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Big PFDs aren’t a silver bullet for Alaska’s economic problems

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If Gov. Mike Dunleavy has his way, Alaskans will be getting fat Permanent Fund dividend checks this spring and fall, $1,900 in late spring and another $3,000 later in the fall. The money would come from Permanent Fund earnings.

The Fund has had a good ride this past year and is now at about $74 billion. Alaskans are hurting, the governor says. Why not share some of the windfall?

A lot of Alaskans could certainly use the extra cash. But the Legislature has to ask some tough questions, particularly the impact on the long-term sustainability of the Permanent Fund if big payouts continue.

We must assume that will happen, politicians being politicians. Once the public appetite is whetted for bigger PFDs, it will be tough for the governor or Legislature to tamp down expectations. There’s another election next year, too.

It’s hard for me to understand, though, how good conservatives like the governor and conservative Republican legislators can support such a socialist idea – giving away money. Politics is a strange business.

Let’s think this through: For starters, I’m not sure big PFDs will be the economic stimulus people hope for. We had five billion dollars pumped into our state last year by Congress in COVID-19 economic stabilization and our economy is still stressed.

Hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in new aid is headed our way. The big PFDS will add more. Will all of this do the trick?

I have a simpler idea. Let’s tackle the root of the problem: the pandemic. If the virus were brought under control, businesses could reopen faster, even bars and restaurants, putting people back to work. A reopening of the economy is a more effective Paycheck Protection Program than anything Congress could offer.

How do we get the virus under control? Simple: Wear face masks.

Scientists and health care providers say simple, inexpensive protections like masks, washing hands and physical distancing can bring infection rates down fast.

We’re see this in countries like Vietnam, Thailand and New Zealand, where people accept public health measures and don’t allow them to become part of the culture wars.

Face masks and hand washing are less expensive and effective than big handouts, too.

But let’s get back to PFDs. The fact is that economists have a hard time measuring actual benefits from spending of dividends. Intuitively we know benefits exist, but they appear to be too small to see in data.

I taught briefly at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and an economics graduate student in one of my classes tried to measure the stimulus effect of PFDs. He couldn’t find much.

Several approaches were tried, including examination of sales tax data in communities that have them and even alcohol tax data, which reflects consumption. The effects were so small as to be buried in broader trends such as holiday shopping.

State labor economists also looked for a bump in jobs from PFDs and couldn’t see any effects either. One data point showing a correlation was for marijuana sales which rise at PFD time, according to tax data.

On the flip side, there is anecdotal information of benefits. Bankers say their customers pay down bills at PFD time. This is a good thing that wouldn’t be captured in data that is public.

Big-ticket retailers say they really don’t get a sales surge at PFD time despite all those advertisements, at least compared to what they see in a normal holiday season.

This isn’t surprising. We know 20% to 25% of PFD payments go right to Uncle Sam in federal taxes. Alaskans with middle to higher incomes usually put dividend money in savings, so this doesn’t enter the economy either.

This year, savings will likely be higher because vacation travel is limited and there are fewer opportunities for local spending.

Overall, the governor’s PFD deal is a mixed bag. There are real benefits, no doubt. Getting big checks is a big boost to morale, and we need that.

But the downsides are easy to see. Let’s start with Alaska’s reputation for financial discipline. Our state had bad credit when revenues were based mainly on the see-saw of oil income, and we were unable to craft a coherent fiscal policy.

Then we made a leap with the decision to use a portion of the Permanent Fund’s ample annual income to help support the state budget.

We adopted a percent-market-value, or POMV, annual draw on Fund earnings, like those use in big endowments for universities and charities which have annual draws. We set ours at 5 percent of the average market value, averaged over the previous five years to smooth out big one-year gains or losses.

This was big. For the first time Alaskans diversified state government revenues with a Permanent Fund earnings draw based on clear rules set forth in a state law.

Financial analysts applauded and boosted Alaska’s credit ratings. We now have what appears to be a stable $3 billion-a-year source of income, which will pay over 70 percent of the budget next year.

Now comes the big PFDS. The bottom line here is we can’t afford any PFDs, much less big ones, with our current revenues including those from the Permanent Fund.

If large PFDs are paid there will be big deficits. There’s no way to pay these except to take more from the Permanent Fund.

Funding the $1,900 dividend in March and $3,000 dividend later in the year will almost double our draw from the Fund from 5 percent to 9 percent. If that continues it will start the drain of the Fund.

