investing (Blog or Resources)

Should I Save or Pay Down Student Loan Debt?

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This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Always consult a professional for guidance around your personal financial situation.


Whether it comes as a check from grandma, a bonus from work, or a tax return, extra money in your bank account is a great feeling. However, it can be surprisingly difficult to decide what to do with that extra cash. You’d be tempted to spend the cash frivolously, like booking a much-needed vacation or splurging on eating out. But if you’re in debt, you know that money belongs elsewhere. The only question you should face when you come into a windfall is whether to contribute to savings or pay extra on your student loan debt. Luckily, that question is relatively easy to answer.


Save First. Pay Student Loan Debt Second.

Saving money—to a point—is necessary to ensure you’re prepared for unexpected financial emergencies. Car accident? Broken bone? Laid off? You need a “rainy day fund” so you can pay the bills when life challenges you without warning. By not saving, you could end up living on credit cards with interest rates that are likely two or three times higher than your student loan debt. Then you’re burdened with even steeper financial obligations to pay off. 


It’s recommended that you save at least six months of your current salary to be fully prepared for emergencies. Once you get your savings stockpiled, turn your attention to paying down student loan debt.


To explore why this is the case, consider savings accounts usually offer rates around 2%. However, your student loan debt likely comes with an interest rate of around 4%-7% interest if you have loans through the federal government. If you keep depositing money in your savings account instead of reducing your loan balance, you accumulate more debt (in interest owed) than you save. 


 Basic savings accounts are fairly safe—your balance only grows, as long as you don’t withdraw money from the account. The payoff for this safety is a lower interest rate. Low risk equals low reward. 


So, you might be thinking, “What saving options make me more money?” 


Related: Yes, You Need A Side Hustle


Are Stocks worth the investment?

Stocks are a popular option that is high risk and high reward. When you buy stock in a company, you own a piece of that company. The benefit for them is that your money is an investment in developing new products and other growth-based projects. The benefit for you is that your money could grow with the company. The downfall, however, is that your money can be depleted if the company’s stock takes a downturn. 


Stocks can also be an intimidating game since companies like Alphabet (Google) and Amazon generally sell for more than $1,000 a share. However, some companies like Robinhood are trying to make stocks more accessible to the everyday investor, highlighted with their soon to be released fractional share trading options. With the new feature, you can buy one-millionth of a share or just $1 worth of any stock.


Could I place savings in a CD?

A more middle-of-the-road option is a CD. Not to be confused with a compact disc, these Certificates of Deposit are savings accounts that are typically federally-insured and usually have higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts. The beauty of placing your money in a CD is that it becomes harder to spend your money frivolously since there are predetermined dates for withdrawal. Common terms are 3, 6, 12, and 18-months, with penalties assessed if money is withdrawn before the maturity date. 


Ready to Save But Short On Funds?

Saving and paying off debt is great…when you have the extra cash to do so. But not everyone has a wealthy grandma or job that comes with a bonus. Here are some quick ways to save.


Student loan refinancing through companies like ELFI* could free up more money by lowering your monthly payment through loan consolidation and a lower interest rate. In fact, customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance.


Related: 7 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans


You could also save hundreds of dollars a month after canceling unused subscriptions. Banks or apps like Truebill and Trim can help you find and cancel subscriptions that are unused or that you forgot you signed up for in the first place. These apps also connect to your bank account to make automated weekly money transfers into a savings account. With automated transfers, think small—just $25 a week can turn into $1,300 a year.


Apps like Acorns can make your investments even more simple by setting aside leftover change from purchases you make. With the Acorns debit card, the spare change from each purchase is placed in an investment account of your choosing. And when you shop via the Acorns app or Chrome Extension at 350+ retail partners, a percentage of your total purchase is deposited into your selected savings account. 


At ELFI, we work hard to help you reduce student loan debt with great student loan refinancing options. By refinancing student loans with ELFI, you can pick the payment plan and terms that fit your life. See what you could save with our quick, no-obligation quote.



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


¹Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.


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.

The Best Financial Websites & Podcasts

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Navigating the world of personal finance is no easy task. Learning how to manage your money can be difficult, especially as a recent college graduate or young professional. You’re going through so many changes, and the whole world is at your feet, but you also sometimes feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. So don’t let your money become a guessing game. To help you out, we’ve gathered some of our favorite websites and podcasts you can turn to for financial advice. 



