Does homeowners insurance cover water damage? It Depends

This is one of the first questions homeowners ask — or should ask — when they are shopping for insurance for their home:

“Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?”

The answer they are given is “it depends,” and such is the way with understanding what homeowners insurance covers and what it does not. Read this story to learn what insurance protects in general.

You pay for homeowners insurance because you must in order to get a mortgage, and you hope you never need to use it. But a variety of ills — natural or human made — can put you in a position to make a claim of loss or damage to property. You hope the coverage you have paid for all of these years will extend to the situation you are dealing with, but you just never know.

Again, It depends.

Below, you can find what to do when you need to contact your insurance company because you have suffered property loss or your home is damaged. Then you will find out what to do when your claim is denied.

But, first, let’s look at all the ways your home can be damaged by water, and the chances that your homeowners insurance will cover your loss in that event.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?

The answer to the question “does homeowners insurance cover water damage?” is multileveled, just as the water damage might be.

In general, water damage caused by accident or mechanical failure of an appliance (washing machine, dishwasher, water heater, etc.) is going to be covered by standard policies. The same is true of a toilet that suffers a sudden leak.

But, if the water damage is a result of poor maintenance, such as broken pipes, mold or rotting pipes or water lines, the claim is likely to be denied.

Coverage for water damage is separated into dwelling damage and personal property damage, What is not covered is replacement of the appliance or machinery that caused the water damage. If your dishwasher develops a sudden leak which causes damage to your home, the structural damage and personal property damage likely will be covered but the cost of replacing the dishwasher will not.

If your home suffers water damage from a backed-up sewer or drain, traditional homeowners insurance doesn’t cover such occurrences. Many companies offer water backup coverage, however.

Flood damage is rarely covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. Flood insurance policies are available thanks to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) , but it is pricey.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the average cost of flood insurance for 2021 is $958 annually. That comes out to about $80 a month. 

If you wonder “does homeowners insurance cover water damage?” check with your agent to determine just what is covered and what is not, and whether you need to consider extended water damage coverage due to current climate conditions or the age of your home.

Making a Claim with Insurance Company

If you have not yet been in a position to make a claim against your homeowner’s policy but know someone who has been denied and you worry about your own policy’s virtues, take time to consider your choices in company and coverage.

What follows is a simplified representation of what is involved in making a homeowners insurance claim for water damage, including the possibility of having your claim denied and what to do in that event.

Step One: Your Home or Property Suffers Water Damage

When your home suffers water damage, you need to determine the actual extent of damage, and if you can, how the damage was caused.

Then contact your insurance company to determine if the damage is covered by your policy. This response to this question is not cut and dried, but it is the starting point for recovering some of your losses.

Step Two: Take an Inventory of What Was Damaged

Take photos or video of water-damaged possessions, structure or property (actually, it would be wise to take a video of your pre-disastered home right now, so you can refer to post-disaster).

Attempt to determine the value of individual items that need to be replaced, and find receipts if you have them (which is actually easier these days since most purchases occur with some form of electronic transaction). If the damage is structural, that will create a need for damage assessment and estimates, but that will occur after the insurance company has agreed to pay up.

Step Three:  Meet with the Adjuster

The insurance company will assign you an adjuster, who will eventually come to your home and assess the damage.

Do not assume this person is out to prevent you from covering your damages, but remember that the adjuster is protecting the interests of the insurance company to prevent fraudulent claims.

The adjuster will require a list of lost or damaged items with an estimated value of those items, and will assess structural or property damage that will require estimates to determine repair costs. Putting together a list of the valuable contents of your home is another thing to do before disaster strikes.

How much homeowners insurance do you need? Our insurance checklist will guide you to make the right decision. 

Step Four: Get the Verdict

The adjuster will eventually call you with a detailed list of what the company is going to cover, the amount it will give you for your lost or damaged items, and what structural damage the company will pay to be repaired. You may or may not like the dollar figures the adjuster offers.

You may also be surprised to hear that the insurance company can deny your claim, in part or in whole. This is where the insurance company is covering its assets: it will present in written form why it is denying your coverage claim. This letter should provide a complete and specific explanation why your policy does not cover the losses you claim.

If your policy explicitly states certain items or losses are exempt from your coverage, that is the end of the conversation. However, if you believe your policy should cover the damage you suffered, speak to the agent who sold you the policy, if possible, or ask to have an in-person conversation with the adjuster to discuss the situation.

Proving that your policy should cover your losses will not be easy. However, if you have a different interpretation of the language in your policy than what the adjuster suggests, or you have notes from your original conversation with your agent at the time you bought the policy, you can go on to the next step.

