Understanding Funds Availability Rules

When you deposit money into your bank account, those funds are not always immediately available for use. Your bank or credit union may place a hold on the deposit, and you may notice that your “available” balance is lower than the total balance of your account.

Each bank has its own policy about how long deposits take to become available. There are also federal regulations about how long banks can hold on to funds before making them available to their customers.

It can be a good idea to understand your bank’s policies on holding deposits in order to make sure you don’t accidentally overdraw your account.

Below are some key things you may want to keep in mind to make sure you have access to cash when you need it.

Why Do Banks Put a Hold on Deposits?

Banks hold deposits to protect themselves, as well as their customers, from losing money. If a check you deposit bounces or some other complication arises, the bank will have an opportunity to fix the problem before you have the opportunity to spend the funds.

While a delay in being able to access your own money may seem like a nuisance, holds can actually help protect you from fraud and fees.

If your bank allows you to spend funds from a check that later bounces, you would have to repay the bank the amount that they gave you, and likely also get hit with a hefty overdraft fee. This is the case regardless of who is at fault.

How Long Can a Bank Hold a Deposit?

The amount of time it takes for funds to become available can depend on a number of factors, including how long you’ve held your account, your financial history, the type of deposit (e.g., cash, check, direct deposit), and the amount of the deposit.

Generally, a bank or credit union has until at least the next business day (a business day is a weekday that is not a holiday) to make most deposits available.

Electronic deposits are typically available on the same day. So, one way to make sure your paycheck is available to you quickly is to sign up for direct deposit.

The longest a bank can hold funds is usually five business days for money deposited at an ATM of a different bank.
While each bank or credit union has its own rules as to when it will let you access the money you deposit, federal law establishes the maximum length of time a bank or credit union can make you wait.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take?

Below are the rules set by the Federal Reserve .

• Direct Deposit: Day of Deposit

• Wire Transfer: Next Business Day

• First $200 of any non-”next-day” check deposited: Next Business Day

• Cash*: Next Business Day

• U.S. Treasury Check: Next Business Day

• U.S. Postal Service Money Order*: Next Business Day

• State or Local Government Check*: Next Business Day

• Casher’s, Certified, or Teller’s Check*: Next Business Day

• Checks and Money Orders Drawn on Another Account at the Same Financial Institution: Next Business Day

• Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Home Loan Bank Checks*: Next Business Day

• Any Other Checks or Non-U.S. Postal Service Money Orders: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits of Items Noted by “*” at an ATM Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institutions: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits Made at an ATM Not Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institution: Fifth Business Day After the Day of Deposit

* Deposited in person

You may want to keep in mind that the hold times listed above are the maximum allowed. It’s possible that your funds will be available sooner.

You can typically find specifics about your bank’s funds availability policy in the account agreement you received when you opened your account, or you can ask the bank for a copy of their holding policies.

Understanding Cut-Off Times

When you deposit a check, you may think you did it “today.” However, you may have missed the cut-off for starting the deposit process on that calendar day.

If you make a deposit after the cut-off time, your financial institution can treat your deposit as if it was made on the next business day. If the deposit was made late in the day on a Friday, it could actually take three or more days for the money to show up in your account.

By law, a bank or credit union’s cut-off time for receiving deposits can be no earlier than 2:00 p.m. at physical locations and no earlier than noon at an ATM or elsewhere. Sometimes banks have later deposit times for mobile deposits (made via the bank’s phone app), such as 5 pm.

Deposits That May Take Longer to Become Available

There are certain circumstances under which banks are allowed to hold deposited funds for longer than the times listed above.

When these exceptions apply, there isn’t always a clearly defined limit to the amount of time the bank can hold funds. The bank can generally hold funds for a “reasonable” amount of time.

Exceptions to standard holding times include:

Large Deposits

If a customer deposits more than $5,000, the bank will typically need to make the first $5,000 of the funds available within one business day, but they are allowed to put a longer hold on the remaining amount.

Redeposited Checks

If a check bounces and then is redeposited, banks may hold the funds for longer than one business day. (You may want to be cautious about accepting future checks from a person or business that has already bounced a check.)

Accounts That Have Been Repeatedly Overdrawn

If a customer has a history of overdrawing their account, the bank may hold funds for more time before making them available for use.

Repeatedly overdrawn means that the account has had a negative balance on at least six business days within the past six months, or the account was $5,000 overdrawn more than twice within the past six months.

Reasonable Doubt

If a customer deposits a check that seems suspicious, the bank may hold funds for a longer period of time. A check may seem suspicious if it’s postdated or it’s more than 60 days old.

New Bank Accounts

If your account is less than 30 days old, you may experience hold times of up to nine days. Official checks and electronic payments, however, may be partially available the next day.

Emergency Conditions

If there is a communications outage, a natural disaster, or another circumstance that impedes normal bank functions, banks can hold funds until they are able to provide the funds.

The Takeaway

When you deposit a check, you naturally expect the money to show up in your bank account. But there may be a delay between the time you deposit money and the time that those funds are actually available for you to spend.

Banks generally make funds available on the business day after you make a deposit, but there are exceptions.

Direct deposits are typically available sooner, and some checks, such as those larger than $5,000 or older than 60 days, can take longer than a day to clear. If your account is brand new, it may take up to nine days for a deposited check to become available.

Knowing your financial institution’s policies about holding times can help ensure that you’re able to pay your bills on time, have access to cash when you need it, and don’t get hit with overdraft fees.

Looking for Something Different?

If you’re looking for an easy way to access and manage your money, you may want to consider signing up for SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money is a mobile-first cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save–all in one place. And, it’s simple to add your SoFI Money account as an option for your direct deposit.

Sign up for SoFi Money, then set up direct deposit into your new cash management account.

Photo credit: iStock/solidcolours


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SOMN20038

Source: sofi.com

IRS Is Sending More Unemployment Tax Refund Checks This Summer

If you received unemployment benefits last year and filed your 2020 tax return relatively early, you may find a check in your mailbox soon (or a deposit in your bank account). The IRS started issuing automatic tax refunds in May to Americans who filed their 2020 return and reported unemployment compensation before tax law changes were made by the American Rescue Plan. The tax agency has already sent millions of refunds, but additional tax refund checks will be sent through the summer.

The American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted in March, exempts up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 ($20,400 for married couples filing jointly) from federal income tax for households reporting an adjusted gross income (AGI) less than $150,000 on their 2020 tax return. If you received more than $10,200 in unemployment compensation last year, any amount over $10,200 is still taxable.

The IRS has identified over 10 million people who filed their tax returns before the plan became law and is reviewing those returns to determine the correct amount of tax on their unemployment compensation. For those affected, this could result in a refund, a reduced tax bill, or no change at all. (You can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to see if payments you received for being unemployed are taxable.)

The IRS is recalculating impacted tax returns in two phases. It started with tax returns from single taxpayers who had relatively simple returns, such as those filed by people who didn’t claim children as dependents or any refundable tax credits. Joint returns filed by married couples who are eligible for an exemption up to $20,400 and others with more complex returns were shifted to phase two.

Remember, though, that the tax exemption only applies to unemployment benefits received in 2020. So, if you receive unemployment compensation in 2021 or beyond, expect to pay federal tax on the amount you get.

Refunds for Unemployment Compensation

If you’re entitled to a refund, the IRS will directly deposit it into your bank account if you provided the necessary bank account information on your 2020 tax return. If valid bank account information is not available, the IRS will mail a paper check to your address of record. (If your account is no longer valid or is closed, the bank will return your refund to the IRS and a check will be mailed to the address the tax agency has on file for you.) The IRS says it will continue to send refunds until all identified tax returns have been reviewed and adjusted.

The IRS will send you a notice explaining any corrections. Expect the notice within 30 days of when the correction is made. Keep any notices you receive for your records, and make sure you review your return after receiving an IRS notice.

The refunds are also subject to normal offset rules. So, the amount you get could be reduced (potentially to zero) if you owe federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debt, child support, spousal support, or certain federal non-tax debt (i.e., student loans). The IRS will send a separate notice to you if your refund is offset to pay any unpaid debts.

Should I File an Amended Return?

Although the IRS says there’s no need to file an amended return, some early filers may still need to, especially if their recalculated AGI makes them eligible for additional federal credits and deductions not already included on their original tax return.

The IRS, for example, can adjust returns for those taxpayers who claimed the earned income tax credit and, because the exemption changed their income level, may now be eligible for an increase in the tax credit amount which may result in a larger refund. That said, taxpayers will need to file an amended return if they didn’t originally claim the tax credit, or other credits like the additional child tax credit, but now are eligible because the exclusion changed their income, according to the IRS. These taxpayers may want to review their state tax returns as well.

E-Filing Your 2021 Tax Return

Next year, when you try to e-file your 2021 tax return, you will have to sign and validate your electronic return by entering your prior-year AGI or your prior-year Self-Select PIN. If you use your AGI, make sure to use the AGI as originally reported on Line 11 of your 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Don’t use the corrected AGI if the IRS adjusts your 2020 return to account for the unemployment exclusion.

