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Coronavirus job loss sends Florida family into homelessness

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KISSIMMEE, FLA. — The pandemic had forced them from their home. Then they had run out of money for a motel. That left the car, which is where Sergine Lucien, Dave Marecheau and their two children were one recent night, parked in a lot that was tucked behind a row of empty storefronts.

Sergine eyed some men gathering by a fence in the opposite corner of the blacktop.

“I just heard some f-bombs,” she said.

“I’m not worried,” Dave replied.

Days earlier, Dave had started a $14-an-hour construction job and expected to collect his first paycheck in the morning. If all went as planned, this would be their last night sleeping in the car.

“I see a guy doing drugs over there,” Sergine said, glancing at the huddle of men.

“Ginnie, this is a good spot,” Dave insisted.

The spot was six miles from the main gate of a shuttered Walt Disney World, the engine of Orlando’s vast tourism economy, which in the best of times had struggled to keep its armies of low-wage workers housed, clothed and fed. Now the pandemic was revealing just how fragile and cruel that economy could be, as thousands of those workers found themselves on the edge of eviction and homelessness, living in cars or squatting in abandoned motels.

The sun sets behind one of the many gift shops in Kissimmee, Fla.

In late May, Vice President Pence met in Orlando with executives who described the catastrophic damage to Florida’s tourism industry, after a record 131 million people visited in 2019. “If we don’t get back to work quickly, it’s all over. It’s all over,” the CEO of a large hotel and convention company told him.

“We’ll get this opened up,” Pence replied.

Even when the economy was booming, Dave and Sergine had lived in a state of near homelessness, shuttling between seedy motels that had become a shelter of last resort for thousands in the Orlando area. Last year, after six years of the motel life, they had saved enough to finally make it out. They bought an RV and rented a spot in a quiet and clean mobile home community. Sergine promised the kids they would never go back.

Now all that was gone. In theory, they qualified for a $3,400 federal stimulus check, but they had no bank account or address to collect it. In theory, Dave was entitled to unemployment, but as of May only about 43 percent of the state’s 1.1 million claims had been paid.

Their reality was another night in their 15-year-old Saab hatchback, the promise of a paycheck and then, maybe, an upgrade to a run-down motel room. Their last meal — eight hours earlier — had come from the McDonald’s dollar menu. Jayden, 12, hunched over a spiral notebook sketching robots, squinting to compensate for the glasses that had broken a few months earlier and had never been replaced. Phoenix, 7, complained that her parents had promised to buy her a basketball.

“I’m trying to teach you that you need food. You need water — you don’t need a basketball,” Sergine told her.

But when she looked away, Dave handed his kids $1 each — the last cash he had — and soon, the family was heading to the Dollar Tree, deciding that a moment of unexpected joy was more important than food. Phoenix picked out a jar of pink slime. Jayden eyed a bag of chips but settled on a spiral notebook. He would rather draw than eat.

(Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Then it was back to the parking lot that was filling with the homeless. Dave blew up an air mattress for the kids that spilled out of the hatchback. When a man approached the car, he yelled, “Get away! Corona!”

When a second man in soiled clothes started to urinate about a dozen feet from the spot where Jayden was sitting and sketching, Dave cursed at him and ran him off.

“That’s why I don’t want to be here,” Sergine said. “We gotta move.”

They were loading up when the man reappeared, clutching a broken umbrella he had plucked from a nearby dumpster.

“I pee in the grass! I pee in the grass!” he screamed and charged at Dave, who grabbed a two-by-four from the ground and hit him hard in the back. The man, who appeared mentally ill, cried out in pain. Dave, Sergine and the kids fled to a better-lit, but more open and exposed, McDonald’s parking lot.

“Just one more night,” Sergine assured herself.

She set her phone alarm for midnight so that as Thursday turned to Friday, she could check whether Dave’s first paycheck had hit their account. She could hear the clatter of raccoons foraging in a nearby dumpster and the hum of cars rolling through the drive-through. At 12:01 a.m. she looked to see whether Dave’s paycheck had shown up in his account.

Nothing. They were still broke.

Sergine Lucien and her husband, Dave Marecheau, check their phones before sleeping in their Saab hatchback in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Kissimmee, Fla., on May 14.

7-year-old Phoenix Marecheau prepares to go to bed on the air mattress in the back of her family’s car last month.

Sergine Lucien dozes on an air mattress with her two children, Jayden and Phoenix, in Orlando on May 15. While her husband, Dave, goes to work at a construction site, Sergine and the kids stay parked at the nearby gas station because she can’t drive.

