Homeownership isn’t for everyone, money coach says: Don’t fall for artificial ‘pressure to buy’

Jannese Torres is the founder of the blog Delish D’Lites and the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero.”

Photo Jannese Torres

In her upcoming book, “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa,” author Jannese Torres discusses how she became the first woman in her family to graduate from college, build a career and achieve what she believed were marks of success.

Yet in her pursuit of the American dream, she realized that she didn’t know what to do with her financial success. She also realized certain milestones, such as homeownership, often aren’t so much achievements as a new set of challenges.

“It’s just important for people not to just feel this pressure to buy a home because you’re a certain age or you’ve reached a certain life milestone,” said Torres, a Latina money expert who hosts the podcast “Yo Quiero Dinero” and an entrepreneurship coach who helps clients pursue financial independence.

As part of its National Financial Literacy Month efforts, CNBC will be featuring stories throughout the month dedicated to helping people manage, grow and protect their money so they can truly live ambitiously.

CNBC spoke with Torres in early April about what drove her to write her new book, how she has worked through “financial survivor’s guilt,” and why pursuing the American dream can become a nightmare for some.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

‘Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth’

“I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money,” said Jannese Torres, author of “Financially Lit!: The Modern Latina’s Guide to Level Up Your Dinero & Become Financially Poderosa.”

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

Ana Teresa Solá: What drove you to write this book? 

Jannese Torres: When I was doing the market research for the book, one of the things that I did was look and see what the competitive market looked like out there, or if there is a reason that this book needs to exist. 

I couldn’t find a single book that was specifically marketed to the Latina community or Latinos in general being the majority minority in this country. 

Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it.

I felt like I wanted to write the book that I needed when I was graduating from high school and that could have saved me from making a lot of financial mistakes because I didn’t learn anything about money. The more that I’ve talked to folks through the podcast and through my social media platforms, that’s been a very common sentiment. We’re told to go to school, get a job and make money, but then that’s the end of the conversation. What do we actually do with it? 

ATS: Like many younger generations of Latinos in the U.S., you overcame many hurdles and achieved major goals. But you describe in the book that these milestones also come with a sense of guilt. Why is guilt tied to success? 

JT: I call it “financial survivor’s guilt” because this is one of those things that we have not been prepared for. Our families have told us to go and pursue the American dream, but we haven’t been given instructions for how to manage the emotions that come with it. Nobody talks about the grief that comes with growth. Nobody talks about what it feels like to be on the other side of the struggle when so many people that you love are still there and you feel powerless to help them all. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value.

It’s going to require folks to give themselves some compassion, and to be okay to feel those feelings. But don’t let them sabotage you. It’s going to require some boundaries that you learn to exercise and also being okay with feeling like you’re on this island by yourself. When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

‘I was over my head very quickly’

ATS: Walk me through the chapter or that point in time when you bought a house, but it wasn’t all you thought it would be. 

JT: Looking back at it now, I was falling victim to the American dream. As a first-generation kid, my parents didn’t invest. The only thing that we saw as examples of “making it” was when family members would buy homes: The sacrifices were worth it and this is the thing that you have to show for your success.

When you’re the first to do something, it’s always going to feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t have examples of people who can make it out, I think it’s going to be much harder for folks to believe that they can do it, too. 

Jannese Torres

Latina money expert and entrepreneurship coach

I definitely felt the pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect. I was turning 30 years old and I saw friends buying homes, getting married, doing all those things that are on the successful adult checklist of life. When I decided to purchase the home, it was coming from a place of, “Well, I need to do this too, because this is just what everybody does.”

I quickly realized that I bought a home in a place that I didn’t even want to live in. 

Looking back at it now, it’s like I was making all these decisions because of what other people valued versus asking myself what I actually value. The freedom to have that flexibility that comes with renting is something that I valued much more.

But I felt like I was falling victim to that narrative that says, “You’re wasting money if you rent, and successful adults purchase homes.” It took a lot of unlearning of those narratives and realizing that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean that it’s universally applicable. 

Homeownership is one of those things where more people need to question if they have the personality, lifestyle, or the value system for this, or are you just wanting to do it because that’s what everybody else is telling you to do. 

Jannese Torres

Courtesy: Jannese Torres

ATS: What would you tell someone who’s financially comfortable or has reached certain benchmarks where they could potentially invest in a property but are still wary about it? 

JT: One of the things that made me realize I was over my head very quickly was the fact that two weeks into moving into the home, I discovered that the basement would flood. The sewer line was blocked, and that was not something that we checked during inspection. I ended up having to spend $4,000 on replacing the pipe in the basement two weeks after moving in. That pretty much depleted the little money that I had left over after closing costs. 

I ended up having to take a 401(k) loan to pay for repairs and putting things on credit cards. It’s important to realize that closing costs, the fees and the down payment are just the beginning.

There’s this narrative where if you get a mortgage, then you’re going to be paying the same amount of money forever and that’s why you should buy a home instead of renting. And I’m like, “Absolutely not.” Your property taxes and insurance will increase. You’re not going to be able to predict when things go wrong in the home and when you need to fix something. 

You have to make sure you can afford the maintenance costs and the things that will inevitably come with homeownership. And from a value perspective, you have to really be honest with yourself: “Does this suit my lifestyle? Do I want to stay in this place for like a decade or more? … Or do I want the flexibility to give my landlord 30 days’ notice and be able to move somewhere else? Are you in a job that feels like it’s something you want to do long term? Or do you want to make a career pivot?”

‘The American dream is more of an illusion’

ATS: Do you think the American dream has changed? 

JT: I definitely do think that the American dream is in the process of being redefined because it has become so inaccessible, especially to the newer generations. I think there was this path to “success” where you could go to school, you could buy a home with a regular job, and previous generations were not saddled with the level of student loan debt and the cost of living was not as high. There’s factors in play that are making the American dream obsolete or at least inaccessible to people. 

We are seeing sort of this questioning of it and this shift. I think that the Great Recession was a big impetus for people starting to wonder. It feels very much like the American dream is more of an illusion for a lot of folks, and I am curious to see where it goes.

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Influencer Tori Dunlap is spurring women to maximize their savings and invest in the stock market

As Tiffany Mane read a personal finance book during her train ride to work, a woman sitting near her acknowledged that she, too, knew of the author. Shortly after, several bystanders began inquiring into its contents.

Mane was reading “Financial Feminist” by Tori Dunlap. The late-2022 release is one piece of the Her First $100K empire, a money-focused education platform targeted at women and other marginalized groups.

That commuting experience highlights the growing community built around Dunlap’s wisdom. And there’s a cyclical effect at play: Women utilize Dunlap’s resources to improve their financial lives, and then share the information with others.

“It really has changed my life,” said Mane, a 35-year-old human rights investigator in the Washington, D.C., area. “I realized there are so many women who don’t know this stuff and who don’t have the resources.”

