This week: 3 debts to pay off before retirement, paid off your credit cards – now what?, 5 things to do before refinancing student loans
With much news of the debt crisis crippling many American’s mindsets around money, it can be challenging for some people to even consider settling down to retire with major payments in mind. The statistics don’t lie: about 80% of American households have some sort of debt and Americans over 60 owe more money than ever before – 3 trillion to be exact. It’s time to reset what it means to prepare for retirement and pay off debts. Let’s dive into 3 of the biggest money debts and how to pay them off before you settle down.
- Mortgages. What are among some of the largest liabilities of Americans? They’re home mortgages. In fact, nearly 33% of American’s spending goes towards their mortgage alone. Pro-tip: try making extra payments towards your principal each month before you leave the labor force. If time is an issue, consider downsizing to a less expensive house that you can pay in cash for.
- Auto loans. Today, more than 33% of American households are still making payments on their cars. In fact, nearly $1 trillion in auto loans are now outstanding. Unlike a mortgage, you get no tax relief from the interest you pay on car loans which can become quite sticky depending on how steep the payments are. If you really need a new vehicle, consider picking one that you can pay for with cash. For financing a car, make sure the loan is satisfied near the year you plan on retiring.
- Credit cards. Carrying credit card debt can become burdensome to your wallet, especially considering card issuers charge much higher interest rates than any other type of lenders. As a rule of thumb, start with paying your higher interest debt first and work your way down.
Becoming debt-free can become a huge breakthrough after years of carrying around that burden. If money is merely a side effect of living, how do we instill proper spending habits to keep our bank accounts in shape? Let’s take a look at 4 simple ways to steer clear of debilitating debt and stay financially fit for a more prosperous tomorrow:
- Forgo the credit cards… for a while. Because getting rid of that high-interest debt is not easy, you should stop using credits cards for a while. Overspending can become an addiction and the best way to beat it is to simply stay away from its culprit in the first place. Credit cards can be used responsibly, but it’s important to build up a resistance from overusing them first. If you do not feel comfortable cancelling your current credit card, consider cutting them up or even hiding the credit card numbers so you are not tempted to use them.
- Balance your income/expenses. That money you once spent on credit card payments is now available as “extra” income. Find a new purpose for this available money before it gets eaten up by daily expenses. Pro-tip: Consider setting that extra money aside for retirement or using it to fund an emergency savings account. In fact, an emergency savings account may be the best way keep yourself out of future debt. This extra cash cushion could keep you safe come economic uncertainty or unexpected emergencies.
- Create a clever household budget. True, budgets are boring but they also help us to identify unnecessary expenses like those extra foam lattes or unused gym memberships. Becoming debt-free can become a huge breakthrough after years of carrying around that burden.
- Carefully reintroduce credit cards. After going several months without using a credit card, setting up a solid savings plan, and budgeting like a pro, you may want to consider swiping that plastic again for day-to-day purchases. If you do decide to reintroduce credit cards, monitor your balances closely for the first few months. Getting to zero-debt is important, but so is the ability to remain at that level. Start at a slow, comfortable pace, pay off balances promptly, and refrain from using a credit card for impulse buys.
Because more than 1.4 trillion is owed by student loan borrowers, student loan financing should be at the top of a debt-free to-do-list. But what is student loan refinancing in the first place? Simply put, it allows you to consolidate your existing private or federal student loans into a new single student loan with a lower interest rate. If lower monthly payments and significant interest savings sound like your style, check out these 5 tips on how to get approved for one:
- Have a strong credit score. Financial responsibility gives huge bonus points towards a better chance at getting approved. Lenders want to refinance student loans for borrowers with a good history. Your credit score is a crucial component for lenders to measure your financial responsibility and having a score of 700 or higher will help to maximize your chances for approval.
