A Guide to Consolidating and Refinancing Student Loans

Student loan consolidation and refinancing can help you manage your debts, reducing monthly payments, creating more favorable terms, and ensuring you have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. 

But how do these payoff strategies work, what are the differences between private loans and federal loans, and how much money can consolidation save you?

Private and Federal Student Loan Consolidation

Federal student loan consolidation can combine multiple federal loans into one. Private consolidation can combine both federal loans and private loans into a new private loan. The act of consolidation can improve your debt-to-income ratio, which can help when applying for a mortgage and greatly improve your financial situation.

Which Loans Qualify for Student Loan Consolidation?

You can generally consolidate all student loans, including Federal Perkins loans, Direct loans, and other federal loans, as well as those from private lenders. You cannot consolidate private loans with federal loans, but you can consolidate them with other private loans.

What Should you Think About Before Consolidating Student Loans?

Consolidating isn’t just something to consider if you’re struggling to meet current terms. In fact, private lenders often require a minimum credit score in the high-600s and you’ll also need to have a stable income (or a cosigner) and a history of at least a few punctual payments.

Federal student loans are a little easier to consolidate and available to more borrowers, including those looking to qualify for income-based repayment or student loan forgiveness schemes.

In either case, it can reduce your monthly payments, making your loans more manageable.

How to Consolidate Private Student Loans

Some of the private lenders offering this service include:

  • LendKey
  • Citizens One
  • CommonBond
  • SoFi
  • Earnest

The rate you receive will depend on your credit score and whether you opt for a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate, but generally, they range from 3% to 8%. Each lender has their own set of terms and requirements, but they’ll often require you to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have no more than $150,000 in debt
  • Be the main borrower (not the cosigner)
  • Complete a credit check

The lender will run some basic checks to determine your creditworthiness before offering you a consolidation sum that will clear your debts and leave you with a single monthly payment. There are different types of private loan depending on whether you’re applying to consolidate just private loans or both federal loans and private loans.

If you only have federal loans, you should apply for federal student loan consolidation instead.

What Will I Pay?

The main goal of student loan consolidation is to reduce your monthly payment. If you have a strong credit score you can get a reduced interest rate and may even benefit from a reduced repayment term. However, as with most forms of consolidation, it’s all about reducing that monthly payment, improving your debt to income ratio and increasing the money you have leftover every month.

Shop around, consider all loan terms carefully, run some calculations to make sure you can meet the monthly payment, and compare repayment options to find something suitable for you.

Don’t feel like you need to jump at the first offer you receive. A personal loan application can show on your credit report and reduce your credit score by as much as 5 points, but multiple applications with multiple private lenders will be classed as “rate shopping”, providing they all occur within 14 days (some credit scoring systems allow for 30 or 45 days).

How Federal Debt Consolidation Loan Works

Federal student loan consolidation won’t reduce your interest rate, but it does make your repayments easier by rolling multiple payments into one and there is no minimum credit score requirement either.

When you consolidate federal student loans, the government basically clears your existing debt and then replaces it with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

You can consolidate directly through the government, with the loan being handled by the Department of Education. There are companies out there that claim to provide federal student loan consolidation on behalf of the government, but some of these are scams and the others are unnecessary—you can do it all yourself.

You can apply for consolidation once you graduate or leave school and you will be given an extended loan term between 10 and 30 years.

Just visit the StudentLoans.gov website to go through this process and find a repayment plan that suits you.

What is Student Loan Refinancing?

Student loan refinancing is very similar to consolidation and the two are often used interchangeably. In both cases, you apply for a new loan and this is used to pay off the old one(s), but refinancing is only offered by private lenders and can be used to “refinance” a single loan.

The process is the same for both and in most cases, you’ll see “consolidation” being used for federal loans and “refinancing” for private loans.

Student Loan Forgiveness and Other Options

You may qualify to have your federal student loans fully or partially forgiven. This is true whether you have previously been accepted or refused for repayment plans and it can help to lift this significant burden off your shoulders.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): Offered to government workers and employees with qualifying non-profit companies. You can have your federal loans forgiven after making 120-payments. This program works best with income-focused repayment plans, otherwise, you may have very little left to forgive (if anything) after that period.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Teachers can have their federal student loans partially forgiven if they have been employed in low-income schools for at least five years. They can have up to $17,500 forgiven.
  • Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses: Nurses can qualify for PSLF and this is often the best option for getting federal student loans forgiven or reduced. However, there are a couple of highly competitive options, including the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.

There are also Income-Driven Repayment Plans, which is definitely an option worth considering.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

An income-focused repayment plan is tied to your earnings, taking between 10% and 20% of your earnings, before being forgiven completely after 20 or 25 years. There are four plans:

  • Pay as you Earn (PAYE): If you have graduate loans and are married with two incomes then you may qualify.
  • Revised Pay as you Earn (REPAYE): Offered to individuals who are single, don’t have graduate loans, and have the potential to become high earners.
  • Income-Based Repayment: If you have federal student loans but don’t qualify for PAYE.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment: If you have Parent Plus loans and are seeking a reduced monthly payment.

These programs can greatly reduce your monthly payment and your obligations, but they are not without their disadvantages. For instance, they will seek to extend the repayment term to over 20 years, which will greatly increase the total interest you pay. If anything is forgiven, you may also pay taxes on the forgiven amount.

You can discuss the right option for you with your loan servicer, looking at the payment term in addition to your current circumstances and projected income as well as your student loan terms.

Conclusion: Help and More Information

Student loan refinancing and consolidation can help whether you’re struggling with federal loans or private loans, and there are multiple options available, as discussed in this guide. If you have credit card debt, personal loan debt, and other obligations weighing you down, you may also benefit from a debt management plan, balance transfer credit card, or a debt settlement program.

You can find information on all these programs on this site, as well as everything else you could ever want to know about federal student loans and private loans.

