6 Tips for Paying Off Large Medical Bills

Person at a laptop using their phone

If you’re trying to pay off a hefty medical bill, you are not alone. Medical bills are a leading cause of debt in the U.S. Many working Americans don’t have enough savings in place, yet they are facing high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. 

A report published in 2017 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed that medical bills were the most common type of past-due bill or payment for which consumers reported being contacted by collections agencies. More than half (59 percent) reported medical costs as the leading reason for being contacted. 

Here are six tips on how to deal with a looming bill in a way that is positive and proactive:

Don’t Ignore It

It’s tempting to stick your head in the sand, but this will not make the problem go away. Don’t leave the bills under a pile of papers but address the issue head-on. Establish contact with the medical provider to let them know you are working out the best way to make the payments. Once the bill goes to collections, it will be that much harder to negotiate.

Closely Check the Bill

Spend time reading your bill very closely. It could include mistakes. If you’re unclear about what the costs are describing or think you may have been overcharged, ask for an itemized bill from your provider. If you have health insurance, carefully compare the hospital bill against the summary of benefits from your health insurance company to make sure everything matches up.

Explore a Payment Plan

Most providers offer payment plans, sometimes these include interest and at other times they are interest-free. First work out what you can pay each month. Consult your budget and find out your realistic bandwidth for making monthly payments. When you call the provider, be aware that you can try to negotiate and ask, for example, whether the plan can be interest-free or if you qualify for any discounts. If you organize a payment plan with the provider over the phone, ask for them to send you the confirmed plan in writing. Then once you confirm the details, stick to the plan over the long-term.

Ask About Charity Programs

Many hospitals and medical providers include programs for those whose income is low or who may be moving through very difficult circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask about whether they offer such a service. The provider will often mail you the application materials for this type of program to see if you qualify. You can also reach out to your state or local government, to find out whether they have assistance programs that may help offset the costs.

Build Up Emergency Savings

Your best defense against these kinds of bills is to have a stellar offense. Create an emergency savings fund to dip into when illness or accidents arise. You will ideally keep this fund in a separate account to the one you use for your daily living costs. Make sure you will be able to access it if you need it. Also be sure to actively replenish the money if you ever dip into it.

Insure Your Income

Those who have experienced an accident or illness that takes them out of work for weeks or months on end, will know the stress of losing your income during this time. Take steps to make sure that if you have an illness or injury, you will be able to earn an income during these times. This is what disability insurance is —it’s insurance for your income and allows a portion of your salary to be paid, while you recover. 

It’s no fun to have a large bill you need to pay. However, once you actively resolve the situation and work out an action plan you’ll feel a great deal of relief. That peace of mind will have a big impact on your overall recovery. 

4 Things to Know About Family Leave and Your Income

Mother holding a baby. Becoming a parent is an extraordinary and, at times, stressful endeavor. Your life is about to fundamentally change. And as you plan the myriad dimensions of this new reality, you may be wondering how you’ll cover all the bills while you take time off work.

Family leave is a complex issue and it requires a good amount of research. Begin by reading your employer handbook or asking a co-worker how they dealt with family leave and what they were offered. Consider what will work best for you, in terms of the time you’d prefer to take off work. If you do become pregnant, make sure you let your boss know before anyone else. Embrace it enthusiastically as an opportunity for growth. As Carol Walker, president of the consulting firm Prepared to Lead tells the Harvard Business Review: “Planning for your maternity leave is an opportunity to demonstrate to everyone that you’re in the game.” 

Here are a few ways you can replace your income during family leave: 

Paid Family Leave

This is the ideal situation of course, but don’t hold your hopes up too high. The National Compensation Survey (NCS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, revealed that just 14 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave in 2016. There are a few states who are pioneering paid leave: These include California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and New York joined the group in January 2018. If you work in the tech industry, you could also be in luck: Tech companies offer some of the best family leave out there. Ask your HR team or boss if they offer this benefit. 

