What to Do If You Can’t Cover Bills During Coronavirus

This post can be found en Español here.

This content is for the first stimulus relief package, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (The CARES Act), which was signed into law in March 2020. Looking for the latest news on the stimulus relief package? For more information on The American Rescue Plan, the stimulus relief package which was signed into law in March 2021, please visit the “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.

If the ever-evolving coronavirus situation has put a halt on your income or lowered it dramatically, don’t panic. Instead, it’s best to stay calm, rally your resources and come up with a strategy for your finances. If COVID-19 has affected your ability to pay your rent or mortgage, cover your other bills and put food on the table, here’s what you can do to get through this time:

Re-Evaluate Your Finances

First, get a big-picture look at your financial situation. What are your basic living expenses, how much debt do you have, and will you be getting any financial assistance in the form of unemployment or disability checks?

Then, go through all your expenses and see what you can cut back on or get rid of entirely. “Now is a great time to go through your most recent billing statement and cancel any subscriptions or costs in order to lower your future spending,” says Logan Allec, founder of Money Done Right. “Also, think about canceling any spending that you can’t use now.” Some services might have been halted because of the coronavirus situation. For instance, your gym membership or yoga classes. 

You’ll then want to see how you might go about lowering your existing expenses. Can you get a cheaper plan for your home internet, or reach out to your provider to see if they’re willing to offer a promo rate? If you’re new to this world of negotiating, come up with a basic script before giving them a call. Remember: It’s far better for them to keep you as a customer than to lose you entirely.

Last, go down the list of all your expenses and see how you can scale back. How can you save on groceries and entertainment at home? Instead of doling out cash on streaming entertainment services, can you download movies for free from your library?

Check for Eviction Moratoriums

There might be an eviction moratorium where you live. In other words, if you’re unable to cover your rent because of the coronavirus, then you won’t be kicked out of your place. This is being rolled out at the city, county, or state level. There are different rules and terms depending on where you live, so you’ll have to check.

For instance, the governor of California has issued a statewide executive order that will protect tenants until May 31, 2020. That doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook, though. In the Golden State, you’ll still need to pay your landlord for what’s owed. And in the state of New York, eviction moratoriums are in place until at least June 20th.

Reach Out to Your Loan Servicer

If you’re a homeowner and have mortgage payments, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has suspended foreclosures on single-family homes that are FHA-insured for 60 days, effective March 18, 2020. More good news: If your home was in the process of a foreclosure, this would be halted.

Along the same lines, you can reach out to your gas and power companies to see if they’re waiving late fees or being more forgiving before shutting off your utilities. 

Contact Your Landlord as Soon as Possible

If you’re renting from somebody, reach out to them as soon as you can if you are concerned about your ability to pay next month’s rent, and be sure you understand any eviction freezes being considered by your state or local government, recommends Allec.

“As a landlord myself, I appreciate it when tenants are upfront with me about their situation and don’t try to hide it with bogus excuses.” Just like you’d like a heads-up before stuff hits the fan, letting your landlord know as soon as you can gives them time to prepare, and to come up with some sort of contingency plan.

If you’re able to cover some of your rent, you could try reaching out to your landlord, explaining your situation and why you’re not able to cover the next month’s rent. You’ll want to then ask if a temporary reduction in rent would be possible. Given the circumstances, your landlord might be amenable to this arrangement.

And if you’ve exhausted all the obvious avenues, see if your landlord would be open to bartering, suggests money coach and educator Sarah Von Bargen. “What skills do you have that might be useful to them?,” says Von Bargen, who is the founder of Yes and Yes. “Could you repaint an empty unit in the building or do some landscaping in exchange for cheap or free rent? If you rent from a large company, maybe they could use help with their website or social media.” 

Look for Relief

If you’ve lost a job or aren’t able to work due to circumstances prompted by the coronavirus, look toward forms of relief. Help is out there.

For instance, under the newly passed Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA), certain employers are required to provide their workers one of two things: 80 hours of paid sick leave if they’re unable to work because of a quarantine or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Or up to 80 hours of paid sick leave that’s equal to two-thirds of their pay because they were tending to someone under quarantine or someone with symptoms. An employee might also qualify for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of his or her regular pay.

You might also qualify for disaster unemployment benefits. This extends to freelancers and self-employed folks, too. For instance, if you’ve lost your job, aren’t able to reach your place of work, or cannot work due to a disaster-related injury, you can apply for this form of unemployment. You’ll need to apply through your state’s unemployment office.

You’ll want to learn about other relief efforts based on the type of work you do and your industry. For instance, there are relief efforts for small businesses, freelancers, and artists. There are also relief efforts for different professions and industries. To name a few, those who work as bartenders and in the beauty industry.

