Finance Lifestyle

Self-compassion: The only thing holding you back from mastering your money

Regardless of how much experience you have with managing your finances—be it decades or days—a common psychological challenge I see when it comes to managing money is low self-esteem. Psychological research suggests that people with high self-esteem focus on growth and improvement, whereas people with low self-esteem tend to focus on not making mistakes in life. So, the key challenge for most when it comes to managing money is figuring out ways to boost self-esteem so that growth and improvement can happen.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Self-compassion is the act of being less critical of yourself and potential shortcomings. It’s also a form of optimism that takes shape by giving yourself permission to relax a little bit. In fact, I would argue that self-compassion is not only a key skillset for financial improvement, but also for overall quality of life. Here are five strategies for practicing self-compassion today:

#1 Daily positive affirmations

Self-encouragement can go a long way when it comes to boosting self-esteem, however, sometimes positive affirmations can backfire for people with low self-esteem, which is why it’s important to build yourself up in a realistic and authentic way. Instead of waking up and telling yourself, “I’m going to be a millionaire”, try something more like “I am resilient and I’m going to get through tough financial times.”

Pro tip: Write down your affirmation on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror. You can read it to yourself as you’re getting ready for the day.

#2 Make a list of past financial achievements

The best way to challenge the negative voice inside your head is to use facts to disprove your beliefs. Past financial achievements are proof that you have what it takes to be financially successful. Don’t worry so much about the quantity of achievements, and whatever you do, don’t give someone else credit for your achievements. Even if someone helped you out financially, YOU were the one who asked for help. YOU were the one motivated to make the change. Don’t forget that.

Pro tip: Document your achievements in a financial journal or diary. Be sure to look at your achievements list from time-to-time as a reminder of your success and a quick self-esteem boost.

#3 Be your own best friend

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be kind to a friend when they’re feeling down or having a bad day? It’s possible to do the same for ourselves. If you’re like me, you may make the initial mistake of thinking that being kind to yourself will force you to lose your edge, but it’s just the opposite! Remember that high self-esteem is related to growth…and growth means success, so believe it or not, people who are successful have a keen ability to bounce back faster after a setback because they aren’t as hard on themselves.

Pro tip: Use a financial journal or diary to vent about a financial problem you’ve encountered.  Now pretend to be one of your best friends and write down the advice you think they’d give you.

#4 Ask for advice and welcome compliments

One of the underlying problems when it comes to financial management is a lack of feedback. Think about other life domains: work, school, sports, hobbies, and relationships. What they all have in common are mentors! Managers, teachers, coaches, experts, and partners are often there for us providing feedback and sometimes praising us when we’re doing well. With money management, on the other hand, most of us don’t have an expert or coach to get feedback about our performance. I highly recommend paying for at least one financial advising session to find out what you’re doing well. Be open to getting feedback about areas to improve, but really soak in and acknowledge the compliments about what you’ve achieved so far.

Pro tip: I’d recommend hiring a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), someone who is more interested in looking at how you organize your money. If a CFP® isn’t within your budget, consider talking to a trusted friend or family member about your high-level financial goals and the progress you’ve made so far (no need to discuss specific numbers if you don’t feel comfortable).

#5 Don’t let your net worth define your real worth

If you’re struggling with low self-esteem I caution you when looking at your net worth. I’m not saying live in ignorance, but what I am saying is that it’s extremely unfair to let a single number define who you are. At Mint, our intent is not for you to see the net worth number and feel like you are worthless. The real intent is to use your net worth as a starting point for creating financial improvement goals. That being said, seeing it without context can do damage to your ego and work against your goal of improved self-esteem. To counter this feeling, I recommend writing down a list of qualities that make you good at managing your finances.

Pro tip: Look for clues in other areas of your life that have helped you save money and earn money. Perhaps it’s that you’re really organized so you end up paying your bills on time, or that you’re a good chef so you don’t eat out a lot which helps you save money.

If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, know that you’re not alone. Give these five strategies a try, and let me know if you notice a difference in your ability to be more self-compassionate.

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Finance Lifestyle

I Dropped Out of College: My Student Loan Repayment Options

No one intends to drop out of college. If you show up to campus for your freshman year, chances are you plan to graduate in four years and use your degree to land a job. Maybe you even have the whole thing mapped out, step-by-step.