A Guide to Consolidating and Refinancing Student Loans is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes

Buying a home, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer, can be daunting and nerve racking.

But it does not have to be. LendingTree’s online loan marketplace has got you covered – at least when it comes to getting a mortgage.

A 2016 study by the Office of Research of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection reveals that prospective buyers who shop for a mortgage when buying a home for the first time report “increases consumers’ knowledge of the mortgage market and increases consumers’ self confidence in their ability to deal with mortgage related issues.”

The importance of shopping for a mortgage as a first-time home buyer is that it saves you money in the long term and “reduces the cost of consumers’ mortgages,” the study found.

The home-buying process can be intimidating. So being aware of these mistakes when buying a home for the first time can help you save thousands and thousands of dollars in the long term.

Tips for Buying a Home
To guide you through a major financial decision like the purchase of a home, you may want to talk to a financial advisor.

Luckily, SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool can help you find a suitable financial advisor in your area to work with.

Get started now.

10 Mistakes to avoid when buying a home for the first time.

1. Not knowing your credit score.

We are all aware that the higher your credit score, the better.
Yet, despite this fact, many people fail to check their credit score before
buying their first home.

And a low credit score can lead to a high interest mortgage loan, or even worse, a loan rejection. Given the fact that your credit score is the number 1 item mortgage lender looks at, it pays off to know where you stand.

Credit Sesame will let you know what your credit score is for free and monitor it for you. It will also offer tips on how to raise your credit score and reduce your debt.

Just sign up for a free account – it only takes 90 seconds.

2. Not shopping and comparing mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates and fees vary across lenders. In other words, two applicants with the identical credentials can get different mortgage rates. Despite this, however, many fist-time homebuyers fail to shop and compare mortgage rates before buying their first home.

The study reveals that 30 percent first time homebuyers do not
compare and shop for their mortgages, and more than 75 percent reported
applying for a mortgage with only one mortgage lender.

The study further reveals that “failing to comparison shop for a
mortgage costs the average homebuyer approximately $300 per year and many thousands
of dollars over the life of the loan.”

An easy way to shop and compare for a mortgage is with LendingTree. Their simple and straightforward platform can help you find and apply for the right loan all in one place.

3. Sticking with the first mortgage lender you meet.

While it’s tempting to work with your local mortgage lender who’s
only a few blocks away from your home, this decision requires more time. Take
time to meet with at least three mortgage lenders before picking the best match
for you.

Fortunately, LendingTree free online platform, allows you to quickly browse several mortgage rates with several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

4. Not knowing what loans are available to you.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, one thing you need to address is what types of loans are available to me. Sometimes the answer to this can be quite simple: conventional loan. This is because most people know about this type of loan.

But conventional loan requires at least 20% down payment. And the credit score needs to be in the 700. *Note: You can put less than 20% down payment, but you will have to pay for a private insurance mortgage (PMI).

Sometimes it’s not feasible to come up with that type of money as a first time home buyer. So knowing if other loans are available to you is very important.

FHA loan

One type of loan that is popular among first time home buyers is FHA loan. It is so popular because it’s easier to get qualified for it. And the down payment is very little comparing to that of a conventional loan.

For example, FHA loans require a 580 credit score and a down payment as low as 3.5% of the home purchase price. This makes it easier to qualify for a home loan when you’re on a low income.

VA loans

VA loans are another great option for first-time homebuyers. However, you have to be a veteran. Unlike a FHA or a conventional loan, VA loans require no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This can save you thousands of dollars per year.

So if you’re in market for a loan to buy your first home, you need to educate yourself about the different available loans.


Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally

When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary. LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage rates from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better. Get started today >>>


5. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first time home buying mistakes you should avoid making is not getting a pre-approval letter. You can simply contact a lender and request it. The mortgage lender will pull your credit report to make sure you have the minimum credit score requirement.

They will also need your bank statements, W2s, recent income tax returns, pay-stubs to verify your employment and ability to afford the loan.

Why this is important? A pre-approval letter means that you’re a serious buyer. It signals that you’re able to commit to the house once an offer has been accepted. It also makes you more desirable than the other potential buyers.

Get a Pre-Approval for a Mortgage Today

6. Not knowing how much you can afford

Buying a home is probably going to be the biggest expenses you’ve ever made. But buying a house you cannot afford can lead to financial trouble along the road. Paying an expensive mortgage for 15 to 30 years on a low income can be hard.

So it pays to know how much house you can afford before you start searching for your home.

The best way to know how much house you can afford is to look at your budget. Take into account your expenses and income and other costs associated with owning a home.

7. Not knowing other upfront costs

If you think that the only cost to buying a home is a down payment, then think again. There are several upfront costs associated with owning a house. These upfront costs include private mortgage insurance, inspection costs, loan application fees, repair costs, moving costs, appraisal costs, earnest money, home association dues.

As a first time home buyer, this may come to you as a surprise. So, be ready to have enough money to cover these costs.

8. Failure to inspect your home.

Although some banks would prefer you inspect your home before they offer you a loan, it’s not mandatory. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do it. Not inspecting your home can cost you a lot. Inspection discovers defects that you may not know about. Inspection costs can be anywhere from $300 to $700.

Don’t be stingy with these costs. It’s better to find out about any hidden defects , like a faulty wiring and plumbing, than finding about them later. To avoid regretting your decision or having to spend thousand of dollars on repairs down the road, consider an inspector.

9. Failure to check out the neighborhood.

Just because the street or the neighborhood your potential house is located is quiet or is not run down doesn’t mean crime is not a problem. So before buying your home, you should check out the neighborhood. Take a trip at night to get a feeling of the environment. Talk to residents. Most importantly, check with the local police station – they can be a great resource when it comes to crime rates in a particular location. This is simply one of the first time home buying tips you shouldn’t ignore.

10. Searching for a mortgage on your own.

There are several mortgage lenders available to you. But choosing one that is right for you can be tough.

