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7 Money Mistakes For Young Professionals To Avoid

August 14, 2018

As a financially aware young adult, you know that not all millennials are working part-time and living in mom and dad’s basement. There are many young professionals today who work hard to bring home the bacon (or tofurkey). A bigger salary doesn’t mean that you’re automatically great at managing money. Adulting is hard, and the answers for how to manage money aren’t always clear. You’re probably going to make some mistakes, but that’s why we’re here to lend a hand!

We’ve already covered these 5 financial mistakes to avoid in your 20s. To help you up your adulting game, here are 7 more money mistakes young professionals commonly make. Also included are how you can avoid making them.

  1. Investing without a plan
  2. Spending over your means
  3. Ignoring your credit report and score
  4. Spending too much on housing
  5. Going into debt for the wrong reasons
  6. Avoiding money conversations with a significant other
  7. Letting fear stop you from checking out your options

Investing without a plan

Investing is easier than ever! Websites allow you to manage your investments with ease, and there are even some great apps that can help in the investing arena. You can invest just a few dollars at a time and watch your few dollars turn into a few dollars more. The problem a lot of young professionals make is investing without a plan. Some people focus only on stocks that have dividends while others try to pick the next big thing. Some people buy an app or pay for a subscription that sounds like it’s investing your money, yet the details are fuzzy. If you’re going to start investing, have a plan. Talk to someone who knows the industry and can walk you through what makes sense for your budget, age, and goals.

Spending over your means

What does it mean to live within your means? Well, in a nice little nutshell it means not spending more than you make. And in an even better nutshell, it means making good decisions for how much to spend on various aspects of your life, while also allocating money to go to your bills, savings, emergencies, retirement, and so on. It might not be a problem to occasionally splurge on brunch or craft whiskey, but if you are eating lunch out every day or spending more than 25% of your income on housing, you might be in trouble. When you spend over your means, you dip into savings or use credit to get you through to the next check or next month, and it’s a big ol’ recipe for disaster. It’s an easy trap to fall into as a young professional because you might start making more money and just assume you’re entitled to eat out or get a better place, but don’t make those upgrades without looking at all of your finances first.

Ignoring your credit report and score

No one has ever claimed that they super love getting their credit report and checking the document for errors or red flags, but ignoring your credit report and not knowing your credit score can really come back to bite you. With how comfortable many of us are sharing our household information—and with the increasing sophistication of hackers—identity theft is all too common.

Put a reminder on your calendar to check your report each quarter, which you can do for free through the main credit bureaus once per year. Just have a glass of wine and read through to make sure that there’s nothing anomalous on there. If there is, figure out the discrepancy and make sure your report is clean. As far as your credit score, this pesky little number comes in very handy when it’s time to get a loan or buy a house. Lots of places let you check or track your number, so there’s no reason not to know. If it’s no good, fix it now! You can do it with a little time, smarts, and persistence. Don’t wait until you’re trying to apply for a loan and then realize that you should have been on top of your credit all this time.

Spending too much on housing

With the outrageous rents in many of America’s top cities, and because the suburbs are a snoozefest, it’s tempting to increase your housing budget even if you can’t really afford it. Being house-poor (or apartment-poor!) is a big mistake. The reason most experts will tell you to only spend about 25% of your income on housing is because that’s a constant line on your budget. You can’t negotiate it down. You can’t skip a month. So if you have a major expense one month or your income changes or you just decide you need to save more, you’ll be up a creek with a big rent or mortgage payment. Know what you can reasonably afford and look into other options like roommates if you can’t get the place you want on your solo income.

Going into debt for the wrong reasons

It may seem like a great idea to borrow money for a trip or rack up some hefty bills for a wedding—#YOLO, right!?—but don’t go into debt for the wrong reasons. Considering the average American wedding is over $35,000, just keeping up with your peers might put you up to your eyeballs in debt, but you’re smarter than that. If you really want the trip of a lifetime, look for inspiration from blogs with the best tips on cheap dream destinations or how to find the best hostels or work while you travel. There are thousands of ways to save money on a wedding if you’re willing to compromise and use your network to put together a great community event. The problem is when you start thinking you deserve something and will get it no matter the cost. That cost might be starting off next year with more debt than you can afford, and no one deserves that.

