When it comes to economics, many teens’ mouths write checks their knowledge can’t cash. Help influence the financial literacy of a teen in your life with these practical money-management tips.
5 Financial Tips for Teens
(Family Features) When it comes to economics, many teens’ mouths write checks their knowledge can’t cash.
While 93% of American teens say they know how the economy works, 29% have had no economic schooling, according to a survey of 1,000 U.S. teens ages 13-18 by Wakefield Research on behalf of Junior Achievement and the Charles Koch Foundation. Even in light of their false confidence, teens are aware of the importance of financial education.
Although the study identified numerous gaps in economic and financial knowledge, it also showed teens do know where to look for credible information. Two-thirds (67%) recognize they should use their school as a resource.
“One of the things we hear often is that some textbooks are written too academically for most students to understand the concepts,” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “Our programs, which work as a complement to the school curriculum, are written from the perspective of today’s teens and use digital content to help bring economic concepts to life for students.”
Beyond the classroom, another 63% of students believe they should use their parents as resources for economics education. Help influence the financial literacy of a teen in your life with these practical money-management tips adapted from the curriculum.
Set goals. Managing your money is more meaningful when you’re doing it with purpose. This might mean budgeting to ensure you have enough money to maintain your auto insurance and keep gas in your car, or you may be saving for a big senior trip. Knowing what you want to achieve with your money can help you plan how you spend it more wisely.
Weigh needs vs. wants. When you begin making your own money, it’s easier to indulge your own wishes and spend money on things you don’t necessarily need. To some extent, that’s not a bad thing; rewarding yourself is fine when you do so within reason. That means not exceeding your available funds, and not forsaking things you truly need, like gas money to get to and from a job or school.
Get a debit card. Most people find that having cash on hand makes it easier to spend. If you use a debit card instead, you’re an extra step away from spending so you have a little more time to consider your purchase. Another benefit of a debit card is it helps track your purchases in real time so you can keep constant tabs on your balance and ensure you don’t overdraft your account.
Start a savings habit. Even if your income doesn’t allow for much, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of setting aside a portion of each check. It may only be $10, but over time each $10 deposit can build your account toward a long-range goal.
Protect your privacy. Teens who’ve grown up in the digital age tend to be less skeptical and cautious about privacy matters than their elder counterparts. It’s important that young people understand the potential impact of failing to protect their privacy when it comes to financial matters, including the possibility that their identities could be stolen and all of their money siphoned away. Teaching kids about security is an essential lesson in economics.
Visit ja.org for more tips and information to help raise your teen’s financial literacy.
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(BPT) - When it comes to managing your monthly bills, it doesn’t get much more convenient than auto-pay. Because this option eliminates missed payments and late fees, it’s easy to see why three-quarters of Americans have opted in, with anywhere between one and seven monthly payments, according to recent survey findings.
However, consumers are also discovering that enlisting in auto-pay isn’t without its financial downsides. The following survey findings from TheZebra.com (an insurance comparison site) show how auto-pay can make consumers complacent.
* Nearly a quarter of people (23%) admit to not paying attention to what’s coming out of their bank accounts. If the result is an overdrawn account or a billing error slipping through, that can prove to be a costly mistake.
* One-third (29%) of respondents confess to forgetting to cancel services linked to autopay after they’ve stopped using the services. A couple prime examples of this are a music streaming service subscription or a gym membership.
* Nearly half of consumers indicate that once auto-pay is set up for their car insurance payments, they never get around to re-evaluating their fees. Considering the market value of our cars depreciates every year, this suggests that many consumers are missing an opportunity to get the best coverage at the best price, as car insurance rates can change daily.
* Finally, by not taking time to evaluate costs or cancel unused services, consumers are paying the price. Some 29% of respondents estimate they’re losing $100 annually, but for high-ticket items like a gym membership, the savings could be in the thousands.
Now that you know the high price you may be paying for the convenience of auto-pay, here are some tips to help you stay in control of your finances.
