Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers

In this article:

  • What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?
  • What happens during an appraisal?
  • What if the appraisal comes in low?
  • What to expect from a home inspection
  • How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

Inspections and appraisals are both important parts of the home buying process, and buyers should do both to protect their financial interest in a home – and give themselves peace of mind that they’re making a smart purchase. Inspections and appraisals serve different functions, but both give you the insights you need to avoid large financial missteps.

What is the difference between an appraisal and an inspection?

The main difference between an appraisal and an inspection is that an appraisal deals with the value of a home, while an inspection deals with the condition of the home.

Appraisal: An appraisal is a walk-through and a general assessment of a home, analyzed with the help of nearby comparable sales. The goal of an appraisal is to determine the fair market value of a property. It is conducted by a licensed professional appraiser. While an appraiser will visit a home in person, the majority of the work will be done in their office, as they compare the home’s features, location, and finishes with other comparable recent sales in the area. An appraisal usually costs around $400, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Inspection: An inspection is a deeper dive into the condition of the specific home. A licensed home inspector will spend multiple hours doing a comprehensive review of the home’s condition, both visually and by testing functionality of major systems. After completing the inspection, they will provide recommendations to the buyer on items in the home that should be repaired or replaced before closing. A home inspection costs between $250 and $700, depending on where you live and the size of your home.

Do lenders require appraisals?

Yes, most lenders do require appraisals in order to approve financing. Lenders want to protect their investment by ensuring they’re not financing a loan for more than the property is worth.

Do lenders require home inspections?

Lenders providing conventional financing do not usually require home inspections, but they are still strongly recommended. FHA or VA loans usually do require inspections.

Do I need an appraisal and inspection when buying a home with cash?

Cash buyers often opt to do an appraisal and inspection, even though they’re not required. Some cash buyers, particularly home investors, may waive the inspection or appraisal if the home is being sold “as is” or if they are competing with other offers and want to close quickly.

Regardless of how you’re paying, an appraisal can give peace of mind that you’re not overpaying for a property, and an inspection can uncover potentially costly issues and necessary repairs.

What happens during an appraisal?

During an appraisal, a licensed appraiser evaluates the home you want to buy in person and gives you an estimate on how much it’s worth. Typically, the appraiser is chosen by the lender but paid for by the buyer as part of the closing costs.

Appraisals cost around $400, but can cost a bit more or a bit less depending on your home size and location. The appointment usually takes about an hour, and then the appraiser will complete the report back at their office.

1. Assessment of property

The appraiser will walk through the home, taking note of its condition, finishes and location – consider it somewhat like a light inspection.

2. Review of comparable sales

The appraiser will use the findings of their walk-through to identify similar homes that have sold recently in the neighborhood. This will help them decide upon a fair market value.

3. Final report

The appraiser will deliver a physical report on the fair market value of the home, including photos and descriptions of comparable sales. In most cases it’s just the lender and the buyer who will receive copies of the report. The seller may request a copy of the appraisal report, but in most cases you are not required to share it.

Ideally, the appraisal will come back higher than the agreed-upon sales price. That indicates that you’re paying less than the fair market value and your lender will approve the loan.

What if the appraisal comes in low?

Appraisals that come in below the agreed-upon sale price are commonly referred to as low appraisals. When an appraisal comes in low it can jeopardize your ability to acquire the loan you were pre-approved to get, causing a headache for buyers.

Low appraisals can happen for a couple reasons:

  • Bidding wars with multiple buyers drive the price up beyond market value.
  • There’s a lack of relevant comparables to use as a basis for the home value.
  • You’re buying in a high season (like late spring) and the only available comparables are from other points in the year.
  • The appraiser is inexperienced.

Buyers who are using financing have a few options to work around a low appraisal:

  1. Contest the appraisal: You can contact your lender and point out any glaring issues or errors in the appraisal report, then request a new appraisal.
  2. Pay the difference: To make up the difference between the amount your lender is willing to finance and the offer price, you can pay cash or ask the lender if you can restructure your financing.
  3. Ask the seller for a price reduction: If the appraisal was accurate and the home is indeed worth less than what you’re offering, you may not want to overpay. To avoid having to back out completely, consider asking the seller for a price reduction, using the appraisal report as proof the home is overpriced.

What to expect from a home inspection

Scheduling a home inspection is one of the first tasks you’ll want to do after the contract is signed between you and the seller. Although, in some low-inventory markets, buyers sometimes hire an inspector prior to making an offer. It’s up to you to pick a home inspector you trust, and most people ask their agent for a recommendation, get a referral from friends or family members or search online reviews.

Since the goal of a home inspection is to get a comprehensive report of the condition of the home you’re buying, a home inspection takes between three and four hours, sometimes more. Unlike an appraiser who does a visual check of the home, your inspector will both examine and test functionality of your home’s key systems, including:

  • Plumbing
  • Roof condition
  • HVAC
  • Foundation
  • Appliances
  • Drainage
  • Water damage and mold

However, a home inspection may not find every potential issue in the home, especially if they are hidden or seasonal, so buyers should discuss any exclusions with the licensed home inspector both before and after the inspection itself.

Who attends the inspection: Usually, the buyer and their agent will both attend the inspection. This allows you to have the inspector walk you through any red flags in real time, while also giving you the chance to familiarize yourself with how the home’s systems work ahead of moving.

What happens after the inspection: After completing the on-site inspection, your inspector will provide a written report that highlights their findings, including photos.

Specialized inspections for buyers to consider

While inspecting the home’s major systems and features is standard practice, your inspector may recommend a second, more specialized inspection if they notice issues including:

  • Radon
  • Pests
  • Septic
  • Lead paint

Why home inspections are important

The few hundred dollars you’ll spend for a home inspection is a small price to pay for the opportunity to confirm that the home you’re about to buy is free of major – and costly – issues. It’s no wonder 83% of buyers reported having an inspection done, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019.

Risk of not having an inspection: While some buyers opt to waive their inspection contingency to make their offer appear stronger, this means they’re essentially buying the home “as-is,” and any issues discovered after closing will fall 100% to the buyer to repair, even if they were present before closing.

Why disclosures aren’t enough: In most states, sellers are required to disclose underlying issues in the home that they know exist (specific disclosure requirements vary by state). While disclosures are an important protection, they only cover un-repaired issues that the seller knows about – there’s no guarantee that the home is free of other underlying issues or that the repairs were made correctly. A home inspection is simply the best way to find out about any potential problems in the home.

If you buy a Zillow-owned home, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing the home went through a pre-listing home evaluation process and was renovated by local professionals to make it move-in ready. Of course, you’re always welcome to do your own inspection, too.

How are home inspections and appraisals similar?

Despite having two different processes and requiring the services of two different professionals, appraisals and inspections do share some similarities:

1. Appraisers and inspectors are licensed

Both roles require licenses and extensive training. Both appraisers and inspectors act as impartial third parties, paid to provide their professional opinion.

2. Buyers pay for both inspections and appraisals

Usually, the buyer selects the home inspector they want to work with and the lender selects the appraiser. The buyer pays for both the inspector and the appraiser, unless otherwise negotiated.

3. Appraisal and inspection both occur during escrow

The home inspection usually happens within the first week after your offer is accepted – the sooner the better, so there’s time to fix any issues flagged in the inspection report or renegotiate with the seller. The appraisal also happens during the escrow period, usually a week or two before closing.

4. Appraisal and inspection results allow for negotiations

Assuming you’ve structured your offer to include contingencies for both the appraisal and inspection, you’ll be allowed to renegotiate your offer based on the findings. If the appraisal comes back low, you’re allowed to renegotiate with the seller to figure out how to cover the difference between the appraised price and the offer price. Similarly, if the inspection report uncovers significant repairs, you’ll have a period of time where you can request repairs or credits, or back out of the deal without losing your earnest money.

The post Inspection vs. Appraisal for Home Buyers appeared first on Home Buyers Guide.

Source: zillow.com

Easy Ways to Increase Your Earning Potential Today

Are you sick of feeling as though you always have more bills than income? Every month, you work hard to bring home a decent wage to support your family. Yet, somehow, when you need funds, there never seems to be anything available in your bank account. Sometimes, the problem might be that you’re struggling to manage your budget. Not knowing how to properly look after your money could mean that you spend too much, too fast. In other circumstances, your issue might be that you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to increase your earning potential. If you’re already doing everything you can to reduce excess spending and improve your financial habits, but you’re still facing money worries, then the following earning boosters could be just what you need. Let’s look at some quick and easy ways to turn your life around.

Consider a new job

All jobs have their pros and cons to consider. However, some roles definitely pay more than others. If you feel as though you’ve already gotten everything you can out of your current position, and there’s no room left to grow, a new role might be the best option. If you don’t want to switch away from the current company that you’re with, you could ask about switching to a different department. If there’s nowhere else for you to go in your current business, then it might be a good idea to see what someone can offer you elsewhere. Many people who switch jobs can take advantage of looking to improve earning potential than those that stick with the same role. Remember, if you do decide to switch to somewhere new, take your time to find something that actually appeals to you. Don’t just jump at the first offer you get. Play the field first.

Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Improve your reputation

Reputation can make a big difference in your earning potential these days. In a world where we’re constantly connected to the internet, your image online might help you to find a new or higher-paying job. For instance, if you’re connected to the right people on LinkedIn, then you might speak to someone who can give a good word for you in a higher-paying department in your company. Start by auditing your existing personal brand online. See what people will find if they look for your name. If you have any unprofessional social accounts that are set to public, make them private immediately. Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills. This could mean that you join some professional groups, comment on forums, or even visit local events from time to time.

Once you’re ready to begin building a name for yourself, look for opportunities to network and show off your skills.

Develop your skills

Sometimes, jobs will pay you a higher wage for a reason. A career that requires a specialist skill will often pay more than a basic entry-level job. With that in mind, it might be worth building on the talents that you already have. Think about the kind of things that you enjoy doing. Maybe you could work on something like coding or improving your technical expertise. The best way to boost your chances of getting your new skills recognized is to check out some student loans and head back to school. There are tons of different courses that you can take to add new certifications to your resume. You could also look into building out your knowledge about other topics online, taking free courses in your spare time. Stick with learning about topics that you’re genuinely interested in. This will give you an opportunity to get a job in a space that you enjoy.

Ask for a promotion

When’s the last time you just asked your boss whether they could pay you more? If you know that you’ve been delivering excellent work for a good while now, then it might be a good time to ask for a raise. Most business leaders won’t want to take the risk of losing an employee that’s valuable to the team. Check websites that list job openings and find out if there are any higher-paying companies out there that provide a better wage for the role you do now. This will give you a good starting point when you start asking for a wage. If you’re nervous, remember that hiring new team members comes with its own costs. If you’re a great employee, your boss would prefer to keep you around most of the time—even if that means paying more.

If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential.

Start a side hustle

Finally, if you’ve already gone and built some new skills at school, but you haven’t found the perfect job to use them in yet, why not try creating your own career with a side hustle? This is basically a job that you can do on the side to add more income to your bank. Many people have discovered that they can put a few extra hours into their work online each day and make a hefty amount of additional income. Thanks to the gig economy, it’s easy to find opportunities to make cash with things like graphic design, content writing, website development, and more. Start by making a list of the kind of things you’d be interested in doing. You might even decide to create your own business and sell items online using a dropshipping company. Dropshipping services handle things like manufacturing and shipping products for you, so you just need to build a brand and find customers.

Increase your earning potential

Money might not make you happy, but it’s one of the most important things in many of our lives. If you want to be able to pay your bills each month without worrying about your bank account, it’s worth keeping your mind open to ideas that could increase earning potential. Whether you’re developing new cash opportunities with your current employer or thinking about becoming your own boss with a side hustle, make the conscious effort to invest in yourself this year. The quicker you start working on your new earning opportunities, the more money you’ll make for your future.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized

Life’s a juggling act. You could be building your career, spending time on hobbies, and making time for those you love all at once. Finding a healthy way to navigate all three can be a hard code to crack. Often, one aspect of your life ends up taking more resources than the rest. While hustling your way to the top is good for your career and earnings, you may find yourself out of balance with your health or family. Ultimately, an unbalanced schedule can result in exhaustion, stress, and even burnout.

Learn how to balance your life, career, and budget while reaching your biggest goals. You’ll be working smarter, not harder — here’s how.

make-your-money-work-for-you

How to Balance Your Budget

Balancing your budget is essential for financial success. When you’re free of financial burden, it’s easier to feel relaxed and in control of your life. There are a few tricks to finding a budgeting rhythm that works for you — using a budgeting app is a great place to start.

1. Simplify Your Budget

Make budgeting easy by investing in what you love and saving on what you don’t. Start by downloading our app and tracking your earnings and expenses. Then, see what unnecessary expenses you can cut out. You may love eating out with your friends, but to avoid racking up a hefty bill, limit eating out to once a week.

2. Budget for Extra Expenses

It’s not sustainable to only spend money on things you need. Being strict with your budget could send you into a shopping spiral. There are times when you want to buy a new pair of shoes or eat out with your friends. If you have the money to do so, treat yourself without going overboard by sticking to your budget. Once you find a budget that works for you, set aside a specific amount to spend on extras.

3. Automate What You Can

Make your money work for you without thinking about it. Set a budget and try it out for a few months — adjust as needed. For example, if you feel like you always go over your grocery budget but you never use all of your gas money, reallocate those funds. Once you have all the kinks worked out, set up automatic payments for recurring expenses such as savings account contributions, debt payments, and living expenses. You won’t have to worry about missing a payment or creating a new budget every month.

4. Follow Trusted Financial Gurus

Weed through your social media feeds. Do you follow people that have a bad influence on your spending habits? How about financial experts that help you manage your money? Every month, sift through who you follow and remove accounts that negatively impact your money habits. It’s always a good idea to follow accounts that have a positive effect. For example, Mint’s Instagram account could be the right influence for you!

work-smarter-not-harder

How to Balance Your Work and Personal Life

Working is what helps you pay your bills and live the life you want. But it can easily fill your schedule if you’re overly invested. Whether you work from home or an office, it’s important to make time for things you love — whether it be your family, friends, hobbies, or all three.

5. Set Boundaries In and Out of the Office

When you’re at work, stay focused on work. When you’re at home, stay focused on your loved ones, hobbies, or relaxing. If the lines get blurred, set rules for you and your loved ones. Turn off your work notifications after hours to avoid interference. When you’re working, silence your phone to steer clear of distractions and stay in your workflow. You may find yourself more productive and with extra time to take on more tasks — this could help you earn that promotion.

6. Prioritize Your Time

It’s hard to make time for everything you want to do. Lessen stress by prioritizing your time like you would your budget. List your most important tasks for the next day, followed by your lower priorities. Reference your list throughout the day to help you stay focused on what you need to do. This method saves you time and energy preparing for the day ahead.

7. Make Your Workplace Work for You

To set yourself up for success, start with your work environment. Get focused by creating different “zones” in your home or office. Section off places for working, eating, relaxing, and sleeping. Working in bed feels comfortable, but lacks balance. You could find yourself online shopping over focusing on your work task at hand.

8. Schedule Daily “You” Time

Having back-to-back meetings, tasks, or events can drain your energy, especially if the majority of your time is being spent on things you’re not passionate about. Create time for you by putting it on the calendar. Find a few times that work for your schedule and add in non-negotiable breaks. For example, block off your lunch break to check in on your budget.

 

health-is-wealth

How to Balance a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a balanced lifestyle is essential for your mental and physical health. No matter what, there’s always someone to respond to or something to do. If you’re the “yes” person, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin. Instead of taking on every burden thrown at you, here are some tips on how to hit pause and put yourself first.

9. Eliminate Negativity

Filter through your lifestyle stressors by having honest conversations with yourself and others. Do you have friends that don’t positively impact your life? Or do you have a job that doesn’t bring you joy? If so, it may be time to cut ties with negative people or situations. Having relationships that don’t make you happy could influence bad purchasing decisions or habits.

10. Make Time for What You Love

During your free time, what do you do for fun? Working out, going on long walks, curling up with a good book, or anything else that brings you joy. Instead of only enjoying your favorite activities only on the weekends, add them to your daily routine. Make room in your budget for your favorite things throughout the work week.

11. Listen to Your Body

Some days you feel happy and ready to take on tasks thrown your way; other days you’re overwhelmed when it comes to meeting expectations. Fluctuations in your mood are normal! It’s how you handle them that makes the biggest impact. If you’re feeling down, listen to your body and treat yourself to a relaxing self-care evening that’s easy on your budget.

12. Be Patient With Yourself

Know we all have our good and bad days. Instead of being hard on yourself for a day gone sour, list out things you can do to prepare for the future. For example, you may have had a bad day at work. Take some time, stay calm, and brainstorm what you could have done differently in the situation. As you learn from your mistakes, you’ll grow into your career and potentially earn a promotion.

 

are-you-living-life-unbalanced

This process may entail establishing new habits and breaking old ones. In most cases, updating your daily habits takes time. Be patient with yourself and your budget as you seek balance. It isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but could save you daily stress.

Sources: The U.S. Sun | World Population Review | Stress | U.S. Travel

The post How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

emergency preparedness checklist download button

1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)

emergency

4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website, ready.gov.

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.

The post Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download] appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents

Everyone knows that raising kids can put a serious squeeze on your budget. Beyond covering day-to-day living expenses, there are all of those extras to consider—sports, after-school activities, braces, a first car. Oh, and don’t forget about college.

Add caring for elderly parents to the mix, and balancing your financial and family obligations could become even more difficult.

“It can be an emotional and financial roller coaster, being pushed and pulled in multiple directions at the same time,” says financial life planner and author Michael F. Kay.

The “sandwich generation”—which describes people that are raising children and taking care of aging parents—is growing as Baby Boomers continue to age.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives. Aside from a time commitment, you may also be committing part of your budget to caregiving expenses like food, medications and doctor’s appointments.

Budgeting tips for the sandwich generation include communicating with parents.

When you’re caught in the caregiving crunch, you might be wondering: How do I take care of my parents and kids without going broke?

The answer lies in how you approach budgeting and saving. These money strategies for the sandwich generation and budgeting tips for the sandwich generation can help you balance your financial and family priorities:

Communicate with parents

Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner and founder of investment advisory service POWWOW, LLC, served as caregiver for her father, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while also managing a career and starting a family. That experience taught her two very important budgeting tips for the sandwich generation.

First, communication is key, and a money strategy for the sandwich generation is to talk with your parents about what they need in terms of care. “It should all start with a frank discussion and plan, preferably prior to any significant health crisis,” Costa says.

Second, run the numbers so you have a realistic understanding of caregiving costs, including how much parents will cover financially and what you can afford to contribute.

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17 percent of adult children serve as caregivers for their parents at some point in their lives.

– The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Involve kids in financial discussions

While you’re talking over expectations with your parents, take time to do the same with your kids. Caregiving for your parents may be part of the discussion, but these talks can also be an opportunity for you and your children to talk about your family’s bigger financial picture.

With younger kids, for example, that might involve talking about how an allowance can be earned and used. You could teach kids about money using a savings account and discuss the difference between needs and wants. These lessons can help lay a solid money foundation as they as move into their tween and teen years when discussions might become more complex.

When figuring out how to budget for the sandwich generation, try including your kids in financial decisions.

If your teen is on the verge of getting their driver’s license, for example, their expectation might be that you’ll help them buy a car or help with insurance and registration costs. Communicating about who will be contributing to these types of large expenses is a good money strategy for the sandwich generation.

The same goes for college, which can easily be one of the biggest expenses for parents and important when learning how to budget for the sandwich generation. If your budget as a caregiver can’t also accommodate full college tuition, your kids need to know that early on to help with their educational choices.

Talking over expectations—yours and theirs—can help you determine which schools are within reach financially, what scholarship or grant options may be available and whether your student is able to contribute to their education costs through work-study or a part-time job.

Consider the impact of caregiving on your income

When thinking about how to budget for the sandwich generation, consider that caring for aging parents can directly affect your earning potential if you have to cut back on the number of hours you work. The impact to your income will be more significant if you are the primary caregiver and not leveraging other care options, such as an in-home nurse, senior care facility or help from another adult child.

Costa says taking time away from work can be difficult if you’re the primary breadwinner or if your family is dual-income dependent. Losing some or all of your income, even temporarily, could make it challenging to meet your everyday expenses.

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“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement.”

– Quentara Costa, certified financial planner

When you’re facing a reduced income, how to budget for the sandwich generation is really about getting clear on needs versus wants. Start with a thorough spending review.

Are there expenses you might be able to reduce or eliminate while you’re providing care? How much do you need to earn each month to maintain your family’s standard of living? Keeping your family’s needs in focus and shaping your budget around them is a money strategy for the sandwich generation that can keep you from overextending yourself financially.

“Protect your capital from poor decisions made from emotions,” financial life planner Kay says. “It’s too easy when you’re stretched beyond reason to make in-the-heat-of-the-moment decisions that ultimately are not in anyone’s best interest.”

Keep saving in sight

One of the most important money strategies for the sandwich generation is continuing to save for short- and long-term financial goals.

“Very rarely do I recommend putting caregiving ahead of the client’s own cash reserve and retirement,” financial planner Costa says. “While the intention to put others before ourselves is noble, you may actually be pulling the next generation backwards due to your lack of self-planning.”

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Making regular contributions to your 401(k), an individual retirement account or an IRA CD should still be a priority. Adding to your emergency savings each month—even if you have to reduce the amount you normally save to fit new caregiving expenses into your budget—can help prepare you for unexpected expenses or the occasional cash flow shortfall. Contributing to a 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell ESA is a budgeting tip for the sandwich generation that can help you build a cushion for your children once they’re ready for college life.

When you are learning how to budget for the sandwich generation, don’t forget about your children’s savings goals. If there’s something specific they want to save for, help them figure out how much they need to save and a timeline for reaching their goal.

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Ask for help if you need it

A big part of learning how to budget for the sandwich generation is finding resources you can leverage to help balance your family commitments. In the case of aging parents, there may be state or federal programs that can help with the cost of care.

Remember to also loop in your siblings or other family members when researching budgeting tips for the sandwich generation. If you have siblings or relatives, engage them in an open discussion about what they can contribute, financially or in terms of caregiving assistance, to your parents. Getting them involved and asking them to share some of the load can help you balance caregiving for parents while still making sure that you and your family’s financial outlook remains bright.