But then life happens. Whether it’s a family emergency, deteriorating health, stress burnout, or just the realization that college isn’t the right choice, plenty of people choose to drop out of their university every year. The problem is, your student loans don’t go away just because you never ended up with a degree.

So how should someone in this position approach student loan repayment? Are there any unique considerations to take into account? Here’s what you need to know.

Choose an Income-Based Repayment Plan

If you have federal student loans, you’re eligible for the same repayment options available to borrowers with a degree.

You may currently be on the standard 10-year repayment plan, which will have the highest monthly payments and the lowest total interest. You have the option of switching to a less expensive option if you’re struggling with those payments. Use the official repayment calculator to see which plan lets you pay the least.

When you choose an extended, income-based, or graduated repayment plan, you’ll pay more interest overall than if you stuck with the standard plan. If you’re not working toward a specific forgiveness program, then it’s best to switch back to the standard plan as soon as you can afford it to minimize the interest.

Refinance Private Loans

Private student loans have fewer income-based repayment options than federal loans, and they rarely offer deferment or forbearance options. But you can refinance private loans for a lower interest rate, even if you dropped out.

There are a few lenders that service borrowers with uncompleted degrees.

These may include:

  • MEF
  • RISLA Student Loan Refinance
  • EDvestinU
  • PNC
  • Wells Fargo
  • Purefy
  • Discover Bank
  • Advance Education Loan
  • Citizens Bank

To be a good candidate for a student loan refinance, you must have a high credit score and no recent bankruptcies or defaults on your credit report. You also need a low debt-to-income ratio, and some lenders may have income requirements.

Financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz of said borrowers are unlikely to be good refinance candidates immediately after college because lenders usually require a minimum amount of full-time employment.

If you dropped out recently, you may want to wait a year before trying to refinance private loans. During that time, check your credit score through Mint, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new loans or lines of credit, and pay your credit card bill in full every month.

Explore Deferment and Forbearance

Once you leave school, you’re eligible for a six-month grace period where federal student loan payments are put on hold. You won’t accrue interest during this time if you have subsidized loans, but you will if you have unsubsidized loans.

If you still need more time after the grace period has expired, you can apply for deferment or forbearance. Borrowers have to apply for deferment and forbearance manually and wait to be approved.

Deferment and forbearance are both federal programs that let borrowers avoid paying their student loans while still remaining current. The main difference between the two options is that interest will not accrue on your loan balance during deferment, but it will accrue during forbearance. For that reason, it’s harder to qualify for deferment.

Be careful about putting your loans in deferment or forbearance for a long time. The interest that accrues will capitalize, meaning it will be added to your loan’s principal. This will increase your total monthly payments and could delay your debt payoff timeline.

Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that encourages borrowers to choose a non-profit or government job. In exchange, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after 10 year’s worth of payments, which do not have to be consecutive. It’s even available to borrowers who dropped out and never finished a degree.

“PSLF is always an option because it’s employer-dependent,” said student loan lawyer Joshua R. I. Cohen.

PSLF is only available for federal loans, and only those loans that are part of the Direct Loan Program. If you have FFEL or Perkins loans, you’ll have to consolidate them as part of the Direct Consolidation Program. This process will render them eligible for PSLF.

Be sure not to consolidate loans that are already part of the Direct Loan Program. If you’ve already been making payments, consolidating loans will restart the clock on PSLF, and you could lose credit for eligible payments you’ve already made.

The employer you work for must also be an eligible non-profit or government entity. Only full-time employees qualify for PSLF, which excludes part-time workers and independent contractors.

To be eligible for PSLF, you should fill out the employment certification form every year. This form asks for your employer’s contact information, your employment status, and more.

Once you submit the form, you should receive a notice verifying your employer and how many eligible payments you’ve made. Doing this every year will make it easier when you apply for forgiveness after your 120 payments have been made.

“It also gives borrowers an opportunity to dispute any errors or undercounts well before they reach eligibility for loan forgiveness, giving them plenty of time to address disputes,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.

