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Should I Open an HSA?

July 2, 2018

Few things have the potential to wreck your financial wellness quite like your physical health. A lingering ailment or a sudden injury can throw a wrench into your finances with enough force to ripple into the ensuing decades. It’s wise to carefully consider the various protective measures available to both reduce the worry of something happening, and soften the blow.

What is an HSA?

Traditional Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans cover most expenses with a percentage based co-pay and relatively low deductibles. The Health Savings Account (HSA) allows for a much more individual approach to health care. With an HSA, you can make pre-tax contributions into a special savings account and simultaneously lower your tax burden.

Not to be confused with a Flexible Spending Account (which can only be established by your employer), you can open a Health Savings Account through your employer or as an individual through your bank.

The primary requirement for an HSA is to be enrolled in a High Deductible Healthcare plan (HDHP). These plans come with a minimum/maximum deductible of $1,300/$6,500 for individuals, and $2,600/$13,100 for families. Other requirements include that you not be covered under any other healthcare program and not be claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s taxes.

How to take advantage of the HSA

Think of it as an emergency fund specifically for your medical expenses. By assuming greater responsibility for covering your own medical expenses, you can significantly lower your monthly premium and can instead put that tax-free money into an HSA.

Obviously, if a medical issue arises, you’ll have to pay the entirety of your deductible before your HDHP provider will step in to assist. This is where your HSA can come in handy to help supplement your out-of-pocket expenses.

While there is a limit to your annual contribution ($3,400 for self-coverage and $6,750 for families), the money in your HSA can be rolled over year after year, thus building a more substantial safety net for you and your family. If you’re currently healthy and are willing to wager against the possibility of a serious accident, the HSA is a great option for incredibly affordable healthcare.

Downsides of HSAs

There are, of course, a few downsides to both the HDHP and the HSA if you were to have a serious accident or suddenly become ill. Unless you’re a few years into your account and have diligently built up your savings, it can be quite difficult to meet the high deductibles even with your HSA.

Another common drawback for HSAs is that you may be reluctant to seek healthcare when you need it, because you don’t want to dip into your savings. That’s the same thing as shying away from your emergency fund when you have an emergency. The HSA is intended as a buffer and shouldn’t discourage you from getting help.

Misconceptions of HSAs

HSAs also have common misconceptions about their practicality that are certainly worth noting. While there are substantial tax benefits associated with HSAs, some people are tempted to use HSAs as a generic emergency fund. Since early withdraws and fees on nonmedical expenses are taxed 20% (ouch!), it’s probably best to avoid this method at all costs.

Furthermore, HSAs can lure customers with their investment potential in mutual funds and stocks. Unfortunately, their ability to be invested doesn’t necessarily translate to a high investment return. Experts advise customers to think carefully before signing up for a high deductible health plan, especially regarding their investment capabilities.

Run the numbers, trust your gut

At the end of the day, health care is all about running the numbers and weighing them against your peace of mind. “How much is enough coverage for the next year and how much is it going to cost me?”

HDHPs and HSAs are a good form of insurance if you’re young and healthy. The tax advantages and investment capabilities of an HSA and HDHP should in no way influence your decision. Your decisions should be based off the amount of premiums you’ll save, the deductible proposed for a comparable PPO plan and the out of pocket spending caps associated with each policy. Basically…do your research, watch your health and plan accordingly. Simple enough, right?

See How the 50/20/30 Budget Could Help With an HSA

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2019-03-11
Medical Match Day Finance Tips

Congratulations you’ve worked hard been through multiple interviews and finally, your hard work has paid off! You’ve been matched and you’re getting ready for residency. It’s so exciting to jump into residency and see what having this career will really be like. You’ll have the ability to learn from experienced professionals in your field of interest. Getting yourself prepared for your residency can feel stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are some financial tips to help you get settled and make good choices for your future.  

Set Up Loan Payments

Once you are done with school, you should start paying on student loans. Residency can take several years to complete. It’s likely that your residency isn’t paying you what a full-time position in your career will so all the medical school debt that’s accumulated, can be difficult to sort through. If you find yourself with a large amount of federal
student loan debt, look into income-based repayment plans. We would recommend this as a temporary solution until you’ve completed your residency program.  This will assure that you’re making student loan payments towards your medical school debt, but that those payments are not impossible to complete. You may eventually qualify for public loan forgiveness on your federal student loans. If you qualify to get on an IBR plan in residency after completing the program you may only have a few years remaining.     If you also have private student loans there is no need to worry. Most private student loan lenders will work with you to offer some type of payment plan. You may want to consider refinancing your medical student loan debt. In order to qualify for student loan refinancing, you may need to add a cosigner due to income you’ll be making in your residency. Regardless of which route you chose, in the first few months after graduation, you’ll want to have your payment plan set up. Don’t let this task fall off your radar—in-school deferment ends shortly after graduation for most kinds of medical school debt.  

