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Lifestyle (Blog or Resources)

Barbecue on a Budget: Festive Fourth of July Treats Under $20

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While many of us will be celebrating the Fourth of July at home this year, we can still enjoy one of the best parts of the holiday: festive foods! Whether you’re serving up cocktails, grilling steaks or enjoying red, white and blue snacks, an at-home celebration makes it easy to have fun on a budget.

We’ve put together a list of Fourth of July food ideas that are sure to be a hit, both with your family and friends and with your wallet.


All-Star Hot Dog Bar

Wow the family and save some cash with a Fourth of July hot dog bar! Whether you’re grilling out or cooking on the stove, this customizable meal is the perfect way to feed a group without breaking the bank.

In addition to classic toppings like ketchup and mustard, get creative with a few show-stopping toppings:

  • Relish
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Chili


Firework Margaritas:

Cheers to the Fourth! What better way to celebrate the weekend than with a colorful cocktail? Whip up this delicious drink for the adults in your group or leave out the alcohol for a refreshing version everyone can enjoy. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • If preferred: 2 cups silver tequila (any brand)
  • 1 1/3 cups lime juice
  • 1 cup honey

Blend the ingredients, rim the glasses with salt or sugar, and garnish with a lime or strawberry for an extra-festive finish.


Star-Spangled Trifle

Don’t forget dessert! This delicious red, white, and blue trifle is the perfect complement to any Independence Day meal. Here’s what you’ll need:



  • 1 16 oz. container of strawberries
  • 1 6 oz. container of blueberries
  • 1 box angel food cake mix (any brand)


Whipped Cream:

  • 4 tbs. sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


However you choose to celebrate this year, we hope these Fourth of July recipes add a little extra excitement to your day. Have a fun and safe weekend!

The 6 Financial Lessons That COVID-19 Has Taught Us

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Since March, the nation has been reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of people lost their jobs, had their hours cut, or experienced drops in their income. Many families’ finances have been significantly affected by the coronavirus outbreak and are still struggling to recover.


By Kat Tretina


As the nation starts to rebuild — and businesses begin to reopen — here are six lessons we learned during the pandemic that we should all keep in mind going forward. 


1. You need a larger emergency fund

Before the pandemic, many financial experts said that an emergency fund of $1,000 was sufficient for most individuals. Others said that saving three months’ worth of expenses was enough. 


If you followed that advice, you may have realized that the guidance left you unprepared to deal with such a serious catastrophe. If you lost your entire income overnight, you quickly exhausted your savings and were unable to pay your bills. 


If the pandemic drained your savings account or if you never had an emergency fund in the first place, focus on building one from scratch once you’re steadily employed again. Aim to save at least six months’ worth of living expenses. That may sound impossible right now, but the important thing is to start saving and tuck money away consistently. Over time, you can achieve your goal. 


2. Understand your loan protections

As we found out during the past few months, not all creditors are equal. While some creditors were willing to work with people struggling with their finances during the pandemic, others were not. 


Federal student loans were eligible for the CARES Act, including 0% interest and automatic payment suspensions. Unfortunately, private student loans did not qualify for those benefits. 


Some private student loan lenders workers with borrowers and allowed them to postpone their payments, but not all lenders were willing to do so. 


The experience highlights how important it is to shop around and choose a lender that offers hardship programs and forbearance options. With ELFI, you may be eligible for up to 12 months of forbearance if you experience a financial hardship, such as a job loss or medical emergency. 


3. Avoid the lifestyle creep

Before the pandemic hit, the economy was strong. Unemployment numbers were very low and credit was easy to get, so many people were inflating their lifestyle. Even high-earners were living paycheck to paycheck to live more lavish lifestyles than they could really afford. When things went south, people were left scrambling to make ends meet. 


Living well within your means protects you from a recession and a bad economy. When you spend less than you make, you have more breathing room in your budget, and can weather bad times until things improve. 


To avoid lifestyle inflation, create a budget and stick to it. When you get a raise, automatically deposit the difference in your paycheck into your savings account or make extra payments toward your student loans. That way, you won’t notice the extra money, but you’ll improve your net worth. Learn how to avoid the lifestyle creep here.


4. It’s wise to have multiple income streams

Many people lost their jobs, were furloughed, or had their hours reduced during the pandemic. With unemployment rates skyrocketing and many businesses shutting down, having multiple income streams is more important than ever. 


When you have more than one source of income, you’re better able to handle emergencies. Even if you lose your job, you’ll at least have some money coming in to cover your most important bills. Having a side hustle can also help diversify your skill-set, making it easier to find another full-time job later on. 


If you can, look for another source of income. You can pick up a side hustle, such as delivering groceries, pet-sitting, or renting out extra space. You can also offer freelancing or consulting services in your field. 


5. Don’t try and time the market

When the pandemic occurred, the stock market plummeted. Many people panicked and sold their investments or raided their retirement plans. It turned out to be a costly mistake, as the stock market rebounded. It’s a key lesson: Don’t try and time the market.


The stock market has natural ebbs and flows, and will experience sharp periods of growth and recessions. Don’t panic and sell during those declines, and don’t try to buy only when you think it’s at its lowest. 


Instead, keep your investments where they are, and continue making consistent contributions if you can. Over time, your money will steadily grow, and your patience will pay off. If you’re new to investing, you may want to check out these apps to get started.. 


6. Pay down high-interest debt

Having high-interest debt can be one of the biggest stressors when the economy is in decline. When your job is at risk and money is tight, your student loans and credit cards are the last thing you want to worry about when you need to pay rent and groceries. 


