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Guide to Managing Finances for Deploying Service Members

Life in the military offers some distinct experiences compared to civilian life, and that includes your budget and finances. The pre-deployment process can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re organizing your money and bills. 

It’s important you provide your family with everything they need to keep you and any dependents comfortable and stable. This means gathering paperwork, making phone calls to service providers, creating new budgets, and organizing your estate. The more you prepare ahead of time, the less you have to worry about the state of your investments and finances when you return home. 

To help make the process easier, we’ve gathered everything you need to know for deployment finances. Read on or jump to a specific category below:

Pre-Deployment Needs

  • Review Your Estate
  • Reassign Financial Responsibilities
  • Update Your Services
  • Build a Budget
  • Prepare a Deployment Binder

Deployment Needs

  • Protect Yourself From Fraud
  • Adjust Your Savings
  • Financial Assistance

Post-Deployment Needs

  • Update Your Budget
  • Pay Off Debt
  • Review Legal Documents

Before Your Deployment

There’s a lot of paperwork and emotions involved in preparing for deployment. Make sure you take plenty of time for yourself and your loved ones, then schedule time to organize your finances for some peace of mind. 
investments, and dependents. It’s an important conversation to have with your partner and establishes:

  • Power of attorney
  • Living will
  • Last will and testament
  • Long-term care
  • Life insurance
  • Survivor benefits
  • Funeral arrangements

Anyone with property, wealth, or dependents should have some estate planning basics secured. These documents will protect your wishes and your family in the event you suffer serious injury. There are several military resources to help you prepare your estate:

  • Defense Finance And Accounting Services’ Survivor Benefit Plan and Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan
  • Department Of Defense’s Military Funeral Honors Pre-arrangement 
  • Service Member’s Group Life Insurance
  • Veterans Affairs Survivor’s Benefits
  • The Importance Of Estate Planning In The Military
  • Survivor Benefits Calculator

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows you to cancel a housing or auto lease, cancel your phone service, and avoid foreclosure on a home you own without penalties. Additionally, you can reduce your debt interest rates while you’re deployed, giving you a leg up on debt repayment or savings goals. Learn more about the SCRA benefits below:

  • Terminating Your Lease For Deployment
  • SCRA Interest Rate Limits
  • SCRA Benefits And Legal Guidance

 

Build a Deployment Budget

Your pay may change during and after deployment, which means it’s time to update your budget. Use a deployment calculator to estimate how your pay will change to get a foundation for your budget. 

Typically, we recommend you put 50 percent of your pay towards needs, like rent and groceries. If you don’t have anyone relying on your income, then you should consider splitting this chunk of change between your savings accounts and debt. 

Make sure you continue to deposit at least 20 percent of your pay into savings, too. Send some of this towards an emergency fund, while the rest can go towards your larger savings goals, like buying a house and retirement. 

Use these resources to help calculate your goals and budgets, as well as planning for your taxes:

  • My Army Benefits Deployment Calculator
  • My Army Benefits Retirement Calculator
  • Mint Budget Calculator
  • IRS Deployed Veteran Tax Extension
  • IRS Military Tax Resources
  • Combat Zone Tax Exclusions

 

Prepare a Deployment Binder

Mockup of someone completing the deployment checklist.

Illustrated button to download our printable depployment binder checklist.

It’s best to organize and arrange all of your documents, information, and needs into a deployment binder for your family. This will hold copies of your estate planning documents, budget information, and additional contacts and documents. 

Make copies of your personal documents, like birth certificates, contracts, bank information, and more. You also want to list important contacts like family doctors, your pet’s veterinarian, household contacts, and your power of attorney. 

Once you have your book ready, give it to your most trusted friend or family member. Again, this point of contact will have a lot of information about you that needs to stay secure. Finish it off with any instructions or to-dos for while you’re gone, and your finances should be secure for your leave. 

While You’re Deployed

Though most of your needs are taken care of before you deploy, there are a few things to settle while you’re away from home. 
Romance and identity scams are especially popular and can cost you thousands. 