Short-Term Disability Insurance

Short-term disability insurance is another way to protect your income when you cannot work due to an illness or injury. This includes pregnancies — and it’s very commonly used for this purpose by employers. Short-term disability insurance plans often cover six weeks post-partum. It covers a portion of your income — normally around 60 percent. Several states such as New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island have short term disability laws in place. You can also purchase this form of insurance as an individual. 

Unpaid Family Leave

The vast majority of American workers don’t have access to paid family leave (88 percent according to the NCS study). So your next step is to see if you qualify for unpaid family leave — which keeps your job intact although it doesn’t offer a salary. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law in 1993 and it guarantees eligible workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year. FMLA does have its limitations though: it only applies to companies that have more than 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace. You also need to have worked there for at least a year and put in a minimum of 1,250 hours. Laws around this also vary from state-to-state so you’ll need to research your local situation. FMLA applies to giving birth, adopting a child, or fostering a child — and it can also be used in the cases of caring for a spouse or parent with a serious health condition. There are ways of making it work while on unpaid leave—you just need to plan well.  

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Many people will use some of their PTO to cover their income for part of their leave. Your workplace may require you to use up your accumulated PTO before benefits can kick in. Others will allow the benefits to begin immediately, which may allow you to use some of your PTO to extend the length of time you can stay at home. 

Take the time to educate yourself on the benefits that apply to you. Know your rights and don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a better deal. If you are just starting to think about having a child, now is a great idea to build out a financial plan to help avoid the stressors down the line. With a plan in place, you can relax and enjoy the extraordinary gift of welcoming a new life into the world.

5 Steps to Reducing Credit Card Debt

Cutting up credit card

Credit card debt is a painful reality that more and more American families are living with. According to ValuePenguin, the average credit card debt for American households that carried a balance in 2017 was a massive $16,048. The 2017 American Household Credit Card Debt Study by personal finance website NerdWallet came to a similar conclusion, showing an average of $15,654 per balance-carrying household — with a worrying new trend of families increasingly using their credit cards to pay for medical costs.

The best way to deal with credit card debt is to take action. Rather than allowing the interest to accumulate, take a clear look at your situation and plot a strategy to firmer financial ground. Here are five steps to help you move in the right direction:

Take a Clear-Eyed Look at the Debt

Begin by taking stock of exactly where you are. What do you owe on each card and what are the interest rates? Write your numbers down on a piece of paper or type them into a spreadsheet. If you have more than one card, rank the debts according to the interest rates — so you can clearly identify which cards are costing you the most over the long-term.

Know Your Spending Habits

Now study your credit card statements in more detail. Run them by your budget. Analyze your habits over the past year. It’s all too easy to use a card and forget about all the small purchases that can add up. If you’re living above your means, you need to know this now so you can course correct and bring down your spending.

Get Better Rates

Call your bank to find out whether you can negotiate a better interest rate on a card. If you’ve been making your payments on time and have a solid credit score, you’ll have more bargaining power. You may need to have the primary cardholder around to join the call — and note that the conversation could take some time.

Build Your Plan

 There are two major strategies when it comes to paying off credit card debt:

  • The Debt Avalanche: This is where you focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate first. You continue to make minimum payments on the other cards, but focus your energies — and cash — on eliminating the highest-cost card first.
  • The Debt Snowball: This is a different strategy entirely, where you focus on paying off the smallest debt first, while making minimum payments on the others. Just as the name suggests, it starts out small but as you wipe out each debt, that money then gets transferred over to paying the larger debts.

There has been much debate about which strategy is best. The math suggests that the debt avalanche is the winner, however the psychological boost of wiping out debt in the snowball method can be highly motivating. Depending on the degree of your debt, there are other options such as consolidating debt where you roll all your debt into one. You can also transfer your debt to a new credit card that has zero percent APR. Bear in mind that this approach generally works best for those with good credit scores, and it does require the discipline to not overspend. The Motley Fool recently compiled the best cards of 2018. Choose a strategy that works for you, then stick with it.

