How to Make Better Financial Decisions

Woman learning how to make better financial decisions

A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:

Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.

Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.

Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.

Sequential goal-setting

Pros

You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.

Cons

Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.

Concurrent goal-setting

Pros

Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.

Cons

Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.

Research findings

Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.

Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.

The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.

Actionable steps

Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.

1. Consider concurrent financial planning

Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.

2. Increase positive financial actions

Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.

3. Decrease negative financial habits

Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.

4. Save something for retirement

Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.

5. Run some financial calculations

Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.

What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!

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Want to know how to allocate savings for your financial goals? We’ve got the tips on how to make financial decisions so you can be confident in your personal finance! | #moneymatters #personalfinance #moneytips


Source: wisebread.com

What Is the Self-Employment Tax?

Working for yourself, either as a part-time side hustle or a full-time endeavor, can be very exciting and financially rewarding. But one downside to self-employment is that you're responsible for following special tax rules. Missing tax deadlines or paying the wrong amount can lead to expensive penalties.

Let's talk about what the self-employment or SE tax is and how it compares to payroll taxes for employees. You’ll learn who must pay the SE tax, how to pay it, and tips to stay compliant when you work for yourself.

What is the self-employment (SE) tax?

In addition to federal and applicable state income taxes, everyone must pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. These two social programs provide you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and Medicare health insurance benefits.

Many people don’t realize that when you’re a W-2 employee, your employer must pick up the tab for a portion of your taxes. Thanks to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), employers are generally required to withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from your paycheck and match the tax amounts you owe.

In other words, your employer pays half of your Social Security and Medicare taxes, and you pay the remaining half. Employees pay 100% of federal and state income taxes, which also get withheld from your wages and sent to the government.

When you have your own business, you’re typically responsible for paying the full amount of income taxes, including 100% of your Social Security and Medicare taxes.

But when you have your own business, you’re typically responsible for paying the full amount of income taxes, including 100% of your Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Who must pay the self-employment tax?

All business owners with "pass-through" income must pay the SE tax. That typically includes every business entity except C corporations (or LLCs that elect to get taxed as a corporation).

When you have a C corp or get taxed as a corporation, you work as an employee of your business. You're required to withhold all employment taxes (federal, state, Social Security, and Medicare) from your salary or wages. Other business entities allow income to pass directly to the owner(s), so it gets included in their personal tax returns.

You must pay the SE tax no matter if you call yourself a solopreneur, independent contractor, or freelancer—even if you're already receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits.

You must pay the SE tax no matter if you call yourself a solopreneur, independent contractor, or freelancer—even if you're already receiving Social Security or Medicare benefits.

How much is the self-employment tax?

For 2020, the SE tax rate is 15.3% of earnings from your business. That's a combined Social Security tax rate of 12.4 % and a Medicare tax rate of 2.9%.

For Social Security tax, you pay it on up to a maximum wage base of $137,700. You don't have to pay Social Security tax on any additional income above this threshold. However, this threshold has been increasing and is likely to continue creeping up in future years.

However, for Medicare, there is no wage base. All your income is subject to the 2.9% Medicare tax.

So, if you're self-employed with net income less than $137,700, you'd pay SE tax of 15.3% (12.4% Social Security plus 2.9% Medicare tax), plus ordinary income tax.

Remember that your future Social Security benefits get reduced if you don't claim all of your self-employment income.

What is the additional Medicare tax?

If you have a high income, you must pay an extra tax of 0.9%, known as the additional Medicare tax. This surtax went into effect in 2013 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It applies to wages and self-employment income over these amounts by tax filing status for 2020:

  • Single: $200,000 
  • Married filing jointly: $250,000 
  • Married filing separately: $125,000 
  • Head of household: $200,000 
  • Qualifying widow(er): $200,000

What are estimated taxes?

As I mentioned, when you’re an employee, your employer withholds money for various taxes from your paychecks and sends it to the government on your behalf. This pay-as-you-go system was created to make sure you pay all taxes owed by the end of the year.

You must make quarterly estimated tax payments if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in taxes, including the SE tax.

When you’re self-employed, you also have to keep up with taxes throughout the year. You must make quarterly estimated tax payments if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in taxes, including the SE tax.

