Nobody wants to pay off student loans longer than they have to, yet far too many people are stuck in lengthy repayment plans that seem like theyâll never end. While income-driven repayment plans backed by the federal government ask you to pay down loans for 20 to 25 years before leading to loan forgiveness, even the âstandardâ […]
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You donât want to work the rest of your life. Hereâs how to save in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, even if retirement seems light years away.
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.
There’s nothing fun about declaring bankruptcy, but those who emerge from it can be thankful for the opportunity to rebuild their personal finances without the burden of debt. Unfortunately, bankruptcy also does damage to your credit, making it difficult to get approved for credit cards and other lines of credit. Since credit cards are a… Read More
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Millions of Americans faced pay cuts as the coronavirus pandemic affected industries. While many workers were laid off, some were furloughed, and others kept their jobs but at lower salaries as businesses struggled to stay afloat. Some workers are reexamining their budgets to cut some of their expenses until they get another job or their […]
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When you're ready to buy a home, choosing the best lender and type of mortgage can seem daunting because there are many choices. Since no two real estate transactions or home buyers are alike, it's essential to get familiar with different mortgage products and programs.
Let's take a look at the two main types of mortgages and several popular home loan programs. Choosing the right one for your situation is the key to buying a home you can afford.
What is a mortgage?
First, here's a quick mortgage explainer. A mortgage is a loan used to buy real estate, such as a new or existing primary residence or vacation home. It states that your property is collateral for the debt, and if you don't make timely payments, the lender can take back the property to recover their losses.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price. You typically must make a down payment, which could range from 3% to 10% or more, depending on the type of loan you qualify for.
For example, if you agree to pay $300,000 for a home and have $15,000 to put down, you need a mortgage for the difference, or $285,000 ($300,000 – $15,000). In addition to a down payment, lenders charge a variety of processing fees that you either pay upfront or roll into your loan, which increases your debt.
At your real estate closing, the lender wires funds to the closing agent or attorney. After you sign a stack of mortgage and closing documents, your down payment and mortgage money go to the seller and various parties, such as a real estate broker, title company, inspector, surveyor, and insurance company. You leave the closing as a proud new homeowner and begin making mortgage payments the next month.
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
The structure of your loan and payments depends on whether your interest rate is fixed or adjustable. So, understanding how these two main types of mortgage products work is essential.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy. The most common fixed-rate mortgage terms are 15- and 30-years. But you can also find 10-, 20-, 40-, and even 50-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Getting a shorter mortgage means you pay it off faster and at a lower interest rate than with a longer-term option. For example, as of December 2020, the going rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage is 2.4%, and a 30-year is 2.8% APR.
The downside is that shorter loans come with higher monthly payments. Many people opt for longer mortgages to pay as little as possible each month and make their home more affordable.
Here are some situations when getting a fixed-rate mortgage makes sense:
You see low or rising interest rates. Locking in a low rate for the life of your mortgage protects you against inflation.
You want financial stability. Having the same mortgage payment for decades allows you to easily budget and avoid financial surprises.
You don't plan to move for a while. Keeping a fixed-rate mortgage over the long term gives you the potential to save the most in interest, especially if interest rates go up.
What is an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)?
The second primary type of home loan is an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. Your interest rate and monthly payment can go up or down according to predetermined terms based on a financial index, such as the T-bill rate or LIBOR.
Most ARMs are a hybrid of a fixed and adjustable product. They begin with a fixed-rate period and convert to an adjustable rate later on. The first number in the name of an ARM product is how many years are fixed for the introductory rate, and the second number is how often the rate could change after that.
For instance, a 5/1 ARM gives you five years with a fixed rate and then can adjust, or reset, every year starting in the sixth year. A 3/1 ARM has a fixed rate for three years with a potential rate adjustment every year, beginning in the fourth year.
When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go.
ARMs are typically 30-year products, but they can be shorter. With a 5/6 ARM, you pay the same rate for the first five years. Then the rate could change every six months for the remaining 25 years.