Avoiding the conversation with a significant other

Thankfully, 73% of millennials in relationships talk about money with their significant other at least once per week. That still leaves a surprising number of couples who rarely talk about money, or don’t have a plan for how they want to manage finances or build credit. Couples, especially young professionals who have many earning years ahead, need to talk about their financial goals, budgets, and spending. In fact, couples who talk about these things rate their relationships as better and happier than their peers. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with some tips on how to talk about finances with your significant other.

Letting fear stop you from checking out your options

Don’t put off financial changes because you’re afraid. Know what options are available to you, and use those trusted sources of information to learn how to improve your situation.

 

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2019-11-20
5 Ways to Declutter Your Life in 2020

We’re all busy and feel overwhelmed from time to time. Balancing a job, family time, friendships and finances can take a pretty major toll. Taking control of the space around you and getting a grasp of your financial situation can take a burden off and help you feel at ease. Here are some tips for decluttering your life and your finances. 

 

1. Learn to Say No

When it comes to simplifying your life, one of the best tactics is to cut off your clutter at the source – in other words, learning to say “no” to things you don’t need . This also applies to the voice in your head that tells you to hang on to old furniture, keepsakes, family belongings, and everything else that you stuff away or put into storage. The truth is, holding onto everything of monetary or sentimental value just isn’t logical. Knowing when to say no, when to donate, and when to let things go will be a big help in simplifying your life. It’s been found that the average American thinks about decluttering at least six times per year, but only ends up decluttering about three times each year. Holding onto too many things can create a great deal of stress.

 

Try taking photos of your keepsakes and family furniture and file it away. By doing that, you’re able to hold onto the memories without holding onto the items that cause clutter in your home.

 

2. Clean Out Your Closet

Having a surplus of clothing can cause cluttering nightmares. While we like to hold onto novelty t-shirts from every 5k race, or think we’ll be able to squeeze into the jeans we last wore ten years ago, eventually things can get out of hand. If you struggle with overloaded closets and dressers, here’s a trick you might want to try – turn all of your clothes inside-out. After 9-12 months, reassess your clothing inventory and see which clothes are left inside-out. You now have a clear-cut idea of which clothes you wear, and which you don’t. If it’s left inside-out at the end of that time period, consider donating it to a good cause. If this doesn’t work for you, try sorting through them a few times each year and getting rid of the items you know you don’t wear.  

 

3. Cut Down on Food Waste

Our refrigerators get cluttered too. The main reason? We simply don’t eat everything we buy. If you’re the type that ends up with a full cart at the grocery store after going in for one thing, you’re probably dealing with an overloaded fridge as well. A study found that Americans consume only about 50% of the meat, 44% of the vegetables, 40% of the fruit and 42% of the dairy we buy. What doesn’t go to waste takes up precious space in our pantry and refrigerator. After all, who knows how long that bottle of salad dressing has been sitting there? Look into meal planning or even getting an affordable meal subscription (just don’t let it fall into the category mentioned below). What’s great about meal subscriptions is they’re perfectly portioned and will go far in cutting down the amount of food you waste or store away.

 

4. Cut Out Unnecessary Subscriptions

Ever checked your monthly bank statement to find that you’re paying $4.99 for a random app that you no longer use? A new study that surveyed 2,500 U.S. consumers found that they spend an average of $1,900 in subscriptions that are unaccounted for. These can include anything from TV and music streaming services to subscriptions to your local car wash. Getting your subscriptions under control is a great way to simplify your finances and decrease month-to-month spending. 

 

There are a variety of budgeting apps that help you track your finances, but Clarity Money® is great for managing subscription services in particular. After connecting your bank account, it will provide you with a list of your recurring subscriptions, and even allows you to cancel them right from the app. 

