Mortgage Rates Are Dropping; Should I Refinance?

a young couple refinances their house at the credit unionQ: I’ve heard that mortgage rates have dropped dramatically since the start of 2019. Should I refinance my mortgage loan to take advantage of these lower rates?

A: Refinancing a mortgage is essentially paying off the remaining balance on an existing home loan and then taking out a new mortgage loan, often at a lower interest rate. It may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many factors to consider before moving forward with a refinance.

Is it a good time to refinance?
Mortgage rates have been falling steadily over the last few months. During the last week of March this year, rates took their biggest one-week nosedive in more than a decade, and mortgage applications rose 39%, as thousands of homeowners sought out their lenders for a refinance.

However, the downward trend has already reversed as of the beginning of April, when rates hit 4.29%. That’s up from 4.17% just one week prior. If you’re thinking of refinancing in the near future, it’s best to do move quickly so you can lock in the lowest possible rate. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a month if you refinance a loan that currently has a relatively high interest rate.

Is a refinance right for you?
While this is definitely an excellent time to take out a new mortgage, that doesn’t mean a refinance is the right fit for everyone.

Here are two reasons a refinance might be a good fit for you:

  • Your credit is strong and you’d like to lower your monthly payments
    The first, and most obvious, reason homeowners refinance their mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. The drive behind this reason might be a change in finances, personal life or simply the desire to save money. As mentioned, the current mortgage rates make this an excellent time to refinance into a lower interest rate.

    Don’t try a refinance unless your credit is in good shape, though. Taking out another mortgage with a less-than-desirable credit score can mean getting hit with a high interest rate, even if national rates are dropping.

    Aside from reducing your monthly payments, a lower interest rate can also help you build more equity in your home sooner.

  • You’d like to shorten the life of your loan.
    People sometimes choose to refinance their mortgage because they want to finish paying off their loan sooner. If you have a mortgage that has a really high interest rate but you can easily meet these payments, consider refinancing into a shorter-term option. You may be able to pay off your loan in half the time without changing your monthly payment much at all

When refinancing your mortgage is a bad idea
In the following three circumstances, refinancing your mortgage may not make sense.

  • You’re in debt.
    If you’re looking for the extra stash of cash each month to pull you out of debt, you probably shouldn’t be refinancing. Most people who refinance for this reason end up spending all the money they save, and then some. Without making any real changes to your spending habits, giving yourself extra money is only enabling more debt. While the intention is rooted in sound logic, unless you make an equally sound change in your spending habits, you’ll be right back to your present situation in very little time.
  • A refinance will greatly lengthen the loan’s terms.
    If you’ve only got 10 years left on your mortgage and you want to refinance to stretch out those payments over 30 years, you won’t come out ahead. Any money you save on lower payments will be lost in the cost of the refinance and the extra 20 years of interest you’ll be paying on your mortgage.
  • You don’t plan on living in your home much longer.
    If you plan on moving within the next few years, the money you save might not even come close to the costs of a refinance.

How much will it cost?
Homeowners are often eager to get started on a refinance until they see what it will cost them.

Remember all those fees and closing costs you paid when you first bought your house? Prepare to pay most of them again. Broker fees will vary, but a typical refinance will cost anywhere between 3-6% of the loan’s principal.

Before proceeding with your refinance, make sure you’ll actually be saving money. You can do this by procuring a good faith estimate from several lenders. This will get you your projected interest rate and the anticipated loan price. Next, divide this price by the amount you’ll save each month with your anticipated new rate. This will give you the number of months that will have to pass before you break even on the new loan. If you don’t plan on staying in your home for that long, or you can’t afford to wait until then to recoup your losses, refinancing may not make sense for you.

Rates are still low, and if your finances are in good shape, a refinance can be a great way to put an extra few hundred dollars into your pocket each month. [If you’re ready to talk to a home loan expert about refinancing, call, click or stop by Advantage One today to ask about getting started on your refinance. We’re always happy to help you save money!]

Your Turn:
Have you refinanced? What drove your decision? Was it the right decision for you? Let us know in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.myfinance.com/5-reasons-to-refinance/?utm_source=Millennial+Money&utm_campaign=millennialmoneycru&utm_medium=mfCRU

https://www.consumersadvocate.org/mortgage-refinance/a/best-mortgage-refinance?matchtype=e&keyword=should%20i%20refinance&adpos=1t2&gclid=CjwKCAjww6XXBRByEiwAM-ZUILOeJrx3aTigcckJXeQcxYZ5KC-gPj1HDcbQYQlprrg3zX08LqGaohoCL14QAvD_BwE

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/when-and-when-not-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/7-bad-reasons-to-refinance-mortgage/

https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/

https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/with-mortgage-rate-drop-many-buyers-consider-refinancing/1897961701

Step 4 of 12 Toward A Debt-Free Life: Create An Emergency Fund

Young caucasian woman working at modern deskYou may be feeling impatient to start more aggressively paying down debt, but it’s important to first create an emergency fund. If you don’t have money socked away for unexpected expenses, you’ll be tempted to use the money that’s already earmarked for your debt payments to fund this expense.

