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Can Adding a Pool Increase Your Home Value?

On scorching hot days, there’s nothing like taking a dip in a swimming pool. In some areas of the country, a swimming pool is close to a necessity. In fact, there are 10.6 million swimming pools across the U.S., with 3,000,000 of those in California alone. From in-ground to above-ground, chlorine to saltwater, there are numerous styles, sizes, and prices of swimming pools. And while having a swimming pool just steps from your back door may sound appealing, is it really a good economical choice and does it increase your home’s value? There are a lot of factors to consider before adding a swimming pool, or even before buying a home with an existing swimming pool.

installing a pool at homeinstalling a pool at home

The Cost To Install

While having a pool sounds like a great way to be the life of the party when hosting friends and family during warm months, it can be pricey. And as with most large purchases many people finance the addition. The average cost to build an inground swimming pool is $35,000, with most spending between $28,000 to $55,000 for the initial investment. Of course, the amount of site work, soil type, and additional finishes can greatly impact the cost of a swimming pool. For many, the equivalent of a new car is worth the enjoyment a swimming pool would bring.

The Cost To Maintain

The costs associated with maintaining a swimming vary based on location, size, and type. According to Michelle Sbabo, co-owner of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa, homeowners can “expect to spend a minimum of $500 per summer on chemicals and supplies – plus at least a couple of hours a week testing water, adjusting chemicals, brushing, vacuuming, cleaning filters, netting, and emptying skimmer and filter baskets.” Depending on the type of swimming pool, average annual maintenance costs can vary from $375 to over $2,750. When choosing the type of swimming pool, it’s important to inquire with a local pool maintenance company what to reasonably expect in annual maintenance costs.

Read: Tips for Selecting Above-ground Pool Equipment

The Cost To Open and Close A Pool

For some parts of the country, swimming pools can remain open year-round; however, in colder climates, homeowners must close swimming pools to prevent damage from cold weather. According to Sbabo, “Closing a pool will run $200-300 for a standard pool, more with complex equipment and plumbing. Opening a pool is roughly the same cost as closing – unless the pool is extremely green or dirty and requires more time and chemicals to clean up.”

pool at housepool at house

How Your Geographic Location Affects Your Investment

Michelle Sbabo of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa also explains that “The contents of source water also affect pool water care. In many parts of the country, for example, the water is very high in calcium and other minerals. This can cause scaling on pool surfaces and inside equipment, and water must be treated appropriately to minimize scale damage. Additionally, weather and environment greatly impact pool care. Pools in areas with a lot of rain or wind may need a greater range of chemicals to address contaminants that enter the pool. And certain plants and trees can cause maintenance issues.”

Read: Tips for Landscaping Around a Pool

How A Swimming Pool Affects Homeowner’s Insurance

Once a swimming pool is on a property, the chance for injury or death increases which is why homeowner’s insurance increases with a pool. According to Zack’s Investment Research, insurance companies typically require an increased liability coverage, sometimes up to half a million dollars, and some even encourage additional umbrella policies. There are ways to keep premiums at a reasonable rate by installing a locking gate around the pool, keeping the pool covered with a safety tarp, adding motion sensors to the pool, and even cameras surrounding the pool.

…But Will A Pool Add To Your Home’s Value?

One of the important things to remember: swimming pools aren’t for everyone. So just by the mere fact that a pool is on the property, there will be a group of potential home buyers that will not be interested. However, the bottom-line answer is: it depends. For some geographic areas (like Southern Florida or California), a swimming pool can certainly increase appeal- and value. However, in areas like Michigan or Northern states, they may have less desirability and the pool could appraise for less than the install price. However, a recent study by LendingTree shows that homes with a pool are valued at 54% higher than those without one.

Tips From The Expert

Michelle Sbabo, co-owner of Northwest Arkansas Pool and Spa offers a few tips for those thinking of adding a pool or buying a home with an existing pool.

  • Most home inspections don’t include the pool. If the buyer is new to pools, it’s a good idea to hire a pool pro to check the equipment and understand any potential expenses.
  • Contact a local pool maintenance company to teach you how to care for a pool. Many new pool owners greatly benefit from a “private pool lesson”.
  • Check into a Home Warranty that covers pool equipment. We have seen major equipment expenses covered by good warranty programs with only a small deductible out of pocket.


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Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

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8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Surprised retiree
cheapbooks / Shutterstock.com

Most of us spend decades working and dreaming of a day when we can retire. But when we finally arrive at our post-work destination, it’s not unusual to find ourselves in a world of surprises.

