In March I offered some financial advice to Michelle, a Mint user who was struggling with debt, a lack of retirement savings and a bit of family financial drama amongst her siblings.
Michelle was anticipating a cash bonus from her company and wasnât sure if she should save the money or use it to relieve her debt.
I recommended a two-prong approach where she uses the cash to play savings catch-up in her retirement account and knock down some of her debt, which, at the time, included a $3,000 credit card balance and $52,000 in student loans.
Six months later, Iâve checked in with the 38-year-old real estate developer, to see if any of my advice was helpful and if sheâs experienced any shifts in her financial life.
We spoke via email:
Farnoosh: Have your finances have improved over the last 6 months since we last spoke? If so, what has been the biggest improvement?
Michelle:Yes. I’veÂ aggressively been contributing to my 401(k) â about 50% of my pay – and had hoped to reach the annual maximum of $18,000 by June, but looks like it will be more like October. I also received a $40,000 distribution from a project that I closed.
F: What aspects of your financial life still challenge you?
M:Investing for sure. I never know if I’m hoarding too much cash. I am truly traumatized from the financial downturn.Â I just joined an online investment platform, but it wasÂ also overwhelming. Currently I have $45,000 in a regular savings account that earns 1.5%.
Another challenge is not knowing whether to just bite the bullet and pay off my student loans or to continue to pay them monthly. Â I hate that I’m still paying loans 16 years after I graduated and it’s a source of frustration [andÂ embarrassment] for me. Â I owe $36,000. Often times I have an inner monologue about the pros and cons of just paying them off but then my trauma from 2008 kicks inâ¦and IÂ decide to keep my $45,000 nest egg safely where I can check the balance daily.
F: I recommended allocating $45,000 towards retirement. Was that helpful? What are some ways you’ve managed to save?
M:Yes, I recall you saying you recommended having a total of $100,000 towards retirement for a person my age. Currently, I have $51,000 in my 401(k), $35,000 in a traditional IRA and $17,000 in my Ellevest brokerageÂ account, so I’ve broken the $100,000 goal.
I did add a car note to my balance sheet. My old car suffered a total loss (major electrical failure due to a sunroof leak!) and the insurance gave me a check for $9,000.Â I used it all towards the new vehicle (aÂ certified used 2014 Acura) and I’m financing $18,000.
F: Your dad’s home was a source of financial stress, it seemed. Were you able to talk with your siblings and arrive at a better place with that?
M:My dad actually has passed since we last spoke. He passed in February and so his will went to probate. My siblings and I have decided not to make any decisions about the house for at least one year. Yes, this is kicking the can further down the street however, they recognize that I maintain the house and pay the real estate taxes and so they are not pressuring me to move or to sell.
The new deed has been recorded and the property is under all our names and so everyone seems ok with knowing that I can’t do anything regarding a sale or refinance unilaterally.
So, for now, I live rent free other than payingÂ utilities, miscellaneous maintenance on the houseÂ and real estate taxes quarterly. This, too, is helping me saveÂ aggressively.
Also, the new car note has replaced the hospice nurse contribution so I’m not feeling that my budget is overburdened with the new car.
I think ultimately I will buy out at least two of my siblings and stay in the house. Verbally they have expressed being okay with this.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note âMint Blogâ in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is Americaâs leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, sheâs become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.
The post Mint Money Audit 6-Month Check-In: How Did Michelle Allocate Her Windfall? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
This page may include affiliate links. Please see theÂ disclosure pageÂ for more information. Let’s face it, debt in the United States is a problem. From our national debt, student loan debt, and consumer debt. Debt in the United States is a problem on all levels. Why is that? I’m a firm believer that it starts with…
The post Debt In The United States appeared first on Debt Discipline.
Whereas Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps have often been dissected one at a time, my goal in this post is to give an overview of the steps as a unit and explain why the order is essential.
Hopefully, these steps can help you create a focused life plan for your finances, regardless of your age or financial well being.