How to Reduce Medical School Debt

   

Make a Budget

The average income for first-year medical residents is about $55,000, according to a recent report. That money may not go very far with your loan payments and other living expenses. It’s crucial to set your budget and stick to it. Many medical professionals suggest living with roommates, carpooling, using public transit, and setting a budget to keep other spending at a minimum.    

Look Into Your Benefits

If you’re starting off pretty frugal until you get accustomed to your new budget, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about saving for the future. When it comes to saving for retirement, the sooner the better. Employer matches and retirement programs should be on your list of things to do early in your residency. Take advantage of match money for retirement if your employer offers it. Match money from your employer is free money! Don’t miss out on that opportunity, and check out the rest of your benefits while you’re at it. There are usually several perks and programs you can look into that might help make your transition to residency more comfortable.  

Set Up Housing

Speaking of housing arrangements, there is conflicting advice on whether or not it makes sense to buy a home vs. renting while in residency. Since most residents spend long hours working and don’t have time for household maintenance or upkeep, buying a home can be a difficult choice. Plus knowing that you might not choose to live in the same place long term cause many experts to advise renting. Look at your unique situation and make sure you’re weighing all of these factors when you decide what to do for housing.   As far as finding somewhere to live, location will probably be top of your list. After working long hours and several days in a row, having a long commute is the last thing you want. If the area near your work is not cost-effective, look for ways to get connected with a good roommate or two. Research the area before you relocate and stick to your budget for housing costs so that you don’t end up being rent-poor or house-poor.  

Practice Self-Care and Routine

Residency can be engrossing. You’re so involved in your work role and in living the life of a busy resident, that it’s not uncommon to let self-care fall by the wayside. Remember, you can’t care for others if you haven’t cared for yourself. Make sure you’re doing what you can to stick to healthy habits, even if there are days you’re low on sleep or not making the best food choices. Getting rest on your time off, enjoying your hobbies even in small doses, and exercising or meal planning can help make sure you’re cared for even with a busy schedule.   Enjoy your new life adventure!  

Ways to Save on Student Loan Debt During Residency

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.  
2019-03-08
Student Loan Refinancing: How To Avoid Predatory Lending

No one wants to get scammed, but it can be hard to feel confident about whether you’re working with a reputable source or not. In an era when we have access to so many different options and there are countless financial entities available at our fingertips, there are definitely some things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up getting a raw deal.  It’s not uncommon if you’re interested in student loan refinancing, or have been approached by a company to want to see if they’re legit before you move forward. Here are some tips on how to avoid being a victim of predatory lending.  

Check your sources.

It’s not uncommon to find random financing offers around the internet. Maybe you read about it on Reddit, saw a social media post, or even direct mail. Companies regularly send postcards and mailers to try to get your attention. The marketing material can look pretty convincing, too! Don’t let a slick landing page or a nice mailer fool you. You generally want to find suggestions from sources you trust, like a financial expert, or trusted online sources. A good resource would be the Better Business Bureau. You can see online complaints, information about the company, and all provided by an unbiased source. A second site that provides unbiased online reviews is Trustpilot. Websites with unbiased reviews and legitimate accreditation or backing can be an ideal source to verify credibility.  

Never trust dishonest marketing.

It may sound extreme, but we’ve heard of examples where someone was approached by an entity that attempted to look like the government. These scare tactics are used frequently enough by scammy companies for one reason - they work. These companies use this scare tactic because when you think the government is trying to get in touch and you’re in trouble, you answer! These options work similarly to the IRS scams that are always happening with the IRS calling your phone, but in reality, the IRS doesn’t actually call anyone. If the company tried to look like a government program and later you find out they’re not, drop them. A legitimate company won’t send fake notices or use a misleading URL in order to get your business.  

Listen to the old adage.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There’s a reason that this simple advice is so often passed down. Really amazing offers are rare. If something sounds like there’s no way they could offer you such incredible terms or that great of a deal, there is likely fine print that’s missing. Fact check the offer and look for comparable data. Your alarm bells should go off if you’re looking at a company whose reputation is dubious. This especially proves true if they’re claiming to get you unheard of service or savings.  

Requirements to Refinance Student Loans

 

What do I owe you?

There are lots of scams across all kinds of industries. One of the most common is when a person tries to get you to pay something up front with the promise of services to come. Lending is no different. If you have to pay a fee or anything before you can see the offer, chances are that this is a scam. Companies often will offer to facilitate student loan discharge for someone with a permanent disability. The process of applying for student loan discharge if you have a qualifying disability is free. Any company offering to do it for a hefty up-front fee is scamming you!  

Avoid anyone who is too aggressive.