The LendingTree online platform makes it easy and simple for you to find the right home loan for you. Now you can get matched up to several mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time. And the whole process just takes a few minutes.

Follow these steps to get matched with the right mortgage:

  1. Go to www.lendingtree.com;
  2. Answer a few questions regarding the type pf loan yo need and you’ll use it. Within a few seconds, you’ll see multiple, competing offers from several lenders;
  3. You then shop and compare offers side by side.

Ready to get started? Find your best loan!

The bottom line is when it comes to buying a home for the first time, you should not take any shortcut. Doing so can cost a lot of money down the road. So before buying your first home, make sure you get the right mortgage loan, inspect the home, and have enough money to cover some of the upfront and ongoing costs associated with owning a house.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

Still looking for first time home buying tips? You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

The coronavirus economic relief package for workers and small businesses can be confusing. Who qualifies for what programs? How do you apply successfully?

If you’ve been laid off or had your work hours cut due to the pandemic, you're eligible for both state and federal unemployment compensation. That’s a pretty straightforward situation.

If you run a business that’s been hurt by the economic downturn and you have employees, you qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It’s a loan backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that offers relief if you want to continue paying your employees, even if they can’t do their jobs during the health crisis. If you use PPP funds for approved business expenses, such as payroll, rent, and utilities, you don’t have to repay the loan.

Additionally, there are other types of loans you can get through the SBA, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). It comes with potentially higher loan amounts than the PPP but must be repaid. You may also qualify for an Economic Injury Disaster Grant (EIDG), which pays businesses $1,000 per employee, up to a $10,000 maximum, and doesn’t have to be repaid.

Whether you call yourself a full or part-time freelancer, gig worker, or an independent contractor, you’re still a small business. If you’ve suffered financially due to the pandemic, you have several options to get relief.

But what’s been unclear are the options for the self-employed who have no employees except themselves. Whether you call yourself a full or part-time freelancer, gig worker, or an independent contractor, you’re still a small business. If you’ve suffered financially due to the pandemic, you have several options to get relief.

I interviewed Gerri Detweiler, a nationally recognized financing and credit expert with more than 20 years of experience. She’s the Education Director for Nav, a trusted financing partner for more than 1.2 million businesses. Gerri gives Nav’s customers certainty in an uncertain world through expertise and actionable advice. 

On the Money Girl podcast, Gerri and I cut through the confusion to help businesses of any size, including solopreneurs, understand how to get economic relief during the coronavirus crisis. We cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Understanding the coronavirus relief options for businesses, the self-employed, and the unemployed
  • Whether a solopreneur should file for unemployment or the PPP
  • Documents you need to prepare before applying for an SBA-backed loan
  • How business credit is different from consumer credit
  • Common mistakes that keep businesses and the self-employed from qualifying for economic relief
  • Tips to make sure a PPP loan you receive will be forgiven
  • How consumers who are struggling to pay bills can protect themselves from debt collectors

Listen to the interview using the embedded audio player or on Apple PodcastsSoundCloudStitcher, and Spotify.

If you’re a struggling entrepreneur, check out these resources to understand your options:

11 Options If Your Small Business Can’t Pay Its Bills Due to Coronavirus

Applying for a Business Loan Is Changing Due to COVID-19: Here’s What It Means

How to Apply for a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) Loan

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation

Inflation measures how much an economy rises over time, comparing the average price of a basket of goods from one point in time to another. Understanding inflation is an important element of investing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator shows that $5.00 in September 2000 has the purchasing power equal to $7.49 in September 2020. To continue to afford necessities, your income must pace or rise above the rate of inflation. If your income didn’t rise along with inflation, you couldn’t afford that same pizza in September 2020 — even if your income never changed.

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment.

For investors, inflation represents a real problem. If your investment isn’t growing faster than inflation you could technically end up losing money instead of growing your wealth. That’s why many investors look for stable and secure places to invest their wealth. Ideally, in investment vehicles that guarantee a return that’ll outpace inflation. 

These investments are commonly known as “inflation hedges”. 

5 Top Inflations Hedges to Know

Depending on your risk tolerance, you probably wouldn’t want to keep all of your wealth in inflation hedges. Although they might be secure, they also tend to earn minimal returns. You’ll unlikely get rich from these assets, but it’s also unlikely you’ll lose money. 

Many investors turn to these secure investments when they notice an inflationary environment is gaining momentum. Here’s what you should know about the most common inflation hedges.

1. Gold

Some say gold is over-hyped, because not only does it not pay interest or dividends, but it also does poorly when the economy is doing well. Central banks, who own most of the world’s gold, can also deflate its price by selling some of its stockpile. Gold’s popularity might be partially linked to the “gold standard”, which is the way countries used to value its currency. The U.S. hasn’t used the gold standard since 1933.

Still, gold’s stability in a crisis could be good for investors who need to diversify their assets or for someone who’s very risk-averse. 

If you want to buy physical gold, you can get gold bars or coins — but these can be risky to store and cumbersome to sell. It can also be hard to determine their value if they have a commemorative or artistic design or are gold-plated. Another option is to buy gold stocks or mutual funds. 

Is gold right for you? You’ll need to determine how much risk you’re willing to tolerate with your investments since gold offers a low risk but also a low reward. 

Pros

  • Physical asset: Gold is a physical asset in limited supply so it tends to hold its value. 
  • Low correlation: Creating a diversified portfolio means investing in asset classes that don’t move together. Gold has a relatively low correlation to many popular asset classes, helping you potentially hedge your risk.
  • Performs well in recessions: Since many investors see gold as a hedge against uncertainty, it is often in high demand during a recession.

Cons

  • No dividends: Gold doesn’t pay any dividends; the only way to make money on gold is to sell it. 
  • Speculative: Gold creates no value on its own. It’s not a business that builds products or employs workers, thereby growing the economy. Its price is merely driven by supply and demand.
  • Not good during low inflation: Since gold doesn’t have a huge upside, during periods of low inflation investors generally prefer taking larger risks and will thereby sell gold, driving down its price.

2. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Buying real estate can be messy — it takes a long time, there are many extra fees, and at the end of the process, you have a property you need to manage. Buying REITs, however, is simple.

REITs provide a hedge for investors who need to diversify their portfolio and want to do so by getting into real estate. They’re listed on major stock exchanges and you can buy shares in them like you would any other stock.

If you’re considering a REIT as an inflation hedge you’ll want to start your investment process by researching which REITs you’re interested in. There are REITs in many industries such as health care, mortgage or retail. 

Choose an industry that you feel most comfortable with, then assess the specific REITs in that industry. Look at their balance sheets and review how much debt they have. Since REITs must give 90% of their income to shareholders they often use debt to finance their growth. A REIT that carries a lot of debt is a red flag.

Pros

  • No corporate tax: No matter how profitable they become, REITs pay zero corporate tax.
  • High dividends: REITs must disperse at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, most pay out 100%.
  • Diversified class: REITs give you a way to invest in real estate and diversify your assets if you’re primarily invested in equities.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate: REITs can react strongly to interest rate increases.
  • Large tax consequences: The government treats REITs as ordinary income, so you won’t receive the reduced tax rate that the government uses to assess other dividends.
  • Based on property values: The value of your shares in a REIT will fall if property values decline.

3. Aggregate Bond Index

A bond is an investment security — basically an agreement that an investor will lend money for a specified time period. You earn a return when the entity to whom you loaned money pays you back, with interest. A bond index fund invests in a portfolio of bonds that hope to perform similarly to an identified index. Bonds are typically considered to be safe investments, but the bond market can be complicated.

If you’re just getting started with investing, or if you don’t have time to research the bond market, an aggregate bond index can be helpful because it has diversification built into its premise. 

Of course, with an aggregate bond index you run the risk that the value of your investment will decrease as interest rates increase. This is a common risk if you’re investing in bonds — as the interest rate rises, older issued bonds can’t compete with new bonds that earn a higher return for their investors. 

Be sure to weigh the credit risk to see how likely it is that the bond index will be downgraded. You can determine this by reviewing its credit rating. 

Pros

  • Diversification: You can invest in several bond types with varying durations, all within the same fund.
  • Good for passive investment: Bond index funds require less active management to maintain, simplifying the process of investing in bonds.
  • Consistency: Bond indexes pay a return that’s consistent with the market. You’re not going to win big, but you probably won’t lose big either.

Cons

  • Sensitive to interest rate fluctuations: Bond index funds invested in government securities (a common investment) are particularly sensitive to changes to the federal interest rate.
  • Low reward: Bond index funds are typically stable investments, but will likely generate smaller returns over time than a riskier investment.

4. 60/40 Portfolio

Financial advisors used to highly recommend a 60/40 stock-bond mix to create a diversified investment portfolio that hedged against inflation. However, in recent years that advice has come under scrutiny and many leading financial experts no longer recommend this approach. 

Instead, investors recommend even more diversification and what’s called an “environmentally balanced” portfolio which offers more consistency and does better in down markets. If you’re considering a 60/40 mix, do your research to compare how this performs against an environmentally balanced approach over time before making your final decision.

Pros

  • Simple rule of thumb: Learning how to diversify your portfolio can be hard, the 60/40 method simplifies the process.
  • Low risk: The bond portion of the diversified portfolio serves to mitigate the risk and hedge against inflation.
  • Low cost: You likely don’t have to pay an advisor to help you build a 60/40 portfolio, which can eliminate some of the cost associated with investing.

Cons

  • Not enough diversification: Financial managers are now suggesting even greater diversification with additional asset classes, beyond stocks and bonds.
  • Not a high enough return: New monetary policies and the growth of digital technology are just a few of the reasons why the 60/40 mix doesn’t perform in current times the same way it did during the peak of its popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.

5. Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS)

Since TIPS are indexed for inflation they’re one of the most reliable ways to guard yourself against high inflation. Also, every six months they pay interest, which could provide you with a small return. 

You can buy TIPS from the Treasury Direct system in maturities of five, 10 or 30 years. Keep in mind that there’s always the risk of deflation when it comes to TIPS. You’re always guaranteed a minimum of your original principal at maturity, but inflation could impact your interest earnings.

Pros

  • Low risk: Treasury bonds are backed by the federal government. 
  • Indexed for inflation: TIPS will automatically increase its principle to compensate for inflation. You’ll never receive less than your principal at maturity.
  • Interest payments keep pace with inflation: The interest rate is determined based on the inflation-adjusted principal. 

Cons

  • Low rate of return: The interest rate is typically very low, other secure investments that don’t adjust for inflation could be higher. 
  • Most desirable in times of high inflation: Since the rate of return for TIPS is so low, the only way to get a lot of value from this investment is to hold it during a time when inflation increases and you need protection. If inflation doesn’t increase, there could be a significant opportunity cost.

The Bottom Line 

Inflation represents a real risk for investors as it could erode the principal value of your investment. Make sure your investments are keeping pace with inflation, at a minimum. 

Inflation hedges can protect some of your assets from inflation. Although you don’t always have to put your money in inflation hedges, they can be helpful if you notice the market is heading into an inflationary period. 

The post 5 Best Hedges in the Face of Inflation appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out

When it comes to making a 401k early withdrawal, there are a number of reasons why it might be tempting. With millions still unemployed due to the pandemic, unexpected expenses are taking a particularly hard toll. One reason why early withdrawal isn’t uncommon in the U.S. might be because it’s easy to assume you’ll have time to rebuild your 401k nest egg.

However, is the benefit of withdrawing your retirement savings early truly worth the cost? For many people, their 401k is their primary method of investing in their financial future. Before making a decision about early withdrawal, it’s important to consider the penalties and fees that could impact you. Read on to learn exactly what happens when you decide to dip into your 401k so you won’t be surprised by the repercussions.