  • Social Media Scams To Watch For
  • Romance Scam Red Flags
  • Military Scam Warning Signs

 

Adjust Your Savings 

Since you won’t be responsible for as many bills, and you may have reduced debt interest rates, deployment is the perfect time to build your savings.

While you’re deployed, you may be eligible for the Department of Defense’s Savings Deposit Program (SDP), which offers up to 10 percent interest. This is available to service members deployed to designated combat zones and those receiving hostile fire pay.

Military and federal government employees are also eligible for the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a supplementary retirement savings to your Civil Service Retirement System plan.

  • Savings Deposit Program
  • Thrift Savings Plan Calculator
  • Civil Service Retirement System
  • Military Saves Resources

 

Additional Resources for Financial Assistance

Deployment can be a financially and emotionally difficult time for families of service members. Make sure you and your family have easy access to financial aid in case they find themselves in need. 

Each individual branch of the military offers its own family and financial resources. You can find additional care through local support systems and national organizations, like Military OneSource and the American Legion. 

  • Family Readiness System
  • Navy-marine Corps Relief Society
  • Air Force Aid Society
  • Army Emergency Relief
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
  • Military Onesource’s Financial Live Chat
  • Find Your Military And Family Support Center
  • Emergency Loans Through Military Heroes Fund Foundation Programs
  • The American Legion Family Support Network

After You Return Home

Coming home after deployment may be a rush of emotions. Relief, exhaustion, excitement, and lots of celebration are sure to come with it. There’s a lot to consider with reintegration after deployment, and that includes taking another look at your finances. 

 

Update Your Budget

Just like before deployment, you should update your budget to account for your new spending needs and pay. It’s time to reinstate your car insurance, find housing, and plan your monthly grocery budget. 

After a boost in savings while deployed, you may want to treat yourself to something nice — which is totally okay! The key is to decide what you want for yourself or your family, figure if it’s reasonable while maintaining other savings goals, like your rainy day fund, and limit other frivolous purchases. Now is not the time to go on a spending spree — it’s best to invest this money into education savings, retirement, and other long-term plans.

In addition to your savings goals, make sure you’re prepared to take care of yours and your family’s health. Prioritize your mental health after deployment and speak with a counselor, join support groups, and prepare for reintegration. Your family and children may also have a hard time adjusting, so consider their needs and seek out resources as well. 
FTC | NFCC 

The post Guide to Managing Finances for Deploying Service Members appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2021

To help you understand what makes a top-rated car insurance company, it’s important to first find out how much coverage you need. This guide will help you understand what makes a top-rated car insurance company, how much coverage you need and ways to save money when getting a car insurance quote. Don’t worry; our top […]

The post The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2021 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

Repossession Credit Scores: What You Need to Know

One of the harsh truths of secured loans is that your asset can be repossessed if you fail to make the payments. In the words of the FTC, “your consumer rights may be limited” if you miss your monthly payments, and when that happens, both your financial situation and your bank balance will take a hit.

On this guide, we’ll look at what can happen when you fall behind on your car payments, and how much damage it can do to your credit score.

What is a Car Repossession?

An auto loan is a loan acquired for the sole purpose of purchasing a car. The lender covers the cost of the car, you get the vehicle you want, and in return you pay a fixed monthly sum until the loan balance is repaid.

If you fail to make to make a payment or you’re late, the lender may assume possession of your car and sell it to offset the losses. At the same time, they will report your missed and late payments to the main credit bureaus, and your credit score will take a hit. What’s more, if the sale is not enough to cover the remainder of the debt, you may be asked to pay the residual balance.

The same process applies to a title loan, whereby your car is used as collateral for a loan but isn’t actually the purpose of the loan.

To avoid repossession, you need to make your car payments on time every month. If you are late or make a partial payment, you may incur penalties and it’s possible that your credit score will suffer as well. If you continue to delay payment, the lender will seek to cover their costs as quickly and painlessly as possible.

