College Grads, Get Ready for Real World Finances

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The party’s over, you’ve graduated and it’s time to get ready for your financial future. Don’t wait. Start growing your financial future now. You’ll be glad you did. Here are some steps every graduate should take the first year out of college.

Establish credit.
A great credit score doesn’t just happen. You have to build it. Get in the habit of paying your bills on time every time and spending below your credit limit. When the time comes to finance a car or a house, your credit score can help you get a lower interest rate and save money.

Live with a little less luxury.
Your parents worked hard to finance their home, buy their cars and pay for some of life’s luxuries. You’re not there yet. Spend a little less on going out to dinner, fancy coffee, and expensive movies. Cut the cable cord and find other ways to save some cash. Luxury can come later.

Create a budget.
And stick to it. Determine how far your paycheck can go and find ways to put a little aside for emergencies. The more you earn, the more you can add to your savings. Every time you get a raise or earn a little extra cash, add some to your emergency fund.

Take advantage of employee benefits.
If your company has a retirement plan, take advantage of the tax-free savings option. At the very minimum put in the amount your employer will match. The employee match is part of your benefits and it’s a big one. If you can, contribute 10 percent each pay period. This money adds up quickly. And if your insurance program has a health savings account, add to that, too. This money builds up as savings but also is there for you if you have unforeseen medical expenses.

Set up a ROTH IRA or another savings plan.
If your company does not have a retirement plan, check into a ROTH IRA. You can contribute up to $5,500 a year, and it can serve as a great savings account, as well. Talk to a financial planner about your options.

Pay your student loans on time.
Student loans will come due six months after you graduate. Check out payment programs to see if there are any that can help you pay your loans off efficiently and effectively. Like other bills, do not miss a student loan payment.

Find a side gig.
Need more money, want to pay off bills faster, or want to save more faster? A job waiting on tables, bartending, working at a carwash on weekends, or walking dogs can help. Don’t let your new 9-5 job limit your financial aspirations.

Get a roommate or two.
Life’s expensive. Share living expenses with a roommate or two. Even if you can afford to pay the rent on your own, having a person to share costs with will help you to save for your future. Take the money you are saving in rent and put all or some of it into your savings account.

These are just a few ways to put yourself on the path to financial success after college. Have a goal in mind for what your future looks like. Do you want a house? A new car? To pay off your debts faster? To build your savings? Keep this in mind and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your success. Journey on, graduate!

Is it Time to Review Your Homeowners’ Insurance Policy?

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Your home may be your biggest investment. Don’t let an unexpected surprise take it away. If there is one thing we have learned over time it is this. No matter where you live, you can expect the unexpected. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms — we can’t stop them, but we can protect ourselves from financial devastation should the unthinkable happen.

Review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you know what is covered and what you may want to add to the policy in addition to what is already covered.

Things to consider:

Flood insurance and earthquake insurance typically need to be purchased separately from the homeowner’s policy or as additional endorsements.

Your policy may cover hail damage, but what if your roof is destroyed in a hail storm? Will you be able to get a new roof? Does your insurance cover full replacement value of your roof?

Your insurance may cover fire damage, but how do you ensure that all of the contents of your home are protected?

Do you need to consider an umbrella policy, just in case?

There may be ways you can save money and insure your home and its contents even better. An insurance professional will help you review your insurance coverage and make sure you and your family have the coverage you need.

Learn more with this Homeowner’s Guide to Natural Disasters from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc., and the The Actuarial Foundation, or contact your insurance agent today.

This year, don’t just renew your homeowner’s insurance policy — review and revise before you renew.

Considering Purchasing in HOA?

Aerial view of a Cookie Cutter Neighborhood

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) offers some tips on things to consider if you’re purchasing in an HOA (home owners association). Some people love being part of an HOA neighborhood; others do not. Here are a few tips to consider before making your move.

Considering purchasing in an HOA?
Make sure you have the necessary documentation: HOAs have bylaws, covenants, rules and regulations, so obtain copies of these documents to know the HOA’s responsibilities as well as your rights as a new member. You will also want to get copies of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and the Colorado Nonprofit Act which are the state laws governing HOAs.

Be aware of your HOA’s enforcement powers: HOAs are able to enforce their covenants, rules, regulations and bylaws through various methods such as fining, placing a lien on an owner’s property, sending an owner’s account to collections or filing a civil lawsuit in court. Knowing under what circumstances and what the processes are to take these enforcement actions are important.