First, the Baby Steps:
Step 1: $1,000 in an emergency fund.
Step 2: Pay off all debt except the house utilizing the debt snowball.
Step 3: Three to six months of savings in a fully funded emergency fund.
Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement plans.
Step 5: College Funding
Step 6: Pay off your home early.
Step 7: Build wealth and give.
The Power of Focus
Daveâs premise with the Baby Steps is that people can accomplish great things IF they can just be focused. When you read over these seven steps, you think, âYes. I need to be saving. But I also need to be investing for retirement. I should get my house paid off early. But I also need to be getting out of debt and saving for my kidâs college.”
You would readily agree that all of these goals are important for successful financial planning. The problem is that your stress level kicks into overdrive with the prospect of doing them all. You clench your jaw and do what you are capable of doing while feeling anxious about the goals you place on the back burner.
The Baby Steps plan works because when you stay focused on one step at a time, you can knowingly put some important goals on hold without the nagging feeling that you are leaving something undone.
You can also check out my YouTube video where I break down each of Dave’s Baby Steps here:
Because accomplishing each step puts you in a great position to accomplish the next one.
You begin to feel an empowerment and a sense of control as you get one step behind you and start the next one. You are making progress instead of treading water.
Why Are the Baby Steps in the Order They Are In?
Steps 1 and 2: $1,000 Emergency Fund and Debt Snowball
Notice that Steps 3 through 7 are all about using your money to do something positive for you and your family. Of course this money comes from your income, but the problem with most of America is that we are using our income on debt payments.
Because we are paying others instead of ourselves, we need to get rid of our debt (Step 2) in order to free up our income for Steps 3-7.
âWhat if I could use all the money I am currently paying to creditors to start âpaying myselfâ?
For many people this is $1,000 to $3,000 a month.
Baby Step 2 debt snowball is designed to do just that. Step 1 is necessary before Step 2 because you donât want to start paying off debt without having a small cushion to absorb the little unplanned expenses that will occur during Step 2.
Step 3: 3 to 6 months of Savings
After completing the first two steps, you are out of debt (except for your house) and now have that cash flow you dreamed about: all of the money you used to pay others is at your disposal. The temptation is to start investing for retirement or saving for your kid’s college or pay off your house early.
NOT SO FAST! You will get to those, but doing so prematurely is way too risky.
Stop, take a deep breath and use that cash flow to build up your emergency fund so you will indeed be ready for emergencies. This fund needs to be liquid (in a top savings account or money market account).
If you skipped the step and started any of the ensuing steps, how would you handle emergencies? Pull money from your retirement account? Rob the kidâs college savings? Borrow money against your house? All bad ideas.
Step 3 is therefore always ahead of the following steps
Steps 4, 5, and 6: Saving for Retirement, College Funding, Pay Off Home
You may be asking,
âWhy is retirement ahead of college funding? Wouldnât a good parent put his children ahead of himself?â
Good question. But what if you end up without sufficient retirement income because you made college funding a higher priority? Who will you be depending on in your later years? Your kids!
The thing about retirement planning is that you only get one shot at it. The years go by and you will someday be retirement age. You donât have a choice. On the other hand, college funding is full of choices: kids can get scholarship, they can work, they can attend community colleges, they can find work/co-op programs, etc, etc.
Step 4 is therefore ahead of step 5. But notice that Step 4 is 15% of your income. If you have cash flow greater than 15% you can apply that to college funding immediately, and if you have more than enough cash flow to accomplish both steps 4 and 5, you can use all of the extra to pay off your house early (step 6).
Note that Step 6 comes behind retirement and college funding because reversing the order could possibly give you a paid for house at the expense of a dignified retirement or helping your kids through college. Most of us wouldnât want that.
Not sure where to start investing for retirement? Here are some tips:
Best Places to Open a Roth IRA – Figuring out where to start investing your 15% of income can be confusing. A great place to start is a Roth IRA, but deciding a broker is confusing. This list will help you pick the best broker for your Roth IRA.
