How This Couple Paid off $20K in Credit Card Debt — Making Less Than $70K/Year

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How This Couple Paid off $20K in Credit Card Debt — Making Less Than $70K/Year
It happened fast. In a little over a month, Wilmer and Kimberly Swerdfeger had accumulated $20,000 in credit card debt. “Everything went haywire,” Wilmer says. The 51-year-old Bakersfield, California, resident has been an emergency medical technician on a 911 ambulance for more than 10 years. Wilmer says both he and his wife, who’s a substitute teacher, are financially responsible. They earn a modest income, but they have near-perfect credit scores, and their cars are paid for in full. Heck, they don’t even like having more than $600 on their credit card. So when $20,000 in unexpected home repairs and emergency medical procedures hit all at once, Wilmer felt stressed. He went looking for a way out and found an online lender called Figure, which offered home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) of up to $150,000 with annual percentage rates (APR)  starting at 4.99%*. This could save him hundreds of dollars in interest each month and would leave him with a single manageable monthly payment — not multiple credit card bills due on different days. Plus, Wilmer could get a free quote in five minutes and apply online. It was worth a shot, right? How a HELOC Can Alleviate the Stress of Credit Card Debt If you own a home, a HELOC allows you to borrow money against its equity — that’s the money you’ve paid toward your mortgage. Use Wilmer as an example. He’s accumulated more than $200,000 in home equity over the 20 years he’s owned his home. He applied for a five-year HELOC through Figure, which granted him access to $24,000 worth of his home’s equity with an  APR of 5.75%. He could then use that $24,000 to pay off his high-interest credit card balances. With a HELOC, you can use the money for whatever you want — but that doesn’t mean you should. HELOCs (typically) come with lower interest rates than personal loans because they’re backed by your home. This is a huge perk. But that also means if you fail to pay back what you’d borrowed, you risk losing your home. Many experts suggest only opening a HELOC to consolidate and pay off high-interest credit cards (like Wilmer) or to increase the value of your home with repairs or renovations. Don’t Let Lenders Take Advantage of Your Bad Situation Before he found Figure, Wilmer contacted his bank and other lenders about opening a HELOC. But he quickly realized: “These guys were trying to take advantage of my desperation.” “A couple of banks told me I qualified for a $190,000 line of credit,” Wilmer says. “It’s taken me 20 years of hard work to build up that equity.” He didn’t need that much money, and when Wilmer told one lender that, the voice on the other end responded: “Go buy a new wardrobe! Take a vacation!” It’s taken me 20 years of hard work to build up that equity. That enraged Wilmer. He knew that was the last thing anyone should do with borrowed money. Other banks offered a HELOC with a draw period of nine years, meaning he’d have more chance to spend. It was unnecessary; Wilmer just wanted to pay off his debt as soon as possible. A Line of Credit Could Save You Hundreds Each Month Right when he reached peak frustration, he learned about Figure. It offered home equity lines of credit for up to $150,000, with APRs starting at 4.99%. But because he hadn’t heard of the company before, Wilmer had questions. He picked up the phone and called Figure… several times. Everyone he spoke with was friendly, helpful and patient; no one was pushy. Wilmer even asked about the history of the company. Skepticism now aside, Wilmer got a free quote from Figure, then applied for a HELOC from his phone. He got approved for a five-year line of credit for with an APR of 5.75%. It was way better than any previous offer he’d received. Whereas his bank told him he’d have to wait three weeks for approval and to receive his funds, Figure directly deposited the money he requested into his account the next day. And, unlike some lenders might have, Figure didn’t surprise him with fees. He paid an origination fee (typical), but he wasn’t charged an application fee and doesn’t face monthly maintenance fees. Moving on From Unexpected Credit Card Debt  Once Wilmer was approved for his line of credit, he says, “It was like, ‘Wam bam bam,’ and everything was paid off. Now I just owe Figure. It took a lot of stress off.” He’s no longer worried about making payments toward his wife’s emergency eye surgery. Or paying off that air conditioning system — his old one went kaput the day his wife came home from surgery, and California summers are hot. And he went ahead and paid off a lingering $4,000 he still owed on roof repairs. It took a lot of stress off. Now he’s left with two easy-to-manage monthly payments: His mortgage and his Figure payment. He’s even throwing some extra money toward his line of credit so he can pay it off early — Figure has no early repayment penalty. It only takes five minutes to check your rate with Figure. If you like what you see and your application is approved, Figure will initiate funding within five days*. Then it’s goodbye to high interest rates and credit card debt.   *Terms and conditions apply. Visit figure.com for further information. Figure Lending LLC is an equal opportunity lender. NMLS #1717824 Carson Kohler (carson@thepennyhoarder.com) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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FINRA Proposes TRACE Reporting Obligations for U.S. Dollar-Denominated Foreign Sovereign Debt

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FINRA Proposes TRACE Reporting Obligations for U.S. Dollar-Denominated Foreign Sovereign Debt
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is proposing to expand TRACE reporting requirements to include transactions in U.S. dollar-denominated foreign sovereign debt securities. Under the proposal, this transaction information would be reported for regulatory purposes and would not be publicly disseminated. Comments on the proposal must be submitted to FINRA by September 24, 2019. More information is available here. [...]
