×

Should You Save Money or Pay Off Debt First?

February 9, 2017

One of the most challenging things about setting financial goals is managing two short-term goals at once. What should you do if one of your goals is to pay down debt as quickly as possible, but you want to build an emergency fund or save for a down payment on a home as well? If you are currently in this situation, you know that deciding what to do with that extra chunk of cash in your bank account each month is difficult. The longer you wait to pay off debt, the more you may end up paying in interest — but having solid savings is essential, should emergencies arise. If you are trying to juggle saving and paying off debt at the same time, here are some questions to ask to help you decide which to prioritize.

How Much Do You Have in Savings Right Now?

Do you have money set aside in case of an emergency? Ensuring that you are prepared for anything life throws your way is a fundamental step toward financial health. Experts recommend having an emergency fund of three to six months of living expenses set up to protect against unexpected events. Without it, you could risk falling into more debt. If you do not have an emergency fund set up, that should be your first priority. Pay down what you owe each month on your education loans and credit card balance(s), then allocate extra cash to your rainy day fund.

How Much Does Your Debt Cost You?

Examine the interest rates of your debts in comparison to how much your savings earn you. For example, if you have credit card debt with an interest rate of 10 percent, and a savings account earning you 1 percent, it may be more beneficial to tackle that credit card debt before saving for a down payment or putting more money in a retirement fund.

If you have multiple loans and credit card balances, it could help to list all of them and include the corresponding interest rate beside each. Multiply the interest rate by the debt amount to see how much each debt or loan is costing you per year. Then, write out the total amount of cash you have in savings and multiply it by the interest rate of the account. What is the rate of return on your savings? How does that compare to what your debts are costing you per year? This could help put everything in perspective, not only to help you decide to start focusing on paying off your debts faster, but to know which debt to tackle first.

Remember, the earlier you pay off debt, the less you may end up paying in interest. Therefore, after establishing a solid emergency fund, your next priority is working toward paying off your debt.

Can You Potentially Lower the Cost of Your Debts?

Whether you have credit card debt, student loan debt, or both, there are a few tactics you can look into that could potentially lower the cost of your debts.

If it is credit card debt that is weighing you down, you could transfer your balance onto a new card. On her blog, Suze Orman recommends looking for cards that charge no interest for at least a year, allowing you to have a longer amount of time to pay off your debt without incurring interest. For transferring the balance, she recommends searching online for transfer deals that do not charge a fee for the amount of the transfer. From there, the goal is to use an online calculator to calculate the amount you will need to pay per month to knock out your credit card debt by the time the zero percent interest rate expires.

For education loans, find out if you qualify for student loan refinancing or consolidation through a private lender. People who possess a strong credit history and a reliable source of income may be able to take advantage of one single payment with potentially lower interest rates or lower monthly payments. With the possibility of lower interest rates or lower monthly payments, refinancing or consolidation could take you one step closer to achieving your financial goals.

To Save or to Pay Off Debt? That Is the Question.

You might think the answer is simple — but the truth is, it is a little more complicated. Both options are great financial moves, but the answer varies depending on where you are in your saving and repayment journey. A typical rule of thumb is to focus on establishing an emergency fund first, then shift to paying off your debts as quickly as possible so that you can move on to your other (more fun) goals like purchasing a home or a car. If you already have that fund set up, assess your debts to decide which ones to begin paying off first. Look at what your options are for minimizing the interest on your debts, and put those plans into action. While it might require determination and sacrifice, the feeling of being debt free with a secure savings account is worth it in the end.

Leave a Reply

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

2019-06-12
Should You Pay Off Student Loans Immediately or Over Time?

When you start your post-college career, you may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief. Before you do that, you have important decisions to make. You’ll have to stretch your paycheck to cover your new lifestyle and associated expenses: a furnished home or apartment, vehicle, insurance, and hopefully a 401K contribution. If you are like 70% of college graduates, you also have student loans that need to be repaid.   In most situations, it's going to be most beneficial to pay off your loans as quickly as possible so that you are paying less towards interest. The average college graduate's starting salary, however often cannot allow for enough additional income to cover more than the regularly scheduled student loan payments.  Most student loans have a six-month grace period so you can do some budgeting and planning first - if you need to. We don't suggest using the grace period unless you find it necessary to organize your finances. During a deferment such as a grace period, the interest could still be accruing depending on the type of loan that you have.   If you determine that you may be better off establishing sound financial footing and a workable monthly budget before you begin repaying those daunting loans. Keep these tips in mind as you formulate a strategy for debt payoff.  