Each payment should be one-fourth of the total you expect to owe. Estimated payments are generally due on:

  • April 15 (for the first quarter) 
  • June 15 (for the second quarter) 
  • September 15 (for the third quarter) 
  • January 15 (for the fourth quarter) of the following year

But when the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, it shifts to the next business day. Your state may also require estimated tax payments and may have different deadlines.

How to calculate estimated taxes

Figuring estimated payments can be extremely confusing when you’re self-employed because many entrepreneurs don’t have the faintest idea how much they’ll make from one week to the next, much less how much tax they can expect to pay. Nonetheless, you must make your best guesstimate.

If you earn more than you estimated, you can pay more on any remaining quarterly tax payments. If you earn less, you can reduce them or apply any overpayments to next year’s estimated payments.

If you (or your spouse, if you file taxes jointly) have a W-2 job in addition to self-employment income, you can increase your tax withholding from earnings at your job instead of making estimated payments. To do this, you or your spouse must file an updated Form W-4 with your employer.

The IRS has a Tax Withholding Estimator to help you calculate the right amount to withhold from your pay for your individual or joint taxes.

How to pay estimated taxes

To figure and pay your estimated taxes, use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, or Form 1120-W, Estimated Tax for Corporations. These forms contain blank vouchers you can use to mail in your payments, or you can submit funds electronically.

When you have a complicated situation, including having business income, one of your new best friends should be a tax accountant.

For much more information about running a small business successfully, check out my newest book, Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers. Part four, Understanding Business Taxes, covers everything you need to know to comply and stay out of trouble.

From personal experience, I can tell you that when you have a complicated situation, including having business income, one of your new best friends should be a tax accountant. Find one who listens well and seems to understand the kind of work you're doing.

A good accountant will help you calculate your estimated quarterly taxes, claim tax deductions, and save you money by helping you take advantage of every tax benefit that's allowed when you're self-employed. In Money-Smart Solopreneur, I recommend various software, online services, and apps to help you track expenses, deductions, and tax deadlines that will keep your business running smoothly.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Guide to Small Business Startup Loans

Man working on a puzzle

It takes money to make money and virtually any small business will require some startup capital to get up and running. While the personal savings of the founders is likely the most common source of startup funding, many startups also employ loans to provide seed capital. New enterprises with no established credit cannot get loans as easily from many sources, but startup loans are available for entrepreneurs who know where to look. Here are some of those places to look, plus ways to supplement loans. For help with loans and any other financial questions you have, consider working with a financial advisor.

Startup Loans: Preparing to Borrow

Before starting to look for a startup loan, the primary question for the entrepreneur is how much he or she needs to borrow. The size of the loan is a key factor in determining where funding is likely to be available. Some sources will only fund very small loans, for example, while others will only deal with borrowers seeking sizable amounts.

The founder’s personal credit history is another important element. Because the business has no previous history of operating, paying bills or borrowing money and paying it back, the likelihood of any loan is likely to hinge on the founder’s credit score. The founder is also likely to have to personally guarantee the loan, so the amount and size of personal financial resources is another factor.

Business documents that may be needed to apply include a business plan, financial projections and a description of how funds will be used.

Startup Loan Types

There are a number of ways to obtain startup loans. Here are several of them.

Personal loan – A personal loan is another way to get seed money. Using a personal loan to fund a startup could be a good idea for business owners who have good credit and don’t require a lot of money to bootstrap their operation. However, personal loans tend to carry a higher interest rate than business loans and the amount banks are willing to lend may not be enough.

Loans from friends and family – This can work for an entrepreneur who has access to well-heeled relatives and comrades. Friends and family are not likely to be as demanding as other sources of loans when it comes to credit scores. However, if a startup is unable to repay a loan from a friend or relative, the result can be a damaged relationship as well as a failed business.

Venture capitalists – While these people typically take equity positions in startups their investments are often structured as loans. Venture capitalists can provide more money than friends and family. However, they often take an active hand in managing their investments so founders may need to be ready to surrender considerable control.

SBA loan applicationGovernment-backed startup loans – These are available through programs administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as, to a lesser degree, the Interior, Agriculture and Treasury departments. Borrowers apply for these through affiliated private financial institutions, including banks. LenderMatch is a tool startup businesses use to find these affiliated private financial institutions. Government-guaranteed loans charge lower interest rates and are easier to qualify for than non-guaranteed bank loans.

