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June 5, 2018, 7:50 am

5 Affordable Home Loan Options

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

In today’s economy, it might seem like home ownership is out of reach for any but the rich, or at least “well to do,” but the fact is, there are home loan options that are practical for even those with relatively low incomes.

And many of these loans don’t require perfect credit, a large down payment, or a long, grueling application process either. Exploring your home loan options and taking advantage of the best program available that fits your needs can make the process simple and convenient.

Here are 5 of the most popular home loan types that work well for those with low to moderate incomes:

1. FHA Loans

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans used to be only for those with high incomes and great credit scores. But those days are long gone. It’s’ fairly common nowadays to get an FHA loan approved for manufactured home – and manufactured home loans can be tailor made to make them eminently affordable.

You can take out an FHA loan with only a 3.5% down payment, a FICO score as low as 500 (if you can explain the reason), and with relatively low income if it’s reliable. Single family, multi-unit, manufactured, and mobile homes can all qualify. So long as a bank underwrites the loan and it’s structure meets FHA standards, you can be in your new home in short order.

2. Rural Housing Loans

Despite the name, rural housing loans (USDA rural development loans), are also available for the suburbs and small towns. They are specifically targeted at low to medium income families (up to 115% of local area median income qualifies.)

Special advantages of these loans include: you can lump in home repairs/upgrades with the loan principal, your PMI fee is the absolute lowest of all loans (.35%), and there are zero “surprise fees” due at closing.

3. Home Renovation Loans

A home renovation loan (FHA 203k) is a mortgage that lets you buy a house to then immediately fix it up and make it more livable. It only requires 3.5% down and is very similar to standard FHA loans (#1 above).

However, you will need to borrow more than the purchase price to cover renovations, which means this loan type requires good credit, though not extremely high income, to get approved.

4. VA Home Loans

If you are a US Armed Force member or your deceased spouse was, then you will qualify for a special no money down VA loan. If you’re an honorably discharged vet who served a minimum of 6 years, you also qualify.

You will not have to buy mortgage insurance to get approved (though it’s still a good idea if you can afford it). Imperfect credit is not normally a problem with VA loans, and even bankruptcies won’t necessarily disqualify you.

5. HomePath Mortgages

HUD’s HomePath mortgage program is offered through Fannie Mae and is widely available to low-income families all over the US.

This loan type adds in the incomes of all who will live in the house, even though not all will be on the mortgage. It thus raises your DTI (debt to income) ratio and makes approval easier. This is for purchase of HUD homes only. It requires only 3% down and gives you a 3% bonus credit to use for closing costs IF you complete the “homebuyer education course.”

There are other affordable home loan programs out there too, but these 5 are easily the most common. Most people will be able to qualify for one or more of these loan-types, making home ownership truly realistic.

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December 19, 2017, 10:56 am

Average Cost of a Funeral in the U.S.

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

We budget for a lot of things in life – kids, a home, college, retirement. There’s so much going on in the near future it’s easy to forget about events long, long down the road. Plus, most of those things aren’t the nicest to think about.

Sure, no one wants to think about funeral expenses, but that’s what we’re hinting at. Once we’re gone we don’t have to worry about the cost, but our family members will. Want to know how much they’ll have to spend to pay their final respects?

Let’s take a look at today’s funeral expenses.

Funeral Expenses

Like everything else in our global economy, funeral expenses keep steadily increasing. The overall expense if going to vary by location, but the average funeral costs is around $11,000 according to SavvySenior.org.

If you don’t have insurance for final expenses these are the funeral costs your family will have to cover.

Traditional Burial: Basic Services

  • Funeral planning
  • Notice preparation
  • Sheltering the remains
  • Cemetery arrangements
  • Permits and death certification preparation

Traditional Burial: Additional Services

  • Transportation
  • Embalming
  • Viewing fees
  • Ceremony/Memorial services
  • Casket
  • Graveside services
  • Grave liner

Cremation

More people are choosing to be cremated, partly because it’s about half the cost of a traditional funeral. However, a number of the basic funeral services/costs above will apply with a cremation. There will so be additional fees for the crematory services. Instead of a casket, family will have to purchase a vessel or container for the ashes.