So much for financial discipline. Alaska’s credibility in sticking to any financial rule goes down the toilet.

But then, we’re Alaskans, right? We don’t care what Wall Street thinks. We just want our big government checks, our PFDs. We don’t wear face masks, either.

Tim Bradner is copublisher of the Alaska Legislative Digest and Alaska Economic Report.

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How Do I Sell My Vehicle With Joint Ownership?

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A joint auto loan is when two borrowers have rights and responsibility to the same vehicle and loan. If you have a cosigner, then you, the primary borrower, have all the rights to the vehicle. Here’s what you need to know when you need to sell your car with two people responsible for the loan.

Selling a Joint-Owned Vehicle

Joint owners are typically spouses or life partners who combine their income to meet income requirements or get a larger loan amount. Both co-borrowers are responsible for paying the car loan and have 50/50 rights to the vehicle, so both their names are listed on the title.

Since your co-borrower has the same rights and obligations to the vehicle as you, you must get their permission to sell the car. In most cases, they also need to be present for the sale to sign the title. This may not always be the case, though, so it’s important to know how to read your car’s title.

If you have it, take a look at your vehicle’s title for the names listed on the back where you sign to transfer ownership. For example: let’s say your name is Jane and your co-borrower’s name is Joe. You’re likely to see either:

  • “Jane and Joe”
  • “Jane or Joe”
  • “Jane and/or Joe”

If you see “and/or” or the connector “or”, this typically means only one person needs to be present for the sale of the car. But if you see “and” this means both of you need to be present to transfer ownership – this is usually the case with joint ownership.

In all three cases, you still need the permission of the co-borrower to sell the vehicle even if they don’t have to be physically present to sign the title. If you sell it without the co-borrowers consent, it may be considered a crime because it’s their property, too. Moving forward, discuss the sale with your co-borrower to avoid potential legal trouble.

Selling a Car With a Cosigner

How Do I Sell My Car With Joint Ownership?If you have a cosigner on your car loan, then things become easier. A cosigner doesn’t have any rights to the vehicle and their name isn’t on the title. Their purpose is to help you get approved for the auto loan with their credit score, and by promising the lender to repay the loan if you’re unable to. A cosigner can’t take your vehicle, sell it, or stop you from selling it yourself.

However, it’s nice to let them know if you do decide to sell the car because the auto loan is listed on their credit reports. If you can, reach out to them about your plans to sell the vehicle. The car loan’s status impacts them and could affect their ability to take on new credit when it’s active.

If you sell the vehicle and the lien is successfully removed from the title, then you’re both in the clear.

Removing the Lien From a Vehicle’s Title

If you still have a loan on your car, then your number one priority is paying off your lender. Your lender is the lienholder, and you can’t sell a vehicle without removing them from the title – they own the car until you complete the loan. This typically means paying off the loan balance until naturally during the loan term, or getting enough cash to pay it all off at once from a sale.

When you’re selling a car with a loan, you want to get an offer for your vehicle that’s large enough to cover your loan balance and to remove the lien. If you don’t get a large enough offer, then you need to pay that difference out of pocket before you can sell the vehicle. Or, you may be able to roll over the remaining loan balance onto your next car loan if you’re trading it in for something else.

Looking to Upgrade Your Ride?

Many borrowers ask for help to get the car they need. If you need more income on your loan application to meet requirements, asking a spouse or life partner to chip in can do the trick. If you have a lower credit score, then a cosigner with good credit could help you meet credit score requirements.

But what if you want to go it alone on your next auto loan and your credit isn’t great? A subprime lender could be the answer. Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve been connecting credit-challenged consumers to dealerships with bad credit resources for over two decades, and we want to help you too.

Fill out our free auto loan request form and we’ll look for a dealer in your local area that’s signed up with subprime lenders. These lenders assist borrowers with many unique credit circumstances to help them get the vehicle they need. Get started today!

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Fixed-rate student loan refinancing rates sink to new record low for the second straight week

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Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as “Credible” below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.

The latest trends in interest rates for student loan refinancing from the Credible marketplace, updated weekly. (iStock)

Rates for well-qualified borrowers using the Credible marketplace to refinance student loans into 10-year fixed-rate loans hit another new record low during the week of May 3, 2021.

For borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher who used the Credible marketplace to select a lender, during the week of May 3:

  • Rates on 10-year fixed-rate loans averaged 3.60%, down from 3.69% the week before and 4.32% a year ago. This marks another record low for 10-year fixed rate loans, besting the previous record of 3.69%, set last week.
  • Rates on 5-year variable-rate loans averaged 3.19%, down from 3.23% the week before and up from 3.04% a year ago. Variable-rate loans recorded a record low of 2.63% during the week of June 29, 2020.

Student loan refinancing weekly rate trends

If you’re curious about what kind of student loan refinance rates you may qualify for, you can use an online tool like Credible to compare options from different private lenders. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

Current student loan refinancing rates by FICO score

To provide relief from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest and payments on federal student loans have been suspended through at least Sept. 30, 2021. As long as that relief is in place, there’s little incentive to refinance federal student loans. But many borrowers with private student loans are taking advantage of the low interest rate environment to refinance their education debt at lower rates.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans, the interest rate you may be offered can depend on factors like your FICO score, the type of loan you’re seeking (fixed or variable rate), and the loan repayment term. 

The chart above shows that good credit can help you get a lower rate, and that rates tend to be higher on loans with fixed interest rates and longer repayment terms. Because each lender has its own method of evaluating borrowers, it’s a good idea to request rates from multiple lenders so you can compare your options. A student loan refinancing calculator can help you estimate how much you might save. 

If you want to refinance with bad credit, you may need to apply with a cosigner. Or, you can work on improving your credit before applying. Many lenders will allow children to refinance parent PLUS loans in their own name after graduation.

You can use Credible to compare rates from multiple private lenders at once without affecting your credit score.

How rates for student loan refinancing are determined

The rates private lenders charge to refinance student loans depend in part on the economy and interest rate environment, but also the loan term, the type of loan (fixed- or variable-rate), the borrower’s credit worthiness, and the lender’s operating costs and profit margin. 

About Credible

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that empowers consumers to discover financial products that are the best fit for their unique circumstances. Credible’s integrations with leading lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to quickly compare accurate, personalized loan options ― without putting their personal information at risk or affecting their credit score. The Credible marketplace provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by over 4,300 positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 4.7/5.

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Provident Financial calls time on doorstep lending business

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Provident Financial has confirmed plans to shut its 141-year-old doorstep lending arm, as its full-year results highlighted the strain the coronavirus pandemic and growing customer complaints have put on subprime lenders.

The Bradford-based company reported a pre-tax loss of £113.5m for 2020, compared with a £119m profit the previous year. The biggest drag was a £75m loss in its consumer credit division, which includes home credit.

Malcolm Le May, Provident chief executive, said: “In light of the changing industry and regulatory dynamics in the home credit sector, as well as shifting customer preferences, it is with deepest regret that we have decided to withdraw from the home credit market.”

Jason Wassell, chief executive of the Consumer Credit Trade Association, which represents alternative and high-cost lenders, said the decision showed that “the current regulatory framework does not work for the market, or its customers”.

“The result in this case is that access to credit will be reduced for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Provident built its name as a provider of home credit, or doorstep lending, which involves a team of local agents who regularly visit borrowers to collect repayments and discuss their products.

Proponents believed agents’ local expertise and personal relationships with borrowers allowed them to achieve better results than traditional bank lending to people with bad credit scores, but the approach has increasingly been superseded by digital models in recent years.

Provident’s business has also been affected by a series of self-inflicted and external difficulties. Its consumer credit division has been lossmaking since a botched effort to modernise the unit in 2017, which led to a pair of profit warnings and an emergency rights issue. More recently, its recovery has been hampered by an increase in customer complaints that prompted an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The complaints rise has been driven by professional claims management companies, echoing a broader trend across the subprime lending industry which has also affected companies such as Amigo, the guarantor lender. Executives also accuse the Financial Ombudsman Service, which adjudicates on customer complaints, of overstepping its mandate and encouraging huge volumes of complaints.

Provident said it would wind down or sell the consumer credit division, with either option expected to cost it about £100m. 

The move will see Provident exit the most controversial areas of high-cost credit to focus on what it describes as “mid-cost” lending through its Vanquis credit card business and Moneybarn vehicle finance arm. Vanquis and Moneybarn both remained profitable during 2020, despite more than a quarter of Moneybarn customers requesting payment holidays at the height of the pandemic.

The results were slightly better than average analyst forecasts, and the company said Vanquis and Moneybarn had both reported “improving trends” during the first quarter of 2021. Shares in Provident nonetheless dropped more than 10 per cent in early trading.

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