Knowing what to expect in advance can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years. The following are some key things no one tells you about before you retire.

Housing will remain your biggest expense

Senior couple at home
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Many retirees dream of paying off their mortgage so they will be free to spend money on travel and other activities. But the reality is that housing likely will remain the biggest expense in your budget for as long as you live.

U.S. households led by someone age 65 or older spent an average of $17,472 on housing in 2019, as we detail in “Here’s How Much Retiree Households Spend in a Year.” That is easily more than these households spent in any other expense category.

Work will not end — it will simply change

older worker
michaeljung / Shutterstock.com

You will probably work in retirement — and not just because you have to. More than 70% of people say they want to work during retirement, according to the findings of “Work in Retirement: Myths and Motivations,” a joint study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave.

As you age, chances are good that the nature of work will change, though. The study found that 3 in 5 retirees plan to launch a new line of work that differs from what they have done in the past. Working retirees also are three times more likely than pre-retirees to own their own business.

If you’ve never volunteered before, you won’t start in retirement

Senior volunteer
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

About 90% of Americans say they would like to do volunteer service for someone or some cause that needs their help, but just 25% actually do so, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity.

When asked why they don’t follow through on the wish to help, Americans most commonly cite a lack of free time. Yet, retirees — with plenty of time on their hands — do not volunteer at rates that are any higher than those of workers.

And among people who did not volunteer during their working years, just one-third finally begin volunteering during retirement.

Retirement can be especially lonely for single men

Sad senior man
YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock.com

In some ways, retirement is more challenging for women. Because they live longer than men, they will have to stretch the funds from their nest eggs over a longer period. To make matters worse, women generally start with less in retirement savings than men do.

But women who are single have one big advantage over their male counterparts: They are less likely to be lonely.

Just 48% of retired men who live alone say they are very satisfied with the number of friends they have, according to an analysis of Pew Research Center survey findings.

However, a robust 71% of women who live alone are satisfied with the number of friends they have.

Health issues likely will catch you by surprise

Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

Slightly more than one-third of retirees say health problems have put a damper on their retirement years, according to a survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute. And 75% of those folks say their health problems emerged sooner in life than they expected.

To make matters worse, about one-quarter say health-related expenses keep them from living the retirement of their dreams. Such sobering numbers underscore why many people planning for retirement would benefit from opening a health savings account and stashing as much cash as possible into that HSA.

As you grow older, you will feel younger

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Everyone has heard the cliche: “You’re only as old as you feel.”

If that is true, here is some good news for retirees: Paradoxically, the older people get, the younger they are likely to feel, according to “Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality,” a paper from the Pew Research Center.

For example, among people ages 18-29, about half say they feel their age, one-quarter feel older than their age and another one-quarter feel younger.

However, among those 65 and older, 60% say they feel younger than their age and 32% say they feel exactly their age. Just a scant 3% say they feel older than their age.

Your early golden years might not gleam as you had hoped

Unhappy senior woman
Asier Romero / Shutterstock.com

Nearly one-third of recent retirees — 28% — say life is worse in retirement than it was during their working years, according to the Nationwide Retirement Institute survey.

What is the source of this gloom and doom? Money — or lack thereof.

Among those who lament post-work life, 78% cite a lack of income and 76% cite a high cost of living as the top factors in giving them the blues during their golden years.

The message to future retirees is obvious: Save early, save often and keep saving. For more tips, check out “9 Ways to Rescue Your Retirement in 2020.”

Initial disappointment will give way to later satisfaction

Happy senior couple
David Tadevosian / Shutterstock.com

If you are among those disappointed with retirement, take heart: As with so many things, retirement is what you make it. You can take steps to boost your overall satisfaction with life during your golden years.

For example, researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom found that people who volunteer are less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with life. There is even evidence that volunteers live longer.

So, if retirement has got you down, stop gazing at your navel and start looking outward at ways to help others.

A lot of other research has found that a happy marriage and spending time with close family and friends can greatly boost retirement satisfaction.

Even if you don’t take steps to make yourself happy, you might just end up feeling joyous anyway. The Pew Research Center found that 45% of adults 75 and older believe life has turned out better than they expected.

Just 5% say it has turned out worse.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

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Simple, Achievable New Year’s Resolutions That Will Make You Richer

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Losing weight, exercising more, spending less, paying down debt: all common New Year’s resolutions many make, but few stick to.