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How to Pay off Credit Card Debt When You Have No Idea Where to Start

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How to Pay off Credit Card Debt When You Have No Idea Where to Start
We know how incredibly easy it is to rack up credit card debt.  More than 40% of American households carry a credit card balance, with an average balance of more than $9,000, according to a study from the financial data website ValuePenguin.  But here’s the tricky thing about credit cards: They only benefit you when you’re building credit and receiving perks — but not when you’re paying interest. If you’re paying a lot of interest on your balances, credit card companies are making money off of you. Your cards are using you, not the other way around. With average interest rates on new credit cards north of 17%, according to CreditCards.com, paying them off is a smart move. You can do it. And it’ll be worth it. 5 Ways to Pay off Debt From Multiple Credit Cards Before you start, try to stop using your credit cards altogether until you can use them without putting yourself in financial risk. Though the specifics will vary based on your situation, we only recommend using credit cards if:  You don’t have any debt outside of a mortgage or student loans. You have an emergency fund with three to six months of expenses saved. You can pay off your balance in full every month. However you do it, make paying off your credit cards — and learning to use them responsibly — a high priority.  First, determine how much credit card debt you have. You can do this using a tool like Credit Sesame, a free credit monitoring service.  Credit Sesame will also show you how to raise your credit score. James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points following suggestions from the site. Then choose your weapons! We’ll go over five different methods for paying off your credit card debt. 1. The Debt Avalanche Instead of looking at your debt in its entirety, we recommend approaching it bit by bit. By breaking your debt down into manageable chunks, you’ll experience quicker wins and stay motivated.  Two popular ways to break down debt repayments are the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods.  Using the debt avalanche method, you’ll order your credit card debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest. You’ll make minimum payments on all your cards, and any extra income you have will go toward the highest-interest card.  Eventually, that card will be paid off. Then, you’ll attack the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on, until all your cards are paid off. 2. The Debt Snowball With the debt snowball method, you’ll order your debts from the lowest balance to highest, regardless of the interest rates on the cards. You’ll make minimum payments on all your cards, and any extra income will go to the credit card with the smallest balance. Starting with the smallest balance allows you to experience wins faster than you would with the avalanche. This method is ideal for people who are motivated by quick wins, but it has a downside: Those who choose it could end up paying more interest over the long term.    Here’s an example of how each method would work if you’re paying off four credit cards of varying balances and interest rates. $654 with 0% interest $5,054 with 15% interest $2,541 with 23% interest $945 with 17% interest If you followed the avalanche method, you’d pay off card No. 3 first, followed by No. 4, No. 2 and No. 1. If you followed the snowball method, you’d pay off card No. 1 first, followed by No. 4, No. 3 and No. 2.  Let’s say you have $600 per month to put toward debt. Using the snowball and avalanche comparison calculator from Dough Roller, you can see that it would take you 18 months to pay all of your cards off using either method.  The debt avalanche method would save you $105.73 of interest in the end, but you’d pay off your first card six months earlier by going with the snowball. Choosing the right method comes down to deciding whether you’d rather get quick results or save money on interest. We encourage you to check out Dough Roller’s calculator yourself, so you can calculate what each method would cost you. 3. The Balance Transfer  If you have good to excellent credit (typically a FICO score of 670 or above) and can feasibly pay off your debt within a year, a balance-transfer credit card is a great option. Balance-transfer cards can save you money on interest charges by letting you transfer the balance of a card with a high interest rate to a card with 0% interest.  Most of these cards offer 0% interest for 12 to 18 months with no annual fee. They generally have a 2% to 5% balance-transfer fee, but you can easily find balance-transfer cards with no fee. A higher credit score will help you qualify for a card with better terms. 4. Take out a Loan  You might look at getting a loan to consolidate and refinance your debts. If you get a loan with a lower interest rate and pay off your credit cards, that lower rate could potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest.  This is a realistic way to pay off credit card debt if you currently have little or no money to put toward it. Let’s look at two options here: A personal loan or a home equity loan.  Personal Loan  Online marketplaces will allow you to prequalify for a personal loan without doing a hard inquiry of your credit, so if you want to shop around, head there first. It won’t affect your credit score.  