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Credible Review – Marketplace for Student Loans, Personal Loans, Mortgages & Credit Cards

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In the market for a student loan, student loan refinance, personal loan, credit card or mortgage refinance? Before you begin an intensive internet search, check out Credible. It’s free and does all the heavy searching for you. Here’s how it works.

Credible

Kevin Mercadante’s rating


9.5
Product Variety
9.5

Cost
10.0

Customer Service
8.8

Ease of Use
9.5

Pros

  • Variety of loans
  • Easy to use
  • Applying doesn't impact your credit
  • Customer service
  • Free

Cons

  • It's not a lender
  • Mortgage loans are for refinancing

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It’s free and does all the heavy searching for you. Here’s how it works.rnrnrnrnrnrnCredible is an online loan marketplace, where you can apply for financing, and receive offers from several lenders at once. This will reduce the amount of time it will take to get the loan you want by the usual method of searching out individual lenders. Much like online insurance marketplaces, you can complete an application on Credible, and have lenders come to you.rnAbout CrediblernCredible is a multi-lender marketplace providing borrowers with the opportunity to get competitive loan offers from one or more of several lenders. The lenders participating on the platform are some of the biggest names in the industry.rnrnCredible is based in San Francisco, California, and was launched in November, 2012. In addition to offering loans for student loans, student loan refinances, and personal loans, Credible has recently added credit cards and mortgages to the mix.rnrnThe Better Business Bureau gives Credible a rating of u201cA+u201d (on a scale of A+ to F), where it has been accredited since October, 2015.rnHow Credible WorksrnYou complete a single application, then get personalized loan offers from various lenders in a matter of minutes. You can then choose which loan will work best for your needs.rnrnOne of the big advantages Credible offers is that the rates youu2019ll receive from lenders will be real rates, and not rate ranges. That means youu2019ll know exactly what youu2019re dealing with before you complete the loan process.rnrnLoan offers will appear on the Credible Dashboard, where you can review the details of each offer. You can proceed with an offer by clicking u201cSelect Lender.” Once you do, the lender is likely to request documentation, including a driveru2019s license or passport, pay stubs, W-2s, and pay off statements from any current lenders youu2019re looking to pay off with the new loan.rnrnRequired documentation can be uploaded to the Credible Dashboard, making the submission process quick and easy.rnrnWith certain loan types, particularly student loans, you may need to add a cosigner. The application process for your cosigner will be similar to yours.rnrnAnd if you need any help along the way, Credible has Client Success Team experts to help you with every step of the process.rnCredible Loan ProgramsrnCredible serves as a marketplace for the following five loan types:rnRefinance Student LoansrnYou can refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans. Credible gives you access to loans from up to 10 vetted lenders, and you can get results in a matter of minutes.rnrnParticipating lenders include:rnrnrnrnLoan offers will show the following:rnrn tInterest ratern tLoan type (fixed or adjustable)rn tMonthly paymentrn tLoan amountrn tOrigination fee (if any)rn tLoan termrnrnNaturally, youu2019ll need to qualify for each lenderu2019s loan program based on your income, credit history, and debt level.rnrnEach lender you select may require additional information. But once all information has been provided, you can receive your final offer in as little as one business day.rnrnCredible advertises that their partner lenders do not charge loan application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.rnGet Started With CrediblernrnPrivate Student LoanrnPrivate student loans have the advantage that loan amounts are generally higher than what are available with federal student loans. They can be used for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, and cover as much is 100% of your school certified costs. They also offer flexible repayment terms, including deferments, interest-only payments, and other options.rnrnPrivate student loans are available from nine different lenders, including Citizens Bank, College Avenue, Discover Student Loans, EDvestinU, INvestEd and Sallie Mae. Loans are available for students at more than 2,200 eligible schools.rnrnYou can apply individually, or along with a qualified cosigner. Just as is the case with student loan refinances, private student loans come with no origination fee, no service fee, and no prepayment penalty.rnrnRelated: The Definitive Guide to Student LoansrnPersonal LoansrnCredible provides access to personal loans from 11 different lenders. This includes some of the biggest names in the personal loans space, such as Lending Club, Prosper, Avant, LightStream and Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Loans are available in amounts ranging from $1,000 to as much as $100,000, and can be used for virtually any purpose. Personal loans are fully unsecured, and currently available at interest rates as low as 5.95% APR.rnrnOnce again, you can apply online, and begin getting loan offers in a matter of minutes. As the offers come in, you can select the one that will work best for you then complete the process. Loans can be used for debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, car financing, wedding expenses, or even to start a new business.rnrnBe aware however that the personal loan industry is somewhat non-standardized. The specific rates youu2019ll pay, as well as the terms and documentation requirements will vary from one company to another.rnGet Started With CrediblernRelated: The Best Online Personal Loan Rates and OffersrnCredit CardsrnThis is a recent addition by Credible. It works similar to other credit card aggregators, in that you can select the card category you want to apply for. For example, youu2019ll have the choice of choosing cards with the most generous cashback, rewards, or travel benefits, those for balance transfers, low rates, or 0% introductory offers.rnrnAs you can see from the screenshot below, you can choose your category, and several credit card providers will come up under each. You can choose the one with the best offer for you, and apply directly.rnrnrnrnCredible also provides resources to help you choose the best credit card, learn how to apply for a credit card, and how to both build and increase your credit score. The last one will be important in getting a credit card with the best terms and pricing.rnMortgagesrnCredible is a mortgage broker, and has licensed loan officers to provide assistance from application to closing.rnrnWhen you complete your online application through Credible, youu2019ll begin getting actual prequalified rates in as little as three minutes. You can make application without impacting your credit score. Credible uses a question and answer format, and also provides an automated document upload process.rnrnCredible gives you access to multiple mortgage lenders, focused on providing cash out refinances. Loans can be either fixed rate or adjustable rate, and you also have access to a dedicated support team.rnrnMuch like the other lending services offered by Credible, once you complete your application, youu2019ll get offers from different mortgage lenders. Once again, the rates offered will be actual, and not ballpark ranges. That will make it easier for you to select the lender that will work best for you.rnrnYouu2019ll need to provide the following information to begin the process:rnrn tYour full namern tYour