What Happens if You Lie on Your Taxes?

November 21, 2019 &• 5 min read by Kat Tretina Comments 0 Comments

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NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the IRS has extended the federal tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020. The recent relief package passed by Congress may have additional tax implications. Please contact a tax adviser for information you may need to complete your taxes this year. Learn more.

According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2018 was $3,103. When you hear that number and then do your own taxes, you expect your refund to be close to that amount. If it’s not–or worse, you owe money–it can be tempting to fudge the numbers to increase your refund. However, misrepresenting yourself on your return is tax fraud, and it has grave consequences.

Consequences of lying on your taxes can include:

  • Being audited
  • Fines and penalties up to hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • Jail time

Learn more about the penalties below and how to avoid them.

Will I Get Caught if I Lie on My Taxes?

The IRS gets all of the W-2s and 1099s that you receive, so it knows if you don’t report all of your income. Even if the income you’re trying to hide came in the form of cash payments, your financial activity can send up a red flag with the IRS that might trigger an audit.

What Is an IRS audit?

An IRS audit is an extensive review of your taxes and financial records to ensure you reported everything accurately. Though most people have a less than 1% chance of being audited, it’s not worth the risk.

Undergoing an audit is a time-intensive and costly process that involves providing years of documentation and even in-person interviews. If the IRS audits you, you can hire a professional to represent you and your interests.

While the IRS may have only flagged one return for audit, it can review any return from the past six years. If it finds more issues, it can add penalties and fines for every year with problems. If you made tax mistakes for the past several years, you could end up owing thousands for taxes you misrepresented.

Can You Go to Jail for an IRS Audit?

While being audited in itself doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, if you’re found guilty of tax evasion or fraud, that’s a different story. The outcome of an audit is a determining factor in whether or not you will be charged with an offense that carries jail time.

What Is the Penalty for an Incorrect Tax Return?

If the IRS finds errors on your return and audits you, the penalties and fines assessed can be steep.

According to Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax and Consulting, lying on your taxes to reduce your tax bill or boost your refund may end up costing you more in the long run.

“If you don’t pay your tax liability by the due date, the IRS will charge you a late payment penalty. Even if you file on time, you may still be charged a late payment penalty if you under-report your income and the IRS find out,” Zimmelman said.

In addition to that penalty, the IRS can also charge you interest on the underpayment. “If you’re found guilty of tax evasion or tax fraud, you might end up having to pay serious fines,” said Zimmelman.

While tax evasion or tax fraud is normally imagined as something that affects high earners and big executives, even those with lower incomes need to be careful. When describing the penalties for tax fraud, the IRS does not differentiate between income amounts or how much you underpaid your taxes. If you falsify any information on a return, it can fine you up to $250,000.

Can the IRS Put a Person in Jail?

In addition to owing thousands of dollars in penalties, fees and interest, you may also face criminal charges that result in jail time. While the IRS itself cannot jail offenders, the courts can.

Criminal investigations and charges start when an IRS auditor detects possible fraud during an audit of your returns. Courts convict approximately 3,000 people every year of tax fraud, signaling how serious the IRS takes lying on your taxes.

How Long Is the Jail Sentence for Lying on a Tax Return?

The length of the sentence for lying on a tax return depends largely upon the specific details of your situation. These details determine the exact charge against you. That determines the penalties you may face.

The odds of the IRS charging you for fraud is relatively small. Even if you are investigated, the chances of you facing a criminal charge are pretty slim. However, with the potential consequences being as severe as they are, lying on a tax return is not worth the risk just to get a little extra money in your refund.

Are There Other Ramifications of Lying on Your Taxes?

In addition to massive fines, penalties and potential jail time, lying on your taxes to reduce your income can have other negative ramifications. For example, it can impact your ability to secure lines of credit.

“If you under-report your income, it might hurt you when you try to buy a house or apply for a personal loan,” said Zimmelman. “You might not get it if it looks like you cannot afford to pay it back, so lying on your taxes may hurt in that respect.”

When mortgage companies and banks review your application, they request copies of your tax returns to check your total income. If you lied about your income to lower your tax liability, your full income won’t be on the return. That means you may be denied for the loan you need, hurting your financial future.

Moreover, failing to file a return at all can completely tank your credit report. So, not only do lenders not have an accurate picture of your income, they see a less than stellar credit report as well.