To eliminate that stress, focus on paying down high-interest debt when things are relatively good. By paying off your debt, you’ll save money over time, and you’ll reduce your monthly expenses.


If you want to accelerate your student loan repayment, consider student loan refinancing. Especially if you have private student loans, refinancing your loans can help you get a lower interest rate and save money over time.


Use the student loan refinance calculator to find out how much you can save over the life of your repayment term.*



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

7 Healthy Ways to Deal With Financial Stress

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Do you have debt? If so, you are not alone. More than 74% of Americans have debt of some kind. We know how stressful dealing with debt can be. It can often feel like there is no end to debt payments in sight and can consume your thoughts more than it should. But there are healthy ways to deal with financial stress that can help you pay down debt faster. Read on for some innovative ways to curb financial stress and crush your debt.  


According to a Northwestern Mutual 2020 Planning & Progress Study, the average debt for Americans in 2020, just before the COVID-19 impact, was $26,621 per person carrying debt. The debt consists mainly of credit card debt and mortgages, followed by personal student loans and car loans. It should come as no surprise that millennials are feeling the strain of debt as well, with the average debt for millennials being $27,900 in 2019, excluding mortgage debt. Millennials cite credit cards and student loans as their major debt sources. Among all those with debt, 67% have a specific plan to pay it off. While that’s great, that means that three in 10 debt holders have no plan for how they’ll pay off their debt. A plan is a great way to feel more in control and stress less about your debt. With a little bit of strategic planning, it can also help you pay down your debt faster.


Healthy Ways to Deal With Financial Stress

If you have been reading about debt tackling strategies, you have probably heard of the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods. Those are great strategies, but if you are looking for new and creative (and possibly even fun) ways to deal with financial stress here are some ideas to try out: 


Side Hustle

In 2019, 45% of Americans reported having a side hustle. A side hustle is a great way to earn extra money outside of your day job. The money earned can be extremely helpful to make extra payments on your debt and pay off your debt faster. A side hustle could be a driver for ride sharing, grocery shopping for others, selling items on eBay, tutoring, or dog walking, among many other options. Your side hustle might even be an enjoyable hobby you can start making money from like photography or writing a blog. Doing an activity you enjoy and making money on the side is sure to help ease some stress.  


Dollar for Dollar

For every dollar you spend on non-essential purchases, you spend the same amount on an extra debt payment. Think you want new wireless headphones? Take the same amount you will spend and make an extra debt payment. This method may also help you curb some spending on wants versus needs.  


Sign-Up Bonuses

Looking for a new checking or savings account? Take advantage of banks with sign-up bonuses for opening a new account and use the bonus money to fund your next financial goal. 


Save with Apps

If you like paying with plastic, there are some apps that you can use to help you save for specific financial goals. Some will round up your purchase price to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into a savings account, one example is the app Acorns. Another app, Qoins, will take the difference and make a debt payment on your behalf. Or use the app, Digit, that will monitor your income and spending habits to determine if there is extra money that can be moved from your checking account into your Digit account. These little amounts can add up quickly to help you meet a savings goal. 


Found Money

According to a 2019 report, 92% of millennials use coupons, whether paper coupons or digital coupons on their phone or online. These coupon savings can then be turned into extra debt payments. Found a coupon that saves you $10 on a purchase you were already going to make? Put that money aside to make an extra payment on your debt. You might also find money from your credit card cash back programs. If you are not carrying any credit card debt, using credit cards to earn cash back is a great way to earn money for purchases you were already making. Instead of using the cash back on a frivolous purchase, turn it into an extra debt payment or the beginning of an emergency fund. If you are shopping online, use a cash back shopping site to earn additional money that can be turned into another debt payment.  


Color Away

Looking to calm your anxiety and see the light at the end of the debt tunnel? Try debt repayment coloring pages. A study in the journal Art Therapy found coloring can reduce anxiety and improve mindfulness. A debt repayment coloring sheet allows you to color a section of the page for each new debt milestone met. They can be a great visual reminder of how far you have come in your debt paying journey and great motivation to make little extra payments when you can. A quick search will show you free ready made pages to start coloring.


No Spend Challenge

Make a commitment to not spend any unnecessary money for a certain length of time. You could start with a couple of weeks and work your way up to a month long challenge. Set the rules of what you can spend on, but remember it’s supposed to be a challenge. For example you could decide to only spend money on rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, and food from grocery stores. Any other expenses outside of those categories you don’t spend for two weeks. All the extra money you would normally spend on unnecessary items goes straight to debt payments, emergency fund or any other financial goal you have.   


If student loans are one source of financial stress, check to see if student loan refinancing is a good fit for you.* For many people, refinancing is a beneficial way to cut expenses and save in interest costs.  



Debt may be a part of your finances right now, but won’t always be. Make a plan and try to incorporate some of these methods to help make the debt payoff journey easier. Before you know it, you will have your next debt payoff milestone met and will be on your way to a debt-free life. Good luck!



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

How HENRYs Can Achieve Debt-Life Balance

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If you are a HENRY (High Earner, Not Rich Yet), you may feel the struggle of wanting it all while still having to contend with paying off debt. You earn a good salary and deserve to reward yourself for your hard work, but you can’t forget about your debt. Paying down debt doesn’t have to take over your life! In fact, it’s completely possible to pay down debt faster while still maintaining the type of lifestyle you enjoy. Keep reading for ways to balance your debt payoff journey without sacrificing fun. 