incomern tThe subject property addressrn tEstimated property valuern tThe amount of the mortgage you needrnrnOnce you select the lender, youu2019ll need to provide typical information required for any mortgage loan. That will include employment and income information, including two years W-2s and recent pay stubs, bank statements for two or three months, and asset statements for brokerage and retirement accounts. Each can be downloaded directly on the site for easy submission.rnrnRelated: Mortgage Rates TodayrnCredible Features and BenefitsrnLoan types offered:u00a0Refinance student loans, private student loans, personal loans, credit cards and mortgages.rnrnEligible borrowers: You must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, residing in the U.S.rnrnPlatform security:u00a0Credible uses 256-bit encryption and secure socket layer (SSL) technology to keep your data secure.rnrnCustomer service:u00a0Credible customer service is available by phone, live chat, or email. Customer service is available Monday through Thursday, from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, Fridays from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. All times are Pacific time.rnCredible FeesrnThere are no fees payable directly to Credible for using the platform. However, certain fees may be charged by the lender through which you get your loan. But in many cases, partnering lenders also charge no fees at all.rnHow to Sign Up with CrediblernThe sign-up process varies somewhat from one loan type to another, but it follows the same basic pattern. Youu2019ll enter basic information about the loan youu2019re looking for, then lender offers will be provided.rnrnFor example, with personal loans, you start by entering the loan amount youu2019re looking for.rnrnrnrnYouu2019ll then be asked to provide the reason for the loan, such as debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, a major purchase, or other purposes.rnrnYouu2019ll then be asked the following questions:rnrn tWhatu2019s the highest level of education you completed?rn tAre you employed?rn tHow much do you earn annually before tax?rn tWhat is your approximate credit score? (Ranges are provided.)rn tYour first and last namern tWhat is your date of birth?rn tWhat is your home address?rn tDo you rent or own this home?rn tWhat is your monthly housing payment?rn tAre you a U.S. citizen?rn tWhat is your Social Security number?rn tWhat is your phone number?rn tYouu2019ll then be asked to enter your email addressrnrnOnce all that information has been entered, youu2019ll create a password, after which youu2019ll need to click u201cAgree and Find My Rates.”rnrnOnce the rates are presented by various lenders, you can select your program. However, expect that lender to request additional information, as well as documentation, to support your loan approval.rnCredible AlternativesrnWhat Credible does really well is to act as a lending marketplace, where you as the borrower can receive multiple loan offers by completing a single application. But if you prefer making direct application with certain lenders, there are excellent choices available.rnrnFor example, if youu2019re specifically interested in student loan refinances, SoFi is one of the biggest and best single providers. They also offer other valuable financial services you may be interested in including with your student loan.rnrnIf youu2019re looking for a personal loan, the two biggest providers are Lending Club and Prosper. They also have the advantage that each offers medical loans and large business loans.rnrnAn excellent source for credit card offers is Credit Karma. Itu2019s a free credit score provider, that also gives you access to credit card offers. One of the big advantages is that they indicate which offers youu2019re likely to qualify for, based on your credit profile. You can also get other loans from the site, including auto loans.rnCredible Pros and Consrnrnrn Pros:rnrn tVariety of loans: Credible offers five different loan types on one platform u2013 refinance student loans, private student loans, personal loans, credit cards, and mortgages.rn tEasy to use: Receive offers from several lenders by completing a single online application.rn tApplying doesn’t impact your credit: Credible does a u201csoft pullu201d on your credit, which will not have a negative impact on your credit score.rn tCustomer service: Unlike most online loan marketplaces, Credible provides live customer support to help you through the process.rn tFree: The Credible loan marketplace is free to use.rnrnrnrnrn Cons:rnrn tIt’s not a lender: Credible is not a direct lender, but an online marketplace for direct lenders.rn tMortgage loans are for refinancing: Credibleu2019s mortgage offerings are limited to refinances only. If youu2019re looking for mortgage financing for a purchase, youu2019ll need to go elsewhere.rnrnrnFAQsrnQuestion: If I make application for a particular loan type, will I receive offers from every participating lender?rnrnAnswer: No. Loan offers will be based on the type of loan you request and your qualifications and eligibility. Offers will come only from lenders who can provide financing based on the criteria you provide. Itu2019s even possible youu2019ll receive no offers if you fail to meet eligibility requirements for any participating lenders.rnrnQuestion: Since Credible has multiple lending partners, will my credit score be hurt by multiple credit inquiries?rnrnAnswer: No. Credible does a u201csoft credit pull,” which isnu2019t recorded on your credit report as an inquiry. It will have no negative effect on your credit score. However, once you make direct application to a participating lender, that lender will do a u201chard credit pull,” generating a single inquiry. But the result of that inquiry will be no more than 2 to 5 points on your credit score, which shouldnu2019t have a material effect.rnrnQuestion: Once Iu2019ve been approved by a participating lender, how quickly can I expect to receive my funds?rnrnAnswer: It depends on the type of loan you are applying for. In the case of personal loans, youu2019ll generally receive funds by the next business day, though some lenders can take up to one week. In the case of student loans and mortgages, disbursement will be based on the specific terms of your transaction. For example, with a mortgage, funds will be dispersed upon loan closing.rnrnQuestion: How does Credible make money to stay in business if they donu2019t charge fees to applicants?rnrnAnswer: Credible receives a fee from their lending partners when borrowers from the site take out a loan. This does not affect the rate paid by the borrower to the lender.rnShould You Get a Loan Through Credible?rnCredible is an outstanding loan source if youu2019re looking to get competitive loan programs and pricing from different lenders. Since there are multiple lending partners participating in each loan type, youu2019ll get offers from several just from completing a single application. This will enable you to select the loan that best fits your needs, at the most affordable rates.rnrnThe service has become even more valuable as the product offering has expanded. Credible started out with student loans and personal loans, but has now added credit cards and mortgages. Itu2019s the type of lending platform youu2019ll be likely to come back to again and again, as you have need for additional financing.rnrnIn addition, Credible is free to use. That means it wonu2019t cost you anything extra to use the service to find the right loan for you. And youu2019ll save the time it will take to make individual applications with multiple lenders, since participating lenders will come to you with offers.rnrnIf youu2019d like more information, or you wish to apply for a loan, visit the Credible website.rnGet Started With Credible”,”author”:{“@type”:”Person”,”name”:”Kevin Mercadante”},”datePublished”:”2019-11-08″}}