Borrowers can save money while working toward PSLF by choosing an income-based repayment plan instead of the standard 10-year plan. They also won’t owe taxes on the forgiven amount, so it’s best to choose the least expensive monthly option.

Try to Discharge Your Loans

If you couldn’t complete college because the department you were studying in closed, or your school committed fraud, you may be a good candidate for discharging your student loans completely. If this happened to you, contact a student loan lawyer who can help you file a case.


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Finance Lifestyle

How to Use the OKR Framework to Reach Your Life Goals

The OKR framework is a method used to bridge the gap between strategizing and executing ambitious business goals, but it can be used for personal goals too. OKR, which stands for “Objectives and Key Results,” has revolutionized the way the corporate world approaches goal-setting. OKR allows teams to focus on big picture outcomes and achieve more than the team thought possible, even if they don’t completely attain the original goal.

Since the late 1990s, thousands of organizations and Fortune 500 companies worldwide have implemented the OKR framework to improve both team and individual performance, and increase their bottom lines. What if you could use these same principles to achieve your personal goals? It’s definitely possible to apply the OKR framework in a non-business context to map your future success.

In the same way that OKR allows companies to “work with purpose,” this framework can help you set purpose-driven goals in every area of your life. When it comes to your personal and financial goals, OKR can help you work towards living your dream life. We share how OKR can apply to your life in a non-business context and actionable tips to maximize its principles. First, let’s cover the basics of OKR.

Jump to our infographic, or keep reading for a more in-depth description.

What Is the OKR Framework? How It All Started

Before setting your own personal goals, it’s important to understand the context of OKRs’ development to understand its impact. The idea of OKR started gaining traction in the ‘90s after Andy Grove taught the principles to John Doerr, who both worked for Intel.

Doerr formalized the teachings of the OKR framework and went on to pen the popular book Measure What Matters. The OKR framework is broken down into an objective that inspires action, key results that measure progress towards that objective, and initiatives that allow the key results to come to fruition. When Doerr introduced OKR to Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1999, the duo used it to drive the tech giant’s success. To this day, it’s used by Google and countless other companies to set corporate goals and track progress.

What Is the OKR Framework? How It All Started

Understanding Different Types of OKRs

When you’re creating OKRs to excel in your personal life, you have to be sure they fuel your ambitions while still being reasonable. Otherwise, it’s tough to use a business-oriented framework as a growth tool for your personal and financial goals. We’ve outlined four popular variations of OKRs here:

  • Committed OKRs

    • These OKRs are extremely attainable and eventually should be 100 percent achieved. The success of a committed objective usually has a direct impact on the quality of your life.
    • Example: Overhaul your personal time management system by the end of the month.
  • Aspirational OKRs

    • These OKRs are stretch goals with ideal outcomes that still seem somewhat impossible. They aren’t likely to be achieved during the first attempt but should remain on your personal OKR list until they are reached — no matter how long it takes.
    • Example: Start a side business based on a passion project.
  • Personal OKRs

    • Personal OKRs are the goals you focus on to make progress towards lifetime achievements and overall happiness. For example, you can start a new profession that gives you a sense of purpose if you’re not satisfied with your work life.
    • Example: Find a new job by the end of the year.
  • Financial OKRs

    • These personal finance OKRs should push you to make better financial decisions while also being achievable. Even if you’re heavily in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, you can tackle your financial goals one step at a time through the OKR framework.
    • Example: Build an emergency fund in six months.

Understanding Different Types of OKRs

Setting different types of OKRs is easy, but reaching them is the real challenge. It’s hard to believe 92 percent of people abandon their New Year’s Resolutions, but it’s a testament to poor goal setting. When you plan your future and finances with a reliable framework that excites you, you’ll improve your odds of succeeding at your goals.

5 Tips to Achieve Your OKRs

Objectives can be short-term goals that you knock out in a few months or huge goals that might roll over for years. At the end of a time period, a key result is either fulfilled or not. With this in mind, here are some best practices to keep in mind when tracking OKRs in your own life:

  1. Set and revise objectives frequently
  2. Don’t go after more than 3–5 OKRs per 3 months
  3. Strike a balance between an aggressive and achievable goal
  4. Give yourself a reliable tracking system
  5. Update your progress regularly

Organizations that don’t innovate or take enough risks lose in the long run. In the same way, not challenging yourself when setting personal goals can leave you feeling disappointed. A system like the OKR framework is a great way to set ambitious goals for yourself that are both feasible and rewarding.