How Can You Get More on Your Tax Return Legally?

Nobody likes owing money to the IRS at the end of the year or getting a miserly refund. However, tax fraud is a serious crime. Glossing over your income, boosting your deductions or any other form of “fudging numbers” is lying on your tax return, and that’s tax fraud.

That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with owing or receiving less than you desire. There are a number of legal ways to get a bigger tax refund.

Even if none of those avenues are open to you, it’s still better to tell the truth. Saving yourself a little money at filing time can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It may even land you in jail.

Save yourself the headache and report your information accurately and on time. And, make sure you know what you need to do to avoid common mistakes made on taxes.


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12 Jobs Working with Animals That Pay Good Money

September 16, 2020 &• 6 min read by Sheiresa Ngo Comments 0 Comments

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Love the idea of working with animals, but don’t have the resources or desire to go through vet school? You can still put your love of pets or wildlife to work in your career. Here are twelve jobs working with animals that can pay the bills for any animal lover.

1. Groomer

Groomers help pets look their best by cleaning them, trimming fur and providing other services. Pay depends on skills, certifications, experience and which state you work in. The highest pay in each region typically going to specialists who provide boutique grooming services.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $34,702
  • Salary Range: $22,666 to $51,323
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

How to Become One: Typically, animal caretakers must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Most training takes place on the job, but some choose to study at a grooming school. Employers generally prefer candidates to have some experience working with animals.

2. Pet Sitter and Dog Walker

Pet sitters and dog walkers care for pets while owners are traveling or unavailable. You might choose to work through a service that pays you as an employee or hire your own services out as a freelance dog walker or pet sitter. In the latter case, you may make more money per job but will also have to handle your own marketing and business administration expenses.

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Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $31,095
  • Salary Range: $20,211 to $45,826
  • Minimum Qualifications: varies

How to Become One: Employers may require a high school diploma or GED and some training or certification. However, if you want to freelance as a dog walker, you may just need experience and references, so concerned pet owners can learn more about you.

3. Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary assistants work in a vet office, clinic or animal hospital helping veterinarians with animal care. They are responsible for assisting with routine tasks, which might include checking in patients or helping as the vet provides services.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $30,898
  • Salary Range: $19,431 to $43,072
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

How to Become One: If you want to become a veterinary assistant, you should at least have a high school diploma. Most veterinary assistants learn their trade on the job. Certification isn’t always required, but it could help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.

4. Research Animal Caretaker

Laboratory animal caretakers work in labs with animal scientists, biologists or veterinarians. They feed, care for and monitor the well-being of lab animals.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $37,890
  • Salary Range: $35,215 to $46,105
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

How to Become One: Laboratory animal caretakers are required to at least have a high school diploma. Most laboratory animal caretakers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Certification isn’t required to become a laboratory animal caretaker, but some employers prefer it. Having a certification could also help you get promoted.

5. Animal Trainer

Animal trainers are responsible for training animals for tasks such as riding, performance, obedience or assisting the disabled. They can also help animals become more comfortable with human interaction.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $30,430
  • Salary Range: $20,810 to $59,110
  • Minimum Qualifications: no formal education requirements

How to Become One: There are no formal education requirements to become an animal trainer. Those who train animals usually receive on-the-job training. In addition, animal trainers can receive education through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and earn certificates or other credentials to help them move up in their careers.

6. Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians perform medical testing with the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They help diagnose an animal’s injury or illness and may also perform some routine procedures, such as ultrasounds, catheterization or EKGs, and administer anesthesia.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $35,308
  • Salary Range: $24,619 to $48,002
  • Minimum Qualifications: an associate degree

How to Become One: Typically, you must complete at least an associate degree or get a certification from an accredited program. Depending on the state, you may need to pass an exam and become registered, licensed or certified. Many employers look for techs with at least some experience in the field, which means many vet techs start in an assistant position.

7. Animal Control Worker

Animal control workers help ensure the proper treatment of animals, investigate cases of mistreatment, may help locate abandoned animals and may be called on to deal with nuisance animals of certain types.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $38,490
  • Salary Range: $23,160 to $58,220
  • Minimum Qualifications: varies by location

How to Become One: Animal control workers are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additional training usually takes place on the job. The National Animal Care & Control Association offers training programs. In addition, some states require certification in animal control.