ARMs come with built-in caps for how much the interest rate can climb from one adjustment period to the next and the potential increase over the loan's life. When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go. In other words, you should be comfortable with the worst-case ARM scenario before getting one.
In general, the introductory interest rate for a 30-year ARM is lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. But that hasn't been the case recently because rates are at historic lows. The idea is that rates are so low they likely have nowhere to go but up, making an ARM less attractive.
I mentioned that the going rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 2.8%. Compare that to a 30-year 5/6 ARM, which is also 2.8% APR. When ARM rates are the same or higher than fixed rates, they don't give borrowers any upsides for taking a risk that their payment could increase.
ARM lenders aren't making them attractive because they know once your introductory rate ends, you could refinance to a lower-rate fixed mortgage and they'd lose your business after just a few years. They could end up losing money if you haven't paid enough in fees and interest to offset their cost of issuing the loan.
Unless you believe that rates can drop further (or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings), they aren't a wise choice in the near term.
So, unless you believe that rates can drop further or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings, they aren't a wise choice in the near term. However, always discuss your mortgage options with potential lenders, so you evaluate them in light of current economic conditions.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Credit for a Mortgage Approval
5 types of home loan programs
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, here are five loan programs you may qualify for.
1. Conventional loans
Conventional loans are the most common type of mortgage. They're also known as a "conforming loan" when they conform to standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These federally-backed companies buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market. Lenders sell mortgages to Fannie and Freddie so they can continuously supply new borrowers with mortgage funds.
Conventional loans are popular because most lenders—including mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions—offer them. Borrowers can pay as little as 3% down; however, paying 20% eliminates the requirement to pay an additional monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium.
2. FHA loans
FHA or Federal Housing Administration loans come with lenient underwriting standards, making homeownership a reality for more Americans. Borrowers need a 3.5% down payment and can have lower credit scores and income than with a conventional loan.
3. VA loans
VA or Veterans Administration loans give those with eligible military service a zero-down loan with no monthly private mortgage insurance required.
4. USDA loans
The USDA or U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to buyers who plan to live in rural and suburban areas. Borrowers who meet certain income limits can get zero-down payments and low-rate mortgage insurance premiums.
5. Jumbo loans
Jumbo loans are higher mortgage amounts than what's allowed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so they're also known as non-conforming loans. In general, they exceed approximately $500,000 in most areas.
Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
This isn't a complete list of all the loan programs you may qualify for, so be sure to ask potential lenders for recommendations. Remember that just because you're eligible for a program, such as a VA loan, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
Brenda Woods didn’t want to move and leave the garden she had tended for 40 years. But the roof was falling in. And her bank wouldn’t give her and her husband Larry a loan to buy a replacement home. Brendaâs still tending her garden, though, thanks to a second-chance loan from the New Hampshire Community… Read More
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At some point, most people experience an unexpected crisis that shakes their financial world. It could be losing a job, receiving a huge medical bill, or having a car break down at the worst possible time. But surviving a pandemic is a situation you probably never thought you would face.
No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first.
Along with the public health toll, the COVID crisis has put millions of people out of work. For those struggling financially, here are eight critical rules to help you manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back from this unprecedented health and economic disaster.
8 rules for managing a financial hardship
Here are the details about each rule to manage a financial setback during the coronavirus crisis.
Rule #1: Accept your situation and use your resources to seek help
The key to successfully navigating a financial setback is to be realistic. If you’re in denial and don’t face money troubles head-on, you can quickly compound the damage.
Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions. Start talking about your challenges with people and professionals you trust, such as a money-savvy family member, financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.
Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.
The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
The Financial Planning Association
Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education
Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances
To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.
First, list your assets:
Then list your liabilities:
Credit card debt
Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.
When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.
RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief
Rule #3: Understand your cash flow
An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.
Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.
Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.
Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses
As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.
For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.
Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors
If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.
You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.
Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.
Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully
Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.
Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized
Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.
Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.
Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions
Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.
Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.
If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.
Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits
If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.
FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid
Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.
Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.
When most parents offer to fund their childâs tuition, itâs with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child…
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