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What’s the Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b) Retirement Plans?

Investing in your retirement early is the best way to ensure financial stability as you age, especially when it comes to understanding various retirement options. Getting started may feel overwhelming — luckily we’re here to help. We help break down the difference between 401(k) and 403(b) accounts, and how they can impact your financial life.

You may already know the value in adjusting your budget to make saving for a rainy day a priority. But are you also prioritizing your retirement savings? If you’re just getting started in the workforce and looking for ways to invest in yourself, 401(k) and 403(b) plans are great options to know about. And, the main difference between a 401(k) and a 403(b) is the company who’s offering them.

401(k) accounts are offered by for-profit companies and 403(b) accounts are offered by nonprofit, scientific, religious, research, or university companies. To understand the similarities and differences between plans in depth, skip to the sections below or keep reading for an in-depth explanation.

How a 401(k) Works
How a 403(b) Works
The Difference Between 401(k) and 403(b)
The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)
5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings
What is a 401(k) and 403(b)

How a 401(k) Works

A 401(k) is a retirement account set up by for-profit employers for employees to contribute before-tax earnings. Employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts give employees the opportunity to build retirement savings in different forms — including company stocks, before-tax earnings, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Each company’s retirement plans may vary on benefits like employee matching, stock options, and more. In addition, you’re able to choose how much you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis. Keep in mind, both 401(k) and 403(b) plans have a yearly limit of $19,500 with your employer matches. Plus, most retirement funds have required minimum distributions (RMDs) by the time you turn 70. This essentially means you have to take a minimum amount of money out each month whether you want to or not.

In most cases, employers will offer 401(k) matching to encourage consistent contributions. For example, your employer match may be 50 cents of every dollar you contribute up to six percent of your salary. For example, with this employer match on a $40,000 salary, you would contribute $200 and your employer would contribute an additional $100 each month. This pattern would continue until your annual contributions hit $2,400 and your employer contributes $1,200.

Employee matching is essentially free money. You’re monetarily rewarded for your retirement payments. Be sure to pay attention to vesting periods when setting up your employer match. Vesting periods are an agreed amount of time you need to work at a company before you receive your 401(k) benefits. For example, some companies may require you to work for their team for a year before earning retirement benefits. Other employers may offer retirement benefits starting the day you start working with them.

How a 403(b) Works

A 403(b) is a retirement account made by employers for tax-exempt, charitable nonprofit, scientific, religious, research, or university employees. Organizations that qualify for 403(b) accounts include school boards, public schools, churches, hospitals, and more. This type of account is also known as a tax-sheltered annuity plan — they allow pre-tax income to be invested until taken out.

Employers that offer 403(b) retirement plans may offer a pool of provider options that undergo nondiscrimination testing. This allows employers that qualify for this account to shop around for plans that offer the best benefits and don’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). For instance, some 403(b) accounts may charge more administrative fees than others.

Employers are able to offer employee matching on 403(b) accounts if they decide to. To cut costs for nonprofit companies, 403(b) retirement plans generally cost less than 401(k) accounts. Costs associated with starting up these accounts may not affect you, but it may affect your employer.

Account Type 401(k) 403(b)
Yearly Contribution Limit $19,500 $19,500
Employer-Issued Packages For-profit employers:
Corporations, private establishments, etc. and sole proprietors
Non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employers:
School boards, public schools, hospitals, etc.
Minimum Withdrawal Age 59.5 years old 59.5 years old
Early Withdrawal Fees 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary 10% penalty, tax, and additional fees may vary
Source: IRS.org

The Differences Between 401(k) and 403(b)

Both a 401(k) and 403(b) are similar in the way they operate, but they do have a few differences. Here are the biggest contrasts to be aware of:

  • Eligibility: 401(k) retirement plans are issued by for-profit employers and the self employed, 403(b) retirement plans are for tax-exempt, non-profit, scientific, religious, research, or university employees. As well as Hospitals and Charities.
  • Investment options: 401(k)s offer more investment opportunities than 403(b)s. 401(k) accounts may include mutual funds, annuities, stocks, and bonds, while 403(b) accounts only offer annuities and mutual funds. Each employer varies in retirement benefits — reach out to a trusted financial advisor if you have questions about your account.
  • Employer expenses: 401(k) accounts are generally more expensive than 403(b) accounts. For-profit 401(k) accounts may pay sales charges, management fees, recordkeeping, and other additional expenses. 403(b) plans may have lower administrative costs to avoid adding a burden for non-profit establishments. These costs vary depending on the employer.
  • Nondiscrimination testing: This form of testing ensures that 403(b) retirement plans are not offered in favor of highly compensated employees (HCEs). However, 401(k) plans do not require this test.

