How to Take Advantage of the Student Loan Relief Extension

If you’re juggling federal student loan debt along with other bills, you’re about to get another pandemic-related break. Those of you who lost a job during the pandemic and now need to decide whether to pay their student loan debt or buy groceries can hold off making federal student loan payments through Sept. 30. The temporary pause for federal student loan payments had originally been set to end Jan. 31 for more than 42 million borrowers.

This change means that the interest rate on many federal student loan payments stays set at 0% for another eight months. But keep in mind, millions of private student loan payments and some federal student loans aren’t covered by this deal.

This loan deferral program has allowed many people a chance to breathe and pay down other debt or get back on their feet during these challenging times. Some families may be able to use this time to pay off high-rate credit card debt or other bills. Others, if able, might try to set aside extra cash to create or beef up their emergency fund.

The temporary financial break, which was first announced in March, was extended twice last year and then again, most recently at the request of President Joe Biden, who took executive action on the matter on his first day in office.

It’s important for borrowers to consider signing up for income-driven repayment plans while the pause is in place. In this case, in the months when they’re not required to make a payment will count in their favor with some income-driven plans that offer loan forgiveness at the end of a 20-year or 25-year period. Furthermore, you might want to consider an income-driven repayment plan to help you avoid defaulting if your total student loan debt at graduation exceeds your annual income, especially if you want to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

In general, since monthly payments are calculated based on borrowers’ incomes and family sizes, these types of plans may be more affordable than other options. 

Typically, experts say, borrowers should opt for the repayment plan with the highest monthly payment that they can afford so that the interest doesn’t keep building over the long run. 

Will there be another pause in payments after September? The Biden administration has left open that possibility, but borrowers would be wise to take advantage of what they know is available right now. 

The risks are high for failing to repay student loans. Borrowers can face collection fees; wage garnishment; money being withheld from income tax refunds, Social Security, and other federal payments; damage to their credit scores; and even ineligibility for other aid programs, such as help with homeownership. 

Going forward, Biden has proposed forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers. But borrowers have no guarantees that such a change will take place or when. So, right now it’s important to take a realistic look at your overall financial situation and try to use the next eight months to your advantage. There is pending legislation to forgive student loans, so make sure to stay tuned for updates to come. If you have any questions related to your student loans and your strategy to repay them, please contact us at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation here

New Fed Strategy Means Cheaper Loans For A Long time — Here’s How You Can Benefit

fed resize

As we’ve all been waiting to hear about the outcome and policy changes from the Jackson Hole symposium, there’ve been some updates that you should know. In a major policy pivot, the Federal Reserve said it will allow inflation to run “hotter than normal” to help the economy bounce back from the coronavirus crisis, meaning the Fed will be less likely to hike interest rates. This will allow borrowers to benefit from cheap money for a longer period of time. According to some commentary, this policy change is meant as a stimulus, to get people to spend more. 

Although the federal funds rate, which is what banks charge one another for short-term borrowing, is not the rate that consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and saving rates they see every day. For example, most credit cards come with a variable rate, which means there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark rate.

Since the central bank lowered its benchmark rate to near zero in March, credit card rates have hit a low of 16.03%, on average, according to Bankrate.com. Other short-term borrowing rates are even lower. The average interest rate on personal loans is currently about 12.07% and home equity lines of credit are as low as 4.79%, according to Bankrate, both notably less than the APR on a credit card.

On the flipside, the Fed’s willingness to tolerate higher inflation means that longer-term loans will offer less opportunities for borrowers. “Low inflation has helped suppress mortgage rates,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, an online loan marketplace. “If you let inflation go up, mortgage rates will also go higher.”

With these cheaper loans for a longer period of time, it’s important to take a look at where you can lock in those lower rates, such as through credit card balance transfers or refinancing your mortgage. If you have any questions about this new policy, and want to see how this could be an advantage for your portfolio, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com and we would be happy to discuss with you. 

Here’s How to Prepare your Finances

finances

With the additional $600 per week unemployment benefits coming to an end this week, it is important to think about the ways in which you can prepare your finances for the months ahead. Many Americans are currently jobless and have been relying on these additional COVID-19 related unemployment benefits. There is much uncertainty as we navigate through the pandemic the best we can, but there is great value in coming up with a plan to start saving and getting your finances in order as your benefits may decrease in the coming months. 

Here are some key ways to be prepared for your future and what you should expect as any additional unemployment relief comes to an end. 