How Much Are You Penalized for a 401k Early Withdrawal?

On the surface, withdrawing funds from your 401k might not seem like a bad option under extenuating circumstances, but you could face penalties. Young adults are especially prone to early withdrawals because they figure they have plenty of time to replace lost funds.

 

401k early withdrawal penalties

 

If you’re not experiencing a significant hardship, 401k early withdrawal probably isn’t the right choice for you. Ultimately, you could lose a substantial portion of your retirement savings if you choose to withdraw your 401k early to use the money to make other risky financial moves. Below, let’s delve further into the penalties that usually apply when you withdraw early.

1) Your Taxes Are Withheld

When you prematurely withdraw from your retirement account, your first consideration should be that you’ll have to pay normal income taxes on that money first. This means you’re losing at least roughly 30 percent of your savings to federal and state taxes before additional penalties.

Even if you only have $10,000 you want to withdraw, consider that you’re automatically giving $3,000 of your cash to the government. In the best case scenario, you might receive some money back in the form of a tax refund if your withholding exceeds your actual tax liability.

2) You Are Penalized by the IRS

If you withdraw money from your 401k before you’re 59 ½ , the IRS penalizes you with an extra 10 percent on those funds when you file your tax return. If we use the example above, an additional $1,000 would be taken by the government from your $10,000 — leaving you with just $6,000. If you’re 55 or older, you could try to get this penalty lifted by the IRS through the Rule of 55, which is designed for people retiring early.

Also, there are exceptions under the CARES Act, which is designed to help people affected by the pandemic. There are provisions under the act that state individuals under the age of 59 ½ can take up to $100,000 in Coronavirus-related early distributions from their retirement plans without facing the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty under certain conditions.

3) You Lose Thousands in Potential Growth

Even if you’re not deterred by tax penalties, think twice before you sabotage your long-term retirement savings goals. When you withdraw money early, you’ll miss out on potential future savings growth because you won’t gain the perks of compound interest. Compounding is the snowball effect resulting from your savings generating more earnings — not only on your principal investment but also on your accrued interest.

Also, if you make a 401k early withdrawal while the market is down, you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’ll be leaving thousands on the table. It’s unlikely you’ll fully recover the lost years of compound interest you would have benefited from. You might need to get creative with a passive income stream to help support you later in life.

 

tips to minimize 401k withdrawal penalties

 

When Does a 401k Early Withdrawal Make Sense?

In certain cases, it actually might be strategic to move forward with 401k early withdrawal. For example, it could be smart to cash out some of your 401k to pay off a loan with a high-interest rate, like 18–20 percent. You might be better off using alternative methods to pay off debt such as acquiring a 401k loan rather than actually withdrawing the money.

Always weigh the cost of interest against tax penalties before making your decision. Some 401k plans do allow for penalty-free early withdrawals due to a layoff, major medical expenses, home-related costs, college tuition, and more. Regardless of your strategy to withdraw with the least penalties, your retirement savings are still taking a significant hit.

401k Early Withdrawal, Hardship, or Loan: What’s the Difference?

Knowing the differences between a 401k early withdrawal, a hardship withdrawal, and a 401k loan is crucial. Due to the many obstacles to make a 401k early withdrawal, you may find you want to keep it untouched. If you’re convinced you still need to use your 401k for financial assistance, consult with a trusted financial advisor to figure out the best option.

When Does This Apply?

Taxes and
Penalties

Early Withdrawal

Your funds are withdrawn to pay off large debts or finance large projects. Your 401k fund is typically subject to taxes and penalties.

Hardship Withdrawal

You’re only eligible for this type of withdrawal under circumstances such as a pandemic or natural disasters. Withdrawals can’t exceed the amount of the need and the funds are still subject to taxes and penalties.

401k Loan

The loan must be paid back to the borrower’s retirement account under the plan. The money isn’t taxed if the loan meets the rules and the repayment schedule is followed.

Additional Considerations

If you’ve left a job and don’t know what to do with your Roth IRA, a 401k transfer is a good option. Most likely, you will save money and have a wider range of investment options when you transfer your funds. 401k fees can be high, and rolling over your funds to a Roth IRA account could be wise in the long run. Also, be aware that the process is more complicated for indirect rollovers. 

In Summary:

  • If you’re one of the millions of Americans who rely on workplace retirement savings, early 401k withdrawal may jeopardize your future financial stability.
  • There are very few instances when cashing out a portion of your 401k is a smart move.
  • In most cases, any kind of early 401k withdrawal is detrimental to your retirement plans.
  • Stick to your budget and bulk up your emergency fund to stay one step ahead.

In short, 401k early withdrawals are usually counterproductive. Prevent compromising your hard-earned savings by using a free budgeting tool that will set you up for success. After all, being prepared and informed are two of the most important parts of maintaining financial health.

Source: SEC

The post 401k Early Withdrawal: What to Know Before You Cash Out appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance?

Before I started writing in the personal finance space, I spent nearly 8 years working alongside my husband in a funeral home. My husband Greg worked as a mortician, and I was the Director of Family Services. I learned so much about living and dying during my years in the mortuary business, but there’s one that stuck with me — the real-life consequences of not having life insurance. 

I clearly remember speaking with dumbfounded families who couldn’t believe their husband or father (or wife or mother) never had life insurance in place. Some didn’t have enough money to cover final expenses like the funeral bill, and others confided in me they had no idea how they would pay their bills.

This saddened me greatly since I know first-hand how inexpensive life insurance can be — especially if you’re young and healthy. After all, I’m a 40-year-old woman and I currently have two term policies worth $1 million dollars that set me back a grand total of $53 per month. 

Why People Don’t Buy Life Insurance

The main reason consumers don’t buy this important coverage is simple — they get busy and forget. Most of us know we need life insurance in place during our working years, and that’s especially true for those of us with kids. But it’s easy to let life get in the way, and for the purchase of life insurance to wind up on a list of other to-dos that we never get to. 