What’s God Got to Do With It?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies include an Act of God provision. From an insurance standpoint, an Act of God is damage that occurs as a result of natural causes with no human component, something that could not have been prevented by proper care or maintenance.

Earthquakes or floods are often considered an Act of God. Wildfires may also be considered an Act of God if started by lightning rather than humans (campfire gone bad, tossed cigarette and more).

Homeowner’s insurance policies spell out which Acts of God are covered. For instance, floods are Acts of God, although homeowners in flood plains or near coasts or lakefronts can purchase flood insurance at an additional cost.

Often, standard homeowners insurance policies do cover damage from high winds from natural events like hurricanes and tornadoes. If this is a possible factor in your claim, determine what your policy covers before going onto the next extensive and expensive step.

The increased occurrence of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest has made fire protection a must for homeowners in that area. But different companies provide different levels of coverage and full coverage can be expensive.

How to Fight a Denied Claim

You feel your insurance company is not fulfilling its legal promise to cover the cost of water damage to your home. You have documentation of your losses, a detailed description of the event that caused your damage (malfunctioning appliances or plumbing mishap), and you are in a position where it will behoove you financially to argue your case.

Pro Tip

In most cases, there is a limited time frame in which a denied insurance claim can be appealed, and the time frame begins from the moment you are notified of the denied claim.

Your homeowner’s insurance policy includes language stating how to appeal a denied claim. Getting involved in a battle with your insurance company may seem like a lost cause, but often, insurance companies can be convinced to adjust their decision to your benefit.

You might want to consider improving your chances by consulting a property insurance claims professional. These are licensed public insurance adjusters who can assess your claim from an objective viewpoint and will negotiate with our insurance company for you. Deciding on whether to hire a professional outside adjuster will be based on the cost of his or her service versus the amount of money you hope to recover.

The last step to recover funds would be to sue your insurance carrier, which would require hiring an attorney who specializes in property insurance claims. Get references and verifiable information on previous claims regarding water damage that were settled to the homeowner’s benefit.

Here’s hoping this helps and that you never need it.

Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

12 Ways Retirees Can Earn Passive Income

A senior black man uses a smartphone
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

These days, “retired” doesn’t always mean “not working.”

According to a study of U.S. retirees from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), “nine percent … are currently working for pay, including five percent who are employed part-time, two percent who are employed full-time, and two percent who are self-employed.”

More than half — 56% — of those surveyed said their top reason to keep working was “wanting the income.” The good news: You might be able to make some extra dollars via passive income — money that comes in without you doing much work, or any work at all.

Passive income is often synonymous with a large upfront investment, such as buying rental properties or dividend-producing stocks. But the following passive-income strategies can bring in extra bucks without investing a bunch of money or time.

1. Rent out a room in your home

Got an empty nest? Someone may be willing to pay to roost there.

You can advertise your spare space on your own or list it on a vacation rental website such as:

Yes, it takes some work: You might have to keep the room tidy and wash a load of sheets and towels once the guests depart. But in some parts of the country, you can earn enough money in just a few days to cover a mortgage payment, as we detail in “Do This a Few Days Each Month and Watch Your Mortgage Disappear.”

If you’re the gregarious type, you can have fun talking up your town or even showing visitors around. If not, advertise it as a “Here’s your key, we won’t bother you” arrangement. Some people simply want an inexpensive place to sleep and don’t care about sitting around chatting with the host.

2. Rent out your vehicle or gear

Your spare bedroom is just one of many things you could rent to others to bring in extra money.

Use your imagination. Maybe you have a ladder, stroller, surfboard, bicycle, boat, camera equipment or a great selection of power tools.

Peer-to-peer rental sites like the following will help you find folks who occasionally need such things but don’t want to own them:

Whatever you’re renting, keep in mind that ordinary insurance might not cover the commercial use of your property. An insurance rider may cover some items, but you may need a separate policy, so consult your insurance agent.

3. Become a peer-to-peer lender

What is peer-to-peer lending? In short, P2P lending sites such as Prosper accept loan applications from borrowers. Investors like you can put some of your money toward loans to those borrowers. When loans get paid back, so do you — with interest.

Overall, P2P investments “can provide solid returns that are really hard to beat,” according to Clark.com, the website of financial guru Clark Howard.

As with any loan, however, there’s the possibility of default. You may not earn anything or may even lose money.

Sound too complicated? Maybe this simpler form of P2P is for you: Worthy sells 36-month bonds for $10 each. The money that comes in is loaned to U.S. businesses, with lenders who have purchased these bonds getting a 5% annual rate of interest on their investment.