Finance has historically been viewed as a man’s responsibility, creating a disparity within personal economics. New York Life found the average woman saved less than half a man did in 2022. A 2021 survey from NerdWallet showed women were less likely to be invested in the stock market than their male counterparts.

But Dunlap and her growing fanbase are looking to change that.

Dunlap herself rose to prominence by sharing her journey to save $100,000 by 25 years old. She was inspired to document this goal after finding that many existing resources didn’t adequately take into account the unique experiences of marginalized groups.

In Dunlap’s words, a lot of what was out there felt “bro-y” and out of touch with a young woman’s experience. She said society has largely characterized spending by women as “frivolous,” creating a critical culture for those seeking relatable financial advice.

“People want to feel seen and they want to feel heard,” Dunlap said. “This kind of identity-focused personal finance is 100% necessary, and is the future of personal finance.”

‘Finance is personal’

What began as a side hustle on top of a marketing job has grown to a multi-platform product since Dunlap took the leap to run Her First $100K full time in 2019. Her “Financial Feminist” book sold more than 150,000 copies in its first year in print. Dunlap’s podcast of the same name, which typically has one full and one mini episode out per week, touches on topics such as homeownership and recession planning.

Both the Instagram and TikTok accounts for Her First $100K have amassed at least 2 million followers. A Facebook group named after the book has swelled to more than 100,000 members, where Mane and others converse about issues that impact their money and careers.

In that group, members share financial wins and trade advice on topics like which banks or credit cards to use. Some ask anonymous questions as they venture into sensitive subjects such as debt or the economic reality of divorce. Members have also organized virtual book clubs with others in the group to continue the conversation.

Dunlap said she isn’t surprised that the space has become meaningful to members in a society where women are unfairly criticized for their financial choices. She’s also been proud to see a culture free of judgment or shame as participants offer one another validation and feedback.

Tori Dunlap teaching a money workshop.

Courtesy Karya Schanilec

Fans said they appreciate Dunlap’s two-fold approach to financial education. She offers actionable steps to improve their economic lives, they say, while also being cognizant of systematic barriers that make it harder for women and other marginalized groups to build wealth.

Specialized advice can benefit women, as research shows they have less confidence in topics tied to money than men, according to Annamaria Lusardi, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

These niche resources would better resonate because they can touch on topics or examples that are disproportionately relevant to the specific population, said Lusardi, who is also founder of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. For women, she said one area of emphasis could be on the economics of having or raising children.

“Finance is personal,” Lusardi said. “As a woman, I feel like I have different needs, have different circumstances. And so I want things more targeted to me.”

A ‘sisterhood’

For those who have engaged with Dunlap’s work and the virtual community, they’ve seen how the advice has changed their financial lives – and now feel inspired to pay it forward. In the words of Mane, the Facebook group feels like being part of a “sisterhood.”

Through Dunlap’s advice and subsequent research, Mane has implemented a plan for budgeting and opened a high-yield savings account. She also opened a Roth individual retirement account, which grows free of taxes, and she is beginning Dunlap’s educational program focused on investing called Stock Market School.

As a result, Mane, a child of immigrants who grew up below the poverty line, said she’s never felt so economically stable. Her upcoming wedding will be paid for in cash, a financial milestone she never thought would be possible.

Mane has gifted the book to several women in her life. The human rights investigator has a copy in her office for curious colleagues, often explaining what it is and has meant to her. Beyond the Facebook group, she’s started passing down tidbits of wisdom to her nieces.

Thousands of miles away, Tierney Barker is seeing parallel effects. The 32-year-old Canadian first found Her First $100K’s resources on budget tracking and debt consolidation.

One of the travel agent’s first big changes was implementing a savings “bucket” strategy — in which money is earmarked for living expenses, goals and fun. Barker has also been finding time to review her finances on a regular basis. Similar to Mane, she opened the Canadian equivalent of a high-yield savings account.

After seeing the impact on her own life, Barker recommended the book to others and requested its addition to her local library in British Columbia. Barker also found herself better equipped to discuss money with other women, something that once felt like a taboo topic that should be mostly reserved for men.

“It’s been easier to talk about it and to be open about it,” Barker said, adding that having the resources is “empowering.”

While Dunlap has been proud to see individuals benefiting from this advice and sharing it with others, she thinks that the work isn’t done.

She said the systematic barriers that disproportionately hurt women and minorities in the business world remain. After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Dunlap said it’s more important than ever to push for social equity — including through economics and finance.

“I don’t believe we have any sort of equality for any marginalized group until we have financial equality,” she said. “A financial education is our best form of protest as women.”

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Machine Learning Algorithms in FOREX Trading

Artificial intelligence is a technology that is becoming increasingly widespread and popular in various areas of our lives.

Smart algorithms can instantly solve problems that would take real people hours and even days to solve. One of the areas where AI is now playing a major role is finance, and, more specifically, Forex.

Applying machine learning algorithms to this market can significantly improve trading strategies and increase profits. This article discusses AI FOREX trading and how you can use it to your advantage. 

 

What Is Forex Trading?

Forex is an international foreign exchange market where currencies of different countries are exchanged. In this market, banks, corporations, individuals, and other participants make money from the difference in rates.

If you can successfully predict the direction of the price curve, you will be able to enter the trade at the right time and make a profit. The market operates five days a week and is the largest and most liquid worldwide.

 

What is AI in Forex Trading? 

One of the main problems traders face is the inability to quickly analyze huge amounts of data. Of course, there are traditional methods of analysis, but they are all very labor-intensive and costly. Artificial intelligence can significantly speed up data processing, automate it, and improve forecasting accuracy.

This does not mean that AI-powered trading software is a source of free money. Technologies can identify hidden patterns and trends, quickly calculate indicators, correlate different inputs, and much more. However, they are just a tool in the hands of the trader. So, you can set the program to perform specified operations, such as buying or selling currencies and opening positions in real time.

Moreover, AI helps traders create more effective trading strategies. If you are not new to FOREX, you understand how important it is to choose the optimal combination of financial instruments, diversify your portfolio, and determine the volume of various assets in it.

Doing it yourself requires months of experience and many unnecessary mistakes. With AI, you can start trading after just a couple of days of familiarization and setup. So, what smart technologies can be used for trading? 

 

Why Have AI Trading Bots Become a Game Changer? 

One of the main ways to use artificial intelligence in the Forex market is to connect trading bots (expert advisors) based on machine learning algorithms. They can analyze the market, predict its changes, and automatically make trades. At the same time, bots work around the clock (during all trading sessions), do not make impulsive decisions, and strictly comply with all risk management requirements.