Grow New Habits

As you move ahead, build new habits. If you’re an impulse buyer, consider physically taking the cards out of your wallet and leaving them at home. You can also experiment with increasing the regularity of your payments. If your budget allows, try shifting payments from monthly to more frequent increments such as weekly. When you completely eliminate that debt, you can then start a practice of paying off all credit card purchases at the end of every month.

It’s all about living within your means — and taking back control. As Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian recently told CNBC, good credit card management boils down to making payments on time and not buying things you otherwise can’t afford. “Ride the wave, don’t fall off the surfboard,” he said. “That’s the trick.”

How to Build a Basic Budget

Couple working on financesMany people are struggling to gain control of their finances. According to a LendingTree report in 2017, four in five Americans are in the red—and a quarter of those in debt do not have a plan to pay it off. By building a budget, you can gain clarity into your financial situation. This is a vital, first step that will help you chart a route to a far more sustainable place.

Here are the key steps in building a basic budget:

Set a Date

Building a budget requires time and patience; don’t set yourself up for failure by starting the process at a point in the day when you don’t have time to see it through. Peering into the cold reality of your finances can be an overwhelming and disheartening task, so take away any time stressors. Make a date for your budget by choosing a slot in the week where you’ll have a few hours to invest in the process. Invite anyone else who may need to be included—and even think about making a few snacks to power you through the process. Rather than approaching it as a chore, see this as a project that’s leading to your stability and peace of mind.

Choose Your Format

Are you going to use a spreadsheet? There are several great free templates online that you can download and work from. There is also a whole ecosystem of software tools that automate the process and increase accuracy. Or perhaps you’re far more comfortable with pen and paper. Choose a format that makes sense to you. As you build that budget, identify your goals. Are you trying to pay off a large medical bill? Do you have credit card debt to reduce or are you saving for an addition to the house? Identify what your realistic goals are, both short-term and long-term.

Gather Your Data

U.S. News recommends that you physically bring together all your bills, credit card reports, bank information, and paychecks. Spread this paperwork out on the table and gather the digital versions in your devices. Separate them into two parts: incomings and outgoings. Then start inputting all of these items into your monthly budget.

As you build out your budget, insert your income at the top—such as work, investments, and freelance projects. Then you’ll insert the various costs below. The first will be fixed costs such as utilities, mortgage or rent, and insurance costs. Then you can list discretionary costs—like gas, food, and entertainment. Don’t forget items that often go under the radar, such as car registration, memberships, and subscriptions.

Analyze the Data

Now comes the moment of truth: add everything up. If you earn more than you spend, congratulations, you have a surplus. If you spend more than you earn, the important thing is to spot the trend now and start correcting it. It’s vital to your long-term financial health that you see things realistically.

Now you can dig into the numbers and identify areas you can cut down on costs. Your fixed costs may be fixed—as the name implies—but perhaps you could find a better deal for some of your bills, such as your internet provider. If you have credit card debt, figure out how much you can pay off each month—you’ll want to do more than the minimum if you can. You can also review the dates for each payment. If they’re huddled close together in the month, see if you can spread them out.

Continue to work with the numbers until you get to a place where you can balance things out. Your discretionary costs are usually where the most cost cutting can occur. How much is that daily latte coming to on a monthly basis? You may also need to identify new sources of income to bring in.

Set Targets

Set a target for your costs for next month. If you’re giving yourself a limit for your spending on items such as groceries, one tried and true method is to put cash into envelopes for certain purchases, such as your weekly grocery shop or your money for lunch at work.

Then, as you move ahead, make sure you revisit your budget on a regular basis. Keep coming back and tweaking, and checking your progress on this document. By sticking with it long-term, you’ll start to see the gains and that budget may start to feel like your closest ally.

Family Planning: Daycare or Stay-At-Home?

Jan-childcare-imagePlanning for a family can be an exciting and daunting step, when you think of all the changes having a baby leads to. There’s the rewarding feeling of creating a bond with a tiny little human, even when you’re too tired to see straight. And then there’s the financial drain that comes with an extra person who must be fed, clothed and cared for 24/7. Child care, alone, is often one of the largest monthly expenses for working parents, unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend or relative who can’t get enough of changing diapers. This leaves many weighing the benefits and implications of child care vs. staying home with a new baby.


