5 Tips to Help Pay Back Student Loans

It’s graduation season, and the average student loan debt now exceeds $30,000. No wonder an estimated 11% of student loans are in default!

The Department of Education already expanded repayment options like pay-as-you-earn plans (PAYE) and income-based repayment plans (IBR) over the last few years, but many students are still struggling with this financial burden well into their post-college years.

In 2017, lawmakers introduced a new bill that could make a big difference for graduates – and their employers. This bill would extend tax benefits to employers who choose to help their workers with student debt.

Tips for Tackling Student Debt Responsibly

Money to pay back student loans would be great, right? Although the above program could be helpful if passed in the future, paying back the bulk of a student loan is ultimately the borrower’s responsibility. Paying off debt can be challenging, so here are a few tips for tackling student loans responsibly.

1. Pay more than the minimum and/or double up on payments.

Like most other bills, student loans are usually due once a month. Paying a little more than the minimum required amount can help you knock out the debt sooner (use a debt repayment calculator to find out exactly how much), and avoid paying extra interest. If you receive bi-weekly paychecks, you could also set up an additional automatic payment on paydays (even if it’s only a small amount).

2. Find your payoff date and use it as an incentive.

Knowing it will take you 10 years to pay off your student loans is discouraging, but every little bit of extra you pay into the loan will make freedom day a little bit closer. Create a visual update every time you achieve a new payoff date, and you’ll find more incentive to keep taking months and years off the end of it.

3. Use your tax refunds or education credits.

Did you get a tax refund or education credit this year? Instead of spending it, why not use the money to make a large payment on your student loans? The faster you can eliminate a monthly payment, the faster you’ll free up more of your budget year-round, rather than having to wait for your next refund check to have some “fun” money.

4. Take on a side job or apply your annual raise.

If you’re already working full-time, more work might not seem like the ideal situation. That’s why if you take on a side job to repay your student loans faster, choose something fun – and only do it a few hours or days a week. When this money is set aside exclusively for paying your student loans, it can quickly make a dent. Secondly, when you get your annual raise, apply the difference to your loans rather than inflating your lifestyle.

5. Consolidate and refinance – with caution.

Consolidating debt sometimes makes sense, especially if interest rates have dropped significantly. On the other hand, refinancing just to get lower payments while lengthening the duration of your loan – may only mean paying more interest in the long run.

Your personal finance habits will truly make the difference in getting out from under the burden of student loans, once and for all.

Read more about student loan repayment options in this article from bankrate.com.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

2018 Classroom Grants: Call for Entries!

Calling all teachers! Does your classroom need a little help for the 2018-2019 school year? Tell us what your classroom needs are!

The First Financial Foundation will be awarding classroom grants up to $500 each this coming fall. Grants will be awarded to Monmouth and Ocean County schools.

The school year is just about over, but you’ll have all summer to apply! Grant applications will be accepted between June 15 and September 30, 2018.

To submit an entry, please email foundation@firstffcu.com no later than 11:59pm on September 30th. Your email should tell us in 500 words or less, or you can submit a Youtube video no longer than 3 minutes – letting us know how much you are requesting up to $500, and what you would use the grant for. Please be sure to include your full name, position, school name, address, a contact phone number and email. Educators may also be nominated by an administrator.

All grant recipients will be notified by the First Financial Foundation on or about October 15, 2018.

Good luck!

*To apply, email foundation@firstffcu.com and tell us in 500 words or less or submit a video no longer than 3 minutes, letting us know how much you are requesting and what you would use the grant for. Grant applicants must also submit their name, position, school name, school address, and a contact phone number and email. All applications must be received by 11:59pm on 9/30/18. The Foundation will notify grant recipients on or about 10/15/18. Educators may also be nominated by an administrator. Total funds available for 2018 classroom grants is $2,000.  Applying does not guarantee receiving a grant. Not all applicants will receive grant money. Before applying, be sure to check with your school district to see if there are any rules or requirements for applying or accepting grant money. Federally insured by NCUA.

8 Things to Know Before Leasing a Car

Should I lease? What is leasing anyway? Here’s what you need to know.

1. Leasing Is Paying For What You Use

Let’s imagine that a particular car costs $30,000 new and that it has an estimated value of $21,000 after three years of use. The amount of depreciation incurred is $9,000. Divide this amount by the number of months in the lease (in this case, 36 months) and you get your monthly lease payment: $250.

Now, there are also finance charges and taxes to include, but in essence, leasing is paying for the depreciation that occurs over time from your use of the vehicle. At the end of the lease, simply return the car or buy it outright by paying the remaining value of the car (in this example, $21,000).