Credible is an online loan marketplace, where you can apply for financing, and receive offers from several lenders at once. This will reduce the amount of time it will take to get the loan you want by the usual method of searching out individual lenders. Much like online insurance marketplaces, you can complete an application on Credible, and have lenders come to you.

About Credible

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace providing borrowers with the opportunity to get competitive loan offers from one or more of several lenders. The lenders participating on the platform are some of the biggest names in the industry.

Credible is based in San Francisco, California, and was launched in November, 2012. In addition to offering loans for student loans, student loan refinances, and personal loans, Credible has recently added credit cards and mortgages to the mix.

The Better Business Bureau gives Credible a rating of “A+” (on a scale of A+ to F), where it has been accredited since October, 2015.

How Credible Works

You complete a single application, then get personalized loan offers from various lenders in a matter of minutes. You can then choose which loan will work best for your needs.

One of the big advantages Credible offers is that the rates you’ll receive from lenders will be real rates, and not rate ranges. That means you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with before you complete the loan process.

Loan offers will appear on the Credible Dashboard, where you can review the details of each offer. You can proceed with an offer by clicking “Select Lender.” Once you do, the lender is likely to request documentation, including a driver’s license or passport, pay stubs, W-2s, and pay off statements from any current lenders you’re looking to pay off with the new loan.

Required documentation can be uploaded to the Credible Dashboard, making the submission process quick and easy.

With certain loan types, particularly student loans, you may need to add a cosigner. The application process for your cosigner will be similar to yours.

And if you need any help along the way, Credible has Client Success Team experts to help you with every step of the process.

Credible Loan Programs

Credible serves as a marketplace for the following five loan types:

Refinance Student Loans

You can refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans. Credible gives you access to loans from up to 10 vetted lenders, and you can get results in a matter of minutes.

Participating lenders include:

student loan refinancing

Loan offers will show the following:

  • Interest rate
  • Loan type (fixed or adjustable)
  • Monthly payment
  • Loan amount
  • Origination fee (if any)
  • Loan term

Naturally, you’ll need to qualify for each lender’s loan program based on your income, credit history, and debt level.

Each lender you select may require additional information. But once all information has been provided, you can receive your final offer in as little as one business day.

Credible advertises that their partner lenders do not charge loan application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.

Get Started With Credible

Private Student Loan

Private student loans have the advantage that loan amounts are generally higher than what are available with federal student loans. They can be used for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, and cover as much is 100% of your school certified costs. They also offer flexible repayment terms, including deferments, interest-only payments, and other options.

Private student loans are available from nine different lenders, including Citizens Bank, College Avenue, Discover Student Loans, EDvestinU, INvestEd and Sallie Mae. Loans are available for students at more than 2,200 eligible schools.

You can apply individually, or along with a qualified cosigner. Just as is the case with student loan refinances, private student loans come with no origination fee, no service fee, and no prepayment penalty.

Related: The Definitive Guide to Student Loans

Personal Loans

Credible provides access to personal loans from 11 different lenders. This includes some of the biggest names in the personal loans space, such as Lending Club, Prosper, Avant, LightStream and Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Loans are available in amounts ranging from $1,000 to as much as $100,000, and can be used for virtually any purpose. Personal loans are fully unsecured, and currently available at interest rates as low as 5.95% APR.

Once again, you can apply online, and begin getting loan offers in a matter of minutes. As the offers come in, you can select the one that will work best for you then complete the process. Loans can be used for debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, car financing, wedding expenses, or even to start a new business.

Be aware however that the personal loan industry is somewhat non-standardized. The specific rates you’ll pay, as well as the terms and documentation requirements will vary from one company to another.

Get Started With Credible

Related: The Best Online Personal Loan Rates and Offers

Credit Cards

This is a recent addition by Credible. It works similar to other credit card aggregators, in that you can select the card category you want to apply for. For example, you’ll have the choice of choosing cards with the most generous cashback, rewards, or travel benefits, those for balance transfers, low rates, or 0% introductory offers.

As you can see from the screenshot below, you can choose your category, and several credit card providers will come up under each. You can choose the one with the best offer for you, and apply directly.

Credible also provides resources to help you choose the best credit card, learn how to apply for a credit card, and how to both build and increase your credit score. The last one will be important in getting a credit card with the best terms and pricing.

Mortgages

Credible is a mortgage broker, and has licensed loan officers to provide assistance from application to closing.

When you complete your online application through Credible, you’ll begin getting actual prequalified rates in as little as three minutes. You can make application without impacting your credit score. Credible uses a question and answer format, and also provides an automated document upload process.

Credible gives you access to multiple mortgage lenders, focused on providing cash out refinances. Loans can be either fixed rate or adjustable rate, and you also have access to a dedicated support team.

Much like the other lending services offered by Credible, once you complete your application, you’ll get offers from different mortgage lenders. Once again, the rates offered will be actual, and not ballpark ranges. That will make it easier for you to select the lender that will work best for you.

You’ll need to provide the following information to begin the process:

  • Your full name
  • Your income
  • The subject property address
  • Estimated property value
  • The amount of the mortgage you need

Once you select the lender, you’ll need to provide typical information required for any mortgage loan. That will include employment and income information, including two years W-2s and recent pay stubs, bank statements for two or three months, and asset statements for brokerage and retirement accounts. Each can be downloaded directly on the site for easy submission.

Related: Mortgage Rates Today

Credible Features and Benefits

Loan types offered: Refinance student loans, private student loans, personal loans, credit cards and mortgages.

Eligible borrowers: You must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, residing in the U.S.

Platform security: Credible uses 256-bit encryption and secure socket layer (SSL) technology to keep your data secure.

Customer service: Credible customer service is available by phone, live chat, or email. Customer service is available Monday through Thursday, from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, Fridays from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. All times are Pacific time.

Credible Fees

There are no fees payable directly to Credible for using the platform. However, certain fees may be charged by the lender through which you get your loan. But in many cases, partnering lenders also charge no fees at all.

How to Sign Up with Credible

The sign-up process varies somewhat from one loan type to another, but it follows the same basic pattern. You’ll enter basic information about the loan you’re looking for, then lender offers will be provided.

For example, with personal loans, you start by entering the loan amount you’re looking for.

You’ll then be asked to provide the reason for the loan, such as debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, a major purchase, or other purposes.

You’ll then be asked the following questions:

  • What’s the highest level of education you completed?
  • Are you employed?
  • How much do you earn annually before tax?
  • What is your approximate credit score? (Ranges are provided.)
  • Your first and last name
  • What is your date of birth?
  • What is your home address?
  • Do you rent or own this home?
  • What is your monthly housing payment?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • What is your Social Security number?
  • What is your phone number?
  • You’ll then be asked to enter your email address

Once all that information has been entered, you’ll create a password, after which you’ll need to click “Agree and Find My Rates.”

Once the rates are presented by various lenders, you can select your program. However, expect that lender to request additional information, as well as documentation, to support your loan approval.

Credible Alternatives

What Credible does really well is to act as a lending marketplace, where you as the borrower can receive multiple loan offers by completing a single application. But if you prefer making direct application with certain lenders, there are excellent choices available.

For example, if you’re specifically interested in student loan refinances, SoFi is one of the biggest and best single providers. They also offer other valuable financial services you may be interested in including with your student loan.

If you’re looking for a personal loan, the two biggest providers are Lending Club and Prosper. They also have the advantage that each offers medical loans and large business loans.

An excellent source for credit card offers is Credit Karma. It’s a free credit score provider, that also gives you access to credit card offers. One of the big advantages is that they indicate which offers you’re likely to qualify for, based on your credit profile. You can also get other loans from the site, including auto loans.