Changing the habits of a lifetime isn’t easy. But using a few simple tools makes it a lot more likely.

In this week’s “Money!” podcast, we’re going to explore some wealth-creating New Year’s resolutions, and more importantly, we’re going to talk about some ways to get on track and stay there. Who knows? This could be the year you finally build that emergency fund, plan for a successful retirement, destroy that debt or otherwise make yourself wealthier. And just maybe you’ll find that by doing it right, you’ll gain without pain!

As usual, my co-host will be financial journalist Miranda Marquit.

Sit back, relax and listen to this week’s “Money!” podcast:

Not familiar with podcasts?

A podcast is basically a radio show you can listen to anytime, either by downloading it to your smartphone or other device, or by listening online.

They’re totally free. They can be any length (ours are typically about a half-hour), feature any number of people and cover any topic you can possibly think of. You can listen at home, in the car, while jogging or, if you’re like me, when riding your bike.

You can listen to our latest podcasts here or download them to your phone from any number of places, including Apple, Spotify, RadioPublic, Stitcher and RSS.

If you haven’t listened to a podcast yet, give it a try, then subscribe to ours. You’ll be glad you did!

Show notes

Want more information? Check out these resources:

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and I have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

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How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips

Have you ever sat down to go over your budget only to find out that you’ve outrageously overspent on food? Local, organic, artisan goods and trendy new restaurant outings with friends make it easy to do. With food being the second highest household expense behind mortgage or rent, our food choices have a huge impact on our budget. Using this monthly budget calculator can also help guide how to budget for food. 

You may be surprised to find out that the most nutrient-dense foods are often the most budget-friendly. It’s not only possible, but fun and easy to eat nourishing, delicious food while still sticking to your budget. Here are 11 ways to help you learn how to budget groceries.

1. Track Current Spending

Before you figure out what you should be spending on food, it’s important to figure out what you are spending on food. Keep grocery store receipts to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending by category, including beverages, produce, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can get an idea of where to trim down spending.

2. Allocate a Percentage of Your Income

How much each household spends on food varies based on income level and how many people need to be fed. Consider using a grocery calculator if you’re not sure where to start. While people spent about 30 percent of their income on food in 1950, this percentage has dropped to 9–12 today. Consider allocating 10 percent of your income to food as a starting point, and increase from there if necessary.

3. Avoid Eating Out

This is the least fun tip, we promise. Eating out is a quick and easy way to ruin your food budget. If you’re actively dating or enjoy going out to eat with friends, be sure to factor restaurants into your food budget — and strictly adhere to your limit. Coffee drinkers, consider making your favorite concoctions at home.

4. Plan Your Meals

It’s much easier to stick to a budget when you have a plan. Plus, having a purpose for each grocery item you buy will ensure nothing goes to waste or just sits in your pantry unused. Don’t be afraid of simple salads or meatless Mondays. Not every meal has to be a gourmet, grandiose experience.

5. Keep a Fridge Grocery List

Keep a magnetized grocery list on your fridge so that you can replace items as needed. This ensures you’re buying food you know you’ll eat because you’re already used to buying it. Sticking to a list in the grocery store is an effective way to keep yourself accountable and not spend money on processed or pricey items — there’s no need to take a stroll down the candy aisle if it’s not on the list.

6. Eat Before You Go to the Store

If your mother gave you this advice growing up, she was onto something: according to a survey, shoppers spend an average of 64 percent more when hungry. Sticking to a budget is all about eliminating temptations, so plan to eat beforehand to eliminate tantalizing foods that will cause you to go over-budget.

7. Be Careful with Coupons

50 percent off ketchup is a great deal — unless you don’t need ketchup. Beware of coupons that claim you’ll “save” money. If the item isn’t on your list, you’re not saving at all, but rather spending on something you don’t truly need. This discretion is key to saving money at the grocery store.

8. Embrace the Bulk Section

Not only is the bulk section of your grocery store great for cheap, filling staples, but it’s also the perfect way to discover new foods and bring variety into your diet. Take the time to compare the price of buying pre-packaged goods versus bulk — it’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, plus eliminating unnecessary packaging is good for the planet.

Bonus: a diet rich in unprocessed, whole plant foods provides virtually every nutrient, ensuring optimal health and keeping you from spending an excess amount on healthcare costs.