To learn more about Worthy bonds, check out “How to Earn 80 Times More on Your Savings.”

4. Get rewards for credit card spending

If you’re going to shop with plastic, make sure you’re rewarded.

The form that the reward takes is up to you. Some people covet airline miles. Others take their rewards as cash or a credit against their monthly statement.

The number of rewards credit cards — and their pros and cons — can be a little dizzying. For an easy way to compare your options, stop by our Solutions Center and check out travel rewards cards or cash-back cards in the Money Talks News credit card search tool.

5. Use cash-back apps

An app called Ibotta lets you earn cash rebates on purchases from retailers, restaurants or movie theaters.

Or you can do your online shopping through cash-back portals like:

These websites enable you to earn cash back on purchases from thousands of online retailers. To learn more about them, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

6. Sell your photos

Smartphones have made decent photography possible for just about anyone. The next time you capture a killer sunset or an adorable kid-and-dog situation, don’t keep the image to yourself. Apps like Foap — which is available for Android and Apple devices — will help you sell it.

You can do even better if you have a good digital SLR camera, a tripod and other equipment. Stock photo companies like Shutterstock and iStockphoto, which favor high-definition, high-quality images, are venues for selling photos on just about any subject you can find.

7. Write an e-book

It’s possible to bring in cash without a high-powered book contract, thanks to self-publishing platforms.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, allows you to write, upload and sell your words fairly easily. My two personal finance books are for sale on Kindle, and they provide a steady stream of passive income.

I also sell PDFs of the books through my personal website. I use a payment platform called E-junkie to handle payments and deliver the book downloads — and this brings me more money per book than Amazon does, even when I offer readers a discount.

If you’re fond of a particular fiction genre, write the kind of stuff you’d like to read. Nonfiction sells, too: cookbooks, travel guides, history, memoirs and how-tos are a few examples. Or maybe you have a specific skill to teach — job-hunting or food preservation or raising chinchillas.

Pro tip: Fiverr.com is a good marketplace through which to find freelancers to hire for help with formatting, design and cover art.

8. Create an online course

If you’ve got useful knowledge, why not monetize it? Sites like Teachable and Thinkific will help you build a course that could change someone’s life, either professionally or personally.

Note that online courses are not limited to computer-based topics. A quick search turns up classes on:

  • Cake-making
  • Watercolors
  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Drone cinematography
  • Free-diving
  • Blacksmithing
  • Yoga
  • Parenting
  • Novel writing
  • Job hunting
  • Building a pet-care business

And that’s just for starters. Like writing an e-book, creating a course will take some work. But again: Once it’s up, the work is done.

9. Join rewards programs

Rewards sites like Swagbucks reward you with points for activities such as searching the internet, watching short videos and taking surveys. You can cash in your points for gift cards or PayPal cash.

Maybe you didn’t retire to spend hours taking surveys. But if you’re going to search the internet anyway, why not use Swagbucks’ search engine and earn some points?

To learn more about Swagbucks, check out “6 Ways to Score Free Gift Cards and Cash in 1 Place.”

10. Wrap your car with advertising

Turn your vehicle into a rolling billboard with companies like Carvertise. They’ll pay you for the privilege of putting removable advertising decals for a business on your automobile.

Writer Kat Tretina describes the process at Student Loan Hero. You can expect to earn $100 to $400 a month, depending on how much and where you drive, she says. Requirements include having a good driving record and a vehicle that has its factory paint job.

Pro tip: Car-advertising scams make the rounds regularly. Tretina offers these tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee, and they’ll have a customer service phone line that lets you talk with a real person.
  • The car-wrapping cost should be covered by the company.
  • Take a hard pass on any company that doesn’t ask questions about your driving record, auto insurance, driving routes and type of vehicle.

11. Create an app

Maybe yours is one of those minds that says, “There should be an easier way to do (whatever) — and I think I know what it is!” If so, creating an app could bring in extra income.

It could also bring in zero dollars. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

For example, personal finance writer Jackie Beck — who cleared $147,000 of debt — used her expertise to create an app called “Pay Off Debt.”

Not a coder? App-builder services exist. The WikiHow.com article “How to Create a Mobile App” tells how to get started. It’s a time-consuming process. But that’s one of the beauties of retirement: You set your own hours.

12. Become a package ‘receiver’

OK, this idea is unproven — so far. But it’s a solution whose time has come. The boom in online shopping has been a boon for thieves who find it easy to swipe packages left outside front doors before the intended recipients get home from work.

