For most people, buying a house will be the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. It also will be their most important. They will spend most of their non-working hours in their home. They will raise their family there. And they may tie up a significant portion of their net worth there.
In other words, it’s not a purchase to be taken lightly.
Luckily, real estate agents are available to walk you through the homebuying process. From showing you potential properties through signing the closing documents, your agent will help you navigate the often unpredictable real estate market. But as the real estate industry continues to grow and more and more agents enter the field, how do you select the right one for your home purchase?
Here are a few tips to help you find the perfect real estate agent:
- Ask your friends and family for recommendations. For many agents, referrals are their bread and butter. They go out of their way to provide outstanding service not only because they want to please their current clients, but also because they know it might lead to future clients. Ask your friends and family members who represented them when they bought their house and how they felt about the experience. Be sure to ask them to share both the positives and the negatives.
- Research agents online. While about 33 percent of homebuyers find their agent through a personal referral, another 26 percent find theirs online. You might want to start with online reviews on Zillow or Redfin. If you find a negative review, don’t write the agent off immediately; instead, look to see how the agent responded. Don’t forget to look at the agent’s website, where you can find a short bio or other valuable information.
Check out credentials and certifications. Just like doctors, real estate agents often have specialties. If you want someone who specializes in the buyer’s side of a real estate transaction, you may want to limit your search to agents who have earned the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation from the National Association of Realtors. These agents have met specific educational and work experience requirements and have proven experience representing homebuyers.
Look at agents who know the area. If you’re targeting a specific neighborhood, you may want to find an agent who has extensive experience with properties there. He or she will know about local schools, commute times, recent sale prices, and quirks that may be common with houses in that area, like older plumbing or foundation issues.
Interview your potential agents. After you’ve narrowed down your list of potential agents, set up interviews with each of them. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your agent in the next few months, so you want to make sure you choose someone you’re comfortable working with. Ask them about their experience and specialties. Be sure to find out how many current clients they have so you can make sure they won’t be too busy to give you the attention you’ll need throughout the homebuying process.
Once you have found the right agent, the homebuying process should go smoothly. After you’ve closed on your dream home, be sure to store your mortgage documents on InsureYouKnow.org. Don’t forget to include other important paperwork like home warranties or pest inspection certificates. If any issues arise with your new home, you want to be able to access those documents and resolve them quickly.
Saving for retirement for daunting. When you’re saving for something like a down payment on a house or a new car, you can have a pretty accurate figure in mind. But when you’re saving for retirement, it’s hard to know how much you’ll need. There are so many unknowns: How old will you be when you retire? Will you have any major health issues? What will your tax rate be? How long will you live?
It’s easy to want to throw up your hands and decide to worry about it later, but that is the exact wrong thing to do. Thanks to the power of compound interest, it’s important to start saving as early as possible and keep saving for as long as possible.
Not convinced? Look at the numbers. Assuming an 8 percent rate of return, if you start investing $250 a month at age 25, you will have $878,570 by age 65. If you start at age 35, you will have $375,073. And if you wait until age 45, you will have $148,236.
It’s time to stop procrastinating and develop a savings plan.
If you’re the type who likes to have an exact target, we have good news. Fidelity Investments has developed age-based milestones to help you travel the road to retirement. By biting off your savings plan into manageable chunks, you can keep track of where you are and feel more confident that you’ll get to where you need to go.
Fidelity recommends you aim for the following targets by age:
- By age 30: Have saved the equivalent of your annual salary
- By age 40: Have saved three times your salary
- By age 50: Have saved six times your salary
- By age 60: Have saved eight times your salary
- By age 67: Have saved 10 times your salary
The ultimate goal is for you to have saved enough by age 67 to be able to maintain your current lifestyle in retirement. Your personal goal may vary; if you’re planning on living modestly in retirement, you may need to save less, and if you’re planning on traveling extensively, you may need to save more.
The age at which you retire also plays an important part in your planning. If you want to retire earlier, at age 65, you will need to have saved 12 times your salary. If you wait to retire until age 70, you will need to have saved eight times your salary.
Those numbers probably still sound daunting, but they’re a good starting point. After all, the hardest part can be taking that first step.There are a number of ways you can save for retirement, including participating in a 401(k) plan offered by your employer and/or contributing to a separate IRA. No matter how you do it, be sure to store all your important retirement documents at InsureYouKnow.org. That way, when it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, you’ll know how to access all the money you’ve painstakingly saved for years.
It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to writing your will. Not only is it unpleasant to think about your own death, but also determining how to distribute your assets sounds like a complicated process. You may not even know where to begin.
But begin you must. Creating a will and storing it somewhere safely like InsureYouKnow.org is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. A will ensures your wishes are carried out as you intended and your family is provided for and protected once you are gone.
Luckily, writing a will is actually a fairly simple process—especially if you get professional assistance. While you may be tempted to write one yourself using one many of the do-it-yourself kits available online, hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning usually is the wisest decision.
Here are 6 reasons you should hire a lawyer to write your will:
- Your estate is complicated. If you have a very simple estate, you may be able to write your own will. But in general, that applies to a small pool of people. If you have significant assets, minor children, your own business, or other complicating factors, you definitely want to let a professional handle your will.
- You don’t want any mistakes. When it comes to your will, you want to make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. From getting the wording exactly right to making sure all your documents are properly signed and witnessed, there are a lot of steps involved in creating a valid will. Make sure it’s done right the first time so your loved ones aren’t dealing with a headache later.
- You want to save money. True, hiring an attorney isn’t cheap. Generally speaking, a lawyer will probably charge around $1,000 to draft your will—and it might cost more depending on your circumstances. But a lawyer also will talk you through various tax strategies that can save you and your family money in the long term.