9. Bring Lunch to Work

Picture this: you’re trying to stick to a strict food budget, and one day at work you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But alas, you forgot to pack a lunch. All the meal planning and smart shopping in the world won’t solve the work-lunch-dilemma. Brown-bagging your lunch is key to ensuring your food budget is successful. Plus, it can be fun! Think mason jar salads and Thai curry bowls.

10. Love Your Leftovers

Would you ever consider throwing $640 cash into the trash? This is what the average American household does every year — only instead of cash, it’s $640 worth of food that’s wasted. With millions of undernourished people around the globe, throwing away food not only hurts our budget but is a waste of the world’s resources. Tossing food is no joke. Eat your leftovers.

11. Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

To avoid wasting food, freeze things that look like they’re about to go bad. Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen and used in smoothies. Make double batches of soups, sauces, and baked goods so you’ll always have an alternative to ordering takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Sticking to a food budget takes planning and discipline. While it may not seem fun at first, you’ll likely find that you enjoy cooking and trying a variety of new foods you wouldn’t have thought to use before. Being resourceful and cooking healthfully is a skill that will benefit your wallet and waistline for years to come.

Sources: Turbo | Fool | Forbes | Medical Daily | GO Banking Rates | Value Penguin

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Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough

Anna’s email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.

“Farnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,” the 32-year-old wrote. “My issue is that I make too much of it.”

Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.

Here’s what I learned through our conversation:

The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Anna’s also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.

After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.

The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.

Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. It’s a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Anna’s initial 20% down payment).

So, what is the problem, exactly?

“My big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,” Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.

“When I see money in my bank account I rationalize that ‘yea, that vacation is doable. I don’t hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,’” she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.

Anna’s situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.

I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.

Here’s my advice.

Take a Deep Breath

No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Anna’s prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. That’s terrific.

Sometimes we just want to hear that we’re on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:

If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, you’re entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?

If you’ve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then don’t hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.

Ditch Your Money Managers

I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.

Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Anna’s balance of $800,000, that’s $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.

That doesn’t even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund that’s in her portfolio.

If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.

Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. It’s especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to “father figures.”

If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservative with my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, I’ve decided to manage my money more independently. I’m sure you can understand. I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”

Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.  Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!

Establish Short and Long Term Goals

Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.

For example, she shared that she’d like to get married, have a family and own two homes – one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.

So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.

Next time she’s planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially “doable” by the amount of money in her bank account. Now she’ll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.

Contribute to a Cause

Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If she’s seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that you’re passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

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Tips for Families Going From Two Household Incomes to One

The decision to move from two household incomes to one can be a challenging one. Many people face it when they’re having their first child, or when they’re contemplating a career change that will require going back to school.

Sometimes, it’s not a decision at all, as a life change can force you into this type of situation. Perhaps one partner becomes disabled, or they face job loss in the coronavirus economy. (Sometimes, this can happen abruptly, with the unexpected passing of your partner.)

For Sarah and I, the moment that triggered our choice to move to a single income household was the moment we discovered that our third child was on the way. With two other preschool-aged children at home already, child care was becoming so financially demanding that we were questioning whether it was worth it anyway, and the desire to simply have a tighter knit family for a time while the kids were so young cinched our decision.

Here are seven strategies that worked very well for us in planning for a transition from two incomes to one.

In this article

How to transition from two household incomes to one income

1. Create a budget for life after the change

If you’re considering the possibility of moving to a single income household, your first step is to figure out the financial feasibility of it. Is it even possible to pull this off?

The easiest way to do that is to assemble a budget that incorporates both your reduced income level after the shift as well as the changes in your expenses. You’ll have to make some estimates as to how many of your expenses will change. For example, you’ll likely see a drop in commuting costs, professional clothing, and meals eaten outside the home, and you’ll probably see a natural drop in overall food costs. However, you’ll likely have to supplement that with additional belt-tightening.

How does one even start assembling a budget?  Begin by figuring out where all of your money is actually going, tracking it down with bank and credit card statements.  Organize all of those expenses into categories that make sense for you, and total up how much you spent in those categories.  Then, figure out sensible cuts within each of those categories.

When Sarah and I assembled our one-income budget we realized we would have to drastically cut our entertainment and food expenses to make things work. We decided that strictly adhering to eating at home and cutting back heavily on spending for entertainment and travel would have to happen, but it was still possible and realistic to make it work.

2. Consider your health insurance options

In an ideal situation, the person who is remaining in the workforce already has the best health insurance package, which the whole household is already using. However, sometimes you may find that the person leaving the workforce is the one with the better option, meaning that you either need to switch to the other health care plan or, if one isn’t available, shop for one on the open market.