By Caroline Farhat


Ways to Achieve Debt-Life Balance

Many people that are considered HENRYs are facing debt, most likely from student loans. The average student loan debt for HENRYs is $80,000. But HENRYs, like millennials, enjoy living for the present. Money spent on experiences and travel is a high priority. So how much should be allocated to paying off debt while balancing the lifestyle you enjoy? There are different budget methods that can help achieve this balance. 


50-30-20 Rule

With the 50-30-20 budgeting method, your take-home pay is allocated in three major categories. 

    • Fifty percent is for paying for all basic needs, including housing costs, car or transportation costs, food, utilities, and minimum payments on your debts. 
    • Thirty percent of your take-home income goes to your wants. With this amount you can continue to live the lifestyle you like within your means. 
    • The last 20% goes towards savings and debt payment. Part of it can be used to start and build an emergency and the other towards making additional payments towards debt. The additional debt payments will save you money in interest over the lifetime of the loan.


Debt Snowball

With this budgeting method, you order your debt balances from smallest to largest. You pay the minimum on all debt payments and any extra money you have for debt payments goes towards the debt with the smallest balance. Once the smallest debt is paid off, the minimum payment and the extra amount that was being paid towards that debt now goes to pay the second smallest balance. With this method, you get fast wins by paying the smallest debt balance first. You also can still allocate money for wants and entertainment, knowing that all your debts are being paid. This method is good for people who are motivated by seeing continual progress.


Debt Avalanche

This budgeting method is similar to the snowball method, however, instead of ranking the debts by balance, they are ranked by their interest rate. The balance with the highest interest rate is the first focus, so any extra money you have for debt repayment is put towards the highest interest rate loan. Paying debts off with this method allows you to save money in interest costs, but takes longer to knock out balances. Just like all the other methods you can still budget for entertainment costs but still make progress on all debt balances. This method is good for people who prioritize saving money on interest.


Zero-Based Budget

To create a zero-based budget you subtract all your expenses, savings included, from your income to equal zero. Start with subtracting all the necessary basic expenses, including minimum payments on all debts. Then you can subtract savings, lifestyle expenses, and extra debt payments. If you run out of money while creating this budget before you set aside money for additional debt payments, take a look at your other categories to see if you can reduce any unnecessary expenses. On the flip side, you may find that you have money left over that you don’t know what you did with. That extra money can be put to paying down debts faster, enabling you to save money and be debt-free sooner.


Pay Debt Off Faster

Looking to pay your debt off faster without sacrificing your lifestyle? Here are some strategies to try:


Refinance Student Loans

Student loan refinancing is extremely beneficial for many people with student loan debt because it can save you money on your monthly payment and save you in interest costs over the life of the loan. The savings can go towards debt balances to pay them off quicker. Refinancing is an easy process where you obtain a new student loan, presumably at a lower interest rate than your current one, to pay off your old loan(s). To find out how much money you may be able, to save check out our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.* 


Side Hustle

Earning extra money outside of your day job could be a great way to make extra debt payments. Afraid your side hustle could cramp your lifestyle? Try turning your hobbies into some extra cash. If you love photography, try selling your photos or offering photography services. Like finding a good deal? Use that to find items you can resell for a profit.     


Found Money

Do you shop online using a cashback site or earn cashback rewards from credit cards? When you receive that found money, put it towards your debts. Although they may be small checks you receive, when paying off debt, every little bit can help cut down on interest costs and pay the loan off quicker. 



If you receive bonuses from work, commit to putting at least half towards extra debt payments. This allows you to still use some of the money for fun items or experiences you are saving for, but helps you move towards a better financial future as well. 


Sell Unused Items

Have items around your house that you no longer want or need? Turn them into extra cash. Take a couple of days to declutter your house and you may find items you realize you haven’t used in a while. Try selling them through an app, Facebook Marketplace, or consignment stores if you have designer clothing you no longer want. 



If you have debt, you can still live the lifestyle you enjoy while paying it off. With a plan on how to tackle the debt, you will find that you can still balance your wants and entertainment in your life while making progress on paying down the loans. And if you are ready to knock out debts even quicker, try some of these strategies to help you reach your goal. Good luck!



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

Is Social Media Ruining Your Finances?

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place restrictions, people are spending more time on social media than ever. 


By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.


While social media can be a fun way to pass the time, it can have a negative impact on your finances. According to Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth Index Survey, more than a third of Americans said their spending habits were influenced by images and experiences shared on social media. Regularly using social media could cause you to overspend and put your financial goals at risk. 


If your social media use is damaging your finances, here’s how to take back control. 


Signs your finances are getting derailed by social media 

Using Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s all about moderation. But there are some tell-tale signs that your social media use is hurting your bank account: 


1. Falling for FOMO

Seeing friends and old classmates’ vacation photos can give you a severe case of FOMO— fear of missing out. Those glamorous photos can cause you to want to book your own expensive trip. 


However, you should know that few people can really afford those exotic vacations. According to BankRate, the average person spends less than $2,000 per year on vacations. The Federal Reserve reported that 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense, so a pricey vacation — or even a weekend trip to the beach — is out of reach for many. 


While some people may save for months or years to pay for their vacations, many more turn to credit cards to finance their trips. Chasing their lifestyles could damage your bank account. 


2. Believing in the fantasy

With so many people posting beautiful photos of lavish purchases, it’s easy to believe that everyone is living a more luxurious life than you. But what you see on social media isn’t always real life. 