The developers of such programs constantly update their software and make bots more and more efficient and autonomous. Although they cannot replace a trader 100%, they are quite capable of trading independently. Moreover, you are not limited in the number of bots and can test different algorithms to find the most effective one.

Can such programs make ineffective trades? Of course, they can, since the foreign exchange market is an unpredictable environment, and “black swans” may appear at any time. However, the number of failed trades is usually less than for experienced traders. And some providers offer compensation for lost funds.

In fact, trading programs have been around for a long time, but only in recent years, with the development of artificial intelligence, they have become a real game changer. Today, you don’t need to understand programming or make complex settings. The interface of popular platforms allows you to understand the bot as quickly as possible and immediately start trading. Subsequently, powerful AI technologies and round-the-clock monitoring make the bot’s solutions as profitable as possible.  

 

Pros and Cons of Trading Bots 

If you plan to buy an advisor, stop and weigh the pros and cons. Using a bot has some undeniable advantages, but there are also risks. To make such an important decision as delegating your work to a program, you should look at the coin from both sides. Let’s start with the pros:

  • Making transactions 24/7 and analyzing the market situation around the clock.
  • An analytics function: the bot gives you recommendations, and you make transactions yourself.
  • Some providers allow you to test the robot on a demo account.
  • Bots can be customized as much as possible. Even if you don’t find the settings you need in a certain program (which is unlikely, since the choice is huge today), you can order an assistant that is customized individually to suit your needs.
  • Programs are not subject to stress or emotions. They always make informed decisions based on market analysis and specified algorithms.
  • Today, the industry offers a huge variety of trading bots, so everyone can find the best option.
  • There is no need to constantly be at the computer and monitor the market situation — work time is reduced and efficiency increases.

Now, to complete the picture, let’s look at what disadvantages machine trading algorithms have:

  • Positive results in the past do not guarantee the same successful performance in the future. Sometimes, reconfiguration may be required.
  • Constant use of trading bots can lead to a trader losing their trading skills.
  • Fine-tuning a trading advisor, especially when using complex custom strategies, may require programming skills or outsourcing of specialists.
  • The bot requires continuous access to the Internet. Any interruptions could harm the trade balance.
  • Cheaper and non-updated advisors sometimes lose their effectiveness.
  • A trading advisor cannot independently analyze news, rumors, market expectations, and any other information to which they are not connected.

 

Conclusion 

When used skillfully, trading bots can bring significant income and even help train traders. At the same time, you should have a clear trading strategy and an understanding of the principles of the bot’s operation. You can set it up to automatically execute trades or use it as a market analysis tool.

Reputable software providers constantly monitor technological innovations in the field of AI and regularly implement machine learning algorithms in their products. At the same time, you do not need to have complex technical skills — the programs are created for traders and not for programmers. Their interface is clear, the settings are quite simple, and the conditions of use practically do not pose any risks.

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What a $418 million settlement on home-sale commissions may mean for you

A landmark class-action lawsuit may change the way Americans buy and sell homes.

The National Association of Realtors agreed to a $418 million settlement last week in an antitrust lawsuit where a federal jury found the organization and several large real-estate brokerages had conspired to artificially inflate agent commissions on the sale and purchase of real estate. 

The NAR’s multiple listing service, or MLS, used at a local level across areas in the U.S., facilitated the compensation rates for both a buyer’s and seller’s agents.

At the time of listing a property, the home seller negotiated with the listing agent what the compensation would be for a buyer’s agent, which appeared on the MLS. However, if a seller was unaware they could negotiate, they were typically locked into paying the listed brokerage fee.

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The proposed settlement would have the commission offer completely removed from the NAR’s system and home sellers will no longer be responsible for paying or offering commission for both the buyer and seller agents, said real estate attorney Claudia Cobreiro, the founder of Cobreiro Law in Coral Gables, Florida.

“The rule that has been the subject of litigation requires only that listing brokers communicate an offer of compensation,” the NAR wrote in a press release.

“Commissions remain negotiable, as they have been,” the organization wrote.

However, some of these changes may take time to materialize, experts say.

Settlement process ‘can take some time’

If a settlement agreement is accepted within a lawsuit between two people, the court generally won’t look at the settlement. Yet, in a federal class-action lawsuit, one that affects a large number of people, there will be a period for the court and interested parties to review the settlement and offer commentary and feedback on the agreement, Cobreiro said.

“That’s the process that we’re about to enter, and that process can take some time,” she said.

As proposed, the settlement would have the NAR completely remove commissions from its MLS system by July. That may be optimistic, Cobriero said.

“It would be more realistic to see this being implemented later this year,” she said.

Redfin CEO on NAR settlement: People should have a voice in how much a real estate agent gets paid

In the meantime, it’s “business as usual” for buyers and sellers, Cobreiro said. “There is nothing that agents should be doing differently currently in their ongoing transactions.”

A buyer or seller already in the market is probably not going to be affected by the settlement unless their property happens to be on the market a little longer than what’s customary, she said.

“The big gray area here is how will buyer [agent] commissions be handled moving forward,” said Cobreiro, as there is no finalized agreement yet that clearly indicates how that will be handled.

What the settlement could mean for homebuyers

The settlement agreement doesn’t say that the buyer’s agent will not be paid nor that the buyer’s agent cannot charge fees.

“The big question here is who is going to pay for those services moving forward. Will it ultimately be a buyer that will have to get the buyer’s agent’s commission together, on top of closing costs and on top of down payment?” Cobreiro said.

While commission fees are negotiable between involved parties, knowing what cards you have on the table as a homebuyer will be more important now than before. Using an agent will still be a smart way to achieve that, experts say.

“A great local agent can give you a competitive advantage,” said Amanda Pendleton, a home trends expert at Zillow Group. That’s especially true as low-priced starter homes are expected to remain in demand, she said.

Here are two things to know about how the settlement could change the process of buying a home:

1. Buyers could be responsible for their agent fees: Historically, real estate commissions typically come out of the seller’s pocket, and are split between the buyer’s and seller’s agents.

As a result of the settlement, the seller will no longer be responsible for commission fees for a buyer’s agent. So this is a new potential charge buyers need to consider in their budget. Historically, if a buyer’s agent got half of a 5% or 6% commission, that equaled thousands of dollars.

For example: The median home sale price by the end of 2023 was $417,700, according to the Federal Reserve. That would mean commissions at a 5.37% rate — the 2023 average rate, according to Lending Tree — amount to roughly $22,430, about $11,215 of which might go to the buyer’s agent.

But bypassing an agent’s services may not lead to direct savings, especially for first-time buyers, experts say. You could put yourself at risk by leaving the homebuying process entirely to the seller and their agent, said Cobreiro.

Sometimes things show up in your home inspection report that merit a credit from the seller, but if you don’t have an agent, the seller’s agent may not volunteer that, said Cobreiro.

