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Better Business Bureau offers tips for sticking to New Year’s goals

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E-T staff report
 |  Stephenville Empire-Tribune

After much anticipation, 2021 is here. While many used their time at home in 2020 to try new hobbies and bake plenty of sourdough bread, the new year provides a time to reflect on what you hope to achieve in the coming year, according to a news release from the Better Business Bureau.

Exercising more, focusing on health and improving finances are among the most common resolutions each year and will likely be the top goals again in the coming year.

Use these tips from BBB serving the Heart of Texas to accomplish your 2021 resolutions:

Exercise more

One of the best ways to keep up with your resolution to exercise more is choosing the right gym for your needs. Use these tips from your Better Business Bureau to find your perfect gym:

• Determine goals and priorities. Ask yourself these questions as you begin your search: Can this gym help me with my specific fitness goals? Would I rather work out at a smaller, local gym or one with multiple convenient locations? Would a variety of equipment and classes keep me motivated?

• Take a tour. Touring the facility can give you a better idea of the equipment, trainers and classes available. Use this opportunity to learn additional information about the gym, such as busy times or how often showers and equipment are cleaned. Some gyms even offer virtual tours.

• Understand the cost. Many gyms use the beginning of the year to promote introductory offers or free trial periods. Be sure to ask when these promotions end and what the regular cost will be moving forward.

Get healthy

In addition to exercising more, many people want to improve their health by quitting smoking or losing weight. Weight loss supplements and smoking cessation aids often promise quick and easy results, which can be tempting to consumers looking to help accomplish their goals. Before using any health-related products, remember these tips:

• Check with health professionals. The best thing to do when considering a supplement or other health product is to consult your doctor. They may be able to provide recommendations or guide you away from potentially harmful products. You can also use FDA resources to learn which products were recalled for using dangerous ingredients.

• Don’t believe claims of “miracle” results. Companies advertising weight-loss products often promise extreme results to make quick sales. The CDC suggests one to two pounds lost per week is a healthy and attainable goal, so avoid products that advertise a large amount of weight loss within a short time frame.

• Be cautious with free trial offers. Many health product retailers offer monthly subscriptions and free trial periods for first-time customers. If you are interested in a free trial, read the fine print. You may be automatically enrolled in a subscription and charged a monthly fee once the trial ends.

Improve finances

The new year is a great time to assess your finances and implement needed changes or improvements. Although improving your finances is often confusing and can be frustrating, there are professionals and services dedicated to helping you. Keep these tips in mind when searching for financial assistance:

• Assess your finances. Review your finances to see which areas need improvement. Request a copy of your credit report through one of the three credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax or Experian. You can also use BBB.org to find reliable financial advisors to help you build your credit and manage your money.

• Know the difference. Different financial services, such as credit counseling and credit repair, are available to consumers. The first step to improving your finances is to understand which of these services you need. For example, credit counseling offers a comprehensive solution that focuses on various resources to help you solve your financial issues. Credit repair companies, however, offer to remove inaccurate information from your credit file for a fee. Remember, you have the right to remove incorrect information yourself for free.

• Consult trustworthy sources. When deciding on a company to assist you financially, find their business profile on BBB.org to view their rating, customer reviews and complaint history. The Texas Attorney General’s office is also a reliable source for learning your debt collection and relief rights.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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