ELFI is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and following guidance from state and federal agencies. If you have been impacted by the Coronavirus, our Customer Care Center is available to help you.
×
TAGS
Personal Finance

Mark Your Calendar for These Important Financial Dates

January 13, 2020

By Tracey Suhr

 

It’s no secret that as you get older, life gets more complicated. Long gone are the days of simply saving spare change from your grandpa’s pockets in a ceramic piggy bank. Even that savings account you opened in high school is outdated now that your expenses have exploded beyond just food, entertainment, and a cell phone bill. As an adult, you have to consider your student loan debt, saving for retirement, and affording childcare, among an ever-growing list of other financial obligations.

 

One way to effectively manage your money in adulthood is to be aware of important financial dates. This helps you predict and prepare for big expenses to be sure there are no surprises. It even helps you capitalize on saving opportunities. And since it’s a new year, there’s no better time to pull out your calendar and mark these noteworthy financial deadlines.

 

Important Financial Dates

 

January

 

Review Last Year’s Finances – Reassess your retirement funds and allocations based on how they performed last year. If you didn’t get the gains you hoped for, now may be the time to reallocate your portfolio (i.e., adjust where your money is distributed among savings accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) Also, take this time to consider adjusting contributions toward accounts like your 401(k) if your employee matching program changed.

 

Standardize Financial Dates – It’s hard enough remembering bills without them being due at different times throughout the month. Change payment dates to be on the same day at the end of the month, which gives you 30 days to get money in the right place.

 

Fund Your IRA – If you have a Traditional or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account), you can contribute up to $6,000 a year to these accounts. January 1 is the first day of the year that you can make such contributions, and investing as much as you can, as early as you can, maximizes the number of days your money can grow.

 

Revise Your Student Loan Debt Repayment Strategy – If you got a raise at the end of last year (or beginning of this year), be smart with that money and direct it toward your student loan debt. Even a raise of 2-3% can help you pay off loans quicker, reducing the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.

 

 

February

 

Max Out 401(k) Contributions – Many people aren’t aware that as long as you haven’t hit your yearly limit, you can contribute toward your 401(k) beyond December 31. You have until Tax Day to make these tax-deductible contributions. So if you have the means, now is the time. In 2019, the limit for employee 401(k) contributions was $19,000.

 

 

March

 

Prepare for Tax Day – Be ready for April 15 by getting your documents and information organized in advance. Make sure you have all forms needed from your employer, investment accounts, mortgage accounts, and student loans. TurboTax has a handy guide for commonly-used IRS tax forms, including a Form 1098 that you’ll receive if you paid interest on a student loan last year.

 

 

April

 

File Your Taxes – April 15 is Tax Day in the U.S. For those of us with student loan debt, the interest portion of these payments is tax-deductible, up to $2,500.

 

Maximize Health Savings Accounts – Tax Day is the last day to contribute pre-tax dollars to last year’s HSA. In 2019, individuals could contribute up to $3,500 as an individual or $7,100 as a family.

 

Spend Down Flexible Spending Accounts – April 30 is the deadline for spending last year’s FSA funds. Remember, these are “use it or lose it” accounts and money can be applied to copays or other out-of-pocket expenses. You can even spend it on health-related items at FSAstore.com.

 

 

May

 

Check Your Credit – This important financial date isn’t tied to May, but it should be somewhere on your calendar every year. Your score determines your ability to improve your interest rate with student loan refinancing. A check can also let you know if any fraudulent activity—tied to your name—has occurred that might negatively impact your student loan refinancing.

 

 

June

 

FAFSA Application Due – June 30 is the last day to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year. If you already have a student loan, consider student loan refinancing. By consolidating and refinancing your loans, you can make payments simpler and possibly reduce your monthly payments.

 

 

July

 

Refinance Student Loans – Summer is a great time to refinance student loans because you won’t be distracted by the holidays or year-end deadlines at work. When you’re ready, check your eligibility for student loan refinancing at ELFI.com.*

 

 

August

 

Contribute to Emergency Funds and Savings – Unless someone in your family heads back to school this fall, August is typically a sleepy month for finances. Time to double-check that you’re contributing to emergency funds and holiday savings accounts so you don’t get into financial trouble during end-of-the-year festivities.

 

 

September

 

Car Shop – This month is a great time to look for a new vehicle. Dealerships are in a generous mood since new models will soon start rolling into the lot, and they need to clear inventory.

 

 

October

 

Complete FAFSA for Next Year – October 1 is the first day to file your FAFSA for next school year. Filling out this application as soon as possible ensures you don’t miss out on available aid.