The Similarities Between 401(k) and 403(b)

Aside from their differences, both accounts are set up to aid employees in retirement savings. Here’s how:

  • Contribution limits: Both accounts cap your annual contributions at $19,500. In the event you contribute over this limit, your earnings will be distributed back to you by April 15th. If you’re under your retirement contributions by the time you’re 50 years old, you’re allowed to make catch-up contributions. This means that, if you’re eligible, you can contribute $6,500 more than the yearly contribution limit.
  • Withdrawal eligibility: You must be at least 59.5 years old before withdrawing your retirement savings. In the case of an emergency, you may be eligible for early withdrawal. However, you may be charged penalties, taxes, and fees for doing so.
  • Employer matching: Both retirement account options allow employers to match your contributions, but are not required to. When starting your retirement fund, ask your HR representative about potential benefits and employer matching.
  • Early withdrawal penalties: If you choose to withdraw your retirement savings early, you may be penalized. In most cases, you need a valid reason to withdraw your funds early. Eligible reasons may include outstanding debt, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or medical bills. In addition, you may be charged a 10 percent penalty fee, taxes, and other fees. During a downturned economy, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, fees may be waived.

5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings

5 Ways to Grow Your Retirement Savings

Contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) can help grow your investments at a reduced risk. You’re able to grow your non-taxed income to put towards your future goals. The more you contribute, the more you may have by the time you retire. Here are a few tips to get ahead of the game and invest in your financial future.

1. Create a Retirement Account Early

It’s never too late to start a retirement account. If you’re currently employed, but haven’t set up your retirement account, reach out to your HR representative. Ask about retirement plan options and their benefits. When employers offer retirement matches, consider contributing as much as you can to meet their match.

2. Set up Monthly Automatic Contributions

Save time and energy by setting up automatic contributions. You may feel less interested in contributing to your retirement as your payday approaches. Taking time to set up a retirement fund and budgeting for this change may be holding you back. To meet your retirement goals, consider setting up automatic payments through your employer. After a while, you may not even notice the slight budget adjustment.

3. Leverage Employer Matching

Employer matching is essentially free money. Employers may put money towards your future for nothing but your own contribution. This encourages employees to consistently put money towards their retirement savings. Not only are you able to earn extra money each month, but this “free money” will grow with interest over time. If you can, match your employer’s contribution percentage, if not more.

4. Avoid Early Withdrawal

Credit card balances, student loans, and mortgages can be stressful. Instead of withdrawing early from your retirement fund to pay for these, consider other debt payoff methods. If you’re eligible to withdraw from your retirement early, you may face penalty fees, taxes, and administrative expenses. This may hinder your savings potential or push back your desired retirement date.

5. Contribute Your Future Raises and Bonuses

If you’re saving less than $19,500 to your retirement fund this year, consider contributing more. If you earn a bonus or a raise, stick to your current budget and consider increasing your contributions. Ask your employer to increase your retirement payments right before you receive a bonus or raise. The more you contribute, the more interest you’ll accrue over time.

Whether your retirement funds are established through a 401(k) or a 403(b), these accounts offer you the chance to build your financial portfolio. Consistently funding your retirement account may better your financial plan and set you at ease. As your contributions age, so do your interest earnings. You’ll be able to make money on your pre-taxed income and set your future self up for success. Get started by checking in on your budget and carving out a specific amount to put towards your retirement each month.

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My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do?

When most parents offer to fund their child’s tuition, it’s 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 through to graduation.

Unfortunately, what these plans don’t tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.

Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.

So if you’re a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.

Contact the University

Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parent’s income has decreased.

Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, you’re out of luck.

Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if you’ve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.

Try to Graduate Early

Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.

Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.

Fill out the FAFSA

If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.

Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it won’t show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.

Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools won’t even provide merit-based scholarships to students who haven’t filled out the FAFSA.

Get a Job

If you don’t already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.

Try to think outside the box. If you’re a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If you’re a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while you’re working.

Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if you’re in a different city.