They had come to Orlando from Brooklyn in 2013, drawn by the area’s warm weather and seemingly endless supply of low-skill jobs. A few months after arriving in Florida they were short on rent and had to check into a run-down motel on Highway 192. For families with bad credit, no savings or prior evictions, the motels were often the only option. Dave, 50, and Sergine, 39, ticked all the boxes.

“The most raggedy, hooker and drug-infested motel costs more than $1,000 a month,” Sergine said. For years, they were stuck. Phoenix took her first steps in the Home Suite Home motel. Jayden and Sergine kept a tally of the best and worst places they had stayed.

“Where was our first room at the Red Carpet Inn?” Sergine asked.

“Room 207,” Jayden replied. “It looked like someone got murdered in there.”

“Literally three walls had blood on them,” Sergine added.

Last year, Dave and Sergine finally scraped together enough money to buy a $4,500 RV and rent a slab in a mobile home park with shuffleboard courts and a heated pool. Dave, who had spent two years as a prep cook at the Regal Oaks resort, was earning $14 an hour. He took a second job as a dishwasher at the local outpost of Joe’s Crab Shack, the iconic Miami restaurant.

Jayden and Phoenix finally had their own beds, a place to keep toys, and a steady group of playmates. Dave and Sergine promised the kids that they would never go back to the motels.

Money was still tight and sometimes they fought. In February, Dave was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge after Sergine called the police. She said she pushed him and that he responded by hitting her with a backpack. The charge was dropped. Then in late March the pandemic hit, tourism stopped cold and Dave lost both his jobs. Their RV was towed to an impound lot. They were back in the motels.

Sergine Lucien grabs clothing, toiletries and other important items out of the family’s storage unit in Kissimmee, Fla., on May 16. Sergine and her husband pawned their wedding rings, along with their children’s Christmas presents, to have money to pay for a motel.

Three weeks later, Disney furloughed almost 43,000 park workers, adding a flood of new unemployed people to an economy that was already starved of tourists. Food lines stretched for hours.

Dave and Sergine pawned their wedding rings, their television and their children’s Christmas presents — Jayden’s Nintendo Switch and Phoenix’s tablet — to pay for motel rooms. A couple weeks ago, Sergine sold the family’s $509 monthly food stamp allotment.

Signs of suffering were everywhere. At the Lake Cecile, just three miles from Disney World, a few dozen people were living in rooms without electricity or running water. A recently released inmate had moved into one. In another, a pair of out-of-work Applebee’s employees were trying to make it livable, with a woman scrubbing the floor while her boyfriend fetched water in a bucket from a dilapidated motel across the street.

Several of the rooms on their floor were charred black by fire. Three feet of green, mosquito-infested slime and trash stagnated in the swimming pool.

Dave and Sergine decided that their car was safer than a free room at the Lake Cecile.

The Lake Cecile, in Kissimmee, Fla., has no electricity or running water.

Unlike the Lake Cecile, with which it shares an owner, the Star Motel in Kissimmee, Fla., has power and running water.

A girl rides her bike past the Lake Cecile, a motel in Kissimmee, Fla., just three miles from Disney World.

Dave had planned to rise at 4:45 a.m. so he would have time to wash up in the men’s room of a nearby Wawa before he reported for work at 6:30 a.m. But when the alarm went off, he was too tired, so he hit snooze a half-dozen times before getting up at 6 a.m.

About 30 minutes later, the family pulled into a gas station parking lot near Dave’s job site for the beginning of his shift. Sergine had never learned to drive so she and the kids would have to spend the day in the car — no air conditioning, no shade, the windows down and doors open to stave off the 90-degree heat.

Dave returned with some devastating news: He wasn’t going to receive his first paycheck until the following Friday.

Seven more days of living, eating and sleeping in the hot, cramped car; seven more days of hoping no one would notice as she and her kids cleaned themselves in gas station restrooms; seven more days of worrying about her family’s safety.

Sergine rested her forehead on the steering wheel and began to sob. She looked up a short time later to find a sheriff’s deputy peering through the car window.

“You are not in trouble,” the deputy said when she saw Sergine’s panic-stricken face. “By no means are you in any kind of trouble.”

The officer asked where they lived and whether the kids were able to do online school. Sergine gulped for air between cries as she shared the story of the last few days in frantic and confusing fragments.

