Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

  • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
  • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

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“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

– Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
  • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
  • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

2. Know how much you need to save

How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

  • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
  • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
  • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

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“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

– Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

  • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
  • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
  • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
  • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

  • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
  • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
  • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

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But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

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

What Are Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)?

What Are Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)?

Inflation, or a sustained period of rising consumer prices, can take a bite out of investor portfolios and reduce purchasing power as the prices of goods and services increase.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, are one way to hedge against inflation in a portfolio. These government-issued securities are inflation-protected bonds that adjust in tandem with shifts in consumer prices to maintain value.

Investing in TIPS bonds could make sense for investors who are seeking protection against inflation or who want to increase their conservative asset allocation. But what are TIPS and how exactly do they help to minimize inflationary impacts? This primer answers those questions and more.

Recommended: Smart Ways to Hedge Against Inflation

What Are TIPS?

Understanding Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities starts with understanding a little about how bonds work. When you invest in a bond, whether it’s issued by a government, corporation or municipality, you’re essentially lending the issuer your money. In return, the bond issuer agrees to pay that money back to you at a specified date, along with interest. For that reason, bonds are often a popular option for those seeking fixed income investments.

TIPS are inflation-protected bonds that pay interest out to investors twice annually, at a fixed rate applied to the adjusted principal of the bond. This principal can increase with inflation or decrease with deflation, which is a sustained period of falling prices. When the bond matures, you’re paid out the original principal or the adjusted principal—whichever is greater.

Here are some key TIPS basics to know:

•  TIPS bonds are issued in terms of 5, 10 and 30 years

•  Interest rates are determined at auction

•  Minimum investment is $100

•  TIPS are issued electronically

•  You can hold TIPS bonds until maturity or sell them ahead of the maturity date on the secondary market

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities are different from other types of government-issued bonds. With I Bonds, for example, interest accrues over the life of the bond and is paid out when the bond is redeemed. Interest earned is not based on any adjustments to the bond principal—hence, no inflationary protection.

How Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) Work

Understanding how TIPS work is really about understanding the relationship they have with inflation and deflation.

Inflation refers to an increase in the price of goods and services over time. The federal government measures inflation using price indexes, including the Consumer Price Index. The federal government measures inflation using the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change in prices over time for a basket of consumer goods and services. That includes things like food, gas, and energy or utility services.

Deflation is essentially the opposite of inflation, in which consumer prices for goods and services drop over time. This can happen in a recession, but deflation can also be triggered when there’s a significant imbalance between supply and demand for goods and services. Both inflation and deflation can be detrimental to investors if they have trickle-down effects that impact the way consumers spend and borrow money.

When inflation or deflation occurs, inflation-protected bonds can provide a measure of stability with regard to investment returns. Here’s how it works:

•  You purchase one or more Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities

•  You then earn a fixed interest rate on the TIPS bond you own

•  When inflation increases, the bond principal increases

•  When deflation occurs, the bond principal decreases

•  Once the bond matures, you receive the greater of the adjusted principal or the original principal

This last part is what protects you from negative impacts associated with either inflation or deflation. You’ll never receive less than the face value of the bond, since the principal adjusts to counteract changes in consumer prices.

Are TIPS a Good Investment?

Investing in inflation-protected bonds could make sense if you’re interested in creating some insulation against the impacts of inflation in your portfolio. For example, say you invest $1,000 into a 10-year TIPS bond that offers a 2% coupon rate. The coupon rate represents the yield or income you can expect to receive from the bond while you hold it.

Now, assume that inflation rises to 3% over the next year. This would put the bond’s face value at $1,030, with an annual interest payment of $20.60. If you were looking at a period of deflation instead, then the bond’s face value and interest payments would decline. But the principal would adjust to reflect that to minimize the risk of a negative return.