Sometimes a company will aggressively pursue potential borrowers and push them to select a consolidation option that’s not in the borrower’s best financial interest. They might be a legitimate company but will leave out crucial details in order to sign you up. A good general rule of thumb is to be aware of the interest rate and terms. Understand how a lower payment can extend the life of your loans, thus increasing the overall amount due. Always get all the details, so you know the financial implications of your decision.  

Give it a gut check.

Sometimes your intuition is your best tool. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to hit pause until you can find more information. Be wary of any company that’s asking for too much personal information before you are sure that they’re legit. Keep an eye out for things that just don’t seem right, like misspellings or a digital presence that seems fishy. You should never be faulted or made to feel bad for giving yourself time to look into the details and read everything over. If you feel like you’re being hurried through or your questions aren’t being answered stop and take a breather to do a gut check. All of your concerns should be addressed with ample information so that you feel confident about the process and decision. If that’s not what you’re experiencing, you should back away.  

Use your village.

There are lots of reputable companies out there, and it’s pretty easy to find them by reading unbiased reviews. Do your research and continue learning more about how their process will help you. Use resources available to you to vet companies before you reach out. If you utilize the resources available to you, you’ll be less likely to encounter an unreputable company on the prowl.

You should never be badgered or threatened.

No reputable company is going to make threats against you or repeatedly harass you to sign up. As a consumer, you have certain protections and any company that violates these should be investigated. If you’re facing this treatment from any lender, would like to see more information on various types of financial products and your rights, visit the FDIC website.    

Check Out Our Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-03-04
What Credit Score is Considered “Good”? What to know about Credit Scores

This guest post was provided by Debt MD ®, a free service that connects consumers with the professional help they need to become debt-free. Debt MD aims to make the path to financial freedom as quick, simple, and stress-free as possible. A good credit score is becoming more important. A good credit score illustrates to lenders that you are a responsible borrower. There are three major credit bureaus that report on your credit history and determine your credit score.  The higher your credit score, the more you’ve established yourself as a responsible borrower. The higher your credit score the more likely it will be to receive favorable interest rates and loan terms.   Did you know credit scores can be requested from other organizations outside of the financial industry? Credit scores not only illustrate responsibility as a borrower but provide a snapshot of how you handle finances. When you want to establish services like a phone, utilities, insurance, or even rent an apartment, providers look at your credit score. This allows them to choose whether they should allow you to obtain their service or not. Even employers are now looking at credit reports prior to hiring someone.  

Who Determines a Credit Score? 

What’s a three-digit number that can either make or break your financial deal? Yes, you got it right, it’s your credit score! There are several different types of credit scores generated using your credit report. So, in simplicity, you determine your credit score, since you control how you utilize your credit and finances.   A credit report is just that a report on your credit history. It includes details regarding credit card payments, loan payments, and the status of each. Your Credit Score is then calculated using your credit report. Most commonly used is the FICO® score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation.  

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

  The FICO® Score is the most widely used credit scoring model. In fact, according to Fair Isaac Corporation FICO® Scores are used in 90% of United States credit lending decisions. FICO® Scores are calculated using five main parts of your credit report. The FICO® Score utilizes amounts owed, new credit, length of credit history, payment, history, and credit mix to calculate your personal score.  Each category represents a percentage as illustrated on the chart below, to create your full FICO® Score.  

What’s a Good Credit Score?

  We now know what a credit score is, what attributes to it, and the main type of credit score used throughout the lending industry, but what is a “good” credit score? Generally, FICO® Scores range from 300 to 850.   Here is a look at the FICO® Score ranges and their equivalent rating.  

Credit Score Range: Rating

300 to 579: Very Poor 580 to 669: Fair 670 to 739: Good 740 to 799: Very Good 800 to 850: Exceptional   It is important to note that a “good” credit score cut-off will vary depending on the type of financial institution that you are dealing with. For instance, if you are applying for a mortgage loan, to qualify your score typically must fall between 700 and 759. To qualify for an auto loan your score would ideally be above 740, and to get the best rewards credit card you typically should have a score of 720. If you’re looking to refinance student loan debt you’ll likely be required to have a 650 credit score or higher.   It’s important to recognize that lenders do not solely base their decision on credit scores. In addition to your credit score, lenders may look at your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, assets, and liabilities to determine if you’re a good risk or not. The higher your credit score the better, as it illustrates your reliability as a borrower hence presenting a lower risk to the organization. When a person has a higher credit score they likely will be presented better borrowing options due to their credit history.  

How To Find Your Credit Score?

Checking your annual credit report regularly is one of the most important habits to develop. This is especially true if you want to improve your credit score. By verifying your credit record, you’ll be able to check for errors and discrepancies and dispute them when applicable.   Checking your credit reports will also help you to recognize signs of identity theft, which is becoming more prevalent. You can get your credit report at no cost once every 12 months from each of the three widely recognized credit bureaus (Equifax ®, Experian ® and TransUnion ®) from AnnualCreditReport.com.  

7 Money Mistakes to Avoid

  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.