Adjust your Budget 

A great place to start in uncertain times is with your budget. Sit down and attempt to cut out all unnecessary expenses along with looking into other options that may be cheaper. It’s important to think of all your essential monthly costs and see where you can save a buck or two. For example, take a look at your housing, food, utilities, and car payments to see if there are places you can cut down. Also make sure to take a look at bank and credit card statements to cut out those annoying hidden fees or unnecessary charges such as ATM fees. Also, think about selling items you may not use anymore for some extra cash. 

Contact your Creditors 

If you have not already called your creditors, you should consider reaching out to them and discussing your options moving forward. If you are only able to pay the minimum payment on your credit card bill, make sure to let your creditors know so they can figure out a plan and help you out. Many creditors may be able to offer you “financial hardship assistance” so that you can keep your credit in good standing even if you can’t pay more than a certain amount each month.

Build an Emergency Fund Even if You Don’t Think You Can 

We all know it’s important to have a cash cushion, especially in times of economic crisis. However, it can be difficult to think about how to build one when you are already strapped on cash. But, it’s never too late to start saving. The first step is to start reducing any debt. You should also try to put yourself into a “saving mindset” by incrementally setting aside a small stash of cash every month. You can contact your bank to set up auto payments to your savings account each month, which will help you get consistent with your saving habits. 

Expect a Drop in Your Credit Score 

While it’s important to maintain a strong credit score, in times of financial crisis it is okay to expect a drop in your score. As mentioned above, make sure to give your creditors a call to keep them in the loop about your situation. Also, if you are unable to pay your credit card balance in full, at least pay the minimum amount to keep your credit stable. 

Understand Your Costs

When you are strapped for cash, it is important to know which bills you should be prioritizing, for example, housing payments. While the additional unemployment relief is ending, so are the eviction moratoriums. Make sure to do some research and have a conversation with your creditors, landlords, and banks to fully understand the regulations and rules associated with your payments. 

Get Creative and Seek out Resources

Our current environment is a new adjustment for everyone, so don’t be afraid to seek out help even if you never have before. Your local city and state government offer information and resources ready to help you. When the additional coronavirus unemployment relief runs out, you may be able to qualify for government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and HEAP, according to CNBC. There are also many charities and organizations that are doing their best to help out those in need. 

Ask your friends and family for advice and we encourage you to seek out a financial advisor for guidance and clarify on your financial situation. If you have any questions or are uncertain about the future of your financial life, we are happy to help you in any way and help you figure out your financial future. Please contact us to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Recently Graduated? How to Establish A Good Credit Score

credit score

Are you a recent college graduate? Are you starting your first job? While it’s extremely important to save money when you are first starting out, it’s also quite important to know how to spend money and understand the concepts behind your credit score and establishing good credit. 

Many consumers, especially those just joining the workforce, oftentimes don’t understand basic credit score concepts. Here are some tips on understanding credit and ways to establish a good credit score. 

As your first paycheck starts rolling in, make sure you are opening multiple lines of credit, including opening credit cards, putting your name on your school apartment lease, and signing your name on the comcast bill. However, when you open these lines of credit and sign your name, make sure you are paying your bills in full each month. If your roommate hasn’t paid your cable bill, make sure to stay on top of them so it doesn’t impact you down the road. However, if you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay the full bill, make sure you understand to pay the minimum and reach to your creditor to figure out a reasonable solution or game plan. 

Here are five important credit concepts that you should be aware of:

  1. Low credit scores can cost car buyers thousands more

According to the CFA and VantageScore Solutions survey, only 22% of consumers reported knowing that a low credit score borrower, when compared to a high credit score borrower, would likely pay over $5,000 in interest on a $20,000, 60-month car loan. With a low credit score, you are likely to only qualify for subprime auto loans whose annual interest rates often exceed 20%, the study says. 

Having a good credit score matters since not only will your interest on credit cards be less than those with worse-off credit, but so will the interest you pay on loans. Having healthy credit can earn you a lower interest rate on new loans and make it easier to qualify for financial milestones in life, like a first apartment or a new car.

  1. Your credit score actually measures your risk of not paying

Only 33% of those surveyed said that they know a credit score measures the borrower’s risk of not repaying a loan, while 14% thought it measures the borrower’s knowledge or attitude toward consumer credit.

