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!

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!

Things You Should Do Immediately When You Move into a New Home

Shaking Hands

You have a new home. Here are some great tips for things to do when you first move in to start saving money. Once the boxes are unpacked, tackle these tasks next.

Check the insulation in your attic. You should have about six inches of insulation throughout the attic. If you need more, get more! Click here for a guide from the Department of Energy on proper attic insulation.

Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions. Covering vents with anything makes your heating and cooling system work harder. And a quick dusting will help you remove dust and dust bunnies to keep these cleaner. If you need to, have a professional come out and clean all of your duct work.

Mark cracks in the basement with masking tape. It’s not unusual for basements to settle and for the floor to crack. But if you do have a problem with settling and cracking, you’ll want to take care of that sooner rather than later. Cover up the ends of cracks with masking tape. In a few months, if the cracks have grown outside of the original tape, call a professional for some repair work before the problem grows.

Plant some shade trees near your home. Get a natural cooling system working for you. Plant some trees near your house to add shade. Lowering the external temperature of your home can save you from running the air conditioning hard and all the time, when the sun is shining in the summer heat. The sooner you plant them, the sooner they can grow and help cool your home.

If you have to buy new appliances, buy energy efficient. You’ll likely pay more up front for these, but you’ll save money in the end. For example, a refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is much less costly over time.

Check your toilets and under-sink plumbing. You don’t want these pipes leaking or discover you have a toilet that is constantly running. A dripping pipe may seem harmless enough, but the cost adds up in water and you may end up creating a mold problem.

Create a home maintenance checklist and run through it for the first time. And then run through it every month. Include things you want to check monthly or quarterly. Check plumbing, vents, outlets, paint, windows, etc. And while you’re at it, include a checklist for changing batteries in smoke detectors, something you should do at least once a year.

These are just a handful of tips to save money. Want more?
Read 18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money.

What is a Mortgage Rate Lock?

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The mortgage lending world is full of terms that may not be familiar to you but are important to understand if you are considering buying a home or refinancing. One of those terms is mortgage rate lock. 

A mortgage rate lock is an arrangement between a lender and a borrower in which a mortgage’s interest rate is locked for a certain period of time. Typically, the locked-in rate will be the current market interest rate.

Some lenders choose to charge borrowers a lock fee if they choose to lock in the interest rate. Also, it’s common for lenders to start at a higher rate in case the homebuyers do not exercise their options to lock in a rate.

When a borrower and lender agree to a mortgage rate lock, it is important that both parties are bound by the agreement. This agreement would mean, for example, that the borrower could not unlock the rate because the market interest rate had lowered. Interest rates will usually be locked from the moment that the mortgage is offered until it is closed.

Unless a change occurs to the loan application, the interest rate will stay the same and will not be affected by market changes. Changes to the mortgage application, such as an increased loan amount or an updated credit score for the borrower, can result in the interest rate changing. Interest rates can also change if the home is appraised at a higher or lower amount than expected, or the borrower changes the type of mortgage for which they are applying.

Mortgage rate locks have some drawbacks from the borrower’s standpoint. For example, if the market rate falls during the term of the mortgage, a borrower would not be able to take advantage of these lower rates. The same would be true for lenders if the market rate rises.

A lock deposit can be a good way to make sure that both the borrower and the lender hold to the terms of the mortgage lock agreement. This deposit shows that both parties are committed to upholding the agreement. A loan estimate and a rate lock can be issued at the same time, and the period of the mortgage rate lock can be between 10 and 60 days. A longer rate lock period typically means that the borrower and lender have agreed to a higher interest rate.

Questions about mortgage rate locks or anything related to home mortgages? Please contact us today. 

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Guide

Funny pancakes for Christmas

Looking for the perfect holiday gift but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Here are some great gifts for anyone on your list that won’t blow your bank account!

A potted plant

Some indoor plant life can bring some much needed green into the long, dark January and February months. A potted plant is a great gift for anyone who has recently purchased a home or has lived in their home for years or even decades and needs a change. You can think big or small, depending on the size of their home. But if they have pets, make sure you pick a plant that is non-poisonous to animals.

Kitchen gadgets

It takes a long time to stock your first kitchen, especially with stuff that’s going to last. For that friend who needs basics, think a can opener, potato peeler or corkscrew. If you want to get fancier, you could go for a garlic press, a potato masher or a pastry cutter. Maybe throw in a pretty tea towel or place mats for a splash of color.

Small gardening tools

These are great for new homeowners suddenly faced with caring and tending to their own garden. Think some basic pruning shears or some tools for planting fresh flowers. Want to make the gift even more fun? Put these items in a flower pot and get them started on decorating their deck when spring comes.

A cookbook

A great way to save money is to make meals at home, but there are a lot of cookbooks out there. Choose something simple with a lot of basic recipes that can be adapted or modified. Or choose a cookbook that has an online blog associated with it. Then they will have a built-in community, where they can seek out further recipes as well as tips and tricks.

A few months of Netflix (or the recipient’s channel of choice) and some popcorn.

Cable TV is expensive, and a lot of people are looking for ways to cut their bills. A gift fo a few months of Netflix or Hulu is great for someone who wants to try something new but doesn’t know where to start.

Pancake mix and maple syrup

Pancakes are a favorite weekend treat, light and fluffy and a warm reminder that you have nowhere to be on a cold snowy morning. But making homemade pancakes isn’t always a top priority. A special pancake mix from a specialty food store can make this the perfect gift. Top it off with some maple syrup or homemade fruit compote. If they are new to the kitchen, you may even throw in a small griddle and a spatula!

A deck of cards

A deck or two of playing cards and you can create your own family fun and holiday memories. Old Maid and Go Fish for the kids, Gin Rummy, Poker and Black Jack for the adults. Get a classic deck or go for the recipient’s favorite theme. Whatever you decide you’re sure to bring family fun to your family’s holiday.

Board games

Go old school and get family games like Parcheesi, Monopoly, Trouble, Sorry or Yahtzee. Those games are around today still because of the fun they bring for the whole family. Or you can go with strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Risk. Those will bring a challenge, for sure. Friends like word games? How about Scrabble or Boggle? A walk down the game aisle of any toy store wil spur more fun board game ideas. Check out puzzles while you are in this aisle. Some of the best conversations and comfortable silences happen over the bonding of puzzle building.

Winter skin care kit

Frigid temperatures, bitter winds and dry, radiator air will give anyone’s skin a scare. But you can take the bite out of this pain with some nice lip balm, a good hand lotion, some cuticle oil and maybe a facial moisturizer or shaving lotion.

For pet lovers: A box of pet treats and a pet toy

Pamper your friends by pampering their pets. Get some squeaky toys and some treats. Or maybe Fido moved to a new home but his favorite bed didn’t make the trip. Check out all the options for pets online or in your local pet store. After all, nothing says you like your friend than loving their pet!

Whatever gift you give, at Universal Lending we want to wish you a  warm and happy winter holiday season and a happy new year!