3. Consider long-term FMLA leave or a sabbatical

Some workplaces offer unpaid leave through Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that can last for up to a year in some situations, and other workplaces offer sabbaticals in the form of periods of unpaid leave. These options can help you retain access to some workplace benefits while you are away from the workplace.

4. Do a trial run on one income first

Now that you have a clear picture of the expenses that you’ll face after moving to one income, do a “trial run” on that income. Commit to living as though you had just one income as closely as possible, sticking to your reduced expenses in areas like food, entertainment and hobbies to see what problems expose themselves.

If you find that you cannot sustain your household on one income, try revisiting your budget to find other areas where you can cut back on expenses. In the case that you find you can’t cut back any more expenses, consider some work-from-home jobs to pick up a side gig or increase your income while staying home.

5. Build a healthy emergency fund

An emergency fund is a pool of cash that is set aside for unexpected events, typically in a savings account. One of your major goals during the time leading up to transition to a one-income household should be to build up that emergency fund, so that you’re able to handle unexpected events easily once you go from two incomes to one. If you’re executing the trial run strategy, then the extra income from the second income earner during that trial run period provides the funds you need to build that emergency fund.

Ideally, all families should have a healthy emergency fund, but it’s even more important when you’re transitioning to a single income, as there’s more financial risk involved. The truth is that life contains a lot of risk and emergencies will happen, and while there are many things you can do to avoid debt in an emergency, the best one is to simply be prepared for it. Aim to have at least a couple of months of living expenses set aside, so that things don’t fall apart if the single income earner loses their job as well.

6. Pay off high-interest debts

If you have a healthy emergency fund in place, the next step is to get rid of as much of your high-interest debt as possible. As with the emergency fund, this is much easier to do if you’re doing a trial run of transitioning from two incomes to one income.

Start by assembling your own debt repayment plan, which will help you organize your debts in a sensible way and will naturally prioritize high-interest ones.

The advantage of paying off debts during your trial run period is that it reduces your expenses when you’re living with a single income. That’s one fewer bill that you have to deal with, meaning it’s easier to make ends meet.

7. Develop home economics skills

As you’re preparing to switch to a single income household, one very useful tool to have in your repertoire is basic frugal household skills, like food preparation, household management and basic repair skills. Use this trial run as an opportunity to really hone your skills in those areas when you have a financial safety net of a second income to help clean up any mistakes along the way.

For example, you might completely burn dinner as you’re learning to cook at home, but this is much less of a crisis if you can afford to order pizza, an option that might not work as well later when you’re on a much tighter budget.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

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Which Student Loan Should You Pay First?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

The financial camps are divided between paying off your smallest first vs. your highest interest student loan. So who’s right?

Finance people can agree on a few things. Some debts like payday loans and IRS back taxes are worse than others and ideally, you should get rid of all debt that keeps you from having a positive net worth.

But how do you decide what goes first? This is something I stressed over when we started out. I had a large high-interest student and a small low-interest car loan while my husband had a moderate student loan with moderate interest. A total conundrum.

Also read: Is Being Debt Free Worth it?

So if you’re struggling to figure out where to start here’s a look at my theoretical friend and her theoretical $60,000 of student loan debt. She took out federal and private loans and doesn’t have a career that qualifies her for any student loan forgiveness. (Or this could be a couple’s student loans combined, however you want to look at it.)

Her theoretical student loans are:

a. $20,000 @ 4% interest with minimum payment of $150 p/m
b. $40,000 @ 6.5% interest with minimum payment of $300 p/m

I wanted to keep monthly payments as similar as possible so I adjusted the number of months for payment of the first loan accordingly keeping the total repayment for both at 36 months.

Pay off the Smallest Loan First

a. $1574.60 per month for 13 months. Total interest paid= $469.77
+$300 p/m for the minimum payment of other loan= $1874.60 total monthly payment for first 13 months.

b. After 13 months of minimum payments, the balance is now $38,879.74 with $2,780.72 of interest paid during this time.
The new monthly payment becomes $1,802.44 for 23 months and we end with $2,577.18 more in interest paid.

Total interest paid over 36 months: $5,827.67

Pay off the Highest Interest Loan First

b. $1653.49 per month for 26 months. Total interest paid= $1,803.49
+$150 p/m for the minimum payment of other loan= $1,803.49 total monthly payment for first 26 months.

a. After 26 months of minimum payments, the balance is now $17,763.60 with $1,641.55 of interest paid during this time.
The new monthly payment becomes $1,809.03 for 10 months and we end with $327.28 more in interest paid.