You could have a good attitude about credit, but still have a bad credit score. The point is that your score illustrates to lenders how you would use the credit they extend to you. If you’re just beginning your credit journey, know that you need credit to build credit. Once you start using your credit card, lenders and card issuers like to see that you can use credit responsibly, which means using less than 30% of your available credit and paying your monthly bills on time and in full.

  1. Credit repair companies charge for services you can sometimes do yourself

Before you sign up for a credit repair service advertised to you, know what it will cost. While over two-fifths (42%) of consumers surveyed may be right that credit repair companies are usually helpful in correcting any credit report errors or helping to improve one’s credit score, these companies tend to charge relatively high fees to do what you could do on your own for free.

  1. Your age has nothing to do with your credit score, except for how long you’ve been borrowing credit

Nearly half (48%) of the survey respondents reported thinking that age is a factor used to calculate a credit score. The truth is that your age doesn’t matter in calculating your credit score, only your use of credit matters. In fact, the five components that make up your credit score include your payment history, utilization rate, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix.

  1. Utility companies can check your credit score

Your credit score is a good picture of how likely you are to pay your bills on time, but the survey found that only 50% of consumers know that an electric company can use credit scores to determine the amount of deposit you make.

Unless you have a perfect credit score, there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that when you are just starting out, it’s easy to overlook the small steps needed in establishing a good score. However, having a good credit score is something that should be maintained and will impact many financial decisions you are able to make in your lifetime. If you have any questions about your credit score, how to obtain credit or how to fix a bad credit score, please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.

 

4 Financial Red Flags When Dating Someone New

relationship

It might seem strange to talk about finances when you first start dating someone new. People often try to overlook financial issues when embarking on a new relationship as it can be uncomfortable and awkward to discuss. However, if you see a future with that special someone, it’s important to know what kind of financial baggage they might be bringing with them and to be aware of any potential financial red flags.

Red Flag #1: Having Different Approaches to Saving

If your partner is a spender and you are a saver, this could be your first major red flag. It is critical that you both discuss your savings plans and goals in detail. If you share accounts or credit cards, you don’t want one person spending more than their fair share since this would not only negatively affect your savings goals, but it can also create a power struggle over financial control. It’s important to discuss how much money you’re okay spending on certain items and creating a budget that will help you compromise to meet your financial goals. It may be best to keep your finances separate for now, however, if you’re still unable to reach an agreement.

Red Flag #2: Not Discussing Your Credit Scores

Disclosing your credit scores is a must. Depending on what your partner’s credit score is, it could diminish your chances of getting a house together or making any other big purchase in the future.

Red Flag #3: Neglecting To Address Debt 

It is essential that you know what debts your partner may have accumulated and how they plan on handling them. If you’re still getting to know one another, they may not be comfortable divulging the actual amount. You should, however, have a good understanding of whether or not they’re paying it off responsibly and spending wisely. 

Red Flag #4: Not Sharing the Same Financial Goals 

While the relationship is still fairly new, you should outline what your end goals are. It is important to ensure your financial goals are aligned early enough in the relationship to avoid any future disappointment. 

 

The excitement of any new relationship might cause you to overlook some major financial red flags. But when the time is right, it’s important to address these issues (preferably sooner rather than later) – especially if you’re both in it for the long haul.  If you encounter any of these red flags in your relationship and have any questions regarding your finances, please contact us – we are here to help!  

What Happens If You Try To Spend More Than Your Credit Limit?

credit cards

When you sign up for a credit card, you are often assigned a credit limit when that account is opened.  These limits typically start at $200 and go up to tens of thousands of dollars.  With so many people out of jobs and finding it hard to make ends meet these days, credit cards have become a necessary resource to pay for things that we might not have the money for right now. However, the more you charge on your cards, the closer you may come to hitting that max limit.  If you do hit that amount, you are likely to get hit with over-the-limit fees. Before you decide to use your credit card to pay for necessities, there are alternatives to going over your max before risking having your credit limit cut or incurring unnecessary fees.  

Can You Go Over Your Credit Limit?

Yes, you can go over your credit limit, but there’s no surefire way to know how much you can spend in excess of your limit. Card issuers may consider a variety of factors, such as your past payment history, when deciding the risk of approving an over-the-limit transaction. Any approved transactions above your credit limit are subject to over-the-limit (or over-limit) fees. This credit card fee is typically up to $35, but it can’t be greater than the amount you spend over your limit. So if you spend $20 over your limit, the fee can’t exceed $20.