1. Keep track of your statements. Because money is withdrawn from your account each month, it’s easy to lose track of your spending. Otherwise, if a price hike takes effect or if you end up consuming more services than expected, the consequence can be a higher-than-expected bill. If your bank account lacks the funds to cover it, you’ll end up with an overdraft, which can end up costing you more than any late fee! So when auto-pay takes effect, make sure you review the monthly statements. If you see an additional charge or a price hike take effect, follow up immediately.
2. Research rates at least twice a year. While your service provider may offer excellent service at a great rate, it’s always possible there’s a better deal for you somewhere else. Take time to research and compare the going rates for things like internet service and car insurance — you may be pleasantly surprised. To make sure you follow this step, set up six-month reminders on your phone or calendar and commit yourself to following through. If you end up using the service less often than you planned — or not at all — this reminder can give that much-needed nudge to reevaluate.
3. Take time to fully understand your options. As you know, some service agreements, such as gym memberships and mobile phone contracts, can’t be canceled without penalty — at least, not until you’ve reached a specific end date. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this rule applies to all service agreements. For example, did you know you can switch your car insurance anytime without paying a penalty? It’s true! In fact, once you switch, your old insurer will send you a rebate for the balance, even if time remains on your six- or one-month policy. So go ahead and shop around. If you find a car insurance provider that’s more affordable and provides the coverage you need, you can reap the benefits right away. Just remember, if you do decide to switch, don’t cancel the old policy until the new one is officially in place. Otherwise you might get charged a penalty for the gap in coverage.
How to save on a big bill: Car insurance
Looking for a better price on car insurance? TheZebra.com allows you to see how your current policy stacks up to the rest. The Zebra is the only auto insurance comparison site that shows you all your options side by side, and never sells your data. When you shop around with The Zebra, you can rest assured knowing you won’t get any unwanted calls or emails. Visit www.thezebra.com and see how much you could be saving on car insurance.
(BPT) - If you had to grade your financial literacy, what would it be? Are you an A+ saver, investor and planner, or do you think you could do better? If you grade yourself average at best, you’re not alone.
When asked to grade their own financial literacy, more than half of Americans say they’d earn a “C” or lower, according to new data from Prudential Financial. This isn’t surprising, considering data from Prudential’s Financial Wellness Census shows less than half of Americans are on track to meet their financial goals, including planning for retirement.
“Regardless of where you are on your family’s financial wellness journey, the best way forward is through financial literacy,” says Prudential Advisors President Brad Hearn. “Researching, educating yourself and getting advice from a financial professional can help you make the best decisions based on your life stage, risk tolerance and goals.”
Hearn says each family’s situation and goals are unique, and things like life stage and personal preference will impact how they choose to prepare for their financial future. To get started, here are five financial wellness basics every family should master:
Set up an emergency fund
Life is a series of experiences, and sometimes the unexpected can hit your finances hard. Whether it’s a car breaking down, your AC unit on the fritz or even losing a job, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, start saving a little each month until you reach your goal. A good rule of thumb is to have three months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. So, if your monthly expenses are $2,500, you should have $7,500 saved.
Create a budget
Saving for college? A new car? How about starting that emergency fund? Whatever your family’s financial goals are, it’s important to have a plan in place that helps you achieve those goals. Budget to manage day-to-day expenses, and include in that budget a commitment to save for bigger milestones. For tips on getting started, do some research. There’s no shortage of advice, whether you decide to go it alone or consider using the help of a professional financial advisor.
Plan for the unimaginable
If you have people who count on you for financial support or caregiving, you should have life insurance. A life insurance policy can help give your family financial peace of mind should the worst happen. There is no rule as to how much life insurance you need, but important things to consider are your annual income, mortgage debt, potential college costs for kids and other future financial obligations.
Save for retirement
According to Prudential data, of Americans who have retirement savings and debt, nearly one-quarter have more in total debt than in retirement savings (23%), while 15% of Americans say that they have no debt, but also have nothing saved for retirement. Planning for retirement is something that should start as soon as possible. If your work offers any type of matching program, make sure to take advantage. If you don’t, you’re essentially leaving free money on the table.