While the reality of not being able to keep up with your bills because of the coronavirus can feel scary, remaining calm and looking at different solutions will help you swiftly navigate through rocky times.

Do you know of more helpful resources? Share them in the comments! 

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Why It’s Suddenly Harder to Get a Mortgage

With COVID-19 making it incredibly difficult to buy a home, or even to get a mortgage, home buyers and homeowners trying to refinance their mortgage have something new to keep them awake at night.
In response to increased risk to lenders from the coronavirus, in mid-April, JPMorgan Chase raised standards for mortgages and stopped approving mortgages with down payments lower than 20%. It also increased its minimum FICO credit score to 700.

Lenders Raise Scores

Flagstar raised its minimum credit score for new Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase loans to 680. For cash-out refinances, the bank now requires that borrowers have at least a minimum credit score of 700.

US Bank and Wells Fargo both raised their minimum credit score to 680 for FHA, VA, and USDA loans, and 640 for conventional loans. LoanDepot requires 620 minimum FICO score for VA and FHA loans and a higher score, 660+, for cash-out or streamline refinancing. Now, the bank requires borrowers to have a minimum FICO score of 700 with a maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 43% when any funds used for closing costs or down payment are not borrower’s funds or gift funds, according to HousingWire.

Serious millennial man using laptop sitting at cafe table, looking up mortgage related resourcesSerious millennial man using laptop sitting at cafe table, looking up mortgage related resources

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are adding to the new hurdles facing borrowers by asking lenders to take additional steps to verify employment status. Instead of verbal verification, lenders may obtain an email directly from the employer’s work email address that identifies the name and title of the verifier and the borrower’s name and current employment, a year-to-date pay stub from the period that immediately precedes the note date. When a borrower is using self-employment income to qualify, the lender must verify the existence of the borrower’s business within 120 calendar days before the note date from a third party, such as a CPA, regulatory agency, or the applicable licensing bureau, if possible.

Homeowners Rush to Refinance

With millions of breadwinners out of work and unemployment payments delayed, a surge of applications for home equity loans and lines of credit jumped 30% or more from a year earlier in recent weeks before stay-at-home orders cut application volumes.

Happy adult man having a video call with a laptopHappy adult man having a video call with a laptop

Bank of America significantly tightened its standards for loans to homeowners wanting to borrow against their equity, ratcheting up an internal gauge that measures market conditions from the company’s lowest level to its highest. Its minimal credit score is now 720, up from 660.

Wells Fargo cut the maximum amount homeowners can borrow and reduced how much the bank will lend relative to a property’s value. The bank is applying stingier valuations to homes due to a lack of inspections and appraisals resulting from the pandemic.

Mortgage Credit Supply is Low

With mortgage rates at a historically low level and applications to refinance exploding, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the supply of available mortgage credit fell 16% in March, reaching the lowest level it has been since June of 2015.
“Mortgage credit supply decreased 16% in March to the lowest level since June 2015, with declines in availability across all loan types. There was a reduction in the availability of loans with lower credit scores and higher LTV ratios, and the largest pullback came from the jumbo and non-QM space,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting.

If you’re looking for more resources as a homeowner, renter, or seller during the coronavirus outbreak then visit our COVID-19 Resources page where you can find everything from DIY projects to tackle during a weekend to seller and buyer tips during the pandemic.

Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

The Future of Homebuying: Questions to Ask in a Post-Coronavirus World

For almost all of the spring homebuying season, the real estate world has been rocked by ever changing guidelines and procedures due to COVID-19. As some states deemed real estate non-essential and federal guidelines tightened, buyers are experiencing a new landscape in real estate. As Americans slowly transition to the new normal, buying a home in a future that’s post-coronavirus may look a little different. Knowing what changes have occurred during COVID-19, as well as what questions to ask, is going a vital part of navigating the real estate world in the future.

gay couple buying a home gay couple buying a home

How Can I Tour the Property I Want?

One of the most obvious– and fastest– changes during the pandemic crisis was how buyers could safely enter the homes for sale. In most cases, this has been an individual brokerage decision, as well catering to the comfort level of sellers. However, there have been some general guidelines in place, as well as new alternative options, that allow buyers to continue their home search.

  • Masks worn by all individuals viewing the home
  • Requests for individuals that have travelled out-of-state to refrain from viewing in person
  • Shoe “booties” provided to buyers as they tour the property
  • Online virtual tours, like those available on Homes.com, which allow buyers to view the property from the comfort of their own home
  • 360 degree walking tours
  • Zoom tours with a Realtor. Many agents are offering this service to reduce the number of individuals in a property while also allowing people to view the home

In a world post-coronavirus, or at least, post the social distancing guidelines, these safety recommendations may still be in the future of homebuying and selling. People will likely want to stay protected from outside germs, so having extra precautions in place will be around longer than you might think.