   

5. Refinance Your Student Loans

If you’ve graduated from college, you may be paying back student loans. Some people can find themselves paying back several loans that all accrue interest at different rates, and have differing payment due dates. Refinancing your student loans may make repayment more manageable because it consolidates your student loans into one monthly payment with a single interest rate. Not only could you have the flexibility of choosing a repayment term that fits your financial goals, but you could also lower your interest rate or save money over the life of your loan. 

 

We hope these tips help put your mind, your finances, and your life, at ease. By following these tips, 2020 could really be “new year, new you”. Stay tuned for more helpful tips from the ELFI team.

 
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-11-15
The Importance of a Good Debt to Income (DTI) Ratio

It is evident to most people that having more income and less debt is good for their finances. If you have too much debt compared to income, any shock to your income level could mean you end up with unsustainable levels of debt. Every month you have money coming in (your salary plus additional income) and money going out (your expenses). Your expenses include your recurring bills for electricity, your cell phone, the internet, etc. There are also regular amounts that you spend on necessities, such as groceries or transportation. On top of all of this, there’s the money you spend to service any debts that you may have. These debts could include your mortgage, rent, car loan, and any student loans, personal loans, or credit card debt.  

What is the Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)?

The Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI) lets you see how your total monthly debt relates to your gross monthly income. Your gross monthly income is your total income from all sources before taxes and other deductions are taken out. Below is the formula for calculating your DTI:

DTI = (Total of your monthly debt payments/your gross monthly income) x 100

  Example: Let’s suppose the following. Your gross monthly income is $5,000, and you pay $1,500 a month to cover your mortgage, plus $350 a month for your student loans, and you have no other debt. Your total monthly payments to cover your debts amounts to $1,850.  

Your DTI is (1,850/5,000) x 100 = 37%

Here’s a
handy calculator to work out your DTI.  

Why is Your DTI Important?

Your DTI is an important number to keep an eye on because it tells you whether your financial situation is good or if it is precarious. If your DTI is high, 60% for example, any blow to your income will leave you struggling to pay down your debt. If you are hit with some unexpected expenses (e.g., medical bills or your car needs expensive repairs), it will be harder for you to keep on top of your debt payments than if your DTI was only 25%.  

DTI and Your Credit Risk

DTI is typically used within the lending industry. If you apply for a loan, a lender will look at your DTI as an important measure of risk. If you have a high DTI, you will be regarded as more likely to default on a loan. If you apply for a mortgage, your DTI will be calculated as part of the underwriting process. Usually, 43% is the highest DTI you can have and likely receive a Qualified Mortgage. (A Qualified Mortgage is a preferred type of mortgage because it comes with more protections for the borrower, e.g., limits on fees.)  

So, What is a Good DTI?

If 43% is the top level DTI necessary to obtain a Qualified Mortgage, what is a “good” DTI? According to NerdWallet, a DTI of 20% or below is low. A DTI of 40% or more is an indication of financial stress. So, a good rule of thumb is that a good DTI should be between these two figures, and the lower, the better.   

The DTI Bottom Line

Your DTI is an essential measure of your financial security. The higher the number, the less likely it is that you’ll be unable to pay down your debt. If there are months when it seems that all your money is going toward debt payments, then your DTI is probably too high. With a low DTI, you will be able to weather any financial storms and maybe even take some risks. For example, if you want to take a job in a field you’ve always dreamed about but are hesitating because it pays less, it will be easier to adjust to a lower income. Plus, debt equals stress. The higher your DTI, the more you can begin to feel that you’re working just to pay off your creditors, and no one wants that.  

DTI and Student Loan Refinancing

Your DTI is one of several factors that lenders look at if you apply to refinance your student loans. They may also assess your credit history, employment record, and savings. Refinancing your student loans may actually decrease your DTI by lowering your monthly student loan payment. This may help you, for example, if you want to apply for a mortgage. ELFI can help you figure out what your DTI is and if you are a good candidate for student loan refinancing. Give us a call today at 1.844.601.ELFI.  