A good resource here is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs. It searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than a minute. Home Equity Loan  If you own a home with equity, you have three ways to borrow money against the value of your home: a home equity loan, home equity line of credit or a cash-out refinance. With a home equity loan, the lender gives you your money all at once, and you repay it at a fixed interest rate over a set period of time. With a home equity line of credit, you’re given a limit to borrow. Within that limit, you can take as little or as much as you need whenever you want. With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your first mortgage with a mortgage that’s slightly more money than your current one, and pocket the difference. For homeowners, these options will most likely offer the lowest interest rates. But they’re also the riskiest, because your home is the collateral — something you own that your lender can take if you don’t pay off the loan.  5. Debt Settlement The world of debt collections and creditors can be confusing, intimidating and sometimes even illegal. There’s a common misconception, for example, that someone can take your house or you can go to jail for not making your payments. But credit card debt is unsecured debt, meaning no one can put you in jail or take your house if you don’t pay it. If you’re being harassed by creditors or have circumstances that make your debt repayment confusing, don’t give up before finding out your options for assistance. Debt Management Program With a debt management program, a credit counseling company will handle your consolidation in hopes of getting you better interest rates and lower fees. You’ll be assigned a counselor, who will set up a repayment and education plan for you. This program is specifically for unsecured debt, like credit cards and medical bills. A debt management program pays your creditors for you to ensure you stay current on your debt payments. Your credit score may even improve during the program. But if you miss a payment, you can be dropped, and you’ll lose all the benefits you gained. Debt management plans usually don’t reduce your debt, but they may reduce your interest rates by as much as half or extend your payment timeline to make paying your debt more manageable. Credit Card Debt Settlement If you’re in more than just a temporary season of financial instability, and you can’t see yourself affording the amount of credit card deb [...]
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How I Finished Graduate School Debt Free

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How I Finished Graduate School Debt Free
Guest post from Darya 0f A Mom From a Foreign Land Completing graduate school was one of my biggest accomplishments in life… and graduating with no school debt made the moment even sweeter! Before I started my master’s degree, I was terrified that I would graduate owing thousands of dollars and it would take me years to pay it back. I was also freaking out because I was pregnant and my baby was due in the middle of my first semester. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to afford it all. Gratefully, I had the support of my husband and a plan in hand. Three years later, I received my master’s in science and had no debt to repay. I went to NC State University in Raleigh, NC. The tuition and fees for one semester totaled to about $6,000 for in-state students. On average, a master’s degree at this school takes between 4 and 6 semesters (roughly $24,000 to $36,000!) Here are the things I did to finish graduate school DEBT FREE: 1. I worked at the university. The good thing about grad school is that you can often get an assistantship job and have your tuition covered. I also received a small stipend with it! I got a teaching assistantship that included assisting a professor during a class, grading homework, helping with attendance, and overly assisting with general administrative tasks. I had this job for 3 of my semesters — which meant no additional tuition costs for those 3 semesters! 2. I had another part-time job. I worked every Friday and Saturday night at a local steak house.This job gave me the flexibility and finances to earn my master’s degree. Occasionally, if my school load was lighter and my husband was available to watch our child, I would pick up an extra shift here and there. I made about 70% of my income at the restaurant. It was tiring and I had to work late but I needed the money. 3. I took some online classes. I didn’t want to take too many online classes, but taking a few helped me stay at home when I first had my baby. At the same time, I saved on gas (I had a 70-minute commute) and could work more hours at the restaurant. 4. I cut down on unnecessary expenses. We stopped eating out. On the days I went to school I brought my snacks, lunch, and coffee from home. I minimized social life and entertainment. I breastfed my daughter to save on formula. I kept clothes shopping to a minimal. 5. I earned a scholarship. I got a $1000 scholarship for working towards a Career in Conservation due to some volunteer work I did for a local environmental organization. 6. I made small payments on my loan while on grad school. My schooling lasted 6 semesters and (as I mentioned above) my tuition was covered for 3 of the semesters. In order to afford the other 3 semesters I had to get a loan. However, as soon as I got the loan though, I started making $50 monthly payment on it while still in school — even though I did not have to. Some months I could not afford to pay more, others I would pay extra. And once I started working full-time (see below), I started paying as much as I could. I ended up completely paying off my loan before I officially graduated! 7. I started a full-time job while still in school. I started working as soon as I finished all my classes, but I spent another 8 months working on my thesis. Working a full-time job and working on my paper was challenging. I had to devote my nights and weekends to writing, but I was happy to be able to get a job before I had officially graduated. Doing all these things took a lot of effort and dedication. I am so happy that I can now focus on paying off other bills and not worry about student loans. I believe that anybody that puts their mind to it, can do it too! Darya grew up in Eastern Europe, and has been living in the U.S. for over 10 years. To this day she still has trouble adjusting to the American culture, especially when it comes to raising a child. She lives with her husband and 3.5 year old daughter in Greenville, SC. While working a not-so-exciting governmental job, she still finds time to blog about motherhood, working mom life, healthy life, and recipes at A Mom From a Foreign Land. [...]