Get involved: The best way to become part of the community and make a difference in your HOA is to get involved. All HOA meetings are open to homeowners except for executive sessions. Make sure to attend HOA meetings, stay up to date on what’s happening in your community, share your ideas and voice your concerns.

Resources are available: The HOA Information and Resource Center at DORA has invaluable information and resources to answer your questions, educate you on HOAs and assist you with difficult and sensitive situations. K

The Division encourages everyone to visit the Division’s website at www.dora.colorado.gov/dre to ensure that their real estate broker is properly licensed.

Q&A about VA Loans

Military Father and Son

VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since its inception in 1944, more than 22 million VA loans have helped veterans, active duty military personnel and their families purchase homes or refinance mortgages.

How does a VA loan compare to a traditional/conventional home mortgage? Read on.

What is the down payment?

  • VA loans: 0% down.
  • Conventional loans: Up to 20% down.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance?

  • VA loans: VA loans do have a form of mortgage insurance, the VA Funding Fee. It is usually 3.3% and financed into the loan up front. If the borrower separated from the military with a qualifying disability, the funding fee is waived to 0%.
  • Conventional loans: If buyers do put down less than a 20% down payment, they must pay for private mortgage insurance.

Are the interest rates for VA loans competitive?

  • VA loans: The VA backing gives lenders a greater degree of safety, which means the interest rates can be more competitive than non-VA loans.
  • Conventional loans: Without government backing, banks take on more risk with conventional loans, which can result in less-competitive interest rates.

How easy is it to qualify for a VA loan?

  • VA loans: Because the loan is backed by the government, banks assume less risk and have less stringent qualification standards for VA loans, making them easier to obtain.
  • Conventional loans: Conventional loans require stricter qualification procedures that can put homeownership out of reach for some homebuyers.

Can I do a cash out refinance? 

  • VA loans: Borrowers can do a cash out refinance up to 100% of their home’s value.
  • Conventional loans: Borrowers with conventional loans must leave some equity in their home when doing a cash out refinance.

What else should I know about VA loans? 

  • VA eligibility is re-usable. A lot of people think they are only eligible for a VA loan one  time, but they are able to get VA loans more than one time.
  • You can have more than one VA loan at a time. It’s a myth that you can only have one at a time.
  • VA loans are assumable.

 You or someone you know may be the perfect fit for a VA loan. Contact a loan officer today to learn more about VA loans and other types of home loans that may be a good fit for you.

Do you want more information about VA loans or grants? Find it here or call us today.  

 

Mend Your Credit by Rehabilitating a Defaulted Student Loan

Student loan

If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, you’re not alone. According to CNBC, more than 1 million people default on their student loans each year, and approximately 22% of student loan borrowers default at some time. But joining the crowd won’t help your credit or open opportunities for you in the future.

Here are some ways you can work to repair a federal student loan that you have defaulted on. For more details visit the Federal Student Aid Office’s website. If you have defaulted on a private student loan, you will need to contact your loan holder for information.

Repay the Loan in Full
The most obvious way to get your loan out of default is to pay it in full, but for most borrowers, that is not an option.

Loan Rehabilitation
To start the loan rehabilitation process, you must contact your loan holder. If you’re not sure who your loan holder is, log in to “My Federal Student Aid” to get your loan holder’s contact information.

To rehabilitate a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loan, you must

  • agree in writing to make nine voluntary, reasonable, and affordable monthly payments (as determined by your loan holder) within 20 days of the due date,
  • and make all nine payments during a period of 10 consecutive months.

Your loan holder will determine a reasonable monthly payment amount that is equal to 15 percent of your annual discretionary income, divided by 12. You must provide documentation of your income to your loan holder in order to determine the amount you will pay.

If you can’t afford the initial monthly payment amount, you can ask your loan holder to calculate an alternative monthly payment based on the amount of your monthly income that remains after reasonable amounts for your monthly expenses have been subtracted. Depending on your individual circumstances, this alternative payment amount may be lower than the payment amount you were initially offered.

To rehabilitate your loan, you must choose one of the two payment amounts. Once you have made the required nine payments, your loans will no longer be in default.

