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Ask the Fool: All about stock multiples

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A: It’s a ratio of two measures of a company. One of the most common multiples is the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, which is the stock’s current price divided by its earnings per share. Imagine Scruffy’s Chicken Shack (ticker: BUKBUK), trading at $80 per share. If it earned $4 per share over the past year, its P/E is 20 (80 divided by 4). It’s trading at a P/E ratio of 20.

There are also price-to-sales multiples, book-value multiples, cash-flow multiples and more. It can be helpful to compare a company’s multiples with those of its peers, to see whether its stock appears to be undervalued or overvalued. Nike, for example, recently sported a P/E ratio that was over 82, while Adidas’ was not quite 41. That suggests that Adidas is more attractively priced, though of course you’d want to assess many more factors.

Q: What’s the difference between a private company and a public one? – C.B., Bozeman, Mont.

A: Public companies have shares of stock available to trade on the open markets. They’re required to file quarterly earnings reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, detailing revenue, expenses, debt loads, cash levels, taxes, income or losses – and much more. These reports are publicly available.

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Privately held companies are not public – meaning average investors can’t buy shares of them. They also don’t have to reveal much about their operations and financial health. According to Forbes, the 100 biggest private companies in America include Koch Industries, Cargill, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Publix, Mars, H-E-B, Pilot Flying J, Enterprise Holdings (parent of the car-rental company), Bechtel, Cox Enterprises, Fidelity Investments, Bloomberg, SC Johnson, McKinsey & Company, Staples and Amway.

Fool’s School

Prepare for disasters: It’s fine to prepare for unlikely disasters, perhaps by buying earthquake insurance in a low-risk region, or keeping garlic on you in case of vampire attack. But be sure that you’re preparing for more likely disasters, too, such as these:

Having a bad credit score: A bad credit score will doom you to high interest rates when you’re looking to borrow money, such as for a home or car. Start beefing up your score by paying down your debts and paying bills on time.

Losing your job: As the ongoing pandemic has made clear, unexpected job losses happen, and they can put you in financial peril. Make sure you have an emergency fund stocked with at least several months’ worth of critical living expenses, such as food, housing, utilities, taxes, transportation and so on. It’s also good planning to make yourself more hirable by learning new skills or getting new certifications or degrees.

Needing long-term care: Long-term care is an important issue everyone should consider. If you’re wealthy, you can pay for any care you might need; if you’re poor, you probably won’t be able to pay for it at all. But if you’re in between, consider long-term care insurance. Learn more at LongTermCare.gov.

Not being able to retire: This is a big disaster awaiting millions of people who haven’t socked away enough money to retire on. The best way out of this problem is to read up well in advance, make a plan and act on it. Good strategies include working for a few more years, saving as much as possible in IRAs and 401(k)s, cutting back on spending, taking on a side gig or two and perhaps cashing out a life insurance policy if it’s no longer needed. One of your best moves might be to invest long-term dollars in the stock market, perhaps via a low-fee index fund (such as one that tracks the S&P 500).

My smartest investment

Widened Horizons: My smartest investment ever was leaving my hometown and broadening my horizons. – M.I., online

The Fool responds: That’s a terrific investment indeed. There are countless benefits of traveling: By exposing yourself to other regions and countries, you can get a sense of how other people live – which may help you appreciate just how good you have it compared to billions of others. Getting to know people in other places can help you get over any fears of outsiders or foreigners, and enjoying their hospitality can make you feel like a citizen of the world, not just your state or country. You may even end up making some very good friends around the country or the world.

Trying a wide variety of foods from various cuisines can introduce you to flavors and dishes that become lifelong favorites.

Travel abroad can be greatly enhanced if you take the time to learn the language spoken at your destination – and knowing at least one other language can also be an effective career booster, as lots of companies have (or want to have) international operations and may send employees to other countries.

Travel can boost your self-confidence, as you navigate unfamiliar locations and successfully deal with unexpected events (such as missing a train in Japan). Finally, travel can simply be fun and exciting, and it creates memories to look back on for the rest of your life.

Foolish trivia

Name that company: Back in 1833, two men – a miller and a druggist who grew herbs – decided to make and sell drugs and essential oils. Their company ended up a part of me, along with many others. I got my current name after the 1958 merger between Polak & Schwarz and van Ameringen-Haebler. Today, based in New York City and with a market value recently near $13 billion, I’m a worldwide force in scents, tastes and ingredients. In 2019, I raked in $5.1 billion from about 38,000 customers. I’m merging with DuPont’s Nutrition & Biosciences division. Who am I?