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When “I Do” Becomes “We Owe”: How to Pay Off Your Debt as a Couple

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When “I Do” Becomes “We Owe”: How to Pay Off Your Debt as a Couple
Marriage is about two becoming one. And along with all the good qualities you both bring to your marriage, you might each be crossing the threshold with student loans, mortgages and credit card debt from your life before the wedding. Although you may not legally be responsible for your spouse’s debt — that depends on your state’s rules — that whole for-better-or-worse thing probably means you want to help each other stress less about the money situation. So why not make tackling your debt the first big success of your new life together? We’ve rounded up tips from other couples that you can apply to your own debt-free goals. Strategies for Paying Off Marriage Debt as a Couple Marriage is, by design, supposed to be a long-term commitment. Although the discussion really should have happened earlier, talking about money now that you’re married is essential to tackling debt as well as planning for your future, according to Ariel Ward, Certified Financial Planner at Abacus Wealth Partners. “First of all, come together as a couple and have an honest conversation with each other about what the current state of your finances [is], facing the debt,” she said. “And also with that, talk about once we have this debt paid off, what are going to be our long-term goals around money.” Ready to stop stressing about finances and enjoy married life? Say “I do” to these savvy strategies. Think of “My Debt” and “Your Debt” as “Our Debt” One of the most important things to remember when you’re starting your new life facing a pile of debt: You’re in this together. “The couples that I see that have the most success have come to terms with what their financial situation is and they view each other as teammates,” said Ward, adding that they view themselves as co-owners of the debt, “even if one person brought more of it in.” About a year and a half into their marriage, Pete and Maria Sbashnig had not yet combined the finances of their blended family (each has two kids from previous marriages), so he figured it was time to see where they stood. Pro Tip Unless there is an extenuating circumstance, sign up for a joint bank account and become authorized users on each other’s credit cards so you both know where your money is going each month. Midway through listing their debts — which included two mortgages, a home equity line of credit, two car loans and over $60,000 in credit card debt — they realized their total debt was $332,000, putting their net worth at a negative $244,000. But rather than focusing only on their own bank accounts, the two decided to team up to pay off the debt. Pete brought in more income by taking side jobs umpiring baseball games, mowing lawns and helping his dad with his landscape business. Maria cut the family’s expenses by clipping coupons, cooking meals at home and limiting school shopping. Together they paid off $65,000 in 17 months while making less than $100,000 per year combined. Budget for Two When you’ve been budgeting for one (you have been budgeting, right?), you might be wondering how to turn that process into a debt paydown plan for two. By creating a budget together, you’ll both understand why certain expenses need to be cut, according to Ward. “It’s important to know where your money is going on a monthly or a weekly basis,” said Ward, who suggested using an app like Mint, which allows both of you to track expenses. “It is easy for couples to just assume the other is watching the budget … and maybe neither one of you is doing it.” Pro Tip When discussing your budget, set aside at least an hour when you know you can both offer your full attention. Make sure neither of you are tired or hungry — and turn off those cell phones! The Penny Hoarder contributor Abbigail Kriebs said she and her husband weren’t getting anywhere with their financial goals until they signed up for a budgeting class that forced them to talk about their financial situations, including struggles and insecurities they felt about money. They started setting aside time on Sunday afternoons to budget as a couple and discuss their living expenses, income and goals. By being honest about their spending and saving habits, they’ve been able to re-evaluate strategies to pay down their student debts. Earn Extra Money as a Couple Hustling is so romantic, right? Alright, maybe it’s not about flowers and candlelight dinners, but there are ways the two of you can pay off debt by working as a team. Finding a side gig that the two of you can do together allows you to find work you’ll both enjoy — or at least work you’ll enjoy doing because you’re together — according to Ward, who suggested dog walking as one option. The couples that I see that have the most success have come to terms with what their financial situation is and they view each other as teammates. “That could be kind of a fun date to go do together: You go pick up a dog to walk for 30 minutes, and you get paid for it,” she said. “And maybe not as fun, but… there are plenty of apps out there where you can put up an ad and offer to clean people’s houses, so that’s something you can do together as well.” Another option is to tag team your work, like Sam and Susen Meteer splitting their schedules to drive for Lyft. Sam is an elementary school teacher by day who gets behind the wheel on nights and weekends. On