Seek professional advice
Retirement, life insurance and savings can be confusing. Information overload is partly to blame. According to Prudential data, two-thirds of Americans agree that the list of things they need to learn to successfully manage their finances keeps growing, not shrinking. That’s where financial literacy programs and professional financial advice can play a key role. Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a financial advisor. They say they cannot afford one (42%) or don’t believe their financial situation warrants needing an advisor’s help (26%). The reality is that advice is more within reach than ever before — and it’s not just for the wealthy. A financial professional can help at various stages in life and work with you to create a strategy based on your timeline, risk tolerance and goals.
“Financial wellness isn’t always a matter of having more money,” says Hearn. “Instead, it’s a journey that takes a combination of proactive effort, dedication and professional guidance.”
Prudential Advisors is a brand name of The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries. Life insurance is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ and its affiliates.
The open road, independence and the flexibility to work how and when you want. Reasons why trucking is a great job.
(BPT) - To truly understand the impact the trucking industry has on our economy, walk into any business, retail shop or grocery store and take a look around. Nearly everything you see was delivered there by a truck. In fact, according to the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Freight Transportation Forecast, 70 percent of all freight in the U.S. is handled by trucks. It is awe-inspiring to realize one industry has such an enormous impact on everything we do, purchase and consume in our everyday lives. Quite simply, trucks keep America moving, and without them, America stops.
Imagine going to your favorite grocery store to pick up your family's dinner and seeing the shelves empty, or stopping by the corner hardware store for light bulbs only to find they're not available. If it's not during the aftermath of a weather disaster, we can't readily imagine such a scenario happening in this country. That's because 3.5 million professional drivers are always on the job, working day and night to make the deliveries that keep our economy humming.
But, it's getting more and more difficult for the industry to keep up with demand. There's a severe shortage of professional truck drivers on the road today, and it's expected to get even worse. The ATA estimates that the industry will face a 175,000-driver shortfall by 2026. Ask any professional driver and they'll tell you the same story: They get headhunting emails and calls from recruiters every day, and their own companies are so short-staffed they need to put in extra shifts just to cover all of the routes.
That's why the ATA is partnering with Pilot Flying J, the largest network of travel centers in North America, to raise awareness of the profession, recruit new drivers, and celebrate the tremendous contributions of professional drivers to our nation's economy.
It's ironic that there's a shortage in this profession, because those same drivers who remain committed to the industry and to keeping our economy moving will tell you how much they love the job.
"My father was a driver and as far back as I can remember, truck driving is all I've ever wanted to do," says Steve Brand, a professional driver who has spent 27 years with FedEx Freight. Brand is a member of the ATA America's Road Team, a national public outreach program of professional truck drivers who share superior driving skills and safety records. "Trucks move America forward and it's a great feeling knowing I have a small part in that."
Other benefits of being a driver?
* Independence. When you're in a big rig, nobody is looking over your shoulder telling you how to do your job. It's like being your own boss.
* Freedom. If an office job isn't for you, trucking is a perfect choice. You're out on the open road, and not tied to a desk.
* Flexibility. There isn't just one kind of driving. Want to see the country driving from coast to coast? You can do that. Want to come home to your family every night? You can do that, too, and myriad options in between.
* Pay. ATA’s recent Driver Compensation Study found that the average salary for a truck driver ranges from $53,000 to $86,000 depending on the type of employer and type of equipment operated.
Coupled with not having the crushing student debt that college graduates are carrying around, it makes for a very good living.
Opportunities. Since the industry is hurting for drivers, it's a job seeker's market out there. Recent grads from driving schools are in high demand, and can pick and choose the job that's right for them.
Brand counsels potential recruits to choose a reputable school for proper training and then seek out a top-rated company, or find a company that has its own school.
"I go to bed happy and wake up happy knowing I'm making a difference," he says.
Pilot Flying J is making a difference, too. As part of its partnership with the ATA, Pilot Flying J recently announced a $60,000 philanthropic gift to the ATA's Trucking Cares Foundation to help support professional drivers and the future of the industry.
“Hardworking professional drivers make many sacrifices to keep our economy moving and our ways of life possible,” said Ken Parent, president of Pilot Flying J. “As we face a growing driver shortage, our hope is that this contribution will help support the Trucking Cares Foundation’s mission to improve the safety, security and sustainability of the trucking industry and contribute to the future growth of the industry through education and training.”