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing

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2019-11-13
Preparing for Natural Disasters: Financial Tips

Natural disasters happen – they can strike without warning and have no mercy. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes can force people to evacuate their homes, and even worse, they can destroy homes, property, and even take lives.   When it comes to natural disasters, most people don't think about how they can affect your ability to conduct essential financial transactions. In addition to planning to gather your basic needs such as food, shelter, and water, you should also be prepared to deal with the financial challenges associated with natural disasters, such as paying for supplies and temporary housing if necessary. Here are some tips that will help you prepare.  

What to Have Ready

Consider keeping the following documents, bank products, and other items in a secure place and readily available in an emergency:
  • All forms of identification: These primarily include driver’s licenses (or state identification cards for nondrivers), insurance cards, Social Security cards, passports, and birth certificates.
  • Your checkbook: Make sure to have enough blank checks and deposit slips to last at least a month.
  • ATM cards, debit cards (for use at ATMs and merchants), and credit cards: Don’t assume that merchants and ATMs in areas affected by a disaster will immediately be functioning as usual. Have other options available for getting cash and making payments.
  • Cash: This is self-explanatory.
  • Phone numbers for financial services: These include local and toll-free numbers for your bank, credit card companies, brokerage firms (for stocks, bonds, or mutual fund investments) and insurance companies.
  • Important account numbers: These include bank and brokerage account numbers, credit card numbers, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy numbers. You may want to copy the front and back of your credit cards (and keep them in a safe place).
  • The key to your safe deposit box.
 

What to Keep and Where to Keep It

After you’ve gathered your most important financial items and documents, protect them as well as you can while also ensuring you have access to them in an emergency. Here’s a reasonable strategy for many people:
  • Make backup copies of important documents. Make an electronic image of your documents so you can more easily store the information. Store your backups some distance from your home in case the disaster impacts your entire community.
  • Give a copy of your documents to loved ones. Alternatively, let them know where to find the documents in an emergency.
  • Determine what to keep at home and what to store in a safe deposit box at your bank. A safe deposit box is best for protecting certain papers that could be difficult or impossible to replace, but not anything you might need to access quickly. What should you put in a safe deposit box? Examples include a birth certificate and originals of important contracts. What’s better left safely at home, preferably in a durable, fireproof safe? Your passport and medical care directives because you might need these on short notice. Consult your attorney before putting an original will in a safe deposit box. Some states don’t permit immediate access to a safe deposit box after a person dies, so there may be complications accessing a will stored in a safe deposit box.
  • Seal important documents. Use airtight and waterproof plastic bags or containers to prevent water damage.
  • Prepare one or more emergency evacuation bags. Pack essential financial items and documents (e.g., cash, checks, copies of your credit cards and identification cards, a key to your safe deposit box, and contact information for your financial services providers). Make sure each evacuation bag is waterproof and easy to carry and kept in a secure place in your home. Periodically update the contents of the bag. It will not do you any good if the checks in your bag are for a closed account.

What Else to Consider

  • Sign up for direct deposit. Having your paycheck and other payments transmitted directly into your account will give you better access to those funds by check or ATM, and you won’t have to deliver the deposit to the bank or rely on mail service, which could be delayed. Note: There could be delays in the processing of direct deposits in a disaster situation, but the problem is usually fixed within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Arrange for automatic bill payments from your bank account. This service enables you to make scheduled payments, (e.g., for your phone bill, insurance premiums and loan payments, and avoids late charges or service interruptions).
  • Sign up for online banking. This also makes it possible to conduct your banking business without writing checks.
  • Review your insurance coverage. Make sure you have enough insurance, including: flood, earthquake, and personal property coverage, as applicable, to cover the cost to replace or repair your home, car, and other valuable property.
To find out more about being financially prepared for disasters visit 
fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/index.htm and type in disaster preparedness in the search box.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.