The post Budgeting Tips for the Sandwich Generation: How to Care for Kids and Parents appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

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 Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and that’s especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.

College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, you’ll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means it’s more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.

What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender

The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.

Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isn’t one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021

As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.

To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.

Our Top Picks:

  1. Splash Financial
  2. College Ave
  3. Earnest
  4. SoFi
  5. CommonBond
  6. LendKey
  7. Wells Fargo
  8. PenFed Credit Union

Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews

1. Splash Financial

Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.

Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.

Check Out Splash Financial’s Low Rates

2. College Ave

College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and you’ll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.

College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, there’s a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.

Get Started with College Ave

3. Earnest

Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.

While you’ll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.

Refinance and Save with Earnest

4. SoFi

Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.

SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.

Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes

5. Commonbond

Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.

You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans don’t come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.

Apply Online with Commonbond

6. LendKey

LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans don’t charge an origination fee.

You can use this company’s online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.

Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey

7. Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.

Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Get Started with Wells Fargo

8. PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.

You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Learn More about PenFed Credit Union

What To Look For When Refinancing

If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, you’ll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also won’t let you refinance if you didn’t graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an “unapproved” school.

While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Here’s everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.

Low Interest Rate

Obviously, the main reason you’re probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although it’s important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you don’t have excellent credit.

Cosigner Requirements

Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isn’t great, so make sure to ask family members if they’re willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.

Low Fees or No Fees

Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, you’ll want to look for lenders that don’t charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.

Discounts Available

Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If you’re able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.

Rate Check Option

Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.

Flexible Repayment Plan

Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. You’ll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and it’s crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.

Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.

The Bottom Line

Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.

The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and that’s choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.

  • Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.

Start your search here and you’re bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.

The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.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

[Update] Amex Benefits Workshop – Which Merchants Code For Streaming, Wireless, Shipping Credits? (Sortable Table)

Update 2/3/21: There are two AmEx deals on the Wireless category, and the data points within this table should work for those offers as well:

  • American Express Adds Wireless Credit To Delta, Hilton & Marriott Business Cards ($10-$15 Monthly Credit)
  • Amex Offers (Business Platinum/Gold): Get 4x Bonus Membership Rewards On Wireless, Shipping, Advertising, Gas and Office Supply

(Table last updated on 10/1/20 at 12:40pm ET. If the table isn’t displaying properly, try incognito or CTRL+Shift+R.)

Introducing Benefits Workshop for the new American Express statement credit offers in the Streaming, Wireless, and Shipping categories. There are many merchants mentioned directly by Amex (which we’ve also included in the table below), yet most will have to be dealt with by trial-and-error to ensure that a given merchants is categorized properly to be eligible for the credit.

All the data points below are from DoC comments and from the Reddit thread that deals with this. We figured it’s easier for people to find things in a consolidated place in table form with easy search.

  • American Express personal Platinum card (all versions) get a $20 monthly Streaming credit and a $20 monthly Wireless credit from May through December 2020.
  • American Express business Platinum card gets a $20 monthly Wireless credit and a $20 monthly Shipping credit from May through December 2020. (There’s also the $200 Dell credit, but that one is basically straight-forward and don’t really discuss that in the table below.)
  • American Express personal Green card gets a $10 monthly Wireless credit from May through December 2020. 
  • Also bear in mind that these credit can be used in multiple smaller transaction, e.g. a $8 charge and a $12 charge will both be credited.

I hope to expand this table over time as more data points come in – please contribute successes and failures in the comments below! I’ll also add these data points to our Payments Workshop as well.

 