You have no idea how people are paying for those luxuries. They could be well off, or they could be in extraordinary debt. 


One well-known influencer racked up $10,000 in credit card debt to keep up her Instagram persona, filling her feed with pictures of dinners out, new outfits, and online purchases. And companies exist that allow users to hold fake private jet photo shoots


Take the photos you see with a grain of salt and don’t compare yourself to others.


3. Purchasing on impulse

Social media ads are incredibly targeted; they’re based on your search history and likes, so you’ll likely see ads for products that will appeal to you. In fact, a 2019 survey from VidMob found that one-third of Instagram bought an item directly from an Instagram ad.  


With one-click purchases and saved credit card information, it’s easy to make a purchase in an instant before you can really think it through. 


If you find yourself making purchases while scrolling through your social media feeds, you may be wasting money. 


How to stay on track

If your social media use is compromising your finances, use these five tips to get back on track: 


1. Limit your screen time

While it may seem difficult during shelter-in-place orders, set limits on how much time you spend on social media. You can use your phone’s screen time settings to see how much time you currently spend on your phone. Use apps like Moment, Freedom, and SelfControl to limit your social media access. 


2. Keep visual representations of your goals in front of you

To combat visuals of vacations and other purchases, keep visuals of your goals handy. For example, if you’re paying down student loan debt, keep a visual graph of your progress on your phone or saved to your computer desktop. 


(Hint: Need help paying down your debt? Consider student loan refinancing. Our customers have reported that they are saving an average of $272 every month and should see an average of $13,940 in total savings after refinancing their student loans with Education Loan Finance. You can get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*)


If you plan on buying a home or a car, keep a picture of your dream purchase saved. You can also create a Pinterest vision board of what your goals are to help keep you focused. 


After all, taking control of your finances can help you live lavishly once your debt is repaid. 


3. Set a waiting period before making any purchases

Institute a waiting period before making any purchases to curb impulse buys. Make yourself wait 72 hours before making a purchase. 


If you see an item you want, save it. If you still want the product three days later, you can give yourself permission to buy it. 


You may find that you completely forget about it, or that it’s less appealing after a few days. By making yourself wait, you can ensure that your purchases are things you really want and need. 


4. Curate your feeds

Social media can be fun, but it can also make you feel bad about yourself and your life. To combat those problems, spend some time eliminating feeds and unfollowing accounts that make you feel inadequate, and only follow accounts that make you happy. 


Feeds that feature cute dogs? Follow! Home decor feeds with throw blankets and lamps that cost more than your rent? Unfollow. 


5. Practice gratitude

Researchers have found that focusing on things that you are thankful for is proven to make you happier. Every day or at least once a week, set aside some time to jot down things you are grateful for that happened during the week. 


They don’t have to be big things. Cooking an especially tasty dinner, being able to spend time binging Netflix with a friend or partner, walking your dog, or still having a paycheck during a difficult economic period are all things to be thankful for right now. 


By focusing on the good things that are already in your life, you’re less likely to be affected by FOMO and social media’s influence. 


Managing your money

Using social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family and pass the time, but it can negatively impact your finances. But by using these tips, you can combat its effects and manage your money. 



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

Forget the Joneses: Why a Modified HENRY Lifestyle May Be Better

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If you have ever been tempted to get the latest phone or newest trendy clothing, you may be familiar with the feeling of needing to keep up with the Joneses. Now, some millennials are feeling the pressure to live up to a new standard. As opposed to the proverbial Joneses, it’s the HENRYs. Although HENRYs have their downfalls, just like the Joneses, with some financial tweaks you can set yourself up for a bright financial future and avoid the pitfalls of being a HENRY.  


By Caroline Farhat


What Is a HENRY?   

HENRY is an acronym that stands for “High Earner, Not Rich Yet.” First used in a Fortune magazine article in 2003, it’s a term that describes millennials who typically earn over $100,000 but feel broke. According to financial experts that help HENRYs with their financial goals, the typical HENRY is: 

  • Earning more than $100,000 a year as an individual or $150,000 as a couple
  • A millennial, with the average age being 32 years old 
  • Working in any industry, including software engineering, digital marketing, journalism, law, medicine and finance 
  • Usually living in high cost of living areas with the higher-paying jobs, like California, New York and Washington D.C., but can live anywhere 
  • Saving money, but not enough. The typical HENRY may have between $15,000 and $20,000 saved. Although this may seem like a lot compared to the 58% of millennials that have a savings account balance under $5,000, based on the percentage of income earned, the savings are minimal.  


Problems HENRYs Face

Many millennials who are considered a HENRY feel like they are living paycheck to paycheck, however, they make it a priority to pay for expensive gym memberships and dream trips. Here are some problems HENRYs face and how to fix them: 


Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep refers to the phenomenon in which spending on discretionary items increases when income increases. It can be dangerous to increase spending each time your income increases because it can derail future financial plans. HENRYs often give into lifestyle creep because they have the mentality that they deserve the luxuries they have become accustomed to.


The Fix: To fight lifestyle creep, prepare a budget with the goal of trying to save at least 10% of your income a month or 20% or more if you do not have any debt. Keep your budget the same even if your income increases and be sure to save the difference in income. If you are able to lower your expenses, save that difference too. It’s recommended that the savings go to a retirement account and building an emergency fund.  