Founded by Tim Chen in 2009, NerdWallet’s mission is to provide clarity for all of life’s financial decisions. NerdWallet has grown from a credit cards comparison spreadsheet in 2009 to a go-to source for millions of people when it comes to making financial decisions. NerdWallet’s tailored advice, content and tools ensure you’re getting more from your money, covering the topics of credit cards, banking, investing, mortgages, loans, insurance, money and even travel. 


The Simple Dollar

Originally founded by a man on a journey to get out of debt, this website has flourished over the past eleven years and become a well-respected source of financial advice. The site provides practical tips for money management. The Simple Dollar’s mission is “providing well-researched, useful content that empowers our readers to make smart financial decisions.” Staying true to that mission, it serves millions of readers and has been featured in major publications, including Forbes, Business Insider, and TIME. 


Suze Orman

New York Times bestselling author & financial expert, Suze Orman, offers advice through a variety of channels, including books, live events, blogs, and podcasts. Her website includes a wide range of resources, from student loans to family and estate planning, and everything in between. More than 1 million followers glean knowledge from her every week on Twitter, where she shares financial tips and links to other work, such as her podcasts and blogs.



This Washington, D.C.-based publisher releases more than just personal finance tips. The company creates print and online publications featuring business and economic forecasts, as well. The monthly personal finance magazine shares advice for money management, investment, retirement, taxes, insurance, real estate, auto purchases, health care, travel, and paying for college. According to its website, Kiplinger Magazine was the first magazine that offered money management advice for Americans, so this organization has a long and proud history as a financial resource.


Your Business, Your Wealth

This podcast is led and hosted by financial advisors with nearly two decades of experience.

Its episodes cover a wide range of topics, from insurance, to taxes, to entrepreneurship, to debt, and beyond. In reviews, listeners rave about the way the hosts explain financial concepts that people can apply to their lives. Here’s just one review from an Apple Podcast Listener:

The hosts also share inspiration on Twitter


Radical Personal Finance

Radical Personal Finance aims to not just provide general financial information but to encourage listeners to take actionable steps to improve their finances and lifestyles. The show also strives to equip its listeners with enough information to be able to think critically and make sound decisions for themselves. According to its reviews, listeners enjoy the unique perspectives this podcast brings to the table.  


While you may not always agree with everything the podcast hosts say or the blog editors write, listening to a more experienced point of view is always helpful. You can take some of the tips in these blogs and podcasts and immediately apply them to your personal finance routine. Make some of these a daily part of your routine and you’ll find you’re learning more about money than you ever dreamed. 


We live in a time when our attention spans are being divided more and more thinly. We wanted to share our favorite podcasts and financing websites because they’re easy to consume on-the-go. There’s no need to set aside time in your busy schedule. These resources are available on the commute to work, during your lunch break or any time you want to sharpen your financial know-how.


If you’re interested in a private student loan or refinancing your student loans, our Personal Loan Advisors are available and would love to speak with you and answer any other questions you may have. Let’s connect.*



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

10 Questions to Ask when Hiring a Financial Advisor

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Financial experts run the gamut from tax preparers to CPAs who can help you with a business, to people who specialize in things like drafting wills or advising you for retirement. Finding the right financial advisor can seem like you’re dating again. With all the questions and long-term goals, you’re looking for in a match. How do you find the right type of expert, ask the right questions, and get the help you need?


First, like in dating, you need to know what you’re looking for. Think about what you need and it will narrow your search. It’ll be easier to seek out a financial advisor once you have a title or type of business to seek out.  With easier access to more information than ever before, reading up on topics is a piece of cake (and common) for most of us. What are you looking to do? Start searching based on your needs, so you can develop your own list. Create your own list of questions specific to the service you need.


Next, ask around and look at websites, reviews, and recommendations from friends and family. There might already be a connection to someone—or many someones—in your network. Once you have an idea of what you want and the type of expert you’re looking for, consider asking these questions.


What are your qualifications?