Due to the CARD Act of 2009, over-limit fees can’t be charged without your consent. As a result of these regulations, most card issuers have done away with over-limit fees and the default for any transactions over your credit limit may be that the transaction is simply denied.

If you do consent to a one-time over-limit fee, you can change your mind and opt-out at any time. However, in doing so, your card issuer will likely decline any purchases you attempt to make over your limit. Even if you opt-in to over-limit fees, transactions exceeding your credit limit may still be denied.

Should You Go Over Your Credit Limit?

While spending over your credit limit might relieve some short-term problems, it can also cause long-term financial issues, including fees, debt and damage to your credit score. The best practice is to try to maintain a low credit utilization rate – avoid maxing out your card and spending anywhere near your credit limit.  If you do go over your limit, you should sit down and consider why it happened in the first place and review your budget. You should figure out what purchases caused you to spend more and whether you can make any changes to your spending habits.

Alternatives If Your Credit Limit Is Low

For those that may have a low credit limit or if your credit limit recently got cut, there are some options to ensure you don’t max out your spending. If you’ve had a low credit limit for a while and currently have a stable job, you may want to request a credit limit increase. This can be a good idea if you have good credit (scores 670 to 739) or excellent credit (scores 740 and greater) or if you haven’t updated your income in a while and make more money than what’s listed. Your card issuer may pull your credit report for this request, which may cause a small, temporary ding to your credit score.

However, if your credit limit was reduced, you may want to consider other options. Cardholders with good payment history and a stable job should call their card issuer and ask for reconsideration.  You should ask why your credit limit was cut, explain that your account is in good standing and that you have a stable source of income to pay off your bill. This may shed light on why your limit was lowered and potentially result in your credit limit increasing — though there is no guarantee. Rather than asking for a credit limit increase on the card that had a reduction, you may want to consider any other cards you have instead. If you have three credit cards and one got the limit cut, see if you can get an increase on one or both of the other two,

If you have a history of missed payments or maxing out your cards, you are likely not a good candidate for reconsideration and don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Therefore, if you fall into one of these categories, it’s best to not try to request a higher limit.

When To Apply For A New Credit Card

Cardholders with only one credit card and a low credit limit may want to consider opening a new credit card, but should be aware of any potential risks. For starters, if you were recently laid off or faced a reduction in income, you may not be in the best position to be approved for a new card, and there’s no sense in adding a new credit inquiry to your credit report if your chances are low. Also, if you have a history of maxing out your card, you should be aware that more credit can lead to more debt. An additional credit limit can be helpful for affording your expenses, but it can also be harmful if you overspend.

Before opening a new card, give yourself clear guidelines on how you’ll use the card and stick to keeping a low credit utilization rate. When it comes time to pay your bill, make on-time payments of at least the minimum every month for all of your cards.  If you are able to do so, pay in full so that your credit score will  improve and your debt will be minimized. When applying for a new card, check your credit score first to narrow down your options. Then consider cards based on your credit score. 

In these tough times, we need to be responsible when it comes to spending and not see going over your credit limit as a choice. If you do need to use your credit cards to pay for utilities, groceries and other necessities right now, make sure you are aware of your max and other options you might be able to work out with the credit card companies before going over your limit. When you do receive those credit card statements, make sure to pay at least the minimum amount each month to maintain a positive credit score. And, make sure you are paying the bills on time to ensure you won’t incur any late fees either.  If you have any questions about credit, credit cards or other issues concerning your finances, please contact us.  We are all in this together and we’re here to help! 

Coronavirus and Student Loan Debt: What You Need to Know

student loan debt

By the end of 2019, student loan in America reached $1.48 trillion.  There were approximately 45 million borrowers across the United States.1  The COVID-19 pandemic has created even greater financial instability for many Americans and those that have student loans may have more difficulty paying them than ever before.  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was recently enacted to provide a wide array of assistance for families and businesses.  The legislation also made some important changes to assist federal student loan borrowers. 

Here are some answers to a few important questions regarding student loan debt during the current pandemic: 

Question #1: Are Interest & Payments Suspended on All Student Loans?

The suspension of payments applies only to student loans that are held by the federal government. However, your FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) lender or school may suspend interest and payments voluntarily, but they are not required to do so. 

Regarding your federal student loans, all interest and payments are suspended through September 30, 2020.2 

The benefits authorized by the CARES Act do not apply to private student loans that are owned by banks, credit unions, schools or other private entities. If you are trying to suspend payments to these institutions, you will need to contact them directly to find out what your options are. 