Best Online Stock Broker Sign Up Bonuses – You can get hundreds of dollars or thousands of airline miles just for opening up a brokerage account.
Beginner Investing Strategies – If you’ve never invested before it can be overwhelming. This list breaks down getting started into manageable pieces.
Step 7: Build wealth and give.
Life is now very good! You have no debt, a great emergency fund, and a paid for house. All of the cash flow that used to go toward debt reduction and house payments is now at your disposal.
This, by the way, is the step Mandy and I are on. Being semi-retired, we donât have a huge income, but it is very sufficient because we also donât have any debt. We continue to invest every month and we are able to give more than we have ever given before.
Once we got our house paid off, we started to budget âblessâ money, which we put into an envelope every month just to have available so we can bless others as we see the needs. We are also able to help our grown daughter and daughter-in-law cash flow their college.
As I said, life is good. Mandy and I are experiencing great financial peace and we are very grateful for Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps.
I wish the same for you.
This article is a general overview of what Dave Ramsey has to offer and is not intended to replace his course, nor is this sponsored or endorsed by Dave Ramsey or the Lampo Group.
The post Dave Ramseyâs Baby Steps Explained appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
Paying off debt can be an excruciating process, depending on how much money you owe. But your debts may not haunt you forever. Most consumer debts have a statute of limitations. That means that after a certain amount of time has gone by, collectors canât sue you for failing to pay off outstanding debts. Hereâs everything you need to know about the statute of limitations on debt.
See how long itâll take to pay off your credit card debt.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations on Debt
You can be taken to court for not paying off certain debts. But thereâs a limit on how long debt collectors can chase after the borrowers they want to sue.
The period in which someone can take legal action against you for owing money is known as the statute of limitations. In many cases, that time period either begins on the date you last made a payment or when your account becomes delinquent (which usually happens 30 days after a borrower fails to make a payment). But sometimes, the statute of limitations begins whenever you last used the account, acknowledged that you owed debt or agreed to make a payment (more on that later).
Statutes of limitations offer consumers with old debts some protection from debt collection agencies. After the statute of limitations on a debt expires, that unpaid debt is considered to be time-barred. At that point, borrowers no longer have a legal obligation to pay off their debts.
Different states have different statutes of limitations. And there are different rules attached to different types of debts. In Iowa for example, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is 10 years. In Alaska, Alabama and Washington D.C. itâs only three years.
Not all consumer debts have a statute of limitations, however. Federal student loans, for example, havenât had a legal expiration date for over two decades.
What to Do With Time-Barred Debts
While you may no longer be legally responsible for your time-barred debts, youâre not totally off the hook. Most negative credit information â like unpaid debts â can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But tax liens can remain on your credit report for up to 15 years and bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years.
Not repaying the old debt you owe after the statute of limitations expires could hurt your credit score. And you could have a hard time trying to buy a house or take out a new loan.
Related Article: The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector
If you decide to pay off an old debt, itâs important to make sure you have documentation confirming that the debt is yours before making a single payment. You may have to pay off your debt in full in order to avoid restarting or extending the statute of limitations on your debt. So talking to a lawyer before making a single payment is a good idea.
When a Collector Asks About Your Time-Barred Debt
Even though you canât be sued for your time-barred debts, a debt collector may try to come after you anyway. Bill collectors are required to follow certain rules under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But they have the right to contact you even after the statute of limitations on a debt runs out. If a debt collector threatens to sue you for a time-barred debt, he or she could be violating the FDCPA.
Statutes of limitations can be tricky. So if youâre not sure whether your debt is past its legal expiration date, itâs a good idea to ask a debt collector who contacts you if your debt is time-barred. If he or she says no, itâs best to ask for the date of the last payment and request written proof that the debt theyâre trying to collect is actually yours.
Youâll need to be careful when speaking to debt collectors, especially when dealing with a debt you believe is time-barred. If you say the wrong thing, the statute of limitations could be restarted or extended and you could end up having to pay a bill collector what you owe. The debt collector could also sue you and win.