Read: How to Buy a Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

Read: What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

Is My Down Payment Assistance Program Still Available?

Many first time homebuyers have relied on down payment assistance programs to purchase a home without having to pay 20% down; however, once COVID-19 hit and unemployment increased, many of the programs were suspended. It is important to note that not all down payment assistance programs were suspended and in the near future as guidelines loosen, many programs, if not all, will resume. If you as a buyer are relying on a DPA program to purchase your home in a post-pandemic world, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Will I still get a rate lock on my interest rate?
  • How will this impact the homebuyer education course that may be required?
  • Will there be a delay in processing my loan?
  • How often will I have to submit employment verification?
  • Has the credit score requirement changed?

Am I Still Approved For My Loan?

Since COVID-19, many lenders have tightened the requirements on loans. For many, they have increased down payment requirements and credit score requirements. In addition, many lenders are doing more employment verification checks throughout the loan process. Buyers may experience a delay in loan approval as processing times have increased, and as we continue to see the requirements loosen up in a post-coronavirus world, loan officers might become busier than before. These are some things to keep in mind about loan approval post-COVID-19 to prevent your approval from being dragged out longer than you want. Ask your broker these questions:

  • What do you need to verify my employment?
  • Is there a new minimum credit score requirement?
  • Will I be able to put less than 20% down? If not, what are my options?

How Will The Closing Process Work?

As attorneys and title companies work to close transactions during COVID-19, many are taking extra precautions to effectively protect themselves, and the public, while still conducting business. Each title company and attorney may have varying precautions, and many are even offering alternative closing options. It’s likely that as we continue to move forward with loosening up the restrictions of social distancing, many of these companies will be continuing to exercise precautionary steps. Here are some options you may be seeing come with us in the future:

  • Curbside closings to offer minimal contact
  • Electronic wire funding providing a touch-free funding option
  • Personal protective equipment required at in-person closings such as masks and gloves

What If I Was In The Process Of Buying But I’m Furloughed?

An unfortunate effect of COVID-19 is that many previously qualified buyers were furloughed or laid off due to no fault of their own. Unfortunately, while lenders may sympathize with the situation, most will not approve a home loan to an unpaid furloughed employee. Since this is uncharted territory even for lenders, requirements may differ. It’s important to ask the right questions if you’re currently furloughed, or expect to be out of work in the future, but are still wanting to buy a home:

  • How will my furlough affect my loan approval?
  • Will my time of employment have to start all over again once I’m not furloughed?

As we all adjust to a new normal, even in real estate, what has been business-as-usual may look differently. Buyers may experience more delays and hurdles in the process, but it is still possible to buy a home during and post-COVID-19. To begin your home search, download the free Homes.com app or search online!

Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

5 Financial Reasons You Should Never Buy A Home

September 7, 2018 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Buying a house

5 Financial Reasons You Should Never Buy A Home. Thinking about buying a home for the first time?

Many people think that at a certain age or because they are married and start a family, they have to buy a house. They believe that it’s what they are expected to do or it’s the next step. But that can be a financial mistake. Even if you can afford a mortgage, there’s more to owning a home.

For example, after you buy a home, you will also need extra cash to account for repairs, property taxes, insurance. You also have to make sure you can keep a job in order to make the mortgage payments. So before you buy a home, make sure you are ready to do so. In this article, we will provide some of the common financial reasons you should never buy a home.

If you are interested in comparing the best mortgage rates through LendingTree click here. It’s completely free.

Related Articles on Buying A House

5 Financial Reasons You Should Never Buy A Home

1. Homes are very expensive.

Homes are costly to buy. The average sale price for a home in the United States in 2018 is $394,300. That means that you will have to come up with a large down payment (usually 20 percent of the home purchase price) plus closing costs and fees.

In addition, you have to make sure you can cover the monthly mortgage payments once you buy the house. There’s also property insurance, taxes, homeowner associations fees (if you own a condo), water bill, electricity bills you have to think about.

If you feel you have enough money saved for a down payment on a house and you have a stable job, then buying a home might be a good option for you than renting.

You know you can afford a mortgage? Start shopping today for a mortgage.

2. You’re not handy.

When you own a home, you also have to keep up with the place, including painting, cleaning, making repairs, mowing the lawn, etc.. If you’re not a handy person, you will have to pay for professionals to do these things. And the cost of home maintenance can eat up your savings. So if you’re not a handy person and don’t have the money for these maintenance costs, you’re better off renting a home rather than buying a home.