Total interest paid over 36 months: $4,959.65

Difference= $868.02 saved by tackling higher interest loan first.

To compare, I calculated paying both at the same time.
Monthly Payment= $1,816.44 for 36 months
Total Interest Paid= $5,391.83 Less than option 1, more than option 2

I then further calculated to see what the difference would be if my friend paid off her loans in 5 or 10 years:

5 years= $9,058.59 in interest paid (There’s that car she just financed)

10 years= $18,801.86 in interest paid (There’s that down payment on a house she said she couldn’t afford!)

The moral of the story is that if $800 keeps you up at night you should pay off higher interest loans first, especially if they’re big behemoths.

But if $18,000 keeps you up at night you need to get out of bed and start hustling.

Paying $1800 a month on student loans looks like a big number but maybe your loan is smaller, maybe you have the means to move in with more roommates or cut the cable and eating out.

Also Read: How to Make Paying off Debt not Suck

If you have smaller loans within your student loan pay those off in order of smallest to largest or break it down into milestones. Rewarding yourself with attainable benchmarks will help keep you motivated.

Whatever it is it’s time to start looking into the future and think about what you want to be doing with your money instead of giving it to the bank. Because the one thing everyone in the world can agree on is that it’s not fun to give away your money to banks when you don’t have to.

<img data-attachment-id="1309" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/which-loan-first/" data-orig-file="https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=400%2C693&ssl=1" data-orig-size="400,693" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Which debt should I pay off first?" data-image-description="

Which debt should I pay off first?

” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=173%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=346%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1309 jetpack-lazy-image” src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.png” alt=”Choosing which debt to pay off first was so stressful! This article really put it into perspective.” width=”400″ height=”693″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ srcset=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7″>

<img data-attachment-id="1309" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/which-loan-first/" data-orig-file="https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=400%2C693&ssl=1" data-orig-size="400,693" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="Which debt should I pay off first?" data-image-description="

Which debt should I pay off first?

” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=173%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Which-Loan-First-e1501605428219.png?fit=346%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1309″ src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.png” alt=”Choosing which debt to pay off first was so stressful! This article really put it into perspective.” width=”400″ height=”693″ data-recalc-dims=”1″>

<img data-attachment-id="4998" data-permalink="https://www.modernfrugality.com/smallest-amount-or-highest-interest-student-loan/mf-which-student-loan-should-you-payoff-first_-highest-interest-rate-or-largest-balance__/" data-orig-file="https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=735%2C1102&ssl=1" data-orig-size="735,1102" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"1"}" data-image-title="Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?" data-image-description="

If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials

” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/www.modernfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MF-Which-Student-Loan-Should-You-Payoff-First_-Highest-Interest-Rate-or-Largest-Balance__.jpg?fit=400%2C600&ssl=1″ loading=”lazy” width=”400″ height=”600″ data-pin-title=”Should you go debt snowball or debt avalanche for student loans?” data-pin-description=”If you are in the midst of paying off a ton of student loans, read this. All of the inoformation on the debt snowball and the debt avalanche so you can decide which way works for you! #debtpayofftips #debtsnowballtips #debtavalanchetips #moneytipsformillennials” src=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.jpg” alt class=”wp-image-4998″ srcset=”https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first.jpg 400w, https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first-2.jpg 200w, https://illianahummerclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/which-student-loan-should-you-pay-first-3.jpg 735w” sizes=”(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px” data-recalc-dims=”1″>

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.

Source: modernfrugality.com

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How to Manage Your Debt Effectively

Love it or hate it, debt is an integral part of modern life in the United States. And, when you think about it, debt in itself really isn’t a bad thing. Neither are credit cards or loans.

high five

They only become a potentially negative thing when they’re misused or mismanaged. And once they get out of control, they can head down a long spiral and bring you down with them.

The wise use of debt — whether it’s revolving (like credit cards and lines of credit) or fixed (like a secured car loan or mortgage) — is like the skillful use of the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.

So, it’s important to realize that avoiding debt isn’t really the answer. In fact, trying to go through life without incurring any debt or using credit can be unnecessarily difficult and troublesome. It can even impact non-credit-related situations like renting an apartment. The skill Americans truly need to focus on developing is how to manage debt effectively.

