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How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Debt In The United States

This page may include affiliate links. Please see the disclosure page for more information. Let’s face it, debt in the United States is a problem. From our national debt, student loan debt, and consumer debt. Debt in the United States is a problem on all levels. Why is that? I’m a firm believer that it starts with…

The post Debt In The United States appeared first on Debt Discipline.


Debt In The United States was first posted on November 18, 2019 at 6:00 am.
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Source: debtdiscipline.com

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best?

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.

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

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

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

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

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

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

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021

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

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

Our Top Picks:

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

Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews

1. Splash Financial

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

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

Check Out Splash Financial’s Low Rates

2. College Ave

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

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

Get Started with College Ave

3. Earnest

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

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

Refinance and Save with Earnest

4. SoFi

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

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

Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes

5. Commonbond

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

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

Apply Online with Commonbond

6. LendKey

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

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

Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey

7. Wells Fargo

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

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

Get Started with Wells Fargo

8. PenFed Credit Union

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

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

Learn More about PenFed Credit Union

What To Look For When Refinancing

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

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

Low Interest Rate

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

Cosigner Requirements

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

Low Fees or No Fees

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

Discounts Available

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

Rate Check Option

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

Flexible Repayment Plan

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

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

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs

The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 

If you are in debt do NOT use a debt settlement company - it could cost you!!!!

Debt is a very touchy subject for most people. Feeling the stress of overwhelming monthly payments, many people just look for what seems to be the easiest way out. This is when the salesmen tend to strike.  The reason is a good deal of your financial information can be considered public knowledge.

Every day, many in debt get phone calls from high energy salesmen talking about the miraculous debt settlement concept. So, I’m going to start by saying, one great lesson we all learn young in life is, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

I made this mistake myself.  I was so far in debt that I was drowning. In an act of desperation, I used a debt settlement company.  Turns out, they did nothing to help me. It only made the situation much worse.

Here are a few chilling facts that you should know about debt settlement programs.  These may just prove that the concept is too good to be true!

 

Fact #1: You May Be Sued For Not Paying Debts Even As You Make Payments

Did you know the payments you make may not go to your lenders?  Yep!  When working with a debt settlement company, your payments are not sent in on a monthly basis.  Instead, these companies hold the funds from your payments. In most cases, the money is held in special purpose savings accounts until it has reached enough to pay off a debt. Once one debt is paid off, the savings process is started for the next.

Therefore, the last lender or two may wait 3, 4 or even 5 years before they see the next payment. The truth is, if you look at it from their perspective, it’s cheaper to take you to court. They will get the money faster through a settlement because they can garnish your wages. Also, in many cases, you will have to pay the court costs as well!

Fact #2: Your Credit Will Be Destroyed

While talking to a debt settlement agent, you will find that their last interest is in your credit score. Also, if you bring up the topic, they may try to downplay the effects of debt settlement on consumer credit scores. With that said, I’m not going to downplay it at all for you! Here is the truth…Because lenders are not being paid for long periods of time, your debts will be charged off.

One collections agency will sell it to the next and each time, it will damage your credit score! This is why I generally advise against this option if the consumer has good or excellent credit scores. The effects of credit card debt settlement programs will not pass in 6 months either! They will last throughout the term of your settlement and at least a year and a half to 2 years afterwords.

Fact #3: Debt Settlement Costs Thousands Of Dollars In Most Cases

The truth is, if you are going to settle your debts, with a little bit of online research, you can do it on your own. However, when you higher a debt settlement company, chances are, you will pay a percentage of the total amount owed, somewhere around 15%. That means if you have the minimum amount of debt that most companies accept, $10,000.00, your fee will be $1,500.00 minimum in most cases.

This does not include the cost of a special purpose savings account which, usually runs about $25 per month. Add in the cost of paying an attorney when you get taken to curt and, you will now find yourself paying just as much as you did before you hired the debt settlement company in the first place!

Every Dark Cloud Has A Silver Lining

Although debt settlement may not be the option for most, always remember, there is an option for you. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote an article that included a few great options called DIY Alternatives To Debt Consolidation. Trust me, those alternatives only begin to touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great, legitimate ways to get out of debt!

This article was written by Joshua Rodriguez, proud owner and founder of CNA Finance and avid personal finance journalist. Join the discussion about this article on facebook and Google+!

The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What Is a Recourse Loan?

Car loan application

In borrowing, there are two types of debts, recourse and nonrecourse. Recourse debt holds the person borrowing money personally liable for the debt. If you default on a recourse loan, the lender will have license, or recourse, to go after your personal assets if the collateral’s value doesn’t cover the remaining amount of the loan that is due. Recourse loans are often used to finance construction or invest in real estate. Here’s what you need to know about recourse loans, how they work and how they differ from other types of loans.