Shop today for the best mortgage deal.

3. You’re too busy.

Similar to reason number 2, you should not buy a home if you’re too busy in your day-to-day job and paying for someone to do the yard work for you can be costly.

4. You don’t have a stable job or a stable source of income.

If you don’t have a stable job or stable source of income, you may not be able to make on time payment. And late mortgage payments can have serious consequences. The great thing about renting rather owning a home is that you don’t have any real obligation, besides the lease. If you can’t make your monthly rental payments, the worst thing that can happen to you is eviction from the property. But with owning a home, if you make late mortgage payments, the bank can foreclose on your property.

5.  You’re planning on moving.

If you know you’re planning on moving to another state or country, or that your job might transfer you to another location, you are better off renting a home than buying a home. The rule of thumb is that you buy a home if you are going to live in it for at least 5 years.

In conclusion, although there are some great benefits in buying a home, a lot of times it just doesn’t make sense. If any of these financial reasons above apply to you, you may be better off putting off buying a home.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE.

Related Articles on Buying A House

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your saving goals 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.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Here’s What To Do If Your Mortgage Won’t Let You Make Extra Payments

Freedom from debt is a common and powerful financial goal. Owning your home free and clear with no other debts gives you a strong financial base for whatever plans you may have in life.

In most situations, you will save money if you make extra payments on an existing mortgage. Doing so will directly reduce the balance on your mortgage, which means that for the rest of the life of your mortgage, the amount of interest you’re charged each month is lower. That means each subsequent mortgage payment will have more going to the principal amount than it would have before, and the end result is that your mortgage is paid off months or even years earlier than it would have been otherwise, even with just a single extra mortgage payment early in the mortgage.

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One potential hazard in that path to financial freedom is the fact that, in some cases, a lender won’t allow you to easily make extra payments on your mortgage. They’ll use various mechanisms to keep you from actually reducing your mortgage balance, such as penalties, suspense accounts and partial payment accounts, that result in little progress toward paying off your mortgage even if you’re trying to pay it down quickly.

What are these things, and how can a homeowner seeking financial freedom get around them?

In this article

What is a prepayment penalty?

A prepayment penalty is an extra fee charged by some home lenders in the event that you pay off too much of your mortgage early. The exact terms of the prepayment penalty are spelled out within a clause in your mortgage agreement.

 Typically, it only applies if you pay off the entire mortgage balance at once, but some clauses apply if you pay off a specified portion of your mortgage at once.

[ Next: Should You Pay Your Mortgage Off Early? ]

Why do lenders charge a prepayment penalty?

Lenders make money when you pay off your mortgage in steady monthly payments, as each payment includes interest that goes in their pockets. If you pay off the mortgage early, the lender loses that income. A prepayment penalty is thus a form of insurance for the lender against you paying off your mortgage too quickly.

This doesn’t just affect people who want to pay off their mortgage quickly, but it also affects those who choose to refinance through a different company. In that situation, the new company will pay off your previous mortgage in full and get hit with that prepayment penalty, which would then be added to the balance of your refinanced mortgage, making it less of a good deal.

What is a suspense account?

A suspense account is an account set up by a lender to hold a borrower’s funds in a suspended state until the lender decides how to allocate them. In the case of a mortgage, if your mortgage specifies the use of a suspense account, any extra payments you make would be deposited into that account.

Thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, there are some limitations to the use of suspense accounts. They can only contain an amount less than a full mortgage payment. So, if you make an extra payment on your mortgage that’s less than a full monthly payment, it would go into that suspense account until you made enough extra payments to add up to a full monthly payment, which would then be applied to your mortgage.

To find out if any extra payments on your mortgage would be applied to a suspense account, you can check your mortgage documentation.

What is a partial payment account?

A partial payment account refers to a specific use of an expense account. In this case, it is used in the situation where you make a partial payment on your mortgage rather than a full one. Let’s say, for example, that you decide to pay your mortgage bill by making a half payment every two weeks. Your first partial payment would go into the suspense account, then when your second partial payment arrives — making a whole payment — it would then be applied to the mortgage. Again, check with your mortgage documentation to find out if your lender utilizes a partial payment account.

[ See: When Is the Right Time to Get a Mortgage? ]

What’s the problem? The problem is that the lender is holding your money in limbo while it waits for the rest of your mortgage payment to arrive. During that time, you don’t have it available to you in an emergency and you’re not earning any return on it, but it’s not been applied to your mortgage either.