Third Party Vendors

A funeral is a huge undertaking in a very short amount of time. Getting everything lined up requires the assistance of numerous professionals even for an intimate event with close family and friends. The funeral home coordinators will work with a number of third party vendor to get everything ready in a matter of days.

These third party vendors charge for their own services on top of the basic funeral expenses. They’ll either charge your family directly or charge the funeral director who will then add the expense to the funeral preparation fees.

Some of the most common third party funeral expenses include:

Floral arrangements – Traditional funerals feature numerous floral arrangements that are used during the memorial service and placed at the gravesite.

Casket – A traditional funeral with burial will require a casket. At an average cost of over $2,000, the casket is typically the single most expensive item. If you plan to do a cremation, you may need to rent a casket for the funeral services.

Obituary – If your family plans to put an obituary notice in the newspaper there will be a fee.

Officiating Clergy – Whoever presides over the funeral service will typically ask that a donation be made.

All funeral homes are required to provide an itemized expense statement that includes good faith estimates of third party fees. When you begin budgeting for funeral expenses use the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist. It’s a great resource with information on average prices.

The Funeral Rule

As with many things in life, there are laws governing funerals. The FTC Funeral Rule provides guidelines that protect consumers and make funeral expenses more transparent.

The Funeral Rule was put into place to ensure that consumers are protected when they’re most vulnerable. The primary goal is to allow consumers to select the funeral services they want without overpaying for additional fees. As noted above, the Rule requires funeral homes provide itemized statements that make the expenses known. This helps you compare prices and decide which services you can do without.

Another regulation is that all service fees charged by funeral coordinators for third party services must be disclosed in writing. If the funeral director received discounts, rebates or refunds that must be disclosed too.

Keep in mind the Funeral Rule only applies to funeral homes. Cemeteries without an onsite funeral home and third party vendors do not have to adhere to the regulations.

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November 2, 2017, 8:34 am

Six Hacks to Save You More Money

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

Our lives are made up of tiny decisions that can have a big impact over time.

This concept applies to our financial lives as well. A $3 mocha may not seem like much in the moment but over the course of a year, when purchased consistently, you’ll spend over $700!

The power of time has an even bigger impact with compound interest. If you place just a few dollars every day into a retirement account, your savings will grow exponentially.

PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, explores which of life’s daily expenses could be replaced with cheaper alternatives along with other ways to save money.

infographic

Think of everyday habits or purchases you make that could be cut or exchanged for something that costs less.

There are also other money-saving hacks like keeping your car tires inflated and hanging your clothes out to dry that may not seem like it saves you money till months down the road.

Lastly, make sure you are taking advantage of everyday spending by using a cash back credit card. Look for a card that doesn’t have an annual fee and make sure you pay it back in full each month so you don’t pay any interest.

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with PSECU.

 

 

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September 25, 2017, 9:36 am

The Four Worst Financial Millennial Mistakes

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

Millennials differ in many ways from any other generation in recorded history. One critical way that they operate differently is in how they make financial decisions. As the first generation not to have classes like handling personal finances built into their education, and having all but doing away with paper money, Millennials are changing the way that Americans spend, save, and invest their money.

There are things that you can do to secure your financial future and others that can drive a nail through it. The problem for the Millennial crowd is that not all of them really understand the difference, and according to a credit union in Winnipeg, they are making critical financial mistakes that could potentially affect their resources for the future. The good news is that Millennials are just starting out in the financial world, and even if they make these four major financial mistakes, there is plenty of time to correct and turn them around.

They don’t take full advantage of what’s offered

It is a hard reality, but Millennials might not have the assurance of  social security in their later years. In fact, many might lose their safety net if things don’t turn around. That means that for a Millennial, things like 401(k)s and retirement funds are more critical than ever before. Once considered an option just to have some extra money, it is important for the Millennial generation to understand that they will likely be paying for their retirement themselves, no matter how much they are paying into the system now.

Many who are just entering the workforce are not taking advantage of retirement options. In fact, statistics show that only about 30% of young workers sign up for retirement savings options. The participation is so low that many companies are automatically signing their employees up, with 84% of twenty-somethings being enrolled automatically.  If you have the option, it is always a good idea to maximize pension or retirement savings accounts to secure your future.