You might be able to do your part to thwart those lowdown thieves by marketing yourself as a “professional package receiver.”

Try this: Put the word out — through friends, social media, places of worship — that you are available to accept deliveries. If a package is for someone in your neighborhood, you could watch the shipping company’s tracking info and be at the home to take the package in. Or you could specify that packages be shipped to Original Recipient, c/o Professional Package Receiver — that’s you.

Before asking a fee of, for example, $1 per package, ask the person who wants to hire you what it’s worth to them. You might be surprised by a response like, “I’ll give you $5.” Decide, too, whether you’ll be charging per package or per order, and whether you’ll set a weight limit, such as no packages over 30 pounds.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

People Say to Give Up These 4 Things and Retire Early — They’re Wrong

If you’re not already rich, the race to early retirement can feel like it’s marred by sacrifice. Give up this, give up that — like the only way to retire before 65 is if you suffer now.

Sure, you want to be able to enjoy early retirement, and that means having enough money saved to do so. But you also want to live your life now in a way that brings you joy.

A study from annuity.com found that people would be willing to sacrifice several of life’s greatest conveniences to be able to achieve FIRE (financial independence, retire early):

The study shows that 20% of people would forgo having children, 27% would live without a pet and 28% would give up dining out just to have their retirement party a decade or two earlier. Some people would even move into a tiny home or sell their car!

But we know there are better ways. You don’t have to give up the things you love just to retire when you’d like to. Here are a few things people suggest giving up to accelerate their retirement timeline — and why we think you shouldn’t.

1. What They Say: ‘Give Up Your Vehicle’

Between car payments, insurance and repairs, having a car can be a big expense. And people eyeing early retirement do tend toward a minimalist lifestyle, so getting rid of your vehicle can be a tempting expense to cut.

But unless you live in a city that’s bikeable or has great public transportation, you’re going to need your own way to get from point A to point B. So instead of selling or letting your lease run out, here are a few tips to cut your car expenses down:

  • Buy a used car. Even though the average interest rate to finance a used car is higher than a new car or leasing one, financially you can save thousands of dollars over the course of a few years.
  • Cut your car insurance costs. By checking quotes every six months, you can save an average of $489 a year on your insurance payments. A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

2. What They Say: ‘Give Up Online Shopping’

Online shopping can be an account drainer — it’s so easy to put things into your cart, click a few buttons and wait for your package to arrive a few days later. And if your aim is to save a lot of money over the next decade or two, online shopping can be a major roadblock.

But here’s the thing — you can still shop online. You just need to be smart about it: Never overpay, and get cash rewards.

That’s exactly what this free service does for you.

Just add it to your browser for free*, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop-up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

3. What They Say: ‘Give Up Dining Out’

While the world was in quarantine, we learned to be more self-reliant in the kitchen, and many of us saw a significant drop in our dining-out expenditures (take-out, maybe not so much). So it’s understandable that 28% of people say they’d give it up entirely to reach their early retirement goals.

But for the other 72% who love going to restaurants and ordering delivery, financial independence isn’t off the table. There are just some strategic moves to make so you can keep supporting your favorite local spots and give your family a break from all the dishes.

First, look for discounts: You can find them on Groupon or with a AAA discount. You can even buy discounted gift cards on websites like Restaurant.com. If you have kids, check out restaurants that let them eat free on certain days of the week.

Next, make sure you’re getting cash back every time you go out to eat (or swipe your debit card in general).

If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And who doesn’t want extra cash right now?

Yep. A debit card called Aspiration gives you up to a 5% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

4. What They Say: ‘Give Up More Living Space’

The tiny home — or small space — lifestyle has become increasingly popular among the retire-early crowd. It’s cheaper to own, likely includes no mortgage and is less expensive to upkeep, as well.

In fact, 17% of people surveyed said they would live in a space smaller than 700 square feet, if it meant they could retire early. For a single person that may be fine, but for couples or families — it might just not be enough.

Instead, you could keep the space you love and find ways to save money and make money with it:

Stop overpaying $690 on homeowners insurance

Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes.

In fact, it saves users an average of $690 a year — or $57.50 a month. It’ll even help you break up with your old insurance company. (You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.)

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. Policygenius will make sure you have what you need.

Just answer a few questions about your home to see how much money you’re wasting.

Make up to $300 a month from your empty garage

Extra rooms in your house don’t need to be left empty. You can rent out unused storage space — your shed, or your garage — to your neighbors who need it. A website and app called Neighbor can help you earn up to $300 a month, on your terms. Use this calculator to see how much your available storage space is worth.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5 Strategies for Paying Off Car Loan Early

Is your monthly car payment a burden to your budget? Paying off your car loan early can earn you much-needed financial freedom and save you potentially hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in would-be interest. 