It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.

Take Out Private Loans

If you still need more money after you’ve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.

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Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.

Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.

Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and there’s little recourse if you graduate and can’t find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.

Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School

Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.

If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.

Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so it’s better to be conservative.

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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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Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.

  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.

  3. Car payment and transportation costs.

  4. Insurance (car, life, health).

  5. Child care.

  6. Groceries.

  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.
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Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.
Lindsey Cox and Jonathan Tuttle dig into income- and expense-related paperwork as they prepare to file their taxes at their home in Temple Terrace, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

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Documents You Need to Apply for a Mortgage – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Any application for credit should be taken as a serious matter. Simply applying and allowing the lender to pull your credit report has an impact on your credit score, so it’s not a good idea to apply for things on a whim. But mortgage applications tend to be more serious than most other apps because they’re for such large amounts of money and longer terms.

When you’re borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars for 15 to 30 years, the lender wants to ensure you’re a sound investment. They actually have an obligation to their shareholders, employees and other customers to try to take on mortgage accounts that are likely to result in a return instead of a loss.

For these reasons, you usually have to show up to the mortgage application process with a lot of documentation. Here’s a rundown of the documents needed for a mortgage application.

Mortgage Application

The first document is the mortgage application itself. Whether you complete it online or as a physical piece of paper at a broker’s office or bank, this is the document that launches the process.

Typically, mortgage applications require the same type of information. That includes:

  • What type of loan you want. You may need to check or click boxes to indicate whether you want a conventional loan, VA loan, FHA loan or other type of loan.
  • Why you need the loan. Is it a refinance or new purchase, and are you purchasing a single-unit home you plan to live in, a rental property or a business property?
  • The property itself. You must fill in the address and some other basic information about the property you want to buy.
  • Demographic information about the person or people borrowing the money, including name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
  • Employment history for all borrowers.
  • Income and assets for all borrowers.
  • Debts and other liabilities for all borrowers.

You’ll also need to sign various agreements and disclosures. That includes whether you have a bankruptcy or other issue in your financial history and an agreement that the creditor can pull your reports.

Assets

You can’t just list items like assets on your mortgage application, though. You also have to prove your statements with documents. Documents that prove your assets can include bank statements showing current cash balances, investment statements showing current values and life insurance policies. If you’re including gift funds in your assets, you’ll need letters or other documents demonstrating where the money came from.

Debts and Expenses

Most of the time, the mortgage company can see evidence of your debts and expenses on your credit report. If the underwriter has any questions or concerns during the approval process, they may reach out for additional information such as copies of credit card statements. This is especially true if you’ve recently paid down debt and that isn’t yet reflected on your credit report.

When it comes to debts, one of the major concerns is your debt-to-income ratio. If it’s too high, the lender is less likely to approve you. Calculate this ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments along with the estimated mortgage payment and dividing it by your total monthly income.

For example, if you have a car payment of $400, credit card bills with monthly minimums of $200 and student loans of $500 a month, that’s $1,100 in debt. Add a $1,500 mortgage and you would have $2,600 in debt. If you make $7,000 a month, your debt-to-income ratio is 37 percent.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that the preferred debt-to-income ratio for mortgage approval is 43 percent or less. This is because you can’t use all your income up on debt—you still need money for utilities, food, fuel, savings and other critical expenditures.

Income and Employment Verification

You do have to prove the income amounts you put on a mortgage application. Common ways of doing so are summarized below.

Tax Returns

Tax returns from the past few years can demonstrate that you make a certain amount per year and have done so consistently. If you’re planning to apply for a mortgage soon and don’t have copies of your tax returns, consider proactively ordering a free transcript from the IRS.

W-2s and Pay Stubs

Copies of W-2 forms or a handful of pay stubs from your employer are also good ways to demonstrate your income. Start saving your paycheck stubs if you think you’ll apply for a mortgage soon.

Additional Information (Self-Employed)

If you’re self-employed or have forms of income that aren’t from an employer, you’ll need documentation. Some options can include statements from checking accounts or payment systems that show money you received. You could also provide a profit and loss statement if you’re self-employed.

Credit History

While the lender can get most of what they need from your credit report, you may need to be available to answer questions. Specifically, be ready to explain any negative items on the report. It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report for yourself before you apply for a mortgage so you know what might come up.