Withholding from Unemployment Compensation

Again, the $10,200 exemption only applies to unemployment compensation received in 2020. So, to avoid a big tax bill when you file your 2021 return next year, consider having taxes withheld from any unemployment payments you receive this year.

Contact your state unemployment office to have federal income taxes withheld from your unemployment benefits. You may be able to use Form W-4V to voluntarily have federal income taxes withheld from your payments. However, check with your state to see if it has its own form. If so, use the state form instead.

Victims of Unemployment Fraud

Whenever the government starts sending checks, criminals will try to get their hands on some of that money. That’s certainly the case with the unemployment compensation tax refunds. The good news is that you won’t be punished if a crook uses your name and personal information to steal a tax refund from Uncle Sam.

So, for example, if you received an incorrect Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits that you didn’t receive, the IRS won’t adjust your tax return to add the unemployment compensation to your taxable income. You should still report the fraud to the state workforce agency that issued the incorrect form, though.

What About State Taxes?

Just because the federal government is waiving taxes on the first $10,200 of your 2020 unemployment benefits, that doesn’t mean your state will too. To see if your state has adopted the federal exemption for 2020 state tax returns, see Taxes on Unemployment Benefits: A State-by-State Guide.

Source: kiplinger.com

3 Ways to Listen to Free Music Online – Downloads, Streaming & Radio

Back in the day, there were only two ways to listen to recorded music. You could tune your radio to a local station and hear whatever song happened to be playing, or you could go down to the record store and buy a copy of your favorite songs on a vinyl disc.

Today, that sounds quaint. According to The Guardian, digital music downloads overtook sales of physical recordings on CD or vinyl way back in 2012. More recently, even digital downloads have lost ground to music streaming services. In 2020, streaming accounted for 85% of all the music industry’s revenues, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

All this technology has made listening to music significantly cheaper. According to a 2017 Nielsen report (via Digital Trends), the average consumer spends only $156 on music each year. Savvy consumers know there are several ways they can get most of their digital music for free — leaving more money in their budgets to enjoy a live concert or two.

How to Listen to Music for Free Online

There are three primary ways to get your favorite music for free online. Which one you choose depends on what you’re looking for.

1. Streaming Music Online

Today, streaming services are indisputably the most popular way to listen to music. With a streaming music service, you don’t own the songs you play, but on the plus side, you’re not limited to the number of tracks you can fit on your phone or MP3 player.

Streaming services can take several forms. Some are subscription services that play music selected for you, some are more like radio stations, and some simply play tunes on demand. However, many online music sources blur the boundaries between these categories.

Internet Radio

Internet radio stations work the same way as old-school radio: They select songs, and you listen to whatever pops up. But instead of being limited to the few stations in range, you can choose from a vast list of specialized stations that suit particular musical tastes. Also, if you hear a song you really can’t stand, you can just skip it — something you can’t do over the airwaves.

Some services take this personalization to its logical extreme by creating custom radio stations to suit a user’s tastes. Instead of a live DJ choosing which tune to play next, algorithms select songs for you based on which artists and music you say you like.

Advertising funds the majority of Internet radio stations. But some let you upgrade to an ad-free experience for a small monthly fee. Choosing a paid version also lets you skip songs more frequently. Most online radio stations limit users of free accounts to six skips per hour.

There are multiple internet radio stations to choose from.

Pandora

Started in 2000, Pandora is one of the top streaming sites on the Internet. Its music-picking algorithm, known as the “Music Genome Project,” analyzes the songs you like best and then presents you with other songs that share similar qualities.

According to Digital Trends, Pandora’s music collection is pretty decent, with about 40 million tracks for its on-demand service. However, the main reason to listen is its “magic algorithms,” which do a fantastic job of picking out songs to match your tastes. You can listen on a range of devices, including computers, smartphones, TVs, and car audio systems.

Pandora’s basic service is free. However, you can pay to upgrade to ad-free listening with Pandora Plus for $4.99 per month. On-demand listening via Pandora Premium costs $9.99 per month for individuals, $14.99 for families with up to six members, $4.99 for students, and $7.99 for military members.

LiveXLive

Formerly known as Slacker Radio, this service relaunched as LiveXLive in 2017. The new name reflects its focus on providing live music streams. The service earns an Editors’ Choice designation from PCMag, which praises its “curated stations” hosted by experienced and informative DJs.

Along with its extensive music collection, LiveXLive offers live news from ABC and pop culture tales called “Slacker Stories.” It also hosts videos featuring music news, interviews with artists, and even live performances. It’s easy to use on multiple platforms, with apps for Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

A free account comes with 128 kilobits per second audio and the ability to skip up to six songs per hour — and plenty of ads. You can remove these limitations and upgrade your speed by upgrading to Plus ($3.99 per month). Going up to Premium ($9.99 per month) gives you access to on-demand and offline listening.

Last.Fm

At Last.fm, you create a custom profile that’s continuously updated with info about what artists and genres you’re listening to. The site uses this feature, which it calls “scrobbling,” to make personalized recommendations for new music. It also has a social media component, introducing you to other music lovers who share your tastes.

A basic subscription to the site is free. An ad-free version with extra features costs just $3 per month. You can listen to Last.fm on the Web or through its desktop and mobile apps. The apps can also track what music you listen to from other streaming music services and use that information to enhance your profile.

Jango

One of the newest players in the Internet radio field is Jango. Like Pandora, this service creates custom radio stations based on your musical tastes. You select your favorite artists, and Jango plays music from those artists and similar ones. You can fine-tune the playlist by rating songs you especially like or never want to hear again.

Jango also has hundreds of ready-made stations. Some are based on different genres, such as country, classical, or hip-hop. Others focus on more specific themes, such as today’s top 100 hits or Christmas songs.

You can listen to Jango over the Web or via an app for Android or iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). The service is 100% free and supported by ads. However, if you link Jango to your Facebook account, you will hear only one commercial per day. The mobile apps sometimes offer ad-free listening as well.

Subscription Services

A subscription streaming music service is like a library filled with songs users can check out but not keep permanently. Most subscription services make money by charging a fixed monthly rate in exchange for unlimited listening. But many also offer free accounts funded by advertising.

Amazon Music

There are two ways to listen to Amazon Music. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, it comes with access to a limited catalog of 2 million songs. This basic, ad-supported service has thousands of stations and playlists, and you can listen offline with unlimited skips. You can also use Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant, to control playback and discover new music.

If you want more music, you can upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited. It gives you ad-free, on-demand access to 75 million songs in HD. Over 7 million songs are available in Ultra HD, and the service also includes access to exclusive Ultra HD remastered albums. Amazon Music Unlimited also gives you access to other audio, such as podcasts.

Your first 30 days of Amazon Music Online are free. After that, it costs $9.99 per month for Prime nonmembers or $7.99 per month if you have a Prime subscription.

Spotify

Named the best all-around music streaming service by Digital Trends, Spotify is by far the most popular on-demand streaming service in the world today. There are several ways to use it:

  • Discover new music through the site’s curated playlists.
  • Create playlists from Spotify’s collection of more than 50 million tracks.
  • Browse playlists created by others, including friends, performers, and celebrities.

All music on Spotify is free, but upgrading to a Spotify Premium subscription for $9.99 per month gives you several extra perks. You get better audio quality, ad-free playback, and the ability to save songs for offline listening. You can also play songs on demand in the mobile app, a feature that’s unavailable with a free subscription.

You can listen to Spotify over the Web or via its iOS and Android apps. It also runs on certain gaming consoles, smart speakers, and car audio systems.

YouTube Music

The free version of YouTube Music is like a cross between a radio station and an on-demand streaming service. It invites you to name some of your favorite artists and uses that information to recommend albums, curated playlists, and custom playlists for you.

But unlike most online radio stations, YouTube Music lets you move around these lists at will, skipping forward or backward. Ads are relatively infrequent, according to Gizmodo, and it’s possible to skip some of them. You can also search for specific artists, albums, and tracks by name, save your favorites to your library, and create playlists.

YouTube Music also has some extra features most music services don’t provide. For instance, you can switch back and forth between audio tracks and music videos with the tap of a button. The service can also search for a song based on its lyrics.

All this is available free over the Web and on Android and iOS. However, upgrading to YouTube Music Premium for $9.99 per month lets you listen ad-free and stream in the background while your device is off. If you subscribe to YouTube Premium for streaming video, you get access to YouTube Music Premium for free.

Deezer

Though it’s not as well known as other streaming services, Deezer is surprisingly full-featured. This service provides a blend of on-demand streaming, live radio, podcasts, videos, and exclusive content — all for free.

On the Web or your desktop, Deezer recommends playlists for you based on your favorite artists and genres. You can also search a library of 73 million for specific tracks to create your own playlists. Deezer also provides synchronized song lyrics. However, the free service is available only on desktops, mobile devices, and a few home devices. It also limits skips.

If you upgrade to Deezer Premium ($9.99 per month) or Deezer Family ($14.99 per month), you get ad-free streaming, an offline mode, and unlimited skips. You can also connect on up to three devices at once, including smart speakers, smart TVs, wearable devices, game consoles, and car audio systems. You can try Deezer Premium free for 90 days.