Bank loans – These are the most popular form of business funding, and they offer attractive interest rates and bankers don’t try to take control as venture investors might. However, banks are reluctant to lend to new businesses without a track record. Using a bank to finance a startup generally means taking out a personal loan, which means the owner will need a good personal credit score and be ready to put up collateral to secure approval.

Credit cards – Using credit cards to fund a new business is easy, quick and requires little paperwork. However, interest rates and penalties are high and the amount of money that can be raised is limited.

Self-funding – Rather than simply putting money into the business that he or she owns, the founder can structure the cash infusion as a loan that the business will pay back. One potential benefit of this is that interest paid to the owner for the loan can be deducted from future profits, reducing the business’s tax burden.

Alternatives to Startup Loans

Crowdfunding – This lets entrepreneurs use social media to reach large numbers of private individuals, borrowing small amounts from each to reach the critical mass required to get a new business up and running. As with friends and family, credit history isn’t likely to be a big concern. However, crowdfunding works best with businesses that have a new product that requires funding to complete design and begin production.

Nonprofits and community organizations – These groups engage in microfinancing. Getting a grant from one of these groups an option for a startup that requires a small amount, from a few hundred to a few tens of thousands of dollars. If you need more, one of the other channels is likely to be a better bet.

The Bottom Line

Green plant growing out of a jar of coinsStartup businesses seeking financing have a number of options for getting a loan. While it is often difficult for a brand-new company to get a conventional business bank loan, friends and family, venture investors, government-backed loan programs, crowdfunding, microloans and credit cards may provide solutions. The size of the loan amount and the personal credit history and financial assets of the founder are likely to be important in determining which financing channel is most appropriate.

Tips on Funding a Startup

  • If you are searching for a way to fund a business startup, consider working with an experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • One way to minimize the challenge of getting startup funding is to take a “lean startup” approach. That approach could be especially helpful to baby boomers, who are “aging out” of their careers and living longer than earlier generations but still need (or want) an income. Learn how many of them are turning their retirement into business opportunities.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Andrii Yalanskyi, ©iStock.com/teekid, ©iStock.com/Thithawat_s

The post Guide to Small Business Startup Loans appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How to Add Your Business to Yelp and Optimize Your Listing

Yelp is one of the most popular local business information websites in the U.S. As a small-business owner, should you invest the time and effort into maintaining a Yelp listing? Learn the pros and cons of Yelp, how to optimize your listing, and how to use the site to reach more customers.

How to Add Your Business to Yelp and Optimize Your Listing is a post from Money Crashers.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Current Mortgage Rates Stay Lower on Monday

We saw mortgage rates dip a little lower on Friday after trouble in Turkey led financial market participants to seek out the perceived safety of long-term government bonds.

Mortgage rates are expected to stay close to current levels this week, but we could see some movement after a few key economic reports get released. Read on for more details.

Where are mortgage rates going?                                            

Rates hold lower to start the week

It’s a quiet start to the week as there are no significant economic reports scheduled for release. That’s keeping long-term government bond yields, which dropped due to an increased demand on Friday after trouble for Turkey’s lira, down near three week lows.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note (the best market indicator of where mortgage rates are going) is currently at 2.88%. That’s basically flat on the day and about six basis points lower from where it was this time last week.

The expectation for this week is the same as it’s been for quite some time, and that’s for current mortgage rates to stay close to present levels. The fact that rates have remained in a tight range all summer (and most of spring) really isn’t the worst thing for borrowers, as many forecasters had expected rates to rise higher than they are now by this time.

The pressure isn’t off quite yet, though, as it is widely anticipated that the Federal Reserve will increase the nation’s benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, by at least a quarter-point by the time 2019 rolls around.

According to the CME Group’s Fed Funds futures, there is a 96.0% chance that the federal funds rate will go up a little over a month from now at the FOMC’s September meeting.

That would push the target range up a quarter-point to 2.00%-2.25%. There is still a lot of time between now and December, but at the moment the majority of analysts believe another rate hike will take place then, pushing the fed funds target range up to 2.50%-2.75%.

