradually learn to live with less. After about five years, the couple had saved more than $10,000, Horner told Magnifymoney.

“And that’s the money I used to start my trading account. $10,000. That’s how I got started,” said Horner.

Lessons learned

Horner said his biggest financial regret is not having been able to put money into a retirement account during his younger working years.

Although he said he wish he’d learned about swing trading earlier, it was probably good timing, as it wouldn’t have been something he thinks his younger self could have done.

“Being a swing trader requires tremendous patience. I did not have the patience 30 years ago that I have now,” said Horner. “If you don’t have the willingness to be patient, you will actually lose money by being impatient.”

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Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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