Recommended: Understanding Deflation and How it Impacts Investors

Pros of Investing in TIPS

What TIPS offer that more traditional bonds don’t is a real rate of return versus a nominal rate of return. In other words, the interest you earn with Treasury Inflation Protected Securities reflects the bond’s actual return once inflation is factored in. As mentioned, I Bonds don’t offer that; you’re just getting whatever interest is earned on the bond over time.

Since these are government bonds, there’s virtually zero credit risk to worry about. (Credit risk means the possibility that a bond issuer might default and not pay anything back to investors.) With TIPS bonds, you’re going to at least get the face value of the bond back if nothing else. And compared to stocks, bonds are generally a far less risky investment.

If the adjusted principal is higher than the original principal, then you benefit from an increase in inflation. Since it’s typically more common for an economy to experience periods of inflation rather than deflation, TIPS can be an attractive diversification option if you’re looking for a more conservative investment.

Recommended: The Importance of Portfolio Diversification

Cons of Investing in TIPS

There are some potential downsides to keep in mind when investing with TIPS. For example, they’re more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations than other types of bonds. If you were to sell a Treasury Inflation-Protected Security before it matures, you could risk losing money, depending on the interest rate environment.

You may also find less value from holding TIPS in your portfolio if inflation doesn’t materialize. When you redeem your bonds at maturity you will get back the original principal and you’ll still benefit from interest earned. But the subsequent increases in principal that TIPS can offer during periods of inflation is a large part of their appeal.

It’s also important to consider where taxes fit in. Both interest payments and increases in principal from inflation are subject to federal tax, though they are exempt from state and local tax. The better your TIPS bonds perform, the more you might owe in taxes at the end of the year.

How to Invest in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities

If you’re interested in adding TIPS to your portfolio, there are three ways you can do it.

1.   Purchase TIPS bonds directly from the U.S. Treasury. You can do this online through the TreasuryDirect website. You’d need to open an account first but once you do so, you can submit a noncompetitive bid for inflation protected bonds. The TreasuryDirect system will prompt you on how to do this.

2.   Purchase TIPS through a banker, broker or dealer. With this type of arrangement, the banker, broker or dealer submits a bid for you. You can either specify what type of yield you’re looking for, which is a competitive bid, or accept whatever is available, which is a noncompetitive bid.

3.   Invest in securities that hold TIPS, i.e. exchange-traded funds or mutual funds. There’s no such thing as a TIP stock but you could purchase a TIPS ETF if you’d like to own a basket of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. You might choose this option if you don’t want to purchase individual bonds and hold them until maturity.

When comparing different types of investments that are available with ETFs or mutual funds, pay attention to:

•  Underlying holdings

•  Fund turnover ratio

•  Expense ratios

Also consider the fund’s overall performance, particularly during periods of inflation or deflation. Past history is not an exact predictor of future performance but it may shed some light on how a TIPS ETF has reacted to rising or falling prices previously.

The Takeaway

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities may help shield your portfolio against some of the negative impacts of inflation. Investors who are worried about their purchasing power shrinking over time may find TIPS appealing.
But don’t discount the value of investing in stocks and other securities as well. Building a diversified portfolio that takes into consideration an investor’s personal risk tolerance, as well as financial goals and time horizons, is a popular strategy.

With a SoFi Invest® online investing account, members can choose from stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency options in one place. You can start investing with as little as $1, and manage your account from the convenient mobile app.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.


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Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments.
Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at investsupport@sofi.com. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing. Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.
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SOIN0421156

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Americans Are Finally Paying Off Credit Card Debt — How to Join Them

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Now, with AmOne, you don’t need a perfect credit score to get a loan — and comparing your options won’t affect your score at all.  Plus, AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Plus: No credit card payments for you this month!