 

 

November

 

Open Enrollment – Employers typically hold open enrollment during this time of year. Reassess if your current plan still works for you. Also consider if it’s worth changing plans or opting out of certain coverage (like dental) to reallocate funds to debts, like student loans.

 

 

December

 

Review Accounts – Make sure you’re making the right moves to use your FSA money, maximize contributions to savings accounts, and even if you need to file a new W-4 to withhold more or less money from your paychecks. Withholding less can be part of a new student loan repayment strategy where you have more cash to contribute toward the loan. However, it also means you won’t get as big of a refund next tax season.

 

Shop Around for Car Insurance – While you’ll want to update your car insurance after any major life change, such as moving or having a child, you could score additional savings depending on the time of year. In a 2014 study, December was the cheapest month to obtain car insurance, with March being the most expensive. While the jury’s still out on the exact reasoning behind the shift, market competition and the likelihood of natural disasters could be a contributing factor.

 

Being aware of important financial dates can help you save and manage your money so you have more options down the road for student loan repayment, business opportunities, and real estate investments.

 

If you’re ready to explore student loan refinancing, you don’t have to wait for an important financial date on the calendar. You can learn about eligibility, benefits, and more—today—at ELFI.com.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

woman asking employer for student loan assistance
2020-08-05
How to Ask Your Employer to Help Pay Student Debt

These days, employers offer all kinds of benefits to keep employees, from kombucha on tap and innovative new office spaces to ping pong tables and video game rooms. The list of benefits seems to grow all the time.   When you think about it, though, how much do you really need that kombucha on tap? Instead, what many graduates need is help with their ever-mounting student loans. In combination with other methods of dealing with student loan debt, employers can play a valuable role in ensuring their employees’ financial stability.   Employers are beginning to recognize this trend, as well. That’s why some have begun to offer help to employees with student loan debt. While an uncommon practice at the moment, some companies now offer options to help employees pay back their student loans.   The practice is rapidly becoming more popular, and if you’re lucky, your employer may already offer a student debt relief program. Here are several ways employers are already helping to reduce their employees' student loan debt.  

Financial Education

Employers have begun to understand that their own financial success is tied to the financial success of their employees. As a result, some employers have begun to offer financial education opportunities.   These opportunities come in many forms, including workshops, webinars and even counseling. While many employees already have a firm grasp on financial concepts, these programs can still be incredibly beneficial to those weighed down by student debt as they often cover lesser-known tactics and reinforce familiar strategies.  

Student Loan Repayment Signing Bonuses

Another method of helping employees with student debt is the signing bonus. For example, some companies offer $1,000 towards student loans for new hires. This $1000 can drastically reduce the amount graduates pay in interest over the life of their student loans and is an effective way for companies to hire and keep dedicated, hardworking employees.  

Employer Repayment

The most exciting benefit employers are beginning to adopt is direct assistance with student loans. Now, in addition to savvy fiscal advice, some companies are backing up their support with dollars and cents.   A few companies now offer yearly bonuses to help pay back student loans. One of the most generous of these companies is Nvidia. Employees earn $6,000 a year towards their student loans up to a $30,000 maximum. Several companies offer comparable or lower amounts. Regardless of the repayment amounts, this innovative strategy provides a new way to fight back against student debt.   A variation of this policy is occasionally used, as well. In this variation, employees who don’t take their PTO can trade their PTO days for student loan assistance. With many in the United States not taking their PTO days anyway, this is a compelling option for student loan borrowers.  

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

It may seem strange for 401(k) contributions to go hand-in-hand with paying off student debt. You might even expect to have to choose between them.   If you’re employed by Abbott Laboratories, though, you don’t have to choose. Employees who contribute at least 2% of their pay toward student loans are eligible for the full 5% employer matching in their 401(k), even if they do not otherwise contribute to their 401(k). Abbott Laboratories is the first company to offer this incentive to help employees to pay off student debt, and hopefully many companies will follow in their footsteps.   Sadly, these types of programs are not as commonly offered as they should be, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for you.   If student loan assistance programs are something that you would like to see at your company, then make an appointment to speak with either your boss or to human resources. In this day and age, the competition for the best employees is fierce, and employers are always looking for ways to keep employees happy. In some cases, it may even be cheaper than a raise.   It’s also worth mentioning your interest in such programs while negotiating your salary and benefits package for a new job. They may include it as an additional benefit.   If your employer already provides these benefits, that’s fantastic! You’re already one step closer to being unburdened by student debt. If you're curious about how to finish the job and free yourself from student debt completely, one great way to do that is Student Loan Refinancing. You can learn more here.  
  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.
calculator showing interest
2020-08-04
Student Loans: What is the Difference Between a Principal and an Interest Payment?