Those most impacted by this life-changing financial decision are millennials. In 2014, millennial moms accounted for almost 90% of all moms that year, up 50% from a decade ago. According to reports on the average salary for a millennial, in 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000, compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the cost of center-based daycare in the United States can run up to $18,773 a year ($361 a week). With less than half their salaries left over, many millennials have some soul searching to do about what’s best for their families.


Assuming one has some financial flexibility, and can go without what’s left of his or her salary after childcare costs, how does one take on this decision? There are several factors to consider. Are you happy in your career? Are you driven to move your career forward? Do you dread the thought of being away from your child? Ultimately, you need to decide how this decision will affect the well-being of you and your family.


These days, American companies are starting to wake up to the idea that better parental leave is good for business. They are able to compete for a higher standard of employee by offering longer paid leaves. In addition, a new mother or father with an 8-week-old baby is not getting the quality of sleep he or she should, and may suffer at work. It may sound obvious as a parent, but companies are starting to recognize this as a priority benefit. These companies often combine short-term disability leave and paid parental leave, as their parental leave strategy. A few companies even offer on-site child care as a benefit to their employees, offering the best of both worlds.


An expectant mother or father can spend days, weeks or even months trying to figure out what to do. But when that little human comes into the world, everything changes. It’s good to have a plan. But it’s also good to be open to changing that plan. You may find that work is the perfect escape from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.

The Biggest Financial Mistakes Millennials Make Today

Jan-YoungManBudget-imageBorn between 1980 and 2000, Millennials are perhaps the most informed of any generation thanks to having grown up surrounded by modern technology—they’re also poised to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. That said, millennials actually have quite a bit working against them in terms of finding and maintaining stability, from disappearing pensions to growing home-buying difficulties. When it comes to managing money, millennials are quite a bit different from past generations.


Here are just a few of the biggest financial mistakes made by millennials today, all of which can lead to money management headaches.

Not Budgeting

There’s no quicker way to live beyond one’s means than to avoid putting together a budget. For many millennials, however, creating a budget is easier said than done. Other priorities, such as finding a job and paying on student loans tend to cloud the need for creating a budget, which is essential for avoiding problems down the road. Fortunately, there are a number of budgeting tools available online that make putting together a proper budget easier than ever.

Avoiding Student Loan Payments

No one enjoys paying their student loans each month, but the fact is that they’re not going to just disappear. Avoiding loan payments can quickly lead to arrears, penalties and fees, all of which can make getting out of debt even more difficult. If you’re having a hard time paying your student loans each month, call your lender and discuss getting set up on a different payment plan. Whatever you do, don’t just stop paying on them in hopes that they’ll go away—they won’t.

Not Planning for Retirement

As important as it is to live in the present, everyone needs to plan ahead in order to achieve financial comfort later in life. This is where setting up a retirement plan comes in. With nearly 50% of millennials having not yet set up a retirement plan, however, many are also losing out on free money, such as matches from an employer in a 401(k). The longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the more aggressive your saving strategies must be. Starting earlier can help to mitigate stress related to saving for retirement.

Constantly Renting

Renting an apartment is certainly easier than purchasing a home at face value, but in the end, it’s one of the worst financial mistakes a person can make if they continue renting for decades or longer. While home ownership is an investment (and one of the best available), all of the money that goes to renting an apartment ends up in someone else’s pockets—the renter has nothing to show for it after eventually moving. While renting can be a good means to an end, it shouldn’t be the end-all. Unfortunately, millennials simply aren’t buying homes the way past generations have.


While millennials have a great deal of potential for financial success at their fingertips, they’re often dragged down by issues such as those highlighted above. Fortunately, financial roadblocks can be overcome by adopting a better, more mature mindset about money.