Credible Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Variety of loans: Credible offers five different loan types on one platform – refinance student loans, private student loans, personal loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
  • Easy to use: Receive offers from several lenders by completing a single online application.
  • Applying doesn’t impact your credit: Credible does a “soft pull” on your credit, which will not have a negative impact on your credit score.
  • Customer service: Unlike most online loan marketplaces, Credible provides live customer support to help you through the process.
  • Free: The Credible loan marketplace is free to use.

Cons:

  • It’s not a lender: Credible is not a direct lender, but an online marketplace for direct lenders.
  • Mortgage loans are for refinancing: Credible’s mortgage offerings are limited to refinances only. If you’re looking for mortgage financing for a purchase, you’ll need to go elsewhere.

FAQs

Question: If I make application for a particular loan type, will I receive offers from every participating lender?

Answer: No. Loan offers will be based on the type of loan you request and your qualifications and eligibility. Offers will come only from lenders who can provide financing based on the criteria you provide. It’s even possible you’ll receive no offers if you fail to meet eligibility requirements for any participating lenders.

Question: Since Credible has multiple lending partners, will my credit score be hurt by multiple credit inquiries?

Answer: No. Credible does a “soft credit pull,” which isn’t recorded on your credit report as an inquiry. It will have no negative effect on your credit score. However, once you make direct application to a participating lender, that lender will do a “hard credit pull,” generating a single inquiry. But the result of that inquiry will be no more than 2 to 5 points on your credit score, which shouldn’t have a material effect.

Question: Once I’ve been approved by a participating lender, how quickly can I expect to receive my funds?

Answer: It depends on the type of loan you are applying for. In the case of personal loans, you’ll generally receive funds by the next business day, though some lenders can take up to one week. In the case of student loans and mortgages, disbursement will be based on the specific terms of your transaction. For example, with a mortgage, funds will be dispersed upon loan closing.

Question: How does Credible make money to stay in business if they don’t charge fees to applicants?

Answer: Credible receives a fee from their lending partners when borrowers from the site take out a loan. This does not affect the rate paid by the borrower to the lender.

Should You Get a Loan Through Credible?

Credible is an outstanding loan source if you’re looking to get competitive loan programs and pricing from different lenders. Since there are multiple lending partners participating in each loan type, you’ll get offers from several just from completing a single application. This will enable you to select the loan that best fits your needs, at the most affordable rates.

The service has become even more valuable as the product offering has expanded. Credible started out with student loans and personal loans, but has now added credit cards and mortgages. It’s the type of lending platform you’ll be likely to come back to again and again, as you have need for additional financing.

In addition, Credible is free to use. That means it won’t cost you anything extra to use the service to find the right loan for you. And you’ll save the time it will take to make individual applications with multiple lenders, since participating lenders will come to you with offers.

If you’d like more information, or you wish to apply for a loan, visit the Credible website.

Get Started With Credible

Topics: MortgagesReviews

The post Credible Review – Marketplace for Student Loans, Personal Loans, Mortgages & Credit Cards appeared first on The Dough Roller.



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Finance

This White Man’s Journey to Understanding Racism in America

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These are incredibly challenging times right now, aren’t they?

For months now, we’ve been dealing with COVID-19 and the isolation that comes with it. As if that weren’t enough, we’ve had three racially motivated killings during the same time.

Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a father and son, one of whom is a retired police officer.

Breanna Taylor was shot in her apartment (8 or more times) while in bed. They said they were searching for a suspect who allegedly was already in custody (according to a lawsuit filed). 

And the final, most egregious of them all was the murder of George Floyd. A Minneapolis police officer held his knee on this man’s neck for over 8 minutes, suffocating and killing him senselessly while other officers stood by and watched. The look on his face and the lack of emotion in what he was doing was stunning.

I’m Angry 

As I’ve watched the outrage on the news and, more importantly, on social media, I’ve been surprised, amazed, and, if I’m honest, pretty angry about what I’ve seen. 

During the most recent killing of innocent black men and women, I’ve seen many people, especially white people, like me, asking what they can do. That’s good. We should be asking that question. We should have been asking that question and doing something about it for years. 

Conversely, I’ve seen far too many people expressing uninformed, often harsh opinions on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. They express outrage over what’s happening. They shame people who don’t feel that outrage. That self-righteousness grates on me. 

Over the past few years, that’s the pattern I’ve observed. Another police officer kills an innocent black man or woman. Media goes into a feeding frenzy over it. Everyone suddenly expresses outrage that this is happening and goes out of their way to show their anger. 

A Pattern Repeats Itself

Here’s the question – Where have they been over the last several decades? Do they think this is something new? If so, that’s sad. It’s been going on for hundreds of years. 

Here’s another question. Will the outrage be different this time? Will it turn into action after the news dies down? Because so far, that hasn’t been true. As one involved in this battle, it’s pretty hard to see this pattern repeating itself yet again. 

I’m hoping that hearing the story of how I went from an indifferent, disconnected, and a biased white person to the man I am today will offer some answers as to what you (we) as a majority community can do to affect change. I’m no saint. Nor do I have all the answers. If we’re honest with ourselves, all of us have racism in our hearts at some level. 

For those asking the question of what they can do, I will share my ideas in this post. My comments are based solely on personal experience. Take it or leave it. It’s up to you. And I will not try to shame you for what you are or aren’t doing right now. 

With that wordy intro, let’s get started.

A Sheltered Childhood

Who am I? I’m a white male Baby Boomer. I grew up in Zionsville, IN, an all-white community just outside of Indianapolis. The only time I saw black people were on the news, usually those arrested for committing a crime of some sort. The other times were on the basketball court when my HS team played a Marion County school that had black players. There were no schools in Boone County, where Zionsville was, or most any other school on our regular basketball schedule. 

I heard and was a part of tasteless jokes about blacks. The N-word was common among friends. I never had a black friend. Nor had I ever had a meaningful conversation with anyone of color. I suspect many of you who are reading this grew up in similar circumstances, whether you are black, brown, Asian, white, or any other ethnicity, likely hung out and grew up with people of the same or similar ethnicity and background. 

We don’t have a choice where we grow up. That choice comes when we’re on our own.

Relationships Matter

It seems that many of us form opinions about other people groups based on information we get from other people, be it friends, the mainstream media, or social media. 

That brings up a question I asked myself many years ago.

If, as a white person, I don’t have relationships with African Americans, how can I form such strong opinions and stereotypes about them? Where did I get the information that shapes those stereotypes and views? If it’s from the media, how do you think it gets portrayed? Do you ever see the media show blacks in a good light? Rarely.

In most cases, they show blacks at their worst. They emphasize gangs, guns, and violence. The portrayal is of a group of people who are criminals to be feared. 

