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The Penny Hoarder
October 7, 2019

Every year, nearly 750,000 Americans go bankrupt. In fact, tens of millions of Americans will go into bankruptcy at some point in their lives. Their debts will overwhelm them and their credit will get nuked.

These are depressingly large numbers. But you can avoid being one of them. People who do these five things are much less likely to ever face bankruptcy. 

1. Simplify Your Budget

If you really want to manage your money better, try creating a budget. 

Ewww, gross. We know. But it’s important to take a good look at what you’re spending and where you can cut back.

If you’re not sure where to even start, we favor the 50/20/30 budgeting method for its simplicity — and flexibility. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

The key is to accept you can’t create the perfect budget in an hour. You’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you.

2. Get Out of Debt Faster

Getting trapped in a cycle of high-interest debt can be one of the quickest ways to end up filing for bankruptcy. A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. 

Your credit card is getting rich by ripping you off with these insane rates, but a company called Fiona could help you pay them off tomorrow. 

Here’s how it works: Fiona will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one bill to pay every month, and because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

3. Invest 15 Cents In the Stock Market

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: 15 cents? How’s that going to do me any good?

Well, that leftover change from your morning coffee and evening grocery hauls could turn into more than $1,000.

That’s what happened when Penny Hoarder reader Jeremy Kolodziej opened an investment account with Acorns. The app’s round-up feature bumps each of your purchases up to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into the stock market, which helped him mindlessly save $1,076 in about 20 months. 

“It’s a virtual coin jar,” he says. “You don’t even think about it.” He used the spare change to pay for two vacations.

Plus, Acorns invested the money for him, allowing him to grow his savings — without studying stock prices or managing trades.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up

Building some extra cushion through small investments can do wonders for keeping yourself out of financial trouble.

4. Make Sure You’re Not Overpaying

Making sure your spending is in control is an important factor in maintaining your financial footing. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around certain expenses — like car insurance.

But one way you could save money is by shopping around and comparing rates at least once a year. Most of us don’t do that, according to numerous studies, although who wouldn’t want to lower their own rates and pay less?

So, just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

The Zebra, an online car insurance search engine that offers “insurance in black and white,” compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds.

We talked to Artie Januario, who found new insurance through The Zebra and managed to knock off $30 a month — or $360 a year — from his premium.

5. Dodge Bank Fees — and Make Your Money Work for You

There’s no law that requires you to bank the old-fashioned way — at a brick-and-mortar bank with a low interest rate on your savings.

It’s time to move your money into the 21st century. An app called Varo Money combines traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy. 

Here’s the best part: Pair your checking account with a savings account where you’ll earn 2.12%* APY (Annual Percentage Yield) with the opportunity to earn up to 2.80% APY on up to $50,000 in savings. To qualify for the 2.80% rate, you’ll need to have payroll or government direct deposits of $1,000 or more and authorize at least five purchases with your Varo debit card each month.

That’s 31 times — repeat, 31 times — the average savings account, based on a 0.09% average reported by the FDIC.

Varo goes easy on the fees, too. You won’t pay fees at more than 55,000 ATMs worldwide.

Keep Your Finances in Good Shape

This is all about finding achievable ways to better yourself financially and put more money in your pocket.

Obviously, make sure you’re contributing to a regular old 401(k) or IRA while you’re out there making all these smart, savvy financial moves.

Set goals. Avoid traps. Take the long road, and you’ll win a little peace of mind.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

 

RiXtrema
June 4, 2019

Having student debt is one of the number one reasons that millennials are discouraged from saving for retirement right away, and for good reason. Student debt is a massive contributor to financial stress, and it’s something that affects so many. When you have tens of thousands of dollars hanging over your head right as you are starting your career, it’s a perfectly natural reaction to be more worried about that than your distant retirement.

According to research sponsored by AIG, too many former students will begin their careers under financial burden. The Money Matters on Campus survey showed the necessity of better financial literacy and education to deal with stress. The key findings reveal that money managing is a serious problem for nearly half of all college students, and six out of ten either have taken or are planning to take loans, in order to cover their tuition bills, whereas only 65% are planning to pay off their loans on time. As a result of students’ financial illiteracy, more and more young professionals feel stressed under the feeling that they won’t have enough money to last the semester, or if their tuition fee will rise, or, most importantly, they won’t be able to find a job after graduation.

As a matter of fact, it is now the top source of debt for Americans other than home mortgages. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 40 million Americans owe a total of $1.3 trillion in student loans. Also, about 70% of the recent college graduates will have student loan debt, on average, equal to $37,142. This is not an ideal situation to start off with your life and this is even more burdensome for those students who have dropped out of college because they are three times more likely to default on their student loans than college graduates. The direct consequence of having a student loan results in a delay to saving for retirement or buying a first home.