Last week’s trivia answer: I trace my roots back to 1904, when a son of Italian immigrants founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, which morphed over time to become the world’s largest commercial bank by the 1930s. I’ve gobbled up lots of companies, including credit card giant MBNA, U.S. Trust, FleetBoston Financial (which traced its roots to 1784) and even Merrill Lynch. Today, based in Charlotte, N.C., I sport a market value recently near $262 billion. I serve about 66 million customers via roughly 4,300 retail financial centers, and about 31 million customers bank with me using mobile devices. Who am I? (Answer: Bank of America)

The Motley Fool take

Tech Dividends: Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), the world’s largest producer of networking routers and switches, has posted declining revenue for four straight quarters. Its infrastructure business, which generates over half its revenue, struggled with sluggish network upgrades, competition from rivals, the loss of Chinese contracts during the ongoing trade war and pandemic-related disruptions. Its smaller security business continued growing, but couldn’t offset its other weaknesses.

Cisco’s revenue declined 5% in fiscal 2020, but its adjusted earnings grew 4% as it cut costs and repurchased more shares. Analysts expect both its revenue and earnings to dip by about 1% this year. Those growth rates might seem dismal, but Cisco’s core business should heat up again after the pandemic passes. Warmer relations between the U.S. and China under the Biden administration could stabilize Cisco’s Chinese business, and it might pull customers away from Huawei as the Chinese tech giant struggles with trade blacklists and sanctions. A growing need for cloud and data center upgrades should also spark fresh orders for its routers and switches worldwide.

Cisco’s stock isn’t likely to rally anytime soon, but its low forward-looking price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 14 and its recent dividend yield of 3.2% should limit its downside risk. It’s raised its dividend every year following its first payment in 2011, and is likely to keep doing so. Consider Cisco for your long-term portfolio.

Copyright 2021 the Motely Fool
Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication

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How to get rid of medical debt without damaging your credit

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Medical debt is piling up for Americans – but how do you handle it without ruining your credit? (iStock)

No doubt about it, Americans are drowning in medical debt.

One recent study indicated that 137 million Americans were battling onerous medical debt – and that was just before the coronavirus pandemic rolled into the U.S. Another more recent study from Freedom Debt Relief noted the problem is only growing more severe, as 75% of these individuals say they have accumulated more medical debt since March 2020.

If you have medical debt and want to make sure it’s not hurting your credit, Credible can help. To ensure you’re staying up-to-date with your credit status, enroll in a credit monitoring service. Credible can help you get started.

How to best pay off medical debt

Tackling high medical debt isn’t easy, but it is doable. Financial experts advise that an eye for detail and a disciplined research campaign yields the best result. These strategies may work best.

1. Review EOBs

Some experts estimate that 80% of medical bills contain errors or inflated charges said Sean Fox, president of Freedom Debt Relief in San Mateo, Cal. If you want to deal with medical bills, make sure you’re staying on top of what’s actually in them. “Go back and review the bill in question from your health care insurer, known as an explanation of benefits (EOB),” Fox said. “If you see an issue or have a question, call the provider’s (or insurance company’s) billing department who can solve the problem.”

2. Contact providers 

Be upfront about your situation. “If you’re unable to work and make money to pay your bills (because of your medical state), contact providers’ billing offices and explain,” Fox added. “Ask about any options they can offer to you.”

3. Negotiate payments

Call your providers’ billing offices and ask about payment deferral or other plans. “They may be especially open to working with patients now, during the pandemic,” Fox said. “If you had to visit an out-of-network provider, or if you do not have medical insurance, ask for a cash-payer price. In certain situations, some providers may also charge the discounted Medicare or Medicaid fee.”

4. Get a personal loan

Consider a consolidation loan that covers all your current debt. “The biggest positive impact here is that you end up with just one monthly payment rather than several,” said Matthew Alden, Debt Relief and Bankruptcy Attorney in Cleveland, Oh.

Explore your personal loan options by ​visiting Credible ​to compare rates with multiple lenders – all within minutes.

Improve your credit health

Once you’re on the path to paying off your medical debt, focus on repairing any damage to your credit health.

“One of the best ways to improve your credit score is to simply be consistent over time,” said Daniel Joseph, founder of CoupleWealth.com, a digital platform that helps couples achieve financial stability. “Consistently pay off your balance, avoid making late payments, and ask for credit line increases periodically. Credit scores are heavily influenced by time, so the longer you can consistently have good habits, the better your score will be.”

Multiple factors affect your credit scores, however, and paying your bills and credit accounts on time is typically the most significant factor. An unpaid medical bill can cause serious issues.

Not sure where you fit on the credit score spectrum? Then you should start using a credit monitoring service to track changes to your credit score. Credible can get you set up with a free service today.

“Also, maintain a low credit utilization ratio, which is the amount of debt you have on revolving credit accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your credit limits,” said Laura Adams, the host of the Money Girl podcast. “In general, a utilization ratio of 20 percent or less is best to maintain good credit or improve your scores.