weekday mornings, Susen drops their kids at school and keeps on driving. Together, they can pull in $800 to $1,500 a week. FROM THE DEBT FORUM Student loans/debt consolidation 7/8/19 @ 1:09 PM Unsure How to Proceed 7/10/19 @ 7:39 PM From Debt to Debt-free to Debt again 6/30/19 @ 3:53 PM Travel Trailer Debt 6/25/19 @ 5:31 PM See more in Debt or ask a money question If your efforts to dig yourselves out of debt as couple still aren’t getting anywhere and it’s causing strife within your marriage, it may be time for outside help. “Talk to a marriage counselor that can help you learn how to work as a team on not just the debt but other things, or looking for a financial planner,” Ward said. “Sometimes it’s a good idea to seek outside help when you can’t solve things on your own.” Because getting out of debt together is a good way to start your happily ever after. Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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Got Credit Card Debt? Paying Biweekly Could Save You Hundreds on Interest

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Got Credit Card Debt? Paying Biweekly Could Save You Hundreds on Interest
It happens every month: The credit card bill is due. You dutifully send your minimum payment on the due date — but watch the balance grow ever larger. But what if you could pay half that amount every two weeks instead of one payment every month? More payments, you say? Thanks, I’ll pass. But what if the new payment schedule could save you hundreds of dollars? Biweekly payments are a simple way to reduce your balance and the amount you pay in interest. Here’s what you need to know. How Do Biweekly Payments Work? You may have already heard of — or received offers for — biweekly payment plans for debts like your mortgage. Here’s how one works: Let’s say your monthly payment for a debt is $500. If you pay that amount each month, you’ll make 12 payments each year for a total of $6,000. If you make biweekly payments, you pay $250 every two weeks. But because there are 52 weeks in a calendar year (thanks to that wacky Gregorian), you’ll make 26 half payments or 13 full payments each year, for a total of $6,500. That reduces your principal by $500 in one year and thus reduces the amount of interest you’ll pay on the remaining balance. Depending on how much you owe and how your debt is structured, you could shave months or years off of a payment plan. An amortization schedule is a table listing regular payments for the life of a loan. Each amount includes a little more toward principal and a little less toward interest as your balance goes down. You can check out your loan’s amortization schedule and online biweekly payment calculators to see just how much you’ll save by paying off principal early. How to Decide if a Biweekly Payment Plan Is Worth It There are three questions to ask about your debt before switching to a biweekly payment plan, according to Brian Walsh, Certified Financial Planner and manager of financial planning at SoFi, a personal finance company: 1. What is the interest rate on the debt? Before you start planning out a new payment schedule, you should first know if it’s worth your effort. That starts with knowing how much interest you’re being charged on a debt. “We consider good debt as anything with an interest rate below 7% and bad debt, anything with an interest rate above 7%,” Walsh said. Rather than paying off  “good debt” early, you can often put your money to better use by investing in IRAs, 401(k)s and other accounts that offer a higher interest rate than the one you’re paying. Pro Tip Considering biweekly payments for a student loan? Current interest rates on direct federal loans for undergraduates is 5.05%, while Direct PLUS Loans for parents or graduate students is 7.6%. So if you have a mortgage charging 5% interest and an IRA earning 8%, you’ll make more money in the long term by continuing with your current monthly debt payment plan and putting that extra money toward your IRA. But if you have an auto loan charging 9% interest, you should consider a biweekly payment plan to pay down that debt faster. 2.  Are there any prepayment penalties associated with the debt? Before starting a biweekly payment plan, review loan contracts to be sure it doesn’t include a prepayment penalty. If it does, you’ll be charged extra for paying off a loan or a large portion in a single payment, which could offset any benefits you reap in interest savings. 3. Can you apply the extra payments toward principal? This question typically requires you to simply tell your lender — via phone, email or letter — that you want extra payments applied toward your principal amount, not the interest. That allows you to pay down the debt faster and avoid paying extra in interest. When it comes to meeting all three criteria, there’s typically one debt that’s a clear winner, according to Walsh. “Whenever we come across credit cards, to me, that’s a no brainer,” Walsh said. “People should be setting up biweekly and more frequent payments when it comes to a credit card.” Why You Should Set Up Biweekly Credit Card Payments If there’s ever a chance you’ll carry over a balance from month to month on your credit card, biweekly payments can save you hundreds in interest, according to Walsh. A grace period is the time between when a statement closes and the due date. The 2009 Credit Card Act requires that if a credit card company offers a grace period, it must last at least 21 days. The problem with credit card debt is that