Student Loans Have Advantages

Varying types of debt are governed by different laws and regulations. Banks often base interest rates for consumer credit loans on your established credit rating. Interest rates for auto loans or credit card debt tend to be higher than a mortgage or student loan interest. As you review your debt load and make a plan, remember: student loan debt comes with a few "advantages" that other types of debt don’t offer.  
  • Preferential tax treatment: With a new job, you will be paying taxes on your income. Student loan interest is deductible up to $2,500 and can be deducted from pre-tax income.
  • Lower interest rates & perks: Federal student loans have lower interest rates and are sometimes subsidized by the government.
  • Lender incentives: Private student loans may come with incentives from the lender that make them a better deal than other credit types. These include fee waivers, lower interest rates, and deferment options.
  • Flexible payment plans: Options for lower payments and longer terms are available for both federal and private student debt.
  • Build your credit score: You can build your credit score with student loan debt. Now, depending on whether you’re making on-time payments or not, you could negatively or positively affect your credit. If you chose to make small payments during deferments, or a grace period, and regular on-time payments you will be more likely to establish a favorable credit record and reduce the amount of interest you pay overall.
 

Programs to Help You With Student Loan Payments

There are few options for loan forgiveness with regular debt, but student loans offer opportunities to reduce or eliminate your debt. These may come with commitments and tax implications, so be sure you fully understand them if you decide to take advantage of these programs.  
  • Loan forgiveness: Federal student loans may be forgiven, but you'll want to be sure that you're following all of the requirements needed of the program. Be sure before choosing this option that the federal loans you have qualify for the program. Also, keep in mind there could be taxes due on the amount that is forgiven. Some student loan forgiveness programs include PAYE (Pay as You Earn) and REPAYE (Revised Pay as You Earn), Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
  • Loan Consolidation: Multiple student loans can be consolidated into one payment with the interest rate determined by a weighted average of your current loans - interest rates. Combining multiple loans may be easier to manage on a modest starting salary. Consolidating federal loans usually doesn’t require a good credit score, either.
  • Refinance, and you could achieve a lower interest rate: Lenders like Education Loan Finance specialize in student loan refinancing, and have options like variable interest rates and flexible terms. Refinancing your debt could make student loan debt easier to manage than other types of credit.
 

Pay Off High-Interest Debt First

Before you decide to pay off your student loans, think about the financial obligations you’ll be taking on. Instead of carrying a credit card balance or making low payments for an auto loan, it makes sense to continue your low student loan payments and pay off more expensive debt first or debt with a higher interest rate. In the long run, you’ll save money and build your credit score.   If you still have doubts about not paying off student debt first, consult a professional financial advisor for help prioritizing your goals and setting up a budget that lets you achieve them.  

Click Here to Learn More About Student Loan Repayment

   
2019-06-03
How to Build Your Child’s Credit Score When They Don’t Have One Yet

From the 2007 Housing Crisis, 2008 Stock Market Crash, and now the student debt crisis there is no surprise parents nationwide are looking to educate and protect their children on finances. Many people during these national events lacked basic financial know-how and self-discipline. Gen-Xers and millennials, starting to have children of their own, worry that a new generation could be seduced by the allure of instant gratification and the digital disconnect between earning and spending money. What as a parent can you do for a young child to teach them finances and help them learn the basics? Here are some basic tips to help your children build healthy credit and learn to use it responsibly.  

Start With Basic Financial Life Lessons

Whether your child is 2 or 22, financial education is the key to building good credit and financial independence. Erin Lowry, business blogger and author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, explained in a recent podcast that her parents taught her about delayed gratification early in life. “I was really encouraged from a very young age to start making money, especially if I wanted something," Lowry said.   Saving for discretionary purchases is a lesson many young children can miss. A growing number of young adults also don’t have realistic expectations of their future earning power. Lowry grew up in a different reality. She explains that her first successful enterprise was at age 7, selling doughnuts at a family garage sale. Before she could feel too excited about her earnings, her father adjusted the amount she made by taking out the cost of the doughnuts and wages for her sister. He explained that the money left was her profit. “He actually took the money," she remembers. "That is something that has stuck with me forever."   It’s never too late to teach lessons like these. Resources for financial education are abundant in print and online, and parents can refer adult children to Lowry’s book and her blog, brokemillennial.com. For younger children, check out this post by Dave Baldwin, “The Five Best Apps for Teaching Kids How to Manage Their Money.”  