You can also visit Credible.com and use its personal loan calculator to find the best personal loan rates to help pay down medical debt.

Problems tied to medical debt

1. Severe money troubles

According to Michael Broughton, co-founder of Get Perch, a credit building mobile app platform, often people have to go to great financial lengths to dig out of medical debt. “Often this financial hardship has led people to have to tap into their 401(k) accounts, personal savings, or even file for bankruptcy,” Broughton said.

2. Declining credit score issues

If medical debt is not taken care of in a timely fashion, the medical provider or hospital can turn it over to a collection agency who can then report it to the bureaus. “If this happens, the medical debt can negatively impact your credit score,” Broughton added. “However, hospitals or medical providers rarely ever report the debt directly to credit bureaus.”

In the event a medical debt does go to a collection agency, there is some relatively good news

“On the bright side, if it is taken to the collection agency, the three bureaus treat medical debt delinquencies less critically than other debts in that they offer some relief to medical debt holders,” Broughton said. Here’s what they offer:

  • 180-day grace period before showing the debt on your credit report.
  • Removal of the debt from your credit report once it is paid or resolved

Whether you currently have outstanding medical debt or just want to stay on top of your credit, Credible can help. From bad credit to fair credit to excellent credit, to improve your score you first need to know what it is. To see where you fit in, turn to a credit monitoring service. Credible’s partners can help you find your credit score, history, alert you to potential fraud, and more.

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Best Cash-Out Refinance Lenders In 2021

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Tapping into your home’s equity can be a smart move, whether it’s to lower high-interest debt, fund a home renovation, pay for college tuition or make progress toward another financial goal. One way you can accomplish this is through a cash-out refinance, in which you refinance your mortgage for more than what you owe and take the difference out in cash.

Many mortgage lenders offer cash-out refinancing, and Bankrate evaluated several to determine the best ones to consider. Here is our guide to the best cash-out refinance lenders in 2021.

Best cash-out refinance lenders

LoanDepot

LoanDepot has refinanced $179 billion in mortgages since its founding in 2010, with more than 200 branch locations across the U.S. serving borrowers in-person, online and by phone. For borrowers interested in accessing their home’s equity in cash, the lender’s cash-out refinance options include:

  • Conventional and jumbo cash-out refi
  • FHA cash-out refi
  • VA cash-out refi

When working with LoanDepot on a cash-out refinance, you can count on the lender’s “no steering” policy to get the best refinancing option for your needs. In addition, if you come back for a second refinance, you won’t have to pay any lender fees, and the lender will reimburse the appraisal fee as part of its “Lifetime Guarantee.”

Refinancing through LoanDepot can take 45 to 60 days, according to the lender’s website, and in a cash-out refinance, you’ll receive the funds one to three days after closing.

On the downside, LoanDepot doesn’t readily provide cash-out refinance rates through its website, so you’ll need to contact the lender to compare your options. The lender doesn’t offer home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) or home equity loans, either, which could be alternatives to a cash-out refi.

PennyMac

Founded in 2008, PennyMac has a range of loan options for borrowers, including cash-out refinancing for those interested in leveraging their home’s equity. The lender’s cash-out refi products include:

  • Conventional cash-out refi
  • FHA cash-out refi
  • VA cash-out refi

Both the FHA and VA cash-out refinancing options also apply to a non-FHA or non-VA loan if you’re interested in refinancing into an FHA or VA loan, according to the lender’s website.

Among its upsides, PennyMac advertises low cash-out refinance rates, which can make it easy for you to do side-by-side comparisons with other lenders. You can also take advantage of the lender’s refinance calculators and a home value estimator to get a better idea of how much equity you have.

While PennyMac already boasts competitive cash-out refinance rates, its “better rate promise” rewards you with a $250 gift card if you find a better offer from another lender. You’ll also benefit from the lender’s closing guarantee, which rewards you a $500 gift card if the lender causes the closing to be delayed.

PennyMac has no brick-and-mortar locations, however, which can be a disadvantage if you’re looking for an in-person experience.

Better.com

Better.com is touted for its 100-percent online process and speedy service. It has somewhat limited loan options compared to other lenders — no VA or USDA loans, for example — but its cash-out refinancing options include:

  • Conventional cash-out refi
  • FHA cash-out refi

What helps set Better.com apart is the ability to review current cash-out refinance rates on the lender’s website by simply inputting information about your home and your desired cash out. The lender also doesn’t charge lender fees, which can further save you money when you refinance.

Better.com was also named one of Bankrate’s best mortgage lenders overall and best online mortgage lenders in 2021, with fast preapprovals (in as little as three minutes), rate locks (in as little as 30 minutes) and closings sooner than the industry average, according to the lender.

Some drawbacks, however: Better.com isn’t available in every state, so refinancing through this lender might not be an option for some. There are also no branch locations.