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
It takes less than a minute and just 11 questions to see what loans you qualify for — you don’t even need to enter your Social Security number. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, banks expected delinquencies to surge, forcing borrowers to rely on their credit cards to make ends meet, The Wall Street Journal reported. But then the government stepped in with stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits. It allowed borrowers to pause payments on mortgages and student loans. So that surge of delinquencies never happened.
Wouldn’t it be great to turn the tables on them? Well, now a lot of people are. More and more Americans are simply paying off their credit card balances, and that’s making credit card companies like Capital One, Citibank and Chase really, really nervous. That’s because their whole business model is based on gouging you.
“Americans are paying down their credit card debt at levels not seen in years. That is good news for everyone but credit card issuers,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Many card issuers rely on growing card usage and balances for their revenue, and they are wondering if the pandemic trends will turn into a long-term shift.”

They’re Getting Awfully Nervous

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little revenge and make your credit card companies sweat for a change? Now you can, and it’s easier than you think.
A free website called Credit Sesame makes it easy to put your credit score on track to reach your goals. Within two minutes, it’ll give you access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have significantly lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster.
Why is this happening?
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
If you’ve got credit card debt, you know how painful it is. It’s the most expensive kind of debt you can have, and your credit card companies are just getting rich and fat while they gouge you with high interest rates.

How to Beat Your Credit Card Company

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He paid off all his credit cards, and wow did it feel good.
Credit cards charge you harsh interest rates that routinely rise north of 20% APR. But if you owe your credit card companies ,000 or less, a website called AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off all your balances.
Overall, credit card balances are down nearly 15% compared to a year before, according to the credit reporting firm Equifax.
Now, “it appears that many households are working to reduce their revolving debt balances, and this is happening across the board,” the Fed wrote.
These days, credit card companies are sweating bullets because Americans’ credit card balances are falling. They shrunk by a whopping billion in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous quarter, according to data released last week by the New York Fed,
Revenge is sweet.
Stop shoveling money into high-interest credit card payments. Cackle along with the rest of us as credit card companies express deep concern in earnings calls, sweating over their plummeting profits.
If you’re interested in getting a personal loan to wipe out your credit card balances, it helps to have a good credit score.
For big credit card issuers like Capital One, Discover and Synchrony (the largest issuer of store credit cards), balances are down by 17%, 9% and 7% compared to a year ago, those companies reported.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Recent data suggests that the average driver will spend close to $100,000 on car insurance over their lifetime. That’s a staggering sum of money, especially when you consider estimates that suggest Americans will pay over $500,000 in that time just to own, operate, and maintain a car.

$100,000 is a lot of money to spend on something that you may never benefit from, something that you’re only buying because your state authorities told you too. But while car insurance policies are essential, the amount that the average consumer spends on them is not.

In this guide, we’ll look at the ways you can save money on auto insurance premiums and get the most value out of this necessary expense.

Build Your Credit Report

Never underestimate the value of a high credit score and a clean credit report. Not only can it help when applying for a car loan, increasing the value of the car you can purchase and decreasing the interest rates you’re charged, but it will also reduce your car insurance rates.

There is no easy and quick way to turn a bad credit report into a good credit report, but there are a few simple changes you can make that could increase your score enough to make a difference. These include:

  • Stop applying for new lines of credit.
  • Become an authorized user on a respectable user’s credit card.
  • Increase credit limits on your active credit cards.
  • Pay off as much debt as you can, focusing on credit cards and personal loans first.
  • Don’t close your credit card accounts after clearing them.

If you don’t have any credit at all, which is true for many teen drivers getting behind the wheel for the first time, try the following options:

  • Credit builder loans
  • Secured credit cards
  • Lending circles

Choose Your Car Carefully

A new car is a great way to get a high-tech, customized vehicle, but it’s not ideal if you’re looking to save on insurance costs.

New vehicles cost more to insure because they are a greater liability, with more expensive parts and greater overall value. If you want to save on your auto insurance coverage, look for a car that is at least a few years old, has a number of safety features and a high safety rating.

The cheaper, the better, but only to a point. You want something that won’t leave you in complete financial ruin if it’s wrecked in a car accident and you don’t have the insurance to cover it, but something that won’t breakdown every few miles and leave you stranded and broke every other week.