Merchant Tag Workshop Last Updated Source
Acorn TV (RLJ Entertainment) Streaming Does not credit automatically 2020-07-02 Source
Amazon balance reload Streaming Does not work 2020-05-11 Source
Amazon gift card Streaming Does not work (but you can buy Kindle gifting to get credit) 2020-05-31 Source
Amazon HP Instant Ink eCode Streaming Works 2020-05-24 Source
Amazon movie rental Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Amazon Music Unlimited Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Amazon Prime subscription (student) Streaming Does not work 2020-05-11 Source
Amazon Prime Video (movie purchase) Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Amazon Prime Video (tv show purchase) Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Apple app subscription Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Apple book purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-12 Source
Apple iCloud storage Streaming Works 2020-05-13 Source
Apple ID account load (via app store) Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Apple ID load Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Apple Music Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Apple Music 3-month subscription Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Apple TV+ Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T business wireless Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
AT&T home phone service Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T in-store purchase Wireless Does not work 2020-08-14 Source
AT&T internet UVERSE payment Wireless Works 2020-08-14 Source
AT&T Now Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
AT&T payment on app Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
AT&T Prepaid Wireless Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
AT&T TV Now Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T U-verse Wireless Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
AT&T U-Verse Wireless Works 2020-10-01 Source
AT&T wireless & internet bundle Wireless Works 2020-07-02 Source
AT&T wireless bundle with Directv/etc online payment without login Wireless Works 2020-07-02 Source
AT&T wireless/internet bundle Wireless Does not work 2020-05-11
Audible Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Audible audiobook purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Audible monthly subscription fee Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Boost Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
CBS All Access Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Consumer Cellular manual payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Cricket wireless bill Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Cricket wireless bill Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Criterion Channel subscription (annual) Streaming Does not work 2020-05-17 Source
Crunchyroll premium Streaming Does not work 2020-08-14 Source
Dell.com (xbox gc) Dell Works 2020-05-11 Source
Disney plus bundle (Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+) Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Disney+ Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
eBay shipping Shipping Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
ESPN+ Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
FandangoNow Video Rental Streaming Does not work 2020-07-02 Source
FedEx Office store purchase Shipping Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
FedEx shipping at FedEx Office Shipping Works 2020-05-17 Source
FedEx store purchase Shipping Does not work 2020-05-11 Source
Frontier Internet/Ziply Fiber bill Wireless Does not work 2020-05-24 Source
Fubo TV Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Good2Go mobile Wireless Does not credit automatically 2020-07-02 Source
Google domain renewal Streaming Works 2020-06-12 Source
google domains Streaming Works 2020-10-01 Source
Google Fi Streaming, Wireless Works as Streaming, does not work as Wireless 2020-05-08 Source
Google Fi Streaming, Wireless Sometimes works as Streaming, sometimes works as Wireless 2020-05-24 Source
Google Fi Streaming, Wireless Does not work for either category 2020-05-24 Source
Google Fi Wireless Works (as wireless) 2020-05-27 Source
Google Fi Streaming, Wireless Works as Wireless (YMMV) 2020-06-12 Source
Google Fi Streaming, Wireless Depends on how they code it 2020-07-02 Source
Google Fiber bill Streaming Works 2020-05-17 Source
Google Fiber monthly bill Wireless Does not work 2020-08-14 Source
Google Fiber reload Streaming Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Google music-album purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-24 Source
Google nest subscription Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Google Play in-app purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Google Play Music Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Google play reload Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Google Play Store – app purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Google Storage Streaming Works 2020-05-13 Source
Google storage Streaming Works 2020-05-31 Source
Google Voice load Streaming Works 2020-07-02 Source
Google Voice number unblock fee Wireless Works 2020-06-12 Source
Google Voice recharge Streaming Works 2020-05-24 Source
H2O Wireless reload (pay as you go) Wireless Works 2020-05-24 Source
HBO Max Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
HBO Now Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Hulu Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
iCloud storage fee (99c) Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
iHeartRadio Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Kindle Book purchases (Amazon) Streaming Works 2020-05-13 Source
Kindle eBook gifting purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-31 Source
Kindle subscription auto-renewal (Amazon) Streaming Works 2020-05-17 Source
Kindle Unlimited (Amazon) Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Kindle Unlimited gift membership Streaming Works 2020-05-31 Source
Luminary Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Metro by T-Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-12 Source
Mint Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
Mint Mobile Wireless Stopped working 2020-08-14 Source
Mint Mobile Wireless Working again 2020-10-01 Source
Mint mobile load Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Mint Mobile Uproam reload Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
MLB.TV Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
NBA League Pass Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Netflix Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Netflix DVD Plan Streaming Works 2020-05-13 Source
Netflix paid in foreign currency Streaming Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
netflix physical dvd plan Streaming ? 2020-05-08 Source
NHL.TV Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
NordVPN subscription Wireless Does not work 2020-08-14 Source
OnStar Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
Optimum Online Wireless Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