Making earning the goal

Millennials have a new mindset when it comes to their occupation. Many have their eyes on the prize, but the prize isn’t to find something you love and do it for a lifetime. Many employees are going into industries purely because they will make a lot of money. What an older perspective knows is that industries come and go. If you want to be financially secure for a lifetime, you have to find something you love to do and stick with it.

When you choose something because of money, you have a tendency to jump around a lot, trying to find fulfillment. That means that you don’t ever really achieve success, either through your career path or your need for emotional fulfillment. If you want to ensure that you are set for your financial future, find what you love and create a life around it, instead of thinking you will work super hard for a couple of years for a big paycheck and then retire.

Not investing or saving early or enough

Those entering the workforce are having a hard enough time paying off their huge student loan debts, so the thought of putting money away seems almost laughable. That is leaving them without a safety net, spending outside their means, and landing them in a slew of trouble when they need money.

If you aren’t putting any money away for even a rainy day, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Just $20 a month is enough at least to start your savings. Incremental savings is what it is all about. It is never too early or too little to put some money away in your piggy bank for when you need it most.

When you do have a little amount, it is also a good idea to invest it. Not only will that make your money grow, but if you lock it up tight in an investment, then you’ve removed the temptation to spend it. Small investments are an excellent way to grow wealth.

Thinking about the quick buck

Millennials are always looking for the big payoff instead of earning a dollar’s wage. The internet and social media have taken the reality away from many young workers entering the workforce. Instead of working hard to achieve their goals and building a career, many bounce around looking for the new fad or get-rich-quick scheme. Again, it is much smarter to remember that slow and steady wins the race, instead of being the hare who falls asleep.

If you are a Millennial, the good news is that you have plenty of time to make the right financial decisions to grow wealth and to protect yourself for the future. If you correct these four mistakes, your outlook will be looking up.

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July 17, 2017, 8:21 am

5 Things You Can Do to Cut Your Monthly Expenses

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

Cutting your monthly expenses is never an easy task but if you’re on a tight budget already, it’s something that needs to be strongly considered. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing as a career or how many children you have, by following the below tips, you’ll be able to save hundreds every year on expenses.

1.      Only Buy Food from a Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is usually open throughout the week regardless of where you live. Consider going there a couple of times a week at least just so you can take advantage of the great deals on vegetables. Getting deals on food will save you a lot of money and it also means you’re not going to have to spend a fortune on takeaways every month because you don’t have any food in the cupboard!

2.      Cut Your Cell Phone & Internet Bills

Call your cell phone and internet provider to see if you can come to some arrangement when it comes to using fewer resources. The fewer resources you use generally means a much cheaper bill. Many people have cell phones but rarely use all the resources they have, so be sure you check with your provider to see if you can save money on your bills.

3.      Cycle to Work or University

Cycling to work or university can save you hundreds every month in fuel and insurance costs. You’ll also find saving money on public transport will also save you plenty. It’s not viable for everyone, but even if you need to cycle for a couple of miles every day, surely that’s worth saving thousands every year on expensive vehicle costs. You could also sell your vehicle if you own one and found that cycling was viable for you.

4.      Reduce Consumable Habits

This step is easier said than done, but it’s one worth considering if you’re really struggling to make ends meet. If you have a regular smoking or drinking habit, try to cut down by half or even try to quit if you have the willpower to do so. People spend thousands every year on smoking and drinking and that’s thousands you could save every year, giving you much more breathing space when it comes to monthly bills.

5.      Cook Your Owns Meals

If you’re a student studying at Maryville University for an online masters in health administration or Online MHA degree, it’s very easy to come home after a long hard day and order a takeaway. This is a very expensive option and students often spend thousands every year on takeaways alone. Consider cooking your own meals every day, or if that isn’t an option, set aside a few hours every week where you can cook numerous meals to be frozen.

The above are just a few tips to help you save money whether you’re in full-time employment or you’re a full-time student. The above tips will give you much more breathing space every month so you can still enjoy life even on a tighter budget.

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