8. Conservation & Forest Technician

Conservation and forest workers help keep track of wildlife, gather data, suppress forest fires and work to improve the health of forests. They may lead guided tours or help train others in managing natural habitats.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $39,180
  • Salary Range: $26,160 to $56,410
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

How to Become One: In many cases, all you need is a high school diploma. You receive on-the-job training, but you can potentially advance your career with certifications or degrees in various sciences.

9. Breeder

Breeders select and breed animals according to characteristics and genealogy. They may use artificial insemination equipment and need to keep meticulous records on animal health, genetics, dates of birth and family history.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $46,420
  • Salary Range: $26,030 to $69,550
  • Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent

How to Become One: Animal breeders are required to have a minimum of a high school education. In addition, breeders learn their skill through short-term on-the-job training. Those who want to breed zoo animals are required to have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and, depending on career goals, may also want to pursue postgraduate study in zoology.

10. Biological Technician

Biological technicians help medical scientists in the laboratory. They are responsible for the setup, operation and maintenance of laboratory equipment. They also monitor experiments.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $49,110
  • Salary Range: $29,540 to $73,350
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

How to Become One: Biological technicians generally need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar field. Technicians must also acquire laboratory experience and a working knowledge of computers and lab equipment.

11. Zoologist & Wildlife Biologist

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study how animals and wildlife interact with their environment. They may also help care for animals in captivity.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $67,200
  • Salary Range: $38,880 to $101,780
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

How to Become One: A bachelor’s degree is necessary for those seeking entry-level positions. A master’s degree is usually required for advanced or scientific positions. Those who want to lead independent research or work at a university might want to consider a doctoral degree.

12. Conservation Scientist

Conservation land managers work with conservation groups, landowners or other entities to protect specific wildlife and land. Often, they do so because the area is a habitat for certain animals, particularly endangered animals.

Here are the job details:

  • Median Salary: $67,040
  • Salary Range: $39,270 to $98,060
  • Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree

How to Become One: Conservation scientists usually need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in natural resource management, agriculture or another related field. Experience can be gained through internships and volunteer work. Some states require those desiring to become foresters to obtain a license.

Start Working Now to Land a Job Working with Animals

First, check out Monster.com‘s resume services and bring out the most relevant facts in your work history. Get tips and help polishing your resume so it shines when it hits employee inboxes or application systems. Then, upload your resume to ZipRecruiter and start connecting immediately with employers who are looking for people with a passion for jobs working with animals.

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What to Know Before Taking Out a Subsidized Loan

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Attending college or university is a dream for a ton of people. Yet higher education can be expensive, seemingly putting that dream out of reach for many students and families.

Tuition at American schools has steadily increased for decades, so it can be hard for your average student to afford it. But it’s not only tuition costs that you need to consider: fees, room and board, off-campus living, meal plans, textbooks, living essentials and other supplies all cost money.

Fortunately, there are many different types of financial aid available to help you meet the total costs of attending school.

Grants, scholarships and government programs can all be used to aid your pursuit of higher education. Student loans, including private and federal loans, are also commonly used to fund college. But taking on debt requires more financial planning than other types of aid.

If you’re ready to find the right loan for you and your unique financial situation, we’ve got you covered. We’ll go over everything and anything we think you need to know about subsidized student loans—the basics, how they’re different from unsubsidized loans and much more. 

Student Loans and Rising Education Costs

Having a plan for how you’ll pay for college is pretty important. That’s mostly because the tuition continues rise: 

  • According to The College Board, tuition and fees for a public four-year institution in the academic year of 1989–90 were $3,510, in 2019 dollars. 
  • For the academic year 2019–2020, those costs exceeded $10,000. In the same time span, tuition and fees for a private four-year institution rose from $17,860 to nearly $37,000. 
  • In the last 10 years alone, tuition and fees for four-year public schools have increased $2,020, while costs for four-year private schools have grown $6,210. 

But as we mentioned, total costs include a lot more than tuition, and these other cost items have shown the same upward trend:

  • Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows college textbooks costs increased 88% from 2006 to 2016.
  • Average dorm costs at all postsecondary institutions were $6,106 in 2017, per data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Boarding costs, including meal plans, were $4,765. A decade earlier those costs, respectively, were $4,777 and $4,009.
  • Costs rose 24% for students living off-campus at public four-year universities between 2000 and 2017, according to The Hechinger Report.