Bank of America

If you’re looking for a more traditional lender for your cash-out refinance, consider Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the U.S. with thousands of branches throughout the country. In addition to other types of home loans and refinancing, Bank of America offers borrowers:

  • Conventional cash-out refi
  • FHA cash-out refi
  • VA cash-out refi

The bank was also named one of Bankrate’s best mortgage refinance lenders overall in 2021.

Current Bank of America customers enjoy some perks that others might not have access to. FHA and VA refinancing options are only available to current mortgage customers, for example, and customers enrolled in the bank’s Preferred Rewards could be eligible for an origination fee discount up to $600.

Bank of America’s interest rates are posted on its website for quick comparisons, but the bank doesn’t list lender fees online. Like other lenders, it also has a home value estimator so you can get a sense of what your home might be worth and what your cash-out options are.

New American Funding

New American Funding has proven to be a trusted mortgage lender, with an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and five out of five stars among Bankrate users. The lender’s cash-out refinancing options include:

  • Conventional and jumbo cash-out refi
  • FHA cash-out refi
  • VA cash-out refi

With a cash-out refinance through New American Funding, you can expect to receive your funds within three days of closing. Notably, the lender has flexibilities that some others don’t, making it an attractive option for bad credit borrowers. The lender was also named one of Bankrate’s best mortgage lenders for low credit borrowers in 2021.

New American Funding is available in all states with the exception of Hawaii, and brick-and-mortar branches can be found in many of them.

Fee information isn’t available on the lender’s website, but there are some rate offers advertised to the public. To initiate the cash-out refi process, you can call, request a quote online or apply in person.

Cash-out refinance requirements

To be eligible for a cash-out refi, you typically need to:

  • Have a minimum credit score of 620
  • Have a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio below 50 percent
  • Maintain a minimum 20 percent equity in your home following the cash-out (depending on loan type)

Who is cash-out refinancing for?

A cash-out refinance is best when interest rates are low, and for borrowers who meet the previously mentioned requirements and have specific goals for the funds they’re withdrawing. This includes those seeking to consolidate high-interest debt, complete home renovations or fund a college education.

Cash-out refinance vs. rate-and-term refinance

A cash-out refinance is different from a rate-and-term refinance, in which you lower the rate on your mortgage, change the length of the loan term, or both. A cash-out refi can also lower your rate, but it primarily involves withdrawing a portion of your home’s equity in a lump sum, which adds to the amount of your loan and increases the interest you’ll pay. Those funds can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a major home renovation.

Cash-out refinance vs. HELOC

A cash-out refinance isn’t the only way to tap your home’s equity. You can also pursue a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

With a HELOC, your first mortgage remains intact, but you’ll have access to a revolving source of funds throughout the HELOC draw period, which can be up to 10 years. You are only obligated to pay interest on the funds you withdraw during this period. Once the draw period ends, any balance must be repaid, usually over 15 or 20 years.

The advantages of a HELOC are that you’re only responsible for paying what you use, you can access the funds at any time and you won’t incur interest on untapped funds. However, HELOCs come with variable interest rates, which mean they change, and they could be higher than what you’d get with a cash-out refi.

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Pima Supes address eviction protections

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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Economic fallout from COVID has cranked up concerns about evictions as tenants have trouble paying. There are Federal protections to reduce evictions in the pandemic but Pima County Supervisors are concerned about evictions that could bypass those safeguards.

Federal restrictions from the Centers for Disease Control restrict evictions if they could increase health risks in general— or the risk of spreading COVID because someone is put out of a home. Those protections are based on whether someone has trouble paying the rent.

Landlords and their lawyers spoke at this week’s Supervisors meeting. They say compared to keeping a tenant, an eviction is a loss for everyone. They want county rental assistance programs to move much faster to channel Federal grants to help tenants pay rent and help landlords cover their expenses.

Steve Huffman of the Tucson Association of Realtors reminded Supervisors tenants will still have to pay back rent and if they can’t it could hurt them long term.

“Many of them have huge judgments that will be issued against them eventually they will owe back rent for the time that they have not been paying rent, those judgments will create bad credit, and will interfere with future housing opportunities, and also future job opportunities.”

Tenants who create other problems beside non-payment or rent can still be taken to court and evicted.

But Pima Supervisors are concerned about reports of people evicted over questionable claims like a car parked in the wrong space or a toilet clogged too many times.

Chairperson Sharon Bronson says these eviction issues are focused by COVID but call for a broader look at how people become homeless.

“We are addressing basically the pandemic issues right now, but this may be, you know, an opportunity to just began the discussion about the larger discussion about homelessness and addiction down the road.”

Supervisors agreed to ask an existing task force on evictions during COVID to take a fresh look at eviction issues, especially in light of possible policy changes under the Biden Administration.



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