What Is a Recourse Loan?

A recourse loan is a type of loan that allows the lender to go after any of a borrower’s assets if that borrower defaults on the loan. The first choice of any lender is to seize the asset that is collateral for the loan. For example, if someone stops making payments on an auto loan, the lender would take back the car and sell it.

However, if someone defaults on a hard money loan, which is a type of recourse loan, the lender might seize the borrower’s home or other assets. Then, the lender would sell it to recover the balance of the principal due. Recourse loans also allow lenders to garnish wages or access bank accounts if the full debt obligation isn’t fulfilled.

Essentially, recourse loans help lenders recover their investments if borrowers fail to pay off their loans and the collateral value attached to those loans is not enough to cover the balance due.

How Recourse Loans Work

When a borrower takes out debt, he typically has several options. Most hard money loans are recourse loans. In other words, if the borrower fails to make payments, the lender can seize the borrower’s other assets such as his home or car and sell it to recover the money borrowed for the loan.

Lenders can go after a borrower’s other assets or take legal action against a borrower. Other assets that a lender can seize might include savings accounts and checking accounts. Depending on the situation, they may also be able to garnish a borrower’s wages or take further legal action.

When a lender writes a loan’s terms and conditions, what types of assets the lender can pursue if a debtor fails to make debt payments are listed. If you are at risk of defaulting on your loan, you may want to look at the language in your loan to see what your lender might pursue and what your options are.

Recourse Loans vs. Nonrecourse Loans

Bank repo signNonrecourse loans are also secured loans, but rather than being secured by all a person’s assets, nonrecourse loans are only secured by the asset involved as collateral. For example, a mortgage is typically a nonrecourse loan, because the lender will only go after the home if a borrower stops making payments. Similarly, most auto loans are nonrecourse loans, and the bank or lender will only be able to seize the car if the borrower stops making payments.

Nonrecourse loans are riskier for lenders because they will have fewer options for getting their money back. Therefore, most lenders will only offer nonrecourse loans to people with exceedingly high credit scores.

Types of Recourse Loans

There are several types of recourse loans that you should be aware of before taking on debt. Some of the most common recourse loans are:

  • Hard money loans. Even if someone uses their hard money loan, also known as hard cash loan, to buy a property, these types of loans are typically recourse loans.
  • Auto loans. Because cars depreciate, most auto loans are recourse loans to ensure the lender receive full debt payments.

Recourse Loans Pros and Cons

For borrowers, recourse loans have both pros and and at least one con. You should evaluate each before deciding to take out a recourse loan.

Pros

Although they may seem riskier upfront, recourse loans are still attractive to borrowers.

  • Easier underwriting and approval. Because a recourse loan is less risky for lenders, the underwriting and approval process is more manageable for borrowers to navigate.
  • Lower credit score. It’s easier for people with lower credit scores to get approved for a recourse loan. This is because more collateral is available to the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.
  • Lower interest rate. Recourse loans typically have lower interest rates than nonrecourse loans.

Con

The one major disadvantage of a recourse loan is the risk involved. With a recourse loan, the borrower is held personally liable. This means that if the borrower does default, more than just the loan’s collateral could be at stake.

The Takeaway

Hard Money Loan signLoans can be divided into two types, recourse loans and nonrecourse loans. Recourse loans, such as hard money loans, allow the lender to pursue more than what is listed as collateral in the loan agreement if a borrower defaults on the loan. Be sure to check your state’s laws about determining when a loan is in default. While there are advantages to recourse loans, which are often used to finance construction, buy vehicles or invest in real estate, such as lower interest rates and a more straightforward approval process, they carry more risk than nonrecourse loans.

Tips on Borrowing

  • Borrowing money from a lender is a significant commitment. Consider talking to a financial advisor before you take that step to be completely clear about how it will impact your finances. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be difficult. In just a few minutes our financial advisor search tool can help you find a professional in your area to work with. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • For many people, taking out a mortgage is the biggest debt they incur. Our mortgage calculator will tell you how much your monthly payments will be, based on the principal, interest rate, type of mortgage and length of the term.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/aee_werawan, ©iStock.com/PictureLake, ©iStock.com/designer491

The post What Is a Recourse Loan? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Earn Extra Money by Joining Online Focus Groups

A couple years ago, I was invited to participate in a focus group. I visited in-person along with about 15 other people. For two hours, we vented all of our feelings about the ways a particular health insurance company interacts with its customer base.