Student Loan Debt


Student loan debt is a major strain for many HENRYs. According to one financial expert, 40% of her clients who are considered HENRYs have student loan debt. HENRYs owe an average of $80,000 in student loans, much higher than the average $33,000 for millennials in 2019. However, for many HENRYs, student loans helped them achieve the education they needed to obtain the high wages. The best way to deal with the student loan debt is to see if you’re missing out on ways you could be saving money on your loans and create a plan to pay them off quickly.


The Fix: Student loan refinancing can be extremely beneficial for many student loan borrowers.* Refinancing student loans can save you money on your monthly payment and in interest costs over the life of the loan. This will allow you to build more wealth faster and feel less strapped for cash. So how much can you save?


Let’s say you had $35,000 in student loan debt at 7% interest with a 10-year repayment term. By the end of your repayment term, you’d pay a total of $48,766. Interest charges would cause you to pay back $13,766 more than you originally borrowed. 


 If you refinanced your student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at just 5% interest, you’d repay $44,548. Refinancing your debt would help you save $4,218. 


Use our student loan refinancing calculator to find out what your potential savings could look like.*



Living for the Now


HENRYs like to focus on the now, and although it is good to live in the present and appreciate what you have, that may not be the best mindset for your finances. HENRYs have to accept that the future will come and they have to prepare for it. But preparing for the future doesn’t mean you have to make a ton of sacrifices! It’s completely possible to enjoy worldly adventures and designer brands now and still save for the future. 


The Fix: Decide 2-3 future goals you’d like to achieve and examine the type of financial situation you’ll need to make them happen. Do you want to save for a down payment on a house? Plan to start a family soon? Or are you looking to retire early? Once you have your goals, set up automatic transfers to a special savings account so that you’re not tempted to touch the money.


Cost of Living 

HENRYs face a higher cost of living because income increases have not kept up with the rising cost of housing and medical expenses. Many also face the added stress of living in high-cost metropolitan areas.


The Fix: Try to cut your living expenses by choosing to live in the suburbs where housing costs may be lower. If cutting your living expenses is not an option, decide what discretionary expenses you can lower. For example, if you are used to getting takeout multiple times a week, try swapping easy home-cooked meals for at least half of the time.



If you realize you are a HENRY, this doesn’t mean financial doom for you. Making these small tweaks can help you continue to live the lifestyle you enjoy while working towards a richer future.



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. 


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.

8 Legitimate Work-From-Home Jobs

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With the recent happenings surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are either working from home or staying at home for a greater portion of our time due to stay-at-home orders or to practice social distancing. Unfortunately, some of us may be out of a job altogether. Spending this unusual amount of time at home may have you starting to wonder whether you’d like to actually work from home full-time or part-time. 


By Caroline Farhat


Working from home comes with some great benefits, but it may not be for everyone. We’ve outlined some of the benefits and things you should know before making the leap. Sold on getting a work-from-home job? Keep reading to find out how you can snag one that you’ll love.


Is Working from Home Right for You?

Before you start looking at work-from-home jobs, you need to decide if skipping office life and working from home is right for you. You may like working from home if:

  1. You are self-motivated – When you are working from home it’s up to you to get the work done in a timely manner. Sure, you may have the occasional video conference meeting or phone call, but in general, there is nobody looking over your shoulder to check that you are completing the work. 
  2. You can stay focused – Of course, office life comes with distractions. We all know that one coworker that turns a 5-minute coffee break into a 20 minute one. But at home, there may be even more time-sucking distractions. Pets, household chores, and your Netflix account may be some of the distractions you would have to contend with and overcome to stay focused on work.  
  3. Working alone doesn’t bother you – Just as co-workers can serve as a distraction, they can also be built-in friendships. Would the camaraderie be something you miss or do you work better alone? If working alone sounds a bit lonely, working from home may not be the right fit for you.  
  4. You are organized – Working from home requires you to stay on top of deadlines and work tasks in a non-traditional office environment. If you prefer being managed closely on a day-to-day basis, working from home may have a learning curve.


The Benefits of Working from Home

  1. No commute – The average American spends a little over four hours per week commuting to work. In many major cities across the country, that number is much higher. Still, even four hours is a sizable chunk of time and can be better spent on yourself or with your family. 
  2. Office attire is more relaxed – Although it may help your productivity to change out of your pajamas, your attire can likely be more relaxed than if you were in an office. If you have video conferencing calls, just be sure to dress appropriately. 
  3. Save money – By working from home, you may be less tempted to go out for lunch or stop for daily morning coffee. Depending on how often you go out, that could mean over $200 in savings each month. Plus, you will also save on your commuting costs, whether that is gas or public transportation.


Legitimate Work-From-Home Jobs

Ready to start your work-from-home job hunt? Here are some of the best work-from-home jobs to consider:


1. Website or App Tester

Although this job may not provide a full-time income, it’s a great way to earn extra money on the side. For these types of jobs, you will be testing a website or application and providing feedback on it. For example, you might be required to complete certain tasks on the site. One company that has these types of jobs is UserTesting


2. Virtual Call Centers

With call center jobs, you may be considered an employee or contractor depending on the company. Most will require certain equipment, like a dedicated phone line and minimum internet speed. A call center job will require you to interact with customers by phone or possibly online chat to help fix problems they may have or answer questions. Some companies that often have openings for virtual call center jobs are: Alorica@Home and Liveops.  