How a Repossession Can Impact Your Credit Score

Car repossession can impact your credit history and credit score in several ways. Firstly, all missed and late car payments will be reported to the credit bureaus and will remain on your account for up to 7 years. They can also reduce your credit score. 

Secondly, if your car is repossessed on top of late payments, you could lose up to 100 points from your credit score, significantly reducing your chances of being accepted for a credit card, loan or mortgage in the future. 

And that’s not the end of it. If you have had your car for less than a couple of years, there’s a good chance the sale price will be much less than the loan balance. Car repossession doesn’t wipe the slate clean and could still leave you with a sizable issue. If you have a $10,000 balance and the car is sold for $5,000, you will owe $5,000 on the loan and the lender may also hit you with towing charges.

Don’t assume that the car is worth more than the value of the loan and that everything will be okay. The lender isn’t selling it direct; they won’t get the best price. Repossessed vehicles are sold cheaply, often for much less than their value, and in most cases, a balance remains. 

Lenders may be lenient with this balance as it’s not secured, so their options are limited. However, they can also file a judgment or sell it to a collection agency, at which point your problems increase and your credit score drops even further.

How Does a Repo Take Place?

If you have a substantial credit card debt and miss a payment, your creditor will typically take it easy on you. They can’t legally report the missed payment until at least 30-days have passed and most creditors won’t sell the account to a collection agency until it is at least 180-days overdue.

This leads many borrowers into a false sense of security, believing that an auto loan lender will be just as forgiving. But this is simply not true. Some lenders will repo your car just 90-days after your last payment, others will do it after 60 days. They don’t make as many allowances because they don’t need to—they can simply seize your asset, get most of the money back, and then chase the rest as needed.

Most repossessions happen quickly and with little warning. The lender will contact you beforehand and request that you pay what you owe, but the actual repo process doesn’t work quite like what you may have seen on TV. 

They’re not allowed to break down your door or threaten you; they’re not allowed to use force. And, most of the time, they don’t need to. If they see your car, they will load it onto their truck and disappear. They’re so used to this process that they can typically do it in less than 60-seconds.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or at work—you just lost your ride.

What Can You Do Before a Repo Hits Your Credit Score?

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the repo process and escape the damage. You just need to act quickly and don’t bury your head in the sand, as many borrowers do.

Request a Deferment

An auto loan lender won’t waste as much time as a creditor, simply because they don’t need to. However, they still understand that they won’t get top dollar for the car and are generally happy to make a few allowances if it means you have more chance of meeting your payments.

If you sense that your financial situation is on the decline, contact your lender and request a deferment. This should be done as soon as possible, preferably before you miss a payment.

A deferment buys you a little extra time, allowing you to take the next month or two off and adding these payments onto the end of the term. The FTC recommends that you get any agreement in writing, just in case they renege on their promise.

Refinance

One of the best ways to avoid car repossession, is to refinance your loan and secure more favorable terms. The balance may increase, and you’ll likely find yourself paying more interest over the long-term, but in the short-term, you’ll have smaller monthly payments to contend with and this makes the loan more manageable.

You will need a good credit score for this to work (although there are some bad credit lenders) but it will allow you to tweak the terms in your favor and potentially improve your credit situation.

Sell the Car Yourself

Desperate times call for desperate measures; if you’re on the brink of facing repossession, you should consider selling the car yourself. You’ll likely get more than your lender would and you can use this to clear the balance. 

Before you sell, calculate how much is left and make sure the sale will cover it. If not, you will need to find the additional funds yourself, preferably without acquiring additional debt. Ask friends or family members if they can help you out.

How Long a Repo Can Affect Your Credit Score

The damage caused by a repossession can remain on your credit score for 7 years, causing some financial difficulty. However, the damage will lessen over time and within three or four years it will be negligible at best.

Derogatory marks cease to have an impact on your credit score a long time before it disappears off your credit report, and it’s the same for late payments and repossessions.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should take things lightly. The lender can make life very difficult for you if you don’t meet your payments every month and don’t work with them to find a solution.

What About Voluntary Repossession?