Free Trials

Some streaming music services don’t have free ad-sponsored versions, but they do offer free trials. These give you a chance to test the service and decide whether it’s worth coughing up the cash for a monthly subscription.

Apple Music

With a library of over 75 million songs, Apple Music is the ideal streaming service for anyone who relies on Apple devices. It’s the only service you can control with the Apple Watch or voice commands to Siri, Apple’s smart assistant. Windows users can also use Apple Music via iTunes on their computers, but it doesn’t work as smoothly, according to Digital Trends.

Apple Music allows you to store up to 100,000 songs in your personal streaming library. If you’re an iTunes user, you can find many of your songs already available in the streaming library when you first sign up. The service also includes Apple Music 1, a 24-hour radio service curated by noted DJs and musicians.

The free trial period is 90 days. But according to Insider, you can double this to six months by signing up through an account with Best Buy. After the trial, choose from three service tiers: student at $4.99 per month, individual at $9.99 per month, and family at $14.99 per month.

Tidal

Both PCMag and Digital Trends agree that Tidal, a streaming service owned by top rap artist Jay-Z, has top-notch audio quality. It also offers exclusive content for hardcore music fans, such as timed releases from top artists like Beyoncé, live streams, concerts, and backstage footage. It even provides early access to certain concert and sports tickets.

Tidal offers a library of over 70 million songs and 250,000 music videos. However, as Digital Trends notes, it’s not easy to discover new music, and the interface can be buggy. Also, Tidal doesn’t provide lyrics, unlike many other services. You can listen on computers, mobile devices, smart TVs and streaming devices, smart speakers, and car audio systems.

The free trial period lasts 30 days. After that, Tidal Premium is $9.99 per month for individuals and $14.99 per month for families. Tidal HiFi, with lossless-quality sound, is $19.99 per month for individuals and $29.99 per month for families. But there are discounted subscriptions available for students, military members, and first responders.

SoundCloud Go

This service is the streaming counterpart to SoundCloud’s music download service. Digital Trends calls SoundCloud Go the best way to discover new indie music thanks to its vast library of 120 million user-created tracks. Its higher-tier SoundCloud Go+ adds another 30 million tracks from major labels and ad-free listening.

The service has nearly 200 million active users each month, and tons of lesser-known artists upload their newest songs regularly. However, unlike many other services, it doesn’t use algorithms to help you find music, so it can take some work to search through all the content to find your new favorites.

The free trial period is seven days for SoundCloud Go and 30 days for SoundCloud Go+. If you like it, you can pay $4.99 per month for SoundCloud Go or $9.99 per month for SoundCloud Go+.

Free Streaming on Demand

Some sites don’t require a subscription to stream music — you just go to the site, pick a track, and listen. For instance, on YouTube, you can type in the name of just about any song and find a video version of it.

The artists or their labels post some of these. But some are amateur videos created by fans, and some have just the music accompanied by a blank screen or lyrics. For example, a search for the popular song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor turned up Trainor’s official video, a live performance of a jazz cover version, and numerous fan-created videos and parodies.

YouTube is an excellent place to find that obscure song you heard years ago, even if you’re unsure of the title or the artist. Just type in the most memorable line from the song, and let YouTube’s search engine do its thing. Using this method, I tracked down two old novelty songs: “Put the Lime in the Coconut” by Harry Nilsson and “Right Said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins.


2. Free Music Downloads

In the age of the Internet, it’s very easy to download music illegally. However, if you prefer to stay on the right side of the law — and support your favorite artists and the music labels that support them — you need to dig a little deeper to find free music downloads that are also legal.

Amazon

In addition to its streaming service, Amazon has a massive catalog of digital music for download, including more than 5,000 free songs. Many of these are obscure tracks by relatively unknown artists. But there are also a few gems by better-known performers, such as the rock band Foo Fighters and the folk artist Carole King.

Finding free tracks on Amazon is a bit tricky since the site keeps trying to redirect you to Amazon Music. Your best bet is to search the Internet for “find free music downloads on Amazon” and follow the first non-sponsored link you find.

SoundCloud

The primary SoundCloud service is sort of like YouTube for recording artists. Any user can upload music to the site, making it available for other users to download or stream.

Not all the music on SoundCloud is free, but you can find free tracks by both major and lesser-known artists. You can search the site for specific artists or genres or just browse the selections of trending music. SoundCloud’s services are also available through mobile apps for iOS and Android.

SoundClick

Much like SoundCloud, SoundClick provides a place for independent artists to make their music available directly to listeners. Founded in 1997, this site now offers millions of tracks spanning a variety of genres. You can find hip-hop, electronic, rock, alternative, acoustic, country, jazz, and even classical.

You can stream unlimited tracks via SoundClick or download them in both MP3 and lossless format. As a subscriber, you get your own profile page and custom playlists. You can follow your favorite artists, connect with other users, and support artists through tips.

Free Music Archive

Created by independent freeform radio station WFMU in New Jersey and now owned by the Dutch music collective Tribe of Noise, the Free Music Archive is a collection of free legal music tracks submitted by users and partner curators. All music on the site appears under Creative Commons licenses, which let artists make their work available for various uses without surrendering their rights.

Digital Trends calls the archive “a veritable treasure trove of free content” you can search by title, artist, genre, and length. The site also hosts a wealth of podcasts and some live radio performances from big-name artists.

Jamendo

Another site that distributes free music under Creative Commons licenses is Jamendo. Around 40,000 artists from more than 150 countries have contributed more than 500,000 tracks, available for streaming or download, to the site.

According to Digital Trends, this site offers a streamlined user interface that makes it easy to browse and find new musicians. Even though most artists featured here aren’t well known, it’s easy to find the most popular tracks based on their user ratings, so you don’t have to sift through countless songs to find the good stuff.

If you need music for commercial purposes — for instance, in a video you want to distribute for profit — Jamendo offers a licensing service. For a monthly fee of $49, you get an unlimited number of tracks for commercial online use.

NoiseTrade

NoiseTrade is a project of the award-winning lifestyle magazine Paste. The “trade” in the name means artists give you their music on the site in exchange for your email address and postal code. It’s a win-win for users, who get free tracks or entire albums, and for artists, who get to build their fan bases.

Digital Trends describes this site’s interface as simple and clean. You can easily search tracks, browse recommendations, promote your favorite artists via social media, and send them tips with a credit card.

ReverbNation

Many well-known artists, including Imagine Dragons and Alabama Shakes, built their fan bases from scratch by sharing their music on ReverbNation. The site hosts over 3.5 million artists representing a mix of genres, like rock, R&B, indie, hip-hop, country, and folk. Its Discover feature can help you find up-and-coming artists in genres that interest you.

DatPiff

Hip-hop artists have long used mixtapes to spread their work. In that tradition, DatPiff offers access to a variety of new free music from both new rappers and mainstream artists like Drake and Future. According to Digital Trends, it’s the leading place to download new tapes, view release schedules, and listen to compilations created by fans.

Audiomack

A newer, up-and-coming player in the mixtape realm is Audiomack. It focuses on hip-hop, rap, and trap music from both newcomers and established artists like Kodak Black. Some artists on this site allow only online streaming of their songs, but there are still plenty of downloadable tracks.

CCTrax

Another genre-specific site is CCTrax. Although it hosts tunes from various genres, it has an unparalleled collection of electronic music, including dub, techno, house, downtempo, and ambient. Many of the singles and albums are licensed by Creative Commons and free for use in other works.

Musopen

Classical music lovers can find lots of free recordings, sheet music, and even textbooks at Musopen. Most classical music pieces are in the public domain, so it’s perfectly legal to distribute them for free. The site has a vast library of royalty-free recordings you can search by composer, performer, form, instrument, or period.

Live Music Archive

For live concert recordings, Live Music Archive is the place to go. The site is a collaboration between the Internet Archive, a nonprofit repository of digital media, and Etree.org, a community for sharing concert tapes. Recordings date back to 1959 and span a wide variety of genres, including rock, reggae, and jazz — and over 15,000 Grateful Dead shows.

According to Digital Trends, this site can be tricky to navigate. There’s no search function, but you can filter results by artist, title, or date. When you find what you want, you can stream it or download it in MP3 or FLAC (free lossless audio codec) form.


3. Broadcast Radio

Even in the brave new world of digital media, there’s still room for the old-fashioned kind. In fact, according to a 2019 Nielsen report, more Americans tune in each week to old-school radio — over the airwaves — than any other platform, including TV and all Internet-connected devices.

Far from killing off broadcast radio, the Internet has revitalized it. A couple of decades ago, you could only listen to your favorite radio station when you were in range of its antenna tower, which made it hard for smaller stations with less power to compete. Today, as long as you have an Internet connection, you can listen to any radio station that has a livestream.

For example, if I want to listen to my local NPR station, WNYC, I can just type “WNYC.org” into my web browser and click the Listen Live button. It’s a lot easier than fiddling with the radio knobs to hit the right frequency and allows you to listen to local radio, even when you’re traveling.