You can pay off your car loan early using several effective strategies, but before you do, consider any potential penalties and effects to your credit score.

The True Cost of a Car Loan

It’s no secret that cars are our worst big-ticket investment. Unlike houses, which typically increase in value over time, and education, which theoretically opens the door to higher earning potential, cars lose their value over time. In fact, a new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot and will lose 20% to 30% of its value in the first year.

That’s a big deal, especially given the average cost Americans are spending on new cars in 2021. According to KBB, that hard-to-swallow number is over $40,000, up more than 4% over 2020.

That means Americans are shelling out $40,000 for a car that, in a year, will be worth anywhere from $28,000 to $32,000, representing an $8,000 to $12,000 loss.

But there’s more than just the sticker price to consider. In addition to sales tax (average of 10.12% in 2020, though it varies by state), be prepared to pay interest on your car loan. Right now, the average car loan interest rate (also referred to as APR, the annual percentage rate, though there’s a difference) is over 4%.

APR includes the interest rate, in addition to other fees, like loan origination fees or mortgage insurance. You should use the APR, not the flat interest rate, when calculating what you’re paying.

Your APR will depend on the current market and your credit score. The better your credit score, the lower your APR. If you have a weak credit score and can put off buying a car, it is advisable to build up your credit score before applying for a loan.

For 2021, rates are expected to hover between 4% and 5% for 48-month (four-year) and 60-month (five-year) loans. 

Car Loan Calculator: An Example

Interest on a car loan adds up. Let’s take the $40,000 new car as an example, with a $995 dealer fee. Assume you put $2,000 down and have a tax rate of a clean 10% and an APR of 5%. You’ve agreed to pay off the loan over 60 months, or five years. (The typical car loan is anywhere from three to seven years; the shorter the loan period, the higher the monthly payment.)

In this scenario, the total cost of the vehicle after tax and dealer fees is $44,995, minus your $2,000 down payment. That leaves $42,995 to be financed. Given the 5% interest rate over 60 months, your monthly payment would be $811.37.

Over 60 months, you will end up having paid $50,682.20 (including down payment) for a car that, with taxes and dealer fees, cost just $44,995. That means, over five years, you’ve paid $5,687.20 in interest. 

And let’s just ignore the fact that, due to depreciation, that car that you’ve just paid $50,000+ on is now worth just $18,752.41 (average value of 37% of original cost after five years).

Use The Penny Hoarder’s car loan calculator to figure out how much you’ll pay with real-life numbers that match your scenario.

How Car Loan Interest Rates Work

Paying off your car loan early, if you can afford it, seems like a no-brainer then. However, before you start strategizing about how to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule, do some digging to determine what kind of car loan you have.

In an ideal world, your loan will be a simple interest loan. If you have not yet purchased your car, only consider lenders that will offer you a simple interest loan. This means the interest is calculated entirely on the principal balance of the loan.

But if your lender charges precomputed interest, that means they will calculate how much you will pay in interest over the life of the loan and include that in your total balance. That means, even if you pay off your car early, the payoff quote will include all the interest you would have paid had you kept the loan open. In this case, there are absolutely no financial savings in paying your car loan off early.

One other element of your loan to research is payoff penalties. Payoff penalties are legal in 36 states and allow lenders to charge you a penalty (usually a fixed percentage of the remaining balance) for paying off your car loan early. In this case, it may be more expensive than what you would have paid in interest over the life of the car loan.

Will Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score

It is not likely that paying off a car loan early will hurt your credit score, but it could be keeping you from growing your credit score. Regular, on-time payments account for roughly 35% of your FICO credit score, making it the most important factor. Making monthly payments on a car loan is a great way to show lenders you are responsible with repaying your debts.

In addition, lenders like to see a nice mix of credit (mortgage, car loan and credit cards are the big three). Keeping your car loan open also helps extend the length of your credit history. If you have no other open credit (like a credit card), keeping your car loan open may be advantageous in building up your score if you eventually intend to buy a house.

5 Strategies for Paying Off Your Car Loan Early

If you have a simple interest car loan, your credit is in good standing and your loan doesn’t have any payoff penalties, it may be wise to pay off your car loan ahead of schedule. Not only will you avoid spending heaps of money on interest, but it will also give you the financial freedom of hundreds of dollars back in your monthly budget.