Not only that, but people don’t want to think about dying. I specifically remember a family I met in the funeral home who just lost a husband and father who wasn’t even 40-years-old. In tears, his wife explained that he had told her he was going to buy life insurance dozens of times, but that he hated even dealing with death. He had a $20,000 life insurance policy through work, and he knew he needed more, but he didn’t want to face his mortality in his free time. Unfortunately, his family paid dearly for that decision.

A final reason people don’t buy life insurance is cost. The thing is, term coverage is so cheap that almost anyone can afford it. People just think it’s expensive, so they shy away from taking the next steps. Life insurance is also just another bill to pay, and many can barely keep up with the bills they have.

That’s probably why so few people have enough coverage. Here are some statistics that should scare you:

  • Only around 60 percent of Americans had life insurance in 2018, according to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study
  • Among those with life insurance, 1 in 5 people know they do not have enough
  • Consumers surveyed tend to overprice life insurance; millennials in particular believe that life insurance costs 5x the actual amount for a policy

Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance

Based on those statistics, not enough people have life insurance and those who do may not have enough coverage to last. But, what can this mean for your family? Here are the main downsides you’ll face when you don’t buy life insurance now, before it’s too late:

Your Income Disappears

Income replacement is one of the most compelling reasons to buy life insurance, and that’s especially true if you have kids. You don’t want your income to suddenly disappear, leaving your family in the lurch. However, this is exactly what happens when you die without life insurance. All of a sudden, your family is left trying to cover regular bills and living expenses without your income.

That’s why many experts suggest buying at least 10x your income in term life insurance coverage. This way, your family will have some cash they can use to replace your income while they mourn and get back on their feet.

Your Debts Don’t 

Your income may disappear when you die, but your debts certainly don’t. With that in mind, you should buy life insurance coverage that will cover major debts you have like your home mortgage, your family car loans, and any credit card debt you have.

If you don’t buy life insurance and you die before your time, your family will be left trying to cover all your debts without your help. It’s shameful to leave them in this position — especially when term life insurance coverage can easily be purchased for the price of a dinner out per month. 

Your Family Could Need a GoFundMe to Pay for Your Funeral

During my final years in the funeral industry, GoFundMe came about. I cannot tell you how many families came in to plan their services without any money only to find that, no, the funeral home wouldn’t let them make payments. After that, they’d set up a GoFundMe and solicit donations from family and friends to pay for a service. 

This always made me sad, mostly because families shouldn’t have to struggle or fundraise to pay for final expenses. I always thought that, if only their loved one had a small term life insurance policy, they would have been able to grieve without the added stress.

You Will Not Leave a Legacy

Finally, life insurance offers you the chance to leave a legacy behind. This could mean leaving enough money to pay for college tuition for your children, or having a broad enough policy so your spouse or partner never needs to work again, paving the way for them to stay home and nurture your kids. When you have enough life insurance so your family is taken care of, they will never forget it.

The opposite is also true. Many whose loved ones die without life insurance wind up angry and resentful at their partner for leaving them in such a position. I know because I saw it with my own eyes, and I felt their exasperation as they tried to figure out what to do.

Purchase Life Insurance the Painless Way

Here’s the thing: Buying life insurance doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. I know because I have purchased $1 million in life insurance coverage, and because the second policy I bought online didn’t even require a medical exam. 

The purchase of life insurance can be painless and fast if you plan to buy basic term coverage, and it can also be significantly cheaper than you think it would be. These tips can help you get the coverage you need without any added hassle or stress.

1. Shop Around and Compare Quotes Online

First, you should absolutely shop around and compare life insurance quotes online, mostly because this is such an easy task. A range of online life insurance providers including Haven Life and Bestow make it easy to price out a policy in a matter of minutes online. 

To get a quote from Bestow or Haven Life, for example, all you need to supply is your birth date, your height, your weight, and your zip code. You don’t even need to enter your contact information or your email to get a free quote with either company.

You can also check out our guide to the Best Life Insurance Companies of 2021, which lets you read reviews of all the top providers and compare rates from multiple providers in one place. 

Whatever you do, don’t go with the first life insurance company you come across. Make sure you compare policies in terms of their monthly cost, the amount of coverage, and how long it lasts. Then, and only then, can you know you’re getting the best deal.

2. Play Around with Coverage Amounts

You also need to have a general idea of how much coverage you want and need. We mentioned that most experts suggest buying at least 10x your income in life insurance coverage, but it may be prudent to buy more term coverage than you need. After all, there’s no such thing as having too much life insurance in place, but you can definitely not have enough.

You’ll also want to decide how long you want your policy to last. Most term life insurance policies last for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, letting you tailor your policy to your needs.

If you’re young and you have young kids, you may want a 30-year policy that will provide income replacement for your entire working life. If you’re in your 40’s and you plan to retire at 55, on the other hand, you may feel comfortable with a policy that lasts for 15 or 20 years. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer, but these are factors you should consider.

3. Look for Providers that Don’t Require a Medical Exam

According to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer Study, half of all consumers say they are “more likely to purchase life insurance if priced without a physical examination.” And, can you blame them? Medical exams require a blood draw, and you have to set aside time in your schedule for them to boot. It’s easy to procrastinate and never buy a policy when a medical exam is required.

Fortunately, many life insurance providers don’t require a medical exam. Instead, they rely on algorithms to determine who is the greatest risk, and who can purchase coverage that begins right away. The second policy I purchased for myself came from Haven Life, and it did not require a medical exam. 

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I was in my late 30’s when I purchased this policy for $750,000, and I only pay around $27 per month. I applied for this policy online and had coverage the next day, and all without seeing a nurse or facing the dreaded needle prick.