unless you pay off the full balance every month, you lose the grace period credit cards typically offer and start accruing interest on a daily basis. By making biweekly payments, you’ll not only knock out more of the balance, you’ll avoid accruing additional interest in those 14 days between payments. Why Biweekly Mortgage Payments May Not Be Worth It So credit card biweekly payments may sound all well and good, but what about knocking out most people’s biggest debt, the mortgage? Not so fast, say the experts. Using a biweekly payment plan to pay down your mortgage typically isn’t the best financial decision, according to Jason B. Ball, a certified financial planner with Ball Comprehensive Planning in West Linn, Oregon. To illustrate this, Ball offered a scenario using the example of a house purchased for $300,000 with a down payment of $50,000 and an interest rate of 4.2%:   Traditional Monthly Payment Biweekly Payment Payment Amount $1,256.97 $628.49 Total Interest Paid $182,510.84 $153,169.81 Pay-off Date 30 years 25 years, 8 months Here’s how much you can expect to save by making a biweekly payment as opposed to a traditional monthly payment: Interest: $29,341.03 Time: 4 years, 4 months “In our example, it looks to save about four years,” he wrote in an email. “It is also interesting to note that most people do not live in their home that long. The typical buyer could be expected to stay in a single-family home roughly 12 years before moving out.” Yes, you’d save on interest (although not as much if you move out before you finish paying off the mortgage), but Ball notes that at 4.2%, you could put your extra payments to better use by investing that money in higher yielding investments like a 401(k). And although it might make you feel better about not having a mortgage hanging over your head (and there are other benefits to paying off your mortgage early), there’s a good chance a paid-off house won’t help you out that much financially even if you do decide to stay there when you retire. “If you put all your money into your mortgage, you may be house rich at retirement, but you need to look at how you will turn that asset into a monthly paycheck at retirement,” Ball wrote. “Typically, pre-paying the mortgage yields a lower probability of retirement success than other options.”   FROM THE DEBT FORUM What is the best way to consolidate my credit cards into one payment 6/5/19 @ 7:03 PM My townhome is just a money pit 6/4/19 @ 4:48 PM Senior Couple drowning in debt 1/22/19 @ 9:44 AM B Great Student Loan payoff apps. 5/8/19 @ 4:44 PM See more in Debt or ask a money question Should You DIY Biweekly Payments? So you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you’re ready to put yourself on a biweekly payment plan. Now what [...]
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Paying Off Debt On One Income

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Paying Off Debt On One Income
Have you struggled with paying off debt — especially if you’re living on one income? These are some great tips and tricks on how to pay off debt in creative ways! {Need more encouragement? Read about finding contentment in the pit of debt, what to do when it feels like you’ll never get out of debt, how to overcome discouragement when you’re in debt, and how to stay motivated when you’re paying off debt.} Guest post from Ali of Meanwhile at Naptime: Debt is a killer. Unfortunately, our family has lots of it. We did a lot of things wrong our first few years of paying off debt… but this past year, we were able to pay off $32,000 (in addition to our mortgage payments), and it feels so good! How we got all that debt… Graduate school! The majority of our debt is student loans. We floundered a bit our first year or two after graduation, making minimum payments and telling ourselves it would all work out somehow. After a year of minimum payments, our debt was even higher as we couldn’t even keep up with the interest. We buckled down, made a plan and wrote up a budget. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt follow these tips to become debt free on a one income! Why We Decided to be a One-Income Family: I want to be a stay at home mom. I had a degree and a job, but once our daughter was born, I knew where I wanted to be. After moving across the country for graduate school, we had no family to watch our baby and childcare costs were so high that it just didn’t make sense for me to work anyway. We are both happy with this decision and we have been able to reach our financial goals on one income and here’s how we did it. How We Paid off $32,000 on ONE Income! If you’re interested in how to pay off debt, here are some of the tactics we used to help pay down our massive sum of debt… 1. We Implemented a Zero-Sum Budget You must have a budget. No way around this one. If you want to pay down your debt you have to tell your money exactly where to go. A zero-sum budget is simple, your income – expenses = 0. If you have any money left over at the end of the month you are not done. You must tell that money where to go. All our leftover money went to our student loans. 2. We Prioritized Our Debt Getting out of debt is our number one financial goal. We wrote down all our money goals — ALL of them. Then we prioritized and dropped those that wouldn’t fit in this year. We placed our student loans at the top. Sometimes when motivation started slipping we had to ask ourselves, would I rather go out to eat or be debt free? With that as our goal, we were able to keep ourselves on track each and every month. 