Question #2: Should I Apply to Suspend My Payments or Interest?

Until September 30, 2020, there will be no interest accrued or payments due for federal student loans.2 There is no action required on your part as these payments will be stopped automatically.  

Question #3: What Should I Do if I’m Behind on Payments?

On March 25, 2020, the Department of Education announced that it would not be withholding federal tax refunds, Social Security payments or garnishing wages from those who have defaulted on their federal student loan payments.3 In addition, private collection agencies contracted by the government will put a pause on attempting to contact defaulted borrowers. 

No defaulted federal student loan will collect interest until September 30, 2020.3

Many of us are experiencing a certain level of financial stress as we navigate this “new normal” through the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are able to continue to make regular payments to your federal student loans, it is beneficial in the long-run.  However, it is important to know your options have changed. If you have any questions relating to your student loan payments or other financial matters, please contact us.  We are here to help! 

  1. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/hhdc_2019q2.pdf
  2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748
  3. https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus#defaulted-loan-questions

Teaching Children Financial Responsibility: Start Early

close up of family hands with piggy bank

Would it surprise you to know that students graduating from high school enter college with little to no knowledge about their finances, how to budget, or save for their futures? The problem has become so severe that 40% of these students wind up going into debt in order to fund their social lives and 70% of these students wind up damaging their credit ratings shortly after college graduation.

Unfortunately, it seems as though this debt will not be going away anytime soon.  The average student loan debt for the class of 2016 increased by 6% from the previous year and the financial literacy rate in the U.S. has not improved over the past three years. While college enrollment and the number of college graduates has continued to increase, financial literacy lags among these young people at record lows. Where does this disconnect come from?

Few states offer personal finance or economics courses and even fewer states test students on the financial knowledge they have acquired. It therefore comes as no surprise that American students (and we can infer American adults) have one of the lowest levels of financial literacy when compared to other countries.  While the number of student loans has increased,

  • 44% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency
  • 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments
  • 38% of U.S. households have credit card debt
  • 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement

Why does it matter? How is it affecting the economy?

Students are graduating with loans they can’t afford to pay back and with minimal financial knowledge in planning for their futures. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans have over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, which is more than double the total U.S. credit card debt of $620 billion. This debt is becoming a major barrier to home ownership. 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments and most of these individuals do not have any savings. A lack of sound financial knowledge will affect the economy as these millennials enter the labor force burdened with student loans.

As parents, we play a vital role in educating our children about the importance of personal finances.  In the Sherman household, we are teaching our children the importance of finances on a daily basis. Our 4 year old son is learning about savings by doing chores in return for an allowance, which he saves in his piggy bank. He is learning to save and spend his money wisely.

Parents can begin educating their children at home in order to increase the financial literacy of their kids. By demonstrating wise financial habits, parents can serve as role models for their kids. Talking in an age appropriate way to your children about the dangers of debt and the importance of saving a portion of any money they earn instills financial values and lessons your child can use throughout life.  You may find that using an allowance is a way that you can teach your kids about saving and spending appropriately. Since it has been shown that kids who manage their own money have been found to demonstrate better financial habits in the future, giving your kids the opportunity to spend and save their own allowance or money earned is a good way to prepare them for later on. Even a simple trip to the store can be used as an opportunity to start the conversation about the danger of credit cards and how they should only be used in an emergency.  Educating your kids at an early age will enable them to better learn and practice sound financial habits while under your watchful eye and cause them to be less likely to make irrational decisions once they are out on their own.

This issue is not only affecting students and young adults.  Many professionals with advanced degrees have spent countless hours studying and researching information in their particular field.  Despite all of the hours spent earning their degrees, many of these people have never taken a single course in financial education and are surprisingly not prepared to deal with the important financial decisions affecting their futures.  As a result, many extremely smart and successful people are making critical financial errors which can negatively impact the amount of money they have saved upon retirement.

Beginning in 2011, studies were conducted where participants were shown a computer generated rendering of what they might look like at their age of retirement.  They were then asked to make financial decisions about whether to spend their money today or save that money for the future. In each study, those individuals who were shown pictures of their future selves allocated more than twice as much money towards their retirement accounts than those who did not see the age-progressed images.  Seeing the images gave the participants a connection with their future selves that they did not possess before. As a result, their spending/saving behavior changed dramatically because “saving is like a choice between spending money today or giving it to a stranger years from now.”