At the end, we each walked out with $125. The health insurance company wanted consumer feedback on their products and customer service, and it compensated us for providing our insights.

Focus groups can be a lucrative side hustle when you break down per-hour pay. You get to be a part of a company’s market research efforts, magnifying your opinion above those of other potential consumers.

These days, you don’t have to participate in paid focus groups in person. During the pandemic and beyond, you can use online focus group platforms to earn anywhere from $20 to as much as $600 per hour.

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Online Focus Groups: a Viable Side Hustle

Focus groups can pay extremely well for the amount of time you actually “work.” They can provide surges of side hustle income all at once.

However, they’re not likely to sustain you in lieu of traditional income. Earnings can be extremely inconsistent. First of all, you won’t qualify for every survey, as each focus group has a specific demographic it’s targeting.

Often, though not always, the highest-paying surveys also have the most exclusive demographic requirements. The company may be looking to work with construction foremen who work with specific brands of equipment, for example, or with mobile app developers who use a specific type of programming.

In addition, some consumer research companies will only allow you to participate in one focus group every six months.

Just because work is sporadic doesn’t make this a bad side hustle. When the money does come in, you’re getting paid so much per hour that it’s worth setting aside 30 to 90 minutes of your time.

What You Do in a Paid Focus Group

Most focus groups require between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of work. When you’re doing a focus group remotely, you may be asked to fill out a multiple choice survey. Most of the time, though, you’ll complete a phone or Zoom interview with a live person.

Topics for focus groups are unlimited: You could find yourself answering questions about your favorite margarita recipe, how you’re coping with pandemic parenting or a survey related to your profession.

Some focus groups may require you to dedicate some time outside the interview itself. For example, you might have to give a specific product a test run or keep a journal of your experiences. This extra time is often accounted for in the compensation.

Where to Find Online Focus Group Jobs

All of the following focus group companies currently have online opportunities. In the past, many national opportunities could be completed remotely. But during the pandemic, even most of the city-specific assignments are virtual, too.

These market research companies pay well for your time and consistently update listings for more opportunities. We surveyed current listings for hourly pay and estimated average hourly pay given the jobs currently available.

Respondent

An overwhelming percentage of the focus group opportunities listed on Respondent are remote. The majority of the listings are not city-specific, allowing you to qualify regardless of where you live.

Current job listings range between $20 and $400 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $120 per hour.

WatchLAB

WatchLAB doesn’t have as many opportunities listed, but it does regularly update its inventory on its Facebook page.

Jobs are often city specific, though there is a wide variety of cities with opportunities available. Even city-specific assignments have been primarily remote through the pandemic.

Pay for WatchLAB focus groups ranges from $60 to $150 per hour, with the average focus group paying around $100 per hour.

Focusscope

Focusscope is another smaller consumer research company. It updates its users regularly about new opportunities on its Facebook page, and most studies are now completed remotely.

Focusscope pays $75 to $250 per focus group, with an average payout of $100.

FindFocusGroups.com

FindFocusGroups.com isn’t a consumer research company in and of itself. Instead, it’s a job listing board. It aggregates current opportunities available across the country, and allows consumer research companies to submit listings.

You can search these focus group listings by state. For example, the pay range for current listings in Pennsylvania is $65 to $160 per hour. The average focus group pays around $100 per hour.

User Interviews

If you’re looking for online or over-the-phone focus group opportunities, User Interviews’ listings are plentiful. However, compared to the other companies on this list, more of these focus group opportunities are in-person. Use filters while you search to ensure you’re only being shown the remote opportunities.

A portion of the listings on User Interviews are medical studies rather than focus groups.

Participating in medical trials can be another lucrative way to hustle together some extra cash.

Listings on User Interviews pay between $25 and $600 per hour — though very few studies get close to the $600 mark. The average focus group pays $60 per hour.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

Credit card bills can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear, credit card debt wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers. 

One of the most confusing aspects is the minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to their credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.

We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at how minimum credit card payments can impact your FICO score and your credit report.

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

The minimum payment is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of your total balance and includes fees and interest.  

If you fail to make this minimum payment, you may be hit with late fees and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the major credit bureaus and your credit score will take a hit.

When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on your credit report for up to 7 years. Making minimum payments will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect your credit score and we’ll discuss that a little later.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay a minimum amount and how you can avoid it.

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

Prior to 2004, monthly payments could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of your monthly payment is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back. 

Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle of credit card debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.

These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only the minimum payment is met.

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimum monthly payment to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.

However, you can avoid the minimum payment by clearing your balance in full.

Let’s assume that you have a brand-new credit card and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered a minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.