3. Freelance Writing

As the title suggests, freelance writing is a contract position where you will be writing for all sorts of different mediums, from blogs to magazines. If you like writing, freelance work can be a great job for you and has unlimited income potential. A great resource to find freelance writing opportunities is FreelanceWriting


4. Teach English Online

Have a knack for teaching kids? If you have a patient and upbeat personality, you may enjoy teaching English online. Some companies do not require teaching experience but do require a college degree. The major ones to apply to are: VIPKID and Qkids.  


5. Amazon

The retail giant has a vast array of remote jobs from Human Resources to Software Development. Some positions require you to live in certain cities, so read the requirements closely. Check out the listings to see if any would be a good fit. 


6. Data Entry

These types of jobs can be good for beginners, although the pay is not high. Data entry can include transcribing audio files or entering data into a system. One site with different opportunities is Clickworker.   


7. Insurance

The industry has a number of remote jobs that would make great careers, including sales and underwriting. Two major health companies offering work from home positions include Humana and Aetna.  


8. Virtual Assistant

Are you organized, a team player and like assisting others? Being a virtual assistant may be a great fit for you. A VA can help bloggers with their sites or help companies in an assistant role. A great place to look for VA work is on Boldly. With Boldly, you are considered an employee of theirs and do work for companies looking for assistants.  


If you aren’t sure what industry you would be interested in working for there are some resources that provide legitimate work from home job listings. Check out KellyServices or Indeed to see all the work from home positions.  


Tip: Remember there are work-from-home job scams. Be aware of any “jobs” that require you to buy anything or that sound too good to be true. 


If you are dealing with student loan debt but don’t think working from home is right for you, there are other ways you can tackle your student debt. Student loan refinancing is one great option because it can help you save money on your monthly payment, as well as the overall loan amount. Curious how much you can save? Use our student loan refinancing calculator to find out how student loan refinancing can help in your unique situation.*



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. 


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 Ways to Use Your 2020 Stimulus Check

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Have you heard about the government stimulus check coming in 2020? Do you know how much money you expect to receive? Maybe you already have some ideas of how you can use the money. When you get newfound money, you should always consider the best ways you can spend so that it will pay off for you now and in the future. Here are a few tips for how to spend your 2020 stimulus check. 


By Caroline Farhat


What is the Stimulus Check?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major financial impact. Experts say we’re heading towards a recession, if not already experiencing one. In an effort to stabilize the economy, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in March. This provides, among other benefits, a stimulus check. Here is the information you need to know about the government stimulus check: 


Who will receive a check?

  • Eligible adults earning up to $75,000 will receive a check for $1,200. 
  • Couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400.
  • Families will receive $500 for each child under the age of 17, if they meet the income requirements.
  • The check amount is reduced for earners making over $75,000 and disappears completely for individuals earning $99,000 or more. 
  • For couples earning between $150,000 to $197,000, they will receive a reduced amount. Couples earning $198,000 or more will not receive a check. 


What income is this based on?

  • The income thresholds to determine eligibility for the stimulus check is based on your 2019 adjusted gross income, or 2018 if you have not yet filed your 2019 taxes. 
  • When can you expect the money?
  • Although it is technically called a check, if the IRS has your banking information from your tax return, you may receive a direct deposit as early as mid-April 2020. However, if a paper check has to be mailed, you may not receive the money until May or later. As of April 13, 2020, the IRS is preparing to provide a tool on their website to track the status of your stimulus check. 


The Best Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

Once you receive the money, here are some of the best ways to use it to help you financially:


1. Pay bills

A Pew Research Center study predicts 38.1 million U.S. workers are working in an industry that will most likely feel an immediate impact from the pandemic, including layoffs or reduced hours. If you have been laid off or if you’re uncertain how your job may be impacted, it is time to look at your emergency fund to examine how many months of basic living expenses you have saved. If you do not have an emergency fund, you should use the stimulus money for your basic living expenses, including rent or mortgage, food, or necessary household items.


2. Start or Add to Your Emergency Fund 

If your job is safe from layoffs and you have a healthy stream of income still coming in, you should consider using the stimulus money to start or add to your emergency fund. Financial experts suggest it’s best to have six to eight months of living expenses in your emergency fund. It can come in handy if you are dealing with a sudden job loss or an unexpected expense, like a car repair. To determine the amount you need for your emergency fund, do the following:

  1. Add up your living expenses for a month, including your mortgage or rent, car payment, money for food and gas, and any other necessary monthly expenses you pay.
  2. Multiply your monthly amount by 6 (or 8 if you’d like to aim higher).


For example, if your monthly expenses are $3,500 and you want to save a six month emergency fund, you will need to save $21,000 in a savings account. The stimulus check you receive can be a great foundation for a healthy emergency fund. 


3. Pay Down Debt

If you feel secure in your job and have an emergency fund, using your check to pay down debt may be a wise option for you. Look to see what debts have the highest interest rates and tackle those first. If you have student loan debt, research whether refinancing your student loans makes financial sense for you. In many cases, you may be able to lock in a lower interest rate and save on your monthly payment, as well as the total amount you spend on the loan. To see what you may be able to save, check out our student loan refinance calculator.* Lowering your expenses, especially in this uncertain economic time, is always a good financial decision. 


4. Invest

If you have a stable paycheck, a strong emergency fund, and no debt or at least a plan to tackle your debt, spending some of your check on investing in a retirement account is not a bad idea. Stock prices are low so your money will go further if you invest now. Note: This option is only recommended if you are able to live without the money you invest for many years.  