To learn more about becoming a professional driver, visit the ATA at www.trucking.org.
Are today’s senior citizens sufficiently prepared for retirement or have past financial mistakes impeded their progress? What did older Americans wish they knew about managing finances when they were younger? This study from Mike Brown of LendEDU reveals key insights that can help investors of all ages.
For the everyday consumer, getting a grasp on finances can be stressful or even seemingly impossible.
It could take years of balancing a budget and living paycheck-to-paycheck - a crash course of sorts - to full understand the ins-and-outs of personal finance allowing someone to position him or herself for a better financial future.
Unfortunately for some, irresponsible management of finances, such as taking on too much debt or not saving enough, could lead to irreversible damage.
In our latest survey of 1,000 senior citizens, LendEDU sought to uncover how older Americans are faring financially and if they made the right decisions throughout life to live comfortably in their later years.
Are today’s senior citizens sufficiently prepared for retirement or have past financial mistakes impeded their progress? What did older Americans wish they knew about managing finances when they were younger?
Here were a few key takeaways from the study:
Observations & Analysis
More Than Half of Senior Citizens Underprepared for Retirement, Most Wish They Started Saving Sooner!
To gather the data for LendEDU’s story, we surveyed 1,000 Americans, all of whom were at least 65 years of age.
One of the first questions we asked the respondent pool was the following: “What is the biggest financial regret you have from your twenties?”
The plurality of the respondents, 21.4 percent, indicated that the biggest financial regret from their twenties was not saving enough for retirement. Other popular answer choices included spending too much money on nonessential things (17 percent), not investing (12.3 percent), and getting into too much debt (10 percent).
Circling back, it was quite telling that senior citizens regret not saving enough for retirement in their twenties. Getting a jumpstart on retirement is essential to living a comfortable life in one’s later years. Due to compound interest, the earliest possible start to retirement saving will be the most beneficial as your money will have more time to grow.
Professor Timothy Wiedman of Doane University, 66, agreed with most senior citizens who took this survey in that his biggest regret was not getting a jump on retirement while in his twenties.
“I put off starting to save for retirement and didn't open my first IRA until I was a bit over 31 years old. I justified this by telling myself that I could always "catch up" later on my long-term financial plans after establishing a solid career and seeing my income increase,” said Wiedman.
Wiedman soon realized the delay had a substantial impact on his ability to save and earn.
“But the earning power of compound interest is based on time, so an initial delay can have severe consequences. Thus, for young folks these days, opening a Roth IRA as early as possible is vital,” he said. “For example, if a 23-year-old fresh out of college puts $3,000 per year into a Roth IRA that earns a 7.8 percent average annual return, 44 years later at retirement, that $132,000 of invested funds will have grown to $1,009,275. On the other hand, starting the same Roth IRA 20 years later will yield very different results.”
So we know that many older Americans seriously regret not saving for retirement early enough. But were they able to salvage that lost time? Are they prepared for retirement?
The following question was proposed to all 1,000 senior citizen respondents: “As of today, do you believe that you have saved enough for retirement?
The strong majority of older Americans, 54.6 percent, admitted that they do not believe they have saved enough for retirement, while only 26.6 percent think they are on the right track, and 18.8 percent are still unsure.
It came as quite a surprise that so many senior citizens believe they are not aptly prepared for life after work when they should be enjoying warm weather and leisure activities.
But once again, it goes to show the potentially crippling effects of not saving enough for retirement at a younger age. Quite a few senior citizen respondents wished they had saved more in their twenties and that sentiment transferred over to this more black-and-white question.
For reference of what is to come, a LendEDU study found that of 500 millennials who consider themselves to be saving for retirement, 41 percent are using a savings account to save for retirement. A savings account - even a high interest savings account - likely won't produce anywhere near the growth delivered by a 401(k) or individual brokerage account, which 59.4 percent of respondents used.
If those millennials wish to find themselves in a better position than more than half of the baby boomers at the age of retirement, they should probably switch from a savings account to a robo-advisor, 401(k), or brokerage account.