Before you start talking to a financial pro, make sure you know what typical qualifications are. You don’t want to hire someone with the wrong education or training for what you need.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. the education requirements are a bachelor’s degree. The certifications and licenses required will be dependent on what the advisor is working on.


How much and what kind of experience do you have in this field?

It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker to have a greener financial pro. It is recommended to know whether your CPA has done the type of accounting you need, or if you are a financial advisor’s very first client!


What services do you provide?

Even if you’ve sought out a financial expert based on one need, it’s nice to know if they might be able to help you with further services down the road. Plus, websites aren’t always all-encompassing, so you might need some clarification before you start working together.


What are your fees? What is your fee structure?

Some experts take a percentage of the money you make, and others have services based on flat rates or monthly fees. Knowing how they get paid helps you understand what you’re paying for their services. Advisory HQ has a list of sample fee structures based on a recent report they created for financial advisors. The charts provided will give you an average reference as to what the typical costs are for management of assets and other financial management costs.


What are the total fees?

In addition to your contributions and the fees of your expert, there may be other fees you need to pay. For example, if you are advisor uses a mutual fund, there may be fees associated with that account that will be added to the advisor’s cost.  Ask what your all-in costs are and be aware of how even small fees can affect your overall outcome.


Are you a fiduciary?

A fiduciary works in your best interest. They have both, ethical and legal duties to act in the best interest of the party to whom assets are being managed. For example, shareholders, lawyers, and guardians are fiduciaries. The biggest difference between fiduciaries and other financial advisors, fiduciaries cannot act on their own interest. They cannot benefit personally from the management of assets while other financial advisors can.


What kinds of tools or guides do you have to help me?

Many financial experts can offer specialized tools or calculators. These tools will help you understand the financial potential of their services. Ask if they have more information or collateral they can send home with you for your own research and learning.


What services are available through your website or app?

Many millennials prefer to do tasks digitally. We want the ability to check on accounts 24/7 on our phone or computer. Knowing if there is an app or website that is available and mobile friendly is helpful when picking an expert.


How often should we meet or check in? What would our relationship be like?

When you first start a retirement plan you might not see much growth or movement for quite a while. Therefore, it’s likely won’t need to interface much with your expert. Once you have hired a financial pro, don’t be afraid to ask them some questions. You should be comfortable or checking in whenever you’d like to get their perspective. You could set up a yearly call about investments for a more regular update.


What kind of goals should I set?

You and your financial expert will want to have a conversation about why you’re looking for this product or service and what you hope to get out of it. He or she will help you understand if your desires are on point for what they can offer.


Finally, you want an expert who is a good fit. Some people have a special situation like owning their own business or freelancing. In that case, you’ll want a financial expert who understands your needs. You could want an advisor who cares more about educating clients versus someone who simply gives their opinion on what you should do.


Beyond that, you might have preferences that would be important to talk about during an interview. Many millennials have strong feelings about what causes to support. Did you know you can ask a financial advisor to ensure that your investments aren’t doing anything you wouldn’t agree with? For example, you can have a financial advisor invest in companies that are known for being socially or environmentally responsible only. You can also avoid investments that include controversial companies or those with values you don’t agree with.  It’s okay to shop around and find someone whose personality or experience fits best with you! It isn’t always a guaranteed marriage, but you have to start somewhere.


6 Reasons for Hiring a Financial Planner 


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.

DIY Investing – Do you Need a Financial Advisor to Start Investing?

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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.



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.



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.



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

5 Personal Finance Apps to Keep Your Finances in Check

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In today’s tech-savvy environment, it doesn’t take much to find that there’s an app for everything. If you want to edit a photo to post on Instagram, read a book, or track your food or workouts, there’s likely an app for it. It is as simple as making a few taps on your smartphone. With 95% of Americans owning some kind of cellphone according to PEW Research Center, it doesn’t seem surprising that apps are becoming so easy to use. Apps help make everyday life a little bit easier. The same simplicity can apply to personal finance apps.