Doing so would be a breach of their fiduciary duty to the seller, and it affects their commission if the price of the property declines, she said.

“Signing the contract is the least of it; there’s so many things that happen throughout the transaction that really require the expertise and the navigation by someone who understands the process,” she said.

2. Buyers may be required to sign a contract early on: If buyers become responsible for their agent’s commission, you’re likely to see more agents asking buyers to sign a buyer-broker agreement upfront, before the agent starts helping them find a property.

Most brokerages have a buyer agency agreement, but it’s common for real estate agents to wait to present the contract.

“They want to win the person’s business, they don’t want to scare them with having to sign any contracts,” said Steven Nicastro, a former real estate agent who writes for Clever Real Estate.

Moving the contract talks to earlier in the process is a precaution to protect buyer’s agents in the market.

“That could lead to negotiations actually taking place at the first meeting between a buyer and the buyer’s agent,” Nicastro said.

Know you can negotiate the commission rate as well as the duration of the contract, which can span from three months to a year, Cobreiro said.

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The Federal Reserve may not cut interest rates just yet. Here’s what that means for your money

Economists expect the Federal Reserve to leave interest rates unchanged at the end of its two-day meeting this week, even though many experts anticipate the central bank is preparing to start cutting rates in the months ahead.

In prepared remarks earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said policymakers don’t want to ease up too quickly.

Powell noted that lowering rates rapidly risks losing the battle against inflation and likely having to raise rates further, while waiting too long poses danger to economic growth.

But in the meantime, consumers won’t see much relief from sky-high borrowing costs.

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In 2022 and the first half of 2023, the Fed raised rates 11 times, causing consumer borrowing rates to skyrocket while inflation remained elevated, and putting households under pressure.

With the combination of sustained inflation and higher interest rates, “many consumers are experiencing higher levels of economic stress compared to one year ago,” said Silvio Tavares, CEO of credit scoring company VantageScore.

The federal funds rate, which is set by the U.S. central bank, is the interest rate at which banks borrow and lend to one another overnight. Although that’s not the rate consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and savings rates they see every day.

Even once the central bank does cut rates — which some now expect could happen in June — the pace that they trim is going to be much slower than the pace at which they hiked, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

“Interest rates took the elevator going up; they are going to take the stairs coming down,” he said.

Here’s a breakdown of where consumer rates stand now and where they may be headed:

Credit cards

Since most credit cards have a variable rate, there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark. Because of the central bank’s rate hike cycle, the average credit card rate rose from 16.34% in March 2022 to nearly 21% today — an all-time high.

With most people feeling strained by higher prices, balances are higher and more cardholders are carrying debt from month to month compared with last year.

Annual percentage rates will start to come down when the Fed cuts rates, but even then they will only ease off extremely high levels. With only a few potential quarter-point cuts on deck, APRs would still be around 20% by the end of 2024, McBride said.

“If the Fed cuts rates twice by a quarter point, your credit card rate will fall by half a percent,” he said.

Mortgage rates

Fifteen- and 30-year mortgage rates are fixed, and tied to Treasury yields and the economy. But anyone shopping for a new home has lost considerable purchasing power, partly because of inflation and the Fed’s policy moves.

Rates are already significantly lower since hitting 8% in October. Now, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is around 7%, up from 4.4% when the Fed started raising rates in March 2022 and 3.27% at the end of 2021, according to Bankrate.

“Despite the recent dip, mortgage rates remain high as the market contends with the pressure of sticky inflation,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “In this environment, there is a good possibility that rates will stay higher for a longer period of time.”

Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, and home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, are pegged to the prime rate, and those rates remain high.

“The reality of it is, a lot of borrowers are paying double-digit interest rates on those right now,” McBride said. “That is not a low cost of borrowing and that’s not going to change.”

Auto loans

Even though auto loans are fixed, payments are getting bigger because car prices have been rising along with the interest rates on new loans, resulting in less affordable monthly payments. 

The average rate on a five-year new car loan is now more than 7%, up from 4% when the Fed started raising rates, according to Edmunds. However, competition between lenders and more incentives in the market have started to take some of the edge off the cost of buying a car lately, said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ director of insights.

Once the Fed cuts rates, “that gives people a little more breathing room,” Drury said. “Last year was ugly all around. At least there’s an upside this year.”

Federal student loans

Federal student loan rates are also fixed, so most borrowers aren’t immediately affected by the Fed’s moves. But undergraduate students who take out new direct federal student loans are now paying 5.50% — up from 4.99% in the 2022-23 academic year and 3.73% in 2021-22.

Private student loans tend to have a variable rate tied to the prime, Treasury bill or another rate index, which means those borrowers are already paying more in interest. How much more, however, varies with the benchmark.

For those struggling with existing debt, there are ways federal borrowers can reduce their burden, including income-based plans with $0 monthly payments and economic hardship and unemployment deferments

Private loan borrowers have fewer options for relief — although some could consider refinancing once rates start to come down, and those with better credit may already qualify for a lower rate.

Savings rates

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A Guide to Choosing the Highest Paying Prop Trading Firms

In the high-stakes world of proprietary trading (commonly known as “prop trading”), discovering the highest paying prop trading firms can be the golden ticket to unparalleled financial opportunity and career growth.

Proprietary trading involves the execution of a financial institution’s (or a large independent financial agency’s) trades, stock, currency, commodity, or any other asset class, to make a direct profit for the company. Within the expansive realm of prop trading, some firms consistently edge out others in terms of rewarding their traders for their valuable contributions.

This guide is essential reading for finance professionals, day traders, and investors who aspire to join—or switch to—an elite prop trading firm that offers the highest remuneration. We’ll meticulously dissect the key factors that distinguish top-paying prop trading firms, ensuring you’re equipped with the insights to make an informed decision about your financial future.

Understanding Prop Trading and its Market Standing

Before diving into the intricacies of choosing a firm, it is critical to understand what prop trading entails and how it fits into the broader financial landscape. Proprietary trading is unique in that firms assume risk on their own capital rather than that of their clients, making it an inherently competitive space where the ability to generate profits is directly tied to compensation.

Defining Proprietary Trading

Proprietary trading, also known as prop trading, occurs when a financial institution or trading group trades stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, their derivatives, or other instruments with its proprietary capital, instead of conducting trades on behalf of other people. The ultimate objective is to maximize profitability, often by leveraging the firm’s capital to take large positions relative to other investors.

The Role of Prop Trading in the Financial Ecosystem

Prop trading firms play essential roles within the financial ecosystem. They contribute to market liquidity by executing a high volume of trades, thereby influencing bid-ask spreads and minimizing trading costs for all market participants. Furthermore, prop trading arms of large financial institutions often uncover important market trends and opportunities, signaling health or distress in various sectors.