Other Documents

  • Photo IDs, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Your rental history if you don’t already own a home, especially if you want to use it as demonstration of your payment history
  • Divorce records to prove that certain debts are no longer yours or that you don’t have access to funds from a previous spouse
  • Foreclosure or bankruptcy records, if applicable
  • Documentation of residency status if you’re applying as a noncitizen

Who Do You Give These Documents to?

You give the documents as requested to a mortgage broker you’re working with or to an underwriter with the mortgage company. You might be asked more than once for some documents, especially if you go through a preapproval process.

During preapproval, the mortgage company evaluates you as a borrower in general and lets you know what amount, terms and interest you can qualify for. Once you move to buy a home, the mortgage must go through a final approval process, and someone may need to look at your documents again or request additional documents.

Start Preparing for a Mortgage Early

A lender might ask for documents and require that you respond in a certain amount of time or it will deny the application automatically. So, you don’t want to get caught searching for documents during the process. Prepare for a mortgage app early by gathering everything that you anticipate that you might need. Another way to boost your chances for mortgage approval is to check your credit and resolve any negative items you can.

You might also be able to take actions to positively impact your credit before you apply for a mortgage—especially if your report has mistakes on it. If you want to repair your credit before making a big financial move, contact Lexington Law to find out how we can help.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

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Credit Card Balance Transfers

  • Credit Card Debt

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

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9 Ways To Successfully Balance School And Work

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtips

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtipsMore and more people are choosing to attend college and work at the same time. This can be those who are going straight from high school to college or adults going back to college. Whichever applies to you, balancing school and work will be an important part of how successful you will be.

Whether you are working a part-time or full-time job, balancing school and work can be tough. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both well, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to many ways to start balancing school and work so that you can graduate college while working a job.

I took a full course load each and every semester (usually 18-24 credits each semester), worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once. Or, you might be choosing to multi-task and are wanting to learn how to better manage your time.

Related content:

Working while you are going to college can help you not take out as many student loans, or you may be an adult who has to work to support your family while you are going to college. Either way, time management for college students who are also working will help you succeed at every aspect of your life.

Working while I went to college helped me take out less student loans, and I am so happy I found that balancing school and work was possible.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for time management for college students who are also working. The tips below are what helped save me!

My advice for balancing school and work.

Find your motivation for balancing school and work.

There are many reasons for why you are both working and going to school, but sometimes you need to remind yourself why you are working so hard.

It can be really easy to watch others around you who aren’t doing both and feel jealous, stressed, or angry. But, remind yourself why you are working so hard.

Your motivation can be any number of things, like avoiding student loan debt, providing for you family if you are going back as an adult learner, and so on. Your motivation will be what you need when you are struggling to balance both work and school.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with a minimal amount of time being wasted.

To start balancing school and work with a carefully planned out schedule, you should start by researching when the classes you need are offered and start trying to eliminate any gap that may fall between your classes. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of your time.

Another time management tip is to try and put as many classes together in one day so that you aren’t constantly driving back and forth between school, work, and home. Balancing school and work can be hard, but it starts with creating a schedule that uses your time efficiently.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day, especially as you are balancing school and work and switching back and forth between the two. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate the things that are wasting your time, including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Find a way to work remotely. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, then this can help you start balancing school and work time even better. You may even be able to work in between class breaks.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can make your meals in bulk ahead of time instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time. Making your own meals is more than just time management for college students, as it means you will probably eat healthier and save money.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and cutback on TV. The average person wastes many, many hours each day on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without even realizing it. TV and social media can be very distracting too, which is why it is so important to be aware of how it might be negatively impacting how you are balancing school and work.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

Separate yourself from distractions.

Time management for college students is hard, but it is even harder for working college students because there may be even more distractions.

Noise in the background, such as leaving your TV on while you study or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

There are going to be so many distractions while you are working and going to college, and learning to separate yourself from those distractions will be one of the best ways to manage your time. I know it can be hard, trust me, but I also know how eliminating distractions can be a huge help.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else. Sometimes you will have to force the distractions out, but it will help you save time and focus on what needs to be done.

Related: How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful time management for college students, especially those who are working too. That’s because a to-do list will show you exactly what has to be done and when you need to do it by. You will then have your responsibilities sitting in front of you so that you will have to face reality.