The clock on your debt can restart if you admit to owing a debt, promise to start paying it or attempt to start repaying it by sending money to a debt collector. But the guidelines associated with extending and restarting the statute of limitations vary depending on where you live.
Related Article: Understanding Debt
If you donât know if the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you can check with someone from a local legal aid society, an attorney or your state attorney generalâs office. Or you can figure it out yourself by finding out when the statute of limitations begins and looking up your stateâs laws regarding the statute of limitations on debts.
After you can confirm that the statute of limitations on your debt has in fact expired, youâll have to decide what to do with it. You can pay off the debt and improve your credit score or ignore it and wait until it disappears from your credit report. You could also dispute the old debt or try to work out an agreement so that you end up paying less than what you owe your creditor.
Are you just trying to get your own shop or retail business off the ground? Do you have physical items to sell but don’t have the capital to open a brick-and-mortar store? With the latest iPad point-of-sale (POS) systems, you can sell your products, manage your inventory, show your products to potential customers, and even analyze your progress. This allows you unparalleled flexibility to alter your business strategy for the best results in today’s rapidly changing retail landscape.
Whether your own shop or retail boutique is still a glimmer in your eye or you’ve investigated avenues to making it a reality, you may not realize just how easy it can be to get up and selling. Renting retail space may not make as much sense during a pandemic, but there are other ways to get your products in front of your prospective customers beyond the online arena.
One such way is to investigate opportunities for popup store locations in your area. Farmers markets are great for this, but you need a location that’s equally effective in warm or cold weather. All across the country, malls are looking to repurpose themselves as their anchor department stores go bust. Many mall owners, noting the consumer trend toward buying local, are looking to fill these spaces with small-scale merchants like you. Combining a popup location when it’s cool with an outdoor spot when it’s warm could give you an effective high-traffic spot without shelling out what it would cost to rent, say, space in a strip mall or downtown location.
Get up and running
When you think of opening up your own store, you probably picture a daunting checklist as long as your arm and myriad expenses that would make launching such a venture unacceptably risky. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Today’s POS providers offer packages that can get you up and running for less outlay than you might imagine.
Part of the problem with traditional POS systems was that they were so cumbersome to learn that you could spend a month digging into their complexities and still be unable to perform some basic functions. iPad POS systems are far more intuitive, which means you’ll be able to take advantage of everything the system can do within hours, not days, weeks, or months. At first, you’ll barely be scratching the surface of your system’s capabilities, but as you grow you’ll be well served to take advantage of key features such as inventory management and customer tracking.
Optimize your inventory
The true power of today’s mobile POS systems lies in their ability to track your sales and help you manage your inventory based on your results over time. What do you sell the most and when do you sell it? What’s collecting dust? You’ll be able to view all of this at a glance, and more importantly, you’ll be able to take appropriate actions to load up on what sells and rid yourself of what doesn’t. If you do have an online store, most systems allow you to integrate your inventory management so that someone shopping online isn’t surprised that an item they want is actually out of stock because it was sold to a walk-up customer or vice versa.
Customer tracking and rewards
These days, customers have become accustomed to sharing some data with their favorite shops. This is especially true when they're rewarded for doing so. Forging mutually beneficial customer relationships takes time and can cost you a bit in the short term. However, in the long term, they can pay huge dividends not only in frequent repeat business but also when it comes to spreading the word about your shop on social media and among friends and colleagues. It’s never too early to start identifying and rewarding your loyal customers.
Fortunately, most POS software makes this easy. Simply by providing the phone number or email where they would like their receipt sent, you can start building a profile of their likes and dislikes. You can also use this info to send them promotional messages, though you will need to make sure they opt in to this service.
Customer tracking is a win-win. They win because you can use their preferences to recommend products in which they will likely be interested; you win because you can keep presenting them with products that they’re eager to buy.