If you’re missing payments because you’ve lost your job or suffered a major change in your financial circumstances, it may be time to consider voluntary repossession, in which case there are no missed payments and you don’t need to worry about repo men knocking on your door or coming to your workplace.

With voluntary repossession, the borrower contacts the lender, informs them they can no longer afford the payments, and arranges a time and a place to return the car. However, while this is a better option, it can do similar damage to the borrower’s credit score as a voluntary repossession, like a traditional repossession, is still a defaulted loan.

Missed payments aside, the only difference concerns how the repossession shows on the borrower’s credit report. Voluntary repossession will look better to a creditor who manually scans the report, but the majority of lenders run automatic checks and won’t notice a difference.

Summary: Act Quickly

If you have student loan, credit card, and other unsecured debt, a repo could reduce your chances of a successful debt payoff and potentially prevent you from getting a mortgage. But it’s not the end of the world. You can get a deferment, refinance or reinstate the loan, and even if the worst does happen, it may only take a year or so to get back on track after you fix your financial woes.

Repossession Credit Scores: What You Need to Know is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

A Guide to Rental Reimbursement Coverage

You’re involved in an accident, your car is wrecked, and your insurer has stepped in to cover the damages. All is well, and you only have the deductible to worry about, but what happens before the car is fixed? How do you continue to get to work every day and take the kids to school when your car is in the repair shop for the next few days or weeks?

That’s where rental car reimbursement coverage steps in. If you have this optional coverage on your car insurance policy, you won’t need to worry.

Keep reading to learn how this coverage option works.

Rental Car Reimbursement vs Rental Car Insurance

Before we go any further, it’s worth clarifying the potential confusion surrounding rental car coverage and rental car reimbursement coverage. The former includes damage waivers, property insurance, and liability coverage and protects you when you are driving a rental car.

You will be offered this type of insurance when you rent a car and can also get it through your current insurance policy or through your credit card, bank account or travel insurance.

As for rental car reimbursement, it is designed to cover the costs of renting a vehicle when your car is in the shop or has been stolen.

Rental car reimbursement only applies if your insurance company is paying for the repairs and those repairs are covered by your insurance policy. It is a coverage option that is typically only available to policyholders who have collision coverage or comprehensive coverage insurance.

What Does Rental Car Reimbursement Cover?

Rental car reimbursement is designed to cover the cost of a rental car, but there are limits. Most insurance companies will only cover you for 30 days and many also set a daily limit, often between $50 and $100. This means that you can’t claim for costs above this or for a rental period that extends beyond it.

In some states and in some situations, you may not even need to add rental reimbursement coverage to your policy as the at-fault driver could be responsible for your rental costs. In the event of a car accident caused by a fully-insured driver, their liability insurance may cover you for transportation costs, while also paying for the damage done to you and your vehicle.

However, there is a coverage limit that means they may not be liable for all the costs you pay to the rental car company. In such cases, having rental car reimbursement coverage on your policy will cover the difference and ensure you’re not out of pocket.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of rental reimbursement insurance differs from state to state and provider to provider. Your costs will also be higher if you are deemed to be a high-risk driver and have a history of at-fault accidents and insurance claims. Generally, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3 or $4 a month extra to $15 or $20 a month extra.

It’s not a huge amount because the cover provided is very limited. For instance, at $50 a day over 30 days, the insurer’s liability is just $1,500, which is a fraction of the amount they can expect to lose with other coverage options.

How Does the Process Work?

You’re involved in a minor accident and your car is taken to the body shop, now what? If you have rental coverage, you can do one of the following:

1. Pay for it Yourself

When you pay for the vehicle yourself, you have more choice about what car you rent and from where you rent it, and you can also get it as soon as you need it. If you choose this option, just make sure you keep a record of all the costs so you can report these to the insurer and get your money back.

By choosing this method, you have more control and providing you have cover, you shouldn’t encounter any issues when seeking reimbursement. Get the rental vehicle you want, drive it off the lot, and wait for your car to be fixed and your expenses to be covered.