Identifying Top-Paying Prop Trading Firms

With the groundwork established, the focus turns to identifying and evaluating the highest paying prop trading firms. Here are the primary considerations to keep in mind:

Compensation Models

Understanding the compensation structure of a prop trading firm is central to assessing its potential to deliver high earnings. Typically, top firms offer a combination of a base salary and performance-based bonuses, with the latter being the more substantial component in recognition of profitable trading.

Base Salary

This foundational component provides a sense of financial security and varies widely among firms. It is an indicator of the firm’s financial health and its willingness to invest in its trading talent.

Performance Bonuses

High-performing traders expect sizable bonuses as a significant portion of their total compensation. The performance bonus is often a percentage of the trader’s profits, which can be a substantial motivator for achieving trading goals and targets.

Risk Management Framework

The approach to risk within a prop trading firm can significantly impact compensation. Firms that maintain a robust risk management framework not only protect themselves from catastrophic losses but also incentivize responsible trading by rewarding traders who effectively manage risk while pursuing profits.

Capital Allocations and Risk Adjusted Returns

Understanding how a firm allocates capital to traders is crucial. Do they offer a substantial trading book to work with? And more importantly, how do they measure success? Firms that advocate for risk-adjusted returns—profit relative to the amount of risk taken—tend to offer better compensation terms.

Trading Technology and Tools

In the modern trading landscape, access to cutting-edge technology is non-negotiable for firms and traders aspiring to reach the top. High-speed trading platforms, robust analytics and risk management software, and low-latency data feeds are just a few examples of essential tools that can enhance a trader’s ability to spot and capitalize on market inefficiencies.

Training and Education Programs

Some of the highest paying firms realize that investing in trader education and skill development leads to improved trading performance. They may offer in-house training programs, mentorship opportunities with seasoned traders, and access to proprietary trading strategies developed within the firm.

Culture and Work Environment

A supportive culture and conducive work environment can be as critical as compensation to a trader’s overall job satisfaction and success. High-paying firms often place a premium on fostering an inclusive team environment, where open communication, collaboration, and support are the norm.

Work-Life Balance

The demands of prop trading are notorious, with long hours and high pressure being par for the course. However, firms that value work-life balance and recognize the importance of downtime for their traders are increasingly sought after.

Advancement Opportunities

For the ambitious trader, the possibility of upward mobility within a firm is a significant draw. Top-paying prop trading firms offer clearly defined pathways for advancement, whether that involves managing larger books, leading teams, or exploring new roles within the organization.

Applying Your Findings

Armed with the knowledge of what distinguishes the highest paying prop trading firms, the next step is to apply this understanding in your job search or career development. Here’s how to translate your findings into actionable steps:

Crafting a Compelling Application

When applying to top-paying trading firms, be sure to articulate how your skills, experience, and trading philosophy align with the firm’s mission and values. Highlight your track record of profitability, your ability to manage risk effectively, and any innovative strategies or technologies you’ve employed to gain a competitive edge.

Navigating the Interview Process

The interview process for prop trading roles can be rigorous and multifaceted. Be prepared to demonstrate your trading prowess through simulations, answer in-depth technical questions, and speak to your market insights and predictions. Use this as an opportunity to assess if the firm is the right fit for your goals and aspirations.

Negotiating Your Compensation

Should you receive an offer from a top prop trading firm, the art of negotiation becomes critical. Be prepared to make a case for why you deserve a certain level of compensation based on benchmark data, your performance history, and the value you bring to the firm.

Ensuring Long-Term Success

Joining a high-paying prop trading firm is a significant achievement, but it’s only the beginning. Sustaining success in this dynamic industry requires ongoing learning, adaptability, and the ability to continuously refine your trading strategies.

Staying Informed with Market Developments

The financial markets are in a perpetual state of evolution. Staying informed on the latest market developments, regulations, and technologies is essential for staying relevant and competitive.

Developing a Sound Trading Plan

A sound trading plan serves as a roadmap for your trading activities, outlining your goals, risk tolerance, strategies, and performance measurement criteria. Regularly updating and adhering to your plan can help you maintain a disciplined approach to your trading.

Building a Network

Forge connections with fellow traders, industry experts, and thought leaders. Your network can be a source of advice, support, and potential opportunities.

Conclusion

Choosing the highest paying prop trading firm is a monumental decision that can shape your financial trajectory and professional satisfaction. By carefully evaluating each firm based on compensation models, risk management, technology and tools, culture and work environment, and advancement opportunities, you can position yourself for maximum success in the world of prop trading. Remember, the firm you select is not just an employer but a partner in your financial success, and the due diligence you conduct now can pay dividends for years to come. Whether you’re an experienced trader seeking to up the ante or a newcomer blazing a trail, the principles outlined in this guide will serve as your compass as you chart your course through the lucrative waters of prop trading. And with each trade, each profit, and each career milestone, you’ll be one step closer to securing your slice of the financial pie.

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The Independent Trader’s Guide to Prop Firms without Evaluations

Navigating the financial markets as a day trader or an independent investor can be both thrilling and fraught with challenges. The allure of high stakes and high returns often comes with a significant entry barrier in terms of capital. Proprietary trading firms, or prop firms, offer a unique solution, allowing traders access to capital and a platform to grow, sometimes without requiring an upfront evaluation.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the critical steps of choosing a prop firm that aligns with your trading objectives and values. We’ll explore the nuances of prop trading, focus on firms that offer a non-evaluative approach to recruitment, and highlight the key features you should consider to ensure a fruitful partnership.

Understanding Proprietary Trading and the ‘Evaluation’ Paradigm

Proprietary trading refers to financial trading activities where a firm’s capital is used to trade on behalf of the company, rather than trading on behalf of the firm’s clients. Traditionally, prop firms have employed a model where prospective traders undergo an evaluation process. This process typically involves depositing a certain amount of one’s own capital, and the firm’s resources and trading platform are only unlocked upon successful completion of the evaluation terms, usually including profit targets and risk limits.

However, the landscape is changing, and a newer wave of prop firms are emerging, which do not follow the traditional evaluation model. These firms recognize the potential in traders beyond their ability to pass a one-size-fits-all evaluation. Instead, they offer opportunities based on skill, performance, and potential without upfront financial risks for the trader.

The No-Evaluation Prop Firm Advantage

Prop firms that do not require evaluations offer some distinct advantages to traders looking to enter the prop trading industry:

Lower Barriers to Entry

By omitting the evaluation requirement, these firms significantly lower the financial barriers to entry for traders. This allows a broader pool of individuals, including those with limited capital, to participate in professional trading environments.

Focus on Skill Over Entry Capital

Non-evaluative prop firms prioritize a trader’s skill and potential over the size of their initial investment. They provide a more meritocratic approach, where talent and hard work are the primary indicators of success.