The benefits of educating your children about the importance of personal finances are undeniable, and you’ll be able to set them up for a promising future and help them prepare for retirement. Visit us online for more information about how we can help improve your financial life.

10 Important Things To Discuss Before Marriage

7thingsbeforemarriage

10 Things to Discuss Before the Big Day

You are excited, in love, and planning the wedding of your dreams. Probably the only money questions on your mind are the down payments for the caterers and the florists!

Yet – whether your wedding reflects a minimalist sensibility or is a no-holds-barred extravaganza – it’s better to have a good understanding of each other’s finances before the “I Do’s”. This is a time when procrastination could cost you a bundle, even if neither one of you currently have a lot of assets.

Getting married is more than just substituting the word “ours” for “yours” and “mine”.  It’s combining your finances, histories, dreams, aspirations, possessions – even your music – and making all of that “ours too. Since a significant part of those dreams and aspirations involve money, having multiple financial conversations before marriage (or right after, if you’re newlyweds!) can help you start married life on a firmer footing, with regard to financial goals.

Here are a few conversations that will get your marriage off to a smoother financial start:

1) Views on money. How we feel about money is often very emotional and very personal. Our family’s views on money can have a big impact on the way we see finances. In some families money may not be talked about. In others, one partner may hide money or spending from the other. While we might not consciously have these same behaviors, our upbringing will have an impact on how we feel about money and how we save, spend, and budget.

The best way to address unconscious – and sometimes conflicting – money behaviors is to start by recognizing how you each feel about money. Then you can take a practical approach and implement the best strategies from the past and incorporate them into your new relationship. This will also give you a chance to address any not-so-beneficial attitudes and behaviors and work to consciously change them.

2) Spending/Saving Habits. Chances are the two of you don’t spend and save money the same way. The interesting thing about spending and saving habits is that they give insight into priorities, both financial and otherwise because we tend to spend money on things we feel are most important and scoff at spending on things we see as unimportant.  Some people value saving more than anything and could be considered “tightwads”. Other people have a “live for today” attitude and spend whatever they have available, saving nothing or little for later. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle.

Not agreeing on spending priorities can lead to serious conflicts down the line. While there is no right and wrong answer regarding priorities and habits, it’s valuable to know and understand each other’s habits earlier rather than later.

3) Divvying Up the Bills. This is an important conversation about how you will manage your money together. Will you have separate or joint accounts? Who will be responsible for paying the bills and investing for long term goals? A realistic understanding both of your current incomes and current debts is important so you can create a realistic budget based on your combined income and expenses.

4) Credit History. No one likes to talk about credit ratings because they highlight past mistakes and spending habits. Yet it’s essential to know and discuss your credit histories. This can help you talk about past money mistakes, current debt loads, and how to address any issues that are lurking. Having this conversation now will also help if you’re planning to borrow money for a large purchase, such as a home or car; credit history will effect how much you’ll pay in interest for loans, as well as how much it will cost for things like insurance. Many companies even pull credit for potential job applicants. When it comes to credit, it’s best not to have surprises down the road, so have the conversation now.

5) Risk Tolerance and Financial Goals. Couples often have very strong – and differing – feelings about risk and money that are deeply rooted in past experiences.  Your family may have gone through periods of unemployment, for instance, or  you may have grown up taking financial security for granted. One of your parents may have owned a business and you saw it go bankrupt,  so you might be very conservative with your money and not want to take unnecessary chances. Or perhaps they invested in a business that was a huge success.

Everyone brings a different level of comfort when it comes to risk tolerance and it’s important to understand your partner’s because it has an impact on spending and savings habits – everything from where you invest to how much money you want to set aside. Money provides a level of security that can be very powerful and risk tolerance is directly linked to that feeling of security.

6) Ongoing Financial Obligations. If this is a second marriage, are there child support or alimony payments that need to be considered in the budget process? If so, how much and how long will the obligations need to be fulfilled. Caring for elderly parents might also be a long term expense you will be facing as a couple.

7) Net Worth. When it’s a first marriage, often neither partner has much in the way of assets, but if one partner has more than the other, are you going to want a pre-nuptial agreement? When discussing net worth it is valuable to discuss not only current net worth, but also aspiring net worth. What household income level are you both hoping to achieve. Will reaching those aspirations include additional education? Will it mean switching jobs several times early in your career? Will it mean working 80 hours a week for decades? As a couple, understanding financial expectations and future net worth aspirations will help you plan a life together that will meet both of your needs, financially and emotionally.