TuneIn

The Internet can help you discover new radio stations as well. At TuneIn, you can find and listen to Web streams from 100,000 radio stations around the world. Sports, news, podcasts, and talk radio are also available.

You can listen to any station on TuneIn with a free subscription. But your stream will include all the ads played on the radio station. With a premium subscription, which costs either $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, you can listen to many stations ad-free and reduce the number of ads on others.

In addition to its website, TuneIn is available to download as an app for iOS or Android devices. You can also listen via car audio systems, smart speakers, game systems, smart TVs, streaming devices, and wearables.

iHeartRadio

Another site devoted to traditional radio is iHeartRadio. You don’t need a subscription to tune into radio stations or search for one by location. The site also gives you access to podcasts and playlists based on genres, decades, or moods.

With a free subscription to the site, you can build Pandora-style custom stations based on specific songs or artists you like. You also gain full access to IHeartRadio’s podcast collection as well as a custom library in which you can save your favorite stations, music, and podcasts.

For $4.99 per month, you can upgrade to a Plus subscription. It allows you to skip as many songs as you like, play songs and albums on demand, and save and replay songs you hear on the radio. With an All-Access subscription ($9.99 per month), you can also create unlimited playlists and download songs for offline listening.


Final Word

Despite all the Internet has to offer, digital music may never entirely take the place of physical recordings. There are even signs the old-fashioned record store is making a comeback. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, more than 40% of all profits for sales of physical recordings in 2018 came from vinyl LPs and EPs.

The world of modern music isn’t so much about digital versus analog, recorded music versus streaming, or custom radio versus curated stations. Rather, it’s all about choice. Music lovers today have more options than ever for listening to music exactly the way they want. And thanks to the Internet, they also have plenty of options for how much they spend on it.

Source: moneycrashers.com

17 Biggest Home Buying Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer looking for a starter home or a seasoned homeowner ready to upgrade or downsize your property, the buying process is similar. From searching for the perfect place to call home to putting in an initial offer, it’s an exhilarating and life-changing adventure for new and experienced buyers alike.

And with such a major decision on the line, it’s important to make sure you don’t come to regret your decision in the future or miss out on your dream home by making a common — but avoidable — mistake.

17 Home Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Simple missteps like overestimating your DIY skills or making a lowball offer can put a damper on the excitement you feel during or following the home buying process. And they can cost you money, stress you out, and give you buyer’s remorse.

But, if you know what the most common mistakes are and you prepare in advance, you can bypass them — and the negative side effects they come with.

These are the most common home buying mistakes you should seek to avoid.

1. Not Reviewing Your Budget

Before you buy a home, you need to know what you can afford. This means taking a deep dive into your budget and reviewing your current costs and expenses, as well as estimating any new costs and expenses you’ll take on from owning a home.

For example, additional or increased costs may include:

  • Your monthly payment for rent or a mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) or condo fees
  • Furniture
  • Utilities

You should also budget for a home emergency fund to cover potential problems like broken appliances or unexpected repair and maintenance costs.

If the estimated costs are too high, it might mean you have to rethink your budget by lowering your price range or reducing your homeowner expenses.

Knowing what you can afford beforehand ensures that you only look at houses within your budget and aren’t tempted to overspend.

2. Overlooking the Community

A house is one thing, but the community it’s in is another. Many homebuyers become excited about a particular property and fail to pay attention to the neighborhood or area it’s in. However, where a home is located can have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness.

For example, pay attention to location-based factors such as:

  • The property’s proximity to an airport, dump, or train tracks
  • Whether it’s a family-oriented neighborhood
  • How close it is to amenities like public transportation, schools, and parks
  • How far it is from your place of work
  • Where necessities like grocery stores and gas stations are located

It’s also useful to look into future developments in the area, like commercial buildings, apartment complexes, and public spaces. If you’d prefer to live away from busy public areas, purchasing a property close to a future strip mall might not be a great option for you.

Or, if you want to be part of an up-and-coming area, planned developments give you a clear idea of what to expect in your neighborhood in the next few years, like new restaurants or off-leash dog parks.

Take some time to think about what you want to be close to or far from before you start your home search. Consider your interests and lifestyle to determine where your ideal property would be located, then use the information to ensure you wind up in a community that you feel good about.

3. Forgetting About Maintenance Costs

The great part about renting is that you don’t have to worry about the costs of homeownership like appliance repairs, building upkeep, or landscaping. But you do have to cover these expenses when you buy a new home.

As with forgetting to make a budget, forgetting to consider ongoing maintenance costs has the potential to wreak havoc on your finances. And avoiding maintenance and upkeep will only end up costing you more money in the long run because it will lead to larger repairs and more serious problems.

Homeowner maintenance includes a variety of recurring tasks, such as:

  • Mowing, trimming, and weeding
  • Snow removal
  • Applying paint and stain
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Pressure washing decks, patios, and siding
  • Chimney cleaning
  • Exterior window washing
  • Servicing your heating and cooling system

Depending on the home, it may also include tasks like replacing shingles, treating hardwood floors, or hiring an arborist to prune your trees.

When it comes to getting these jobs done, you can either take them on yourself or hire a professional to do them for you. However, both will cost you some combination of time and money.

Most home maintenance tasks require equipment. So if you plan to tackle them yourself, expect to cover the costs of equipment, like buying a lawnmower or a ladder or renting a pressure washer. And, if you hire a contractor to do your home maintenance for you, you’ll of course need to pay them.

Maintenance costs aren’t included in your mortgage loan, so you need to be able to cover them out of pocket. When reviewing properties, consider what kind of maintenance the property will need and whether you can afford it. Not only does it cost money, but it also takes a lot of time.

If a high-maintenance property isn’t a fit for your lifestyle or budget, look for something that requires less work, such as a newer home or lower-maintenance property like a condo.

4. Not Getting a Preapproval

One of the first steps you should take on your journey to homeownership is to get a mortgage preapproval. A preapproval is the amount a bank agrees to lend you based on factors like your savings, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio.

Having a preapproval tells you exactly how much a bank will allow you to borrow, giving you a maximum purchase price for your home.

Without being preapproved, you have no idea how much a mortgage lender is willing to give you or what your interest rate will be. This means you’ll be house shopping with no real budget in mind. You won’t even know if a bank will approve you at all, meaning you could be wasting your time even looking for a home in the first place.

Before you think about booking a showing or talking to a realtor, book an appointment with your bank or a mortgage broker. Find out exactly how much you have to work with so you can view homes within your price range and budget.

5. Only Looking at a Few Properties

Buying a home is a major undertaking, not just financially, but emotionally as well. Only looking at a handful of houses won’t give you a realistic picture of what’s on the market, what home prices are like, or whether something better is out there.

Book multiple showings to get a feel for your options. Even if you think you’ve found your dream home early on, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it. Keep your options open and check out a wide variety of properties to give yourself some perspective.

Who knows, you might find a hidden gem or dodge a bullet simply by taking your time and not limiting your options to a handful of properties.

6. Not Having a Real Estate Agent

When embarking on a home buying journey, you may be tempted to save yourself some money by opting to go without a buyer’s agent. But for most people, that’s a mistake. Unless you’re well-versed in real estate law and property negotiations, you should have a good real estate agent.

After all, their fees are typically covered in your mortgage as part of the closing costs of the home, meaning you don’t have to pay for them out of pocket.

But that’s not the only reason you should have a realtor when buying a property. A buyer’s agent provides many benefits, such as:

  • Networking with other realtors and property owners to find new and upcoming listings
  • Having access to property listing tools such as the MLS
  • Negotiating offers and conditions
  • Helping you to find a broker, lawyer, or other professional you may need
  • Handling important paperwork
  • Ensuring you’re aware of any important disclosures

An experienced buyer’s agent will work for you, helping you to find the perfect property not only for your lifestyle and budget but based on what’s available. They’ll take on the heavy lifting when it comes to paperwork, showings, and communicating with sellers and their agents, giving you a chance to focus on more important things.

7. Not Making a Wants vs. Needs List

Some people jump straight into viewing properties without evaluating their needs versus their wants. But it’s a common mistake that complicates the home buying process and causes decision paralysis. When buying a home, it’s essential to know what you need in your new home compared to what you would like it to have.

For example, if you have a dog, a yard could go on your needs list, while something like a pool or walk-in closet might go on your list of wants. If a lack of closet space would be a deal breaker for you, you might list the walk-in closet as a need for you instead.

You can give this list to your realtor, which will help them to filter through potential properties to show you. This saves both of you from wasting time viewing homes that won’t work for you.

And, it encourages you to get your priorities straight by forcing you to think about what you really need to be happy and fulfilled in your new home. Plus, knowing what you want gives you a better idea of your budget and which bonus features or upgrades you can afford.

If you don’t make a list, you could end up buying a property that isn’t a great match for your lifestyle.

8. Taking on Too Much Work

Fixer-uppers tend to be romanticized in reality TV shows about house flipping and interior design, but they’re a lot of work. Overestimating your DIY skills and taking on a house that’s going to require a significant amount of time and money to renovate or repair can quickly turn your motivation into buyer’s remorse.