Experts recommend keeping three months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, but you can start with a modest $1,000. Set up an automatic monthly or weekly transfer from your [credit union] Checking Account to your Savings Account until you have a fully padded emergency fund. This may take several months, but no worries, you can continue following the next few steps towards a debt-free life as your emergency fund grows.

Your Turn:
Why do you think it’s so important to have an emergency fund? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

8 Ways To Spot A Job Scam

Young woman looks at a job sheet while verifying information on her smartphone.If you’re in the market for a new job, or you’re looking for extra part-time work, be careful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a surge in employment scams of every kind. Victims might have their accounts emptied, their identities stolen, or they may even find themselves facing jail time for money laundering charges.

Protect yourself from employment scams by holding up any job you’re considering against this list of red flags:

1.) The job pays very well for easy work
If a job description offers a high hourly rate for non-skilled work with no experience necessary, you can assume it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay for work that anyone can do. Carefully read the wording of the job pitch. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2.) The job description is poorly written
Scrutinize every word of the job description. If it’s riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, you’re looking at a scam.

3.) They need to hire you NOW!
If a “business” claims the position needs to be immediately filled and they’re ready for you to start working today, assume it’s a scam. Most legitimate businesses will need time to process your application, properly interview you and determine if you are indeed a good fit.

4.) The business has no traceable street address or real online presence
If you’ve spotted a position on an online job board, your first step should be researching the company. Google the company name to see what the internet has to say about them. If you suspect a scam, search the name with words like “scam” and “fraud” in the search string. Look for a brick-and-mortar address, a phone number and a real online presence. If all you find are help-wanted ads and a P.O. Box, move on to better job leads.

5.) You need to share sensitive information just to apply
Does the “job application” you’re looking at seek sensitive details, like your Social Security number and/or a checking account number? Such information should not be necessary just to submit an application. You might even be innocently asked to share details you think are minor, like your date of birth, name of your hometown, first pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Of course, these are all keys to open up access to your passwords and/or PINs.

There’s no surer sign you’re dealing with crooks than being asked to share information that practically guarantees you’ll be scammed.

6.) You need to pay a steep fee to apply
Some legitimate companies charge a nominal application fee for hopeful employees. However, if the fee is absurdly high, or the company asks you to cash a check for them and then refund it, you’re being scammed.

7.) There’s no business email
Some job scammers will impersonate well-known companies to look authentic. For example, you might think you’re applying to an off-site job at Microsoft. You’ll be told to email your resume to JohnSmithMicrosoftHR@gmail.com. Your red flag here is the email address: The domain is generic. If the “recruiter” genuinely represented Microsoft, the email address would be something like JohnSmith@HR.Microsoft.com.

8.) The “recruiter” found your resume on a job board you never use
If the “recruiter” claims they’ve picked up your resume on a job board you don’t remember visiting, it’s not your memory failing you. Job-scammers often scrape victims’ personal details off the internet and then pretend to have received a resume. They’ll know you’re looking for a job, and they’ll know enough about you to convince you they’ve got your resume, but it’s all a scam. If someone contacts you about a position you’ve never applied for, or claims to have found your resume on a job board you’ve never visited, run the other way!

As always, practice caution when online. Keep your browser updated and strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When engaged in a public forum, don’t share information that can make you vulnerable, like your exact birthdate or employment history. Never wire money to people you don’t know well or agree to cash a stranger’s check in exchange for a commission. Above all, keep your guard up when online and use common sense: When in doubt, opt out!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments, below!

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/job-search-scams.shtml

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser

Simple tips for protecting your parents from financial fraud

daughter helping elderly father check his account onlineAccording to the Federal Trade Commission, older adults are disproportionately affected by fraud.

Whether it’s a phony phone call, phishing scam, or mail fraud, seniors often become targets for scammers who perceive them as easy marks.

While you alone can’t put an end to this shady illegal activity, you can empower you parents with the knowledge to keep themselves—and their finances—safe.