Three Tips for Establishing Good Credit for Your Children

Parents with good credit and a clear vision of their children’s financial future can take these three actions to ensure a sound credit score for children reaching adulthood.  

TIP 1: Make your child an authorized credit card user.

There is no minimum age to most credit cards, so you can add your child as an authorized user as early as you like. The best part is you do not have to give the child access to the card, just keep it in a safe place. It’s imperative that you use the credit card wisely and are able to pay the minimum monthly balance on the card. If you are unable to make payments on the card that could negatively affect your child’s credit history too. Try to only use the card for reoccurring balances like gas or food shopping.   When your child comes of age to have their first credit card in adulthood, they will benefit from your history of timely payments and reasonable use of credit. It will also benefit them if they need a loan to attend college and you as a parent may not need to be a cosigner.  

TIP 2: Add a FREE credit freeze to your child’s credit report until they reach age 18.

Contact each of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to request a freeze in your child’s name. In some states, the freeze may need to be renewed every seven years. A credit freeze is fairly simple to implement and will protect your child from identity theft, which in turn will protect their credit history and credit score. You can also lift credit freezes when your child is ready to apply for credit.   It may seem like an extreme to put a credit freeze on your two months old credit but it will only protect them in the long run. Identity theft to children is an unfortunate reality in the United States. According to CNBC, more than 1 million minors were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017. What may be even more surprising is that data breaches are just as much a problem for minors as for adults, if not more. According to CNBC, only 19% of adults were fraud victims compared to a staggering 39% of minors due to data breaches. This can happen to your child, but it can be prevented. You have the power to protect your children from falling victim to fraud. Not to mention a credit freeze is free thanks to recent laws passed by the federal government, so it won’t even cost you or your family a dime.   To learn more about protecting your child’s credit and preventing identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site.  

TIP 3: Set up a secure credit card account for your child to use.

A secure credit card is similar to an unsecured or the “normal” type of credit card. The only major difference is that a deposit is used to open a secured credit card account. The amount of secured credit card deposit is usually the credit limit of that secured credit card. Now, as long as all payments are made on time and in full at the end of the designated period you’ll receive your deposit back. Additionally, that fact that all payments were made on time and in full means that you should see that reflected in your credit report and you may even see that reflected in your credit score. If your child fails to make on-time payments or fails to pay the full amount of the card this could hurt your child’s credit instead of helping it.   If you choose to give your teenager a secured credit card you should be certain that you discuss the responsibilities of card with them. Make sure your child is committed to paying on time, staying within the credit limit, and using the card for only appropriate expenses you have discussed in advance. This is a great responsibility to provide a teenager because it really gives them the ability to start developing good financial habits. Whether that is putting an alert in their cell phone when the payment is due or if that is handwriting it on a calendar. Additionally, your child will have the opportunity to really learn to budget and live within their means. These are fundamental finance lessons and habits that will help to lay the groundwork of what could be a very financially responsible young person.  

Financial Outlook

  Regardless of what ways you choose to teach your child about credit or build their credit, know that your outlook on finances can easily become your child’s. If you find yourself scared of money, it’s likely your child will too. So often children learn relationships based on what they see their parents doing, so be sure that you’re laying the right framework for them to be successful. It doesn’t have to be an overly complex and if you aren’t sure that what you are teaching them is correct try looking locally for classes or programs. You should be able to find some financial literacy courses either online or within your local community. These can really help your child to familiarize themselves with common financial terms and create good financial habits. Good financial habits include how to save money, charitable giving, and even what taxes are.  No one knows your child better than you and no one wants them to succeed more than you, so be sure to give them the right tools and resources to do so.  

Ask These 10 Questions When Hiring a Financial Advisor

    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.
Young guy using his mobile phone in his loft with his dog sitting next to him
2019-05-30
What’s a Credit Freeze?

What does buying a house, applying for a student loan, and getting a personal loan all have in common? They are all different forms of credit. Credit is provided to you by a financial lender.  That lender will utilize your credit report in order to evaluate your credit history to decide if you qualify for credit with them. While evaluating your credit history and credit score they will do an inquiry on your credit. This inquiry can affect your credit score and can be placed on a report depending on the type of inquiry that’s completed by the institution. It’s essential to know the two different types of credit inquiries, what a credit freeze is, how it relates to a credit inquiry, the benefits of a credit freeze, and how to put one in place and remove it.  

What Is a Credit Inquiry?