On top of a mortgage payment, you’ll have to cover the costs of materials and labor for any upgrades or renovations that need to be done. If you’re handy, you can save money on labor, but you’ll still need tools, supplies, and a serious time commitment.

If you have to hire professional contractors to complete the work for you, expect costs to be relatively high depending on what you need done. If a home project goes over budget — which happens often — you don’t want to be left in a bad financial situation and an unfinished home.

Before moving ahead with a home purchase, consider how much work you’re willing to take on and how much of a renovation budget you can afford.

9. Buying in the Wrong Market

In real estate, there are two basic types of extreme markets: a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. In a buyer’s market, there are a variety of homes available for you to view and consider, meaning sellers are more likely to try to entice you with competitive prices and other incentives.

In a seller’s market, there aren’t many homes up for sale, so buyers have to compete against one another to win bidding wars. This often results in paying over the asking price, which increases monthly mortgage payments and possibly even your down payment.

The best time to buy a home is in a buyer’s market. Sometimes, waiting for a season or two to buy will save you a significant amount of money and keep you from the stress and uncertainty of buying in a seller’s market.

If you’re able to, buy when the market is in your favor and not working against you.

10. Feeling Uncertain

If you feel uncertain about a home, an offer, your real estate agent, or your financial situation, it’s not the right time for you to buy. Purchasing a house is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make, so you need to feel confident that you’re making the right choice for you, your budget, and your family.

If something feels off, carve out time to figure out what’s causing your uncertainty. It’s normal to feel nervous about taking on a home loan, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer, but watch out for feelings of apprehension, uneasiness, or even dread.

Your home buying experience should be positive, so if your gut is telling you to reconsider, it might be best to take a step back and reevaluate.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy a home at all. It just means you need to change something about your situation, such as getting a new real estate agent, looking at more properties, or lowering your budget. Consider what will make you feel confident about buying a home and don’t move forward until you feel comfortable, positive, and satisfied.

11. Making a Lowball Offer

Making a lowball offer on a property is a rookie mistake that many seasoned and first-time homebuyers make. It offends home sellers, starting negotiations off on the wrong foot and sometimes even ending them altogether.

Sellers often spend a lot of time working with their real estate agents to price their homes based on the market, comparable homes in the neighborhood, and the state of the property. Just like you need to work within a budget for your home purchase, they need to make a certain amount of money from their home sale.

Lowball offers are rarely accepted and don’t provide much benefit to either party.

When making an offer on a home, listen to your real estate agent and offer a fair price. Being respectful and considering the true value of a home in your offers makes them more likely to be accepted.

12. Not Talking to a Broker

While a bank is often the first place you go to find out how much you can get approved for, they’re not your only option. A mortgage broker can provide you with a variety of different mortgage rates and terms from different lenders, allowing you to choose the best offer.

As with your bank, you’ll need to provide financial information like pay stubs, your credit score, and details about your assets and debts. The broker will use this information to shop around and find you the best interest rate and mortgage terms based on your financial situation.

Often, they can find you a better deal than what your bank is offering. However, make sure your broker has your best interests in mind. Don’t take out a mortgage with a disreputable or unestablished lender just to save some money.

A good broker can save you a lot in interest, so they’re worth talking to regardless of whether you choose to go with one of their offers.

13. Having a Small or Nonexistent Down Payment

There are a variety of different loans when it comes to buying a home, each with different down payment requirements:

  • VA home loans, which are for veterans and require as little as 0% down
  • Conventional loans, which are the most common for those with strong credit and no military service
  • FHA loans for borrowers with poor credit and low down payments

If you’re opting for a conventional loan, you’ll likely need to have a hefty down payment, especially if you want to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Typically, you have to pay for PMI if you don’t have the minimum down payment required by a lender, and it’ll cost you anywhere from $50 to $200 per month.

Most lenders prefer to have at least 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. So, if you were buying a home for $350,000, you’d need to have $70,000 cash to put toward your mortgage.

Not planning for a sufficient down payment can put a huge damper on your home buying experience. It affects how much a lender will give you, your interest rate, and whether you have to pay PMI. Plus, it impacts your cash flow and the funds you have to put toward closing costs, renovations, and repairs.

Make sure you know how much you need in advance and plan ahead to avoid a disappointing and disheartening experience.

14. Going Without a Home Inspection

When you make an offer on a house, you have the option to make it dependent on a home inspection. Some lenders even make it a requirement of your mortgage terms. But if they don’t, or if you’re buying your property without a loan, you may choose to go without a home inspection.

But skipping a home inspection can cost you a lot of money and stress down the road.

Home inspectors are certified professionals who inspect a property’s condition. They review the structure, plumbing, electrical, exterior, and interior elements of the home and provide you with a report detailing any issues they find. For example, a home inspector would catch wiring that is not up to code or water damage in the basement.

These reports help you to avoid major repairs and give you an overview of the property’s condition. This can save you from buying a home that needs a new roof or that has a mold problem. Seeing as home inspections typically cost between $300 and $500, they’re often worth it.

Even if you choose to move ahead with a home purchase after you receive your inspection report, you can use it to renegotiate your offer based on any repairs that need to be made.

For example, if the report noted that the railing on the deck needs to be replaced, you could either request that the seller have it fixed or reduce your offer by how much it would cost a contractor to do.

15. Not Including the Right Conditions in an Offer

Your real estate agent will help you to figure out which conditions to put in your offer, but the most common include:

  • Home inspection
  • Financing
  • The sale of your current home
  • Closing date
  • Fixtures and appliances
  • Who pays which closing costs

You can also request an appraisal or survey, repairs, or specific cleaning tasks.

Conditions protect you so that you don’t commit to purchasing a house before you know you have financing and a home inspection in place. And they keep you from walking in on moving day only to find out the appliances weren’t included in your purchase price.

Base your conditions on the property you’re interested in and make sure they’re fair and within reason. Add too many unreasonable conditions to an offer and you risk getting rejected by a seller.

16. Not Seeing a House Yourself

Although video tours are OK, they don’t give you the full sensory experience of a home. You don’t pick up on any strange smells or noises, and you don’t truly get a feeling for the size or condition of the space or the neighborhood it’s in.

Even having a friend or family member view a home in your stead is a better option than going with video alone — especially if you won’t be able to visit yourself before you make an offer.

Ideally, though, you should visit and view a home yourself before you commit to buying it. If you happen to be buying a home in another state or country, try to plan a trip beforehand to look at houses. If you can’t do that, consider finding temporary housing to stay in after you arrive so you can search for a home in person.

If you don’t, you could end up buying a property you aren’t completely happy with or one that has unexpected issues.

17. Not Checking Your Credit Rating

Buying a house means having a solid grasp of your personal financial situation, including your credit score. Knowing your credit score keeps you from encountering any disappointing surprises when you talk to a bank or broker about getting preapproved for a mortgage.

Monitoring your credit score gives you a chance to improve it before you apply for a mortgage, increasing your chances of being approved and getting offered more competitive rates.

Check your credit score before you get too far into the home buying process to see what your rating is and whether you have any recent dings like late payments that may affect your interest rate or mortgage terms.


Final Word

Buying a house is meant to be an exciting and enjoyable experience. With such a major personal and financial commitment on the horizon, you want to do everything you can to avoid buyer’s remorse after you sign the dotted line.

Prepare yourself by getting your finances in order, having a clear idea of the kind of place you want to call home, and understanding the current market to have a happier, more successful home buying experience.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How Can I Correct Negative Credit Reporting From Fraud?

“John, I’ve been watching with interest the stories about Target’s data breach and how the information compromised has evolved from payment information to now include personal information. If someone uses my personal information, opens a new account in my name, and never makes payments how can I get that off my credit reports?”

This is a great question and very timely considering some fraudster is running around with payment and/or personal information belonging to at least 70,000,000 Target customers.

Thankfully the Fair Credit Reporting Act (hereafter “FCRA”) provides VERY aggressive consumer protections regarding identity theft protection and fraud.  And, every state has additional protections that

Federal Law

The FCRA has an entire section that addresses fraud and identity theft.  You have the right to the following at no cost:

One-call Fraud Alerts: You can place a fraud alert on your credit reports that will remain for 90 days.

You only have to contact one of the credit bureaus to place the alert and they have to “refer” the information to the other credit reporting agencies.

A fraud alert asks new creditors to verify that you are, in fact, the person applying for credit in your name and makes it illegal for them to extend credit in your name without your authorization.

Extended Fraud Alerts: You can extend the 90-day fraud alert to remain for 7 years. You’ll have to submit something called an “identity theft report” to the credit bureaus.

An identity theft report is any fraud affidavit or police report filed with a law enforcement agency.

This helps to separate the real victims of fraud from those who are crying fraud to get legitimate information removed from a credit report, as filing a false police report is a crime.

Placing the extended alert is another “one-call” action, as the credit bureau receiving your request has to share it with the others.

Correcting Credit Reports Containing Fraudulent Data: Despite the protections afforded under the FCRA, we all know that true name fraud happens.

And, it can result in derogatory account and collection information appearing on your credit reports.