Remind them about “stranger danger”
Your parents probably taught you the concept of “stranger danger” at an early age—and for good reason. Don’t interact with suspicious people. It’s an important lesson that’s relevant to adults as well as children.

If someone you don’t know asks for personal information, it’s probably a scam. Remind your parents to never give out credit card or account information, passwords, or social security numbers unless they can verify the identity of the person or business making the request.

Add their number to the Do Not Call List
When you add your phone number to the The National Do Not Call Registry, the government informs telemarketers not to call you.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous organizations and scammers ignore the registry and may continue to harass your parents, but they should see a reduction in unsolicited calls and text messages from those who abide by the law.

Give them a crash course in online literacy
If your senior parents use technology but aren’t completely familiar with how scams work online, they might not understand what to click and what to avoid.

Spend some time going over how to navigate the internet safely. Most importantly, explain email phishing. Emphasize that they should never click links in unsolicited emails from people or companies they don’t know.

If they use social networks like Facebook, warn them not to share anything too personal as scammers might use this information to impersonate friends or family members online.

Used with permission. © 2019 BALANCE. All rights reserved.

9 Ways For Kids To Make Money

young friends run a lemonade stand. A boy in a yellow shirt holds a coin jar and smiles.The best way to teach a child financial responsibility is by encouraging her to earn and manage money on her own. As the weather warms and summer nears, there are many opportunities for your kids to pull in some extra money.

If money-making is not on your children’s minds, you may need to direct them toward that line of thinking. The next time they ask you to buy something that’s out of budget, tell them they can earn the money to buy it themselves. As an alternative, suggest that you’ll cover half the cost if they earn the other half. Talk to them about finding a summer job, the work they can do on weekends, or suggest a one-time gig they can initiate.

In honor of Youth Savings Month, let’s take a look at 9 easy ways your kids can earn some extra cash.

1. A lemonade stand
It may be old-fashioned, but kids can bring in good money by selling cups of America’s favorite hot-weather drink. For optimal exposure, let your kids set up their stands near a local yard sale or another neighborhood event. Don’t forget to check local municipality laws to make sure your stand is completely legal.

2. Help a senior
Your pre-teen can be a huge help to a local senior while earning money on the side. Let your child run some errands, take out the trash, clean the litter box or just chat with a lonely senior. If your own parents or in-laws live nearby, speak to them about having your child help them out for payment.

3. Hold a yard sale
Spring-cleaning season is the perfect time to host a yard sale on your front lawn. Let your kids be in charge by having them choose the items to feature, set the prices and run the sale. You’ll want to be available to oversee their work and to make sure the prices are fair, but let them make most decisions on their own. Take off your helicopter-parent helmet and let your kids learn lessons that will stay with them for life.

4. Do yard work
If your children are old enough to handle a gas-powered mower and can be relied upon to trim shrubs and weed gardens, let them hire themselves out to do yard work. Your neighbors will be glad to have the help, and your kids will be out in the sunshine while earning some money on the side.

5. Help with pets
Are your kids animal-crazy? Let them use their penchant for pets to help people with pet-related chores. They can walk dogs around the neighborhood and offer to pet-sit for the afternoon while a neighbor is out. If your child is truly a budding entrepreneur and has the necessary skills, they can even set up a pet-grooming station out in the yard. Let them scrub the neighborhood dogs and cats, brush the hair and trim claws for some extra cash.

6. Be junior tech-support
Generation Z kids are practically born holding smartphones in their hands. Let your kids use those skills to help some older folks who may not be as tech-savvy. They can offer to organize digital photos and create albums, assist with data entry and filling out online forms, or help a senior create a Facebook page or learn how to use a new phone or device.

7. Help a mom
Your child may be too young to babysit on their own, but they can offer their services assisting a neighborhood mom while she’s at home. Let your child take the kids out to the yard while mom watches from the deck, play with the kids at home while mom does laundry or help them with their summer homework while mom’s busy in the kitchen.

8. Collect recyclables
Call up a local recycling plant to find out how much they pay for every pound of recyclable materials. Then help your child gather empty bottles, cans, cardboard boxes and old newspapers to bring to the plant. You’ll be keeping the planet green and helping your child earn some pocket money at the same time.

9. Wash cars
Let your child try out her car-washing skills on the family car. Once she’s got the technique down pat, have her offer the service to the neighborhood. Your neighbors will cross another weekend chore off their list and your child will be learning that hard work can really pay off.

Encourage your kids to earn their own money and you’ll be teaching them financial responsibility in the best way possible.