- Have a strong income. Consistently repaying your student loans alongside a steady and recurring income will help improve your chances of getting approved. Make sure to review your monthly after-tax income. After subtracting your monthly student loan payments (after refinancing), find out if a sufficient amount remains for other essential living expenses. Pro-tip: If you feel you do not have sufficient funds and a strong, steady income, you can increase your chances for approval with a qualified co-signer who has a great credit profile.
- Forget the debt. Student loan lenders actually evaluate other debt beyond your student loans. Lenders will sum all your debts together to understand your total debt obligations– this includes credit card debt, mortgage debt, and auto loans too. If possible, try to repay or reduce your other unpaid balances as much as possible before applying to refinance student loans.
- Keep your debt-to-income ratio minimal. The relationship between your monthly income and monthly debt obligations (debt-to-income ratio) is important to lenders. The lower your ratio, the better. What’s more, you can improve it by increasing your income or decreasing your debt (preferably both!)
- Stay employed. In truth, it is more difficult to be approved without a stable, recurring income. The good news is, you can still get approved if you have a written job offer when you apply (even if you are in graduate school or residency.) The best option for those who are unemployed is to apply with a co-signer who has a good credit score.
Getting to zero-debt can seem like a daunting process at first. With the boiling pressure of unpaid financial obligations, it can seem overwhelming to get to a place of freedom with our bank accounts. Have no fear, there is no need to go broke or file for bankruptcy in order to get break free from debt. Here are 5 ideas to get yourself out of it and into a place of financial freedom once and for all:
- Relinquish unnecessary spending habits. Dream up powerful ways to cut spending and save up. Eliminate small undeeded purchases to save up for more and pay off debt. Think about all aspects of day-to-day living like diet, hangouts, and online buys.
- Revamp your budget. If you are not abiding by a diligent budget, chances are this slip is contributing to unpaid debts. Evaluate what you make vs. what you spend and create a solid plan whether through software or a physical, hand-written spreadsheet. Find what budgeting tool feels the most comfortable to you and stick with it. Consistency will get you one step closer to erasing debt so you do not have to settle for bankruptcy.
- Make debt payments a priority. When negotiating your debt, it is paramount to reduce your interest rate. The best settlement companies reduce their interest rates if you talk to them honestly about it. Stay in good terms with your lender and protect your assets.
- Talk with the right lender. After finding a trusted lender, be transparent with them about your current financial status. Make yourself clear about your payment plan needs. It will help you pay the loans off faster in the long run.
- Seek financial council. One of the most important steps to becoming debt-free is to be unafraid to ask for help. Speak with a financial counselor for further advice and continue seeking new ways to save up and pay down debts.
Whether you are starting a business or looking to refine your financial fitness habits, monitoring and organizing your money are crucial components to a more fruitful life. It is well worth the effort to keep track of your business expenses. Let’s take a look at the 3 important tools to adopt in your work life and business finances:
Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “the first wealth is health.” When we enable strength within the very cells of our bodies, we empower a higher state of performance. Better health means better financial decisions. Truly, one of the best ways to monitor and organize your personal and business finances is to stay healthy. Rest, skip the stress, and keep moving towards your financial goals calmly.
Employees’ theft and mismanagement of business resources contribute to major ways of depleting business finance. In fact, the typical business will lose an average of 6% of revenues from employee theft. Whether you have a business or want to further protect your home and assets, installing security systems is a must. Security cameras or simply installing software on desktops and cell phones is a great way to reduce the outcome of theft and financial recklessness in the office.
Due to the marvelous tech advancements, there are many new accounting and personal finance apps designed to save you time and money. Quickbooks accounting software, for example, helps to run your business and provides the full spectrum of your company’s financial health. This app can be used to track your business’s sales and expenses. You can view financial statements like profit-and-loss reports, pay your employees and vendors, and track unpaid invoices. Better yet, it can connect to thousands of other accounts like your business bank account, credit cards, PayPal, and Square.
Bonus points: This app will make doing your business taxes much easier because it tracks your expenses and lets you upload photos of your receipts with your mobile device.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters