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Creepy campfire outside under the stars.
2019-02-07
Don’t Put Out the F.I.R.E with a Lifestyle Creep

Unless you’re on a desert island somewhere, it’s likely you’ve heard of the F.I.R.E movement. If you haven’t Gilligan, the F.I.R.E movement stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” Basically, it’s a movement started in which many finance savvy people increase their savings in hopes of retiring early and living their best life. Sounds great right? It may sound great but there are really only two ways to participate in F.I.R.E and that is increasing your income level or increasing your savings. So, how does the Financial Independence Retire Early movement relate to lifestyle creep?

What is Lifestyle Creep?

Lifestyle creep might be a term you haven’t heard before, but you’ve probably experienced it or witnessed it. As your discretionary income goes up, your lifestyle becomes more expensive. It’s that train of thought that can really get you in trouble with your bank account. You know the thought, the good ole “I worked really hard this week I deserve a new purse.” That is where lifestyle creep really starts.   If you suffer from lifestyle creep you’ve probably also thought of things like. If you can afford a better car, why not drive a better car? If you can afford an apartment without roommates, why have roommates? So, what’s wrong with these thoughts, because if you can afford it, then you should do it, right?  

Lifestyle Creep and Financial Independence Retire Early Movement

It’s a really delicate balance when income goes up and you feel entitled to nicer things. Suddenly the ability to afford something makes your current situation or current belongings seem like they are not enough, whereas they were just fine yesterday. This is a nightmare for most people involved in the F.I.R.E Movement. So when does it make sense to increase your budget based on higher income and when should you hold off? Here are some things to keep in mind that will keep you away from lifestyle creep and keeping you in the race of Financially Independent Retire Early movement.  

Always “pay yourself” first.

To pay yourself means to invest in yourself—specifically, your future self (oh hey, F.I.R.E). Increase your contributions to your retirement when your income increases. If you get a raise every year, set a reminder or put your retirement contribution on autopilot to also increase by 1% (or whatever amount works for you). If aiming to be in the F.I.R.E movement you may want to contribute over 1%. This is how people end up “maxing out” retirement contributions, without ever feeling like they are taking a hit in the present to save up for the future. Just ask anyone who’s ever done so. They’ll tell you it may have been the hardest thing they have ever done at the time, but their future self was really grateful!  

Look at the big picture.

If you get a job offer and will suddenly make 40% more, but your commute will be long, does it make sense to move closer to work if your residence will also cost more? That depends on the big picture. Maybe the amount of time you’ll lose to commuting is worth more than the higher rent or mortgage? Maybe, you will be able to get a house in a better school district, which fits with your long-term plans?  If the commute is farther with a lower mortgage, and you can pay down debt or increase your savings. You need to run the numbers. Check out our below examples of two different scenarios that we estimated. Please note that these are estimated costs.  

Scenario #1

For example, let’s say that you work in Manhattan, New York… You currently live in Blairstown, NJ and live rent-free thanks to Mom and Dad. Your commute to NY takes 4 hours by bus and costs about $400 a month. If you pay $400 x 12 months = $4,800 a year spent on commuting In 2019 there are about 250 Business days (excluding public holidays and weekends) 250 business days x 4 hours = 1,000 hours a year you spend commuting.  

Scenario #2

Let’s say that you move to Hoboken and have a roommate. You pay $1,000 a month on rent. Your commute is about 1 hour a day. Let’s say it costs about $150 a month to commute. $1,000 a month x 12 months = $12,000 a year on rent $150 x 12months = $1,800 a year on commuting costs $12,000 year rent + $1,800 year commuting = $13,800 a year on commuting and housing 1 hour x 250 business days = 250 hours a year spent commuting   Now, this example really gives insight into that big picture. Yes, it costs more to live in Hoboken and you have a roommate, but look at that time saved! If your time is of high value to you, Scenario #2 is likely the best choice for you. If you are participating in F.I.R.E and want to save money or pay down debt as much as possible, Scenario #1 is likely the right choice for you. Regardless, which option is personally best for you, understand these are the types of numbers to run when looking to make big decisions.  

Do I need this or do I just want it? The treat yo’ self trap.

Let’s say your discretionary income goes up, should you get that household repair or a non-urgent medical procedure? By all means, this is not an example of lifestyle creep and you should use your higher income to make it happen. Now, if you find yourself flush with cash and jealous of your neighbor’s new car, you should pause.  If you believe that you have worked hard enough to deserve a big trip. Planning a vacation just because you can, is an example of lifestyle creep. We aren’t saying you don’t deserve a vacation, but that vacation should be planned on a responsible budget.   When making any purchasing decisions ask yourself, “Are these wants more important than other needs?” We’d recommend thinking long-term when it comes to making purchasing decisions. What’s more responsible, paying off debt and continue reaping the reward of not having high payments or added interest or making a purchase like a car that you don’t “need”? Maybe there is a compromise like paying off your current car and setting a goal to upgrade next year, or maybe you can plan a trip for next year and save for it while you are concurrently paying down debt.   It’s dangerous to deserve better. We are constantly bombarded with flashy advertising, slick marketing, and more choices than ever before. It can be really easy to think that you deserve something better, but in reality, is that new item really going to bring you long term happiness and security? Many participating in the F.I.R.E movement will say items are just items and that real happiness comes from relationships and memories.   The F.I.R.E mindset can get even tougher when many of us have had parents who treated us like the most special people ever who gave us what we wanted. That’s not a bad thing until you start making decisions based on what you think you deserve, instead of what you can practically achieve. Thanks, Mom and Dad, but I don’t mind having roommates for another year, or it’s not a big deal to keep driving a car that’s older but works fine.  

Check those budget boxes.

If your discretionary income has gone up either because you got a raise or other costs went down, you need to do some budgeting. Typical steps that personal finance experts advise working on include getting up-to-date on all of your bills if you aren’t already. Second, have a $1,000 emergency fund. Lastly, experts advise people to focus on high-interest debts before building a savings account with 3–6 months of expenses in it. Then look into things like investing, saving for your children’s college or paying off your house!   Achieving a higher income is great! It’s a wonderful feeling when you see your hard work paying off and making life easier. Don’t end up being someone who makes more than enough to live comfortably but you’re still living paycheck to paycheck. Lifestyle creep is so important to recognize and avoid. Keep your financial goals in order and continue to work towards them. Whether your goal is to be Financially Independent and Retire Early or to pay off your debt, you got this!  

Click for Cards and Accounts That Pay You

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
Marathon participants
2019-02-04
How To Lose Weight On A Budget Starting Today

It’s that time of year when we’re all reflecting on who we are and how far we’ve come in the last year. Some people hate on resolutions because they are so often temporary, but there’s nothing stupid about trying to make positive changes in your life! Two of the most common changes are losing weight and saving money. Why not do both? Here are some of our tips on how to lose weight on a budget.  

Have you penciled yourself in?

Put yourself on the calendar and stick to it. It’s easy to skip a workout when you already scheduled a meeting or made other plans. Making YOU part of your routine means that self-care becomes a habit. It can even be something you look forward to liking spin class or joining a workout group? Try working out with friends as it will help to hold you accountable.  

How much does success cost?

Things like a celebratory meal, your weekly social brunch, or getting a gym membership cost money. That doesn’t mean you can’t budget for them. Just set a goal for how much to spend on those meals out. Make sure you track those little extras and cut yourself off when you’ve reached your monthly limit. If you’re faced with an important celebration, see where you can cut something else to keep your budget balanced.   If you want to put a gym membership into your budget, look for places like community centers and colleges. They will often sell much cheaper memberships that are just as good as what you’d use as a more expensive fitness club. If you live in a household with multiple people, try looking into fitness family plans. Fitness family plans can come in especially helpful when you have little ones. Facilities will usually offer discounted classes and free daycare for your kids.  

There are sneaky calories on every menu.

Buying lunch every day at work can be a real drain to your wallet, and you’re less likely to get a balanced meal within your calorie budget. An average meal out contains upwards of 1,400 calories and can cost Use a little time on the weekend to cook and plan ahead. Keep a few healthy snacks in a drawer at work so that you’re not tempted to hit up the vending machine. You’ll save money, never get hangry, and stay on track for weight loss or maintenance.   If you’re going out for a special occasion or just plain didn’t manage to get together a meal to bring to work, look up the restaurant menu ahead of time. Make a decision on what to eat when you’re not hungry! That way, you won’t be tempted into getting a gigantic double-bacon burger bomb. Most places have their menu on their website, but you can also check somewhere like  

We’re a generation of Googlers—use it!

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are so many free resources for fitness. From to blogs with the best bodyweight exercises, free exercise plans are everywhere. You don’t need a fancy gym to get in shape, but you do have to be motivated. If you’re on your phone regularly anyway, follow some of your fave fitness Instagram accounts like Ebonny Fowler (@funwithfit) or Marie Purvis (@MariePurvis) to get simple, effective workouts delivered right to your IG feed. Or look for other fitness gurus who focus on how to stay fit without having to sell you something.  

Make savvy substitutions.

If you know that a big slice of pie (pizza or otherwise) is your weakness, look for ways to enjoy your favorite foods without tanking your calorie budget or emptying your wallet. For instance, you can make inexpensive pita pizzas at home using whole wheat pitas, low-sugar sauce, and all your fave fresh veggies and herbs. If you eat mindlessly in front of the TV while you watch season 4 of The Office for the 200th time, pop some light popcorn to crunch instead of sitting down with a bag of greasy chips.  

How Hydrated are You?

Staying hydrated can help make you feel less hungry on top of promoting healthy digestion and ample energy levels. You don’t even need a fancy water bottle. Just make sure you’re regularly drinking a glass of water and you’ll reap the benefits.  

Mom was right about fresh air.

Nobody says you have to become a bodybuilder to lose weight. Going outside to walk or ride your bike can be a great way to keep your weight in check, get the mental health boost, and feel connected to your community. Even better: find someone to go with you! Don’t forget about the benefits of biking or walking to work. Saving money on transportation while getting your heart rate up is an incredible way to tighten your budget and burn some calories. Plus, it’s worked right into your routine, so it won’t feel like exercise.  

Be kind to yourself and have patience.

Thankfully we millennials are pretty good about self-care. We’re the first generation to really spotlight mental wellness as a really important part of your overall health. Mental wellness can suffer when you decide that you need a big change and try to overhaul all of your habits at once. Have some patience and realize that it’s not easy to change overnight. You’re still going to have some slip-ups, and you’re not going to experience a #TransformationTuesday overnight. Sure, physical health and financial health are important, but so is mental health. Make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations, and be sure to take rest days even when you’re hitting things hard at the gym.   If losing weight is only part of your goal and you really want to look at how to save money, check out our student loan refinancing options. You can call us any time to talk to a specialist and see how we can help!  

5 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.  
Bride and Groom Figures Separating
2019-01-30
How Does Divorce Affect Student Loan Debt?

Lots of millennials are waiting longer to get married so that they’re more secure before tying the knot. The divorce rate dropped 18% in the last several years. Even so, divorce still happens. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Maybe your uncoupling is a fresh start, and separating your finances is the first step to setting up your new life.   As a millennial, many of us have student loan debt that is just part of our everyday reality. That’s true whether we’re married, single, or divorced. This is why so many people often will end up seeking out help and advice about student loans during the divorce process. Answers aren’t always clear, but we can help. There are a few things you should know to prevent any financial surprises.  

Can’t Divorce a Servicer

Student loan responsibilities after a divorce—particularly for Federal Loans—will be dependent on whose name is on the loan. If you and your ex-spouse agree on a payment arrangement that requires one of you to help pay, if it’s not in your name on the loan, that may not be enforced by the servicer. If your name is on the loan, you’re the one they’re going to pursue for payment.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to come to an agreement that works for both of you but stay on top of which of your loans are being paid. Make sure you never miss a payment even if your ex is supposed to be paying it.  

Repayment Amounts and Plans

With divorce, your family size changes, as does your household income. Changes to income and family size can mean changes to your monthly payment. Now it’s likely these changes will only happen if you are on an income-based repayment plan. It doesn’t mean that your monthly payment will go down, but your loan payment could go up or down. The payment amount will depend on what your spouse’s income was when compared to yours, so everyone’s situation is unique. Make sure to update the paperwork and stay current on your loans as you transition to paying your debts on your own.   If you’re having trouble making payments, look at different repayment options like an IBR plan so that you stay current on your loan payments and don’t fall behind. If at all possible, avoid deferment. Deferring your loans ensures that you don’t fall behind on payments, but the interest continues to accrue while you are not paying. This could extend the life of the loan and increase the amount that you owe, so it really should be a last resort.  

Credit Score

Some people think just filing for divorce will negatively affect credit, but that isn’t necessarily true. What can affect your credit is the process of changing your bills around. For example, putting things in solely your name that weren’t previously could affect your credit score. Making big financial changes like selling a house, refinancing, or restructuring debt can also have effects on your credit score. Some of those things could be good and some could lower your score, so it just depends on your situation. For example, adding on more debt without increasing your income could have a negative effect on your credit score.   If you are in the process of reassessing your financial situation on your own, you’ll want to review paperwork. Gather vital documents like your credit report and score. If you haven’t checked your credit report in a while, now is a great time too. Make sure there are no errors on your credit report and ensure that you know what your score is. You may be looking to make some changes that will certainly need a credit review. Changes could include looking for housing on your own, your own mortgage, changing the car you drive, or something else that will require a credit check. Don’t be caught off guard by not knowing what’s on your report right now.  

State Laws

The laws will either determine the debt as separate property or marital property. Now, separate property generally includes things like assists obtained before marriage like that of inheritance. Generally paraphrasing anything obtained by an individual before marriage is considered separate property. Anything that remains outside of separate property typically is marital property. Marital property is where the state laws really play a role.   Your remaining marital property will be divided based on if you are located in “community property” state or an “equitable distribution” state. During a divorce in a “community property” state, any marital property is split down the center at fifty-fifty. Most states tend to fall into the “equitable distribution” state law. The “equitable distribution” law says that each party has a legal claim to the asset or debt. The portion of value that is then divided to each party is determined by a number of different factors according to The Court.    

Cosigners and Private Loans

Private loans can be more complex. For instance, if your ex-spouse is a cosigner, then you are both responsible to pay the debt. If he or she was not your cosigner, the debt is the responsibility or you and your cosigner, if any.  

It might be a good time to refinance loans.

Whether you are just entering the divorce process or have already completed, see if now is the time to refinance. Get in touch to have one of our friendly advisors walk you through the process and give you information on how we can help.   Divorce can be one of the most stressful events a person will face, but empowering yourself with information will make it easier to navigate. Be sure to consult with a lawyer before you start divorce proceedings so that you can prepare. Do your best to work together to come to an agreement that helps you both afford to live on your own so everyone can move forward.  

Click for Requirements to Refinance Student Loans

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
Students On College Campus
2019-01-25
Don’t Wait for Graduation to Pay Down Student Loan Debt

What does a currently enrolled graduate student, a recent graduate, or a Doctorate student all have in common? The answer is simple, student loans. Sounds like a bad joke, but student debt in the United States is no joking matter. The current student loan debt total has hit $1.5 trillion as of 2018 according to Federal Reserve data. If you find yourself a borrower of student loan debt, know that debt doesn’t just start after graduation. The moment your loan is approved you become a borrower and therefore take on the responsibility to pay down that debt. As a borrower, here are some ways to be financially responsible and pay down debt quickly ensuring yourself a brighter financial future.  

Don’t Go Overboard

  According to CollegeBoard the average full-time bachelor degree seeking student, who attends a four year school will pay somewhere in the range of $21,370 to $48,510 per year in 2018 - 2019.  Now the average Master’s seeking student will pay about $19,080. These estimates do include the cost of room and board and will differ depending on if the student is attending an out of state school or an in-state school.   When the time comes to apply for your loans, be sure you have a budget! We cannot stress this point enough you need a financial plan before you make the decision to apply for student loans. Know what you’ll need to borrow money for. Think about tuition costs, housing, meals, book costs, personal costs, and transportation costs. Only borrow what you absolutely need for school.  

The Countdown

  Don’t be the student who has the countdown until graduation. You know, the one using the grace period to look for their future career and move back in with their parents. Now there’s nothing wrong with moving back in with the parents to save a few bucks, in fact, we would encourage it. What we mean is instead of waiting until the clock starts at the end of your grace period start paying down debt on day one! The sooner you can start throwing money at your student loans, the better off your future self will be.   Now it doesn’t have to be an astronomical amount of money. Even the smallest contribution towards your debt will help you in the long run. Let’s say that instead of going out to brunch with your friends on the weekend you decide to make it. Let’s say you usually buy an egg and cheese, on a bagel with a coffee for about $10 for simplicity. That $10 a week can turn up to $40 a month.   Say you took out $30,000 in student loan debt. If you completed a $40 payment every month while you’re in school, you would save $2,515 from the total of your loan. Yes, you can drop almost $3,000 off your loan by simply making a $40 a month payment. Small sacrifices make all the difference in paying down your student loans before graduation.  

It’s No Vacation

College in the past was seen as an experience but it is not any longer. Don’t treat your education like a vacation with a limitless budget. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual American household cost for eating out is $3,000. Even if it’s only one person, that would count as a household. Broken down that would be $250 a month the average household spends eating out! Before you start spending money on food remember that’s money that could go towards your student loan debt. We all have to eat to live, but is eating out necessary? Try using that meal plan or doing weekly grocery shopping and meal prep.  

Stay in Budget

Someone once said “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” that could not be truer here. Though you may have money for streaming services like a Spotify Premium® membership or Netflix® – doesn’t mean you should have it. In addition to cutting down on eating out, you could lose that Netflix® account. About nine out of ten college students use Netflix® according to Daily to Reader. If you’re living on campus you’re provided with free cable. Yes, the keyword being “FREE” - drop the subscription services and put them towards student loan debt. No, you won’t be able to watch the latest series of Stranger Things on your own, but I’m sure your friend or their friend has Netflix®. The Basic plan on Netflix® as of 10/2018 is $7.99 a month. Let’s take your savings from cutting back on eating out including our previous example- $100 and savings from losing that Netflix® subscription $7.99 that equates to 107.99 a month towards student loan debt. When you pay $107.99 every month towards your loan it is a savings of $7,083.71 from the total loan amount.  

They’re Called Doctors

  If you’ve ever seen the movie Tommy Boy you’ll get the reference. If not, you can watch the clip online. Going to school for seven years is for doctors, not the average student seeking a bachelor degree. All jokes aside, you need to do your best to graduate on time. Staying in school longer means more debt and that means more money you’ll need to pay off in the long run.   In recent years there has been a trend of typical 4-year degrees taking 6 years to achieve. Students who take longer to graduate are spending 50% more than participated for their degrees according to Student Debt Relief. One major tip (no pun intended) know what you want to major in before starting. It’s okay to change your major but work closely with counselors take summer classes. Do your best to stay on track for your estimated graduation date.  

Evaluate Loans

Yes, you finally graduated! Don’t be fooled the work doesn’t stop. To continue being a financially responsible borrower you’ll need to evaluate the types of loans that you have. Do you have federal or private loans? The type of loans that you have will have major implications on the options that you available to you moving forward.  Pay attention to your interest rates and knowledgeable regarding repayment types.   Be wise; if you are within that 6 month grace period, continue to make those payments because we know that they will pay for themselves and then some. Create a long-term plan to pay down your debt. Use your income to create the long-term plan and stick with your budget. There are so many resources available at your fingertips to research things like loan consolidation, student loan refinancing, student loan forgiveness, and deferment and forbearance.   Your responsibility for staying a responsible borrower is to continue those healthy spending habits that you created for yourself in college. In addition you should look to further your education. Do you want to get a Master’s Degree? Use reliable sources and stick to a budget and long-term plan. Education is so no joke. Whether you’re the currently enrolled graduate student, a recent graduate or a Doctorate student debt doesn’t have to weight you down forever.  

Learn More About Grace Periods

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
2019-01-22
10 Ideas for Valentine’s Day That Won’t Break the Bank

Ahh, Valentine’s Day! Sure, many a cynic has pointed out that Valentine’s Day can be seen as a commercial holiday that centers on material things instead of love, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can show your special someone how much you love them and have a really meaningful day together without blowing your budget on expensive gifts and dinners. Here are ten ways to spread the love this Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank.  

Go on a photo opp date

Who doesn’t love a good selfie especially with that special person in your life? Find all the great places around town for a selfie and take a fun pic at each location. You can print the photos later and make an inexpensive album of your own. This is also a great idea for an anniversary. Revisit all the places that are significant to you and take a quick pic. It will be fun to think back about those memories and how things have progressed as you’ve grown together.  

Cook at home together

Don’t be another trend spend statistic, cooking is so much cheaper than eating out, and you don’t need a reservation! Splurging on some fancy steak or fish will cost so much less than going out for the same meal. Look up simple recipes with classic flavors and try them out. You can dress up and light some candles so that the mood is just as special, even if you’ll have to pour your own wine. If your tastes are less bougie, try making a meal from another culture that you’ve always wanted to try and listen to some music. Whatever you two want to enjoy together is what will make Valentine’s Day special.  

Schedule for a different time

Valentine’s Day evening is obviously a huge night for restaurants with fancy dinner specials. Often restaurants are booked on Valentine’s Day, but you don’t have to celebrate at the same time as everyone else. Why not go out to breakfast on Valentine’s Day or spend a special lunch hour together? The cost of your meal will be less and you probably won’t be splitting a bottle of wine at that hour, either. You’ll get the benefits of Valentine’s Day with half the costs! You’ll still get to have the fun of going out to have someone cook a delicious meal for you. Plus: no crowds!  

The More the merrier

Who doesn’t love a Gal-entine’s Day?! There’s no reason that your special day has to be a solo thing with your partner. Consider hosting a small group at your house, where people can bring extra wine or other goodies for everyone to share. This way everyone spends less has more fun and benefits from each other’s varied tastes and culinary skills. Bonus- you’ll probably get some sweet treats for hosting dinner!  

A movie with a view

Charge up your laptop and download a movie. Cough, cough - did someone say Netflix®?  Bring a picnic basket and enjoy a movie under the stars. Make sure to bring everything you need to stay warm and be comfortable so that your special date isn’t ruined by a chill or breeze. Not exactly picnic season where you live in February? That’s okay. Even doing the same thing indoors somewhere other than your usual dining table can be a fun way to do something different and relax together.  

Inexpensive get-away

Want to get away? Try renting a room from somewhere like Airbnb® instead of getting a fancy hotel room. Weather permitting, you could rent a cabin for a lot less than a four-star hotel and enjoy the peace and quiet while you relax together or take in the scenery on a hike. If you like to ski or snowboard there are a ton of places that you can visit. Even if you aren’t the activity type of couple there is always streaming movies or TV.  

Barter for babysitting

Don’t want to go broke on a babysitter? This could sound bad but try bartering with your friends! No, we don’t mean barter off your children, but offer to babysit for a friend in exchange for them doing the same. Date night is a lot cheaper when you’re not adding babysitting bills on top of it. If you don’t know anyone who would want to do this, look for parents night out events at your local rec center or church. They often offer free or very affordable childcare to give parents of all incomes a chance to get out of the house and bond for a while without the kids.  

DIY

There are so many ideas for gifts you can make that mean more than something expensive. Whether it’s a coupon book to redeem for special events in the future or a photo collage of your favorite pics as a couple, think about what you can do that will really show how much you care, without requiring an expensive trip to the mall.  

Entertainment for less

Check out small theaters near you. Many towns have a local theatre near them if not, look for something fun like a gallery show or small performance. Local performances and events won’t cost as much as a bigger event. The added plus is you’ll be supporting a local business. It can be a nice way to reconnect with your community and see what kinds of art and entertainment are out there that you don’t usually go see. Don’t overlook simply seeing the sights. Checking out local architecture, monuments, and historical places isn’t just for tourists.  

Cut the average cost of your date in just one way

If you still want the experience of going out, consider just doing half of your date at home. Maybe you go out for dinner but come home to stream a movie? If you like cooking you could try cooking at home but go see a movie afterward. You could even do both of those at home and then head out for a fancy drink afterward. You would still save a ton by not doing the entire night out, especially considering that the average dinner and a movie date costs $102!   Don’t let the pressure of the Valentine’s Day holiday get to you! Creating a special experience for Valentine’s Day is unique to who you two are as a couple. Don’t let your holiday be manipulated or changed by marketing or ads. We’ve all seen the jewelry and expensive flowers that start appearing in Februarys.  Keep in mind that everyone just wants to know that their partner cares about them and listens to them. This holiday is really about how you can show you care in your own way.  

Learn How to Write a Monthly Budget

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
outdoor marriage ceremony
2019-01-17
Marriage and Student Loan Debt

Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t stop talking about their ex? If you’ve had this experience, you can likely relate it to discussing your student loan debt in your relationship. Talking about finances is a necessary evil in a marriage. It can be difficult to discuss finances in a marriage because many people handle finances different based on their personal experiences and how their parents handled them. You might be great at adulting, but if your parents were never open about managing money, you’re probably unsure of how to bring it up. You might even be unsure as to where to start when it comes to managing finances together. Student loans are a big part of many couples’ financial reality. Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together.  Here are some main points that we think you should know about marriage and student loan debt.  

Honesty

The fastest way to create a rift and cause problems in your relationship is to hide information about your finances. According to CreditCards.com, 6% of Americans in a relationship have hidden credit cards or checking/savings accounts from their partner. That total adds up to about 7 million, for perspective, that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.  It’s not uncommon especially in younger people ages 18-29 to withhold some financial information. It’s when a partner begins to lie about large purchases that a partner should become concerned.   People might think that love solves everything, but it’s better to be on the same page and realistic about the situation. If you are mature enough to get married and really want to work together to succeed, you need to face your finances.  As a couple, you need to get over any fears about assessing the financial situation and air everything out. It doesn’t have to be painful but it needs to be an honest outlook. For some couples, this can seem really overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  

Get Tips on How to Talk Finances With Your Partner

 

Get a Plan

Have a conversation about how to best review everything. Discuss each of your finances and then surmise a plan to tackle them. Now in some cases, it may not be this simple depending on your income level, occupation, and level of debt. You may want to meet with a financial counselor first and go over everything together, or sit down as a couple at home and discuss the basics before moving any further. It’s totally up to you both, as a team.   Don’t be shy or embarrassed by your financial situation as a couple. There are people who make a living on making sure couples are financially confident and ready to tackle financial goals together. Don’t overlook this benefit of consulting with an outside source about finances—especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you can’t afford an outside counselor check online, you may be surprised at the educational resources available for free. When it comes to self-learning about finances just be careful how you select your resources. As the old saying goes not everything you see online is true!  

Loan Responsibility

When the person you’ve chosen to marry has student loan debt you can face some challenges. If you haven’t co-signed for a spouse and it’s just their name on the loan, this won’t be something that shows up on your credit report. Beware that even if you did not co-sign your partner’s loan there are instances when you might be responsible for paying the loan. Student loans aren’t that different from other types of loans.   For example, if someone passes away, the rest of their loan will likely be forgiven and the spouse would not have to continue making those payments. There are some cases where death will not discharge the remaining debt and the loan company may contact the estate for payment. If your spouse ever lost their income and went into default, the loan companies will look for someone to pay. If your spouse doesn’t have an income, your wages could be garnished. It’s a pretty extreme scenario, but it also happens and is something you should be aware of.   If you are choosing to marry someone with student loan debt, it’s important to talk about this. You’ll want to have a plan set up for each of these scenarios. Though they are extreme if you have savings and you pay down your debt responsibly you shouldn’t have any problems.  

Repayment Plan Adjustments

IBR and other types of repayment plans are often used when paying back student loans. We would caution against using these programs. In some cases, your monthly student loan payment may not be covering the interest accrued that month and therefore your balance will continue to increase.   Repayment plans can be based on your household income and family size. When you get married your income and family size may change. If your spouse makes a considerable amount of money, your minimum payments could go up even with your family size going up. If your spouse makes less than you or is not working, your loan payment could go down. It all depends on the details of your financial situation and your loan servicer, but it’s worth noting that this is a possibility.  

Refinancing

Fairly often we receive request to refinance couple’s student debt together. Many see this as creating a lot less hassle for themselves by creating only one bill.  That’s not always possible, and many experts suggest keeping your loans separate in case your relationship status or financial situation changes in the future. You are not always able to refinance together, either.  Whether or not you can refinance your student loan with your spouse will depend on the loan type and servicer you have. If you’re looking into refinancing, talk to each other about goals. Do you want a lower payment so you can save for a house or do you want to pay loans off sooner so you can live abroad or go to grad school? Again, it’s up to the two of you, but you can’t be on the same page if you don’t talk about it.  

Don’t stress.

Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal for people to get stressed out talking about money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how much money you make, you will have to work together as a team to set priorities. This isn’t a blame game. Just talking about finances doesn’t mean that you’re secretly harboring any resentment or grudges. No one is being attacked and no questions are stupid. You both have to agree to create an open dialogue where you both feel good about discussing money and plans. Know that sometimes there are compromises, or one of you might change your personal plans to advance the other. That’s what it means to be a team.  

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender to Refinance Your Student Loans

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2019-01-08
DIY Investing – Do you Need a Financial Advisor to Start Investing?

Are you thinking about investing to turn your dollars into even more wealth? If you are looking into ways to invest your funds, there are a few ways to do it. One way is to hire a financial advisor to provide financial services, but some people like to try investing on their own with some DIY investing strategies. Either way, here are some things you should know.  

Types of financial advisors

  There are several different options for financial advisors. Each type of financial advisor has strengths and various fees for service. You’ll want to pick the right financial advisor based on what you’re looking to do with your money, may want to pick a specific type of financial advisor. Let’s review what each type of financial advisor does.   Accountant An accountant or CPA can help with several different situations and types of knowledge. For instance, an accountant could help you hire and pay a nanny or do your taxes. They might specialize in certain things like being an entrepreneur or freelancing. Make sure you meet and vet your potential accountant to ensure they can do the type of advising or planning you need.   Investment Adviser This type of financial adviser is someone who can advise you on various types of securities either as a single consultant or as part of a larger firm. They are registered professionals through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or other applicable state agencies and have to have a securities license to actually sell securities products. This might require a licensed securities representative, like a stockbroker, to make the transaction happen.   Stockbroker A stockbroker is someone who is typically licensed by a state to sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other types of securities. These financial professionals usually earn a commission on their transactions, which is how they make money. There’s quite a bit of regulation for the profession including organizations like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).   Financial Planner Financial Planners or Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are often employed or certified through larger agencies or even global companies that offer their own types of accounts and services. They can help you work toward a number of different financial goals based on a large spectrum of products. They might advise you about retirement, short or long term investing, saving for education, or managing other financial assets. They make money either based on fees or on commissions from the products you buy through them.   There are other options like Estate Planners, Attorney, and Insurance Agents, but they tend to deal with more specific financial situations and less with broad investing knowledge.   A really important factor in picking a trusted financial advisor is looking at their expertise, reputation, and how well they fit with your personality and service needs. Don’t pick an advisor who is only available 9am-5pm if you work long hours and prefer to visit in person, for instance. For example, if you’d rather talk via email or use online tools, old-school professionals with a smaller operation might not have the digital infrastructure you’re looking for. Similarly, you want to work with someone you trust, so make sure their demeanor is a good fit for you.   If you decide that a financial advisor is not for you and instead you want to do your own investing, you also have several options for how you can approach investing.  

DIY Investment Strategies

  Brokerage Accounts Brokerage accounts are a way that people can try their hand at DIY investing.  You’ll need to set up an online brokerage account first. Once your online account is set up, you can do research and look into what experts are saying about different companies. Look for advice as to what to buy or avoid, keep or sell.   Apps There are lots of different types of investing apps. You can try something simple that rounds up your debit card purchases and automatically invests very small dollar amounts called micro-investing, for instance. You might want to try your hand at an app that allows you to trade stocks. Some apps have higher fees than others or are paid apps while a few offer free trades. A different type of investing app that you can try would be one that focuses on your retirement, allowing you to move money around for your retirement funds. There are lots of options! Just be sure you look at the fine print and read reviews to see what kinds of experiences other people are having and what the legal details are.   Other Online Tools Various websites and types of software exist to both help you research investing and to facilitate online transactions. Just like apps, there are lots of options based on the type of investing you want to do and how you want to do it. Just do your homework and look for reputable tools before you get signed up.   Pros and Cons With something like an app, you avoid the fees that come with some types of financial advisors. On the other hand, you don’t get the personalized attention that financial investor can offer you. If you invest for yourself, you have a lot of control and can potentially save money on fees again, but you also run the risk of making some expensive financial mistakes if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure you know the pros and cons of any of these DIY investing strategies before you start so you don’t end up between a rock and a financial hard place.   Tips for How to Invest Smart Investing successfully can be really challenging, which is why people should start small. Don’t invest a bunch of money in risky stocks hoping to make a quick fortune. Instead, set aside a small fund to use for investing and start watching and learning before you do anything. If you can’t afford to lose money, go with more stable investments that will earn less but also likely won’t lose much if anything. Logic is a far better guide than emotion when it comes to investing. Sure, a hunch might make someone rich, but plenty of people have lost fortunes to their hunches. The math works out in your favor if you look at logical options and stick to a smart plan.  

Avoid These 7 Money Mistakes

Employer participation in student loan debt assistance
2019-01-02
Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act H.R. 795

Nothing could be better than working for a top company that helps you pay off your student loans, right? Well, a bill was introduced by legislators on 2/1/2017 that is trying to make this a reality. This bill was introduced as the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act. In addition to the introduction of this Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also released a private letter ruling. What could these events mean for companies and employees who carry student loan debt?  

Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act

First, this bill would amend the tax code by giving tax breaks to employers that provide educational assistance to employees. Educational assistance can be in the form of contributions to student loans through either a payment to the employee or lender. Specifically, this act would allow employers to offer a tax-free student loan benefit in addition to a salary to its employees.  

IRS Private Letter Ruling

  Recently, there was a private letter ruling released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you want to review the contents of the private letter ruling, it can be found here. The ruling allows employers to use 401(k) plans to help employees pay down their student loan debt. It is done by taking the employer 401(k) match to pay down student loans.   Any employee who is eligible for a 401(k) plan would be eligible for this plan. The ruling states that the plan is a voluntary program that employees must elect to enroll. Employees who choose to participate in this plan would be eligible for non-elective contributions made by the employer to their student loan debt. These contributions would be equal to what would have been contributed to a 401(k) plan had the employee opted out of the program.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employers?

When managing a business, it is imperative that you stay on top of recent news. Part of staying on top of things includes understanding what challenges your employees face. Both these aspects of operating a business and understanding the needs of your employees, however, can fall hand in hand. When it comes to student loan debt assistance, it can be a huge positive for any business. Not only does student loan debt assistance help employees achieve their financial goals, but it also brings many benefits to a firm.   Offering a student loan debt assistance program does not typically cost a company extra. The employer contributions to student loans are what a company would have typically made as a 401(k) contribution. Therefore the costs of providing 401(k) contributions and student loan debt assistance are equal. Another positive that comes from offering a program like this is that it helps with finding top talent, recruiting, and retaining all-stars. With older generations of employees retiring in record numbers and the workforce shifting to younger millennials, it’s important to take some time to examine the benefits of providing student loan debt assistance.   As many millennials have student loans and report that paying them down is a priority over saving for retirement, companies should begin thinking about reevaluating their benefits package to attract millennials. Finding ways to help this generation pay off student loans could be a big boost to a company’s recruiting strategy. Offering student loan payment assistance could put a company on the cutting edge as far as millennial professionals are concerned.  

Click to Learn More About ELFI for Business

  According to a benefits report by OneDigital, nearly 80 percent of employees surveyed by American Student Assistance felt that an employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefit would be a deciding factor in accepting a job. This could be a huge differentiator for an employer aiming to recruit the best employees.   The American Student Assistance survey also showed that 86 percent of employees would feel compelled to stay with an employer for at least five years in exchange for student loan repayment assistance. Considering how much companies spend on turnover (recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees), this could mean huge potential savings on talent management costs for employers.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employees?

Some companies already offer student loan assistance, but these funds are usually taxed. This type of assistance isn’t as attractive as pre-tax funds because taxes reduce the impact of payments on student loans. Tax-free repayment funds from an employer could be more effective in helping graduates pay down their student loans faster. Employees would avoid incurring taxes associated with this type of assistance.   Many Millennials also face the question of, “Should I save for retirement or pay down debt first?” Student loan debt assistance could be a solution that addresses both concerns. Young employees would have the ability to make substantial payments towards their student loan debt. With these large payments, they will be able to cut down their repayment time. That means young employees would have the ability to start saving for retirement earlier in their career instead of trying to pay down their debt.  