3. We Put Our Entire Tax Return Towards our Debt We didn’t keep any of it — once that money came in, we threw it right at the debt! 4. We Used a Pay Raise to Increase Debt Payments With our budget in place, we knew how much money we spent on things like groceries and utilities. When my husband got a raise, the only numbers that changed were our debt payments and our savings. 5. We Put Any Bonuses Towards Deb Payments Any time we got a bonus at work, we put ALL of it toward our debts. 6. We Canceled Subscriptions When creating our budget, we had to make some sacrifices — subscriptions were one of the first things to go. For instance, I had been getting HGTV magazine for years. It was hard to say goodbye; but now, a year later I don’t miss it at all. Similarly, this year, we’re dropping Netflix to see how much closer we can get to our goal. 7. We Skipped Vacations We decided that we could have fun at home without a vacation. It was a tough decision but we saved hundreds of dollars by skipping the vacation this year. Create a family bucket list full of free or cheap ideas instead of a family vacation this year (see below!) 8. We Found Free Family Events Honestly, this one was one of our favorite “sacrifices”. By looking for free events we got to know our community quite well and saw how much our own city has to offer. Our local radio station has been a great resource for finding free events. We also checked with our local parks department, local schools, and we signed up for a community newsletter. As a result, we’ve been to museums, zoos, and even got a family caricature done for free! Take the time to look for free or cheap events and you won’t be disappointed. 9. We Sold Our Stuff Online Chances are there are plenty of things in your house that you don’t use or even need. Sell them online to make some extra money. We did… and as a result, we were able to refill our emergency fund and free up some cash for more payments! Final Thoughts on Paying Off Debt on a Single Income The hardest part is staying motivated. It’s hard to see your money go to payment after payment. We had to regularly remind ourselves of our desire to be debt free to keep us going. Now looking back, our year of paying off debt was actually a lot of fun — and SO worth it. We made many sacrifices, we followed a strict budget, and we prioritized our debt. We worked hard and found lots of ways to save money too — and as a result, we paid off $32,000 in just ONE year, living on ONE income! I am forever grateful I get to stay home with my babies every day. We’re still working on our debt, and hoping to do EVEN BETTER this year! What are your best tips for how to pay off debt on one income? Ali is a stay-at-home mom to three kids. She is mastering the art frugal living and helps stay at home moms learn how to control their finances while running a home. Read all about mom life and frugal living at Meanwhile at Naptime. [...]
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These 8 Strategies Will Help You Pay Down Credit Card Debt When You Retire

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These 8 Strategies Will Help You Pay Down Credit Card Debt When You Retire
Ah, retirement. Lazy days in the hammock, bucket list trips to Europe, leisurely drives in your sports car. Wait, you’ve spent more time jettisoning ideas than planning jet-setting excursions? Despite your best savings efforts — and unexpected expenses — those idyllic retirement plans may have run into the stark reality that you didn’t end up with the nest egg you had planned on. In fact, you’re headed toward your golden years with credit card debt. Employee Benefit Research Institute.  In 1992, 53.8% of families with the head of household ages 55 or older had debt. By 2016, that number had climbed to 68%. Unfortunately, it’s a nationwide trend, as families just reaching retirement or those recently retired are more likely to have debt — and higher levels of it — than past generations, according to a study by the Without your former income, you may be starting to worry about making the growing credit card payments on a fixed income, particularly when the average Social Security monthly benefit is $1,461. Putting a dent — permanently — in credit card debt when you’re retired is possible, and we have seven ways to help pay off your debt so you can enjoy that hammock. 8 Ways to Help Pay Down Credit Card Debt in Retirement Retirement offers unique opportunities and challenges when you’re paying off debt. You may have new sources of income, like Social Security or a pension, and new expenses, like increased healthcare costs or fun stuff like travel. So here are eight post-employment strategies that can help you pay down debt. 1. Make a Budget Tackling credit card payment as you approach retirement starts by re-examining your budget. Making changes to your lifestyle and using your free time to save money is a good place to start, according to Joseph Valenti, senior policy advisor with the AARP Public Policy Institute, in Washington, D.C. “One thing we know from studies of retirement is that people have fewer set costs typically compared to when they were working,” he said. “If they have more time, maybe they will be preparing more meals at home.” If you need help creating your budget, check out our step-by-step guide to budgeting or learn the basics in our Budgeting 101 Academy course. Once you know where you stand financially, you can start looking for ways to cut the credit card balance. 