Drive Safely and Prove Your Worth

Your driving record is just as important as your credit report, if not more so. The more at-fault accidents, traffic tickets, and insurance claims you have, the higher your car insurance rates will be.

A single conviction won’t last forever and the impact will eventually dissipate, so even if you have a few blemishes on your record now, just keep driving safely and you’ll be able to reap the benefits before long.

It takes time to prove your worth to insurance companies, but there are a few things you can do to expedite this process. The first is to take a defensive driving course. In some states and for some demographics (mostly seniors and young drivers), you’ll be offered a discount for completing one of these courses.

The next step is to consider a usage-based program. These are offered by most major insurance companies and can track your driving habits to determine what kind of driver you are. If you’re driving safe and doing very low mileage, you could start seeing some noticeable changes in just a few months. The majority of providers will even give you a discount just for signing up.

Pay Everything Upfront

Most policyholders pay their premiums monthly and it may seem like that’s the best thing to do. $100 a month seems infinitely more manageable than $1,200 a year. 

It is an attitude that many people have, and it’s one that often leads to debt and poor decisions.

Millions of Americans have credit card debt because a $200 monthly payment seems more achievable than a $5,000 payoff, even though the former carries a phenomenal interest rate. It’s also why countless first-time buyers rush into getting mortgages with small down payments and high-interest rates, even though doing so could mean they are paying twice as much money over the term.

Whenever you can benefit from making an upfront payment, do it. This is true for your loan debt and credit card debt, and it’s also true for your car insurance premiums.

Many insurance providers offer you an upfront payment discount of up to 5%. It doesn’t sound like much, but every little helps. If you have a $3,000 car insurance policy, that 5% adds up to $150. Add a few more discounts and you can save even more money and make an even bigger dent in your insurance rates.

Combine Policies and Vehicles

Insurance companies that offer multiple types of insurance tend to offer discounts when you purchase several products from them.

Known as multi-policy discounts or “bundling”, these offers are common with homeowners insurance and auto insurance, but they are also offered with renters insurance and life insurance.

You can combine several vehicles onto the same auto insurance policy, as well, saving much more than if you were to purchase separate policies.

These discounts are essential for multi-car households, but they are not limited to cars. Many insurers will also let you add boats, ATVs, motorcycles, and other vehicles onto the same policy.

Shop Around

Before you settle on a single policy, shop around, compare as many car insurance quotes as you can, try multiple different insurance options (uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage) and make sure you’re getting the lowest rates for the best cover.

Too many drivers make the mistake of going with the same provider their friends or parents have; the same provider they have used for a number of years. In doing so, they could be missing out on huge savings. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that all providers offer similar rates and that the difference between them is minor. But regardless of your age, gender, and state, the difference between one provider and the next could be up to 200%!

Check if You’re Covered Elsewhere

Car insurance companies offer a number of add-ons and optional coverage options. These are enticing, as they cover you for numerous eventualities and some of them cost just a few dollars extra a month. But all of those dollars add up and could result in you paying much more than you need for cover you already have.

Roadside assistance is a great example of this. It will help you if you are stranded by the side of the road, assisting with services such as tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, and more. But if you have a premium credit card or are a member of an automobile club, you may already have that cover.

The same goes for rental car coverage, which is often purchased at the rental car counter. Although it has its uses, if you have an auto insurance policy, travel insurance, and a premium credit card, you’re probably already covered. In fact, many Visa credit cards offer this service completely free of charge when you use your Visa to pay the bill, but only if you reject the waivers sold by the rental car company.

Bottom Line: Best Auto Insurance Companies

​Car insurance coverage varies from state to state and provider to provider. There is no “best” company, as even the ones with consistently affordable rates will not be the best option in all states or for all demographics.

In our research, we found that GEICO was consistently one of the cheapest providers for good drivers, bad credit drivers, and even high risk drivers. GEICO also offers personal injury protection, collision insurance, medical payments, uninsured motorist coverage, and more, making them the most complete provider for the majority of drivers.