Your Turn:
How do your kids earn money? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-ways-for-preteens-make-money-this-summer/

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-can-kids-make-money-2085398

How to Make Money as a Kid: Young Elementary Kids

Twitter: #Summer #jobs are alive and well, and your #kids can get it on the #cash! We’ve got a list of #ideas that will help any aspiring young entrepreneur cash in!

5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Finances

Young black man sits at computer desk planning his budget on a computer.Q: Spring is here! I’ve cleaned out my house and now I’m ready to take on my finances. I’d love to give them a thorough cleaning, too. Where do I start?

A: It’s wonderful that you’ve decided to clean up your finances. Springtime is months after the holiday squeeze and still a while away from the pricey summer season, making it a prime time for whipping your finances into shape.

So, let’s get cleaning!

1. Dust Off Your New Year’s Resolutions
We get it: New Year’s resolutions get stale as soon as the calendar hits February. But this was the year you were really fired up and ready to conquer the world. Why sell yourself short when your goals are actually within reach?

Use the fresh energy and renewal of spring to revisit the list of resolutions you penned back at the end of 2018. What were your budgeting goals? What were your savings dreams? Have you achieved any of those goals? If not, what’s holding you back?

Take stock of where you are financially and get back on track, moving forward and toward those goals. It’s not too late to make it happen this year!

Do it today: Dig out that paper with your New Year’s resolutions and go through your financial goals one at a time. Did you overreach? Were you irresponsible? Tweak and adjust as necessary, create a new tracking system if the existing one isn’t working, and then get out there and own those goals!

2. Sweep Out Your Monthly Budget
Now that you’ve taken stock of your resolutions, take a good look at your monthly budget.

Review your spending habits of the last few months. What are your weak spots? Where can you cut back? Have you been alotting too much money for one category and not enough for another? It’s time to take stock!

Do it today: Review your monthly budget and choose one area to trim. Create concrete and realistic steps to make that happen. For instance, try the money envelope system to keep you on track, or stick to cash-only so you don’t slip up. Your budget will thank you!

3. Freshen Up Your W-4
You might be celebrating a generous tax return this year, but that only means the government has been handling some of your money all year long instead of it earning more for you. It’s almost like giving the government an interest-free loan! You could have used those funds to start investing, add to an existing emergency fund, launch a business or to save for your dream summer getaway.

Take a closer look at your W-4 so you don’t overpay in taxes again this year.

Do it today: Spend some time researching your best withholding options or ask your accountant to help you work out the numbers. Adjust your W-4 accordingly and submit it to the payroll specialists at your workplace.

4. Pile Up Your Savings
Once you’re cutting down on your spending habits and taking home a larger check each payday, why not use the extra money to bump up your savings? You can add to an existing fund, build a new one, open a Savings Certificate or start investing. You have many great options!

Speak to an Advantage One employee today to find out about our fantastic savings options.

Do it today: After choosing a savings option, stop by [credit union] to set up a direct deposit. Each month, your money will be automatically transferred from your checking account to your new account. It’s the ultimate in set-it-and-forget-it!

5. Toss Your Debt
This spring, while you try on old, scratchy sweaters and make piles of junk to toss in the trash or sell for cash, why not get rid of your debt, too?

Debt is ugly on you. It holds you back from moving forward, keeps you in a spending trap that only gets stronger with time and clings to you like caked-on mud. Wash it all off this spring with an actionable plan to get rid of that debt for good!

Do it today: We know that paying down debt is easier said than done. But, you can do it! All you need is a plan. Review your debts and pick one to pay off first. It can be the debt with the smallest amount of total owed or the one with the steepest interest rate. Find a way to double down on your payments toward that debt. You can do it by taking on a side hustle, seeking a promotion at work or trimming existing expenses. After you’ve paid down this debt, move onto the next one. Accelerate its payoff by applying the total payment amount from your first debt to the new one – in addition to the regular payment you were making on it. Keep going until they’re all gone. It might take until next spring, but eventually, you’ll kick all of your debt to the curb!

Spring is here—it’s time to freshen up your finances so they’ll be in tip-top shape for summer!

Your Turn:
How do you clean out your finances in the spring? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/spring-clean-your-finances-2385567

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/13-tips-for-spring-cleaning-your-finances/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T065-C032-S014-3-ways-to-spring-clean-your-finances.html

Dollar Stores: Are They Worth The Price?

Young caucasian woman with her hair in a bun shopping in a dollar storeQ: I love browsing my local dollar store, but I often end up spending more than I planned or regretting my purchases. Are dollar stores worth the price?

