Taking on the responsibility of home ownership is a big feat—expenses pile up quickly, and creating a home for yourself and/or your family is a stress of its own. There are some circumstances in which attempting to buy a home would be extremely complicated and difficult. Financial, emotional, and mental preparedness are essential to successfully become a homeowner; consider the following elements of that preparation as you decide whether or not to buy a home.
Lack of Cash
To sellers in a high-competition market, cash offers are definitely more appealing than mortgage offers; a cash offer assure the seller that they will get the money upfront, where financing is considered “iffy”… if financing is denied the buyer, the buyer may have to back out, which is very frustrating and inconvenient for the seller. If you do not have the cash capital to appeal to sellers, and will have to rely (unsteadily) on financing, you may have a more difficult time with sellers accepting your offers. Lack of cash may be a red flag to sellers that your financial status is shaky, meaning they may prioritize cash offers over yours.
It is possible to buy a home with poor credit, just a challenge to get “okayed” across the board. If you choose to finance your home, you may have a hard time getting mortgage lenders to give you a loan. That doesn’t mean you are out of hope though! According to Chris Murray Home Loans, an FHA loan is backed by the federal government and requires a lower down payment. Mortgage companies may also look at your income statements, debt record, and available money for a down payment, and if these numbers are promising you have a better chance of them agreeing to do business with you. If you do have bad credit, it is helpful to have a good amount of cash!
Big Life Changes
If you are experiencing a big life-change, buying a home becomes a considerably bigger challenge—family or marital separations, serious illnesses, or career changes all require time and attention (and, of course, are financial commitments themselves that may make large expenses concerning. According toMoney Under 30, you should work with financial advisors to determine how to budget and manage your money, and create a timeline for doing so!
If you have a lack of cash, poor credit, or are in the middle of a significant life-change, consider the stresses that becoming a homeowner could create for you and determine whether or not you feel comfortable or confident investing in such now.
After a terrible accident has left you in the hospital for months, you will be concerned about the costs of your medical expenses. There is a reason healthcare is a hot topic in the United States. Not only do you have to deal with the pain of your injuries, but hospital payments can be a pain to your family.
Negotiate Your Bill
Luckily, there are some options for people who can’t afford their bills. Talk with the hospital workers to see if there is a way you can reduce your bill. Sometimes in terrible accidents, they will waive some of the fees. You may also qualify for some federal assistance depending on the nature of the injury.
Talking down the bill might not eliminate it, but it can make it more bearable for your family--particularly if you are the sole breadwinner. In some circumstances, you can qualify for disability and unemployment benefits because of the condition. Use every resource available to you.
Take It to Court
While some accidents are simply dumb luck or acts of God, others may have been afflicted on you by someone else. In these cases, it can be smart to settle the matter in court. Injury lawyers can cost a pretty penny, but you are more likely to get a favorable settlement when you have an experienced attorney.
These are one of the most common kinds of lawsuits. People seek legal relief if they are victims of a car crash—but particularly if an employer’s haphazard safety protocol hasn’t protected you. You may not want to go to court at all, and that’s fine. It just will make your bills much harder to pay off.
Ask for Donations
When other routes of payment have failed or aren’t enough, your next step should be to seek help from family and friends. GoFundMe has become an incredibly effective way for people to get their medical bills paid for. Your community’s rallying around you will help the debt be paid without too much of a burden on your family.
It can be somewhat embarrassing for people to ask for donations. However, you shouldn’t feel the need to take it on alone. These websites are perfectly acceptable ways to get relief when you have no other option.
At the end of it all, there are plenty of ways you can pay off a sky-high medical bill. You can do it online, in court, or at the hospital. In any case, your life can return to normal, and you can recover without fear for money.
Insurance companies take a gamble on their customers every day. Depending on the type of insurance you purchase, they charge you a set fee with the bet that you will never actually claim as much or more than what you pay. While making this bet, they consider factors like age, income, geographical location, past medical history, etc. which helps them estimate how much insurance you will likely claim in the future. No matter how much or how little you actually claim, there are some important factors you should also consider making sure you place your bets with the right company.