If you’re planning on going to college, you should be prepared for potentially high costs. The average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university for an in-state student is $10,440, while it’s $36,880 at a private school.    By Kat Tretina   While those numbers are pricey enough on their own, financing can add to the expense. If you borrow money to cover the total cost of attendance, you’ll end up repaying more than you initially borrowed because of interest charges — what lenders charge you in exchange for lending you money.    When dealing with student loans, it’s important to understand how student loan interest rates affect your repayment and how your extra payments are applied to your debt.   

How Student Loan Interest Rates Affect Your Loan Balance

Student loan interest rates can cause your loan balance to grow over time. The higher the rate, the more interest that accrues.    For example, if you took out $30,000 in student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at 4% interest, you’d pay $6,448 in interest charges on top of the $30,000 you borrowed.    But if you qualified for a $30,000 loan at 5% interest — a difference of just 1% — you’d pay $8,184 in interest charges. The extra percentage point would cause you to pay over $1,700 more in interest charges.    However, you can cut down on interest payments by paying off your debt ahead of schedule. When you pay off your loans early, less interest accrues over your loan's life, allowing you to save money.   

The Difference Between Principal and Interest Payments

When you enter into repayment, your loan payments cover two different aspects: 
    • Interest: Interest that has accrued to date
    • Principal: The original loan amount
  When you make a payment, lenders typically apply the payment to any fees first, such as late fees or returned payment fees, then to interest charges. If any money is left over, they will apply the excess to the principal balance.   

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Repayment Options

If you take out private student loans from ELFI*, you can choose from the following repayment options: 
    • Immediate repayment: You make payments toward the principal and interest right after disbursement
      • Best for: You’re working while in school and can afford the payments. You want to pay the least amount of interest possible. 
    • Interest only: While you’re in school, you make payments that only cover the interest that accrues on the loan. 
      • Best for: You can’t afford to make full payments, but you want to minimize interest charges. You’re working part-time or have some income while in school. 
    • Partial payment: With partial payments, you make a flat-rate payment — typically $25 — while you’re in school. 
      • Best for: Money is tight while you’re in school, but you want to chip away at some of the interest that accrues. 
    • Fully deferred: If you opt for fully deferred repayment, you don’t make any payments at all while you’re in school. This is the most expensive repayment option, as more interest accrues over the life of the loan. 
      • Best for: You are in a rigorous academic program and need to completely focus on your studies, so you don’t want to make any payments while in school. 
  Use the private student loan calculator to see what your payment would be and how much you’d repay over the life of the loan under each repayment plan.*   

Student Loan Repayment Strategies to Pay Off Your Debt Faster

Once you graduate, there are ways to accelerate your debt repayment and reduce the amount of interest that accrues.   

1. Make Extra Payments

If you want to pay off your debt faster and are thinking about different student loan repayment strategies, consider increasing your minimum monthly payments.    More of your payment will go toward the principal each month, reducing how much you’ll pay in interest and allowing you to pay off the debt ahead of schedule.    For example, if you had $30,000 in student loans at 5% interest and a 10-year repayment term, your monthly payment would be $318 per month. If you only made the minimum payments, you’d repay a total of $38,192 by the end of your loan term.    If you increase your payments to $368 per month — an addition of just $50 per month — you’d pay off your loans 20 months early. And, you’d repay just $36,731. By adjusting your monthly payment, you’d save $1,461.   

2. Use the Debt Avalanche or Debt Snowball Methods

If you have multiple student loans, consider using either the debt avalanche or debt snowball method to tackle your debt.    With the debt avalanche method, you make extra payments toward the loan with the highest interest rate.    With the debt snowball, you target the debt with the lowest balance first.    Which is best for you? It depends on your goals and personality. Learn more in our breakdown of the debt snowball and debt avalanche method repayment strategies  

3. Refinance Your Debt

Student loan interest rates have a big impact on your overall repayment. By refinancing your student loans,* you can qualify for a lower interest rate so more of your monthly payment goes toward the principal. Over time, refinancing can help you save a significant amount of money.   

The Bottom Line

By understanding how payments work and how student loan interest rates affect your total repayment, you can pick a repayment plan that works for you.    If you still have questions, ELFI’s Personal Loan Advisors can walk you through the loan application process and answer any questions you have.*  
  *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.
young woman researching student loan refinancing requirements
2020-08-03
Income, Credit Score, and Credit History: Which is Keeping You From Refinancing?