That was my view for the longest time too. I had no relationships with anyone of another race, let alone another culture. There were no blacks in my neighborhood, my town, my school, or anywhere around me. Even in college, nothing changed. I hung out with people who looked like me. I was oblivious to the concerns I heard on the news from blacks about being mistreated. It didn’t affect me, so I didn’t pay attention to it. 

The Awakening

When my wife, Cathy, and I moved to Indianapolis from where we were living in Bloomington, IN, we started attending Second Presbyterian Church (Second). My brother and his wife attended there. We were looking for a church, so we gave it a try. That was in 1984. Second Pres. was one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the city. That didn’t include us but did include many of the area’s business and civic leaders.

The former Mayor of Indianapolis, William Hudnut, was the pastor at Second before becoming Mayor. The CEO of Ely Lilly, some of the city’s top lawyers, doctors, and business leaders, were members and in leadership at Second. 

The Event that Changed Us

A Senseless Killing

Somewhere around 1987, racial tensions in the city were escalating (sound familiar?). During that time, Michael Taylor, a seventeen-year-old boy, was arrested. I don’t remember the reason for the arrest. He was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car. Somehow, he ended up shot and killed while handcuffed in the back seat of the police cruiser.

Protests began immediately. Leaders of black churches raised their voices. After the police investigated the killing, they determined that Michael Taylor had somehow committed suicide with the police officer’s gun while handcuffed, hands behind his back, in the back seat of the police car. I’m not joking. That’s what they drummed up at the time.

Tensions went through the roof. The Mayor of Indianapolis at the time, Stephen Goldsmith, called together white and black pastors of the largest and most influential churches in the city asking for help. It was there that our pastor, William Enright, met the pastor of Light of the World Christian Church, T. Garrot Benjamin. After the meeting, Tom Benjamin invited Bill Enright to do something together as churches.

In typical grand thinking, pastor Benjamin suggested the two churches shut down their doors on Easter Sunday and do a joint worship service in one of their churches. He was ready to roll. Since Bill’s church is Presbyterian, run by elders, and required to do things “decently and in order,” Bill told Tom he liked the idea, but it would take some time to work through the system.

The Planning Begins

I don’t recall exactly how long it took, but it was at least a year before anything got scheduled. A group of people from each church got together to talk about and plan an event. It was during this time that I met Andy Hunt.

Andy was the business manager for Light of the World Church. He and his wife Sandra and their three children moved to Indy from Atlanta for Andy to take that position. More on that shortly. 

Our group met regularly and finally came up with a plan. We would hold a joint worship service, not on Easter, but a regular Sunday at Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis. We scheduled the event and continued meeting to plan the details.

The Celebration of Hope

The name for the event was The Celebration of Hope. We felt it captured what we were trying to portray. The hope that blacks and whites could come together in unity to worship, pray, and fellowship together. And that’s precisely what we did.

It was a beautiful experience. Our two choirs, with entirely different styles, sang together. Ushers from each church led people to seats. Elders from both churches served communion. We took an offering that day. It was divided equally between the two churches.

James Forbes, who at the time pastored Riverside Church in NY City, gave the message. 

The auditorium was packed. Most of us in attendance had never experienced a worship service like it.

Relationships Begin

I mentioned that I met Andy Hunt during the planning meetings. He and I hit it off almost immediately. We decided it would be good to get our wives together for a meal. So we did. Cathy and Sandra hit it off as well. 

As we talked about the event, we realized something was missing. It was great to get together in large groups for a single event. But what we needed was to build personal relationships with each other. 

To accomplish that, we decided to start a dinner group with couples from each church. At its peak, we had six or seven couples who were part of it. We met for dinner monthly. A different couple hosted each month. We continued meeting for a couple of years. It was a fantastic experience for all of us.

We learned that, despite our different backgrounds and experiences, we had far more in common than differences. We all loved our kids. Many had struggled with jobs, finances, relationships, etc. There was one difference. For the first time, the whites in the group heard about what it’s like to be black in a predominantly white world.

It was eye-opening and shocking to most of us. We had no idea what blacks, especially black males, had to deal with daily. Remember, we all came together after the Michael Taylor shooting. For blacks, this was a regular part of their lives. Fear of that happening to them was real. For whites, we thought it was an isolated incident. How wrong we were. 

A Moment of Truth

Andy and I continued to meet for lunch, and the four of us for dinner fairly regularly. But there was something that was bothering me about his and my relationship. I would talk to him about pressing issues in my life. He listened, but I always felt he kept a distance. As time went on, I continued to feel like he was holding me at arm’s length.

Finally, I’d had enough. Keep in mind; this was before email, texting, and the things we take for granted today. So, I sent Andy a letter. In the letter, I told him I was tired of trying to get close to him and to get pushed away continually. I said I wasn’t looking for any more shallow, surface relationships. I already had plenty of those. But if he wanted to start opening up to me and share his life, I was all in. I told him I didn’t know what his problem was, but that I didn’t cause it.

As soon as Andy got the letter, I got a phone call from him. He was on the verge of tears and asked if we could have lunch. We went to Hoolihan’s a couple of days later, where he finally opened his heart and told me his story. 

Crying Over Nachos

Andy and Sandy were in the process of moving to Atlanta. That’s where Sandra’s family lives. They just had their first child, Drew. Sandy and Drew went back to Atlanta while Andy stayed behind in California to finalize things with his job. 

Sandra’s mother loved Drew. It was her first grandchild. When she and Drew were together, grandma had Drew in her arms. One Saturday afternoon, they decided to visit a new mall that opened up in Cobb County. So Sandra, Drew, grandma, and grandpa got in the car and headed to the mall. 

As they pulled on to the ramp to the mall exit, a car full of young white men pulled beside them. They rolled down the windows and yelled the following: “What are you n***ers doing up here in Cobb County. You got your own n***er malls where you come from. You need to get your asses back to your n***er malls and get out of Cobb County.” 

Grandpa decided he needed to defend the honor of his family. So he was going after the boys. In the back seat, grandma said to Sandra, “take Drew.” Remember, that was something that just didn’t happen. Drew and his grandma were inseparable. She passed Drew to Sandra, had a massive heart attack and died in the back seat of the car.

As Andy told this story, I was balling like a baby. He could barely get the story out himself. What came next changed the nature of our relationship forever. He told me that after that happened to Sandra’s grandmother, he’s hated white people ever since. He said words that resonate with me to this day. I use them often. He said I let an incident become an indictment. The incident killed Drew’s grandmother. He indicted all white people as a result—powerful and poignant words. 

Changed Hearts and a Changed Relationship

That lunch happened almost thirty years ago. Other than my wife, Andy, is my closest friend in the world. He is truly a brother from another mother. The four of us have walked through life together ever since. We have vacationed together almost every year for the last twenty years. 