The Bottom Line

Since you took the time to read this piece, you are probably on the verge of buying life insurance. You already know you need it, so don’t let another day go buy without coverage. You may not think something could happen to you in the next week or the next few months, but life doesn’t always go as planned. If you’re unlucky, your untimely death may be no exception.

Take the time to get a quote for life insurance, and you’ll never have to wonder what your family would do if you died. Life insurance lets you continue providing for them even after you’ve left this Earth, and there’s nothing more thoughtful and loving than that. 

The post What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

At some point, most people experience an unexpected crisis that shakes their financial world. It could be losing a job, receiving a huge medical bill, or having a car break down at the worst possible time. But surviving a pandemic is a situation you probably never thought you would face.

No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first.

Along with the public health toll, the COVID crisis has put millions of people out of work. For those struggling financially, here are eight critical rules to help you manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back from this unprecedented health and economic disaster.

8 rules for managing a financial hardship

Here are the details about each rule to manage a financial setback during the coronavirus crisis.

Rule #1: Accept your situation and use your resources to seek help

The key to successfully navigating a financial setback is to be realistic. If you’re in denial and don’t face money troubles head-on, you can quickly compound the damage.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions. Start talking about your challenges with people and professionals you trust, such as a money-savvy family member, financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
  • The Financial Planning Association
  • Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Skipping Renters Insurance? Why That’s a Bigger Risk Than You’d Think

As a finance writer, I am surrounded by people who know a lot about managing money. But even those with the most money know-how can still miss financial must-haves.

For instance, in a recent conversation, a few of my coworkers stated they didn’t have renters insurance. This puts them among the 59% of renters who don’t have renters insurance, according to a poll from the Insurance Information Institute. On the other hand, 95% of homeowners carry homeowners insurance.

Granted, renting comes with fewer property responsibilities than owning. But don’t assume you can skip insurance for your home simply because you’re leasing it. Go without it and you’ll expose yourself to some major risks.

See why opting for a policy is protection you can’t live without, and learn how renters insurance can help smooth over the following five major renting crises.

1. Damaged Belongings

If you’re asking yourself whether you need insurance as a renter, a better question might be, Can you afford not to have it?

If the relatively small cost of a renters insurance premium—typically between $15 and $25 per month—seems too expensive, consider the alternative, suggests John Espenschied, agency principal of Insurance Brokers Group.

“Imagine replacing all your clothes, furniture, electronics, food, personal items, and priceless personal memorabilia,” he says. With renters insurance, the insurer will cover most or part of the value of damaged items. Without this coverage, you’re completely on the hook for all those costs.

Espenschied tells a story of one of his clients, a young woman to whom he recommended rental insurance multiple times. She declined the coverage.

Months later, there was an electrical surge in the building. “It took out everything she owned that was plugged in, including the TV, computer, and several other items,” Espenschied explains. These items were permanently damaged and unusable.

Had she opted for renters insurance, Espenschied could have helped her submit a claim and get the money to replace those belongings. Unfortunately, without the policy there was nothing he could do.

Don’t put yourself in the same position—get a renters insurance policy. On top of that, take steps to document all belongings and valuables so you can prove ownership in a renters insurance claim.

2. The Temporary Loss of a Habitable Home

Some disasters—such as fires, flooding, and electrical issues—can require extensive repairs and render your rental uninhabitable. Your landlord will usually handle these repairs, but if you lose the use of your home, your landlord might only be required to refund a prorated rent for the days you can’t live in your rental.

But if you’re out of a place to live, your daily rent rate might not cover any decent hotels or other temporary housing options.

But there’s good news: “Most renters insurance policies can help you in the event something happens to your apartment or house and you have to live elsewhere while it’s repaired,” says Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO and cofounder of insurance comparison site PolicyGenius.

Typically, you can find a hotel nearby and your renters insurance will cover the costs of your stay until you can resume habitation of your home.

3. Stolen Belongings

Renters insurance typically includes coverage for theft and burglary too. If your home is broken into or burglarized, you can file a claim with your renters insurance provider to replace any stolen or damaged items.

“It even covers your belongings when they’re not physically in your home,” Fitzgerald says. “So if you take your laptop with you to the local coffee shop or on vacation and it’s stolen, your policy could help cover the costs of getting it repaired or replaced.” Renters insurance will usually be the policy that covers theft of personal items from your car too.

If your home is broken into or your purse is stolen from your car, promptly notifying authorities is an important step—filing a renters insurance loss claim will usually require a police report of the theft.

4. Personal Liability for Legal Damages

The most important protection your renters insurance provides, however, might be personal liability protection.

“If your dog bites someone or a food delivery person slips and falls, you’re covered,” says Stacey A. Giulianti, chief legal officer for Florida Peninsula Insurance. Instead of being held personally responsible for those damages, your insurer will step in and help. “The carrier will even hire and pay for an attorney to defend any resulting lawsuit.”

This can be especially important if you are found responsible for damage to adjacent properties as well, Espenschied says. For example, renters insurance will cover you if your toilet or tub “overflows and leaks into the neighbor’s unit below, causing damage to their personal property and cost to repair the building.” You may also be covered if a kitchen fire in your apartment causes damage to the unit above you.

The damage and loss can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars. In cases like these, renters insurance can be the difference between smooth recovery and huge financial loss or even bankruptcy.

Make sure you understand your coverage. “Every policy is different, so talk to an agent and read your policy terms,” Giulianti warns.

5. An Eviction for Violating Your Lease Agreement

Many lease agreements include a clause in which the tenant agrees to purchase a renters insurance policy. These common clauses usually clarify that the landlord’s property insurance coverage does not extend to your personal belongings.

If you sign a lease with such a clause, you are agreeing to maintain this insurance coverage throughout your residency there. If you fail to get a policy or allow it to lapse, your landlord is within their rights to serve you with a “comply or quit” notice and possibly begin eviction proceedings.

If you don’t currently have a policy, reconsider getting renters insurance. Alongside a healthy emergency fund, having the right insurance can bring vital financial security to your life. For the cost, renters insurance provides protection and peace of mind.