OKRs empower individuals to improve their financial health and reach goals in the workplace through actionable, measurable steps. When you set meaningful OKRs, vague desires become concrete, attainable mini-goals. Using the OKR framework, a huge financial goal like saving for a down payment or funding your college tuition turns into a series of quantifiable, repeatable tasks that you can re-evaluate every few months.

5 Tips to Achieve Your OKRs

Let’s say you’re trying to increase your salary by earning a promotion or finding a new job. By setting OKRs, you’re forcing yourself to be realistic with your timeline for achievement. Instead of obsessing over getting promoted by the end of the year or increasing your salary by a certain dollar amount, you direct your energy towards the key results that will get you there.

When you’re systematic and practical about your goal-setting, you keep up your momentum and prevent demotivating disappointments. Check out our infographic below for some additional tips to effectively implement the goal-setting framework.

How to Use the OKR Framework To Set and Achieve Your Goals

In the simplest terms, objectives describe where you’re going whereas key results describe how you get there. Countless companies and even schools are using OKRs to level up — so why not apply this goal-setting technique to your personal goals? One of the most important aspects of the OKR framework to remember is that it’s designed to push you past your comfort zone to achieve greatness. In the same way that microlearning helps you break down a large goal, OKRs can help you split up a daunting task into more attainable ones.

Even starting small with a few budgeting objectives can change the trajectory of your life. You can lead a purpose-driven lifestyle that embraces failure as a necessary part of learning and growing. Don’t forget to check out our app to keep track of your purchases and address any spending habits.

Sources: Perdoo

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Finance Lifestyle

401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out

When it comes to making a 401k early withdrawal, there are a number of reasons why it might be tempting. With millions still unemployed due to the pandemic, unexpected expenses are taking a particularly hard toll. One reason why early withdrawal isn’t uncommon in the U.S. might be because it’s easy to assume you’ll have time to rebuild your 401k nest egg.

However, is the benefit of withdrawing your retirement savings early truly worth the cost? For many people, their 401k is their primary method of investing in their financial future. Before making a decision about early withdrawal, it’s important to consider the penalties and fees that could impact you. Read on to learn exactly what happens when you decide to dip into your 401k so you won’t be surprised by the repercussions.

How Much Are You Penalized for a 401k Early Withdrawal?

On the surface, withdrawing funds from your 401k might not seem like a bad option under extenuating circumstances, but you could face penalties. Young adults are especially prone to early withdrawals because they figure they have plenty of time to replace lost funds.


401k early withdrawal penalties


If you’re not experiencing a significant hardship, 401k early withdrawal probably isn’t the right choice for you. Ultimately, you could lose a substantial portion of your retirement savings if you choose to withdraw your 401k early to use the money to make other risky financial moves. Below, let’s delve further into the penalties that usually apply when you withdraw early.

1) Your Taxes Are Withheld

When you prematurely withdraw from your retirement account, your first consideration should be that you’ll have to pay normal income taxes on that money first. This means you’re losing at least roughly 30 percent of your savings to federal and state taxes before additional penalties.

Even if you only have $10,000 you want to withdraw, consider that you’re automatically giving $3,000 of your cash to the government. In the best case scenario, you might receive some money back in the form of a tax refund if your withholding exceeds your actual tax liability.

2) You Are Penalized by the IRS

If you withdraw money from your 401k before you’re 59 ½ , the IRS penalizes you with an extra 10 percent on those funds when you file your tax return. If we use the example above, an additional $1,000 would be taken by the government from your $10,000 — leaving you with just $6,000. If you’re 55 or older, you could try to get this penalty lifted by the IRS through the Rule of 55, which is designed for people retiring early.

Also, there are exceptions under the CARES Act, which is designed to help people affected by the pandemic. There are provisions under the act that state individuals under the age of 59 ½ can take up to $100,000 in Coronavirus-related early distributions from their retirement plans without facing the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty under certain conditions.