Learning and Mentorship

These firms often have robust education and mentorship programs designed to support traders in enhancing their skills and learning the intricacies of professional trading. This guidance can be invaluable and is often not offered in the same capacity by traditional prop firms.

Supportive Environment

For many independent traders, the support and resources of a prop firm, such as access to advanced trading technology and the wisdom of experienced mentors, can be a game-changer. Non-evaluative firms recognize the benefits of fostering a supportive community to help traders succeed.

The Criteria to Consider When Choosing a No-Evaluation Prop Firm

When selecting a non-evaluative prop firm, consider the following key criteria to ensure that you’re making an informed and strategic decision:

Trading Capital and Profit-Sharing

How much trading capital will you have access to, and what is the profit-sharing arrangement? Look for firms that offer a fair split, one that provides you with a significant portion of the profits you generate.

Risk Management Policies

A responsible risk management framework is crucial. Understand the firm’s approach to managing risk on their traders’ behalf and how this aligns with your own risk tolerance and trading style.

Platform and Technology

The trading platform is your toolset. It needs to be robust, intuitive, and able to execute trades swiftly and accurately. Evaluate the technology the firm provides and ensure it supports your preferred trading strategies.

Education and Support

A strong support system is invaluable. Consider the quality of the education resources and the available support from the firm’s team. A good firm will provide ongoing training, coaching, and responsive technical support.

Community and Networking

Trading can be a solitary pursuit, but a community of fellow traders can provide insights, support, and motivation. Look for firms that foster a sense of community through forums, events, and networking opportunities.

Case Studies Insights from Traders at Non-Evaluative Prop Firms

To gain deeper insights into the experience of traders at non-evaluative prop firms, we hear from two traders who have successfully navigated this space:

Jenna’s Journey to Profitability

Jenna shares her path to achieving profitability at an innovative prop firm that focused on her skill rather than an evaluation deposit. She attributes her success to the firm’s supportive mentorship program and the diversity of trading styles within the community.

Tom’s Transition from Independent Trading

Tom recounts his transition from independent trading to working with a non-evaluative firm, where he found the balance between autonomy and support. He highlights the increased profitability and reduced risk that came with trading larger notional sizes.

How to Apply and Succeed in No-Evaluation Prop Firms

Applying to a non-evaluative prop firm differs from traditional processes. It involves highlighting your trading history, demonstrating your skill through performance metrics, and often participating in simulated trading exercises. Here’s how to succeed in the application process:

Prepare a Robust Trading Plan

Develop a comprehensive trading plan that outlines your strategy, risk management principles, and potential for profits. This should also include an analysis of the markets you intend to trade.

Focus on Consistency and Discipline

Non-evaluative firms are looking for traders who can consistently apply their strategies with discipline. Ensure that your historical performance demonstrates these attributes.

Demonstrate Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Markets evolve, and successful traders evolve with them. Showcase your adaptability by sharing your approaches to learning new strategies, markets, and technologies.

Leverage Networking and Community

Before, during, and after the application process, engage with the trading community associated with the firm. This not only helps you understand if the community is a good fit but can also provide insights and tips for a successful application.

The Future of Non-Evaluative Proprietary Trading

The shift towards non-evaluative prop trading models signifies a more inclusive era in the industry. The future looks bright for traders who are talented and willing to put in the work, especially with the supportive environment these firms offer. The scalability of trading larger notional sizes with shared profit agreements can lead to substantial gains, creating a win-win situation for the trader and the firm.

Conclusion

Choosing a non-evaluative prop firm represents a significant decision and a step toward a potentially lucrative and fulfilling career in proprietary trading. By considering the criteria outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to selecting a firm that values your talent, provides the support you need, and offers a platform for limitless growth.

Proprietary trading is not without risk, and even the best prop firms cannot guarantee success. However, the right firm can provide a solid foundation, the right environment, and the necessary tools for talented traders to thrive. Remember that your proficiency, risk management skills, and continual learning will be the ultimate keys to your success in the prop trading industry.

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The Trader’s Guide to Unusual Options Activity Scanners

The financial markets are a bustling metropolis of data, constantly vibrating with activity and ripe with opportunities for the astute investor. Amidst this flurry, the options market stands out as a beacon, offering a versatile range of strategies that can safeguard, enhance, or supercharge your portfolio.

Yet within this landscape teeming with complexity, traders must deploy every tool available to uncover the subtle signs that might foretell a profitable play. This is where unusual options activity scanners come into play, the unsung hero in the arsenal of the savviest investors.

But how do you pick the right scanner to elevate your trading game and sift through the noise to find actionable intelligence? Join us as we decode the complexities of options scanning tools, equipping you with the knowledge to make the most informed decision.

Understanding Unusual Options Activity

Before we plunge into the depths of scanning tools, it’s essential to grasp the concept of unusual options activity. In the realm of options trading, ‘unusual activity’ refers to trading volumes that are higher than normal. This anomalous spike, when discerned through the lens of a scanner, can suggest that market participants with insider knowledge or astute strategists are positioning large sums of capital based on significant impending events or news.

What Constitutes Unusual Activity?

An essential component of spotting unusual activity is establishing what is ‘usual’ for a particular stock or option. This involves understanding historical volume and open interest for various strikes and expirations within a specified timeframe. A common rule of thumb is that any volume or open interest that is at least five times its average can be deemed unusual.

Interpreting Unusual Options Activity

Merely identifying heightened activity is not enough; it’s equally crucial to interpret it effectively. For instance, heavy call buying could indicate a bullish outlook, while significant put buying might signal a bearish sentiment. However, the context within which these trades are occurring (current stock price, historical performance, market themes, etc.) is critical in ascertaining the appropriateness of your response to this detected activity.

Essential Features of an Unusual Options Activity Scanner

Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to dissect the critical components of an Unusual Options Activity Scanner. When choosing among the myriad of tools in the market, keep an eye out for the following attributes that characterize a robust scanner:

User Interface and Experience (UI/UX)

An intuitive and user-friendly interface can make your scanning experience a breeze. Look for customizable dashboards, real-time updates, and the ability to set alerts that cater to your unique trading style.

Data Aggregation and Analytics

The scanner should collate and present large volumes of data in a cohesive, digestible format. It should offer a suite of analytics tools that allow for on-the-fly evaluations and deep dives into the meaning behind the activity.

Customization and Flexibility

Cookie-cutter scanners may not align with your specific trading goals. Flexible scanners that allow you to adjust parameters, filter results, and set personalized thresholds for unusual activity will be a better fit for a range of strategies.

Integration with Trading Platforms

For seamless execution of trades, a scanner that integrates with your preferred trading platform is indispensable. The conduit between detection and action should be as frictionless as possible to capitalize on fleeting opportunities.

Educational Resources

While not a core feature, valuable educational content can icing on the cake. Access to webinars, tutorials, and user forums can help traders sharpen their skills and stay abreast of the latest trends in the options market.