The best advice for paying off a car loan early: treat it like a mortgage. If you are a homeowner, you have likely heard that making an extra (13th) payment toward your mortgage principal every year can shave years off your loan. If you pay even more toward the principal each year, you can easily get your 30-year mortgage down to 15 years—and you’ll be able to drop PMI (private mortgage insurance) costs much earlier.

Of course, home loans tend to be much bigger than vehicle loans, so the potential to save is much larger, but the logic works the same with your car loan.

These strategies for early payoff are all effective, if done right:

1. Make One Large Extra Payment Every Year

If you can count on your grandma slipping a fat check into your Christmas card every year without fail, don’t use that money to splurge on alcoholic eggnog (OK, maybe one bottle). Instead, apply it directly to your car loan as a lump sum.

If you have autopay scheduled online, you can log into your account and simply arrange to make a one-time payment. If you’re old-fashioned and pay by phone or mail, simply call your lender and let them know you’d like to make an extra, one-time payment toward the principal.

Apply this logic to any unbudgeted (aka, not-planned-for) funds, like a bonus at work or a tax refund.

2. Make a Half Payment Every Two Weeks

Talk with your lender to see if you can switch to biweekly payments, instead of monthly. If your lender allows you to pay half of your monthly loan amount every two weeks, you will wind up making 26 half payments. Divide 26 by 2, and you get 13 full months of payments, paid over 12 months. That means, by the end of the year, you will have essentially made an extra car payment.

Just check your budget first to ensure that kind of payment plan is feasible.

3. Round Up

Rounding up to the nearest $50 or even $100, if you can swing it, is a great way to add extra money every month to the principal. For example, if your monthly payment is $337, you could round up to $350 or even $400 to essentially pay an extra $13 or $63 a month. This will wind up knocking a few months off the life of your loan.

If you have autopay scheduled, log onto your loan platform and see if you can add the additional funds toward the principal each month so you don’t even have to think about it.

4. Resist the Urge to Skip a Payment

Some lenders may let you skip one or two payments a year. So kind of them, right? Wrong. They do this knowing it will extend the life of your loan, meaning they will rake in even more of your hard-earned cash in interest fees.

Unless you fall on very hard times, fight the urge to skip a payment. You will wind up paying more in the end if you do.

5. Refinance, but Exercise Caution

If you had a poor credit score when you bought your car and opted for a seven-year loan to keep payments low, it might make sense to refinance. Perhaps you’re two years into the loan, you’ve got a higher-paying job, and your credit score is in great shape. You could potentially refinance at a lower APR and build the loan out over 36 months, saving you two years and lots of money in interest.

But borrower beware: Don’t refinance to get a lower monthly payment by extending a loan, as you will end up just paying more in interest. 

When You Shouldn’t Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

As we’ve seen, it doesn’t always make sense to pay off your car loan early. But there are more reasons to hold your horses than just payoff penalties and precomputed interest.

Here are some other reasons not to pay off your car loan early:

  • Lack of emergency savings. Bankrate reported early in 2021 that most Americans could not afford a $1,000 emergency. Just 39% have enough to cover such an unexpected expense. If you are a part of that 61% without a well-padded emergency fund, prioritize adding funds to a high-yield savings account to protect yourself and your family should the unthinkable happen. And it’s not just your family’s medical emergencies; you may need to cover a deductible on your renter’s insurance in the case of a break-in, the cost of an unexpected car repair or even a terrifying trip to the vet when your dog eats something he shouldn’t.
  • Higher-interest loans. If you have a reasonable interest rate on your car loan but are drowning in credit card debt, focus on the debt that has the highest interest rate. Credit cards historically have interest rates in the high teens, so they make the most sense to pay off first. If you are free of credit card debt but have a mortgage or student loans, compare those interest rates to that of your car loan to figure out which makes the most sense to pay down with extra funds.
  • Lack of credit history. If you refuse to get a credit card and don’t yet have a house, a car loan is your best bet for building your credit score. Keeping your car loan open could positively affect your credit score.
  • Investments. For most drivers, car loan APRs are not terrible. If you have some extra funds and are thinking about paying off your low-interest car loan, consider instead investing in your retirement fund or even buying a few stocks on your own. The average stock market return is about 10%. Obviously, you could wind up losing money, but in general, if you invest and hold, over time, you should expect your money to grow.

Timothy Moore is a managing editor for WDW Magazine, and a freelance writer and editor covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like The Penny Hoarder, Debt.com, Ladders, Glassdoor, Aol and The News Wheel. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.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 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.
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Source: sofi.com

Easy Ways to Free Yourself From Debt

Wedding decor / Shutterstock.com

You’re ready to be debt-free. Bravo!