5. Donate and Support Local Businesses

If you are in a good financial situation with a stable paycheck and have the ability to help, think about donating some or all of your government stimulus check. You can donate to charities that are helping others that have been negatively impacted during this pandemic. Tip: Be sure to verify the charity is legitimate as unfortunately scams do happen! Another great use is to support local businesses in your neighborhood. Use some of the money to order takeout from local restaurants that are undergoing a large economic loss. Or consider buying gift cards from local stores or restaurants that may not be open at this time.


The government stimulus check may be helpful during this difficult time to help pay basic necessities or start you on a good financial path. Use your check for one or more of these uses and a brighter future will be ahead!



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


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.

World Health Day: Celebrating our Healthcare Workers

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Since its inception in 1950, April 7 has been designated as World Health Day. This day is to bring awareness to a priority of concern designated by the World Health Organization. In the past, the health themes highlighted have included mental health awareness and climate change. For 2020, the World Health Organization is highlighting the important role that nurses and midwives play in the healthcare system. 


By Caroline Farhat


The essential role that nurses play in the healthcare system couldn’t be more true than today, during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Nurses, and all medical professionals, are on the front line fighting the unprecedented novel virus. Medical professionals are describing war-like conditions where they do not have enough supplies to treat the number of patients they encounter. Their experiences during this pandemic have pushed them to go above and beyond the call of duty and, at ELFI, we are incredibly grateful for their selfless bravery.  


Stories of heroism emerge daily of nurses and doctors during this pandemic. Here are just some of the stories of these heroic medical professionals:

  • A father in Arkansas, who is a resident physician, has quarantined himself away from his family in an effort to protect them from potentially contracting coronavirus. He works in different departments of the hospital, including the emergency room, where he encounters potential COVID-19 patients. The doctor saw his son, through a glass door, crawl for the first time. Missing out on special family milestones is one way medical professionals are going beyond the call of duty to protect their family and still help others. 


  • A registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit of a California hospital caring for patients with COVID-19 keeps a positive outlook for her patients. She tells her patients they are not alone because she is by their side. In addition, she helps her patients have FaceTime calls with their loved ones since they are not allowed to have visitors. This one act may seem small, but can mean the world to the patient and their loved one. 


  • A retired emergency room nurse, age 68, felt the push to get back to work when the pandemic arose. She said she was hearing from previous co-workers how they were feeling overwhelmed and the terrible conditions they had to deal with. Many use the same mask for days at a time until the masks deteriorate because there is a supply shortage. Even with all of this information, the retired nurse volunteered to help. She knew she was in a higher risk class due to her age so she was assigned to a call center. There, she is able to help physicians and patients with any questions they have. She said although she would like to be able to help in the ER, she feels this is one way she is able to contribute. Like her, many nurses and physicians have come out of retirement to help where needed. This dedication to the medical profession is appreciated now more than ever. 


  • An emergency room physician in California says they feel scared and tired because they understand they are exposing themselves to the virus and risking their lives, but the community support they feel is touching. He says now more than ever they take more precautions to protect themselves when seeing patients, and some of the gear they wear makes it harder to interact with the patients. He skips his lunch to be able to spend more time with patients to provide them comfort and support.


The selflessness of these medical professionals has inspired the generosity of others to help these heroes. 

  • Across the country, there are restaurants donating food for healthcare workers in the hospitals. Restaurant owners, who are feeling the pinch of inside dining being banned in many places, have turned to donating meals to hospitals. These meals go to feed the workers who may not have time to stop and prepare a meal for themselves due to the overwhelming amount of patients they are helping.   


  • There are average citizens raising money to be able to buy food for doctors and nurses in the emergency rooms and ICUs of hospitals with positive coronavirus patients. There are also funds that have been set up in cities across the country, including Houston and Pittsburgh, to purchase meals from local restaurants and donate the meals to healthcare workers.  


  • There are distilleries across America that have halted their normal production of spirits to make hand sanitizer. Distilleries from Anheuser-Busch to local distillers in 20 states are making hand sanitizer. Some are providing the sanitizer to consumers and others are donating to healthcare workers in the most needed areas.  


  • People are sewing face masks to donate to hospitals that have a shortage of supplies. Even retail giant JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores released a tutorial on how to make a mask. They are collecting donations of handmade masks with a goal of donating 100 million masks to medical personnel.        


During this stressful time, businesses are honoring the frontline heroes to try to alleviate any stress. 

  • Delta and JetBlue airlines are offering free flights to medical professionals who are traveling to hardest-hit areas to help with the fight against the virus. 


  • Airbnb is offering free or reduced housing for 100,000 medical professionals in an attempt to provide housing closer to where they work and isolated from any family members.


  • To help alleviate any stress regarding student loans, federal student loan payments and interest have been suspended through September 30, 2020. If you have private student loans, student loan refinancing may be the key to help reduce your payments.  


  • Some restaurants are providing free food or beverage items for medical professionals
    • Krispy Kreme is offering free donuts through May 12
    • Starbucks is offering free coffee through May 3


To the medical professionals: we appreciate the hard work and dedication you are displaying during this unprecedented time. With your unwavering spirit to continue the fight and help as many patients as you can, you have inspired a nation. You are among the heroes that we honor on this World Health Day.   



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.











10 Ways to Have Fun at Home

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We’re all spending a lot of time at home lately. After staying in for some time, it’s expected that things can get a bit boring. Whether you’re staying home from school, working from home, or spending time taking care of your children, here are ten easy ways to have fun at home.