Selecting the Right Unusual Options Activity Scanner for You

With the checklist in hand, it’s time to select a scanner that would foster your trading prowess. But remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Traders with different backgrounds, risk appetites, and time horizons will gravitate towards different tools. Here are a few scenarios that exemplify how to align a scanner with your particular needs:

The Busy Yet Methodical Trader

If you are a trader who values accuracy and methodical research but suffers from time constraints, a scanner that offers detailed alerts and pre-configured criteria might be ideal. These tools often come with a steeper learning curve, but the tradeoff is precise detection that spares you from sifting through reams of data.

The Agile and Opportunistic Trader

For the trader who is always on the lookout for the next big move and can act swiftly, a scanner with a high degree of customization and real-time updates is essential. This kind of trader is likely to be comfortable with a more hands-on approach to the scanning process and will appreciate the ability to tweak criteria on the fly.

The Novice Trader

New to the stock market? An easy-to-use scanner with educational resources and a supportive community can accelerate your learning curve. Your focus should lie not just in detecting unusual options activity, but in understanding the when, why, and how of leveraging this information.

The Proactive Investor

Proactive investors who have a leaning towards risk management and long-term holding can still benefit from an unusual options activity scanner. Look for a tool that not only identifies speculative trades but one that also incorporates strategies for hedging or income generation through options.

The Human Element in Automated Scanning

While automated scanners are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they still lack the human touch when it comes to judgment calls. Seasoned traders often use scanners as a starting point, supplementing the machine’s findings with their market experience and knowledge. It’s this synthesis of human insight and machine efficiency that can yield the most potent results.

The Role of Intuition and Experience

In the high-stakes game of trading, intuition can often play a pivotal role. The best scanners serve as a compass, guiding you based on concrete data, while your intuition can be the captain, steering the ship based on the broader market context and your own experience.

Staying Informed Beyond Scanning

Scanners can tell you what the market is doing now, but a comprehensive understanding of market fundamentals and continuous learning is what will enable you to forecast where it’s heading. Stay informed on company earnings, economic reports, and geopolitical events that can greatly influence the options market.

Final Thoughts

Unusual options activity scanners have emerged as an invaluable ally for traders seeking alpha in their portfolios. By choosing the right scanner and blending it with your unique style and expertise, you can unlock patterns and opportunities that remain invisible to the unaided eye. Continual refinement and proficiency in using these tools will not just enhance your trading performance but will also deepen your understanding of the dynamics that propel the stock market. In the end, success in the rewarding yet perilous world of options trading is a blend of technology, skill, and the relentless pursuit of knowledge.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Trading Platform Coupons

For traders and investors, navigating the financial markets is a high-stakes game. Every dollar saved on trading fees and platform subscriptions is a dollar that can compound for a better return on investment. This guide is particularly geared towards those who are penny-wise and profit-focused, helping you uncover the smartest ways to access discounts and coupons for trading platforms.

In this in-depth exploration, we will walk you through a treasure trove of platforms, both lesser-known and popular, that offer various savings opportunities. We’ll cover everything from traditional discount codes to referral programs and even shared insights on the best times to subscribe for exclusive deals.

If you’re ready to stack the odds in your favor and optimize your trading costs, buckle up as we unravel the art of savings in the world of investments.

Deconstructing Trading Platform Costs

Before we make a sprint for coupons, it’s crucial to understand what costs you are dealing with when trading on various platforms.

They’re More Than Just Commissions

In the financial world, “commission” might sound like the solitary charge you need to factor in, but the expenses are far more diverse:

  • Commissions: The fees you pay each time you buy or sell a security. They can be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of your trade value.
  • Spread: This is the difference between the bid (buy) and ask (sell) prices for a currency pair or security.
  • Margin Interest: When you borrow money from your broker to buy securities, you owe margin interest.
  • Subscription Fees: Many platforms or analytical tools come at a monthly or annual cost.

Unveiling Hidden Charges

Even outside of regular commissions, additional charges might crop up, such as:

  • Inactivity Fees: For not meeting a minimum number of trades per quarter or year.
  • Wire Transfer Fees: For transferring funds directly to or from your trading account.
  • Exchange Fees: Stock exchanges charge fees to access market data and execute trades.

Being aware of all potential costs is the first step to managing them, and ultimately, reducing them.

The Coupon Hunt Begins

With the cost anatomy in mind, we can now start the coupon hunt. Here are several strategies to secure your trading ventures at a discount.

Direct Platform Deal Sections

Some trading platforms have dedicated sections on their websites or apps for deals, where you can find:

  • Seasonal Offers: Common during Black Friday, New Year, and other seasonal sales.
  • New User Promotions: Created to attract new members, these deals can be irresistible.
  • Referral Bonuses: Get your friends on board and be rewarded for it.

General Coupon Websites

Frequent your go-to coupon sites regularly. General coupon aggregators often feature discounts for trading platforms, as well as banner ads with promo codes.

  • RetailMeNot: A behemoth in the digital discount domain.
  • Honey: A browser plugin that automatically finds and applies promo codes at checkout.

Financial Publisher Partnerships

Numerous financial publishers allocate a portion of their content to ad promotions. Check out investor literature like newsletters, magazines, and market analysis channels for exclusive deals.

Social Media and Online Groups

Join trading and investing online communities where members share tips, including the latest deals and discounts. Facebook groups, subreddits, and Discord servers can be gold mines for this kind of information.

Email Subscriptions

Signing up for email lists of trading services and financial advice websites can give you a heads-up whenever a new deal is launched.

When to Strike for the Best Deals

Timing is everything in the financial markets and it’s just as critical when chasing discounts.

Manufacturer or Billing Cycle Discounts

Sometimes waiting for the right moment in a company’s billing cycle can get you a better deal. For instance, some platforms might offer discounted rates for a two-year subscription if you sign up towards the end of their financial quarter.

Watch Out for Launches and Announcements

Platform launches, new feature releases, or company milestones may come with time-limited promo codes or reduced fees.

Market Leverage

When the market is down, trading platforms may push more aggressively for new users, offering better sign-up deals.

Coupons and Tax Season

Tax season can be another window of opportunity. Some brokers offer tax-saving incentives or may reduce fees to help cushion the blow during the filing period. It’s a good time to look for promotions that could reflect this situation.

The Fine Print Matters

When you discover a discount, don’t just hit “apply” without understanding the terms and conditions. The fine print can impact the real value of the offer, and you want to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re paying for.

  • Expiration: Some codes expire in days or weeks; others are valid for months. Act fast if you find a great deal with a short shelf life.
  • Minimum Spends and Maximum Discounts: Be aware of any requirements. While some codes offer a flat discount, others may require a minimum spend to activate the savings.
  • Eligible Products: Ensure the discount applies to the services or platforms you’re interested in.
  • Stacking or Multiple Uses: Can you use the discounts in conjunction with others, or is it a one-off deal?