You can have a to-do list that lists out your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. You can use a planner, a notebook, Post-It notes, you can color code things, use stickers, etc. Just find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Balancing school and work will be much easier if you make a to-do list and keep a set schedule. So, write out what needs to be done each day, and knowing your schedule will keep you on task.

I know that when I am stressed out it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes that I may waste debating about whether or not I forgot to do something.

Be a productive procrastinator.

We all know how bad procrastinating is, but sometimes you can actually waste your time on things that need to be done. I know that sounds strange, but it is actually quite helpful.

Here’s an example of what I mean: If you need to write a paper but find that you are procrastinating, then procrastinate by studying for a test. Now, you will still have to write that paper, but you will have already gotten the studying out of the way.

Balancing school and work is easier if you find tricks like this that make every moment you spend a productive one.

Take a break when you really need one.

Good time management for college students who are working often means that you are using trying to use every moment of your day as efficiently as possible. But, there are times when balancing school and work can feel extremely stressful.

In times like those, when you feel like you need a break, take a short one to help you come back refreshed and focused on what you need to do.

You can go for a walk, read a book, get in a workout, take a nap, etc. Taking a break when you need one will help prevent you from feeling burnt out, which is a danger when you are balancing school and work.

Find other college students who are doing the same.

I know that you aren’t the only one who is balancing school and work, and it might help you stay focused if you are able to find others who are working and going to school like you are.

Finding a friend who is doing the same can motivate you, they can help you stay on task, and you might even find someone to study with.

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future? We can’t do everything always, and being realistic will help you understand your limitations so that you don’t burn out.

With the tips I’ve listed that help with time management for college students who are also working, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not? What tips for time management for college students can you share?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

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How to Build Credit Without Student Loans

June 6, 2016 &• min read by Jeanine Skowronski Comments 0 Comments

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College graduates saddled with student loans may find this hard to believe, but there is one upside to having to pay back all that debt: It helps you build credit.

That may seem like a small consolation — particularly if the balances you owe are even average — but credit can be hard to come by. Of course, all hope isn’t lost for those who don’t have student loans.

Here are some ways to build credit without that kind of debt.

1. Get a Secured Credit Card

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act prohibits lenders from giving credit cards to anyone under 21 who doesn’t have a willing co-signer or a demonstrated ability to repay, but if you’re over that age or you have a source of income, you can apply for some entry-level plastic.

Secured credit cards — which require you to put down a deposit that serves as your credit line — are specifically designed to help people repair or build credit. These cards generally require a deposit to “secure” the limit of the credit card. (You can go here to learn more about the best secured credit cards in America.)

There are also student credit cards geared to young borrowers that could be worth considering. The better ones have low credit limits that can keep new borrowers out of trouble and tout rewards or alerts designed to build smart-spending habits.

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2. Become an Authorized User

If you can’t qualify for a credit card, you may want to see if a parent, guardian or family friend is willing to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. Authorized users aren’t responsible for paying off an account, but will get credit (pun intended) for any good activity associated with it. Just be sure to have the primary cardholder check if the issuer reports authorized users to the major credit bureaus, since not all of them do so.

3. Take Out a Credit-Builder Loan

An alternative to starter credit cards, credit-builder loans, offered by some credit unions and banks to help people improve their credit, allow you to borrow a nominal amount (often $1,000 or less) and make payments for 12 to 24 months. The payments are deposited in an interest-bearing CD or savings account. These loans typically have relatively low interest rates and can help people with a thin credit history develop a more solid credit profile as long as on-time payments are reported to the three major credit reporting agencies. (Again, you may want to check this ahead of time.)

4. Apply for a Personal Loan

You may be able to qualify for a personal loan. These installment loans do not require collateral and typically have slightly higher interest rates than secured loans. A bank or credit union that you have a relationship with may be willing to extend financing, though you may be asked to get a co-signer.

5. Establish Good Habits

Of course, you’ll only build good credit if you use any financing you are able to obtain wisely. You can establish a good credit score over the long term by making all your payments on time, keeping debt levels lower than 30% (ideally 10%) of your total available credit limit(s), and adding a mix of credit accounts (revolving lines, like credit cards, and installment loans, like an auto loan) as your score and wallet can handle them.

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You can track your progress by viewing your two free credit scores each month on Credit.com. If you make a misstep, you may be able to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit report, identifying your particular credit score killers and coming up with a game plan to address them.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: LifesizeImages

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