If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal the minimum payment cleared) and your problems.

This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and that minimum payment begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.

To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:

  • Only Spend What You Have: A credit card should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and the credit card balance rolls over.
  • Get an Introductory Interest Rate: Many credit card issuers offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear the full balance before the intro period ends.
  • Use a Balance Transfer: If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move your full balance from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
  • Pay the Minimum: If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. A missed payment or late payment can incur fees and may hurt your credit score. 

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle of credit card debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?

Your interest and fees are covered by your minimum payment and account for a sizeable percentage of that minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.

What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day. 

This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater the amount will be due over the term. By paying more than your minimum payment when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

Paying the minimum amount every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting your credit history or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via your credit utilization ratio.

Your credit utilization ratio is a score that compares the credit limit of all available credit cards to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of your credit score and is, therefore, a very important aspect of the credit scoring process.

The more credit card debt you accumulate, the lower your credit utilization rate will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing the payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve your credit score.

You can calculate your credit utilization score by adding together the total amount of credit limits and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

As with interest charges, credit card fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with many credit card companies (including Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.

What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products. 

Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and your minimum payment, making it harder to make on time payments and thus increasing the risk of a late payment.

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Here’s How to Turn Food Pantry Staples into Delicious Meals

Pandemic-related layoffs and income loss have driven many people to community food pantries for the first time in their lives.

According to Feeding America, about four out of every 10 people who visited a food bank from March through June of last year were first-time visitors. As the winter holidays approached, more than 80% of food pantries were serving more people than the year prior.

Economic concerns have caused countless others to become more conscious of their spending — resorting to cheap staples rather than more expensive options at the grocery store.

Getting groceries from a food pantry and reducing food spending can be great on the wallet, but you may also need to adjust to cooking and preparing meals differently. We spoke to registered dietitian and nutritionist Wendy Wesley for advice on how to make nutritious, tasty meals using ingredients from food pantries.

How to Turn Cheap Pantry Staples Into Delicious Meals

Canned goods should not be overlooked when it comes to creating great meals, Wesley said.

“I keep an arsenal of canned beans in my pantry at all times,” she said.

The key to making satisfying dishes from cheap ingredients is to incorporate kitchen staples like onion, garlic, peppers, spices, dried herbs, butter and eggs.

“You get rice and beans from a food pantry and then you doctor that up with your onion, your green pepper and your garlic and you use chili powder, garlic powder [and] onion powder,” Wesley said.

One of her favorite cheap meals to make is black bean soup, using a can of black beans along with onion, garlic and green pepper.

“There is something magical about black beans,” Wesley said. “For maybe a dollar or two in ingredients, you have this meal that is very hearty, very filling, full of fiber and is going to stay with you for a long time.”

Tomatoes, canned black beans, black bean soup and a portrait of the cook are photographed in this quad of images to illustrate cheap meals to make.

Another of her inexpensive meal ideas: Crack some eggs you pick up from your neighborhood food bank into a pan with onions, peppers and maybe tomatoes and mushrooms. You can make a big scramble for less than a dollar.

Pro Tip

Think food pantries only give out non-perishable canned foods? Think again. Many also distribute a good share of perishable ingredients like eggs, dairy products, bread, fresh produce and more.

When it comes to keeping your kitchen stocked with those supplementary meal-enhancing ingredients, Wesley recommends picking up a few items here and there when you grocery shop.

“If you went to the store and tried to buy it all in one day or one shopping trip it would be quite expensive,” she said.

Spices, in particular, can be pretty pricey, so look for less expensive brands.

Pro Tip

Wesley saves money by buying Badia brand spices. You can also try your store’s generic option or shop at an ethnic grocery store.

“We don’t need very expensive ingredients to have delightful and tasty meals at home,” she said.

How to Stretch Your Ingredients and Your Dollars

Whether you’ve got a family to feed or you’re just trying to make food last longer for yourself, making your ingredients stretch means more bang for your buck.

Add beans and veggies to stretch meat dishes.

“I’ll bulk up taco meat with onions and green peppers and tomatoes, so it’s a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables,” Wesley said, as an example. “Or I’ll bulk it up with beans, so it’s a little bit of meat and a lot of beans.”

Those extra ingredients also add fiber — something every American needs more of, she said.

Adding a grain — like rice, quinoa or barley — to a meal can also help make a dish stretch. Wesley likes cooking a bunch of one grain over the weekend so she has it ready to add to meals throughout the week.

Preparing servings in advance can also save you time on busy weekdays — and saving time can be so valuable. No more grabbing fast food on those days when you have no energy to cook. The food is already ready.

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Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com