The issue of the student debt should be addressed by the financial advisers when they work with their clients. A careful analysis of the situation is mandatory in order to work out the best course of action on how to repay the student loan while planning for other important goals like retirement. Often, the clients need to be nudged in the right direction to start to remedy the situation. The first step is to understand the terms of the loan if it is a direct subsidized or unsubsidized loan or a private loan, the current interest rate paid on the loan, etc. The second step in this process is to find out about all possible options on how the situation can be made better by finding options with the better terms than they have and begin by checking out programs offered by the federal government or trying to qualify for an income-driven repayment plan that would have trimmed their payments to the manageable amounts.

Regardless of how difficult the situation is, one thing is obvious, you cannot turn a blind eye on the problem of the student debt. Working with a financial adviser can help to build a road map that can solve this problem and let the client start plan for other stages in life like retirement.

 

When it comes to overcoming debt, one of the most effective strategies could be to reconsider before even taking it on. However one must weight the decision thoroughly because a degree is probably one of the biggest investments that a person will make. As student debt will be a major financial burden throughout their life, it is important for a potential student or their parents to have a financial discussion before making the decision to take on the debt. To look at education coldly as an investment and asses the ROI may be a valuable exercise. Career outcomes should also be discussed, such as expected income and job prospects. If it is determined that taking on the debt for a course which will not likely provide an income level high enough to repay the debt then alternates should be consider. Some alternatives could be:

  • Universities offering income share agreements.
  • Compare loan options from private loan / refinancing firms.
  • Pursue a career that can be built within a company.
  • Community college, trade school or the military.
  • Delay or part time college to allow to work to pay for it upfront or as you go.
  • Employer sponsorship, with a commitment to work for a firm who may be desperate for staff.

When all else fails, student loan forgiveness programs are still an option for many. The federal government offers a few loan forgiveness options, including Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and forgiveness from income-driven repayment plans. When you think of loan forgiveness, there is a chance that the only program that comes to mind is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for federal loans. But loan forgiveness isn’t limited to government workers with federal loans. Depending on your client’s situation, he might be eligible for several forgiveness programs — even for private loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program available to government and certain nonprofit employees. Eligible applicants remaining loan balance could be forgiven tax-free after 120 qualifying loan payments made.

Private student loans don’t qualify for income-driven repayment, though some lenders offer student loan repayment options that temporarily reduce payments. Also dozens of lenders offer student loan refinancing. If your client’s credit score is in at least the high-600s there’s little downside to refinancing private student loans at a lower interest rate.

Moreover, financial advisors can play a key role in educating younger clients with how to responsibly manage their debt with saving for retirement. For example, being able to explain to your clients how their compounding returns in a retirement portfolio may still be able to outperform your student loan interest in the long run. So there’s good reason to be contributing to your 401(k) or Roth IRA even though they may be desperate to get ahead of their loan interest. Of course it’s a great stress reliever to get debt out of the way before thinking of saving for your retirement, but especially with very lenient Federal Loans, it’s the crucial  role of an advisor to make sure their clients understand how to reach a good balance between saving and paying down their debt

 

Essentially, financial advisors can help their clients to overcome their debt with effective financial education. This includes developing a better understanding of their loan repayment options, making a repayment plan, and having a clearer picture of their debt.

Money Professor
March 30, 2019

 

There are a lot of things you can do to reduce your debt. But what are the most important things you can do? If you could only focus your energy on three things, what three things should you focus on?

These are three actions you can take immediately that'll have a dramatic debt-slashing effect on your personal balance sheet.

== Recruit the Support of Friends and Family

Trying to fight debt all on your own is incredibly difficult. It's especially difficult if you feel like it's something you need to hide.

Getting out of debt isn't a process that happens in weeks. It almost always takes months; often it takes years.

Maintaining the self-discipline and motivation to get you through all the hard times that are bound to come up is very hard all on your own.

But with the support of people who care about you, who can hold you to your word even when the times get tough, the process gets a lot easier.

== Commit to Pay More Than the Minimum, Every Time

The amount of money credit card companies make off of you if you only pay the minimum amount is astounding.

Try it: plug in your minimum payment, your balance and your interest rate into an online calculator. You might be shocked at just how much more you'd end up paying.

If you want to get out of debt, it's crucial that you start paying more than the minimum amount, immediately.

That often means making sacrifices in other areas of your life. It might mean making coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks. It might mean biking to work rather than driving.

Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be used to pay off your debt.

== Not Using Credit Cards - At All

Finally, get rid of your credit cards. Or at least lock them in a drawer and give the key to someone else. Don't actually close down your credit card accounts though, as having long-history credit card accounts with low balances is usually good for your credit score.

Trying to get your credit card balances down while you're still using credit cards is a logical fallacy. It just plain doesn't work.

Yet so many people try to do just that. They try to get out of debt, but they don't actually change their spending habits.

Using credit means you're essentially using money that you haven't made yet. If you step away from that mentality and instead only commit to using money that you've already made, that alone will set you on a path to financial freedom.

These are three action steps you can take to reducing your debt today. They're not easy to take, but if you have the willpower to follow through they'll make a big difference.