If you want to live free of debt, you can. And if you’re committed to the idea, you’re ready to take the next step.

Here are some steps to get started on the road to financial freedom.

1. Wipe out debt with this little-known strategy

There’s a way to dig yourself out of debt that many people don’t know about: personal loans.

With a free website called Credible, you could erase all of your credit card debt in record time. Credible gives you real prequalified rates on loans available without any impact on your credit score. Credible will match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once — potentially saving you thousands in interest charges.

It’s free to check your rate online, and it only takes two minutes.

2. Find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Slashing your biggest expenses is a great way to find extra money to pay down debt.

Example? Car insurance. Simply shopping your policy could save you hundreds.

In the past, shopping for a new policy would take forever. First, you’d have to call the insurer, provide lots of information about yourself and your car, and by the time you finished there was no guarantee you’d get a better quote.

That was then. Today, finding cheaper car insurance rates is a breeze.

These days, you can use a comparison site like The Zebra to compare rates from 200 providers all at once, giving you every option possible — saving you up to $440 a year. Yep, in just two minutes you can save yourself $440 a year. Now that’s some serious savings.

Take two minutes, try it yourself, and see how much you can save.

3. Hire a professional to figure it all out

Identifying your spending patterns and where you can cut back is the key to getting ahead of your credit card debt.

A good financial adviser can help you figure out exactly how much money is coming in and going out each month, including your mortgage or rent, insurance, utilities, credit card payments and other bills.

If you need help finding a financial adviser, a great place to start is with SmartAsset’s free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you’re ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

4. Pay no interest for up to 18 months

Why pay interest when you don’t have to? Unless you’re one of the relatively few people who actually pays off his or her credit card in full every month, you’re carrying an expensive balance and paying lots of interest. If that’s you, you should be using a 0% APR credit card.

The best 0% APR credit cards offer no interest on new purchases for up to 18 months. The choice is simple: Make sure you’re using one of these cards to help maximize your savings.

5. This lazy trick will save you $126 at checkout

Another way to find extra money to pay off debts? Save money whenever you shop.

Getting the best price when shopping online is a hassle. After you’ve compared prices and searched coupon codes, you end up frustrated before you even bought anything. But there’s a better way.

With just one click, a free shopping assistant called Honey instantly applies the best promo codes and discounts straight to your shopping cart in seconds — saving you an average of $126 a year. No more coupon hunting!

Listen, you’re going to buy the stuff you need. You might as well pay less. Even if it’s not huge savings, every bit gets you closer to living that debt-free life.

Start saving yourself more time and money, just add Honey — it’s free.

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

Source: moneytalksnews.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.

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Source: sofi.com

Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Before Retirement?

Older couple in front of a house
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Heading into retirement without debt can make your golden years gleam. So, should you pay off your mortgage before retiring?

Money Talks News reader Sara sent us that question:

“I’ve always heard you shouldn’t retire if you still have a mortgage. But if I wait till my mortgage is paid off to retire, I’ll die at my desk. What should I do?”

OK, Sara, let’s discuss.

Federal Reserve statistics show that in 2019, 37.6% of households headed by people age 65 to 74 had a mortgage on their primary residence, as did 27.7% of those 75 and older. Those numbers have been growing for years, which isn’t surprising considering homes have gotten more expensive while inflation-adjusted wages haven’t changed much.

So, the first thing you need to know, Sara, is that if you have to retire with a mortgage because you have no choice, do it. You’re not the only one.

But for those of you who do have a choice — you either have the savings or the income to pay off your mortgage before you retire — let’s look at the pros and cons.

Mortgage payoff pros

One advantage to getting rid of that mortgage is increased cash flow. Money you’re no longer putting toward your mortgage can now go into something more productive — like your savings or, better yet, making your golden years more fun.

Another advantage is not having that obligation over your head. Not only does it feel good, but should things go south, it’s one less bill to worry about.

Finally, if you’re earning less on your savings than you’re paying in mortgage interest, you’ll be better off paying down the mortgage. If you’re paying 4% on your mortgage and earning 2% at the bank, you’re going backward by 2% per year. Pay it off, and you’ll be gaining 2% per year.

Mortgage payoff cons

What are the disadvantages of paying off a mortgage? One is turning a liquid asset — money in the bank — into an illiquid asset, home equity. For example, a few years back during the housing crisis, I had a bunch of money in the bank earning very little. I used it to buy the house next door at a bargain price. I fixed it up, then sold it for a big profit.

Theoretically, I could have borrowed against my house to raise the cash, but I probably wouldn’t have. Because I had the cash and it wasn’t earning much, I did something with it that earned a lot.