Trading with Integrity

Finally, remember to approach trading with integrity. Always ensure the coupons and discounts you use are legitimate. Avoid sharing or using counterfeit or expired codes, as there are likely real consequences for such actions.

Ethical Use of Referral Programs

If you’re taking advantage of referral schemes, make sure your recommendations are genuine. It’s not only ethical but also beneficial to all parties involved.

Understanding Loyalty

Loyalty to a particular platform can often result in better negotiation of rates – think of it as the long-term strategy. Platforms value their loyal customers and may provide unique discounts not publicly advertised.

Conclusion

The quest for trading platform discounts is not just about pinching pennies; it’s about understanding the market landscape and strategizing your finances. In the rapidly changing world of trading, securing the best deals can be as rewarding as a well-timed investment. By deploying the tactics outlined in this guide, you’re well on your way to making every trade a cost-efficient one.

Stay sharp, stay diligent, and most importantly, stay savvy. Your trading account – and future self – will thank you.

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‘Things have not been easy for us’: My sister is a hoarder and procrastinator. She is delaying probate of our parents’ estate. What can I do?

I am in my early 50s, divorced and working full time, and have been raising my only child, a teenage daughter, alone for the past 12 years. My daughter is estranged from her father, who pays child support. We live in Connecticut.

My parents are both deceased as of last year. I moved out of the family home 34 years ago. I have one sibling: a slightly older sister who never moved out of the family home, never went to college, never married, never had a driver’s license, and has no children. I don’t believe she has ever had to pay rent.  

My parents, my sister and I are civil servants with pensions. My sister has done quite well with a high-school degree, and is already eligible to retire. Her job gives her a lot of time off, including holidays and the entire summer. 

When our last parent became ill, she became their caretaker. There was plenty of money between pensions and retirement accounts that she was able to use for home healthcare, medical expenses, household expenses and eventually funeral expenses.

‘She never stopped working’

She never stopped working through all of this, and had power of attorney on all their accounts. She was evasive with me about the amount of money she was overseeing, and I never pushed the issue.  

My parents’ house has been paid off for several years now and both parents’ names are on the deed. They had no will, but named us both as equal beneficiaries on all accounts. Those funds have been distributed.

My sister has been avoiding the issue of probate for several months. She continues to be evasive about the continuing costs associated with the house, but assures me everything is being paid. She has a history of procrastination and has been hoarding for decades. As time goes on, there is noticeably less space to stand inside the house. 

Through probate, the house and our parents’ belongings are due to be split between the two of us. Since I can’t envision my sister ever finding the wherewithal to move out or prepare the house for sale, I would want her to buy out my half of the house so that my daughter and I can live a more secure life.

Finished paying off loans

We rent, and things have not been easy for us. I paid my own way through college and finished paying all my loans off three years ago. I plan to send my daughter to college in a few years and have a 529 plan for her that’s only worth about $15,000. I’ve been sacrificing a lot to put aside retirement money for a long time, but I will probably never feel confident that it’s enough. 

My sister has been busying herself with many activities that she claims are the reason we can’t get this probate process started now. People around me are urging me to be more assertive. I’ve called the appropriate town offices, and I have a certified copy of the deed to the house and some of the applications in hand, but I don’t feel qualified to do this correctly on my own.

I know there are mediators and lawyers that can help, but I don’t know the best way to take control of this situation without spending a ton of money. What do you suggest would be the fairest and fastest way to get this going when one person is passively resisting?

Feeling Stuck

Related: My mom had a trust, so why do we still need probate to settle her estate?

“The good news is that all of the lawyer’s fees will likely be paid out of your parents’ estate, so you will have no upfront legal costs.”


MarketWatch illustration

Dear Stuck,

It’s time to call a lawyer. Delaying this process could cost you dearly.

In Connecticut, you have up to 30 days to file for probate; after that, you could incur fines. “Probate fees are established by statute and are uniform throughout the state,” according to the Connecticut probate-court system. “Interest at the rate of 0.5% per month accrues on all unpaid fees on decedents’ estates beginning 30 days after the date of the invoice, or, if a Connecticut estate tax return has not been filed within the time required, beginning 30 days after the return was due.” You can access an online calculator to estimate probate-court fees here

The good news is that all of the lawyer’s fees will likely be paid out of your parents’ estate, so you will have no upfront legal costs. The executor should have been chosen by the person who wrote the will; if your sister is unable to take on these responsibilities, talk to a trust-and-estate attorney about petitioning the court to remove your sister as executor. It may be that you decide to keep your sister as executor but, after explaining to her the financial implications, you proceed with the help of your attorney.

Your sister has proven herself to be a hard worker, by your own account, but she needs help with this process, and she needs help with the other aspects of her life. Removing her as executor would be time consuming and onerous. Possible reasons for removing an executor include egregious behavior like stealing from or wasting the assets of the estate, or lack of cooperation with the administration of the estate. Removal of an executor can be a complicated and costly process, and one that risks squandering even more money from your parents’ estate.

Personal issues

The legal aspect to your story has, perhaps inevitably, become intertwined with your personal histories. You identify your sister in your letter primarily by what she does not have: a husband, children, a driver’s license, etc. But she has also proven herself to be capable and have many other positive qualities: She was a caregiver, and worked hard as a civil servant to build up a pension to enable her to retire. What she lacks now is support, which both you and an attorney can provide. The nature of that support is legal, practical and also emotional. Providing the latter may be the key to the rest. 

Hoarding disorder is recognized as a mental-health condition by the medical profession. An outsider may see dust and dirt, in addition to cramped and possibly dangerous living conditions, but they don’t always see what lies beneath: fear, pain and potentially other neuropsychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your sister would, of course, need to be diagnosed by a medical professional. Procrastination is also positively correlated with anxiety. Again, outsiders may mistake this for being uninterested or lazy.

It may be that being frustrated with your sister is a familiar feeling, and one you are willing to endure. But just as your sister should not be allowed to let her very significant issues interfere with probating your parents’ estate, you also should not let your relationship with your sister stop you from taking action. First, you will have the legal process, which will unfold if you seek help from an attorney. After that, you will have the equally important task of encouraging your sister to seek the support of a therapist who may be able to help her move forward.

Your probate stalemate shows that no one problem exists in isolation. 

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I have $1.5 million in stocks and bonds. I asked my broker to convert my bonds to cash. He didn’t and my portfolio fell by $100,000. Can I sue?

‘She was very special to me’: My late 98-year-old cousin was targeted by grifters. They stole $800,000. Do I have any recourse?

‘It was a mistake’: My father set up a revocable trust, leaving everything to my stepmother. She’s cutting me out completely. What can I do?

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