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<br /> Lifestyle Changes to Help You Save for a Down Payment<br /> Sat, 25 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Saving money for a down payment on a house can feel daunting. It doesn’t have to be.Set a Savings GoalFigure out how much you need for a down payment. Set a goal for when you would like to buy.Reduce Expenses If you live in an area with high rents, consider moving. Look for ways to reduce your student loans or credit card bills. Find ways to reduce your everyday spending.Earn and Save Look for a side hustle. If you get a raise, bonus or income tax refund, invest or save it.It will require hard work, determination and some sacrifices. You’ll have to stay committed to your goal.

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What Happens If You Cancel a Credit Card? Sun, 26 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





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Making the Most of Your Credit Card Rewards Mon, 27 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Register for Bonus CategoriesTo get the most out of a cash-back credit card, look for a card that gives bonus rewards on certain purchases.While 1 percent cash back is common on all purchases, some cards offer a 4 percent bonus for a total of 5 percent for buying from certain types of merchants. These can include restaurants, travel, grocery stores, gas stations, airfare or hotels.The categories may change every quarter, with airline purchases earning 5 percent back for three months, then changing to movie theatre purchases for the next three months, for example. The category may even have a cash back limit.To get in on these bonus categories, some cards require you to opt in each quarter and manually select which category you want to earn money back on. Some credit cards make it as simple as registering your card online, logging in to your account and clicking a button.Use the Right Card for BonusesIf you have a few credit cards, it can be difficult to juggle them and remember which card has which bonus for the purchase you’re making. With the bonus categories changing each quarter, it can be difficult to remember which card to use to get the most cash back from it.Using a cash-back card that you thought had a bonus at gas stations but instead had a bonus at department stores can leave you with a lot less cash back than you thought you’d be earning.Avoid an Annual Fee and InterestPaying an annual fee on a rewards card is normal, but be aware of how much more money you’ll have to spend to earn enough cash back or rewards points to make up the difference between the fee and what a no-fee card charges.If a cash-back credit card has an annual fee of $75, for example, and pays 5 percent cash back for grocery store purchases, it would require spending $1,500 to get that $75 fee back. That’s a lot of groceries to buy before getting money in your pocket.Another area where cash rewards can be eaten up is by card holders who don’t pay off their balances in full each month or on time and pay interest on their credit card balance. People who pay interest each month are often charged a higher interest rate on their cash-back card than if they did the same thing on a credit card with no rewards.If you regularly carry a balance on your credit card, look for a card with the lowest interest rate. Don’t look for one with rewards.

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When to Negotiate on the Price of a Home Tue, 28 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Once you’ve found the right one, making the right offer is crucial.Your agent will advise you on what that offer should be, but sometimes negotiating with the sellers is possible.You can negotiate on price when…You can buy the home with cashAn attractive option that causes many sellers to drop the priceYou’re not in a hurry to moveIf you can risk losing the bid, you can toy with price.The sellers are under duressA divorce or financial emergency may mean the sellers need to sell quickly.A problematic inspectionIf costly repairs are required, you can lower your offer.But remember, if you’ve found your dream home, don’t risk losing it over a price war!

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Solving Student Loan Challenges Wed, 29 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





report of the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).For federal student loans, more than twice as many consumers (71 percent) reported difficulties dealing with their lender or service than the 28 percent who complained to the CFPB that they were struggling to repay their loan. Two percent of complaints were about a problem with a credit report or credit score.Accessing ProtectionsFederal law provides protections for federal student loans. Many are designed to help borrowers avoid delinquency and default during economic distress, such as a job loss.Servicing loan breakdowns “can delay, deter or deny access to federal benefits and protections, rendering them illusory for many student loan borrowers,” the report states.Nearly all federal student loan borrowers should be eligible to make payments based on their income through an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan. The plan can help struggling borrowers avoid default.Yet borrowers complained to the CFPB about servicing roadblocks in IDRs, such as obstacles when trying to enroll in an IDR plan. These include unexpected delays, lost paperwork, poor customer service and inconsistent application processing. They can lead to higher loan costs, reduced benefits and extended repayment terms.Forbearance Instead of IDROthers said that when telling their servicer that their standard monthly payment is unaffordable, they’re directed to options like forbearance or extended payment, which can be more expensive over the long-term than an IDR plan.Borrowers in IDR plans are required each year to recertify their income and family size so they can qualify for an affordable monthly payment-a process that should take weeks but is longer, according to the CFPB. Federal law allows borrowers during that recertification time to continue paying their current monthly plan until their new IDR payment is recalculated.However, borrowers complained that they either had to continue making the unaffordable monthly payment, or their loans were incorrectly placed into forbearance during this process, which prevented them from accessing loan forgiveness programs. Forbearance allows loan payments to be temporarily suspended, and a long delay in the IDR recertification can prevent borrowers from making progress toward loan forgiveness.Consumer ActionWhile the CFPB takes legal action against some student loan providers, there are steps consumers can take to deal with student loan problems.When contacting a student loan servicer, do it in writing so that there’s a paper trail that may help solve problems later. Borrowers can also sign up for automatic payments, which can get them a slight interest rate reduction on their loans and will make sure their payment is made on time each month. They can also look into student loan options such as refinancing, consolidating loans, IDRs and student loan forgiveness.To submit a complaint to the CFPB, go to consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call 855-411-2372.Or submit by mail to:Consumer Financial Protection BureauP.O. Box 2900Clinton, Iowa, 52733