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Rate/Float Recommendation                                  

Lock now before move even higher     

With mortgage rates expected to rise in the coming months, we believe the prudent decision for most borrowers is to lock in a rate sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you’ll get a higher rate and pay more interest on your purchase or refinance.

Learn what you can do to get the best interest rate possible.  

Today’s economic data:           

  • Nothing out today.

Notable events this week:     

Monday:   

  • Nothing

Tuesday:   

  • NFIB Small Business Optimism Index
  • Import and Export Prices

Wednesday:         

  • Retail Sales
  • Empire State Mfg Survey
  • Productivity and Costs
  • Industrial Production

Thursday:     

  • Housing Starts
  • Jobless Claims
  • Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey

Friday:          

  • Consumer Sentiment

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*Terms and conditions apply.

Source: totalmortgage.com

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

Not all students can cover the cost of their college education with the grants or scholarships in their financial aid packages. Some begin their college careers by taking out student loans, while others look for part-time jobs and work-study positions. Students who are trying to avoid taking on too much debt may wonder what their job prospects look like outside of their college campuses. To help them out, we ranked the best cities in the country for working students.

This is the second annual study of the best cities for working students. Read the 2016 study here.

Study Specifics

For the second year, SmartAsset took a look at the best cities for working students. Our analysis focuses on the employment opportunities for college students attending the top-ranking four-year university in 232 different cities.

To complete our study, we created two different scores: a college value score (based on findings from our study of the best value colleges in America) and a jobs score (based on three factors, including the local minimum wage, the median rent and the unemployment rate for adults with some college education). It is important to note that we changed our methodology slightly this year, so this year’s study is not directly comparable to last year’s. For a full explanation of how we conducted our analysis, read the methodology and data sections below.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your student loans.

Key Findings

  • Minimum wages are rising. Nineteen states and dozens of cities saw their minimum wages increase at the start of 2017. Any boost in pay is sure to benefit working students and other low-wage workers around the country.
  • Check out the Midwest. Four of the best cities for working students are located in this region, thanks in part to their low unemployment rates. In places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Fargo, North Dakota, the unemployment rate among adults with some college education is below 2%.
  • New England ranks well. Four other cities in the top 10 are part of this region, where minimum wages are relatively high. In Portland, Maine and New Britain, Connecticut, for example, the minimum wage is above $10.

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

1. Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield is about 91 miles from Boston by car. One reason why it’s on our list of the best cities for working college students is its high minimum wage. On Jan. 1, Massachusetts’ minimum wage rose from $10 to $11. Massachusetts, Washington state and Washington, D.C. currently have the highest minimum wages in the nation. That’ll change eventually since cities and states like California are planning for their minimum wages to hit $15.

2. Lincoln, Nebraska

Thanks to its strong job market conditions, Lincoln ranks as the second-best city for working students in 2017. The unemployment rate for workers with either an associate’s degree or some college education is just 1.5%, according to one-year estimates from the 2015 American Community Survey. Among all workers ages 16 and over, the city’s unemployment rate is about 3.1%

In addition to having access to a lot of job opportunities, students who attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can get plenty of bang for their buck. Our analysis of the best value colleges found that UNL was the top-ranking university in the Cornhusker State in 2015 and 2016.

3. New Britain, Connecticut

New Britain has a few different colleges. Central Connecticut State University is the oldest public university in the state of Connecticut. Finding a job in New Britain shouldn’t be too difficult for students trying to pay their way through school. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is just 3%.

4. Omaha, Nebraska

This is the second time that Omaha has appeared on our list of the best cities for working students. Last year, the “Gateway to the West” took the 10th spot on our list. Since we published the 2016 edition of our study, the city’s unemployment rate for workers with some college education has fallen to 2.7%.

Working students in Omaha face a diverse economy. Key industries include health services, education, transportation and utilities, meaning that there are a variety of options for students looking for part-time gigs and internships.

5. Portland, Maine

Finding part-time work may not be difficult for students in Portland, Maine. In this city, the unemployment rate among adults with an associate’s degree or some college education is just 3%.

Students who live off campus may have to pay a pretty penny for rent. The median rent in Portland is $923. Fortunately, the city’s minimum wage is relatively high at $10.68.

