It's important to remember that when signing for a loan, you're signing a contract to repay what you owe plus interest. Some loans are short-term, such as credit cards, while others, like mortgages, take many more years to pay off. When finding the right loan for you, rememeber to take your time, be honest with yourself about your budget, and do some research to make sure it's the right loan for you.
- Understanding Loans
- Auto Loans
- Mortgage Loans
- Credit Cards
- Student Loans
Loans help finance some of our biggest goals in life. They can provide access to possibilities that we can’t afford upfront—possibilities like going to school, buying a home or starting a business (to name just a few). A loan is also one of the biggest financial commitments we make in our lifetime. Rushing into a loan without fully understanding how it will affect your budget can create a very stressful situation that can quickly spiral out of control.
The good news is that you can avoid this stress entirely by choosing the loan that’s right for you: a loan you can afford, from a reputable lender, with a payment schedule that makes sense.
Like local car dealerships and personal injury law firms, short-term and payday lenders tend to have the most annoying commercials on TV. They’re often tacky and annoying, and tend to air during daytime talk shows or very late at night. Their promises of “fast cash!”, “guaranteed approval!” and no “credit check required!” are enough to make you change the channel—and yet, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to get your hands on some extra money fast, those commercials might start making sense to you. If your car breaks down or you are short for this month’s rent payment and you have no emergency funds set aside, going to a payday lender or a pawnbroker may seem like your only options. However, the loans that they offer can be outrageously expensive and targeted at people who are clearly in a tight spot to begin with, which makes those businesses prime examples of predatory lending.
Before jumping at that fast-cash offer, take a moment to educate yourself about predatory lending. Then breathe, understand that you have alternatives, and make an action plan.
Consumer debt is an extremely contradictory part of our personal finances: it’s at once common and incredibly personal. According to numerous sources, the majority of US adults owe money in some way, shape or form—and yet what this consumer debt represents can vary drastically from person to person. To some, a debt might signify a major accomplishment or progress toward a large goal. To others, it might be a constant reminder of a time of crisis or hardship. The decisions that lead us to consumer debt can be thoughtful and deliberate, or rushed and misguided. It is perhaps these differences that make it challenging to talk openly about debt for fear of judgment.
No matter how unique one’s debt situation is, there are some universal truths to borrowing money: it’s expensive and it ‘steals’ money from your other life goals. Therefore, its repayment should be a top priority.
When it comes to buying a new car, you have three options: purchasing it with cash, purchasing it through a loan (also known as financing) or leasing it. For most shoppers, the decision comes down to buying or leasing.
On the surface, the differences between leasing and buying a vehicle seem fairly straightforward. Leasing a car means you’ll usually have access to a new set of wheels every few years; buying it likely means that you plan to drive the same car for a much longer period of time. Leasing usually includes a warranty that covers most of your repairs; buying means accepting larger repair costs, which are inevitable as the car ages. Leasing agreements can limit your mileage and your ability to customize your ride; buying means you can put as many miles as you want on the car and customize it however you’d like.
When you finance a car, you own it once you pay off the loan. This means that you personally take the hit on its depreciation, but it also means you also “own” its residual value. Although that value depreciates over time, if there comes a time when you’re ready to sell it or trade it in, you get the benefit of that resale or trade-in value.
As with any major financial decision, there are also other factors that come into play. You need to be realistic about your budget and honest about your lifestyle, and you need to figure out what’s most important to you as a new car owner. How comfortable are you with the limitations set by a lease agreement? How prepared are you to pay for eventual car repairs? Will driving a new car every two to three years be worth thousands of dollars more in the long run? To some people, it might be—it all depends on a combination of your personal needs and preferences.
Auto dealers are expected to sell cars that meet certain consumer protection criteria. This may include providing a warranty that will cover the buyer’s costs if a car turns out to be a lemon. Unfortunately, some unethical dealers may attempt to bypass these laws by curbstoning. Curbstoning is when a dealer poses as a private seller to sell a car. By curbstoning, an unethical dealer can avoid having to comply with the regulations that apply to dealers. To a buyer, this could mean buying a car that has a salvaged title (a car that’s been declared a total loss by an insurance company). It could also mean unknowingly buying a car that has been in a flood and suffered severe water damage.