In short, having money in the bank can help you make more money. Plus, it feels good to know that if things go south, or an opportunity arises, you’ve got the funds to deal with it.

Another thing to consider: You might get a tax deduction for your mortgage. This is harder to do now because the standard deduction for single taxpayers is $12,000 and $24,000 for married couples, so a lot of us are no longer getting a tax write-off for mortgage interest. Still, if you’re getting that deduction, it essentially lowers the cost of the interest you’re paying.

The bottom line

I’ve given you pros and cons, but what should you do? Well, it depends. Pay off your mortgage if:

  • You’ve got all your retirement accounts fully funded and you’re socking away as much as you can.
  • You’ve got a ton of savings that’s earning almost nothing.
  • You’re not getting a tax deduction.
  • You can’t see any future use for the cash.

On the other hand, you might be better off leaving your mortgage alone if:

  • You’re earning more with your savings than the mortgage is costing.
  • You’re getting a tax deduction.
  • You might find something rewarding to do with your cash.
  • You simply don’t have the money to pay it off.

Either choice could be the correct answer.

I hope that answers your question, Sara!

About me

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

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

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Dear Penny: Can We Retire in 6 Months With $190K of Student Loans?

Dear Penny,
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Unfortunately, there aren’t any great relief options if you have private loans. Selling your home and downsizing so that you can pay off your balance, or at least a large chunk of it to make your payments more affordable, may be your best option.
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If you could make a serious dent in your balance by working another year or two, that’s something to seriously consider. But the reality is that 0,000 is a lot of money. Delaying retirement by a couple years may not be enough to make significant headway.

Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you have federal loans, including Parent PLUS loans, Mayotte suggests looking into a program called income-contingent repayment. You’ll need to consolidate your loans to enroll. The advantage is that your payment will be 20% of your disposable income, which will presumably be lower once you retire.
If you incurred any of this debt for your children, it may also be time to look beyond relief programs and ask your kids if they can help you with the payments. “That’s a difficult conversation but sometimes that’s a conversation that needs to be had,” Moyette said.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
I reached out to Betsy Mayotte, president and founder of the nonprofit The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, to discuss strategies for people approaching retirement with serious student loan balances. She’s advised thousands of student loan borrowers about the best way to deal with their debt. She emphasized just how common your dilemma is.
But if you have federal loans, you have several options. Instead of paying off your loans, a better alternative may be to get your monthly payment as low as possible, even if that means you’ll never be completely out of debt.


My husband wants to sell our home and pay off the debt. If we do that, we won’t have much for a down payment for another house, so we won’t have a low mortgage payment. If we don’t sell, we can afford the student loan payments. But we will be very limited with no extra money left to save for emergencies. 
Help. I have many sleepless nights trying to find the best solution to this.
Only in rare occasions are student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. You probably wouldn’t be a good bankruptcy candidate since it sounds like you have decent home equity.
-H.
“They reapply every year and if their income goes down, the payment goes down,” Mayotte said. “If their income goes up, the payment goes up. If they still have a balance at the end of 25 years, the balance is forgiven.”
Dear H.,
Traditionally, the balance forgiven on all the federal student loan programs I mentioned has been treated as taxable income for the year the debt is forgiven. But thanks to COVID-19 relief measures, any balance that’s forgiven between now and 2025 isn’t treated as taxable income. Moyette wouldn’t be surprised if Congress eventually extends that tax break. But if you choose to enroll in a program that offers forgiveness, she suggests preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, since 20 to 25 years is a long way off.
You have even more options if you have federal loans that you took out for yourselves, including income-based repayment, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). These programs make your loan payments as low as 10% to 15% of your discretionary income, and they also offer forgiveness at the end of the repayment period, which is between 20 and 25 years.
About 20% of federal student loan debt is held by people 50 and older. Telling millions of people like you and your husband that they have to work forever simply isn’t a viable solution.
I am in big trouble. My husband and I have a combined student loan debt of 0,000 and we were planning to retire in six months. 
Assuming you have options to lower your monthly payments, it’s really about your personal preference. If you think you’d sleep better knowing that you don’t have this balance hanging over you, it may be better to downsize and pay it off, even if that means having a mortgage payment.

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The options you have available depend on a couple of factors. First of all, are these federal loans, private loans or a combination of the two? Second, if you have federal loans, is the debt from your own education, or did you take out Parent PLUS loans for your kids? While a lot of Baby Boomers are in debt because they paid for their children’s education, many have loans because they went back to school during the Great Recession, according to Mayotte.