The best way to avoid this is to simply only make full extra mortgage payments. Pay exactly what you owe each month, then when you can afford to make a full extra mortgage payment, do so.

How to avoid a prepayment penalty on your mortgage

With some mortgages, a prepayment penalty can kick in if you pay too much of your mortgage in advance. This can be a big issue if you want to pay your mortgage off early or refinance. Here are some things you can do to avoid a mortgage prepayment penalty.

Talk to your lender

The first place to start is to talk to your lender, ideally before you ever sign on the dotted line for your mortgage. Ask that your mortgage not include any sort of prepayment penalty clause. If the lender is not willing to do that, shop around for a different mortgage.

If you already have a mortgage, it can’t hurt to ask, especially if you are interested in refinancing with the same lender. Mention the possibility of refinancing into a new mortgage without a prepayment penalty.

Refinance your mortgage

Even with a prepayment penalty, refinancing with a different lender may still be the best option if it lowers your overall interest rate. However, you should make sure that your new mortgage does not include a prepayment penalty. Spending the time to shop around for a great refinancing rate can save you a lot of cash, especially if you have equity built up and your credit has improved since your initial mortgage.

[ Read: The 10 Best Cities for Refinancing a Mortgage ]

Only make full extra payments

If you’re not looking to pay off the full balance all at once, you can still improve your financial situation a little by only making full extra payments on your mortgage. This avoids having any partial payments placed in a suspense account, even for a while. If you don’t have enough to make a full extra payment, keep saving.

Invest your extra payments instead

If your mortgage is locked in at a very low interest rate but has a prepayment penalty, you may want to consider just investing your extra payments instead. This might be a good opportunity to bump up your workplace retirement plan contributions or start saving for a child’s college education with a 529 college savings plan.

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We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

September 28, 2018 Posted By: growth-rapidly Tag: Buying a house

Are you looking to pay off mortgage early? Or as early as in 5 years? If so, then follow these tips. Your monthly mortgage payment might your biggest monthly expense in your budget right now. So the sooner and quicker you can pay off your mortgage, the sooner you can start experiencing true financial independence.  Follow the following six steps to learn how to pay off your mortgage faster.

Wondering how paying off your mortgage early can affect your overall financial plan? Talk to a local financial advisor.

1. Refinance your mortgage.

One of the steps you can take to pay off your mortgage faster is to refinance your mortgage loan. In the simplest term, refinancing your mortgage means that you get a new loan to replace your current mortgage loan. Refinancing can help you pay off mortgage early in two ways.

The first way is that you can get a mortgage loan for a shorter term and make higher payments and thus reduce the number of years it would take you originally to pay off your mortgage. Second, when you refinance your mortgage, you can get a loan with a way better and lower interest rate, provided that you have a good credit score.

So if you’re looking to refinance your mortgage loan to get a lower interest rate, it might be worth looking into learning how to improve your credit score.

A mortgage, like any debt, is something that you have to pay. So, in addition to making your monthly mortgage payments on time, make extra payments whenever possible. Making extra mortgage payments is one of the easiest ways to pay off mortgage early.

When you make extra payments on your mortgage loan, not only will you get rid of your debt faster, you will also save tons in interest payments. The logic behind it is this: the more money you owe, the more interest you’ll pay.

If you don’t make extra payments, the interest in your mortgage loan will build up and you will end up paying interest on interest. By making extra mortgage payments, you will be able to pay off your mortgage early. 

One word of caution though, before you start making extra payments, check with your loan to see if you’re allowed to do so without incurring any extra fees. You may not be allowed to make extra payments on a mortgage loan with fixed rates.

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3. Set a pay off mortgage early date.

Use an online mortgage calculator to have an idea when you can pay off your mortgage loan. The mortgage calculator will tell you when you can expect to pay off your mortgage and how much you need to pay every month to reach that goal.

Your paycheck from your current job may not be enough to consider making extra repayments on your mortgage.  With your monthly expenses, you may not have any money left at the end of the month.

So making extra money by doing side hustles or completing surveys can help pay off mortgage early. Here are some ways to make some extra cash.

5. Watch your spending habits.

Start watching your spending habits, including avoiding impulse buying. See if you can cut back on unnecessary expenses like monthly cable bills, subscription magazines, stop eating out and buying new things. That extra money can go towards your mortgage payments.

6. Make a lump sum payment.

If you receive a bonus at work, or a tax refund, use some or all that cash towards your mortgage. 

In conclusion, paying off your mortgage early can save you thousands. So it’s a good idea to work on it.

Click here to compare mortgage rates through LendingTree. It’s completely FREE

Working With The Right Financial Advisor.