- You need more than a will. When you use a basic template or create your will online, you’re getting a will. End of story. But an attorney will help you create a comprehensive estate plan. This will include your will along with a number of other important documents, such as a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.
- You don’t know all the laws. Legal documents are complicated. Different states have different requirements. And the laws are always changing. There’s a reason lawyers are paid the big bucks: They know the laws, and they stay on top of them. A lawyer will worry about the details on your behalf.
- You haven’t thought everything through. You have a basic plan for your assets. You know who’s getting the house and how your savings will be divided up. Great! But who’s going to take care of your dog? What happens if you outlive one of your heirs? Lawyers have seen all these situations play out in real life and know how to address them in your estate plan.
Once you’ve created all your estate plan documents, it’s important to store them in a safe place and let your loved ones know where they are. At InsureYouKnow.org, we promise to keep all your critical files safe and secure. Simply upload your documents to our portal and let someone you trust know how to access them. Life is complicated; we help you uncomplicate it.
It happens to the best of us. You set your purse on the bench next to you and leave it behind when you get up to chase down your toddler; it’s gone when you return. Or you take out your wallet to pay for something, get distracted, and forget to put it back in your pocket.
Whatever the case, you lose your wallet. Now what do you do?
It’s not easy to replace everything in your wallet. Some of the more sentimental items, like the movie ticket you saved from your first date with your now-husband, will be gone forever. But luckily, you probably can get new prints of any photos you were carrying—and you definitely can get new credit cards and a new driver’s license.
Here are the steps you should take if you lose your wallet.
- Cancel your debit and credit cards. If you have a debit card, the first thing you want to do is report the loss to your bank since the card is directly tied to your checking account. Then start calling those credit card companies. Make sure you log on to InsureYouKnow.org, where you’ve smartly stored all the information you’ll need for each card: the name of the issuing bank, the bank’s customer service number, and your account number. Don’t forget about any store cards you might have.
- File a police report. Obviously the police don’t have time to track down every stolen wallet. Nonetheless, it’s important to report the loss. That way, if someone tries to steal your identity using the information in your lost wallet, you have proof of the incident. Be sure to keep a copy of the police report for your records.
- Replace your driver’s license. This step is a little more involved. You most likely will have to head down to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and handle this in person. The DMV will probably encourage you to file a police report, which is another reason you want to complete the second step; some states may even waive the replacement fee if you provide proof your wallet was stolen.
- Replace your other cards. From your health insurance card to your warehouse club card, there’s a good chance you carry more cards in your wallet than you think. It’ll be a process, but you need to contact all the companies associated with those cards and request replacements (and yes, that includes your library card; you don’t want to be hit with a bunch of late fees months after you thought this nightmare was over).
- Place a fraud alert on your accounts. To further protect you against identity theft, you’ll want the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to put a fraud alert on your file. You only need to call one of them; the company you call is required to notify the other two. It’s a good idea to order a copy of your credit report from each company to make sure everything looks right. Remember, you can order a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com.
Losing your wallet is a hassle—and that’s another reason why it’s important to store your vital financial information and other documents on InsureYouKnow.org. Being able to find the information you need quickly and easily will save you a lot of time and headache.
Here at InsureYouKnow.org, one of the most common questions we get is, “Can you store my driver’s license?” That’s followed closely by, “How about my credit card information?”
Often, millennials are the ones asking these questions. People joke about millennials being addicted to technology, and in many ways it’s true. They have no interest in carrying around a cumbersome wallet or filing away paperwork. They’d rather keep everything on their most cherished item: their smartphone.
Their dreams are coming true.
Mobile payment applications like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are being accepted at more and more stores every day. These apps allow consumers to complete contactless transactions straight from their phone. Gone is the need to carry around a plastic credit card.
Many states are considering replacing traditional driver’s licenses with digital versions. Iowa has already announced plans to switch to digital driver’s licenses in 2019. As more states invariably follow suit, the days of the laminated driver’s license will become numbered.
And of course, smartphones already house more photos than a traditional wallet ever could. There’s no need to print and place photos in protective sleeves when you can show off your adorable toddler with the swipe of a finger.
Farewell, dear wallet.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on this phenomenon in which six writers reflected on the demise of the wallet. They shared fond memories of wallets from days past.
One woman remembered how she kept a torn dollar bill in her wallet as a reminder of a fun evening she’d spent with a man she had a crush on. “For months, each time I opened the cash sleeve of my wallet, I’d peer down at that half a dollar and feel a renewed hope that he might come around on me yet,” she wrote.
Another wrote about the fake Willie Nelson concert tickets she’d purchased from a scammer and how she ended up having a wonderful night anyway. “The tickets are worthless—they always were—but they hold special value in my wallet as both warning and as a reminder that some of the best memories are made even if things don’t go as planned,” she said.
Sentimental memories like these are irreplaceable, but the wallet is not. The smartphone is indeed on its way to replacing your wallet, just as InsureYouKnow.org can replace your filing cabinet. We’re doing our part to eliminate headache-inducing paperwork by providing a simple, low-cost way to store all your important documents in one place.
You can’t pay for a purchase using our site, and you won’t be seeing “Now accepting InsureYouKnow.org” at a retailer near you any time soon. But yes, you can upload a copy of your driver’s license for safekeeping, and you definitely want to store your credit card and other banking information on the site. That way you and your loved ones will be able to log on to InsureYouKnow.org to find your account numbers, bank names, and other important information when needed. After all, you never know when you’ll lose your wallet or—gasp!—your smartphone.