Keep Track of Everything
Let’s say you have done your due diligence and purchased fire insurance. While on vacation a spark from a neighbor’s firework show lands on your roof and a house fire destroys everything inside. According to Live & Learn, your insurance will cover a premium, but that doesn’t begin to cover the cost of all damages and items lost.
To prevent this, you must keep detailed records of the purchase price and value of everything you own. You may be surprised to find out how expensive everything would be to replace if you lost it. Rather than providing a rough estimation of damages incurred, you are likely to receive more money when you have detailed documents of your item’s true value.
Don’t Fall for Their Tricks
It is a very well-known fact that insurance companies don’t actually want to pay you. Their ideal customer is someone who invests in insurance and never uses it. That is where they make the best profit. According to Rogers Beltran, insurance companies are most interested in saving money and not helping you. However, if you have paid your premium and invested your earnings into their protective insurance, you have the right to claim damages. Regardless of how difficult an insurance company is to work with, it will be well worth your diligence to receive what is rightfully owed.
Finding an insurance provider is a great step in covering you and what is most valuable to you. According to The Personal, you shouldn’t be afraid to shop around for better deals. Companies compete with each other to give their customers the best coverage at the best rate. Some insurance companies even weigh factors heavier than others which can affect your rates. You can trade insurance coverage at any time, doing so will likely save you more money.
Life happens to everyone. Get yourself covered, protect what you value, and receive what is rightfully owed by keeping detailed records, holding your ground, and consistently looking for the best deal for you. Prepare yourself so that when life happens, it doesn’t have to be a devastating event.
Read this next: Tips to Help Make the Most of Your Health Plan in 2021
Getting older, as with any other point in life, has its ups and downs. On the one hand, seniors tend to care less about what other people think and they’ve gained a lot of life experience that can be highly beneficial. On the other hand, retirement brings with it a whole new set of financial circumstances that can take some adjusting. Your elderly parents may benefit from your help in managing their finances.
Prevent Them From Running Out of Money
Though the coronavirus pandemic created an exception, life expectancy has been trending upwards for the past several years. While that is generally a good thing, that does put people at a greater risk of outliving their money. It can be easier to do than you might think, especially if you don’t keep tabs on what you have left in different retirement accounts. Being involved in your parents’ finances opens the door for conversations about how much money is available. It can increase spending accountability and help monitor costs so that they don’t outpace the available funds.
Protect Them From Financial Scams
There are some pretty shady people out there who target elderly individuals like your parents for a living. Because of the kind nature of many elderly people, they can become easy prey for scammers. They aren’t the only ones to watch out for though. Predatory lenders target the most desperate borrowers they know they can take advantage of. Fortunately, if you can establish a relationship that allows you to talk openly with your parents about their finances, you can help them avoid getting caught up in financial scams.
Preparing for Problems
No one wants to think that they could become incapacitated and unable to handle their finances, but it does happen. The risk of suffering a stroke increases dramatically with age. There is also an increased risk of mental impairment due to dementia. If you can get involved and help your parents manage their finances early on, it helps set the groundwork for you to take over for them if they can no longer manage their finances on their own.
Helping your parents manage their finances may seem a little backward, but it can do a lot of good. You can help them avoid running out of money, protect them from financial scams, and prepare for situations that may cause them to lose the capacity to handle things on their own. Start the conversation early on so you can lay the groundwork to make it easier to be involved down the road.
Like many others, you may have found yourself setting various goals that you want to achieve in 2021. For a lot of people, those goals tend to be oriented towards personal health. There’s more to health than just your physical health though. There’s the mental component, of course, but there’s also personal financial health. One of the things you can do to boost your financial health is to increase your credit score.
Raise Your Credit Limit
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you had a higher credit limit, increasing your credit score can be the answer. Having a higher credit limit gives you more resources you can use if the need arises. Additionally, you have more wiggle room in your credit utilization with a higher credit limit. Your credit utilization is one of the five things that are used to determine your credit score. The general recommendation is tokeep your credit utilization below 30%. With a higher credit limit, you have a greater degree of flexibility in how much you can spend while still keeping your credit utilization low. This, in turn, helps improve your credit score.