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is 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.

Source: growthrapidly.com

9 Things I Love and Have Learned After 9 Years Of Blogging

I still remember the month I started my blog. I don’t really remember the exact first day, but I remember the first month and how excited I was.

In August of 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents.

That was exactly 9 years ago!

Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, and I also had no goals for my blog.

I didn’t even really know what a blog was, or that they could make money.

I also didn’t even like to write at that time!

In the past 9 years, so much has changed for me.

It’s crazy to think that I started my blog nine years ago, especially when I consider all of the amazing things it has done for my life.

It was something I started and worked on in addition to my full-time day job as a financial analyst, and around two years after I started this blog, I quit my day job to blog full-time.

Some numbers on Making Sense of Cents:

  • My first blog post was published on August 10, 2011. You can read it here.
  • I have published 1,878 articles here on Making Sense of Cents. That number was higher about a month ago, but I recently deleted several hundred articles that I thought weren’t good enough.
  • I have 70,816 comments on my blog posts.
  • I’ve personally replied to 21,080 comments.
  • It took me 6 months to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents.

First, a little backstory on how I began.

You may have heard this from me before, but the funny thing is that I created my blog on a whim after reading about a personal finance website in a magazine. It started as a hobby to track my own personal finance progress, and I honestly didn’t even know that people could make money blogging!

I knew NOTHING about running a website.

At that time, I was working as an analyst at an investment banking and valuation firm. I chugged along working the 8-5, Monday through Friday grind and didn’t see myself having an enjoyable future there. I had a stressful job filled with lots of deadlines and responsibilities that just didn’t interest me. Yes, I know this is the norm for some people, but I just couldn’t imagine myself living like that for 40+ years.

Blogging was an outlet for my stressful day job, and my interest quickly grew, even though it was just a hobby. It gave me space to write about my personal finance situation, have a support group, to keep track of how I was doing, and more. I did not create Making Sense of Cents with the intention of earning an income, but after only six months, I began to make money blogging.

A friend I met through the blogging community connected me with an advertiser, and I earned $100 from that advertisement deal.

That one deal sparked my interest in taking my blog more seriously and learning how to make even more money blogging.

I now earn a great living from my blog, and it all started on a whim, not even knowing that blogs could make money.

Blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I urge anyone who is interested to learn how to start a blog as well.

Blogging has allowed me to take control of my finances and earn more money. It means I can work from home, travel whenever I want, have a flexible schedule, and more!

Related content:

And, all of this happened because I started some random blog nine years ago.

I made so many mistakes, and I still make mistakes today. But, I continue to learn and improve, which has shaped this blog into what it is today.

I was so afraid to quit my job when I did, especially for a blog.

So many people thought I was absolutely crazy and making the worst decision of my life. Especially since my husband quit his job at the same time!

Today, I want to talk about the the 9 things that I love and have learned about blogging over the years. I feel like what I enjoy about blogging as well as what I’ve learned go hand in hand.

Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet – please follow me on Instagram.

Here’s what I love and have learned about blogging.

1. I love being my own boss.

When I first started my blog and realized I could make an income from it, I quickly learned how much I love being my own boss.

I love being in complete control of what I do, and becoming self-employed may allow you to feel that way as well. I enjoy deciding what I will do each day, creating my own schedule, determining my business goals, handling everything behind the scenes, and more.

I actually have a rule in my life/business where I don’t do anything unless I want to. While I still say yes to many amazing opportunities, I’m not doing anything that feels like a total drag or is against my beliefs. This has really helped improve my work-life balance, which is great because being able to choose how you earn a living amounts to making sure you love everything you do.

I honestly love each and every service I provide – writing online, promoting, networking, interacting with readers, and more.

Running an online business (and being your own boss) may not be for everyone, but it’s something I enjoy.

2. A flexible schedule is one of my most favorite things.

One of the best things about working for yourself and being a blogger is that you can have a flexible schedule.

I can work as far ahead as I want to, I can create my own work schedule, and more.

I love being able to work for a few hours in the morning, do something fun during the day (such as a hike), and then work later at night when I have nothing planned. I can also schedule appointments during the day and it’s really no big deal.

I can work at night, in the morning, on the weekends – I can work whenever.

But, this can also be something to be careful with as well, as it can be difficult to have a good work-life balance.

3. Location independence is AMAZING.

Being location independent for so many years has been great.

I love being able to work from wherever I am, and it’s allowed me some of the best experiences I’ve had, like living in an RV and now on a sailboat. All I need is an internet connection and my laptop.