The Cost of Cancer – Planning for Survival

Jan-cancer-costs-imageNo one plans to have cancer. Aside from the shock and anxiety for the future a diagnosis brings, cancer also presents a financial situation that few people fully consider. Huge medical bills, on top of the typical expenses like college loans, mortgages, and car payments, can leave survivors concerned about their finances. Despite this, there are a variety of precautions and preparations that can be taken to limit the impact of a diagnosis from a financial perspective. The effects of cancer can certainly rear its head in many ways. However, with some additional budgeting, cancer patients can put their minds moreso at ease while heading on the road to recovery.

Types of Costs

Costs associated with cancer can present themselves in a variety of ways. A 2017 study from JAMA Oncology shows that cancer patients tend to spend upwards of a third of their income on medical expenses, in addition to their usual health insurance fees. One of the primary causes of debt is of course the presence of medical bills. From seeing primary physicians, specialists, consultants, and other healthcare professionals, each of these visits and additional tests can add up.

For relatively rare cancers like mesothelioma, finding a doctor that specializes in your specific diagnosis can mean traveling across the country regularly. While the main concern when undergoing treatment is of course seeing the specialist that is most likely to save your life, the costs associated with travel are rarely thought of. These travel expenses, from gas money to airfare, can quickly add up.

Not to mention, hefty prescription drug costs that often come out-of-pocket. As one of the fastest growing sectors of healthcare expenses, cancer patients can spend thousands of dollars for their required prescriptions. These medications come in addition to various treatment methods like chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. With often lengthy periods of treatment, these medication costs can put a definite financial strain on the patient and their family.

Debt from cancer treatment can also accumulate from a lack of income. If the treatment is aggressive, many patients are forced to leave their jobs to focus on their health and recovery. In a household that is used to having two incomes, the loss of that influx of money can certainly make an impact. If the diagnosis requires extended periods of time away from your profession, the patient may also come back from recovery to find that the work is no longer relevant or is done differently. This retraining period can be another obstacle altogether. In the case of older demographics, this can also deal a significant blow to retirement savings. As a result, cancer patients are around 25 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without cancer.

Even after the cancer patient has been through the final stages of treatment and is considered in remission, there are routine check ups to ensure that person stays healthy for years to come. All of the regular medications, treatments, and evaluations to keep cancer at bay will also come with a price tag. While beating cancer is clearly a blessing, this is an additional cost that many do not anticipate maintaining for the rest of their lives.


While it may be difficult to plan for cancer, there are some steps that can make the diagnosis less of a burden on the patient’s finances. Taking precautions with various forms of insurance and an emergency savings can go far to ensure the survivor and their family are protected. Health, life, and disability insurance are all small yet highly effective steps to take when planning for the future. It’s a great idea to establish a Health Savings Account (HSA,) which allows for contribution to a savings store for healthcare expenses directly from the person’s paycheck, before taxes. Even as a young person new to the workforce, taking out insurance and creating an account for health related expenses can be very beneficial and will keep your mind at ease for years to come.

If found in a stressful financial situation due to medical expenses, be sure to consider all of your options via financial assistance programs and debt service providers. There are a variety of professionals that specialize in debt management and refinancing that can help a patient through a difficult time as they start on the path to financial recovery. In the meantime, strict budgeting and monitoring income closely can allow for cutting down on what’s not necessary and saving where possible. Additionally, in certain cases like mesothelioma, the cancer victim may be eligible for compensation in a legal setting with the help of a specialized mesothelioma lawyer. Because this type of cancer develops due to exposure to asbestos, this may be an advisable route to explore if wrongfully exposed in the workplace.

Although talking about and planning for the future can seem daunting, taking adequate measures to prepare for the unknown can make all the difference when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Taking out insurance, saving for emergencies, and maintaining a tight financial ship will put a patient in the best position to focus on treatment and recovery. Battling cancer is difficult enough without having to worry about each added expense to save your life, but taking these precautions in advance will leave you and your loved ones prepared in case the unthinkable happens.