3) You Lose Thousands in Potential Growth

Even if you’re not deterred by tax penalties, think twice before you sabotage your long-term retirement savings goals. When you withdraw money early, you’ll miss out on potential future savings growth because you won’t gain the perks of compound interest. Compounding is the snowball effect resulting from your savings generating more earnings — not only on your principal investment but also on your accrued interest.

Also, if you make a 401k early withdrawal while the market is down, you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’ll be leaving thousands on the table. It’s unlikely you’ll fully recover the lost years of compound interest you would have benefited from. You might need to get creative with a passive income stream to help support you later in life.


tips to minimize 401k withdrawal penalties


When Does a 401k Early Withdrawal Make Sense?

In certain cases, it actually might be strategic to move forward with 401k early withdrawal. For example, it could be smart to cash out some of your 401k to pay off a loan with a high-interest rate, like 18–20 percent. You might be better off using alternative methods to pay off debt such as acquiring a 401k loan rather than actually withdrawing the money.

Always weigh the cost of interest against tax penalties before making your decision. Some 401k plans do allow for penalty-free early withdrawals due to a layoff, major medical expenses, home-related costs, college tuition, and more. Regardless of your strategy to withdraw with the least penalties, your retirement savings are still taking a significant hit.

401k Early Withdrawal, Hardship, or Loan: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the differences between a 401k early withdrawal, a hardship withdrawal, and a 401k loan is crucial. Due to the many obstacles to make a 401k early withdrawal, you may find you want to keep it untouched. If you’re convinced you still need to use your 401k for financial assistance, consult with a trusted financial advisor to figure out the best option.

When Does This Apply?

Taxes and

Early Withdrawal

Your funds are withdrawn to pay off large debts or finance large projects. Your 401k fund is typically subject to taxes and penalties.

Hardship Withdrawal

You’re only eligible for this type of withdrawal under circumstances such as a pandemic or natural disasters. Withdrawals can’t exceed the amount of the need and the funds are still subject to taxes and penalties.

401k Loan

The loan must be paid back to the borrower’s retirement account under the plan. The money isn’t taxed if the loan meets the rules and the repayment schedule is followed.

Additional Considerations

If you’ve left a job and don’t know what to do with your Roth IRA, a 401k transfer is a good option. Most likely, you will save money and have a wider range of investment options when you transfer your funds. 401k fees can be high, and rolling over your funds to a Roth IRA account could be wise in the long run. Also, be aware that the process is more complicated for indirect rollovers. 

In Summary:

  • If you’re one of the millions of Americans who rely on workplace retirement savings, early 401k withdrawal may jeopardize your future financial stability.
  • There are very few instances when cashing out a portion of your 401k is a smart move.
  • In most cases, any kind of early 401k withdrawal is detrimental to your retirement plans.
  • Stick to your budget and bulk up your emergency fund to stay one step ahead.

In short, 401k early withdrawals are usually counterproductive. Prevent compromising your hard-earned savings by using a free budgeting tool that will set you up for success. After all, being prepared and informed are two of the most important parts of maintaining financial health.

Source: SEC

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Finance Lifestyle

What Is a Certified Check?

The last thing you want to worry about when making a big purchase is being scammed. Whether you’re buying or selling something, you don’t want your money or investments to go to waste. Making any financial decision can be unsettling for your budget when faced with a chance of fraud. That’s where certified checks can help add security. But first, what is a certified check?

A certified check is authorized by a bank to guarantee buyers have the funds before writing the check. This ensures that the person receiving payment isn’t left hanging, and the buyer double-checks they have enough funds to make the purchase. 

Why Use a Certified Check?

A certified check is one of the most secure payment options available. When you’re selling or buying expensive items, you want to ensure you get what you were expecting. Certified checks generally require a bank or credit union to set aside money in the buyer’s account until the check has gone through. This way, the bank verifies the buyer has enough cash to make the purchase and the seller gets paid. If you’re selling a big ticket item, you can request payment with a certified check.

If you’re buying an expensive item, certified checks will offer your seller additional security. It will prove to the seller that you’re serious about your choice and that your finances are in place for this investment. 

Certified Check vs. Cashier’s Check

Chart compares the differences and similarities of a certified check and a cashier's check.