The only problem with being location independent is that it can be hard to separate work from the rest of your life. You may find yourself working all the time, no matter where you are, and while that may seem great, being able to take a true vacation can be a hard task.

However, I’m not going to complain because the work-life balance I’m rocking right now is great.

4. Remember, success takes time!

Many bloggers quit just a few months in.

In fact, the statistic that I’ve always heard is that the average blogger quits just 6 months in.

I completely understand – starting a blog can be super overwhelming!

But, good things don’t come easy. If blogging was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

It took me 6 months for me to earn my first $100 from Making Sense of Cents. If I would have quit at that time, I would have missed out on so many great things!

Remember, success takes time!

5. Don’t write when you feel forced.

One thing I have definitely learned about myself over the years is that I write best when I’m not forced – i.e. when I’m on a deadline.

Instead, I always try to write content ahead of time.

I used to write content for Monday on the night before (Sunday!), and I found that to be super stressful. Even a week in advance was too stressful for me.

I like to be at least a month ahead, as then I can truly write when I feel inspired and happy to write.

6. Get ready to learn.

Pretty much everything about having a blog is a learning process.

Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, and anyone who tells you that it is (or acts like it is) is lying.

Blogging is not easy.

And, you won’t make $100,000 your first month blogging.

Blogging can be a lot of work, and there is always something to learn. Something is always changing in the blogging world, which means you will need to continue to learn and adapt to the technology around you. This includes learning about social media platforms, running a website, growing your platform, writing high-quality content, and more.

This is something that I love about blogging – it’s never stale and there’s always a new challenge.

7. Stop seeing other bloggers as competition.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly something that I’ve learned, but I want everyone else to learn!

I have always had this mindset – that there is plenty of room for everyone in the blogging world. However, not everyone feels the same.

So many bloggers see other bloggers as enemies or competition, and this is a huge mistake.

I mostly see this in newer bloggers, and this can really hold them back.

Networking is very important if you want to create a successful blog. Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending blog conferences, sharing other blogs’ content with their readers, and more.

Networking can help you enjoy blogging more, learn new things about blogging, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging, then you will want to network with others! After all, networking is the reason why I learned how to make money blogging in the first place!

The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren’t genuine, and it’s very easy to see.

I’ve made great friends who are bloggers and influencers, and it’s truly a great community to be in.

8. You don’t need previous experience to be successful.

To become a blogger, you don’t need any previous experience. You don’t need to be a computer wizard, understand social media, or anything else.

These are all things that you can learn as you go.

Nearly every single blogger was brand new at some point, and they had no idea what they were doing.

I’m proof of that because I didn’t even know that blogs existed when I started Making Sense of Cents, and I definitely didn’t know that bloggers could make money. I learned how to create a blog from the bottom up and have worked my way to where I am today. It’s not always easy, but it’s been rewarding!

With blogging, you’ll have a lot to learn, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

9. You can make a living blogging.

This is probably one of the best things that I’ve learned since I first started my blog.

You can actually make a living blogging!

No, not every single person will become a successful blogger (it’s NOT a get-rich-quick scheme), but I know many successful bloggers who started in a similar way as I did – blogging as a hobby and it just grew from there.

For me, I have earned a high income with my blog, and I have enough saved to retire whenever I would like. I am still working on my blog, though, as I enjoy what I do.

What’s next?

I’ve never really been much of a planner, so I don’t want to commit to anything HUGE haha.

But, for Making Sense of Cents, I do have some plans. I am working towards improving traffic and readership, and coming up with more and more high-quality content.

I am so grateful to all of you readers, and I want to continue to help you all out by writing high-quality content.

That is really my only goal for now!

If there’s anything you’d like me to write about on Making Sense of Cents, please send me an email at [email protected] or leave a comment below.

Thank you for being a reader!

There’s a ton of valuable free resources.

I know I’ll be asked this, so I am going to include this here.

One of the great things about starting a blog is that there are a ton of FREE blogging resources out there that can help you get started.

In fact, I didn’t spend any money in the beginning in order to learn how to blog – instead, I signed up for a ton of free webinars, free email courses, and more.

  1. First, if you don’t have a blog, then I recommend starting off with my free blogging course How To Start A Blog FREE Course.
  2. Affiliate Marketing Cheat Sheet – With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.
  3. The SEO Starter Pack (FREE Video Training)– Improve your SEO knowledge in just 60 minutes with this FREE 6-day video training.
  4. The Free Blogging Planner – The Blogging Planner is a free workbook that I created just for you! In this free workbook, you’ll receive printables for starting your blog, creating a blog post, a daily/weekly blog planner, goals, and more.

Do you have any questions for me? Are you interested in starting your own business?