Additionally, when we asked our senior citizen respondents to answer what they know about personal finance today that they had not known at 25, 15.68 percent of the answers were: “I know how to save for retirement.”
The plurality of answers, 28.68 percent, pertained to learning how to live within one’s means, while 25.95 percent of answers were: “I know how to budget.”
Dr. John Story, a 60-year-old college professor at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, summed up this question quite well and further reinforced the importance of getting a jump start on retirement.
“I wish I had known the true cost of debt, and the flipside, the real value of long-term saving.”
With a Lack of Retirement Funds, Many Seniors Relying on Social Security and Life Insurance
As one gets older, there are two components that are thought to be key to achieving a sustained financial comfort. One is life insurance, a product, while the other is Social Security, a benefit.
Life insurance and Social Security benefits become all the more crucial for senior citizens when they have not saved enough for retirement, which is the case for over half of our respondents.
Not surprisingly, many poll participants indicated that they are relying heavily on both things to live their later years comfortably due to a lack of sufficient retirement savings.
In comparison to life insurance, older Americans were more likely to list Social Security benefits as important to their financial strategy. A majority, 69.1 percent, stated that Social Security benefits are a critical component, while 18.7 percent said the opposite, and 12.2 percent were still undecided.
Whereas life insurance must be purchased, Social Security is a benefit that can be qualified for by being of age and by working for a certain number of years (usually 10).
Life insurance is purchased by many senior citizens because it can solidify the financial security of loved ones should the buyer pass away.
While a majority was not achieved, 46.9 percent of senior citizens indicated that life insurance was an important part of their financial strategy. 34.1 percent said that the insurance product does not hold much weight for their financial plan, while 19 percent were unsure.
Considering many of LendEDU’s respondents are not sufficiently prepared for retirement, having life insurance or access to Social Security benefits could become quite pivotal for living comfortably in their later years.
All data within this report derives from an online poll commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Pollfish. In total, 1,000 respondents ages 65 and up and residing in the United States were surveyed. These respondents were found via age and location filtering on Pollfish, and then were selected at random from Pollfish’s U.S. user panel of over 100 million. The poll was conducted over a 5-day span, starting on March 26, 2018, and ending on March 30, 2018. Respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their ability.
Full Survey Results
1. What do you know about personal finance today that you didn't know when you were 25? (Select all that apply)
a. 25.95% of answers were "I know how to budget"
b. 28.68% of answers were "I know how to live within my means"
c. 15.68% of answers were "I know how to save for retirement"
d. 8.57% of answers were "I know how to invest in the stock market"
e. 14.65% of answers were "I understand how consumer credit works"
f. 6.48% of answers were "None of the above"
2. What is the biggest financial regret you have from your twenties?
a. 21.4% of respondents answered "I didn't save enough for retirement"
b. 17% of respondents answered "I spent too much money on nonessential things"
c. 12.3% of respondents answered "I didn't invest my money"
d. 5.5% of respondents answered "I made poor investment decisions"
e. 2.8% of respondents answered "I didn't save enough for my child's education"
f. 10% of respondents answered "I got myself into too much debt"
g. 5.1% of respondents answered "Took a job where I made more money but did not enjoy it"
h. 5.8% of respondents answered "Took a job where I made less money but enjoyed it"
i. 20.1% of respondents answered "None of the above"
3. Is life insurance a critical component of your financial strategy?
a. 46.9% of respondents answered "Yes"
b. 34.1% of respondents answered "No"
c. 19% of respondents answered "Unsure"
4. As of today, do you believe that you have saved enough money for retirement?
a. 26.6% of respondents answered "Yes"
b. 54.6% of respondents answered "No"
c. 18.8% of respondents answered "Unsure"
5. Are Social Security benefits a critical component of your financial strategy?
a. 25.8% of respondents answered "Yes"
b. 29.7% of respondents answered "No"
c. 44.5% of respondents answered "Unsure"
Whether you're uninsured or simply facing a high insurance deductible, you can take several steps to better manage your health care budget. Consider how the following money-saving tips can help control the rising costs of health care.