That’s bad news because now it’s likely harming your credit scores and you’re receiving calls and letters from collection agencies.

If you have information on your credit reports that has been caused by fraud it’s not the end of the world because you have some fantastic protections under the FCRA.

Once you notify the credit bureaus that you have information on your reports caused by identify theft they have to block it from your credit reports, within 4 business days.

That’s 26 days sooner than they have to complete garden-variety credit disputes.

You’ve got to provide them with some paperwork, including the same type of identity theft report I explained above, but once it’s blocked, it’s gone.  Done and done!

State Law

Every state in the country has a law that allows victims of fraud to place a security freeze on their credit reports for free.

A security freeze (also called a “credit freeze”) prevents any new credit from being issued in your name.

The freeze essentially takes your credit reports out of circulation and no new lender can get access to it, or your credit scores.

And, no access to credit reports/scores means no underwriting of any type of loan.

Be aware, however, that while a security freeze locks any new lenders out of your credit reports and prevents true name credit fraud, it can also delay legitimate credit applications that you’ve submitted.

You’ll have to proactively “thaw” your credit reports and put them back into circulation prior to submitting credit applications or you too will not be able to open an account in your name.

In my mind this is little reason to not freeze your credit reports especially if you have already been a victim of credit fraud.

Experian has a very good explanation of security freezes, the pros and cons, and the process of placing a freeze all on their website here.

A final note, which is actually more of a warning…if you’ve read this and think you can use these procedures to have negative but accurate information removed from your credit reports under the guise of it being fraudulent, I’d suggest you think twice as you’d be committing fraud and might find yourself on the wrong side of a Federal indictment.

I’ve served as an expert witness in more than one of these cases.

John Ulzheimer is the Credit Expert at CreditSesame.com, and a credit blogger at SmartCredit.com, Mint.com, and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. You can follow John on Twitter here.

Learn more about security

Mint Google Play Mint iOS App Store

Source: mint.intuit.com

3 Surprisingly Costly Mistakes We Make at Gas Stations

Woman holding coffee while pumping gas
SofikoS / Shutterstock.com

Nobody enjoys the expense of filling up an empty gas tank. But you can easily make the situation much worse with a few simple — and common — money mistakes.

Some of these under-the-radar missteps are especially harmful to your budget, especially if you make them repeatedly. And we’ve probably all made at least one of them at least a few times over, likely without realizing just how much it can cost us.

Following are some of the costliest money mistakes you can make at a gas station.

1. Grabbing a drink

We cite stopping at convenience stores as a major money waster in “7 Ways You Throw Away Money Every Day.” And grabbing water or caffeine at the gas station is really no different.

Say you grab a 16-ounce bottle of water for $1. Surely a convenience purchase is harmless when it’s only a buck, right? Not exactly.

You just paid $8 a gallon — far more than you would ever pay for gasoline — for something that flows freely from your home faucet. That’s not the kind of mistake that most folks can afford to repeat if they hope to retire comfortably.

So, invest in a reusable water bottle or an insulated tumbler already, and never pay for water again.

Then, start adding all those dollars you save to a high-paying savings account or a retirement account.

2. Paying for gas with a debit card

Every time you use a debit card at a gas pump, you effectively increase your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Criminals like to attach skimmers — illegal card readers that steal your card numbers — to gas pump payment terminals because they generally are not manned by employees. We detail this in “9 Things You Should Never Put on a Debit Card.”

If you pay with cash, that’s not an issue. If you pay with a credit card, it’s not much of an issue because credit card transactions are covered by a federal law that limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50.

Your debit card, however, does not enjoy such protections. You have to report such losses in a timely manner to ensure you get most of your money back.

If a criminal steals your debit card numbers from a gas pump skimmer and uses it to ring up hundreds or thousands of dollars in purchases before you realize it, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever see that money again.

In addition, debit card fraud typically allows the thief to tap directly into your checking account. If someone steals all the money from your account — even just temporarily — will you have enough money stashed away in an emergency fund to cover bills while you wait for the stolen money to be recovered?

3. Buying premium gas

If your car requires high-octane gasoline, you should shell out for it. But if premium gas is merely recommended, you’re better off saving your money, AAA says.

Many drivers are not doing either of these things, though. According to a 2018 AAA report, Americans collectively waste $2.1 billion per year on high-octane gas when it isn’t required or even recommended for their cars.

To learn more about whether regular, premium or Top Tier gas is best for your car, check out “This Is the No. 1 Mistake Drivers Make When Filling Up.”

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Employing an Active Wealth Strategy for Retirement

When investors save for retirement, they often make contributions and investment decisions based on saving to a certain level they think will be sufficient to support their desired lifestyle over a set period of time. As they approach retirement, they often re-evaluate their situation and may adjust their spending levels at the onset to make certain they can meet future expense targets.  Some may incorporate extraordinary expenses for travel, vacation homes and luxury items into the mix, as well as factor in wealth transfer and charitable giving into their plan.

 Regardless of how targets are established or how carefully you budget, the initial plan may end up being unsustainable later in retirement, and many retirees are not equipped to make meaningful adjustments once the situation changes.

An active wealth strategy addressing five key interrelated areas (Invest, Spend, Borrow, Manage and Protect) can help ensure investors make better decisions as they look more broadly at each significant variable when making their financial decisions.

Invest

Investing is often regarded as the key element for a successful retirement. However, investing should be considered among several other variables as investment choices need to be integrated with other decisions to ensure success.

An active wealth framework may involve reviewing investment allocation or location (whether investments are positioned in taxable or tax-deferred accounts), spending levels, managing taxes, borrowing and asset protection strategies. To use these fundamental areas to further evaluate retirement decisions, you may need to review your anticipated investment and retirement income, retirement duration, estimated withdrawals for all expenses, managing liquidity for tax payments and asset protection for contingencies such as medical or long-term care.

Evaluating these variables may highlight areas for improvement and alternate strategies.  For example, if you can’t keep up with your desired expenses on your existing savings, you may need to delay retirement or look for a palatable way to increase your income through a lucrative hobby or other business activity.

Spend

Though spending goals are also highlighted as one of the main drivers of retirement, don’t expect to be able to determine how much you’re going to need to spend at the onset of retirement without reviewing the situation and tweaking your plan periodically. Regardless of what portion of spending can be covered through current income from other sources, some retirees lock onto a retirement drawdown goal, and distribute a fixed percentage from their retirement portfolio to cover expenses. 

The “4% Rule” has been a traditional gauge for retirement success, and those employing the strategy often use it as a rule of thumb, expecting that assets would likely be preserved over the course of retirement when withdrawals hover around 4% of the portfolio. Trusting that 4% portfolio withdrawal decision can be alluring, but it can also be dangerous. Retirees need to be able to adapt drawdowns to address fluctuating market values. Those who try to manage the distributions using percentage-based withdrawals often find it unsustainable over the long-term, perhaps withdrawing too much in good years and finding themselves unable to cut back later.

Other variables, such as interest rates, can interfere with percentage-based distributions. Many retirees change their asset allocation in retirement, shifting assets away from equities to fixed income to lower overall portfolio risk. But in today’s low interest rate environment, lower bond yields can interfere with the ability of a portfolio to deliver suitable returns to cover expenses, especially using a 4% target. 

Periods of market volatility can also disrupt planning for retirement, and many retirees learn quickly that they cannot always rein-in expenses in a prolonged market decline.

An active wealth review considers expenses that cannot be so easily controlled. Expenses such as income taxes may increase in retirement, especially when distributions are being taken from tax-deferred retirement plans or traditional IRAs. Retirees who have no plan for managing those taxes can run into trouble if they haven’t accounted for those tax increases or planned for taxable v. tax-deferred portfolio withdrawals. Similarly, medical and long-term care expenses can occur unexpectedly and generally cannot be contained within predetermined levels.

An active wealth strategy will look at asset protection planning to provide adequate health and/or long-term care insurance to help minimize exposure to extraordinary expenses that may result in the portfolio being unable to recover from very large or ill-timed expenses.

Borrow

Borrowing strategies and managing use of leverage do not necessarily end when someone enters retirement. To address market volatility in retirement and spending, an active wealth plan may incorporate a prudent borrowing strategy using an investment credit line or other credit facility. The current low interest rate environment has created a compelling opportunity to borrow to cover current outflows without disrupting prudent long-term investments. Borrowing is particularly useful to address short-term liquidity, such as providing periodic payment of income taxes or funding extraordinary purchases. It may allow investors to avoid selling assets in down markets and dovetails with efforts to manage overall capital gains income/taxes when liquidating appreciated assets.  

Retirees need to be cautious with debt, and any borrowing strategy should be accompanied by a prudent repayment plan that addresses their ability to pay down debt quickly if rates increase to the point where risk/reward no longer warrants the use of leverage.    

The above strategies are some representative examples of how an active wealth framework can help retirees address issues beyond determination of their retirement spending level. They are not limited to solutions discussed in this article. The active wealth framework highlights considerations that compel investors to focus on broader issues and interrelated outcomes for each fundamental area: Invest, Spend, Borrow, Manage and Protect. Analyzing each of these variables can help retirees appreciate all the consequences of their financial decisions, become aware of new opportunities, and allow retirees to make informed, successful maneuvers over the course of their retirement.