2. Let Your Insurance Company Do It

The second option, and the best option, is to go through your insurance company. They will contact the rental company on your behalf and deal with all of the red tape, ensuring you only get a car that you are fully covered for and providing you with all the necessary details at the same time.

By going through your insurer, you can avoid the hassle and they may even help you to get a better deal. 

It’s worth noting, however, that your insurer will not pay for additional rental car coverage like damage waivers. But as noted already, your auto policy may already provide you with the cover that you need.

Should You Get Additional Car Rental Reimbursement Coverage?

On average, you will use rental car coverage just once in a 10-year period, and you may only need it for a few days at a time. To determine whether this additional coverage option is right for you, simply calculate how much it will cost you on a monthly basis and then compare this to how much it is likely to offer you.

For instance, let’s assume that you are charged $10 a month for this additional option. This means you will pay $120 a year or $1,200 over ten years. Assuming you’re being offered a maximum of $50 per day for 30 days, this means the benefits are capped at $1,500.

If you’re paying $15 a month instead, that’s $180 a year, $1,800 a decade, and more than you will get back. And, in both cases, we’re assuming that you rent a car for the full 30 days at the maximum allowed price, which is somewhat rare. As a result, you can probably overlook this additional coverage option when those are the prices quoted.

Bottom Line: Choosing Insurance Coverage

From car rental coverage and rental car reimbursement to roadside assistance, new car replacement and more, there is no shortage of options for the average driver. 

But as tempting as it is to add all of these options to your auto insurance policy in the knowledge that you’ll be fully covered, the costs can spiral out of control very quickly. You could find yourself spending an excessive amount of money unnecessarily, and at a time when everyone is watching their budgets, that’s never a good thing.

Think about rental car reimbursement carefully and reject it if you don’t need it, even if it is only $10 or $20 extra a month. 

 

 

A Guide to Rental Reimbursement Coverage is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Best Time to Buy a Car

Timing is everything and when it comes to buying a car, that saying couldn’t be more true. Negotiating and haggling with car salesmen can reduce the price of what you have to pay for a new whip. But if you want to get the best deal on a car, you’ll need to know when to show up to the dealership. Whether you’re buying a used vehicle or a brand new ride, we’ll tell you the best time of year to buy a car. Being that the purchase of a car is rather pricey, consider meeting with a financial advisor in your area to discuss your finances beforehand.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a New Car?

If you’re on a budget, one of the best times to buy a new car is the end of a model season. New car models are often introduced each year between late summer and early fall. While you might miss out on some new features, buying a new car in August or early September may save you some money.

Waiting until the end of the year to buy a new car can work in your favor as well. Many car dealers offer year-end sales in an effort to get rid of older vehicles and make room for new inventory. Buying a new car on a holiday like Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve is another way to get a deep discount.

If you can’t wait until December to get a new car, you might want to buy a car at the end of the month or the end of a quarter. If a salesperson hasn’t sold very many vehicles in weeks, he or she might be willing to compromise and lower the price of the car you want to buy. Even if a salesman has managed to sell multiple cars throughout the month, he might want to close one last deal in order to meet a sales goal or score a bonus.

Shopping for a car at the end of the day may or may not be effective. If you stop by a dealership an hour before it’s set to close, a salesperson may be open to negotiating so that he or she can end the day on a high note. But if he or she is used to working long hours, your sales associate may not be that flexible.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

Best Time to Buy a Car

A recent study from iseecars.com ranked the best times to buy a used car. At the top of their list are holidays including Black Friday, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. The months of November and December are also considered good times to purchase a used car.

According to the study, the months of April, May and June are some of the worst times to buy a used car. Specifically, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are bad days for used-car buyers. But the No. 1 worst day to purchase a used car is the Fourth of July.

When Not to Buy a New Car

Generally, one of the worst times to buy a new car is in the spring. During this time of year, you’ll see more people on car lots looking to soak up some sun and cash in their tax refunds. Other bad times to shop for new cars are whenever a particular vehicle is popular among consumers and whenever a new car model has been released.