(BPT) - As Americans work hard to meet all the obligations that come with work, family and everyday life, many are challenged to find time to manage all the financial elements affecting their health care.
The details associated with health care insurance can be confusing. At the same time, you want to make smart decisions about the quality health care you and your family need.
Out-of-pocket health care spending rose by more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2017, The Atlantic recently reported, partly because half of all health insurance policyholders in the U.S. are dealing with annual deductibles of at least $1,000.
Whether you're uninsured or simply facing a high insurance deductible, you can take several steps to better manage your health care budget. Consider how the following money-saving tips can help control the rising costs of health care.
* Read bills with a critical eye. Any bill can include administrative errors, and some estimates have indicated errors on as many as 80 percent of medical invoices issued, reports the Medical Billing Advocates of America. That statistic makes it well worth your while to examine and question your expenses before you pay.
* Lower the cost of your meds. The free Inside Rx prescription savings card provides discounts on prescription medications for eligible patients. According to the data, eligible patients have saved an average of 40 percent on the more than 100 featured brand medications included in the program, and even more on generic medications. Inside Rx is an option to help the uninsured, those facing high deductibles or anyone trying to save money on their meds. Inside Rx even offers prescription savings for pets for qualifying medications. The card is free and easy to download, with no registration process.
* Compare costs whenever possible. Some medical services can be difficult to compare on an apples-to-apples basis, but it’s worth doing your homework before making appointments for more standard services such as annual check-ups, lab work and testing, dental care or dermatology services. Check vendor websites, make phone calls and conduct web searches to find online databases, such as HealthcareBluebook.com, that suggest fair prices for services. If you're insured, your insurance provider can clarify what portion of the bill will be covered.
* Be bold about negotiations. It's OK to speak up. You have nothing to lose by politely asking your health care provider to work with you on the price of an upcoming service, especially when dealing with a private practice. Start the conversation by aiming for the Medicare rate or an amount close to that paid by commercial insurers. As an alternative, ask the office administrator to set up a manageable payment plan.
* Consider paying cash up front. Some vendors offer discounts for simply paying cash for your services without funneling everything through insurance. Even if you're insured, you can still evaluate whether immediate cash payments would be lower than your post-insurance costs.
Keeping a close eye on where you might be wasting money on health care can pay off in a big way — and the remedies don’t have to be complicated. Conduct your due diligence on such costs to protect your financial health as vigorously as your physical health.
(BPT) - As our nation seeks solutions to help improve the health care system, there is at least one goal we can all agree on: the importance of making health care quality and cost information more accessible to all Americans.
This is an important effort that has the potential to help improve health outcomes and make care more affordable — laudable goals considering the nation’s health care system ranks among the least efficient in the world, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis.
More widespread use of health quality and cost resources may be part of the solution. Providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.
That is in part because there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, yet a study by Families U.S.A. concluded that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes.
Fortunately, there are many new online and mobile resources that help enable people to access health care quality and cost information, helping them to comparison shop for health care as they would with other consumer products and services. And people are starting to take action: nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.
These resources are far more accurate and useful than those of past generations, and in some cases provide people with estimates based on actual contracted rates with physicians and hospitals, including likely out-of-pocket costs based on their current health plan benefits. Some resources also include quality information about specific physicians, as determined by independent standards.
There are many resources people can consider when shopping for health care. In addition to online and mobile resources, people can call their health plan to discuss quality and cost transparency information, as well as talk with their health care professional about alternative treatment settings, including urgent care and telehealth options. Public websites, such as www.uhc.com/transparency and www.guroo.com, also can help enable access to market-average prices for hundreds of medical services in cities nationwide.
These resources can help people save money and select health care professionals based on objective information. A UnitedHealthcare analysis showed that people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care (7 percent more likely) and orthopedics (9 percent more likely). In addition, the analysis found that people who use the transparency resources before receiving health care services pay 36 percent less than non-users.
As people take greater responsibility for their health care decisions and the cost of medical treatments, transparency resources are becoming important tools to help consumers access quality care and avoid surprise medical bills.
(BPT) - More than any other demographic group, African-Americans perceive homeownership as an integral component of the American Dream, and a way to build security and wealth for their families, according to a recent survey.