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<br /> 5 Features You Need to Include in Your Master Suite<br /> Thu, 30 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0400





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Maintaining Your Kitchen Appliances Fri, 01 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





RefrigeratorRefrigerators have a life expectancy of 13 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).Mold should be the main thing to try to prevent the spread of in a refrigerator. This requires regularly removing all food from it and cleaning every corner. Check each week if expiration dates on food have passed, and toss out anything that’s old.On the exterior, clean dust and any debris from the condenser coils on the back, and check and maintain the seals on the fridge.Stove or OvenGas ranges should last 15 years, which includes the stovetop and oven. Clean both on a monthly basis with an oven cleaner or basic cleaner for the surface.Even after a self-cleaning cycle, an oven can need some extra scrubbing by hand to remove old food drippings that have turned to ash. Be sure to wear a mask and gloves. For a gas stovetop, you may need to take apart the components to clean them well.Garbage DisposalAt six years, a garbage disposal may have one of the shortest life spans in a kitchen. A lot of it depends on what you put down there.Putting big chunks of food, or thick items such as carrots can break a disposal. You’re better off throwing those in a trash can or composter.To keep your garbage disposal smelling clean, fill the sink with soap and water and then let it flush and drain. Cut a lemon in quarters and run them in the disposal until they’re gone.MicrowaveExpect nine years of good service from a microwave oven. Spilled food can cause stains inside, and fingerprints, splatters and other things can make the outside dirty.To clean the inside, heat a cup of water inside the microwave for 2 – 3 minutes. Let it evaporate until steam appears on the glass window, then open it and wipe the inside with a sponge. Scrub the glass plate separately, and use soapy water to clean the inside.For the exterior, an all-purpose cleaner with a sponge or cloth should work well. Don’t spray the cleaner directly on the appliance because it could enter the ventilation holes.

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Avoid These Common Renovation Mistakes Sat, 02 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Embarking on a home improvement project is both exciting and stressful.Don’t let one of these common mistakes spoil the fun…Don’t rush! Large scale projects take months. Plan accordingly and build in several weeks for curve balls.Miscommunication. Tensions can run high, so find out the best way to stay in touch with your contractor – email, text, weekly meetings.Your contractor can then mitigate issues between you and your partner.Controlling design. There’s a big difference between what you like and what makes the best sense for your home.Let a designer help decide what works for design and functionality.Forgetting to budget. Go into the project with a number, then add in another 10 – 20 percent.

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3 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Sun, 03 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Fraud AlertThis is a free alert you can place with one of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Once the alert is placed with one bureau, it will pass on to the other two.A fraud alert is a notice put on your credit report, warning prospective lenders that you’re the victim of identity theft. Lenders who see this warning should take extra steps to verify your identity before giving credit to someone claiming to be you. For example, a bank may try to contact you in various ways to verify your identity before approving you for new credit.An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days. It can be renewed for another 90 days after the first alert expires. It can also be extended for seven years if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.Credit FreezeAlso called a security freeze, a credit freeze is an extra step beyond a fraud alert that can offer more protection. It can cost $2 to $12 to start, lift or remove a credit freeze, though most states require it to be free for identity theft victims.A credit freeze does what the name implies-it “freezes” or locks access to a credit file against anyone trying to open a new account or get new credit in the person’s name. It’s more severe than a fraud alert. If you think your information or credit cards have been stolen and you’re at high risk of fraud, a credit freeze may be worthwhile.But that protection comes with a price. It also shuts out companies that you may want to do business with, such as lenders, insurers and cellular service providers that may want to check your credit report. To get around that, you have to temporarily lift the freeze with a PIN and set a date for the freeze to be reinstated automatically.Credit LockA credit lock is similar to a credit freeze and should be easier to use. It’s offered by a credit reporting company and allows users to lock and unlock the account online easily instead of having to verify their identity each time a lift or security freeze is done.Credit locks usually require an annual fee, typically around $60. A credit lock lasts for as long as you pay the annual fee. The lock only works for the credit reporting company that you start it with. Credit locks must be initiated with each company if you want all of your information to be locked.