Related Article: The Best College Towns to Live In – 2016 Edition

6. Tempe, Arizona

Arizona is another state that saw its minimum wage increase on New Year’s Day. In fact, it went up by almost $2. Thanks to the approval of Proposition 206, part-time and full-time workers will now earn $10 per hour. By 2020, the minimum wage will be $12. That’s good news for working students attending one of the many colleges and universities in Tempe, such as Arizona State University.

7. Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma is a mid-sized city in southwest Washington. The unemployment rate for workers in the city with some college education is 5.6%. According to the Census Bureau, that’s lower than the unemployment rate among all adults in Tacoma ages 16 and over (6.5%).

The state of Washington has one of the highest minimum wages in the country and Tacoma’s minimum wage is a bit higher. In 2017, working students in Tacoma will get paid $11.15 per hour.

8. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo has the lowest unemployment rate in our study among workers with some college education: 0.6%. And thanks to the state’s low income tax rates, working students don’t have to worry about taxes taking a big bite out of their paychecks. Best of all, many students attending colleges in Fargo have access to a quality, yet affordable education. For the 2016-2017 school year, base tuition at the North Dakota State University – the top-ranking college in the state according to our best value colleges list – will be less than $7,000.

9. Lowell, Massachusetts

Since we released the 2016 edition of our analysis, the median rent in Lowell has increased by about 9%. But the state’s minimum wage has risen as well. College students who need to find part-time jobs can expect to be paid at least $11 per hour in 2017.

10. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota and has a population of roughly 171,530. The unemployment rate for workers with some college education is only 2.4%. So students have a good chance of finding a job, particularly if they’re looking for positions in one of the city’s top industries, such as the banking, food processing or bio-medical fields.

The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017

Methodology

To find the best cities for working students in 2017, SmartAsset found the unemployment rate (for workers with some college education or an associate’s degree) and the median rent for 232 U.S. cities with at least one four-year college or university. We also pulled the minimum wage for each of these places.

We took each of our three factors (the median rent, unemployment rate and the local minimum wage) and found the number of standard deviations each city rated above or below the mean. Then we totaled those values and created a single job score reflecting the strength of the job markets in all 232 major cities.

We also developed a score using the index from our study of the U.S. colleges offering the best bang for your buck (based on several factors including average starting salaries and the cost of college tuition). Whenever we had a city with multiple schools on our list of best value colleges, we looked at data for the local top-ranking school (based on our analysis).

Finally, we combined our job score with our college value score, giving the job score triple weight and the college value score full weight. We created our ranking by assigning each city a score between 0 and 100. The highest-ranking city for working students received a 100 while the lowest-ranking city for working students received a 0.

Note that in the 2016 edition of our analysis, we created our ranking by averaging our two scores. This year, we changed our methodology slightly to give more weight to our job-related factors.

Data Sources

Rent and unemployment data are based on one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. Minimum wage data is based on the appropriate city, state or federal minimum wage.

In some states, the minimum wage for large companies is higher. In these instances, we used the state’s lowest minimum wage (i.e. the minimum wage for small businesses). In states with a different minimum wage for small business employees with benefits, we used the minimum wage for employees without benefits. In the states with a minimum wage that’s below the federal threshold, we used the federal minimum wage.

The data analysis for this study was completed by Nick Wallace.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/oneinchpunch

The post The Best Cities for Working Students in 2017 appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

VA Cash-Out Refinance: Is It a Good Idea? | Rates & Guidelines 2021

The VA cash-out refinance program enables veterans and active-duty service members to tap into their home’s equity and, depending on current refinance interest rates, lower their interest rate at the same time.

The idea of getting cash out of your home is appealing, but is it a good idea for you? Below, we’ll dive into some of the situations when a VA cash-out refinance might be a good fit — and when it might not.

Check your eligibility for a VA cash-out refinance loan today.

Reasons veterans get a VA cash-out refinance

Veterans use the VA cash-out refinance for plenty of reasons — the biggest being that they want to get cash. The cash comes from home equity. So, if you have a mortgage for $200,000 and you’ve paid off $50,000, you can get up to $50,000 back in cash, while also potentially lowering your mortgage rate.

Veterans aren’t required to take out the full amount possible, though. A homeowner in the same situation could take out $10,000 to fund a small kitchen remodel, to buy a new car, or pay for a vacation, for example.