However, in some states, local farm bureaus come out on top, offering very cheap bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage, and giving policyholders a level of care and attention that they might not find with the bigger, national providers. USAA, which offers cheap car insurance to members of the military, also leads the way in the majority of states, but only for those who meet the criteria.

Simply put, there is no right insurance provider for you, just like there is no right coverage. That’s why it’s important to shop around, chop and change your coverage options, and don’t assume that any type of coverage or provider is right for you until you’ve looked at the numbers.

 

 

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Auto Insurance Coverage is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

All About Car Loan Amortization

All About Auto Loan Amortization

These days, it can take a long time to pay off a car loan. On average, car loans come with terms lasting for more than five years. Paying down a car loan isn’t that different from paying down a mortgage. In both cases, a large percentage of your initial payments go toward paying interest. If you don’t understand why, you might need a crash course on a concept called amortization.

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

Car Loan Amortization: The Basics

Amortization is just a fancy way of saying that you’re in the process of paying back the money you borrowed from your lender. In order to do that, you’re required to make a payment every month by a certain due date. With each payment, your money is split between paying off interest and paying off your principal balance (or the amount that your lender agreed to lend you).

What you’ll soon discover is that your car payments – at least in the beginning – cover quite a bit of interest. That’s how amortization works. Over time, your lender will use a greater share of your car payments to reduce your principal loan balance (and a smaller percentage to pay for interest) until you’ve completely paid off the vehicle you purchased.

Not all loans amortize. For example, applying for a credit card is akin to applying for a loan. While your credit card statement will include a minimum payment amount, there’s no date set in advance for when that credit card debt has to be paid off.

With amortizing loans – like car loans and home loans – you’re expected to make payments on a regular basis according to something called an amortization schedule. Your lender determines in advance when your loan must be paid off, whether that’s in five years or 30 years.

The Interest on Your Car Loan

All About Auto Loan Amortization

Now let’s talk about interest. You’re not going to be able to borrow money to finance a car purchase without paying a fee (interest). But there’s a key difference between simple interest and compound interest.

When it comes to taking out a loan, simple interest is the amount of money that’s charged on top of your principal. Compound interest, however, accounts for the fee that accrues on top of your principal balance and on any unpaid interest.

Related Article: How to Make Your First Car Purchase Happen

As of April 2016, 60-month new car loans have rates that are just above 3%, on average. Rates for used cars with 36-month terms are closer to 4%.

The majority of car loans have simple interest rates. As a borrower, that’s good news. If your interest doesn’t compound, you won’t have to turn as much money over to your lender. And the sooner you pay off your car loan, the less interest you’ll pay overall. You can also speed up the process of eliminating your debt by making extra car payments (if that’s affordable) and refinancing to a shorter loan term.

Car Loan Amortization Schedules 

An amortization schedule is a table that specifies just how much of each loan payment will cover the interest owed and how much will cover the principal balance. If you agreed to pay back the money you borrowed to buy a car in five years, your auto loan amortization schedule will include all 60 payments that you’ll need to make. Beside each payment, you’ll likely see the total amount of paid interest and what’s left of your car loan’s principal balance.

While the ratio of what’s applied towards interest versus the principal will change as your final payment deadline draws nearer, your car payments will probably stay the same from month to month. To view your amortization schedule, you can use an online calculator that’ll do the math for you. But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can easily make an auto loan amortization schedule by creating an Excel spreadsheet.

To determine the percentage of your initial car payment that’ll pay for your interest, just multiply the principal balance by the periodic interest rate (your annual interest rate divided by 12). Then you’ll calculate what’s going toward the principal by subtracting the interest amount from the total payment amount.