If you do start building an email or SMS list, that’s an excellent way to reach out to them with a killer deal when things are slow, or to let them know about an item that you're sure they’ll want to see. Take care, though—it’s very easy to overuse these capabilities, which can drive customers away and turn them into brand ambassadors of the worst kind, former customers who tell prospective customers to stay away. However, done with the right touch, direct marketing programs can bring in a solid core of business on which you can expand.
With the pandemic raging, no one is eager to touch surfaces outside their home. That’s why it’s so critical to employ a contactless payment solution. iPad POS providers charge a bit more for these card readers, but being able to loudly tell potential customers that you have this capability will pay for the additional expense and then some.
Setting up your own shop is far from a walk in the park, but with a solid plan and a simple iPad POS solution, it need not be nearly as complicated as it has been in the past.
When youâre in debt, getting calls from debt collectors is common. But can debt collectors call on holidays? Although there are no regulations that specifically make calling on holidays illegal, there are regulations that prohibit debt collectors from contacting consumers at unusual or known inconvenient times.Â
Find out more about the answer to this common question, and learn what you can do to take care of your debt for good.Â
Can Debt Collectors Call on Holidays?
You probably donât want a debt collector to call when youâre at home, spending a holiday with friends and family. The good news is there are protections in place to eliminate abusive and unfair debt collection practices.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) notes that a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer âat any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer.” With this regulation in mind, early mornings and late nights are not acceptable times of day for debt collectors to call.
Can creditors call on holidays? Because many holidays are public knowledge, you can generally expect that debt collectors wonât call at these times. With that being said, itâs important to note that not all localities, states or countries acknowledge the same holidays.Â
Can bill collectors call on holidays? Technically, yes. But you can ask them to stop.Â
Can a Debt Collector Contact You at Any Time?
No, they cannot. They can contact you, but they need to follow the regulations outlined in the FDCPA. If bill collectors are calling at unreasonable times of the day or continually call you, it may be considered harassment. Itâs recommended that you document every date and time that a creditor calls so you have a record to use in case you seek legal counsel to deal with creditor harassment.
Can You Tell a Debt Collector to Stop Calling?
Yes, you can. If you donât want a debt collector to call on holidays or youâre getting calls at unreasonable hours, you can send a letter requesting that they stop. Creditors must cease contacting you by phone once you make the request, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still owe the debt. They can continue to take other actions to collect it.
What Happens if You Ignore Debt Collectors?
You might be thinking of ignoring calls from debt collectors but worry about the consequences. When you ignore these calls, in some cases, nothing will happen. The creditor might stop reaching out.
But thatâs not always the case. You might face negative consequences for ignoring these calls.Â
If the debt is yours and you continue to ignore debt collections, you might face wage garnishment or a lawsuit. Your credit score and credit report can also take a hit. Though you shouldnât have to take calls at unreasonable times or on holidays, if you owe a debt, you may want to work with the collection company and consider how you can pay it to avoid other negative consequences.Â
How Can I Keep Debt Collectors From Interfering With Holidays?
If you’re getting calls from bill collectors and are worried about the possibility of them calling on holidays, you might be wondering what steps you can take. Here are some suggestions.Â
Ask Them to StopÂ
Consumers have rights, which are outlined by the FDCPA. One of them is that a debt collector must stop contacting you after you send a letter requesting them to do so. Youâll still be responsible for any debt you owe, but they must follow your request and stop reaching out.Â
This needs to be done in writing, not by phone. Consider keeping a copy of the letter that you send for your records. You may also want to send the letter by certified mail so you know when the debt collector received it.Â
Work Out a Payment Plan
If you want to lessen your financial stress and donât want the collector to take further action, consider negotiating a repayment plan with your creditor. If you do this, make sure everything is outlined in writing.Â
If the debt hasnât gone to collections yet, the creditor may be willing to work with you. In some cases, creditors might waive fees, lower the total amount due or lower the interest rate if it means they can collect some of the debt from you.Â
Consult an AttorneyÂ
If a debt collector continues to call after you requested they stop or if you donât owe the debt, consider contacting an attorney. One can advise you of your rights and any next steps you might want to take.Â
Help Is AvailableÂ
No one wants to be harassed by creditors, and they shouldnât be. Remember that regulations that are in place to protect consumers like you. Donât be afraid to reach out to collectors to ask them to stop calling if itâs interfering with your happiness or day-to-day affairs.Â
If you have unpaid debt and want to improve your credit situation, ExtraCredit can give you the tools to help you make positive changes. The service lets you track your credit score. It also offers a discount on credit repair services from one of the leaders in credit repair if thatâs something you decide to pursue.