The views expressed within this article are those of the author only and not those of BNY Mellon or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. The information discussed herein may not be applicable to or appropriate for every investor and should be used only after consultation with professionals who have reviewed your specific situation.
This material is provided for illustrative/educational purposes only. This material is not intended to constitute legal, tax, investment or financial advice. Effort has been made to ensure that the material presented herein is accurate at the time of publication. However, this material is not intended to be a full and exhaustive explanation of the law in any area or of all of the tax, investment or financial options available. The information discussed herein may not be applicable to or appropriate for every investor and should be used only after consultation with professionals who have reviewed your specific situation.

Senior Wealth Strategist, BNY Mellon Wealth Management

As a Senior Wealth Strategist with BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Kathleen Stewart works closely with wealthy families and their advisers to provide comprehensive wealth planning services.  Kathleen focuses on complex financial and estate planning issues impacting wealthy families, key corporate executives and business owners.

Source: kiplinger.com

How Rising Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

Rising inflation can shrink purchasing power as prices of goods and services increase. This, in turn, can affect interest rates and the cost of borrowing. While the inflation rate doesn’t have a direct impact on mortgage rates, the two do tend to move in tandem.

What does that mean for homebuyers looking for a home loan and for homeowners who want to refinance a mortgage? Simply that as inflation rises, mortgage rates may follow suit.

Understanding the difference between the inflation rate and interest rates, and what affects mortgage rates for different types of home loans, matters in terms of timing.

Inflation Rate vs. Interest Rates

Inflation is defined as a general increase in the overall price of goods and services over time.

The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, tracks inflation rates and inflation trends using several key metrics, including the Consumer Price Index, to determine how to direct monetary policy.

What to Learn from Historical Mortgage Rate Fluctuations

Inflation Trends for 2021 and Beyond

As of May 2021, the U.S. inflation rate had hit 5% as measured by the Consumer Price Index, representing the largest 12-month increase since 2008 and moving well beyond the 2% target inflation rate the Federal Reserve aims for.

While prices for consumer goods and services were up across the board, the biggest increase overall was in the energy category.

Rising inflation rates in 2021 are thought to be driven by a combination of things, including:

• A reopening economy

• Increased demand for goods and services

• Shortages in supply of goods and services

The coronavirus pandemic saw many people cut back on spending in 2020, leading to a surplus of savings. State reopenings have spurred a wave of “revenge spending” among consumers.

Although the demand for goods and services is up, supply chain disruptions and worker shortages are making it difficult for companies to meet consumer needs. This has resulted in steadily rising inflation.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in June 2021 that he anticipates a continued rise in the U.S. inflation rate in 2021. This is projected to be followed by an eventual dropoff and return to lower inflation rates in 2022.

In the meantime, the Fed has discussed the possibility of an interest rate increase, though there are no firm plans to do so yet. Some Fed bank presidents, though, have forecast an initial rate increase in 2022.

Recommended: 7 Factors that Cause Inflation – Historic Examples Included

Is Now a Good Time for a Mortgage or Refi?

It’s clear that there’s a link between inflation rates and mortgage rates. But what does all of this mean for homebuyers or homeowners?

It simply means that if you’re interested in buying a home it could make sense to do so sooner rather than later. Despite the economic upheaval in 2020 and the rise in inflation that’s happening now, mortgage rates have still held near historic lows. If the Fed decides to pursue an interest rate hike, that could have a trickle-down effect and lead to higher mortgage rates.

good mortgage rate, especially as home values increase.

The higher home values go, the more important a low-interest rate becomes, as the rate can directly affect how much home you’re able to afford.

The same is true if you already own a home and you’re considering refinancing an existing mortgage. With refinancing, the math gets a bit trickier.

You might want to determine your break-even point when the money you save on interest charges catches up to what you spend on closing costs for a refi loan.

To find the break-even point on a refi, divide the total loan costs by the monthly savings. If refinancing fees total $3,000 and you’ll save $250 a month, that’s 3,000 divided by 250, or 12. That means it’ll take 12 months to recoup the cost of refinancing.

If you refinance to a shorter-term, your savings can multiply beyond the break-even point.

If your current mortgage rate is above refinancing rates, it could make sense to shop around for refinancing options.

Keep in mind, of course, that the actual rate you pay for a purchase loan or refinance loan can also depend on things like your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio.

Recommended: How to Refinance Your Mortgage – Step-By-Step Guide 

The Takeaway

Inflation appears to be here to stay, at least for the near term. Understanding what affects mortgage rates and the relationship between the inflation rate vs. interest rates matters from a savings perspective.

Buying a home or refinancing when mortgage rates are lower could add up to a substantial cost difference over the life of your loan.

SoFi offers fixed-rate home loans and mortgage refinancing. Now might be a good time to find the best loan for your needs and budget.

It’s easy to check your rate with SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/Max Zolotukhin


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SOHL0521026

Source: sofi.com

Warning: You May Have to Pay Back Your Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments

The IRS is now making monthly child tax credit payments to eligible families. Depending on the age of your child, those payments can be as much as $300-per-kid each month from July to December. That’s an extra $1,800 per child in your pocket if you get the full amount for six months. But what if the IRS sends you too much money – do you have to pay it back? Maybe.

When the IRS was doling out stimulus check money, they occasionally overpaid someone. But there was nothing in the law requiring repayment of a stimulus check. So, if you got too much, you generally were allowed to keep it.

But that’s not the case with the monthly child tax credit payments. The law authorizing these payments specifically says that any excess amounts must be paid back when you file your 2021 tax return if your income is above a certain amount. There are exceptions to this rule for middle- and lower-income families, but they’re limited. Plus, the way the monthly payments are calculated, overpayments could be fairly common. So, this could be a big issue for a lot of families.

Changes to the Child Tax Credit for 2021

Before getting into how you might end up with an overpayment and the details of the payback rules, it’s probably a good idea to go over some of the changes to the child tax credit that apply for the 2021 tax year (and, so far, only for 2021). Last year, the maximum child tax credit was $2,000 per child 16 years old or younger. It was also phased-out if your income exceeded $400,000 for married couples filing a joint return or $200,000 for single and head-of-household filers. For some lower-income taxpayers, the credit was partially “refundable” (up to $1,400 per qualifying child) if they had earned income of at least $2,500 (i.e., you got a refund check for the refundable amount if the credit was more than the tax you owed).

The American Rescue Plan, which was enacted in March, made some major changes to the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. For one thing, the credit amount was raised from $2,000 to $3,000 for children 6 to 17 years old and to $3,600 for kids 5 years old and younger. The $2,500 earned income requirement was also dropped, and the credit was made fully refundable (which means refund checks triggered by this year’s credit can be greater than $1,400).

There are also two phase-out schemes in play for families with higher incomes in 2021. The first one can’t reduce the credit amount below $2,000 per child. It kicks in if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) is above $75,000 (single filers), $112,500 (head-of-household filers), or $150,000 (joint filers). The second phase-out is the same $200,000/$400,000 one that applied before 2021.

Finally, the American Rescue Plan requires the IRS to pay half of your total credit amount in advance through monthly payments issued this year from July to December (you can opt-out if you want). In most cases, the IRS will base the amount of these payments on information it pulls from your 2020 tax return. Next year, you’ll claim the remaining half of the credit on your 2021 tax return. In practice, this will be done by subtracting every dollar you received from July to December from the total credit you’re entitled to claim and then reporting the leftover amount, if any, as a child tax credit on your 2021 return. (Use our 2021 Child Tax Credit Calculator to see how much your monthly payments will be and what should be leftover to claim as a credit on your 2021 tax return.)

For complete coverage of the changes for 2021, see Child Tax Credit 2021: How Much Will I Get? When Will Monthly Payments Arrive? And Other FAQs.

How Child Tax Credit Overpayments Can Occur

You may be wondering why the IRS would send you too much money in the first place. If the goal is simply to give you a 50% advance of your total child tax credit over a six-month period, it doesn’t seem like that would be too difficult. It’s basic math – right?

Well, yes, the math itself is easy…but things change, which can make it difficult to find the right numbers to plug into the computers. For instance, what if your income increases in 2021 to a point where your child tax credit is now partially or completely phased out. The IRS is going to look at your 2020 tax return to calculate the amount of your monthly payment. If your 2020 income was below the credit’s phase-out thresholds, the IRS is probably going to send you the maximum amount each month. However, because of your higher 2021 income, your 2021 child tax credit is going to be lower than expected…which could create an overpayment.

Since the child tax credit phase-out thresholds are tied to your filing status, a similar situation can arise from a change to your family situation in 2021 (e.g., a divorce). For example, imagine that the IRS bases your monthly payments on your 2020 joint return and your 2021 income is lower than the credit phase-out threshold for joint filers. You then use a different filing status on your 2021 return with a lower credit phase-out threshold (e.g., single or head-of-household) that results in a reduced child tax credit amount. That can also generate an overpayment.