8) Family Plans. The family size you hope to have will also have a big impact on your financial needs. Children, as wonderful as they are, are very expensive to raise. Do you both want to have children and, if so, one child or several children? Discussions about how the children will be raised and educated are also valuable from a financial perspective. Will one of you stay home to raise the children? Will you pay for day care? How far apart should the children be? Each of these answers will have a significant financial impact to the family budget.

9) Combining Physical and Financial Assets. Particularly with couples getting married later, both partners will have accumulated possessions that now need to be combined. This can be as simple as which sofa and bedroom set to keep, or more complicated when multiple homes, retirement accounts, and other investments are brought into the mix. Discussing whether property, accounts, and debt should be left in individual names or held jointly is also an important conversation to have.

10) Wills, Trusts, and Life Insurance. When you’re getting married, you don’t really want to think about death. Yet wills, trusts, and life insurance need to be updated soon after you say, “I Do.” This is true especially if you have assets or children. The process of obtaining a will or trust is fairly straightforward; it’s the discussions that lead up to it that provide the most value. Both of you should have a good understanding of what you have and what you want to happen, should the unthinkable occur.

Financial advisors can be a real asset, when it comes to pre-marital financial discussions. They can help you determine when it is best to hold assets jointly or separately. Assistance with budgeting and planning for long term goals will help you create a strong financial plan. Advisors can also guide you in building a strategy for reaching financial milestones.

So, if you’re getting married (or just got married), congratulations! And while these discussions may not be the most romantic ones you’re having, they do have the ability to bring you closer together. Planning together and sharing your dreams will give you better insight into the mind and heart of the person you’ve fallen in love with and allow you to become stronger partners when it comes to reaching your goals as a couple, emotional as well as financial.

***

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Should You Start to Save… or Pay Down Debt?

Pay Down Debt

Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and tend to have a lot on their plates. Being able to juggle several balls in the air and multi-task is par for the course for this generation. So why do Millennials often struggle with how to prioritize between saving for the future and paying down debt?

Many Millennials still have college loans to pay off or have acquired credit card debt while taking home minimal starting salaries. And advice about how to get started is confusing: some financial professionals recommend having at least one month of income saved prior to starting to pay down your debt, while others recommend up to 8 months of savings. That’s a daunting prospect when you’re young and living from paycheck to paycheck!

Because of the power of compounding interest, the 20s and 30s are your prime savings years. Not taking advantage of the opportunity to save now may end up costing you later. So how can you start to build your savings and pay down debt, while still maintaining a reasonable quality of life?

The good news is that – because they’re used to a struggling economy – Millennials have become very resourceful when it comes to finances. Here are several factors to consider when you’re deciding how much you can – or even if you can – allocate for both.

Three Questions to consider about saving vs. debt:

What is my monthly incoming & outgoing cash flow? Hopefully it’s not negative! If it is, though, try to find daily and household expenses that can be trimmed or eliminated (that venti caramel latte? An expensive cable package?) If it’s positive, determine if there’s enough left over to pay credit card minimums while allocating a portion, however small, toward a saving plan.

What is the interest rate on my debt? Debt with an interest rate of higher than 5% is a priority to pay down, otherwise you’re spending your hard-earned cash on borrowing costs. Can you roll over your debt to a lower-interest or zero-interest credit card? If not, create an action plan to pay off high-interest debt first. If you have debt with interest rates that are lower than 5%, consider contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA. The same way interest compounds with your debts, it also grows with your savings, so the sooner you take action, the more you will gain over time.

What is my stress level regarding debt? If the stress of having debt is overwhelming, then make paying the debt before contributing to your savings a priority. If your debt seems manageable, start getting in the habit of making monthly contributions to a savings plan.

Remember, no two people, and no two financial plans, are alike. Whether you can contribute to a savings plan and pay down debt simultaneously depends on you and your unique situation. Talking to a financial advisor can help put you on a path that is right for you. The important thing is to create a goal and a plan!

Learn more about our Budgeting and Savings planning.

Related Reading:

What’s your Credit Score?

Brad Sherman is a financial planner who is committed to helping individuals and families achieve financial independence and gain confidence with regard to financial issues.

Call or contact him today to see if his services are a good fit for your needs.

LFS-989662-081314