To rehabilitate a defaulted Federal Perkins Loan, you must make a full monthly payment each month, within 20 days of the due date, for nine consecutive months. Your required monthly payment amount is determined by your loan holder. Find out where to go for information about your Perkins Loan.

Benefits of Loan Rehabilitation
When your loan is rehabilitated, the default status will be removed from your loan, and collection of payments through wage garnishment or Treasury offset will stop. You’ll regain eligibility for benefits that were available on the loan before you defaulted, such as deferment, forbearance, a choice of repayment plans, and loan forgiveness, and you’ll be eligible to receive federal student aid.

Also, the record of default on the rehabilitated loan will be removed from your credit history. However, your credit history will still show late payments that were reported by your loan holder before the loan went into default.

If you rehabilitate a defaulted loan and then default on that loan again, you can’t rehabilitate it a second time. Rehabilitation is a one-time opportunity.

Loan Consolidation
Consolidating your loan into one Direct Consolidation Loan allows you to pay off one or more federal student loans with a new consolidation loan.

To consolidate a defaulted federal student loan into a new Direct Consolidation Loan, you must either

• agree to repay the new Direct Consolidation Loan under an income-driven repayment plan, or
• make three consecutive, voluntary, on-time, full monthly payments on the defaulted loan before you consolidate it.

If you choose to make three payments on the defaulted loan before you consolidate it, the required payment amount will be determined by your loan holder but cannot be more than what is reasonable and affordable based on your total financial circumstances.

There are special considerations if you want to reconsolidate an existing Direct Consolidation Loan or Federal (FFEL) Consolidation Loan that is in default.

Getting Help with Your Defaulted Loan
If you need help with your defaulted loan, you will need to contact the holder of your defaulted loan. Find out who holds your loan by logging in to “My Federal Student Aid.

Buying a Home this Spring? Make Sure You Get the Details Right.

Front Door Flowers

Spring marks the beginning of the selling season and is often considered the busiest and best time to purchase a home. As more people look to purchase a home in the coming months, it’s important to understand the buying process. Here are some tips from DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies) and the Division of Real Estate.

Talk to your lender early in the process. Meet with your lender before contacting a real estate agent to simplify the home buying process. Getting prequalified for a mortgage gives you a solid price range for homes to consider.

Determine your working relationship with your broker. Many homebuyers don’t know that Colorado has two options when it comes to your relationship with your broker – a Single Agency broker (an agent for the buyer OR seller) or a Transaction Broker (for the buyer or seller OR both). A single agency broker will advocate for and work solely on a single client’s behalf. A transaction broker facilitates the sale by fully informing the parties, presenting all offers and assisting the parties with any contracts, including the closing of the transaction without being an agent or advocate for any of the parties.

Understand the real estate contract. An offer for the purchase of real estate must be in writing to be valid. The Colorado Real Estate Commission requires every real estate broker licensee use a contract form approved by the Real Estate Commission, unless the contract is drawn by either the seller or buyer or the attorney for the buyer or seller.

Recognize contingencies in the contract. The contract approved by the Real Estate Commission allows for the buyer and their licensed broker to make the contract contingent on certain items. Contingencies can be items such as the property appraising for the purchase price, approval of financing, a satisfactory home inspection, or the sale of their current residence. It is critical for a buyer to include those contingency items in the contract to eliminate misunderstandings about what circumstances will allow for a successful execution of the transaction.

Meet all deadlines and put down your earnest money. Once your offer has been accepted by the seller, you will put down a good faith deposit, often called earnest money. Both the buyer and seller will need to meet specific deadlines before you close on your home. As a buyer, if you miss a deadline, you might not be able to cancel or withdraw your offer unless you are willing to forfeit your earnest money. Your offer allows you to make decisions regarding when to close on your new property, when you can take possession of that property, and what remedies are available if the contract dates are not met.

This is a lot of information. If you’re ready to get started on the homebuying process, contact us to start with step one and get you pre-qualified today.

What Can I Expect from My Home Inspection?

Home inspector examines architectural, asphalt shingled roof.

Home inspections are a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?
Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:

  • Lot and landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Hot water supply
  • Chimney and fireplace(s)
  • Termite damage/wood damage
  • Attic
  • Exterior
  • Garage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

A home inspection is one of the most important things you can do to make your home purchase a good one. Don’t skip this step!