Sign up for ExtraCredit today!
The post Can Debt Collectors Call on Holidays? appeared first on Credit.com.
This page may include affiliate links. Please see theÂ disclosure pageÂ for more information. When the calendar says it’s the first of the month, do you get excited about the opportunities that may arrive with the new month, or do you have panic attacks on how you are going to survive another month living in debt?Â If…
The post Personal Finances: Prioritizing and Paying off Debt appeared first on Debt Discipline.
The best student loans can help you earn a college degree that will lead to higher earnings later in life. They also come with low interest rates and reasonable fees (or no fees), which will make it easier to keep costs down while youâre in school and once youâre in repayment mode.
For most people, federal student loans are the best deal. With federal student loans, you can qualify for low fixed interest rates and federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans. To find out how much you can borrow with federal student loans, you should fill out a FAFSA form. Doing so can also help you determine if you qualify for any additional student aid, and if so, how much.
While federal student loans are usually the best deal for borrowers, many students need to turn to private student loans at some point during their college careers. This is often the case when federal student loan limits have been exhausted, or when federal student loans are no longer an option due to other circumstances. We’re providing the top 8 options, at least according to us, as well as a guide to help you get the best rate.
Apply now with our top pick: College Ave
Most Important Factors When Applying for Student Loans
Start with a federal loan. Fill out a FAFSA form prior to applying for a private loan to make sure youâre getting all the benefits you can.
Compare loans across multiple lenders. Consider using a comparison company like Credible to do so.
Always read the fine print. Fees arenât always boasted on the front of a lenderâs website, so take time to learn about what youâre getting into.
Start paying as soon as you can to avoid getting crushed by compound interest.
Best Private Student Loans of 2021
Fortunately, there are many private student loan options that come with low interest rates and fair terms. The best student loans of 2021 come from the following private lenders and loan comparison companies:
Best for Flexibility
Best Loan Comparison
Best for Low Rates and Fees
Best for No Fees
Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Best for Fair Credit
Best for Comprehensive Comparisons
#1: College Ave â Best for Flexibility
College Ave offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents who want to take out loans to help their kids get through college. Variable APRs as low as 3.70% are available for undergraduate students, but you can also opt for a fixed rate as low as 4.72% if you have excellent credit. College Ave offers some of the most flexible repayment options available today, letting you choose from interest-only payments, flat payments, and deferred payments depending on your needs. College Ave even lets you fill out your entire student loan application online, and they offer an array of helpful tools that can help you figure out how much you can afford to borrow, what your monthly payment will be, and more.
Qualify in Just 3 Minutes with College Ave
#2: Credible â Best Loan Comparison
Credible doesnât offer its own student loans; instead, it serves as a loan aggregator and comparison site. This means that, when you check out student loans on Credible, you have the benefit of comparing multiple loan options in one place. Not only is this convenient, but comparing rates and terms is the best way to ensure you get a good deal. Credible even lets you get prequalified without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and you can see loan offers from up to nine student lenders at a time. Fixed interest rates start as low as 4.40% for borrowers with excellent credit, and variable rates start at 3.17% APR with autopay.