One of the life missions for Andy and me is to do what we can to foster racial reconciliation. We have been a part of starting three Great Banquet ministries. The Great Banquet is a three day spiritual renewal weekend. Other versions you may have heard of ar Walk to Emmaus, the Catholic Cursillo, and the Tres Dias. 

In 1995, I attended my first Great Banquet. Ironically, it was in Zionsville, IN. That’s the small white town where I grew up. I invited Andy to go there several times. He always had an excuse for why he couldn’t attend. Once we started a community at Second, he and one of our other mutual friends from Light of the World church finally participated.

The Truth Comes Out

I later learned the reason they wouldn’t go to Zionsville. It was because of its reputation as a racist, all-white town. Once it moved to Second, they were all in! 

That community now has probably around 3,000 or more members. Andy and Bill, our other friend, invited dozens of people from Light of the World church to the Banquet weekends. What started as an all-white group, now boasts a diversity that probably consists of 40% or more people of color. They’ve gone on to do more things together as churches. May personal friendships across racial lines now exist.

When Cathy and I moved to Northern Virginia in 1998, we started another Great Banquet out here. Our first weekend was in October 2001, right after the 911 terrorist attacks. One of our primary goals was to build a racially, diverse community. God has blessed that goal. Once again, with intentionality, the local community is close to 2,000 strong and of a similar level of diversity. Because it’s in NOVA, that diversity expands beyond blacks to include many Latinos and Asian Americans.

It Starts with Relationships

By now, many of you might be wondering what’s the point of all of this. That’s a legitimate question.

Here’s the point. If whites and blacks don’t start building relationships with one another on a personal level, I don’t see how meaningful change takes place. 

When our opinions come, not out of our personal experience, but from media or others, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have empathy and understanding of the pain of our black and brown brothers and sisters. 

Until the Celebration of Hope and my friendship with Andy, I certainly didn’t. The result of that friendship has changed my life. It’s changed Cathy and Sandra’s lives as well. It’s made it easier for me to develop relationships with other people of color. It gives me a perspective of events I see that I would never have without these relationships. There is absolutely no way I’d have the empathy I do without hearing Andy’s and others’ stories. It puts faces with the struggles. I hear real-life, often chilling accounts of what they deal with daily.

Where to Start

At times like these, many people want to know what they can do; where to start. Here’s my suggestion. If you’re white, you know someone, either at work, at your kids’ schools, sports, or somewhere who is black or brown. Pick up the phone today and call them. Don’t worry about what to say. Keep it simple. Ask how they’re doing with everything going on right now. Ask them if you can have a cup of coffee (socially distant, of course) to chat. 

You don’t have to have any profound conversation planned in your head. Just say you’d like to get to know them better. Let them know you stand with them in their pain. Ask them how you can support them. Be willing to hear their passion, rage, tears, or whatever comes up. Understand that for them, the George Floyd murder was the tipping point. It’s the accumulation of decades of discrimination, of life devalued and being thought of as lesser than. 

A pastor friend of mine said it best. Just engage in the ministry of presence. Be with them in their pain. 

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

African Americans are tired. They are tired of being pulled over for DWB (driving while black), tired of having conversations with their sons about how to behave if you’re pulled over by police, tired of wondering whether their sons will come home that night.

They are tired of being followed in stores, tired of having to explain why they’re walking in your neighborhood, which also happens to be theirs. A friend gets a visit by the local police almost every time a new owner moves into his neighborhood on his street. It usually goes something like this. He’s out working in the yard, or even walking down his driveway. The new neighbor calls the cops to report a man who appears to be doing something untoward. They know Dave well. Many have been to his house before. But because they were called, they have to respond. So they come, have a brief conversation, and report to the new neighbor they live there.

They are tired of gentrification, being pushed out of their homes and neighborhoods in the name of economic development. 

They are tired of being turned down for loans, even though they have the same income, credit scores, and qualifications. If you don’t know this history, research redlining, a policy that kept blacks from buying houses, one of the most significant sources of wealth for white Americans. 

They are tired of being overlooked for promotions for jobs in which they are equally or even more qualified than their white counterparts. I have not only read about all of this, but I’ve heard personal stories from people I know.

Getting Defensive

Don’t get defensive if that’s what you hear. Even though it may not feel real or right to you, it is real to them. Think about it. As a white father, have you ever had to have that conversation with your son? I know I haven’t. It’s not something that ever crossed my mind. But every African American father I’ve met has had that conversation with their sons. 

Please understand. I don’t offer these things as some sort of expert on the topic. I’m not. In the years I’ve spent with Andy, Sandra, and many other African Americans, these are some of the things I’ve come to know. They come from conversations with many people with whom I’ve developed relationships over the years.

Two Types of Responses

I’ve seen two types of responses from whites during this and other times of police killings of blacks. The first, and most damaging, is the opinionated, self-righteous person who spouts off about blacks being their own worst enemies; that if they’d just comply with police, they wouldn’t get killed. Or one of the favorites, something like, “I don’t know why they’re bitching all the time. They have the same opportunities the rest of us do.” These words have to be coming from people who have never had a meaningful conversation or relationships with a black or brown person. Because if they did, there is no way those words would cross their lips.

The other response and one I appreciate is, “what can I do?” I hope the suggestions above provide some ideas. Sometimes, we make things more complicated than they are. We want to make a big difference. Start with one person. See where that goes. You’d be surprised at what you will learn. But it won’t happen overnight. Andy’s and my story is a perfect example of that. The person you’re sitting across from has lots of years of mistrust for white people built into their lives. It’s not personal. Be patient, and keep showing up.

For another perspective on the topic, I highly recommend this article from Josh at Money Life Wax – My Next Door Neighbor is African American and My Other Neighbor is a Cop

Final Thoughts

The most important thing I’ve learned and been the most grieved about is that this is a way of life for black and brown people every day. We are all stirred by the senseless and inhuman murder of George Floyd. Remember Michael Taylor, the death that birthed the Celebration of Hope and my friendship with Andy and his family. That was 1987. Redlining started in the Roosevelt administration. Woodrow Wilson screened the Birth of a Nation in the White House. If you don’t know what that is, look it up.

Racism is in the very fabric of America. Is it better? Yes? Is it over? Not by a long shot. It won’t end until whites get involved and demand changes. What you’re witnessing now in cities across the country is a release of hundreds of years of frustration and anger at a system that refuses to change. It’s a shame that people are destroying businesses and looting stores. That’s criminal and, for many, reinforces the stereotypes many whites have of blacks. 

But let’s not be too quick to judge. Put yourselves in their shoes. Peaceful protests have not brought about meaningful changes. When another police murder happens, the pent up frustration reaches a peak. When there are three in a row like now, it can and did reach a breaking point. 

They want and deserve change; to be treated with respect; to feel like their lives mean something in a free society. I’m asking my white brothers and sisters to join me in saying, we hear you. We value and stand with you.  We will walk with you in pushing for changes that make a difference. 