Following are 7 tips to help you manage your debt more effectively:

1. Think Before You Sign

Banks, retailers, and many other organizations make credit very easy to obtain if you have a good credit score.

Nearly every department store or specialty shop has its own credit card that you can sign up for instantly while you’re making a purchase, and it often comes with the enticement of an immediate discount off your purchase.

Even if your credit score isn’t very good, there are many lenders who are willing to offer credit at high interest rates, from 25% APR credit cards to 33% payday loans.

The point to keep in mind is that lenders and retailers want you to spend money with them. They’re not concerned in the least with what more debt is going to do to your budget, your lifestyle, or your future.

So, the first tip is simple:

2. Avoid Applying for Credit Impulsively

Don’t sign up for additional credit as an impulse buy or based on desperation. It’s always going to be a bad idea under those circumstances.

However, if you frequent a certain store and routinely spend money there anyway, and you’re confident you can be responsible with a new credit line, it may be beneficial to sign up. The point is, that needs to be a conscious decision, not a second thought for the sake of a one-time 15% discount.

3. Educate Yourself About Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number calculated by credit reporting agencies based on a number of factors, many of which the average American couldn’t even name. While it may seem somewhat arbitrary, that doesn’t change the fact that that 3-digit number can determine:

  • Whether you qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate or have to settle for a rate that fluctuates at “prime plus 23%”.
  • Whether you’re considered financially trustworthy or not, and therefore whether a landlord will rent to you or certain employers will hire you.
  • Whether or not you can afford to buy your own house one day.
  • And much more…

There are numerous situations that are partially or fully out of your control that can result in damage to your credit score. However, much of the damage done could be avoided if consumers simply understood the basic factors that affect their credit score. Then, they could actively work to improve a bad score or maintain a good one.

So, our second tip is: Seek out reliable information about managing debt effectively and educate yourself, so you’re equipped to take strategic action.

4. Assess Your Current Debt Situation

As you learn more about managing debt and understanding your credit score, you’ll begin learning terms like credit utilization ratio and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. These simple calculations have a huge impact on your score, and on how willing lenders may be to offer you favorable terms or to offer any credit at all.

  • Credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your currently available credit that you’re already using. (A simple example: If you own one credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, and it has a current balance of $200, you have a credit utilization ratio of 20%.)
  • Debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly or annual income that goes toward paying off debt you’ve already incurred. (Another simple example: If you earn $6,000 per month and the combined total of your existing car loan, mortgage, and minimum credit card payments amount to $2,000, you have a debt-to-income ratio of 33%.)

There are other important factors as well, but these two figures form a significant part of the calculation when determining your credit score. If they’re going to offer you the best possible terms, lenders want to be relatively confident you’re able to easily afford to pay for the credit they’re offering you.

They can make that decision based, in part, on how much of your current reliable income is already going toward other debt you’ve incurred in the past, as well as how much of your available credit you’ve taken advantage of thus far.

5. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

If you already have four credit cards and they’re all maxed out, when you apply for a new credit card, it’s a pretty good bet you’re going to max that one out too. You already have a 100% credit utilization ratio.

This shows you’re probably not great at managing debt, and there’s a good chance you’ll eventually overdraw your ability to pay. So, the credit card company may decline your application, or they may offer a lower credit limit and/or a higher interest rate to help mitigate their risk.

Of course, if your income is such that, even with all those maxed-out cards, you’re having no trouble at all making the monthly payments, (your DTI ratio is still low,) they may not worry about your utilization at all. And that’s where debt tends to snowball quickly and dangerously.

To sum up, here’s the tip: To improve your credit score and make sure you’re managing your debt effectively, you should shoot to maintain a credit utilization ratio and a DTI ratio of no more than 30%. In other words, you’re taking advantage of available credit, but you’re coming nowhere near the maximum you can afford to spend on it.

6. Make and Keep a Budget

This one requires very little explanation. Everyone realizes that creating a budget is necessary if you’re going to manage your spending. The more formal your budget, the better.

If you’re currently in good shape, your credit score is high and your debt is low, A strategic budget can help keep it that way while improving important tools like emergency savings and investments.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, your credit score is low and/or your debt is getting out of control. A budget can be the lifeline you need to slowly but surely pull yourself out of that downward spiral one penny at a time.

The formula is very simple: Income > Expenses.

Of course, putting it into practice is a little more challenging. There are plenty of tools available, from a pile of envelopes with cash set aside for various expenses to smartphone apps, but the real value of budgeting depends on your own self-discipline and willingness to stick to the plan you create.