The poll by Ipsos Public Affairs, conducted on behalf of Wells Fargo, found that 90 percent of African-Americans said homeownership would be a dream come true, and more than half were considering buying a home within the next two years.
However, African-Americans currently have the lowest rate of homeownership among ethnic minorities - just 42 percent, or 20 points short of the national rate, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. African-Americans are expected to represent the third largest segment among new households (renters and owners) in the U.S. by 2024.
"Americans of every demographic aspire to homeownership, but this survey indicates African-Americans place high value on the emotional and financial benefits of owning a home," says Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and head of housing policy and homeownership growth strategies for Wells Fargo. "Unfortunately, myths about down payments and credit often deter people from inquiring about loan options."
Barriers, real and imagined
Like many Americans, African-Americans want to own homes, but are often challenged by factual and perceived barriers. Real barriers include tight credit markets, lack of affordable inventory in many areas and underemployment or unemployment.
Perceived barriers are directly related to a lack of experience with the homebuying process. For example, in the Wells Fargo survey, nearly half of African-Americans believed a 20 percent down payment is necessary to buy a home. However, many home loans permit down payments of less than 20 percent. Some are as low as 3 percent.
Mortgage approval is not contingent on full-time employment, either. Homebuyers need only be able to demonstrate their ability to repay their mortgage loan, regardless of whether their income comes from a full-time or part-time job. However, 54 percent of African-Americans believed homebuyers must have full-time jobs in order to qualify for a mortgage. In some loan programs, income from others who will live in the home, such as family members or renters, can also be considered.
The survey also highlighted the possibility that some credit education could help aspiring African-American homebuyers. Eighteen percent weren't sure what constitutes a good credit score, 35 percent didn't know what minimum score they would need to qualify for a mortgage, and 20 percent didn't know their own credit score range. While lenders do consider credit scores in making mortgage decisions, credit scores are only one factor, and minimum credit scores vary based on the type of mortgage and loan amount. Homebuyer education and credit counseling could provide key information about the elements of a good credit score or how to develop a good credit profile.
Improving African-American homeownership
"Just 5 percent of homeowners are African-American, according to the National Association of Realtors," Blackwell says. "African-Americans and other minority groups should have equal access to the wealth- and stability-building benefits of homeownership. In an effort to positively impact the homeownership rate among African-Americans, Wells Fargo has committed to providing education, counseling, a more diverse sales team, and mortgages to African-Americans."
Wells Fargo recently announced plans to lend a projected $60 billion to qualified African-American consumers with the goal of increasing the number of African-American homeowners by at least 250,000 by 2027. They'll also hire more African-American mortgage consultants in an effort to make their mortgage workforce more closely aligned with the populations they serve. Finally, Wells Fargo will provide $15 million to support educational initiatives and counseling for African-American homebuyers.
Meanwhile, if you want to purchase a home, you can maximize your chances of getting approved for a mortgage with several important steps, including:
* Monitor your credit - Your credit report and score can affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage, how much you can borrow, and the interest rate and terms you'll be offered. Review your credit report and score at least once a year. You can get an annual free credit report from all three national credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
* Control other debt - Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider in mortgage applications. This ratio compares your total monthly debt to your monthly income. Keep your DTI below 36 percent by paying down credit cards, auto loans and student debt.
* Save - Even though you don't always need 20 percent down in order to qualify for a mortgage, having savings can still positively affect the mortgage process. Some financing programs allow qualified homebuyers to secure a mortgage with as little as 3 percent. Or, you may qualify for programs that benefit veterans if you've served in the military.
* Be able to prove income - Although you don't need a high income to qualify for a mortgage, you will need to be able to document your income with W2s, tax returns and other paperwork.
* Build up an emergency fund - Unexpected expenses are a reality of homeownership. An emergency fund can help you cover costs such as repairing a leaky roof or replacing a broken-down appliance. Lenders are also likely to view you as more financially responsible if you have six months' worth of expenses saved up.
To learn more about homebuying and to find a mortgage professional near you, visit www.wellsfargo.com.
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