If we do that, things can and will change. If we don’t, I’m afraid what we’re seeing now will be the way of life for the foreseeable future.

The post This White Man’s Journey to Understanding Racism in America appeared first on Your Money Geek.



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The Best Portfolio Analysis Tools For 2020

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Tracking and analyzing your investments can be a complicated and time-consuming task. Between expense ratios, dividend yields, management fees, tax planning, and asset allocation, there can be a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

But thankfully there are now many powerful portfolio analysis tools that can save you time and headache. Some tools are free, while others cost money. Some offer deep insights while others keep the analysis at a higher level.

While it’s great that there are now many options available for investors who want to evaluate their portfolios, it can be difficult to tell which ones are the best. Don’t worry. We’ve done the homework for you. Keep reading to see which companies made our short list of the best portfolio analysis tools available today.

Top 3 Picks For Portfolio Analyzer Tools

Here’s our top 3 picks for portfolio analyzer tools. If you’re not using one of these analyzers, we strongly encourage you to check them out for your portfolio planning needs.

Best High-Level Visualizations: Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a free portfolio analysis tool that gives a “mosaic” plot chart to help you visualize the composition of your portfolio. It breaks down your portfolio into stocks, bonds, international, domestic, and other important categories.

Personal Capital made our list of the best portfolio analysis tools primarily because of the huge variety of calculators and charts that it offer. In addition to the mosaic chart, Personal Capital can track your net worth, cash flow, and will provide personalized investing recommendations and insights​.

Although Personal Capital is a free tool, there are a few strings attached. It serves as an advertising platform for Personal Capital’s advisory services. When you first sign up, you may receive a few calls from financial advisors looking for your business.

Pros

  • Free: A great tool comes at the best possible price. 
  • Excellent visualizations: While I’m not a huge fan of Personal Capital’s pie charts, the majority of their charts and graphs are helpful for investors trying to make sense of their portfolio.
  • Helpful recommendations for the average investor: The app makes high-level recommendations about where your asset allocation should be given your risk tolerance and your age. Their recommendations aren’t always a perfect fit for everyone, but can be a great starting place for beginner investors.

Cons

  • May receive phone calls from Personal Capital: If you’ve got a six-figure portfolio, expect a few calls from Personal Capital representatives. It may be annoying at first. But after a few calls, you’ll be able to use the tool for free without being hassled.
  • Minimal insight into volatility: Personal Capital doesn’t give much insight into expected volatility unless you dig deep into the recommendations section.
Personal-Capital-LogoPersonal-Capital-LogoPersonal-Capital-Logo

Best Probability-Based Tool: Portfolio Visualizer

Portfolio Visualizer is one of the most robust portfolio analysis tools on the market. It specializes in Monte Carlo simulations (which give the probability of a portfolio lasting a specified period of time), backtesting, and various forms of asset allocation analysis. The tool also provides some insights into timing strategies.

Portfolio Visualizer is ideal for investors who enjoy tinkering with their portfolio. But you’ll also want to be someone who’s committed enough to your basic investing strategy that you won’t be tempted to dump it every time you come across a new tool in Portfolio Visualizer.

Pros

  • Monte Carlo and Backtesting: Probability-based portfolio analysis is key for people trying to do DIY retirement or college planning. Portfolio Visualizer provides easy to use and easy to understand options for both of these.
  • Robust free plan: The free version of Portfolio Visualizer provides all the major functionality except exports to Excel or CSV files and the ability to import portfolios. But if you simply want to understand the tool, the free plan is excellent.

Cons

  • Must pay to import portfolios: It costs $19 per month for a “basic” subscription to the tool. This includes importing and saving portfolios and exports to CSV or Excel files. Investors who own lots of individual stocks will probably need to upgrade to this option.
  • Expansive set of tools can be overwhelming: With great power comes great responsibility. In spite of the educational materials on the site, Portfolio Visualizer can be overwhelming especially for people just getting started. I recommend familiarizing yourself with basic investing concepts using Personal Capital or Morningstar Portfolio Manager before digging into this advanced tool.

Best For Mutual Fund And ETF Investors: Morningstar Portfolio Manager

Morningstar is one of the premier portfolio analysis tools for everyday investors looking to understand more about their investment portfolio. Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager is a free tool that gives details on stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. 

The X-Ray tool also gives a deep dive into each mutual fund or ETF to give details that other analysis tools might miss. For example, it uncovers hidden fees and shows whether you may be accidentally over-invested in a single stock due to a fund’s allocation.

Pros

  • Easy to understand: The charts and statistics that morningstar provide are easy to understand, even for people who don’t have a lot of background in investing.
  • Focused on the right details: Most investors need to understand their asset allocation and the fees they are paying.The Morningstar tool provides details on these but doesn’t overwhelm with too much information.

Cons

  • Have to manually enter portfolios: Unlike many portfolio analysis tools, Morningstar’s Portfolio Manager cannot connect to your brokerage account. You must manually enter all your portfolio positions.
  • Accessing the best tools requires a paid subscription: While Morningstar Portfolio Manager is completely free, X-Ray is part of the Morningstar Premium service which costs $199 per year. However, you can try a 14-day trial for free.
Morningstar LogoMorningstar LogoMorningstar Logo

Final Thoughts

The portfolio analysis tools outlined above are excellent. But as robust as they are, they won’t meet every need. A lot of times, the best tools for improving your finances are tools that help you manage your cash flow. For this type of need, a free app like Mint, Clarity Money or Emma may make more sense. 

For the spreadsheet inclined, Tiller Money can help with net worth tracking and cash flow management. Or if you wanting to see how your investing portfolio fits into your overall financial plan, tools like Savology or NewRetirement could be better options.

The post The Best Portfolio Analysis Tools For 2020 appeared first on The College Investor.



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Introducing Coverage Critic: Time to Kill the $80 Mobile Phone Bill Forever

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A Quick Foreword: Although the world is still in Pandemic mode, we are shifting gears back to personal finance mode here at MMM. Partly because we could all use a distraction right now, and even more important because forced time off like this is the ideal time to re-invest in optimizing parts of your life such as your fitness, food and finances.

Canadian Readers – we have also collected some recommendations for you at a new Canadian Mobile Phone recommendations page.

Every now and then, I learn to my horror that some people are still paying preposterous amounts for mobile phone service, so I write another article about it.

If we are lucky, a solid number of people make the switch and enjoy increased prosperity, but everyone who didn’t happen to read that article goes on paying and paying, and I see it in the case studies that people email me when looking for advice. Lines like this in their budget:

  • mobile phone service (2 people): $160

“NO!!!!”
is all I can say, when I see such unnecessary expenditure. These days, a great nationwide phone service plan costs between and $10-40 per month, depending on how many frills you need.