2. Negotiate With Credit Card Companies The best way to know where you stand is to look at the numbers — in this case, the interest rate on your cards. It’s easier to pay down a debt if you’re accumulating less interest on top of the original amount (learn more about compound interest in our Credit Cards 101 Academy course). Asking your credit card company for a new rate is one option, particularly if you’re ready to commit to living credit card-free going forward, Valenti said. “In some cases, even if you close that card, they will let you pay it down for little or no interest over a period of time,” Valenti said. “That’s assuming you don’t need the card again.” Pro Tip When you call the credit card company, the first person you talk to may not be able to help you, even if they think they can. Ask to speak with a manager who handles settlement arrangements. Check out this post for more tips on negotiating credit card debt. And if you’re too overwhelmed to deal with the creditors themselves, consider reaching out to a credit counselor, who can help you organize your accounts and may negotiate a lower interest rate for you. 3. Transfer Your Balance to a New Card Loyalty isn’t necessarily rewarding. If you’ve had the same card for years, transferring your balance to a new card could give you a lower interest rate than you current provider can offer. Reap the most benefits by paying down as much debt as you can during the promotional period. When you’re considering which card to go with, compare this information for all offers: Fees (typically at least $5 to $10 or 3% to 5% of the balance) Interest (look for 0%) Duration of the promotional APR (usually 12 to 18 months) Credit score requirements (generally good or excellent) Credit limits (make sure it’s more than your current balance) Here’s what else to consider before transferring a balance. 4. Cut (Former) Work-Related Expenses Still hanging on to that gym membership, even though you only signed up because it was close to your office? By reviewing your monthly, periodic and annual budgets, you may discover work-related expenses that have become so habitual you’ve forgotten about them, according to Valenti, who gave transportation, clothing and cell phone expenses as examples. Cancel subscriptions to professional associations and other automatic billings associated with work (an ink cartridge subscription, for instance) to avoid unwanted surprises at the end of the month. If you have trouble keeping up with recurring payments, try using a subscription tracking tool. And if you still enjoy hitting the gym, cut costs by asking about senior discounts — AARP has many for its members. 5. Set Up Self-Imposed Limits Before retirement, those little expenses that broke your budget one month may have been easier to cushion with your regular paycheck. And remembering them all may have been a little easier a few years ago. To help you track the expenses and avoid unwanted surprises at the end of the month, Valenti suggested setting up alerts from your bank or credit card provider. “It’s one thing to find out instantly through a text that you’ve reached a limit — even if it’s a self-imposed limit — as opposed to a statement that’s going to shock you at the end of a cycle,” Valenti said. 6. Ask for Professional (Financial) Help If you’re overwhelmed by managing your day-to-day finances or fear forgetting to pay bills and sinking further in debt, consider hiring a daily money manager. In addition to tracking bills, daily money managers can help you with balancing your checkbook, collecting tax documents, dealing with medical bills and even avoiding scams. Pro Tip Your bank must protect two months’ worth of Social Security benefits from a credit card collector’s garnishment. If your account has more than that, the bank can garnish or freeze the extra money. Depending on where you live, a daily money manager may charge $75 to $150 an hour. However, the American Association of Daily Money Managers provides a list of state agencies that provide services to low-income and disabled seniors.   7. Make Extra Money on Your Empty Nest Now that the kids have moved out (hopefully), you’re stuck with that big, empty house. One option for making money is to sell it and downsize to a smaller place, then use the profits to pay off credit card debt. But moving still requires an outlay of cash and can add additional stress as you’re adjusting to retired life. If you’re seeking something a little less drastic, think about new ways to use your house — and its contents — to earn some cash today, advises Moira Somers, a wealth psychologist based in Winnipeg, Canada, and the author of “Advice That Sticks: How to Give Financial Advice That People Will Follow.” “Look at the resources you have and say, ‘Could this turn into money somehow?’” she said. “One of the cool things about this period in our life is that there are sometimes ways we can make extra money that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago — the whole AirBnb thing, for example.” If you’re looking to make some money on your extra bedrooms, check out our post about how to become an Airbnb host. And don’t forget about all those buried treasures in the attic. (Did you know that Urban Outfitters sells five-packs of random VHS tapes for $40? Yeah. That’s a thing.) One of the cool things about this period in our life is that there are sometimes ways we can make extra money that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago. Somers notes ta [...]
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