2. Some Cars Lease Better Than Others

Cars of the same price and type can cost vastly different amounts of money to lease.

These variations mostly boil down to the details of each manufacturer’s lease program. Every month, automakers release new lease programs that establish the following:

  • Residual value: The car’s estimated value at the end of the lease.
  • Money factor: The interest rate expressed in a different way.
  • Cash incentives: If available, these lower the final selling price of the car.

3. Leases Can Be Negotiated

Advertised “lease specials” create the impression that lease prices are set by the manufacturer—as if they were promotional menu items from McDonald’s.

In truth, individual dealers determine the selling price of a car, who then apply the manufacturer’s lease program to arrive at the actual cost. A manufacturer’s lease special simply assumes a particular selling price that they expect dealers to honor. The selling price can most certainly be negotiated.

4. Watch Out For Marked Up Rates and Fees

Aside from setting the sales price, dealers can also mark up the money factor. This may result in hundreds or thousands of extra dollars paid over the course of a lease. Leasehackr.com posts the official money factor for hundreds of vehicles, so you can check if you’re being charged too much.

With a lease, you’ll also pay an acquisition fee and often a disposition fee. These are legit fees, but some dealers mark them up as well. In exchange for paying these fees, you benefit from certain inherent advantages of leasing—explained below.

5. Someone Else Takes On The Risk Of Depreciation

When an automaker sets the residual value of a particular model, they often overestimate the car’s actual lease-end value.

For example, Leasehackr leased a 2013 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC, which had a residual value of $44,036 after two years of use. In actuality, the car was worth about $34,000 on the open market when it came time to return the car.

By leasing, Leasehackr avoided $10,000 in depreciation that we would have otherwise incurred if purchased instead. This amounts to over $400 per month saved!

Some automakers are spot-on with their estimates. Others intentionally inflate their residual values to make their leases cheaper. And sometimes they just get it wrong. Regardless, when you lease, someone else takes on the risk and uncertainty of depreciation.

6. You Can Cash Out On Any Lease Equity You Have

Sometimes, the opposite scenario happens: your car is worth more at lease-end than its official residual value. This might occur if your car becomes highly desirable in the used car market.

With many automakers, you can actually arrange a third-party, such as CarMax or Beepi, to buy out the car. If CarMax offers you, say, $23,000 for the car, but the residual value is $21,000, then they will write you a check for the difference ($2,000).

7. You Only Pay Sales Tax On The Cost Of The Lease

When you purchase a car, you pay an amount of sales tax based on the selling price of the car. This can amount to thousands of dollars that you never get back, even if you end up selling the car a few years later.

In most states you pay sales tax only on the cost of the lease. These tax savings more than make up for the acquisition fee required on a lease.

8. Never Put A Down Payment On A Lease

If your car is ever totaled or stolen, you can always walk away from a lease without penalty (thanks to GAP insurance). However, you won’t always get your down payment back— so don’t pay one to begin with.

A down payment obscures the cost of the lease and makes it more difficult to compare deals. Any car can be leased for $199 per month if there’s a sufficient down payment.

Article Source: https://leasehackr.com/blog/2015/9/19/8-things-you-should-know-before-leasing-a-new-car

 

5 Money Subjects You Need to Talk About Before Tying the Knot

Bursting the love bubble by sitting down and having a serious talk about finances is never fun, but open communication about money is a good idea in any relationship.

Since it’s wedding season, those thinking of tying the knot should have a serious discussion about money at some point, preferably before you move in together or actually get married. Even if there are no plans to combine finances completely, it’s still good to clear the air and see if you and your future spouse are on the same page.

Here are five things to talk about before moving forward:

1. Debt

One of the biggest things you need to talk about is debt. Get it out there. Even if you won’t be sharing finances, one person’s debt can have a profound impact on household finances. If you want to buy a home together or if you want to do other things, someone’s obligations can hold you back as a couple.

Have an honest talk about your debt levels, and see if you can make a plan to pay down the debt. Even if you don’t share finances, the partner without the debt is going to have to be supportive until the debt is paid off.

2. Credit

Credit goes along with debt, but it isn’t exactly the same thing. While it’s not vital that your partner have a perfect credit score, it is a good idea to see where you both stand, and be honest about the situation.

At some point, if you decide to get a joint loan together (for a car, wedding, or a home), both of your credit scores will matter. Talk about it so you know what you need to do together. If one of you has a poor score, you might have to wait a little longer before you accomplish some of your loan goals.

3. Money Philosophy

This is a bigger deal than you might think. It’s a good idea to know whether or not you have the same money values before you take that next step. Spenders and savers need to be able to come up with a plan to compromise. If you like spending your money on lots of books, and your partner prefers movies, you might need to come up with a plan to make sure you both get what you want at least some of the time.