So, for this tip: Make a budget that consistently keeps your income above your expenses, and do everything you possibly can to stick to it.

7. Get Professional Help with Credit Repair If It’s Needed

While all of the above tips are self-serve actions you can take right now to make a difference in your debt management, many Americans are already in a situation where it may not be possible to turn it around completely on their own.

For instance, if the loss of a job, divorce, military deployment, or other major life events caused you to unexpectedly rely on credit cards for months, you may be in a desperate situation that isn’t really even your fault.

Likewise, if you’re like so many Americans who grew up, finished school, and left home without ever learning the basics of financial responsibility, you may have gotten in over your head in debt without even realizing that was possible.

No matter what the reason is for your current situation, you don’t have to go it alone.

Hire a Credit Repair Company

Get in touch with a reputable credit repair agency and discuss your situation with a professional who can help. For a small fee, they can take the reins on your situation by:

  • Investigating your credit report to confirm its accuracy and completeness
  • Working with creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans or better terms
  • Disputing errors and eliminating inconsistencies on your report
  • Setting up a realistic budget and debt reduction plan
  • Guiding you through the challenges that will inevitably rise as you resolve your situation

So, the final tip is this: If you need help getting out of snowballing debt and getting yourself to the point that you can effectively manage it going forward, don’t hesitate. Get the help you need.

In modern America, completely avoiding debt is not only difficult, it’s potentially harmful. However, incurring debt without managing it effectively can be even worse. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to get a solid handle on debt and use it skillfully.

Source: crediful.com

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Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best?

  • Get Out of Debt

You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and even debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.

Now what?

Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving as debt management and they’ll do much more damage to your credit score than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms of debt relief and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.

Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicate credit card debt and can help with most other forms of unsecured debt as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a last resort option for debtors who can’t meet those monthly payments and have exhausted all other possibilities.

But which option is right for you, should you be looking for a debt settlement company or a bankruptcy attorney?

Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are both debt relief options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact your credit score quite heavily.

A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.

Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce your credit score in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.

In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off your credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on your credit report and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.

Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates a repayment plan with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.

Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors and debt collectors, clearing the debts with a lump sum payment that is significantly less than the balance.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire a bankruptcy attorney to ensure the process runs smoothly.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing most unsecured debts in this time. There is no repayment plan to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.

Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on a repayment plan that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.

Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strict bankruptcy laws to follow and the bankruptcy court must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.

Bankruptcy will require you to see a credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.

How Debt Settlement Works

The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to a settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from a debt settlement company.

The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:

1. More Money

You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debt settlement offers. 

The idea of making large lump sum payments can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?

But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.

2. Creditor Panic

Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?

The truth is, if you keep making monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept a settled debt offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to a collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!

Types of Debt

A debt settlement program works best when dealing with credit card debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt, medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work. 

With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.

Debt settlement companies may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase your total debt and worsen your financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop making monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.

It can have a negative impact on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll be debt-free within 5 years.

Pros and Cons of Debt Settlement and Bankruptcy

Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved. 

As mentioned already, both methods can also damage your credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsend—a massive weight lifted off your shoulders.

It’s also worth noting that scams exist for both options, so whether you’re filing bankruptcy or choosing a debt settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. Reputable debt settlement companies will provide you with a free consultation in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.

Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal

For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make a fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reduced credit score and a derogatory mark that will remain on your credit report for years to come.

If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, your credit score and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.

What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes with credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control. 

And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as your credit score will be too low for you to apply for new personal loans and high limit cards.

Other Options for Last Ditch Debt Relief

Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.

But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.

So, regardless of the amount of debt you have, make sure you’ve looked into the following debt relief options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy. 

Debt Consolidation

A debt consolidation loan is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. 

Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.

A Debt Management Plan

Debt management combines counseling services with debt consolidation. A debt management plan requires you to continue making your monthly payment, only this will go to the debt management company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.

You’ll be given a monthly payment that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but one credit card (which can hurt your credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.

Balance Transfer Card

If all your debts are tied into credit cards, you can use a balance transfer credit card to make everything more manageable. With a balance transfer credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period. 

The idea is that you continue making your monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.

Home Equity Loans

If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk of repossession if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reduced interest rate and a sum large enough to clear your debts.

Bottom Line: The Best Option

Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to be last resort debt-relief options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up in credit card debt.

If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulating late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

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