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Four Ways to a Higher Credit Score Mon, 04 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Pay Bills on TimePayment history is the most important factor in FICO scores, accounting for up to 35 percent of a credit score. Paying your bills on time-regardless of whether it’s a credit card bill or a utility bill-can significantly improve your score.Late payments stay on a credit report for seven years. The longer ago they happened, the less they affect credit scores. If a bill goes unpaid long enough, the debt can be sold to a collections agency and will get reported to credit bureaus.Maintain Low BalancesKeeping a low balance lowers your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of credit you’re using. Also called credit usage, it is the second most important factor in credit scores and accounts for 30 percent of a score.Your credit usage is calculated by dividing the total of your balances by your total credit limits. For example, $3,740 in credit card debt divided by $16,000 in a total credit card limit equals 23 percent usage.Paying off the balances in full each month should keep the credit utilization rate low, which should preferably be at no more than 30 percent on any one card or in total.Increase Your Credit LimitAnother part of credit usage is how much your credit limit is. Increasing your limit in small increments by getting a new credit card can lower your credit utilization rate by giving you more money to use. You could also ask your current credit card provider to increase your credit limit. However, using that higher credit card limit could increase your credit usage, so you may want to use it rarely and pay it off in full each month.Keep Credit Card Accounts OpenAge of credit history has a 15 percent impact on a credit score. Creditors and lenders like to see an average account age of more than five years. Keep your older accounts open to get over the five-year average. While this isn’t a quick step to improving your credit score, it’s worth keeping in mind for the long-term health of your credit. If you want to see faster results, start by paying your bills on time, using less of your available credit and ask for a credit limit increase.

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The Search for a New Doctor Tue, 05 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





When looking for a new doctor, do some research.Get recommendations from friends and family.Check with your insurance company for a list of local doctors in your plan’s network.Call a doctor’s office, and ask these questions…Which hospital does the doctor use?If the doctor is part of a group practice, who else might treat you?Does the office offer evening or weekend hours?How long will it take to get an appointment, and what’s the cancellation policy?Does the doctor have special training or experience treating a condition you have?The more you learn, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right doctor for you.

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How to Prepare Your Home for Flooding Wed, 06 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Clear gutters. If flooding is predicted in your area, help your home out by clearing all gutters, downspouts and drains so your home can battle the rising water.Elevate outdoor electric units.Outdoor generators, fuel tanks and air-conditioning units should not be left on ground level outdoors. Elevate them as best you can and securely anchor them so they don’t float away if flooding occurs.Power down. Shut off your electricity via your breaker panel to stay safe.Move items upstairs. When flooding is likely, take charge by moving items upstairs and further from the flood zone. Furniture, rugs, electronics and important paperwork should all be moved to the highest ground possible. Make copies of important paperwork and store them digitally so you don’t lose them.Raise appliances. While you likely can’t lug your refrigerator upstairs, you can elevate your appliances on concrete blocks to minimize damage if only a few inches of water floods in.

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How Sound Is Your Home’s Foundation? Thu, 07 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





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<br /> Protecting Your Identification With a Fake Birthday<br /> Fri, 08 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





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Managing Credit Responsibly as a College Student Fri, 08 May 2020 00:00:00 -0400





Obtaining a Student Credit CardSome credit cards are marketed to students and others who don’t have much borrowing history. Federal laws restrict issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 unless the applicant has the independent ability to repay debt or has an adult co-signer who accepts joint liability for the account.Student credit cards may have low credit limits, such as $1,000, but they are otherwise indistinguishable from other credit cards. They may even have features such as cash back, no annual fees and budget management tools.Using Credit Cards WiselyAfter getting a credit card, students can start using it slowly and for occasional, small purchases that can be paid for on time. This will help build credit history and help them stay out of debt.Students shouldn’t let a new card sit in their wallet. They must use it or risk the bank closing it due to inactivity. Putting small, recurring charges on it, such as a Netflix account or other website subscription, is an easy way to maintain use at a low cost.Students shouldn’t make any big purchases unless it’s an emergency. Having low debt levels on their credit card will allow them to have enough of a credit line available in an emergency, and will increase the credit utilization part of their credit score.Building Credit With Student LoansOne of the last things college students want is to default on their student loans, as this affects credit.Borrowers should make at least the minimum payment each month and do it on time. They should borrow only what they need to go to school, instead of using the funds to buy a car or dine out. Once they graduate, they may want to consolidate their student loans to get a better interest rate.On-time payments and paying off student loans will improve the credit score over time. If students run into problems making payments, they should contact their student loan provider and ask for forbearance. Federal student loans also offer Income-Driven Repayment plans that base payments on a borrower’s income.

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