For example, if you have a $25,000 five-year car loan with an annual interest rate of 3%, your first payment might be $449. Out of that payment, you’ll pay $62.50 in interest and reduce your principal balance by $386.50 ($449 – $62.50). Now you only have a remaining balance of $24,613.50 to pay off, and you can continue your calculations until you get to the point where you don’t owe your lender anything.

Related Article: The Best Cities for Electric Cars

Final Word

All About Auto Loan Amortization

Auto loan amortization isn’t nearly as complicated as it might sound. It requires car owners to make regular payments until their loans are paid off. Since lenders aren’t required to hand out auto amortization schedules, it might be a good idea to ask for one or use a calculator before taking out a loan. That way, you’ll know how your lender will break down your payments.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/OSORIOartist, ©iStock.com/studio-pure, ©iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

The post All About Car Loan Amortization appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.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®.

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The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

Dealing with a bill collector is never fun and it can be particularly stressful when you’re sitting on a mountain of debt. Sometimes debt collectors fail to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If that’s the issue you’re facing, it might be a good idea to file a complaint. But if you’re personally making any of these mistakes, your debt problem could go from bad to worse.

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1. Ignoring Debt Collectors

Screening calls and avoiding bill collectors won’t help you get your debt under control. Debts generally have a statute of limitations that varies depending on the state you live in. Once it expires, the collector might not be able to sue you anymore. But you could still be responsible for paying back what you owe in addition to any interest that has accumulated.

In addition to the potential legal consequences of unpaid bills, letting old debt pile up can destroy your credit score. Unpaid debts can remain on a credit report for as many as seven years. So if your debt collector is getting on your last nerves, it might be best to stop hiding and face him head on.

2. Saying Too Much Over the Phone

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to stop dodging your bill collectors, it’s important to avoid sharing certain details over the phone. You never want to say that you’ll pay a specific amount of money by a deadline or give someone access to your bank accounts. Anything you say can be used against you and agreeing to make a payment can actually extend a statute of limitations that has already run out.

A debt collector’s No. 1 goal is to collect their missing funds. They can’t curse at you or make empty threats, but they can say other things to try and scare you into paying up. Staying calm, keeping the call short and keeping your comments to a minimum are the best ways to deal with persistent bill collectors.

Related Article: Dealing With Debt Collectors? Know Your Rights

3. Failing to Verify That the Debt Is Yours

When you’re talking to a bill collector, it’s also wise to avoid accepting their claims without making sure they’re legitimate. Debt collection scams are common. So before you send over a single dime, you’ll need to confirm that the debt belongs to you and not someone else.

Reviewing your credit report is a great place to start. If you haven’t received any written documentation from the collection agency, it’s a good idea to request that they mail you a letter stating that you owe them a specific amount of money.

If you need to dispute an error you found on your credit report, you have 30 days from the date that you received formal documentation from the collection agency to notify them (in writing) that a mistake was made. You’ll also need to reach out to each of the credit reporting agencies to get the error removed. They’ll expect you to mail them paperwork as proof of your claim.

4. Failing to Negotiate the Payments

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

No matter how big your debts, there’s usually room for negotiation when it comes to making payments. If the payment plan your bill collector offers doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to throw out a number you’re more comfortable with.

Sometimes, it’s possible to get away with paying less than what you owe. Instead of agreeing to pay back everything, you can suggest that you’re willing to pay back a percentage of the debt and see what happens. A non-profit credit counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan if you need assistance. Whatever you agree to, keep in mind that the deal needs to be put in writing.

Related Article: All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

5. Failing to Keep Proper Documentation

Whenever you communicate with a bill collector, it’s a good idea to take notes. Jotting down details about when you spoke with a collector and what you discussed can help you if you’re forced to appear in court or report a collector who has broken the law. Collecting written notices from bill collectors and saving them in a folder can also help your case.

Bottom Line

Dealing with bill collectors can be a real pain. By knowing how to interact with them, you’ll be in the best position to get rid of your unpaid loans and credit card debt (that is, if you actually owe anything) on your own terms.

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The post The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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