Why is this a big deal? Just because of this simple fact:

  • Cutting $100 per month from your budget becomes a $17,000 boost to your wealth every ten years.

And today’s $10-40 phone plans are just great. Anything more than that is just a plain old ripoff, end of story. Just as any phone more expensive than $200* (yes, that includes all new iPhones), is probably a waste of money too.

So today, we are going to take the next step: assigning a permanent inner-circle Mustachian expert to monitor the ever-improving cell phone market, and dispense the latest advice as appropriate. And I happen to know just the guy:

Christian Smith, along with colleagues at GiveWell in San Francisco, circa 2016

My first contact with Chris was in 2016 when he was working with GiveWell, a super-efficient charitable organization that often tops the list for people looking to maximize the impact of their giving.

But much to my surprise, he showed up in my own HQ coworking space in 2018, and I noticed he was a bit of a mobile phone research addict. He had started an intriguing website called Coverage Critic, and started methodically reviewing every phone plan (and even many handsets) he could get his hands on, and I liked the thorough and open way in which he did it.

This was ideal for me, because frankly I don’t have time to keep pace with ongoing changes in the marketplace. I may be an expert on construction and energy consumption, but I defer to my friend Ben when I have questions about fixing cars, Brandon when I need advice on credit cards, HQ member Dr. D for insider perspectives on the life of a doctor and the medical industry, and now Chris can take on the mobile phone world.

So we decided to team up: Chris will maintain his own list of the best cheap mobile phone plans on a new Coverage Critic page here on MMM. He gets the benefit of more people enjoying his work, and I get the benefit of more useful information on my site. And if it goes well, it will generate savings for you and eventual referral income for us (more on that at the bottom of this article).

So to complete this introduction, I will hand the keyboard over to the man himself.

Meet The Coverage Critic

Chris, engaged in some recent Coverage Criticicism at MMM-HQ

I started my professional life working on cost-effectiveness models for the charity evaluator GiveWell. (The organization is awesome; see MMM’s earlier post.) When I was ready for a career change, I figured I’d like to combine my analytical nature with my knack for cutting through bullshit. That quickly led me to the cell phone industry.

So about a year ago, I created a site called Coverage Critic in the hopes of meeting a need that was being overlooked: detailed mobile phone service reviews, without the common problem of bias due to undisclosed financial arrangements between the phone company and the reviewer.

What’s the Problem with the Cell Phone Industry?

Somehow, every mobile phone network in the U.S. claims to offer the best service. And each network can back up its claims by referencing third-party evaluations. 

How is that possible? Bad financial incentives.

Each network wants to claim it is great. Network operators are willing to pay to license reviewers’ “awards”. Consequently, money-hungry reviewers give awards to undeserving, mediocre networks.

On top of this, many phone companies have whipped up combinations of confusing plans, convoluted prices, and misleading claims. Just a few examples:

  • Coverage maps continue to be wildly inaccurate.
  • Many carriers offer “unlimited” plans that have limits.
  • All of the major U.S. network operators are overhyping next-generation, 5G technologies. AT&T has even started tricking its subscribers by renaming some of its 4G service “5GE.”

However, with enough research and shoveling, I believe it becomes clear which phone companies and plans offer the best bang for the buck.  So going forward, MMM and I will be collaborating to share recommended phone plans right here on his website, and adding an automated plan finder tool soon afterwards. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great, budget-friendly options on the market.

A Few Quick Examples:

Mint Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data for as low as $20 per month (runs over T-Mobile’s network).

T-Mobile Connect: unlimited minutes and texts with 2GB of data for $15 per month.

Xfinity Mobile: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data over Verizon’s network for about $12 per line each month (heads up: only Xfinity Internet customers are eligible, and the bring-your-own-device program is somewhat restrictive).

Total Wireless: 4 lines in a combined family plan with unlimited calling, texting, and 100GB of shared data(!) for $100 per month (runs on Verizon’s extensive network).

Ting: Limited use family plans for under $15 per line each month.

[MMM note – even as a frequent traveler, serious techie and a “professional blogger”, I rarely use more than 1GB each month on my own Google Fi plan ($20 base cost plus data, then $15 for each additional family member). So some of these are indeed generous plans]

Okay, What About Phones?

With the above carriers, you may be able to bring your existing phone. But if you need a new one, there are some damn good, low-cost options these days. The Moto G7 Play is only $130 and offers outstanding performance despite the low price point. I use it as my personal phone and love it.

If you really want something fancy, consider the Google Pixel 3a or the recently released, second-generation iPhone SE. Both of these are amazing phones and about half as expensive as an iPhone 11.

——————————————-

Mobile Phone Service 101

If you’re looking to save on cell phone service, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over a lot of nuances in the rest of this post. If you’re a nerd like me and want more technical details, check out my longer, drier article that goes into more depth.

The Wireless Market

There are only four nationwide networks in the U.S. (soon to be three thanks to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint). They vary in the extent of their coverage:

  • Verizon (most coverage)
  • AT&T (2nd best coverage)
  • T-Mobile (3rd best coverage)
  • Sprint (worst coverage)

Not everyone needs the most coverage. All four nationwide networks typically offer solid coverage in densely populated areas. Coverage should be a bigger concern for people who regularly find themselves deep in the mountains or cornfields.

While there are only four nationwide networks, there are dozens of carriers offering cell phone service to consumers – offering vastly different pricing and customer service experiences.

Expensive services running over a given network will tend to offer better customer service, more roaming coverage, and better priority during periods of congestion than low-cost carriers using the same network. That said, many people won’t even notice a difference between low-cost and high-cost carriers using the same network.

 For most people, the easiest way to figure out whether a low-cost carrier will provide a good experience is to just try one. You can typically sign up for these services without a long-term commitment. If you have a good initial experience with a budget-friendly carrier, you can stick with it and save substantially month after month.

With a good carrier, a budget-friendly phone, and a bit of effort to limit data use, most people can have a great cellular experience while saving a bunch of money.

MMM’s Conclusion

From now on, you can check in on the Coverage Critic’s recommendations at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic, and he will also be issuing occasional clever or wry commentary on Twitter at @Coverage_Critic.

Thanks for joining the team, Chris!

*okay, special exception if you use it for work in video or photography. I paid $299 a year ago for my stupendously fancy Google Pixel 3a phone.. but only because I run this blog and the extra spending is justified by the better camera.

The Full Disclosure: whenever possible, we have signed this blog up for referral programs with any recommended companies that offer them, so we may receive a commission if you sign up for a plan using our research. We aim to avoid letting income (or lack thereof) affect our recommendations, but we still want to be upfront about everything so you can judge for yourself. Specific details about these referral programs is shared on the CC transparency page. MMM explains more about how he handles affiliate arrangements here.



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