4. How to Handle Kids and Money

If you think you’ll have kids together (and that’s another conversation you need to have before taking things to the next level), you need to talk about how you’ll handle kids and money.

Do you want to save up for college for them? How will you handle allowance? Extracurricular activities?

These are big questions you need to tackle together so you are on the same page. It’s vital to know early on so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised later.

5. Retirement

Chances are, you both want to save for retirement. But do you have a shared vision for what that looks like? Before you commit to a long-term, life partner relationship, make sure you talk about how you want to handle retirement. It can be tough if one of you expects to sit at home most of the time, and maybe play golf a couple times a week, while the other wants to sell the house and everything in it to travel the world.

In the end, you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page so that all your money goals are being reached together. Take the time to have a discussion now, so there are fewer surprises later.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for moneyning.com

3 Ways to Stay Out of Debt

Your student loans are paid off, and you finally got rid of that credit card debt. It’s a great feeling to be debt free, and it only feels better when you’ve stayed that way for a while. Going forward, here are three things to be mindful of if you don’t want to slip back into debt.

Be ready for the unexpected: A car wreck could happen in an instant and you could be responsible for car repairs or medical bills. If you’re not prepared with an emergency fund, you might have to put those payments on credit, and then you’ll be right back where you started. Make sure you start saving a little bit every month, so when those unexpected bills happen – you’ll be ready.

Stick to your lists: Always make a list before you go shopping. If you like shopping with your credit card (credit rewards or cash back can be great), make sure you buy only what you intended to. A few extra bucks here and there can cause you to go over budget, and even leaving a small balance on your credit card can get you in trouble over time.

Take a long look at your subscriptions: Whether it’s a gym membership, a streaming service, magazines, or whatever else, make sure you’re really getting value out of any recurring purchase that you’re subscribed to. If you haven’t been to the gym in the last couple years, it’s probably time to stop giving them your money – even if it’s only twenty dollars a month.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Do 0% Interest Credit Cards Have a Dark Side?

If credit card interest payments were merely a matter of mathematics, 0% interest would be a no-brainer. Given a choice between paying interest or not paying interest, of course nobody would choose to pay, would they? Common sense says paying ZERO dollars in interest is the best possible way to borrow money. So, why should you think twice before agreeing to a 0% interest credit card or balance transfer promotion? Two words: Fine. Print.

All that glitters is not gold.

There’s a marketing proverb that says, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” And make no mistake, 0% offers are most definitely sizzle! If utilized properly, these promotions can save you money. But if you don’t pay close attention to the details found in the fine print of cardholder agreements, those offers could wind up costing you more than you wanted to pay (which is sadly, often the case). With so many credit card companies offering 0% interest cards and balance transfer promotions, it’s difficult to compile an exhaustive list of potential pitfalls. So, rather than trying to cover all the caveats, let’s focus on the features that, if ignored – could quickly take the shine off any promotional offer.

  • Transfer fees.
    In many instances, transferring a balance from one credit card to another involves a fee (usually ranging from 3-5% of the balance). Depending on the amount you transfer, this additional fee could significantly lessen your overall savings. Not every balance transfer promotion includes a fee, so do your research before you accept an offer. It’s never fun to discover unexpected fees after you’ve already committed to an offer’s terms and conditions.
  • Steep interest charges after the introductory period ends.
    0% interest is a good thing. But unfortunately, the adage is true. All good things must come to an end. Most of these promotions include a limited-time introductory period of 0%, after which, the remaining balance will begin accruing interest—often at a high rate. If you plan to pay off your entire balance during the introductory period, the transfer can be a huge benefit. However, if you’re planning to carry the balance forward (or if you forget to pay your balance off before the 0% ends), it’s best to know when the interest charges will start and how much they will be. Once again, reading that cardholder agreement and fine print is key. After the 0% introductory period ends, some of these credit cards can have an APR of nearly 30% – and if your balance isn’t paid off by this time, you could be charged that insanely high interest rate for not only what you have left to pay off, but what you transferred over in full in the first place. We can’t say it enough: before you open a 0% interest credit card, be sure you understand the terms and conditions in full.
  • Higher interest rates on new purchases.
    Be careful. The 0% interest rate on your transferred balance also rarely applies to new purchases. The major credit card companies are in business to make money, and interest charges are their primary source of revenue. By charging a higher interest rate on new purchases, credit card companies can offset the interest they’re missing over the course of promotional introductory period. So, before you start racking up charges above and beyond the balance you transfer, take time to know exactly how much interest you’ll be paying.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!*

Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

*APR varies from 12.15% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 14.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.