If your goal is to become debt-free as quickly as possible, student loan refinancing can be a powerful tool for managing your loans. ELFI customers reported that they save an average of $272 per month, and should see an average of $13,940 in total savings after refinancing their loans with Education Loan Finance.1   By Kat Tretina   Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for refinancing the first time they apply. When you submit your loan application, refinancing lenders look at your income, credit score, and credit history to determine whether to issue you a loan. If you don’t meet their requirements in just one area, the lenders will deny your application.    If you aren’t quite eligible for refinancing quite yet, here’s what you can do to improve your application so you can get approved in a few months — and qualify for a lower interest rate.  

Student Loan Refinancing Requirements

Borrower requirements can vary from lender to lender, and some lenders are very vague about their refinancing criteria. However, ELFI is different and has transparent eligibility guidelines.    To qualify for student loan refinancing with ELFI, you must meet the following
student loan refinancing* requirements:
    • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
    • You must be the age of majority or older 
    • You must have at least $15,000 in student loans to refinance
    • You must have a bachelor’s degree or higher
    • You must have a minimum income of $35,000
    • You must have a minimum credit score of 680
    • You must have a minimum credit history of 36 months
    • Your degree must come from an approved post-secondary institution and program of study
 

Tips for Improving Credit Score

ELFI’s minimum credit score for refinancing applicants is 680. If your score is less than that, you’re not alone. According to Experian, about 33% of Americans have a credit score under 670. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a poor credit score. By making some changes, you can boost your credit.    To improve your score, use these tips:   
  • Make all of your monthly payments on time: Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. To raise your credit, pay all of your bills and minimum loan payments on time. When possible, sign up for automatic payments to minimize the risk of missing payments. 
  • Sign up for Experian Boost: Experian Boost is a free service you can use to get credit for your cell phone and utility payments. On average, users who sign up improve their credit scores by 13 points. 
  • Keep your credit card balances low: Your credit utilization — or how much of your available debt you use — accounts for 30% of your credit score. Pay down existing debt and use your credit cards sparingly to bring up your score. 
  • Don’t open new credit accounts: Every time you open up new accounts, your credit score will drop. New credit makes up 10% of your credit score, so only open up a new account when you really need it. 
  • Review your credit report and dispute errors: Review your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com and look for errors, such as fraudulent accounts opened under your name. If you see any issues, dispute them with the credit bureaus and have them removed from your credit report. 
   

How to Increase Income

If you’re a recent college graduate, your income may be less than the minimum required for student loan refinancing. To boost your earnings, consider these strategies:   
  • Ask for a raise: If you’ve been at your job for over a year or more and have done good work and received positive feedback, it may be time to ask for a raise. The average raise is 3.3%, which could give you the additional income you need to qualify for a loan. 
  • Learn new skills: If a raise isn’t possible due to the economy or because your company isn’t performing well, try to learn new skills that would allow you to secure a promotion or a new position at another company. 
  • Take on consulting work: If you have some extra time, consult or freelance on a part-time basis for additional income. For example, you could lend your social media expertise to startups, design marketing plans for entrepreneurs, or do graphic design work for local businesses. 
   

How to Build Credit History

If you don’t have a lengthy credit history, it can be difficult to qualify for a loan. To start building your credit history, follow these steps:   
  • Ask a friend or relative to add you as an authorized user to their credit card account: If you have a parent, relative, or friend with good to excellent credit, ask them if they will add you as an authorized user to their credit card account. When you become an authorized user, you get access to their credit history and credit line, instantly lengthening your own credit history. Just make sure you set guidelines on how the credit card should be used and how you’ll repay them for any purchases. 
  • Apply for a credit builder loan: With credit builder loans, you take out a loan, and it’s held for you in a savings account. You make payments toward the loan each month. After the loan is paid off, the lender releases the money to you, so it can help you build your savings, as well. Many financial institutions offer credit builder loans.
  • Open a secured credit card account: Without an established credit history, you may not qualify for a traditional credit card, but you can get a secured credit card account. With a secured card, you put down a security deposit that serves as your credit limit. As you make payments, your payment history is reported to the credit bureaus, establishing your credit and improving your credit score. 
   

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Improving your credit history, boosting your credit scores, and increasing your income can take time. But within six to 12 months, you can see results and meet ELFI’s refinancing requirements. By refinancing your loans, you can save money and pay off your debt ahead of schedule.    When you’re ready, you can get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*  
  1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 2/7/2020 and 2/21/2020. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.   *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.