Qualify for Financing
When you have a higher credit score, lenders will perceive you to be capable of making smart financial decisions and good at managing money. Therefore, they are more comfortable with lending you more of their money. This is especially useful if you find yourself in need of a personal loan. There are many reasons why you might need a loan in an emergency. With a better credit score, you have a better chance of qualifying for the financing you need to cover emergency expenses.
Reducing Your Interest Rate
Nothing is free in life, especially when it comes to money. The interest that comes with loans and credit cards is the price you pay for borrowing money. It’s how those you borrow from make a profit. The interest rate you have to pay is impacted by your credit score. The better your credit score, the less of a risk you are perceived to be as a borrower, and the lower your interest rate is likely to be. If your credit score is low, your perceived risk is higher, and you’re more likely to be charged a higher interest rate. It’s an attempt by the business to make sure they can recoup as much of their money as possible, should youdefault on the loan.
Increasing your credit score is an incredibly worthwhile goal that you should make a priority in 2021. Doing so can raise your credit limit, allow you to qualify for financing, and can land you a lower interest rate when you borrow money. It’s not going to be an overnight change and will take time and effort, but the benefits of having a high credit score are worth the work.
More people are concerned about their financial future: 4 steps to protect yours
(BPT) - Finances are consistently a top concern for many Americans, with “saving money” a top-10 most common New Year’s resolution. This year, Americans are more concerned than ever before due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
USE Credit Union reported that more than 75% of non-transactional calls received since the start of the pandemic were from members concerned about their financial future, citing economic hardship as the primary reason for concern. The economy and job market remain in a state of constant flux, which is causing many families to worry about their ability to pay an unexpected bill, continue to pay off student loans, mortgages or credit card debt, or save money for the future.
“Saving money is more than just putting spare change into a coffee can, or simply ordering takeout less often,” said Jeff Schroeder, vice president and chief product officer at Mercury Insurance. “Sure, those things can add up over time, but people may find that their greatest savings can come from taking a look at the necessary expenses they pay for every month, such as insurance.”
Schroeder recommends these four tips to help protect your finances in the coming year:
1) Check your auto insurance coverages. There’s no reason to pay for more coverage than you need, but being underinsured can leave you exposed. “The cost of repairs after a collision has grown in recent years, as a result of more crossovers and SUVs on the road, and more technologically advanced vehicles,” said Schroeder. “Beyond paying for more expensive repairs if your insurance doesn’t cover it, if you’re underinsured, you may also be responsible for paying out of pocket for medical bills, which could potentially devastate savings for a down payment on a house, your child’s college tuition or a future vacation. It’s vitally important to make sure you have the right amount of auto insurance coverage to protect against unforeseen events.”
2) Know what your homeowners insurance covers. First and foremost, be sure to read your policy so you’re clear about what it does and doesn’t cover. It’s a good idea to check in with your insurance agent each year to ensure you have adequate coverage, especially if you’ve made renovations, own collectible or valuable items, or live in an area that’s prone to flooding or earthquakes, as standard homeowners insurance policies typically don’t cover these situations. Also, maintain a home inventory to make sure to have an accurate record of your belongings and property.
3) Be aware of potential gaps in coverage. A standard homeowners insurance policy often doesn’t cover mechanical failures to your home’s appliances, HVAC or other essential systems, nor does it cover a break to service lines on your property that supply your home with electricity, gas or sewer functions. In either of these scenarios, this means you would be responsible for writing a big check to a repair company or having to purchase a pricy replacement. However, adding home systems protection and service line protection endorsements can help provide coverage for costly repairs and replacements, saving money and your peace of mind. Pennies spent now can save you thousands of dollars later.
4) Regularly shop for the best coverage and price. Insurance prices can vary significantly from company to company, so it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to see if you’re getting a good deal. Shop around at least once a year — making sure to look for the exact same coverage limits — to see if you can find a more affordable rate.