Some people seem to think that buying a car on a rainy day is a good idea. But that approach usually doesn’t work. In fact, you can expect car dealerships to be filled with people when there’s bad weather simply because people tend to believe that they’ll find great deals on rainy days.

Bottom Line 

Best Time to Buy a Car

The best time of year to buy a car ultimately depends on your personal preferences and how much you’re willing to spend on a vehicle. If you’re rolling in dough and you want your car to have top-of-the-line features and amenities, you might want to buy a car as soon as a new model comes out. But if you’re trying to shave hundreds of dollars off your purchase price, experts say that it’s best to head to the dealership at the end of a period in the fall or winter, like the end of the month, quarter or year.

Our advice? When it comes to buying cars and getting your way at the dealership, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Doing plenty of research and knowing the make and model that you want your car to have can make it easier to figure out when to purchase your new vehicle.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Finances

  • If you find yourself having some financial struggles, perhaps it’s time to have an outside resource step in to help you out. Financial advisors typically have extensive experience in a number of important areas of finance, like tax planning, retirement planning, budget planning and more. SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool can set you up with as many as three suitable advisors in just 5 minutes. Get started now.
  • The best way to manage your money on both a short- and long-term scale is to create a firm budget. SmartAsset’s budget calculator can help you figure out exactly where you’re overspending.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/cosmin4000, ©iStock.com/ViewApart, ©iStock.com/kali9

The post When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

5 Unwelcome Financial Surprises to Watch Out for in 2021

The last thing anyone wants to do right now is reflect on this year.

It was dreadful. Let’s move on.

Before you do, though, it’s a good idea to take stock of how your finances may have changed during the last 12 months and make any needed adjustments.

Here are five areas of your finances to check on so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises in 2021.

Student Loans

If you’ve been taking advantage of student loan forbearance since March — when all payments and interest on federally held student loans were suspended — it’s time to resurrect those payments.

Forbearance ends Jan. 31, 2021, at which point you start owing and accruing interest on your student loans. Don’t delay reaching out to your student loan servicer.

If you’re on the standard repayment plan and are unable to make the payments, apply for an income-driven repayment plan, which could substantially reduce your monthly payments when the forbearance period ends. If you’re already on an income-driven plan, update your income to modify your monthly payment.

Credit Cards

Don’t let the ghost of credit card purchases past haunt you in 2021.

If you want to start putting a dent in your credit card debt, we have plenty of options, including debt avalanche, debt snowball, debt snowflake and debt lasso methods.

However, if you’re having problems making payments, you should reach out to your lender to ask them about assistance or hardship programs.

Start by looking for a customer service number on a copy of your bill for your mortgage, credit card, auto loan or other loan. When you call, have your account number and a clear explanation about why you will be unable to pay the bill. Be sure to ask about all your options as well as how your payments, balance, interest rate and credit score could be affected.

Early Retirement Withdrawals

If you took a CARES Act withdrawal from your retirement account, you won’t owe the 10% penalty you’d usually owe on an early distribution before age 59 ½. Be prepared for the tax bill, though.

Normally, you’d owe income taxes on the entire withdrawal when you file your return for the year, but the CARES Act lets you spread the bill over three years. That means you need to be ready to pay one-third of the taxes by April 15, 2021.

Unemployment Taxes

If you received unemployment compensation in 2020, you may be in for a shocker. Your unemployment benefits are taxable, but more than one-third of Americans didn’t know it.

If you didn’t have taxes withheld from your jobless benefits, make sure you file a 2020 tax return even if you can’t afford the bill. You can work out a payment plan with the IRS, and you may even qualify for certain tax credits that can offset the amount you owe.

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Payroll Taxes

The IRS says employers that stopped withholding payroll taxes for the last four months of 2020, as ordered by President Trump, will have to collect those taxes during the first four months of 2021. That means if you’ve been getting a bigger paycheck as a result of the temporary tax holiday, start preparing for a smaller paycheck now.

Make a bare-bones budget, and set aside any extra money you can so you’ll be ready to live on less.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com