The term curbstoning comes from the way these transactions typically occur. When a dealer is trying to pose as a private seller, they will often sell cars from the curb or a parking lot, just as an individual would. A curbstoner often gets away with scamming buyers because he or she sells the vehicle and then disappears. With no office or contact information, a buyer can end up with a lot of headaches to deal with.
Asking the right questions is an important part of every financial decision you make, and home ownership is no exception. If you’ve been thinking about buying a place, preliminary research will turn up a long checklist of questions for you to ask at every part of the process. There are questions for your financial institution, questions for your mortgage broker and questions for your real estate agent. But what about the questions you should be asking yourself?
Owning a home is likely the largest financial commitment you’ll make in your life, and it’s easy to get caught up in details pertaining to debt-to-income ratios, the real estate market, current interest rates and amortization schedules. But financials are only a part of the picture. In order to make a truly smart decision, you need to acknowledge and accommodate some personal factors along with the financial ones.
The average person moves residences about 11 times in their lifetime. That provides a lot of opportunity to confront the following question: is it better to own your home or to rent it? It’s a huge decision that affects your lifestyle as much as it does your finances, and the answer will vary depending on who you ask. There are compelling arguments to be made for both sides and the resulting advice—though well-intentioned—can quickly become confusing and contradictory. So, is paying rent really just a waste of money? Or is it true that you can make more money by renting than by owning a home?
When your friends and family offer you advice on renting and home ownership, they truly want the best for you. However, whether it’s better for you to rent or buy a home ultimately depends on a completely unique combination of your financial situation, your personal goals and a long list of variables, including your geographical location. Do you need the mobility that renting provides you with, or are you ready to settle down for the foreseeable future? Does having the ability to customize and renovate your property justify the added expense of home ownership? Does your home need to be within a certain range of your workplace, school or other commitments? Is your home more of a sanctuary, or just a place to rest your head? By taking the time to fully understand your needs and your priorities, you’ll be able to cut through the conflicting advice and make the decision that’s right for you.
News outlets and credit card companies are quick to label millennials as being credit card-shy. According to a recent survey, millennials apparently fear their credit card debt more than climate change, the threat of war and even death. It may sound like an overreaction, but the underlying trend is substantial: millennials are carrying fewer cards and have lower balances, compared to the previous generation of young adults.
Hesitation around opening and using a credit card is completely justifiable—it invites the possibility of overspending, missing payments, racking up fees, paying high interest rates and dealing with the resulting financial stress. Despite millennials carrying fewer cards, credit card debt is on the rise, with Americans carrying an average balance of $6,375 in 2017. Credit cards can be seen as a gateway to spiraling debt—and for some, that’s enough to justify reaching for a debit card or for cash instead.
Being debt-conscious isn’t inherently bad—in fact, being able to see past the convenience of credit cards to their potential pitfalls is a responsible perspective to have. Credit card transactions are essentially mini-loans that can lead to serious debt when used carelessly, but avoiding them altogether is also problematic—and not just for the credit card companies who issue them. An aversion to credit cards can negatively impact future financial and lifestyle decisions.
If you’re considering financing your college education with the help of a student loan, the smartest thing you can do for yourself is to only borrow what you truly need. (This advice applies to pretty much all loan products, by the way.) Pursuing post-secondary education should be an exciting time in your life. You’re making decisions and opening up possibilities that will shape your future—a future that is adventurous and fulfilling and that decidedly does not include years and years of crippling debt.
For many young adults, student loans serve as the first real experience with borrowing a large amount of money. It’s a steep learning curve for someone just starting out, and not understanding financial concepts like interest rates, loan terms and repayment schedules can quickly snowball into a very stressful and costly post-graduation experience.
Although there are things you can do during your time as a student to soften the sting of student loan repayment (working part-time while in school and sharpening those budgeting skills are two solid strategies), why not get the process started even sooner? The following tips will take a bite out of your total education costs and reduce your dependence on outside financing—and they can all be put into action long before Orientation Day rolls around.