“Often, regional insurers like Mercury Insurance are more attuned to their policyholders' needs and can offer better rates,” Schroeder added.
The most effective way to make sure your finances are minimally impacted by insurance costs this year is to speak to an independent insurance agent. They can help make sure you have the proper amount and type of coverage to keep yourself, your family and property protected.
Tips to help make the most of your health plan in 2021
(BPT) - Last year was a difficult year as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our country, impacting families and communities nationwide. The health challenges of the pandemic also provided a crucial reminder about the importance of health care.
For many Americans, new health plan benefits began in January. If this is your situation, now is the perfect time to learn how to maximize this year’s health benefits, which may help improve your health — and possibly save money too.
Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., national director of health strategies at UnitedHealthcare, provides the following tips to help you take charge of your health and get the most out of your plan in 2021:
Becoming familiar with your new health plan — especially at the start of a new year — is one way to help you be proactive when it comes to your health. For more health and wellness information, visit UHC.com.
Tax season 2020 will look different: Here's how to prepare
(BPT) - It’s no secret that 2020 has been a tumultuous year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans found themselves out of work — at least temporarily — and received unemployment benefits. Others may have experienced employment changes, like working from home or taking on multiple jobs. All of these factors will have even more of an impact come time to file income taxes on tax day, April 15, 2021.
“For many, the 2020 tax season will likely look different,” says Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Services. “The pandemic brought unexpected, overwhelming changes.”
To help you prepare and get the maximum tax refund you deserve, Steber offers the following tax tips.
1. Understand how unemployment benefits work
If you received unemployment benefits this year, it may have been for the first time. Make sure you’re aware of how they affect your taxes.
Unemployment benefits are taxable and must be reported to the IRS on your tax return. Taxable benefits also include any special compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act earlier this year. That means if you did not withhold enough taxes from your unemployment benefits, you could see a big tax bill or a much smaller tax refund than you normally receive.
Unemployment benefits can affect tax credits. Unemployment is considered unearned income, so it won’t count toward certain credits. For example, you must have earned income to qualify for the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit. Additionally, your adjusted gross income must be below certain levels to get certain credits.
2. Set money aside to cover unexpected taxes
If you received unemployment benefits and did not withhold any federal or state income tax, you’ll need to pay tax on that money. To prepare, consider setting money aside now to cover those taxes on your 2020 return and brace yourself for a much smaller refund or no refund at all this tax season.
3. Take advantage of possible deductions
Every taxpayer will get a charitable donation deduction for 2020. Make a list of any IRS-approved donations you made this year and locate any receipts. Whether itemizing or taking the standard deduction, under the CARES Act, all taxpayers are eligible to deduct up to $300 worth of monetary donations to qualified organizations.
And while many Americans have been working at home for months, a home office deduction is not guaranteed. The home office deduction is only available to those who are self-employed.
4. Consider major life changes
Life goes on, even during a pandemic, and life changes can bring sizeable tax implications. Some changes that cause the biggest impact include getting married or divorced, having a baby or adopting a child, buying or selling property, retiring, or starting a business. If you experienced any of these events in 2020, know that your return will look different.
5. Keep track of important documents
Even if your taxes won’t be affected by unemployment, make sure you gather all your documents, such as W-2 forms and 1099s for interest dividends and even retirement distributions. Remember to include the Notice 1444 you received with your stimulus check for your 2020 tax records. Collect your charitable contribution totals, mortgage interest, property taxes you’ve paid, and any additional state and local income taxes paid for the year. If you were furloughed and able to pick up a temporary job, gather your W-2s for each job you worked. If you worked a side gig, make sure to keep a record of your income, the miles you drove, and any additional expenses. And if you’re not filing single, be on the lookout for family members that may have been impacted to make your tax return more complicated.
No matter your 2020 situation, follow these tips to prepare for any unexpected tax implications. For more information and help during the 2020 tax season, visit jacksonhewitt.com.
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