  According to myFICO.com, a credit inquiry is a "request by a 'legitimate business' to check your credit." These checks are categorized as either "hard" or "soft" inquiries, which we'll break down in more detail later. "Credit pulls" are often a casual term used to describe both types of inquiries which gives a person, lender, or company the ability to view your credit report and see your credit score. Both types of credit pulls are included on your credit report but, only you can see the soft inquiries.   For example, imagine you’re looking for a mortgage. Let’s say that a credit card company recently did multiple soft credit inquiries on your account to “pre-qualify” you for a new credit card promotion that they have. When the mortgage company you submitted an application too reviews your credit report, they will not see the soft credit inquiries completed by the credit card company.  Additionally, the soft inquiries that were completed by the credit card company will not affect your credit score.   Regardless, the type of credit you’re opening, obtaining credit takes time, careful consideration, and patience. Each time a lender accesses your credit score and credit report to make a decision, you run the risk of damaging your creditworthiness. So what types of credit inquiries will affect your credit report and credit score? What type of credit inquiry are they, soft credit pulls or hard credit pulls?    

Student Loan Refinancing: How to Avoid Predatory Lending

     

Soft Credit Inquiries vs. Hard Credit Inquiries

  There are many differences between soft credit inquiries and hard credit inquiries. For example, soft credit inquiries can be part of the employment process if you are applying to a financial institution. Soft credit inquiries won’t affect your credit score, and they won’t show up on a credit report. Soft credit inquiries can be done without your permission. You may be wondering, “who’s sitting around running my credit report on a Saturday night?” Involuntary checks on your credit report will typically come from financial lenders who want to market a “pre-qualified” offer to you. We’ve all seen these types of mailers that you get from unfamiliar companies that say “Hey, you’ve pre-qualified for an auto loan! Here’s your special code go sign up today!” Soft credit inquiries usually consist of employment verification checks, pre-qualified credit card offers, when you check your credit score, and pre-qualified insurance quotes. Now, we know what a soft credit inquiry or soft credit pull is, but what is a hard credit inquiry or hard credit pull?     Hard credit inquiries are usually completed for larger banking requests like submitting an application for a mortgage. For example, you’d submit an application if you were applying for a mortgage, personal loan, auto loan, or student loan, among other types of loans. After having a hard credit inquiry completed there is a chance that your credit score may be affected. Multiple hard credit inquiries can affect your credit score negatively and all the hard credit inquiries will be visible on your credit report. These inquiries can show up on your credit report for up to two years after the inquiry is completed.   Typically when you’re submitting an application or applying for new credit - it will affect your FICO score if you are applying for a loan with multiple lenders. You should still apply to multiple lenders to find yourself the best interest rates. Now, if you are applying for the same type of credit, it is likely that if the inquiries are done within a certain window, they may be counted as a single inquiry. Inquiries are important to understand because they are the building block to your credit score and credit report which illustrates for lenders your financial wellness. Be sure that you know what you are signing up for before you proceed to submit those application documents. Speaking of financial wellness, what is a credit freeze and how can you benefit from it?  

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze is pretty self-explanatory, it’s a freeze or hold that is placed on your credit to stop lenders from completing any inquiries. You may have heard a credit freeze referred to as a security freeze. Having a credit freeze will not impact your day-to-day financial wellness routines. You’ll still have the ability to pull an annual credit report to review it for accuracy. If you want to open up new credit that will require a hard credit inquiry all you need to do is simply lift the credit freeze temporally until it is completed. It’s important to note that though you may have a credit freeze in place, creditors, debt collectors, who actively have an account that belongs to you and government agencies utilizing warrants, and subpoenas will have access to your credit report.  All these simple things to secure your financial wellness and guess what? It gets better, all credit freezes are free!   You’re protecting your identity from thieves who may be trying to open accounts in your name, but it doesn’t cost a dime – no brainer! As we learned above, when you’re applying for credit like a mortgage, a lender will need to do a hard credit inquiry. If you’re not expecting to have your credit reviewed, it’s recommended that you place a credit freeze on your account. It’s important to know how to put a credit freeze into action and get it onto your account ASAP to keep those thieves away! Also, if you are a parent of a child under the age of sixteen, you should consider freezing their account too as per the FTC.  

How to Implement a Credit Freeze

Now it sounds like it’s a lot harder than it actually is to implement a credit freeze. It also sounds way expensive too, but we know thanks to government laws it is free! Here’s how to place a credit freeze with each of the major U.S. credit agencies.  