If you are an avid smartphone user, you may have noticed that your experience is getting significantly easier. Instead of driving to your nearest bank to deposit a check, you can now do so from your smartphone in a matter of minutes. Checking your balance and transferring funds are simpler than ever. Did you know, there are apps that help you stick to your budget, remind you to pay bills, and invest money? Read on for five personal finance apps that could help make your life easier:



Category: Investing

Cost: Free app install, $1 per month for the service

Best for: Wanting to make an extra buck

The idea behind Acorns™ is using your spare change to earn additional money. Essentially, this app is meant for investing, especially small amounts. You can start off by putting in just $5 and Acorns™ economists will invest your money into stocks and bonds for you. One major benefit to this app is it is mostly hands-off. There are three options for depositing money, which can all be done automatically:

  1. Investments from your bank account (recurring or one-time)
  2. Round up to the nearest dollar whenever you make a purchase on a debit or credit card (you will not see any money leave your credit or debit card until the round-ups reach $5)
  3. “Earn Found Money” is where you receive money from purchases made with specific brands

Acorns™ will then invest your money into over 7,000 stocks in bonds, and when you earn dividends the app will reinvest those without you even needing to tell it to. The service does come at a cost: $1 per month. You can pay $2 per month to add on Acorns Later™, which is an IRA that saves for retirement. There is also the option to withdraw your money whenever you would like. Investing your spare change in Acorns™ will likely give you a higher return than just letting it sit in your wallet.


Do You Need a Financial Advisor to Start Investing?



Category: Budgeting

Cost: Free

Best for: Keeping track of finances

Mint™ is one of the most popular finance apps, and it is totally free. The purpose of the app is to manage your money, plain and simple. Whether that includes investments, credit cards, bills, or budgeting, you can take a look at all of your finances all in one place. You can also keep track of your credit score and the app will give you tips as to how to make it better. Mint™ will notify you when you need to pay your bills and tell you what you owe so you won’t miss any payments. The app tracks your purchases to make sure you are not going over your set budget and will let you know if you are close to doing so. Mint™ comes from Intuit™, which also owns TurboTax™, so there is a strong level of safety involved.  Get this app if you are looking for convenience and simplicity in managing your finances for no cost.



Category: Budgeting

Cost: Free

Best for: Couples

This is an app that is made for couples. If you are in a relationship or married and have a hard time keeping up with finances with your partner, this is the app for you. It is designed to be collaborative, so both you and your partner are aware of bills and spending and can keep track of expenses. Custom categories can be created and then you set a monthly budget for each one. You can set bill reminders for just one person – that way you know for sure who is responsible for that bill. It doesn’t matter if you have a combined account or if your finances are completely separate because you can customize how much you share with each other. This app is sure to cut down on disagreements about finances between couples.


Personal Capital™

Category: Investing/Money Management

Cost: Free

Best for: Working on your net worth

Personal Capital™ is for investment and money management and tracking your net worth. The app pulls together all of your investments, loans, credit cards, and bank accounts and determines what your net worth is and whether you are investing in the right places and gives advice as to how to improve your portfolio. This is a free app and is run by financial advisors both human and automated. There are tools for budgeting as well, but the real strength in this app is in discovering and improving your net worth. You can also use the technology and advisors to plan for retirement.


You Need a Budget (YNAB) ™

Category: Investing/Money Management

Cost: Free app install, $6.99 per month after free trial for service

Best for: Getting out of debt

YNAB™ has been growing in popularity over the last few years and has the goal to get you out of debt. It is primarily a budgeting app, but it also gives you the tools to learn how to get out and stay out of debt. You Need a Budget lives by four rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job: make sure you have budgeted for every dollar you get in income monthly
  2. Embrace your true expenses: always include expenses that occur less frequently within your monthly budget
  3. Roll with the punches: be aware that your budget will probably have to change – and be willing to make those changes
  4. Age your money: this is just saying that you should be using last month’s paycheck to pay this month’s bills

YNAB™ is an effective app that many users swear by, but it does cost money. You will be charged $6.99 each month after a 34-day free trial. Use that free trial period to determine whether the guidance is worth the price.


Add Personal Finance Apps to Your List


According to PEW Research Center, 77% of Americans go online on a daily basis. Of those 77% of Americans, 43% of them go online multiple times a day. If you frequently use apps to make your life easier, why not add a few personal finance apps to your phone? The more you keep up with your finances, the more aware of them you will be. There are apps for sticking to your budget, tracking credit score, investing, fraud protection, and more, and these are just a few of the many personal finance apps out there.


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.