Millennials Got Older, but Their Financial Attitudes are Young

Dec-AgingMillenial-imageIf you still think Millennials are “young,” you may be a little off. They became adults in the year 2000, and today most are over the age of 30. Some are even grandparents. Looking back 17 years ago when Millennials were the “kids” in high school or college, the future looked wide open and bright. And in many ways, it was, as they became the first truly “digital generation.”


An Entrepreneurial Spirit

However, for many of them, economic and employment realities have taken the luster off their bigger dreams. Though Millennials are the most educated generation in history, they also have the highest student loan burdens of any age group. Many are living paycheck to paycheck and barely 25% of then have enough savings to last at three months. And those without income protection are even more vulnerable to financial stress. Not surprisingly, Millennials have shorter-term financial goals and are delaying important financial decisions like saving for retirement.


And though they often feel overeducated and under-employed, strong optimism is still a theme for many Millennials. Rather than following traditional employment paths, a large percentage want to launch their own businesses in the near future. With the right resources, 54% would quit their jobs and start a business next year.


Financing for the Future

For Millennials who are more secure financially, their view of the future sounds, well, very adult. Many are looking at getting their second mortgage, not their first. And having survived for years driving high-mileage beaters, many Millennials are considering buying their second or third car.


To make those kinds of purchases and to manage their finances, Millennials have turned the way people bank inside out. As the digital-from-birth generation, 74% of them prefer mobile banking instead of desktop banking or banking in person. They access their financial accounts via a mobile app nearly three times more often than any other group. And, according to a Vocalink study, more than half of Millennials prefer mobile banking with an iPhone.


However, banks don’t need to fret. Increasingly, Millennials are beginning to make more branch visits to seek expert advice for mortgages or for business planning. They even use ATMs more frequently than their non-Millennial counterparts.


Embracing New Technologies

As Americans of all ages are increasingly relying on mobile and online banking, Millennials are still setting new paths. While most people are just getting use to voice-activated devices from Amazon, Google and Apple, voice banking is being quickly adapted by Millennials. Nearly 68% of them would check their balances by voice commands and 46% would feel at ease paying bills by voice.


Though they more in debt and working harder to get by, many of today’s Millennials don’t look at work as simply a way to make money. They have disrupted the workplace forever by bringing more focus on creativity, entrepreneurship, working collaboratively and yes, by still trying to make a difference in the world.

4 Crucial Retirement Savings Tips

Nov-retirement-savings-imageAh, retirement. The word alone brings to mind carefree travel, spending time with loved ones and putting the stress of work aside to learn an endless assortment of new hobbies. In reality, however, retiring comfortably means starting the planning and saving process early, and making the right moves every step of the way. It’s a lifelong journey, and the sooner you can get serious about it, the more likely it is you’ll be spending your retirement days in comfort, as opposed to worrying about whether or not you’re going to run out of money.


Saving for retirement isn’t always easy, but as one-in-four 65-year-olds today will live past the age of 90, it’s extremely important to focus on. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Maximize Your Employer’s 401(k)

If you work with a company that offers a traditional 401(k) plan, you’re in luck in terms of retirement planning. A 401(k) allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars, which can come with some serious tax advantages and make it possible to invest extra income without having it noticeably affect your budget. Though becoming more of a rarity with each passing year, many employers do still offer a match on 401(k) contributions, which is essentially free money—take advantage of it by contributing as much as possible to your plan and focusing on what it will mean for your financial future.

2. Don’t Overlook the Roth IRA

While 401(k) plans can certainly be beneficial as retirement savings vehicles, they’re not everything. Indeed, no retirement savings account offers the kind of flexibility and versatility characteristic of the Roth IRA, which is an ideal tool for building your nest egg. Unlike your employer’s 401(k), Roth IRAs are funded with post-tax dollars, which means the money can be withdrawn without having to pay any taxes once you reach the age of 59 ½ (so long as the account has been open for five years). Plus, Roth IRAs offer a number of investment options, making them less limited than most 401(k) plans.