How To Start A Blog FREE Email Course

In this free course, I show you how to create a blog easily, from the technical side (it’s easy – trust me!) all the way to earning your first income and attracting readers. Join now!

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular updates and get access to the free course.

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

How And Why To Check Your Credit Score If You Plan On Buying A House

My wife and I have pretty good credit. We’ve never missed a payment on any of our debts, have had a variety of credit types (installment loans, mortgages and credit cards) and the cards that we do still have, we’ve had for years.

We’re not too concerned about having a good credit score these days because we don’t really use debt that much, we pay cash for most things.  There is one thing that we DO need a good credit score for, however, that may be happening within the next year or two. Buying a house.

When buying a new home it is important to stay on top of your credit situation as your credit score can have a huge impact on what rate, and what type of loan you can get.  In the end it can save or cost you thousands of dollars. So today I thought I would do a quick review of why it’s important to stay on top of your credit when looking for a home loan, and how to do it in a way that doesn’t cost you very much.

credit score impact on mortgage rate

credit score impact on mortgage rate

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Let’s say you are you seeking a 30 year fixed loan for $250,000 to pay for a new house.  Depending on your credit score range the rate that you get can vary pretty widely.

Credit Score Impact On Mortgage Rate

Credit Score Impact On Mortgage Rate

Even if you have a good credit score, and not an excellent score, you’re losing out on thousands of dollars in interest.  Boosting your credit score to the excellent category would save you an additional $11,107 in interest!  Going from an average or poor credit score to a higher credit score range could save you even more!  So be aware of where your credit score is, and do your best to improve your score!

What Is A Good Credit Score?

What a good credit score is can vary a bit depending on who you ask, but in general it’s safe to say a good FICO credit score is going to be anything above a score of 700-720. In the 680-700 range, you’ve got average credit. If your score is 620 or below you’ll most likely be tagged as a poor credit risk.  Here’s a general look at the credit score ranges.

Credit Score Description
750-850 Excellent credit.
680-749 Good credit.
620-679 Average credit.
560-619 Poor credit
300-559 Bad credit.

So what is taken into account with your credit score?  According to the FICO site:

  • Payment History (35%): How good are you at making your payments, and making them on time?
  • Amounts Owed (30%): How much credit are you using – how much do you owe?
  • Length of Credit History (15%): How long have your accounts been open, and how long since you’ve last used them?
  • New Credit (10%): Are you opening a lot of credit cards lately, or other lines of credit? Lots of inquiries for credit?
  • Types of Credit Used (10%): Number of and different types of accounts.
So it’s important to stay on top of these things, especially when you’re looking to get a large new loan like a home mortgage. Check out this post for a more in depth look at what a good credit score is.

Where Can You Check Your Credit Report?

There are a couple of things to stay on top of when carefully monitoring your credit, your credit score and your credit report.  Your credit report will be a detailed listing of your credit situation showing all of your accounts, loans,  negative events on your record, missed payments, etc.  In other words it will give you an overall look at your credit situation.

You should never really have to pay for your credit report as you can get a free report from each of the big three credit agencies every year through the government site at AnnualCreditReport.com.  Personally I like to stagger pulling my reports for each agency, and get one every 4 months to better monitor my situation.  If you haven’t pulled one in a while, however, and you’re hoping to get a loan soon, you may want to pull all three.

Where Can You Check Your Credit Score For Free?

There are several places that you can check your credit scores from the three agencies, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, for free.    Keep in mind these credit scores are not the FICO score used by the banks when deciding on your rate, but they are similar and can help to inform you and give you a good idea of where  your FICO credit score will probably be.

You can currently get your credit scores from the big 3 agencies for free if you know where to go.  Here is how I get mine.

Your credit score for the three agencies can help to inform you of approximately where your credit score will be when the mortgage companies check it.  But where can you go to get your actual FICO score?

Where Can You Get Your MyFICO Score?

Your FICO score, the one used by the mortgage companies in order to give you your home loan rate, is a bit harder to come by without paying for it.  Right now you can get it via a free trial from MyFICO directly. Other places I’d recommend going to get it:


Changing your credit score isn’t an easy process and won’t happen overnight. So if you’re hoping to make a big purchase anytime soon, like a home, make sure to get your credit scores early, and do what you can to improve them by the time you finally apply to get a loan.  Have a decent amount of accounts, utilize the credit responsibly, don’t cancel old accounts and make sure that all of your payments are on time.

Have you recently purchased a home and seen what kind of an impact a credit score can have? Hoping to buy sometime in the near future?  Tell us your thoughts on credit scores and buying a home in the comments.

Source: biblemoneymatters.com