The most common reasons to get cash from a cash-out refinance is to fund remodels, renovations, and repairs to your home — or to use the cash to pay off other debts. (It may be financially responsible to use a cash-out refinance to pay off credit card debt if the rate on the other debt is significantly higher than the new rate you’ll get from a cash-out refinance.)

But, there are other potential benefits to a VA cash-out refinance. You may be able to lower your interest rate and monthly mortgage payment. And, if you have an FHA or conventional loan with mortgage insurance, you could remove that extra monthly cost by refinancing into a VA loan.

Reasons to avoid a cash-out refinance

While it’s a good decision for many homeowners, refinancing isn’t the best option for everyone. You should only refinance if you can gain something from the new loan. When determining whether you’re benefitting from a cash-out refinance, it’s important to consider your whole financial situation and your goals.

It could increase your mortgage rate.

When veterans apply for a VA cash-out refinance, they’ll need to supply their credit score. If your credit score is lower than it was when you first applied for your mortgage, then there’s a good chance that the refinance could increase your mortgage rate.

The clock restarts on your mortgage.

It’s also important to remember that a cash-out refinance restarts the clock on your mortgage — you’re opening up a new loan with new terms, likely 30-years. This means additional interest costs. Because of this, it’s best to use a VA cash-out refinance for things that will improve your financial situation, and, in turn, improve your ability to repay the loan.

Riskier than other loan types.

VA cash-out finances are often used for home improvements that increase the overall value of the investment, education expenses to increase earning potential, new business ventures, or debt consolidation. Still, all of these options can represent a financial risk. Before proceeding with a cash-out refinance, it’s worth investigating other funding options such as personal loans, specialized loans (like student loans or small business loans) or second mortgages.

Finally, if you’re using cash from a VA cash-out refinance to pay off credit card debt, it’s important to remember that you’re paying off unsecured debt with secured debt — in other words, you risk foreclosure on your home if you are unable to make your mortgage payments for any reason.

VA cash-out refinance rates

VA cash-out refinance rates are currently low. According to Ellie Mae’s Ocober 2020 Origination Report, interest rates for VA loans hovered at an average of 2.75% — 0.26% lower than interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conventional loans.

Read more: Current VA Refinance Rates

With rates projected to remain low, Veterans who purchased a home within the last few years should check to see if a refinance could reduce their interest rate and monthly mortgage payment. Your potential savings are dependent on your unique situation — remember to comparison shop with multiple lenders to see who can offer you the best deal.

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When a VA streamline refinance is right instead

If you don’t need cash, there’s no reason to get a cash-out refinance. In these situations, a VA streamline refinance (also known as an interest rate reduction refinance loan or IRRRL) makes more sense. The rates associated with the IRRRL tend to be lower, so you could save more money with that type of refinance.

If you’re looking to take out cash for energy-efficiency improvements to your home, the IRRRL allows homeowners to finance up to $6,000 in improvements that will save money over time, including programmable thermostats, insulation, solar heating, and caulking/weather stripping.

VA streamline refinance vs. VA cash-out refinance

If you’re looking to lower your interest rate and monthly payment, don’t need cash out and already have a VA loan, an IRRRL is the easier, quicker, and just plain better option. In fact, streamline refinances require that Veterans lower their mortgage rate to qualify for the loan (also called a net tangible benefit). That’s not a requirement with the cash-out refinance.

If you are looking to get cash for an expense like a remodel or debt consolidation, then a VA cash-out loan is likely the better option. It’s also a good option for Veterans with a non-VA loan requiring mortgage insurance. VA loans don’t require mortgage insurance, so refinancing into one, could remove that monthly expense.

How to apply for a VA cash-out refinance

The application and approval process for a VA cash-out refinance is very similar to the loan application process for a home purchase, including:

  • You’ll likely need a VA appraisal, especially if your existing loan is a non-VA loan. This establishes the current value of your home and helps determine the amount of cash you can take out.
  • You’ll need a credit check and income verification to verify that you’re able to make the new VA loan payments.
  • You’ll need to establish eligibility with minimum service requirements, especially if you currently have a non-VA loan.

Also, shop around with multiple lenders to compare rates and terms. This can save you lots of money over the life of the loan and allow you to negotiate better terms.

Check your eligibility for a VA cash-out refinance loan today.