3. Invest Gifts and Inheritances

Money that seems to appear out of nowhere, whether in the form of gifts, inheritances, or even a 20-dollar bill that shows up in your laundry, is often viewed as “fun money,” due to the fact that it materializes randomly. But that’s not to say gifted cash should be spent frivolously. If anything, gifts, inheritances and found money make excellent retirement investments and can help to pad your nest egg with each new contribution.

4. Work with a Financial Planner

As good as some may be with managing a budget, the fact is most people are not financial professionals. There are a great deal of benefits that come along with taking retirement into your own hands, but you can maximize your efforts by working with a financial planner who has expertise in this area. Though it will cost you some up-front, the health of your portfolio and peace of mind associated with knowing that you’re working with a true professional will be worth the investment.


Planning for retirement can be challenging to say the least, but it’s possible to plan effectively by starting early and focusing your approach. Don’t wait around—you’ll thank yourself down the road.

Consolidating Debt: Fight Your Way to Financial Freedom

Oct-DebtConsolidation-imageOne reality about adult life is the need to pay bills and calculate taxes. Much of our time goes into figuring out who gets how much and what our bank balance is at the end of the month. The stress of paying different people, different amounts at different times can present a challenge.

A gleam of hope in the confusion

Debt consolidation can be a great solution to our loan payment woes, by rolling several debts into one. Consolidation is beneficial if you owe payments to multiple high-interest credit card debts. One immediate benefit is a consistent interest rate, which can be a huge relief for families and business owners alike.

It only helps if you can do it right

While taking out a larger loan to pay off smaller ones, always check the following:

  • The origination fees and the processing fees.
  • Can you pay your creditors directly? Some lenders offer such support.
  • Can you get a lower interest rate if someone co-signs your loan?

Thinking outside the box: balance transfer credit cards

Some prefer going for a 0% interest credit card instead of consolidating their loans. This can be a risky move. Most credit card companies have a substantial transfer fee. The average term is 21 months, and there is also a limit to the amount you can transfer; usually $15,000. Credit card transfers are a potential solution for single men, women, working family members, and students. But if you own a small to medium sized business, the upper limit will be too low for consolidating even your smallest significant debts. Credit card transfers are not wise for larger companies.

Why is a personal loan better?

A personal loan offers a number of advantages over credit cards. Borrowing limits are much higher, and the qualifying credit scores are relaxed as well. A personal loan may even boost a credit score that is deteriorating due to multiple lapsed payments. (On the other hand, if you max out the credit on a 0% interest card, your credit score will suffer more, and you will end higher interest rates for future loans.)

Personal loans to pay off consolidation loans can be a smart way to manage your finances. If you have a decent credit score (600 and above), you may not have to provide collateral. Unsecured loans can be a great help when it comes to improving credit scores and securing the future of your finances.

Choosing an online lender

Online lenders have varying requirements and varying APRs. Usually, the ones with stringent credit score requirements have a lower APR, ranging close to 5%. But if you have a poor credit record, you could be required to pay a whopping 36% APR for a loan from the same company! The average rate hovers around 13% for online personal (consolidation) loans. Although, if you have a limited credit history, the company may charge you a higher APR for security reasons. There are many online loan calculators, which you can use to find out your approximate APR, and help you calculate your total debts, total payment at the end of the term, and your best consolidation possibilities.

Will the new loan help you repay your current loans?

Some loan companies will allow you to pay your creditors directly. However, this is only available for those who have excellent credit records. Some credit card debt consolidation companies will also offer credit counseling sessions. This will help you reorganize your payment structure and pay off your debts. Having proper debt counseling and management will help you move ahead in the right direction.

How much fee is your lender currently charging?

Almost all online consolidation loans have charge an origination fee, which can range between 1% and 6% of the total amount you are borrowing. While some lenders will deduct the origination fees up front, others will charge extra for the first few months to make up for it. Always check the details and calculate the net amount without the origination fees to cover all costs.

A personal consolidation loan only makes sense if you can manage an APR that is small enough to help you save money. Always get expert finance advice on loan consolidation and repayment before you apply for the loan. Moreover, always remember – there is nothing like an emergency fund in the hour of need.