A: Dollar stores can be tremendous spending traps, but they can also be a great way to snag a bargain. It’s all in how you plan your visit.

Read on to learn how to get the best deal at the dollar store.

Before you start browsing
Everything is just a buck, you say. How can you possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, with that mindset, you might find yourself going way overboard with your spending. Before you set out for the dollar store, create a physical or mental list of what you need to purchase.

Love to throw just-for-fun products into your cart? The dollar store is a great place to do that, so exercise caution. You don’t want to blow tens of dollars on stuff you don’t really need and might never use. Establish a limit of how many of those items you can pick up on your trip before you set out. If you always find yourself pushing your self-imposed limit, only shop with cash so you’re forced to stick to your budget.

What’s hot at the dollar store …
Here are some products that are great bargains at the dollar store:

  • Cleaning supplies: Get clean for less by stocking up on Ajax, bleach, glass cleaner, scouring pads, spray bottles, off-brand Swiffer refills, sponges, dryer sheets and ammonia.
  • Seasonal: Visit the dollar store before hitting chain stores for your holiday decorations. Halloween decor, cheap gift boxes and wrapping paper can all be had at the dollar store.
  • Toys: Load up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, card games and kites.
  • Groceries: Get your frozen fruit and veggies, string cheese, spices, name-brand condiments, rice, oatmeal and snack foods at the dollar store.
  • Kitchenware: Stock up on bargain-priced storage bins and containers, whimsical kitchen decor and glasses. Paper plates, cups and napkins can also be bought at super low prices.
  • Party gear: Greeting cards, wrapping paper, balloons, ribbons, streamers, birthday candles, party decorations and gift bags can all be bought for, you guessed it, a dollar each.
  • School/office supplies: You won’t be able to find every item on your school supply list that’s actually worth the price, but you can load up on project display boards, tab dividers, binder clips and poster boards at the dollar store.
  • Kids’ activities: The dollar store is a great place to stock up on rainy-day supplies for the kids. You’ll find some great books, puzzles, craft supplies, colored papers, stickers, activity books, coloring books and more.

… And what’s not
Not everything you’ll find in the dollar store is worth as much as a dollar. Plus, there are lots of things you can get elsewhere for a better price.

  • Cleaning supplies: The following cleaning supplies at the dollar store are either made too cheaply to be worth the price or can be bought for less in other stores: dish washing soap, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, laundry detergent.
  • Toys: Small toys for young children that aren’t made well can quickly become choking hazards. Also, dollar-store dolls and toy cars are likely to break the day you bring them home.
  • Groceries: These foods can be bought for cheaper in a grocery store: pasta, soda, gum, canned goods, chocolate.
  • Kitchenware: Plastic cutlery from the dollar store is too cheaply made to be worth the few cents you’ll save. Ditto for disposable baking dishes. You’ll also want to stay away from can openers, knives and oven mitts, as these items need to be well made to do their jobs.
  • School/office supplies: The following supplies can be bought for less money and of better quality in stores like Walmart and Target: lined paper, composition notebooks, glue, crayons, markers, Post-its, pens, pencils and highlighters.
  • Self-care: Cheaply made soap, shampoo and cosmetics can be harmful to your skin. Don’t buy name-brand travel-size toiletries either; you can usually get tiny shampoo and soap bottles for less than a buck at big-box stores.

When it’s not a bargain
When making a purchase at the dollar store, hold it up to this checklist. If your item fits any of these criteria, you’re better off without it:

  • It’s sold in tiny quantities. Often, what looks like a bargain is just a product in a really small package. Check the size on food items and cleaning products; you can often get more for less money when you buy a product in a bigger size at a larger store.
  • It’s made with harmful toxins. Check all health and beauty products for toxic and carcinogenic ingredients.
  • You don’t need it. A dollar spent on something you don’t need is a dollar wasted.
  • It’s made super-cheaply. If it’s going to break during the first day of use, or even the first hours, leave it in the store.
  • It isn’t food-safe. Check all products that will come into contact with food, like serving platters or dishes, for a label that proclaims them food-safe.
  • It’s expired. Be careful to check the “Sell by” date on candy and other foodstuffs so you’re not paying for expired products.

Learn how to shop smart at the dollar store and you’ll go home with true bargains!

Your Turn:
What are your favorite dollar store picks? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/dollar-store-dos-and-donts/

https://www.bradsdeals.com/blog/things-you-always-should-buy-at-the-dollar-store

https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/the-real-reason-everything-at-the-dollar-store-is-so-cheap.html/