Equifax:

Visit https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/ to setup an Equifax account.   Step 1 - Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Mobile Number, Address)   Step 2- Create Account Details (Email Address, Password)   Step 3- Verify your identity using a text message or answering financial questions about yourself. My phone was broken, so I got to take my very own financial quiz to confirm my identity.   Step 4- Once the quiz questions are answered you’re queued to sign in.   Step 5- Select “Place or Manage A Freeze”  

Transunion:

Visit https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze to setup a Transunion Account.   Step 1- Select “Add Freeze”   Step 2- Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Last 4 Digits of Social Security Number, Address)   Step 3- Create an Account   Step 4- Verify finance history via questions provided.   Step 5- Add Credit Freeze.  

Experian:

Visit - https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html and select “Add a Security Freeze”   Select Whose Credit You’d like to Freeze   Step 1- Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Address, Email Address, Create a Pin)   If you are serious about freezing your credit you’re going to want to utilize all three U.S. major credit agencies Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Most of them provide a pin once the freeze is placed, so be sure that you keep that pin for your records. When you are ready to lift the security freeze or credit freeze you should have it readily available to you.  

How To Lift a Credit Freeze

  You can lift a credit freeze or you can choose to remove it altogether. In order to do so, it’s similar to the credit freeze sign up process. You need to contact each credit agency and make a request to remove the credit freeze. As we discussed previously many of the three major agencies utilize a pin, almost like a password, that you’ll need to provide to lift or remove the credit freeze from that bureau.   Attaining good credit and working hard to keep your finances healthy, isn’t easy. With all the recent data breaches it is so important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from those looking to complete identity theft. One incorrect credit inquiry could cause a much bigger problem for you then taking the time to prevent it now. Credit freezes aren’t the only way to protect your credit from thieves if you lifted your credit freeze or removed it fully you may want to look into utilizing fraud alerts.    

Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score?

 

 

Fraud Alerts for Credit Reports

If you don’t want to freeze your credit but want added security for your credit reports, try fraud alerts. There are three different types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alert, active duty fraud alert, and extended fraud alert. What’re the differences between each and what makes them different from a credit freeze?  

Initial 90 Day Fraud Alert

  The initial fraud alert is an alert that lasts usually around 90 days and is often used when financial information, credit card numbers, or your wallet have been stolen or even lost. The initial fraud alert gets placed on your credit report. Meaning, if someone is, in fact, trying to steal your identity they will have a difficult time because companies will be required to take additional steps to verify your identity before issuing additional forms of credit. You can place these alerts on your credit report by contacting a credit agency. Once one agency is contacted they must notify the other two U.S. credit agencies. Initial fraud alerts can be renewed after the 90 day period.  

Active Duty Alerts

  These alerts are designed for people who are on active military duty. They operate similarly to initial fraud alerts in that they require businesses to complete extra tasks to confirm the borrower’s identity before an additional form of credit can be issued. These types of alerts typically last about 12 months or a year but can be renewed to match the deployment period. When you contact a credit agency, it must notify the other two U.S. credit agencies. Also, according to the FTC, the credit agencies must remove your name from any marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years unless you request otherwise.  

Extended Fraud Alerts

  Extended fraud alerts are commonly used if you have already fallen victim to identity theft. Extended fraud alerts last 7 years. In order to place this type of alert on your credit report, you’ll need to send proof of identity theft to one of the three major U.S. credit agencies. Here is a great government resource if you ever fall victim to identity theft.  

Similarities and Differences between Credit Freezes and Fraud Alerts

  Fraud alerts and credit freezes have some similarities and unique differences. For example, both alerts and freezes are free of charge according to U.S. federal law. Any current creditors will still have access to your credit report even if you have fraud alerts enabled or you have a credit freeze in place. If you choose to open any new forms of credit while these are enabled it could lengthen the process for the new creditor. These are the similarities but what makes fraud alerts and credit freezes different?   One main difference is for a credit freeze each U.S. agency will need to be contacted directly. Whereas, for fraud alerts, if you notify one credit agency, that credit agency is responsible for notifying the other two credit agencies. During a credit freeze, prospective lenders will not have any access to your credit report. With a fraud alert, prospective lenders do have access to your credit report but will need to take additional steps before issuing new lines of credit. The last and one of the most obvious differences between these two is that credit freezes don’t have an expiration date. A credit freeze can be placed on your credit report until the end of time unless you request that it is removed. A fraud alert typically will expire within a year, or seven years depending on the type of fraud alert you’ve selected.    

5 Reasons to Refinance Your Student Loans

    NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.