A cashier’s check is also used for large purchases and authorized by a bank or credit union. The main difference between cashier’s checks and certified checks is where the money’s stored until it’s cashed out. Before signing a cashier’s check, banks will move the funds into a separate account for security purposes. Then, a bank representative will sign the check over to the receiver. 

Even though both check types are generally safe, cashier’s checks tend to be more secure. As banks take the buyer’s funds when they authorize the check, your funds are waiting at the bank instead of in your buyer’s account until cashed out. 

How to Get a Certified Check

Illustration details the steps to getting a check certified.

For buyers looking to get certified checks, most banks or credit unions offer these services. While you’re able to get them at financial institutions that offer these services, fees may apply at banks you don’t have an account with. If you’re in need of a certified check, read our tips below:

  • Call your bank to ensure you meet all their requirements. 
  • Visit the bank in person to avoid any mishaps or miscommunication. 
  • Come prepared with:

    • Funds needed for the check amount
    • Name of the recipient
    • Your account number 
    • Photo ID
  • Verify your identity and funds with a photo ID and bank account numbers for authorization. You may be asked to sign the check in front of a teller for them to certify it. 
  • Bring extra cash in case your bank charges a service fee, typically anywhere from $5 to $25. A bank you already do service with may waive your fee.

The Pros and Cons of Certified Checks

Certified checks lower the risk of carrying around large sums of money or bounced checks. There are a few pros and cons to weigh before choosing your payment option as a buyer or seller. 


  • Safer way to carry cash: Certified checks are great tools for large purchases. It can be impractical to carry around a large stack of cash or the risk of a regular check. This way, you’re able to cash in your earnings, or pay the seller without any worries. 
  • Adds additional payment security: For large purchases where a buyers credit score or payment is questioned, this adds additional security. Since the bank issuing the check double-checks that the funds are there, it takes more risk out of the deal. 


  • Scammers may be ready to scam: One downside of this payment option is the risk of scams. It’s common for businesses to purchase bulk products out of state in exchange for a certified check. If you realize your purchase is a scam after sending your check, you may not be able to stop the payment from going through. 
  • Potential service fees: As always, bank services usually come at a price. In this case, most banks and credit unions will bill you for the time used to certify the check. Generally, these services cost anywhere from $5 to $25. If you decide to request a certified check from a bank you already do business with, they may waive your fee. 

4 Tips to Prevent Check Fraud

Illustrations depict the 4 ways to prevent check fraud.

Forty-seven percent of industry money losses were from fraudulent checks in 2018. Taking the extra steps to double-check your buyer’s payment could prevent your budget from taking a hit. Follow the steps below to ensure you and your earnings are on the right track:

1. Research Your Buyer

People may use fake names, addresses, phone numbers, and more to get away with a scam. Without knowing the identity of the person you’re selling to, it may be hard to get your money if things go wrong. Research your buyer or safely meet with them in person to get a better feel for their identity. 

2. Call or Visit Your Buyer’s Bank of Choice

For more security, reach out to the financial institution where the check is issued. Contact your buyer to see where they’ll be authorizing their check. Look up the branch’s phone number and call to verify the check went through. Avoid calling any phone numbers the buyer gives you in case they provide you with the wrong number. 

3. Immediately Double-Check With Your Bank

Right after you get paid, go straight to the bank or call to ensure there weren’t any complications processing the check. Ask your bank or credit union if the funds made it to your account safe and sound. 

4. Save All Documentation

Receipts, emails, and other information can build a case in the event you don’t receive your payment. Keep all documentation or files until you’ve been paid in full. As long as you have all the details, you’ll have a better chance of building a case. 

Key Takeaways

  • A certified check is a check that’s authorized by a bank to guarantee buyers have the funds before writing the check. 
  • When you’re selling or buying a large item, certified checks are a less risky payment option. 
  • If you’re unsure about your buyer, do more digging. Research them, call the buyer’s bank, and save all documents and files from the exchange. 
  • Call your bank beforehand to ensure you meet all the requirements and ask about service fees. 

Having an uneasy feeling about selling or buying a large ticket item is normal. You don’t want your hard-earned money or investments going to waste over a bounced check or scam. Certified checks can be a safer payment option and it’s worth the extra research for your budget’s sake. 

Sources: Investopedia | DFI

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