The growth in college costs has occurred rapidly, outpacing wagegrowth. This has made a degree unaffordable for many. That’s where student loans come in.

The biggest source of these loans is the federal government. According to Sallie Mae, more than 90% of student loan debt today is tied to federal student loans. While the government offers several loan types, often based on financial need, private lenders such as banks and credit unions also make student loans available.

What is a Subsidized Loan?

To better understand your loan options, let’s explore the specifics of one of the government’s most popular offers: the subsidized student loan.

Officially, a subsidized loan is a type of federal loan offered through the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program and referred to as a Direct Subsidized Loan. They are made exclusively to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and can be used to pay for college, university or a career school.

Subsidized loans work like most other student loans. They allow college goers to borrow money as they learn, paying the principal and interest back later. Most loans don’t require repayment while you attend school, and provide a grace period of six months after graduation for you to find a job. 

The most notable feature of subsidized loans is that the government pays the interest while you attend school at least part time. This is a quality that’s pretty much unique to federal subsidized loans. 

The government will also pay the interest during the grace period and during periods of loan deferment. You eventually assume responsibility for paying the interest, and principal, once you enter the repayment plan. 

The bottom line for subsidized loans is they carry a lower lifetime cost, because the government pays interest while you’re at school.

Who’s Eligible to Take Out a Subsidized Loan?

Subsidized loans aren’t available to everyone, however. In addition to meeting basic requirements for getting a loan from the federal Direct Loan Program, applicants for subsidized loans must:

  • Demonstrate financial need.
  • Be an undergraduate student.
  • Be enrolled at least half time.

Anyone considering a subsidized loan must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is how the government will establish whether you demonstrate financial need that is sufficient for taking out a subsidized loan.

What Else Should You Know?

There are two other main points to discuss about subsidized loans—loan limits and time limits. Ultimately, your school will decide how much you can borrow. But there are annual limits to what you can borrow through subsidized loans, as well as a maximum for the entirety of your college career.

  • In your first undergrad year you can borrow up to $5,500 through federal loan, no more than $3,500 of that amount can be through subsidized loans.
  • In your second year you can borrow up to $6,500, no more than $4,500 through subsidized loans.
  • In your third year you can borrow up to $7,500, no more than $5,500 through subsidized loans.
  • The limits for your third year apply to your fourth year, and any year after that for which you are eligible to borrow through federal subsidized loans.

Factors influencing what you can borrow include what year you are in school and whether you are a dependent or independent student. 

Importantly, you can only receive subsidized loans for 150% of the published time of your degree program. That means if you attend a four-year bachelor’s program, you can only receive a subsidized loan for six years.

What’s the Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans?

Unsubsidized loans are the other type of loan the government offers. While unsubsidized loans and subsidized have some similarities, unsubsidized loans have some major differences.  

Interest rates for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans are controlled and set by Congress. This makes the interest rates for government student loans among the lowest you will be able to find.

While the federal government pays interest on subsidized loans, you’ll be solely responsible for paying interest on unsubsidized loans. You’ll have to pay interest while you’re in school and during the grace/deferment period.  Here are some other key differences:

  • Unsubsidized loans are available to undergraduate students, as well as graduate and professional students.
  • Students don’t need to demonstrate financial need to apply for an unsubsidized loan.
  • There is no maximum time limit for how long you can receive unsubsidized loans (compared to the 150% rule for subsidized loans).
  • Annual and aggregate loan limits are generally higher for unsubsidized loans.

Private Loans vs. Federal Student Loans

Interested in how private loans stack up to government loans? In a nutshell:

  • Private loans can have variable interest rates, which may make them lower in some cases than even fixed interest rates on government loans.
  • Annual loan limits don’t apply to private loans, as you and your lender will work out a package that is best for you.
  • Being approved for a private loan means submitting to a credit check, or having a parent as a consigner.
  • Often, private loans require payment while you attend school, and may not have the allowance for forbearance and forgiveness as government loans do.

Taking the Next Steps Toward Taking Out a Student Loan

If you or your child is nearing college age, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll pay for higher education. It’s a good idea to look into a few options, including student loans, scholarships, grants and other sources. 