Compare Dozens of Rates at Once with Credible
#3: Sallie Mae â Best for Low Rates and Fees
Sallie Mae offers its own selection of private student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parents. Interest rates offered can be surprisingly low, starting at 2.87% APR for variable rate loans and 4.74% for fixed-rate loans. Sallie Mae student loans also come without an origination fee or prepayment fees, as well as rate reductions for students who set up autopay. You can choose to start repaying your student loans while youâre in school or wait until you graduate as well. Overall, Sallie Mae offers some of the best âdealsâ for private student loans, and you can even complete the entire loan process online.
Get Access to Chegg Study FREE with Sallie Mae
#4: Discover â Best for No Fees
While Discover is well known for their excellent rewards credit cards and personal loan offerings, they also offer high-quality student loans with low rates and fees. Not only do Discover student loans come with low variable rates that start at 3.75%, but you wonât pay an application fee, an origination fee, or late fees. Discover student loans are available for undergraduate students, graduate students, professional students, and other lifelong learners. You can even earn rewards for having a 3.0 GPA or better when you apply for your loan, and Discover offers access to U.S. based student loan specialists who can answer all your questions before you apply.
Apply for a Loan with Discover
#5: Citizens Bank â Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Citizens Bank offers their own flexible student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students, and parent borrowers. Students can borrow with or without a cosigner and multi-year approval is available. With multi-year approval you can apply for student funding one time and secure several years of college funding at once. This saves you from additional paperwork and subsequent hard inquiries on your credit report. Citizens Bank student loans come with variable rates as low as 2.83% APR for students with excellent credit, and you can make full payments or interest-only payments while youâre in school or wait until you graduate to begin repaying your loan. Also keep in mind that, like others on this list, Citizens Bank lets you apply for their student loans online and from the comfort of your home.
#6: Ascent â Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Ascent is another popular lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. Variable interest rates start at 3.31% whether you have a cosigner or not, and there are no application fees required to apply for a student loan either way. Terms are available for 5 to 15 years, and Ascent even offers cash rewards for student borrowers who graduate and meet certain terms. Also note that Ascent lets you earn money for each friend you refer who takes out a new student loan or refinances an existing loan.
Get a Loan in Minutes with Ascent
#7: Earnest â Best for Fair Credit
Earnest is another online lender that offers reasonable student loans for undergraduate and graduate students who need to borrow money for school. They also offer a free application process, a 9-month grace period after graduation, no origination fees or prepayment fees, and a .25% rate discount when you set up autopay. Earnest even lets you skip a payment once per year without a penalty, and there are no late payment fees. Variable rates start as low as 3.35%, and you may be able to qualify for a loan from Earnest with only âfairâ credit. For their student loan refinancing products, for example, you need a minimum credit score of 650 to apply.
Learn Your Rate in Minutes with Earnest
#8: LendKey â Best for Comprehensive Comparisons
LendKey is an online lending marketplace that lets you compare student loan options across a broad range of loan providers, including credit unions. LendKey loans come with no application fees and variable APRs as low as 4.05%. They also have excellent reviews on Trustpilot and an easy application process that makes applying for a student loan online a breeze. You can apply for a loan from LendKey as an individual, but itâs possible youâll get better rates with a cosigner on board. Either way, LendKey lets you see and compare a wide range of loan offers in one place and with only one application submitted.
Pay Zero Application Fees with LendKey!
How to Get the Best Student Loans
The lenders above offer some of the best student loans available today, but thereâs more to getting a good loan than just choosing the right student loan company. The following tips can ensure you save money on your education and escape college with the smallest student loan burden possible.
Consider Federal Student Loans First
Like we mentioned already, federal student loans are almost always the best deal for borrowers who can qualify. Not only do federal loans come with low fixed interest rates, but they come with borrower protections like deferment and forbearance. Federal student loans also let you qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income Based Repayment (IBR) as well as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Compare Multiple Lenders
If you have exhausted federal student loans and need to take out a private student loan, the best step you can take is comparing loans across multiple lenders. Some may be able to offer you a lower interest rate based on your credit score or available cosigner, and some lenders may offer payment plans that meet your needs better. If you only want to fill out a loan application once, it can make sense to compare multiple loan offers with a service like Credible.