Looking to the Future of Employment and Student Loan Debt

  With the recent Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act and IRS Private Letter Ruling, it seems student loan debt has become a problem for employees. Since employees are having difficulties with paying down student loan debt, it is time for employers to take action. Not only will employers benefit from offering student loan debt assistance programs, but it will most likely be at little or no cost to them.   If this act becomes a law, experts think that companies will immediately begin to rethink their benefits package and consider student loan debt assistance as a way to attract the best employees. Though it may not be easy for millennials to land a position with one of these companies, they will certainly have another factor to decide in student loan debt assistance when choosing their employer.   Interested in starting a conversation regarding your student loans? Give us a call: 1-844-601-ELFI.  

5 Benefits Millennials Look For in Employers

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the web sites 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.
Using a rewards card at bakery
2018-12-29
Cards and Accounts That Pay You

Unless you’re hardcore off the grid and don’t need a credit score or credit history (not advised), you’re going to need bank accounts and at least one credit card. If you need them anyway, why not find the accounts that pay you back? There are tons of promotions for cards and accounts that will give you perks for signing up. It’s up to you to determine what account fits your needs, but these are the main types of offers we’ve seen.  

Cards with Cash Back

Some people swear by cards that give them cash back. Cashback rewards tend to work best for people who use their credit card for all or most purchases and then pay it off in full each month. A quick tip is to pay the balance off before the interest accrues each month. If you choose not to pay off the balance each month you could actually be spending that money. Basically, what you pay in interest is going to reduce or even negate your reward. The average individual will not pay off their card’s balance each month this is how it makes sense for the credit card company to offer the reward. If you’re smart about it and don’t charge more than you can pay off each month, you’ll reap the reward.   There are multiple options for receiving cash back rewards. How you cash back will be applied will be dependent on what your credit card provider allows. Some cards will allow you to redeem your cash back for gift cards, paper checks, direct deposits, or even putting the cash back you earned back to your credit card balance.   If you believe that this type of card is best for you, understand the redemption threshold. Cash back credit cards often have a minimum redemption threshold. A minimum redemption is the amount of rewards that you must achieve before cashing in your cash back rewards. These redemption minimums can often be associated with reward credit cards as well.  

Cards with Rewards

If rewards like frequent flier miles or points you can redeem for travel expenses are more your speed, check out cards with other types of rewards. Look at the conversion from dollars to points to what your points can be redeemed for. If you have to spend $10,000 for a $100 gift card, then that probably isn’t enough of a reward for you to care. But if you fly often for work or find a card that has good travel rewards and you can pay it off each month, this might be a nice way to add to your travel nest egg or get a good discount on a few trips each year.   How the rewards are calculated will be determined based on the credit card that you select and get approved for. Some reward cards will provide the same rewards rate per purchase regardless of balance. Another type is similar to a tiered cash-back credit card. Each purchase you make will fall into a category. Some categories offer a larger return than other categories.   A quick word of caution before signing up for a card like this is to know the type of borrower you are. If you typically do not pay your credit cards on time, have a balance, or budgeting is not your strong suit this is probably not the right credit card for you.    

Cash Rewards on Bank Accounts

Bank accounts often offer cash rewards for signing on or setting up an account. You may often times see at your local community bank a large sign in the window with an amount on it for new customers who open up an account. This sign-on bonus is by far the most common type of cash back for a bank account. When considering opening up an account to get the sign-on bonus there may be conditions you have to meet. The small print and terms are so important when opening up any type of account. When opening an account, you have to make a pretty substantial initial deposit, and you might have to maintain it for a period of time as well in order to keep the sign-on bonus. You don’t want to count on a reward and then find out that it requires you to deposit $20,000 if you don’t have that much money.   Conditions can include a number of direct deposits or purchases you have to make within a certain period to qualify. This type of offer is fairly common when looking into high-yield checking or savings accounts. You’ll typically be required to have a specified number of transactions per month and have to have a direct deposit. If you’ve read all the terms and small print and feel the account is the right choice you should move forward.  

Other Things to Consider

 

Know the Interest

If you are looking at a card for the rewards and it has a much higher interest rate than others, this should weigh into your decision. Even if you plan to pay the card off each month, you don’t want to end up using it in an emergency and struggle to make payments with interest later. If you already have other credit cards, have a plan for which card should be used where and how you’re going to pay them.  

Look at Annual Fees

Some reward and cash-back cards have a pretty hefty annual fee. Don’t sign up for a card until you know what the annual fee is. Make sure if there is a fee, that it makes sense for how you intend to use the card. If saving money is the name of the game for you, look for a card with no annual fee.  

Know the Requirements

Requirements for different types of accounts vary wildly. There could be a minimum deposit, amount, number of purchases, or balance. Many companies utilize different types of requirements that you may have to meet to get rewarded. Keep an eye out for those requirements and see if you qualify. If it doesn’t match your situation, don’t do it.  

Check the Terms and Conditions

Always read the fine print and make sure you understand it. This rule should be applied t anything and everything. Make sure you’re reading any documentation fully and that you understand. Reading the terms and conditions will help to prevent any surprises. If there’s something you’re not sure of, read further or talk to customer service for more information. You always want to be sure that you know what you’re getting into before you sign up so that you don’t end up in a bad situation.    

Check Out These Common Credit Card Myths