If you want to get started on applying for a subsidized loan, get started on your FAFSA form. And if you’re taking a closer look at private student loans, you can find help here.

Infographic outlining what to know about subsidized loans, including their structure, requirements, and qualifications.


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Source: credit.com

Is Investing During Coronavirus a Good Idea?

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The coronavirus bear market might look appealing to some. But for many, the economic changes that come with COVID-19 cause anxiety and uncertainty. Investing during coronavirus, when you can buy stock or other assets for lower prices, might sound like mathematical sense, but is it right for you?

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Start with the information below—and the advice of your
financial planner—to make an educated decision for yourself.

A Look at the COVID-19 Stock Market

The stock market took a beating as the coronavirus
began to sweep across the US. On Feb. 20, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial
Average was 29,219.98 points. By March 23, 2020, it had dropped to
18,591.93 in an extreme slide downward related to the pandemic.

But even as the Dow continued to drop, economic experts were warning people not to panic with their money. Peter Mallouk, a chief investment officer, said he was worried people would make irrecoverable mistakes by using emotion- and fear-based decisions in managing their portfolios.

And in fact, the Dow did start to climb again, reaching as high as 23,949.76 on April 14, 2020. While it’s likely to rise and fall throughout the pandemic, economic experts predict the stock market will eventually rally.

Some Reasons a Rally Is Likely

Nothing falls forever. Eventually, the economy will
begin to rise again. Consumers are eventually going to hit the market with enormous
demand.

According to MarketWatch, the economy in the US is about 70% driven by consumer culture—the buying and selling of goods and services. During the coronavirus quarantine, many people have been stuck in their homes or limited in how they can shop, dine or recreate. Once stay-at-home orders are lifted and people start to get back to a new normal, there’s likely to be a huge spike in spending.

MarketWatch also predicts that changes in supply chains
and money from various economic stimulus efforts will continue to stimulate the
stock market. While no economic future can be 100% predicted, historical trends
support some of these predictions.

Should I Invest During Coronavirus?

But an eventual rise in the stock market isn’t a free pass to go all in. Investment adviser Ric Edelman says knowing how to proceed according to your own situation and needs is important. Regardless of what the economy might be doing right now or in the future, understanding your own financial goals is the place to start.

First, consider how long you have to regain lost wealth or build new wealth. Someone who is on the verge of retirement or already retired may not have the time it takes to wait for bear market investments to increase in value. Older adults might want to stick with low-risk investments or savings accounts that maintain what wealth they already have.

Next, consider your current financial status. “Buy low, sell high” might be the prevailing wisdom among investors, but it only works if you have the money to buy with. Many families are facing loss of income or jobs right now, and it might not be the time for investing. Instead, it might be time to work on your personal budget and negotiate with creditors to reduce expenses, at least temporarily.

Finally, consider how risk adverse you are. No investment is a sure thing, but some
do come with more risk than others. Understanding what you can afford to lose
helps you determine which types of investments might be right for you.

Investing During Coronavirus: Where and How?

Ultimately, only you can decide if investing during
coronavirus is the right move for you. Once you make that decision, though, you
have many options to choose from. Here are just a few possible investments that
might be right for you.

  • Buy stocks that have dropped enough to make them affordable but are for companies that you feel will weather the storm and come out swinging after the pandemic.
  • Invest in companies that have enough cash. Most expert-level investors are still looking for opportunities, but they’re being picky and opting for companies that have strong cash flow and stable balance sheets. Now isn’t the time to make big gambles, especially if you’re not young enough to recover before retirement.
  • Consider investing in real estate, which historically has weathered recessions and global economic crisis better than many other options.

If and how you invest is a very personal decision—and
always a big one. It’s a good idea to seek help from personal financial
advisers or other wealth management professionals even in good times. Consult
professionals for help understanding the best ways to support your
wealth-building goals if you decide to invest during coronavirus.

Other Coronavirus Support

Coronavirus has impacted more than just our investment opportunities. If you’re worried about other money or credit questions at this time, check out our COVID-19 finances guide. From keeping eyes on your credit to what to expect from stimulus packages, Credit.com has information to help you plan and manage your money during this time.


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Source: credit.com

Is a Fixer-Upper Home Worth the Investment?

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Buying fixer-upper homes is currently a popular investment in the housing market, especially since lower-priced houses increase housing confidence in home buyers. On the one hand, it is a great way to purchase a home below market value and sell it for more than you paid. On the other hand, it often seems to be more work than people anticipate, and sometimes the final product doesn’t end up being worth as much time, effort, and money as people put into it.

So, is a fixer-upper home worth it? The answer depends on a variety of factors and your current situation. Thankfully, we have a list of pros and cons as well as tips and recommendations if you’re trying to decide if a fixer-upper home is the right decision for you.

The Pros

  • You have more creative leeway. You can build, renovate, and design the house the way you want.
  • You can decide what places in the home you want to spend more money on (i.e., a better kitchen or a better bedroom).
  • You have the opportunity to make the home worth a great deal more than you paid.
  • You can likely flip the home for more money
  • Fixer-upper homes are typically 8% below the market value.
  • You will pay less in property taxes because they are calculated based on your home’s sale price.
  • If you have a home warranty, you can save money on replacing and repairing broken appliances and systems.

The Cons

  • Most fixer-upper homes are not move-in ready.
  • Renovations are costly.
  • You also don’t have an exact total of what everything will cost, making the financial bottom line uncertain.
  • Fixer-upper homes can be a risk. You never know when things are going to go wrong, so you have to anticipate possible complications.
  • If you need to make structural changes, you’ll need a building permit, which is around $1,000, according to HomeAdvisor.
  • It can take months or even longer to finish a fixer-upper.

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Do a Home Inspection

If you are interested in a fixer-upper home, you want to begin with a home inspection. The inspector will likely be able to determine whether the home is worth the investment or not, depending on the severity of the necessary renovations.

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Note that if the necessary improvements in the house are structural, such as roof and/or wall issues, it’s likely not worth the investment. These type of renovations are complicated and extremely expensive. They are also not typically noticeable by potential buyers, so they fail to raise the value of your home enough to make up for the money you invested. However, if you have a written report from your home inspector listing the major issues and the estimated repair costs, you might be able to get the seller to lower the cost of the house to account for the added repairs you’ll have to do.

Get an Estimate of Renovation Costs

Deciding if a fixer-upper home is worth it is heavily influenced by the estimated cost of renovations. As stated above, home inspectors can often help you with this. Note all of the necessary renovations and how much they will cost by using a home inspector or a contractor; it’s better to over quote this than under quote. Then you want to subtract this from the home’s projected market value (after repairs and renovations). You can estimate a home’s market value by researching the neighboring homes’ values. Finally, you need to deduct 5 to 10 percent more for possible complications and other possibilities.

Determine If You Need Permits

Depending on your area, you might need permits to do certain renovations. If you build without obtaining the proper permits, you could have difficulty selling the house in the future. Make sure you have the money to get the required permits before committing to remodeling.

Identify the Skills You Have and What You Can DIY

Part of purchasing a fixer-upper is having to do much of the work on your own. Decide if you have the skills to do the necessary renovations. If you can do most of the repairs by yourself, figure out what you can DIY and hire someone to do the rest. If you’re doing most of the labor, all you need are the parts and equipment for the renovations, and you won’t have to waste money paying someone else.

If you don’t have the ability to do a large chunk of the workload yourself, consider staying away from a fixer-upper home. Hiring someone to do most of the work for you will likely cost more than the renovations are worth in value.

Make Sure You Have the Time—and the Motivation

Fixer-upper homes require a considerable amount of time. If you think you’re too busy to manage the home renovations, consider going with a move-in ready home instead. Especially if you delay pressing repairs, you could risk losing money and value in your home.

Along with a time sacrifice, fixer-uppers require motivation to deal with such a huge project. Ensure you have the motivation and determination to finish renovations before committing to a fixer-upper home. You don’t want to take the plunge and buy the home just to get burnt out halfway through and regret your decision.

Check Financing Options

Buying a fixer-upper home is more financially complicated than your typical finished home; you will need money for the routine down payment and closing costs, but you will also need money for the home repairs and any possible complications in the renovation process.

If you don’t have enough money for the renovations up front, there are borrowing options such as the 203(k) loan that is meant for home repair, improvement, and reconstruction. A multitude of other loan options can ease the financial difficulty.