Improve Your Credit Score
Private student loans are notoriously difficult to qualify for when your credit score is less than stellar or you donât have a cosigner. With that in mind, you may want to spend some time improving your credit score before you apply. Since your payment history and the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits are the two most important factors that make up your FICO score, make sure youâre paying all your bills early or on time and try to pay down debt to improve your credit utilization. Most experts say a utilization rate of 30% or less will help you achieve the highest credit score possible with other factors considered.
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Get a Quality Cosigner
If your credit score isnât at least âvery good,â or 740 or higher, you may want to see about getting a cosigner for your private student loan. A parent, family member, or close family friend who has excellent credit can help you qualify for a student loan with the best rates and terms available today. Just remember that your cosigner will be liable for your loan just as you are, meaning they will have to repay your loan if you default. With that in mind, you should only lean on a cosignerâs help if you plan to repay your loan amount in full.
Consider Variable and Fixed Interest Rates
While private student loans offer insanely low rates for borrowers with good credit, their variable rates tend to be lower. This is why you should always take the time to compare variable and fixed rates across multiple lenders to find the best deal. If you believe you can pay your student loans off in a few short years, a variable interest rate may help you save money. If you need a decade or longer to pay your student loans off, on the other hand, a low fixed interest rate may provide you with more peace of mind.
Check for Discounts
As you compare student loan providers, make sure to check for discounts that might apply to your situation. Many private student loan companies offer discounts if you set your loan up on automatic payments, for example. Some also offer discounts or rewards for good grades or for referring friends. It’s possible you could qualify for other discounts as well depending on the provider, but you’ll never know unless you check.
Beware of Fees
While the interest rate on your student loan plays a huge role in your long-term loan costs, donât forget to check for additional fees. Some student loan companies charge application fees or prepayment penalties if you pay your loan off early, for example. Others charge origination fees that tack on a few additional percentage points to your loan amount right off the bat. If you can find a student loan with a low interest rate and no additional fees, youâll be much better off. Since loan fees may not be prominently advertised on student loan provider websites, however, keep in mind that you may need to dig into their fine print to find them.
Make Payments While Youâre in School
Finally, no matter which loan you end up with, it makes a lot of sense to make payments while youâre still in school if you’re earning any kind of income. Even if you make interest-only payments while you attend college part-time or full-time, you can save yourself from paying thousands of dollars in additional interest payments later in life. Remember that compound interest can be a blessing or a curse. If you can keep interest at bay by making payments while youâre in school, you can squash compound interest and keep your loan balances from growing. If you let compound interest run its course, on the other hand, you may wind up owing more than you borrowed in the first place by the time you graduate school and start repayment.
What to Watch Out For
A private student loan may be exactly what you need in order to finish your degree and move up to the working world, but there are plenty of âgotchasâ to be aware of. Consider all these factors as you apply for a new private student loan or refinance existing loans you have with a private lender.
Interest that accrues while youâre in school: Remember that subsidized loans may not accrue interest until you graduate from college and enter repayment mode, but that unsubsidized loans typically start accruing interest right away. Since private student loans are unsubsidized, youâll need to be especially careful about ballooning interest and long-term loan costs.
Getting a cosigner: Make sure you only apply for a private student loan with a cosigner if youâre entirely sure you can repay your loan over the long haul. If you fail to keep up with your end of the bargain, you could destroy trust with that person and their credit score in one fell swoop.
Youâll lose out on some protections: Also remember that private student loans come with fewer protections than federal student loans. You wonât have the option for income-driven repayment plans with private loans, nor will you be able to qualify for federal deferment or forbearance. For this reason, private student loans are best for students who are confident in their ability to repay their loans on their chosen timeline.
In Summary: The Best Student Loans
Best for Flexibility
Best for Loan Comparison
Best for Low Rates and Fees
Best for No Fees
Best Student Loans from a Major Bank
Best Student Loans with No Cosigner Required
Best for Fair Credit
Best for Comprehensive Comparisons
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