Source: militaryvaloan.com

Securing Credit Card Processing for Your Small Business

A small business owner stands in front of a teal door holding an open sign.

Opening a business is a major undertaking regardless of industry. Whether it’s your first business or your one-hundred-and-first, it’s a big deal. That’s why it’s important you remember to dot your i’s and cross your t’s before launching your business to the public—especially when it comes to your credit card processing.

If you own a small business in this day and age, you will need a way to process payments in person and online. Depending on your business and industry, one payment option might be more beneficial for you. For example, if you’re looking to launch a completely online business, you won’t have any need for a physical payment terminal. However, there are some things every businessowner should know about securing credit card processing for your small business.

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Credit Card Processing for Your Business

To secure credit card processing for your small business, you will need to find the right payment merchant services provider who will sign you up for a merchant account. Once you have this vital payment tool, you will be connected to a processor and the agreements of your service can be written up according to your business needs.

One issue new businesses often run into when finding a processor is their perceived risk. Big banks are likely unwilling or unable to give merchant accounts to first-time businessowners because they are considered “high risk.” Beyond being a new businessowner, there are other reasons services are denied, including bad credit, high chargeback ratio, or business type.

Despite the fact that it may be difficult to find a payment processor who can accommodate your business needs, there are plenty of processors with high-risk merchant services available. In fact, these providers may be easier to work with since they see similar cases on a more regular basis.

Find a Business Credit CardThat Works for You

Finding the Right Processor for You

You’ll want to find a payment processor who has a good relationship with banks that support your industry and are comfortable with your business model.

A payment processor that offers or specializes in high-risk merchant services will have different features than a tier-one bank. These features, like chargeback mitigation and fraud protection, can help protect your business and accommodate your customers’ unique needs.

Partnering with a payment processor you trust will be essential to maximize your business opportunities and find a solution that works for you. For example, the right processor can get you set up with a virtual terminal. A virtual terminal is an online tool that processes credit cards online. This will allow you to take payments in person, online, and over the phone. The flexibility of the different payment options will be invaluable to your business because you’ll be able to reach a larger customer base and expand your income streams.

Steps to Bolster Your Business After Securing Your Merchant Account

It might take some time to compare all of the available merchant services providers available to you, as each will have different rates and unique features. After you’ve found the right payment processor for you, here are some steps you can take to make sure your expanded capabilities will drive your business’s growth.

Step 1: Utilize features unique to your payment processor

Processing online payments opens your business up to a whole new side of fraud risk, so you’ll want to be prepared. Features like chargeback mitigation and fraud protection can help your business meet its individual needs.

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Step 2: Optimize your website to support a payment gateway and increased volume

Once you’re able to take payments online, you’ll be able to serve a much larger number of customers and can begin to expand your infrastructure to suit their needs. You’ll want to make sure your website can support this increase in traffic and capacity.

Step 3: Keep abreast of state regulations

Depending on the industry your business belongs to, there may be specific qualifications you must aware of to conduct business. Each state has its own set of regulations businesses must comply with, so make sure you are up to date with the laws in your area. Utilize official resources to ensure your business is following protocol.

Step 4: Employ best practices for your industry

Each industry comes with its own best practices and specific measures to take. However, there are many general best practices you should be aware of before proceeding.

For example, record keeping is a highly overlooked practice for new business owners. However, it’s vital to keep all your records in order to minimize fraud, miscommunication, etc. This can be done by keeping your finances, workflow, and customer data organized and secure. The right financial services software can help you do this all in one place.

Final Thoughts

For small businesses, securing credit card processing is instrumental in maximizing your business opportunity. It’s also crucial to keeping you and your customers’ data secure. Without the right payment processor, your business could be at risk for fraud, data breaches, or interrupted service due to an unauthorized merchant account.

Whether you’re starting a retail business or turning to the internet, every business needs the ability to process credit cards and payments. Find the right merchant services provider for you and take the first step toward maximizing your business’s potential.


Allison Eilhardt is a writer based in Los Angeles, CA. She has been writing professionally for over five years, covering topics ranging from charities and social events to intricate finance spotlights. Allison is currently the Director of Content at PaymentCloud, a merchant services provider that offers hard-to-place solutions for business owners across the nation.

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Source: credit.com