Avoid Being House Poor

Being house poor is when you spend the majority of your income on your home ownership. This can include your mortgage payment, property taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, etc. If choosing a fixer-upper home is going to take the majority of your money, you’re most likely better off to wait until you have additional income to handle the financial burden.

Take into account your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when deciding if a fixer-upper home will make you house poor. Your DTI is all of your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Generally, a 36 percent or lower DTI is ideal.

Plan for Complications

With fixer-upper homes comes unpredictability. There are unexpected issues and costs that can leave you scrambling if you’re not prepared. Although you can’t predict the future, you can still take precautions so you are as prepared as possible if something goes wrong, whether that be additional expenses, time constraints, etc. You don’t want to be left in a tough spot because you assumed everything would go as planned.

The Bottom Line

Fixer-upper homes can be a great home investment, but a great deal of responsibility and financial burden comes with it. Make sure you have the resources and the time to manage such a project. If you do, use the above tips in your fixer-upper journey. If not, maybe consider a move-in ready home or you could postpone the fixer-upper project until you are more prepared.

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If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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Fall in Love with Your Credit Score

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you’re probably thinking about your plans for the big day. Whether you’re celebrating with your significant other or friends, love is definitely in the air. But do you feel that love for your credit score? That’s right—it’s time for you to fall in love with your credit score. And we’re here to help. 

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a single number that reflects the overall state of your credit history. It’s used by lenders to determine your eligibility for a loan. The score is calculated and reported by the three major credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Every bureau calculates its own score, so you can have a different score with each agency.

What’s an Excellent Credit Score?

Credit scores are broken into ranges. Scores in higher ranges are considered good or excellent. People with these higher scores can typically get approved for more loan options and may get better terms, interest rates, APRs, etc.

How credit scores are broken up depends on which model is used. Firstly, there’s FICO. This credit score range was developed by FICO, a company that specializes in predictive analytics. FICO uses your credit information to create your credit score, which will help lenders predict your behavior. Here’s the FICO score range:

  • 800 to 850: excellent
  • 740 to 799: very good
  • 670 to 739: good
  • 580 to 669: fair
  • 300 to 579: very poor

Then there’s VantageScore, which is a result of a joint venture from the three major credit bureaus. Here’s the VantageScore credit score range:

  • 750 to 850: excellent
  • 700 to 749: good
  • 650 to 699: fair
  • 600 to 649: poor
  • 300 to 599: bad

Don’t forget that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each have their own credit score. That’s why it’s important to check them out whenever you can! 

How to Feel the Love for Your Credit Score

You wouldn’t settle for a mediocre date, so why settle for a mediocre credit score? If you’re ready to fall head over heels for your score, it might be time to improve your credit. We’ve got some tips on how to love your credit score the right way—by treating it right. 

1. Educate Yourself About Credit

You know how people like to say “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”? That definitely doesn’t apply to your finances. Take time to educate yourself about credit—especially your credit.

First, learn about the five factors that play into your credit score:

  • Payment history: Making up 35% of your score, this refers to how often you have late payments.
  • Credit utilization: This refers to the amount of your credit that you use. Your credit utilization ratio should be less than 30%. This also makes up 30% of your credit score.
  • Average age of accounts: If you have some older accounts, it’ll show lenders that you have great financial management skills. This makes up 15% of your credit score.
  • Account types: It’s best to have a good mix of accounts, such as revolving accounts and installment accounts. This makes up 10% of your score.
  • Inquiries: When you apply for credit, it’s common for lenders to do a hard pull on your credit. This results in an inquiry on your report. Inquiries only make up 10% of your score. 

You should also learn about your own credit. Order your free credit report to see exactly where you stand so you can start improving your credit.

2. Get Organized and Pay Your Billson Time

Timely payments—which means never being late with loan payments or defaulting on loans—is the biggest factor in your credit score. This accounts for almost a third of your score.

Sure, getting organized and being on the ball financially sounds like a chore. But it also means that you’ll be caught up on all your payments. You’ll feel freedom when you know you paid all the bills for the month.

Get a month ahead on bills so you’re never rushing to pay anything. You get the added benefit of a cushion that can be helpful if emergencies do arise. Plus when you make on-time payments your, credit score could rise. 