If you claim the child tax credit for fewer children in 2021 than you did in 2020, that can result in an overpayment, too. This can happen, for instance, if you’re divorced and you claimed your child as a dependent on your 2020 tax return, but your ex-spouse claims the child as a dependent for 2021 taxes (a common arrangement). In that case, the IRS is going to send you monthly payments for the child. However, since you won’t qualify for the child tax credit on your 2021 return (your ex will), all the money you received from July to December will be an overpayment.

And here’s one more example…your main home must be in the U.S. for more than half of 2021 to qualify for monthly child tax credit payments. If you satisfied that requirement in 2020, but not in 2021, the IRS could end up sending you monthly payments that you’re not supposed to get. That can result in an overpayment as well.

Payback Requirements for the 2021 Child Tax Credit

Now let’s talk about what happens if you end up with a child tax credit overpayment. Depending on your income, you might have to pay some or all of it back as an addition to the tax you owe when you file your 2021 return next year.

Lower-income people get a good deal. If your modified AGI for 2021 doesn’t exceed $40,000 (single filers), $50,000 (head-of-household filers), or $60,000 (joint filers), and your principal residence was in the U.S. for more than half of 2021, you won’t have to repay any overpayment amount. That’s a win for you!

On the other hand, parents with higher incomes don’t get any breaks at all. If your modified AGI for the 2021 tax year is at least $80,000 (single filers), $100,000 (head-of-household filers), or $120,000 (joint filers), you have to pay back your entire overpayment. Ouch!

It’s a little more complicated for people in the middle. All or part of your overpayment might be forgiven if your modified AGI for 2021 is between $40,000 and $80,000 (single filers), $50,000 and $100,000 (head-of-household filers), or $60,000 and $120,000 (joint filers). To determine how much of your overpayment is wiped out (if any), you first need to calculate what the IRS calls your “repayment protection amount.” This is equal to $2,000 multiplied by:

  • The number of children the IRS used to calculate your monthly child tax credit payments, minus
  • The number of children used to calculate the total credit amount on your 2021 tax return.

If there’s no difference between the number of children used to calculate the two amounts, then there’s no overpayment reduction, and the full amount must be repaid. If you have a positive repayment protection amount, it’s then gradually phased-out as your modified AGI increases within the income range above. The phase-out rate is based on how much your modified AGI exceeds the lower limit of the applicable income range. Once your final repayment protection amount is calculated, it’s subtracted from your overpayment to determine how much you need to repay (but your overpayment can’t be reduced below zero).

Here’s an example of how this works: Joe, who is single, claimed a child tax credit for two children on his 2020 tax return (the children are 2 and 4 years old at the end of 2021). As a result, the IRS sent him $3,600 in monthly payments in 2021. However, Joe can’t claim the child tax credit on his 2021 return because his ex-wife is claiming the children as dependents on her return. Since his 2021 child tax credit is $0, the entire $3,600 he received from the IRS is an overpayment. Joe’s initial repayment protection amount is $4,000 (i.e., $2,000 for each child). If Joe files a 2021 return with a modified AGI of $60,000, his modified AGI exceeds the lower limit of the applicable income range – $40,000 – by 50% ($60,000 – $40,000 / $80,000 – $40,000 = 0.5). As a result, Joe’s $4,000 repayment protection amount is reduced by 50% to $2,000. Therefore, Joe only has to repay $1,600 of his $3,600 overpayment ($3,600 – $2,000 = $1,600).

[Note: You may also have to pay a portion of your overpayment if your modified AGI is less than or equal to $40,000 (single filers), $50,000 (head-of-household filers), or $60,000 (joint filers) and you lived outside the U.S. for at least half of 2021.]

How to Prevent Child Tax Credit Overpayments

If you think an overpayment is in your future, there are two things you can do to minimize or eliminate any potential repayment obligation. First, you can opt-out of the monthly payments. If you’re no longer receiving monthly payments, then you might be able to avoid an overpayment altogether (just make sure you meet the deadline for opting out before the next scheduled payment). If you’ve already received enough money from the IRS to create an overpayment, opting out can at least prevent the overpayment from growing larger.

To opt-out, go to the Child Tax Credit Update Portal on the IRS’s website. You’ll need either an existing IRS account or an ID.me account to access the online tool. Although you can’t do it now, later this summer you’ll be able to restart monthly payments through the portal if you previously opted out.

You can also control a potential overpayment by updating any outdated information concerning your income, filing status, or qualifying children that the IRS pulled from your 2020 return or collected from some other source. Once the IRS gets the new information, it can adjust (i.e., lower) your remaining monthly payments to account for the change. This could also prevent or reduce an overpayment.

You’ll have to use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to report any updates. However, this functionality is not available yet. Again, it should be ready later this summer.

Source: kiplinger.com

LTV 101: Why Your Loan-to-Value Ratio Matters

Are you thinking about taking out a home loan or refinancing your mortgage? If so, knowing your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, or the loan amount divided by the value of the property, is important.

Let’s break down LTV: what it is, how to calculate it, and why it matters. (Hint: It could help save you a lot of money.)

LTV, a Pertinent Percentage

The relationship between the loan amount and the value of the asset securing that loan constitutes LTV.

To find the loan-to-value ratio, divide the loan amount by the value of the property.

LTV = (Loan Value / Property Value) x 100

Here’s an example: Say you want to buy a $200,000 home. You have $20,000 set aside as a down payment and need to take out a $180,000 mortgage. So here’s what your LTV calculation looks like:

180,000 / 200,000 = 0.9 or 90%

Here’s another example: You want to refinance your mortgage (which means getting a new home loan, hopefully at a lower interest rate). Your home is valued at $350,000, and your mortgage balance is $220,000.

220,000 / 350,000 = 0.628 or 63%

As the LTV percentage increases, the risk to the lender increases.

Why Does LTV Matter?

Two major components of a mortgage loan can be affected by LTV: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Interest Rate

LTV, in conjunction with your income, financial history, and credit score, is a major factor in determining how much a loan will cost.

When a lender writes a loan that is close to the value of the property, the perceived risk of default is higher because the borrower has little equity built up—and therefore, little to lose.

Should the property go into foreclosure, the lender may be unable to recoup the money it lent. Because of this, lenders prefer borrowers with lower LTVs and will often reward them with better interest rates.

Though a 20% down payment is not essential for loan approval, someone with an 80% LTV is likely to get a more competitive rate than a similar borrower with a 90% LTV.
The same goes for a refinance or home equity line of credit: If you have 20% equity in your home, or at least 80% LTV, you’re more likely to get a better rate.

If you’ve ever run the numbers on mortgage loans, you know that a rate difference of 1% could amount to thousands of dollars paid in interest over the life of the loan.

Let’s look at an example, where two people are applying for loans on identical $300,000 properties.

Person One, Barb:

•  Puts 20%, or $60,000, down, so their LTV is 80%. (240,000 / 300,000 = 80%)

•  Gets approved for a 4.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $197,778 in interest over the life of the loan

Person Two, Bill:

•  Puts 10%, or $30,000, down, so their LTV is 90%. (270,000 / 300,000 = 90%)

•  Gets approved for a 5.5% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage

•  Will pay $281,891 in interest over the life of the loan

Bill will pay $84,113 more in interest than Barb, though it is true that Bill also has a larger loan and pays more in interest because of that.

So let’s compare apples to apples: Let’s assume that Bill is also putting $60,000 down and taking out a $240,000 loan, but that loan interest rate remains at 5.5%. Now, Bill pays $250,571 in interest;

The 1% difference in interest rates means Bill will pay nearly $53,000 more over the life of the loan than Barb will.

Mortgage CalculatorMortgage Calculator

PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance

Your LTV ratio also determines whether you’ll be required to pay for PMI. PMI protects your lender in the event that your house is foreclosed on and the lender assumes a loss in the process.

Your lender will charge you for PMI until your LTV reaches 78% (by law, if payments are current) or 80% (by request).

PMI can be a substantial added cost, ranging from 0.5% to 2.25% of the value of the loan per year. Using our example from above, a $270,000 loan at 5.5% with a 1% PMI rate translates to $225 per month for PMI, or about $18,800 in PMI paid until 20% equity is reached.

How Does LTV Change?

LTV changes when either the value of the property or the value of the loan changes.

If you’re a homeowner, the value of your property fluctuates with natural market pressures. If you thought the value of your home increased significantly since your last appraisal, you could have another appraisal done. You could also potentially increase your home value through remodels or additions.

The balance of your loan should decrease over time as you make monthly mortgage payments, and this will lower your LTV. If you made a large payment toward your mortgage, that would significantly lower your LTV.

Whether through an increase in your property value or by reducing the loan, decreasing your LTV provides you with at least two possible money-saving options: removal of PMI and refinancing to a lower rate.

The Takeaway

The loan-to-value ratio affects two big components of a mortgage loan: the interest rate and private mortgage insurance. A lower LTV percentage typically translates into more borrower benefits.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new home loan or a refinanced mortgage, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best deal. Check out what SoFi has to offer.

See if a SoFi mortgage or refi is a good fit in just a few clicks.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

MG18112

Source: sofi.com