“Most renters can get a policy for around $20 per month,” Fitzgerald says. “That’s a small price to pay when you think about the fact that if you don’t have renters insurance, you’ll be forced to cover the cost of replacing any and all items damaged.”

Procuring a renters insurance policy is a smart step toward financial security. With the right policy, you can avoid debt in an emergency and protect your possessions and your home. If you’re ready to buy a home, learn more about the ins and outs of home mortgages in Credit.com’s Mortgage Loan Learning Center. And to be financially prepared for anything, it’s also a good idea to build your credit score so you can qualify for loans and other credit when necessary. See where you stand with a free credit score from Credit.com.

Image: istock 

The post Skipping Renters Insurance? Why That’s a Bigger Risk Than You’d Think appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Is Gap Insurance, and What Does It Cover?

Woman about to drive off in a carWhen purchasing or leasing a new car, you have several insurance coverage options. When selecting coverage, you will likely know if you want to have collision coverage or not, but will you know what gap insurance and whether to select that option? If you are driving your owned vehicle or a leased one, and it is totaled, your collision coverage insurance will cover your vehicle’s cash value. The coverage will help you to purchase a another car. However, what if you owe more on your car than it’s worth? That is where gap insurance comes in. Here’s what you need to know about this type of coverage.

What is Gap Insurance?

Gap insurance protects you from not having enough money to pay off your car loan or lease if its value has depreciated, and you owe more on your car than it is worth. It is optional insurance coverage and is used in addition to collision or comprehensive coverage. It helps you pay off an auto loan if a car has been totaled or stolen, and you owe more than its worth. Gap insurance might also be known as loan or lease gap coverage, and it is only available if you are the first owner or leaseholder on a new vehicle.

Some lenders require individuals to have gap insurance. In addition to collision and comprehensive coverage, gap insurance helps prevent owners and leasers from owing money on a car that no longer exists and protects lenders from not getting paid by a person in financial distress.

How Gap Insurance Works

Car crushed by a fallen tree

If you buy or lease a new car, you may owe more on the vehicle than it is worth because of depreciation. For example, let’s say you purchase a new car for $35,000. However, a year later, the car has depreciated and is only worth $25,000, and you owe $30,000 on it. Then, you total the car. Comprehensive insurance coverage would give you $25,000, but you would still owe $5,000 on the vehicle. Gap insurance would cover the $5,000 still owed.

Without gap insurance, you would have had to pay $5,000 out-of-pocket to settle the auto loan. With gap insurance, you did not have to pay anything out of pocket and were likely to purchase a new car with financing.

What Gap Insurance Covers

Gap insurance covers several things and is meant to complement collision or comprehensive insurance. Gap insurance covers:

  • Theft. If a car is stolen and unrecovered, gap insurance may cover theft.
  • Negative equity. If there is a gap between a car’s value and the amount a person owes, gap insurance will cover the difference if a car is totaled.

Gap insurance also covers leased cars. When you drive a new, leased car off the lot, it depreciates. Therefore, the amount you owe on the lease is always more than the car is worth. If you total a leased car, you’re responsible for the fair market value of the vehicle. If you lease, you can purchase gap coverage part way through your lease term, although many dealerships require both comprehensive and collision coverage and strongly recommend gap coverage.

What Gap Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Gap insurance is designed to be complementary, which means that it does not cover everything. Gap insurance does not cover:

  • Repairs. If a car needs repairs, gap insurance will not cover them.
  • Carry-over balance. If a person had a balance on a previous car loan rolled into a new car loan, gap insurance would not cover the rolled-over portion.
  • Rental cars. If a totaled car is in the shop, gap insurance will not cover a rental car’s cost.
  • Extended warranties. If a person chose to add an extended warranty to an auto loan, gap insurance would not cover any extended warranty payments.
  • Deductibles. If someone leases a car, their insurance deductibles are not usually covered by gap insurance. Some policies have a deductible option, so it is wise to check with a provider before signing a gap insurance policy.

Reasons to Consider Gap Insurance

There are several situations you should consider gap insurance. The first is if you made less than a 20% down payment on a vehicle. If you make less than a 20% down payment, it is likely that you do not have cash reserves to cover them in case of an emergency and that they will be “upside down” on the car payments.

Additionally, if an auto loan term is 60 months or longer, a person should consider gap insurance to ensure that he or she is not stuck with car payments if the vehicle is totaled.

Finally, if you’re leasing a car, you should consider gap insurance. Although many contracts require it, the vehicle costs more than it’s worth in almost every situation when you lease.

Is a Gap Insurance Worth It?

Gap insurance keeps the amount that a person owes after buying a car from increasing in case of an emergency. Therefore, if someone does not have debt on his car, there’s no need for gap insurance. Additionally, if a person owes less on his car than it is worth, there’s also no need for gap insurance. Finally, if a person does owe more on a vehicle than it is worth, he may still choose to put the money that would be spent on gap insurance every month toward the principal of his auto loan.

If a person owes more on his car than it is worth and would be financially debilitated by having to pay the remainder of his car payments if his vehicle was totaled or stolen, then gap insurance might be a saving grace.

If the extra cost of gap insurance strains your budget then consider ways to keep your vehicle insurance costs down without skipping gap insurance.

The Takeaway

"ARE YOU COVERED" written on a highway

Gap insurance covers the amount that a person would still owe on a vehicle after it is stolen or totaled, and after comprehensive insurance pays out. It prevents people from continuing to owe on a car that no longer exists. While it doesn’t make sense for everyone to purchase gap insurance, it is often smart for people who have expensive vehicles that are worth far more than a person owes. It is also something to consider when you are leasing a vehicle.

Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs

  • If you need a little additional help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be simple. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to learn about local advisors to help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • You may want to consider all the insurance options available that are suitable for your unique situation. By doing so, you save money. A free comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.

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