3. Work with Professionals to Clear Up Errors

Finding an error on your credit report can feel like finding skeletons in your significant other’s closet. Are they real? Is it a false alarm? The best way to tackle an error on your credit report is to go to a professional to help clear the air. 

If you’re feeling ready to dump your credit score over a mistake, it might be time to call in the professionals. Instead of a couple’s counselor, you need a credit repair agency. Sure, they can do the things you could do yourself—but with a lot of time and effort on your part. But the professionals can intervene for you to provide experienced guidance and resources to help get errors on your credit report fixed.

Get to Know Your Credit Score Now

Every good relationship starts with getting to know each other. Before you can fall in love with your credit score, you need to get to know what’s going on with it now and understand your own goals for the future. Start by getting your free credit report card to understand your score and how you rank on each of the five factors that play into it. 

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Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps

Two smiling women look at credit monitoring apps on their cellphones.

Maintaining a healthy credit score requires a good bit of focus, determination and hard work. There’s a lot to keep up with: We need to pay our bills on time, reduce debt and maintain a low debt-to-credit ratio, among other requirements—all to ensure a top-notch credit score. We can use all the help we can get! To that end, here are eight credit monitoring apps that can help keep your credit building on track.

1. Credit.com

One of the only truly free credit monitoring apps—most others require you to have a paid subscription to their digital service in order to use the “free” app—the Credit.com mobile app allows you to access your entire credit profile, including your credit score and insight into how it compares to your peers. You’ll see where you currently stand, see how your score has changed—and why—and get credit information and money-saving tips tailored to your score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

2. myFICO

The myFICO app is free, but it requires an active myFICO account, which means it effectively costs $20 per month or more, depending on which features you want. With this app, though, you can view and monitor your FICO scores—the most widely used credit score—and credit reports. They also provide a FICO Score Simulator, which shows you how your score may be affected if you take certain actions.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires an active myFICO account

3. Lock & Alert from Equifax

Lock & Alert from Equifax lets you lock and unlock your Equifax credit report to protect against identity theft and fraud. You’ll get an alert any time your account is locked or unlocked so you know you’re the one in control. A credit lock is not as secure as a credit freeze, but it does offer some level of protection and is generally easier to turn on and off. This app works only for your Equifax credit report, so if you want to lock all three reports, you’ll have to work with TransUnion and Experian separately.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

4. Experian

The Experian mobile credit monitoring app lets you track your Experian credit report and FICO score, with an automatically updated credit report every 30 days. The app also comes with Experian Boost, which can help you boost your score. The app alerts you when changes to your report or score occur, and offers suggested credit cards based on your FICO score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but some features require a paid Experian account

5. Lexington Law

If you’ve signed up for credit repair services with Lexington Law, you can use their free mobile app to keep track of your progress. In addition to providing access to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and updates on ongoing disputes, the money manager feature, similar to Mint, helps you track your income, spending, budgets and debts.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid Lexington Law account

6. TransUnion

The TransUnion mobile app allows you to refresh your credit score and credit report daily to see where you stand. It offers instant alerts if anything changes and offers Credit Lock Plus, which allows you to lock your TransUnion credit report to avoid identity theft and fraud. The Debt Analysis tool lets you calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and it allows you to view public records associated with your name.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid TransUnion Credit Monitoring account

7. ScoreSense Scores To Go

ScoreSense offers credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus and daily credit monitoring and alerts to changes on your reports. This app also provides creditor contact information so you can address errors on your report quickly and efficiently. Score tracking features let you review how your score changes over time and how it compares to your peers.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid ScoreSense account

8. Self

Self helps you build—and track—your credit, making it great for people just establishing their credit profile or trying to rebuild damaged credit. Self offers one- and two-year loan terms, but instead of getting the money up front, the amount is deposited into a CD. You make regular payments for the term of the loan (at least $25 per month), and then get access to the money. There is no hard inquiry to open the account, but your payments are reported to all three credit bureaus, helping build your credit. Plus, while you are repaying your loan, you will have access to free credit monitoring and you VantageScore so you can track your progress.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a Self loan repayment of at least $25 per month

Credit Monitoring Apps to Fit Your Needs

With so many different options, you’re sure to find a credit monitoring app that meets your needs. And don’t forget: you can always check your score for free using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card.

The post Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com