PackageBoss Shipping Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Pandora Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Pandora Plus Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Philo subscription Streaming Does not work 2020-05-11 Source
PhotoStamps.com Shipping Does not work 2020-05-17 Source
pirateship Shipping Works 2020-05-11 Source
Pitney Bowes postage meter Shipping Works 2020-05-13 Source
Postal Annex Shipping Did not post automatically 2020-10-01 Source
Pottery Barn Wireless Works 2020-08-14 Source
Prime Video Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Pure Talk USA Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Red Pocket Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
Republic Wireless bill payment Wireless Works 2020-06-12 Source
sappclub.com Shipping Works 2020-10-01 Source
Shipping label purchased via PayPal Shipping Does not work 2020-05-11 Source
Showtime Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Shudder Streaming Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
Siriusxm Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
SiriusXM gift card purchase Streaming Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Sling TV Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Sling TV Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Soundcloud Streaming Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Spectrum internet Wireless Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
Spectrum Mobile bill Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Spotify Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Spotify (edu subscription) Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Spotify Family Streaming Works 2020-05-17 Source
Spotify Premium Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Sprint Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
Sprint auto-pay Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Sprint bill auto-pay Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
Sprint bill manual payment Wireless Works 2020-05-24 Source
Stitcher Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Straight Talk Cell Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
Subscription via Apple Pay Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
T-mobile (direct, postpaid) Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile Apple Pay (T-Mobile Payments) Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile autopay Wireless Works 2020-05-12 Source
T-Mobile bill payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile equipment payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-mobile magenta Wireless Works 2020-08-14 Source
T-Mobile manual payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile paid via Apple Pay Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile Prepaid Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
T-Mobile store purchase (accessories) Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Tello.com Wireless Works 2020-07-02 Source
Teltik Wireless Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
Tidal Streaming Does not work 2020-05-17 Source
Ting Wireless Conflicting data points if it works 2020-06-02 Source
Ting autopay Wireless Works 2020-07-02 Source
Total wireless Wireless Works 2020-05-17 Source
Tracfone Wireless Works 2020-05-17 Source
Tracfone airtime purchase Wireless Works 2020-05-17 Source
Twigby Wireless Works 2020-06-12 Source
Twitch Streaming Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
Ua mobile family plan Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
UaMobile load Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
UPS MyChoice Shipping Works 2020-05-08 Source
UPS Store Shipping Works 2020-06-12 Source
UPS Store notary service Shipping Works 2020-08-14 Source
UPS Store shipping cost in-store Shipping Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
ups.com shipping purchase Shipping Works 2020-07-02 Source
US Mobile Wireless Does not work 2020-05-13 Source
USPS Change of Address fee Shipping Works 2020-07-02 Source
USPS Gift shop Shipping Works 2020-05-11 Source
USPS in-store stamps purchase Shipping Works 2020-05-13 Source
USPS Passport acceptance fee Shipping Works 2020-08-14 Source
USPS PO Box renewal Shipping Works 2020-05-13 Source
USPS self-service kiosk Shipping Works 2020-05-11 Source
USPS shipping label purchase Shipping Works 2020-05-11 Source
USPS stamps purchased online Shipping Works 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
Verizon accessory purchase online Wireless Works 2020-10-01 Source
Verizon airpods pro purchase Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon cell phone purchase Wireless Works 2020-05-24 Source
Verizon Fios Wireless Does not work 2020-05-08 Source
Verizon Fios Wireless Works 2020-05-08 Source
Verizon Fios Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon fios (manual payment) Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon in-Store physical gift card purchased Wireless Works 2020-05-31 Source
Verizon monthly bill Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon online (accessory purchase) Wireless Works 2020-05-17 Source
Verizon online accessories Wireless Works 2020-06-12 Source
Verizon Online Accessory Purchase Wireless Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Verizon Online Accessory Purchase Wireless Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Verizon physical gift card purchased online Wireless Works (YMMV) 2020-05-11 Source
Verizon physical gift card purchased online Wireless Does not work (YMMV) 2020-05-13 Source
Verizon physical gift card purchased online Wireless Does not work (YMMV) 2020-05-17 Source
Verizon physical gift card purchased online Wireless Works when checking out as guest (maybe?) 2020-05-19 Source
Verizon physical gift card purchased online Wireless Works 2020-05-30 Source
Verizon shop purchase Wireless split purchase between cards via chat 2020-05-24 Source
Verizon Wireless partial bill payment Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
Viki.com via Apple Pay Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
Vimeo Streaming Does not work 2020-06-12 Source
Visible Apple Pay payment Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Visible Wireless Wireless Works 2020-05-13 Source
VRV subscription (direct payment) Streaming Works 2020-05-11 Source
VRV subscription (direct payment) Streaming Does not work 2020-07-02 Source
Vudu purchase Streaming Does not work 2020-05-17 Source
Xfinity Mobile Wireless Works 2020-05-11 Source
Xfinity Mobile fractional payment by calling in Wireless Works 2020-06-12 Source
YouTube Music Premium Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
YouTube Premium Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
YouTube TV Streaming Works 2020-05-08 Source
Youtube TV show purchase Streaming Works 2020-05-17 Source

 

You can sort this in various ways:

  • Search a given merchant, e.g. usps or t-mobile.
  • Get a list of all Streaming or Wireless or Shipping data points by searching for that key word, e.g. streaming.
  • Toggle the date to find newly added data points.
  • Default setting sorts in alphabetical order.
  • You can update how many items you want to show at the top-left of the table. By default it shows 10.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com