By Caroline Farhat


1. Dive into a new book

Want to know more about finances? Or maybe feel like you’re traveling by reading about faraway lands? Reading a great book can not only help you learn something new, but it can also reduce stress by 68%, according to a study by the University of Sussex. If the idea of cabin fever is stressing you out, getting lost in a book can be a great distraction. To save money, check out a book from your local library. Many libraries now have digital versions of books if you can’t go to a physical location. 


2. Try out a new hobby or learn a new skill

Have you always wanted to learn an instrument, focus on your painting or knitting, or learn a new language? Extra downtime at home is a great time to focus on projects that get pushed to the side when your life gets busy. Starting a hobby or learning a new skill doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are plenty of free apps or videos online to learn instruments, languages, and more. Having a hobby is not only good for your health; it’s also good for your career. Studies have shown having a hobby can help you be more creative at work and avoid burnout. 


3. Create a goal plan or vision board

When’s the last time you thought of what you really want out of life? For many Americans, we’re so busy living life that we don’t have much time to stop and think about our future goals. Having some downtime at home is a great time to review where you are in life and what you’d like to work on in the near future. Take some time to review your goals related to finances, career, personal relationships, and your hobbies. Once you have concrete goals, develop an action plan (and vision board, if that’s your thing!).


4. Workout

With extra time at home, you can focus on starting a workout routine or maintaining one. Get out in the fresh air for a run or turn on a workout video. Exercise is not only good for your body, but it’s also great for your mental health. Tip: Looking for an inexpensive way to workout? The popular Peloton app is currently running a free 90-day trial and has numerous bodyweight-only workout videos. If that’s not your thing, YouTube has tons of free workout videos that you can do with zero equipment.


5. Plan your next adventure

You know the happiness you get from anticipating an upcoming event or trip? You’re not alone! A Dutch study found that planning a trip can make you happier than actually taking one. Planning a trip is a great activity to do if you’re currently homebound. Plus, it’ll give you time to save some money for your trip! Research a destination, accommodations, and activities you will do there. If you are feeling really creative, create a board to hang up with pictures of the location to remind yourself of the fun times ahead. Even if it is a bucket trip that won’t happen for a while, the planning process can be a fun thing to experience now!


6. Organize & spring clean

You may not think of organizing and cleaning as fun activities, but if you put on some music (or a great podcast you found!), you may find that cleaning can actually be pretty therapeutic! Plus, a clean and clutter-free space can help you feel more relaxed in your home. Need some inspiration? Check out Marie Kondo’s spring cleaning tips. Tip: Set a timer for thirty minutes and see how much you can get done. You may end up wanting to continue once the time is up!


7. TV/Movie marathon

Have you missed out on the latest movie or want to see why everyone is talking about a certain series? Binge-watching a series or movies can be a great way to relax during your downtime. Whether you currently have streaming services or you just rent a movie from your library, you are sure to find something fun to watch with all the options. Tip: If you want to try out a streaming service, check for any free trials they may offer! It’s a great way to start your binge-watching and be sure that you aren’t wasting your money on a service you won’t like.


8. Game night

Gather some board games, a deck of cards for poker, or play charades. Playing games can be a fun activity to get the whole family involved or just a competitive game against your partner. Don’t have any game supplies around or not a fan of board games? Play “Would You Rather”, where you give two scenarios to see which scenario people would rather choose. Whatever you decide to play you are sure to create some fun memories.  


9. Try a new recipe

Love to cook and think you’d be the next champion on a cooking show or dread it and consider it a chore? Trying a new recipe might just be different enough to be fun! Maybe you are craving a family recipe you never made or wish you had a meal from your favorite restaurant. Call up a family member for the recipe or search for a restaurant copycat recipe and try it! Cooking at home can not only save you calories and money, but it also can have numerous .


10. Take control of your finances

While budgeting can sometimes be a headache, making improvements to your financial situation can be a major relief and allow you to have more fun! Using your free time to research ways to better your financial situation can really pay off. If you have student debt, you may take this time to refinance your student loans* – by refinancing, you may be able to lower your interest rate, save on your monthly payment, or pay off your loans faster. You might also consider switching to a high-yield checking account that allows you to make more of your money. SouthEast Bank’s Bonus Rate Checking allows you to earn over 30x the national average on your checking with a yield of 2.01% APY. Or, you could simply make tweaks to your monthly budget.


Being at home, whether by choice or circumstances, can still allow you to have fun times – so take this list and see if any of these help! Who knows, you may end up discovering a new hobby or talent!



*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.


1APY=Annual Percentage Yield. Rates subject to change. APYs are accurate as of 03/23/2020. Fees may reduce earnings. Some Fees and restrictions apply. 30x the national average for interest checking based on non-jumbo deposits and the weekly rate cap information for the week of March 16, 2020: https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/. To earn the bonus rate, each month the account must be enrolled in eStatements, post and clear at least 15 debit card transactions, and receive at least one direct deposit or ACH debit. If all qualifications are met during the statement cycle, a bonus rate of 2.01% APY on balances of up to$20,000 and .20% APY on balances over $20,000 will be credited. If bonus qualifications are not met during the statement cycle, a rate of .05% APY of the balance will be credited. Interest earnings are based on daily collected balances and are credited monthly to the account. Qualifying transactions include point of sale or online purchases using the SouthEast Bank debit card. ATM and cash-only transactions do not qualify towards minimum debit card transaction amount. Limit one Bonus Rate Checking account per primary owner tax ID.


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.