“I wish I could get you out of this situation … I wish I could get you a place now,” the deputy said. “My heart hurts for you.”

“I feel like a failure,” Sergine responded.

“I think you’re doing excellent,” the deputy replied. She peeked into the back seat where Jayden and Phoenix were eating their first meal in more than 18 hours. Dave’s boss had advanced him $100 that they would have to stretch to cover their next seven days of food and gas.

“You guys be patient and take care of your mommy,” the deputy said, and was gone.

To Sergine, it felt as if every institution that might provide her help was either overwhelmed or inaccessible. She had waited on hold for hours with the IRS in an effort to claim their stimulus check, before giving up. “It’s out there somewhere in the cloud,” she said.

The status of Dave’s unemployment claim had for weeks read “still pending.” The governor blamed the backlog on the state’s buggy computer system and Floridians’ failure to fill out the forms properly. Dave and Sergine had all but given up hope of ever seeing their money.

Sergine Lucien sits in a quiet strip mall parking lot with her children in Kissimmee, Fla. Though Sergine and her husband, Dave, are entitled to a $3,400 stimulus check, they’ve been unable to collect it without a permanent address.

Sergine’s best chance was a local charity group. She dialed the number for the St. Vincent De Paul Society’s financial help line, which had given her some money last year when they were moving into the mobile home park.

“Our small volunteer group is overwhelmed with those requesting assistance,” a recorded message played.

“Please, please, please,” Sergine prayed.

“Speak your name slowly and clearly … ”

Sergine held her breath and waited for the beep.

“Sorry, that mailbox is full,” said a computerized voice. “Goodbye.”

She dropped the phone in her lap. Tears ran down her face and neck. “I want to hit something. I want to scream,” Sergine cried. “I feel like I’m drowning.”

In the back seat, Phoenix squeezed her pink slime. Jayden was playing “Brawl Stars” on his phone. Around them cars were filling up with gasoline and families were going about their day.

Sergine brushed away her tears and called the resource counselor at her children’s elementary school.

“I’m so glad to hear your voice,” the woman said.

“I’m falling apart. I am done,” Sergine pleaded. “We’ve been in the streets for three days now. Dave doesn’t get paid until next Friday. My babies don’t have food to eat.”

Sergine could hear the clack of computer keys on the other end of the line. “Let me think, think, think,” said the counselor, who promised to phone back in 15 minutes with some options.

“What’s happening?” asked Jayden.

“I don’t know,” Sergine cried softly.

Instead of a callback, Sergine received a text with a phone number for a relief agency that she had already tried. “Ms. Lucien, this is temporary,” the counselor wrote. “This situation is temporary.”

To Sergine, though, the prospect of another week of public humiliations, of her back throbbing and her children going hungry seemed endless.

“Help me, Jayden,” she said. “Help me think.”

Dave arrived around 3:30 p.m., drenched in sweat from digging trenches in the 90-degree heat. He tossed Phoenix a rubber ball that he had found on the job site. “A basketball!” she said, smiling.

They drove back to Kissimmee, past shuttered chain restaurants, empty outlet malls and a parade of hookers still working a stretch of sidewalk along Orange Blossom Trail. First stop was EconoLodge, where Dave and Jayden went to grab some free ice.

Dave had come to the United States from Grenada and settled in New York City when he was 17, and he knew what it was like to be hungry. “How can I heal this problem?” he sometimes thought when he looked at Jayden and Phoenix.

Jayden’s legs were stiff from the long day in the car. His head was down. “This is how life goes sometimes,” Dave told him as they filled a thermos and two big plastic cups with ice. “We’re almost there son. Your dad is working on it. Once we make it we are not going to have to stay outside again.”

Jayden still hadn’t lost faith in his father. “He’s very hard-working,” he had said one night in the McDonald’s parking lot. “I could call him a workaholic.”

Now, though, Jayden didn’t speak. He just nodded.

Dave Marecheau plays with his daughter, Phoenix, in a strip mall parking lot.

Phoenix Maecheau leans against her family’s car in Kissimmee, Fla., on May 15.

Jayden waits for his mother and sister while the family’s car is parked at a RaceTrac in Orlando, Fla. on May 15.

Their last hope for a room was Barbie Austria, a woman who served free hot meals on weekend mornings at a homeless encampment outside the Osceola Christian Ministry Center.

Sergine had met Austria three years earlier in the parking lot of the roach-infested Star Motel, which shares an owner with the Lake Cecile. Austria was passing out free food and clothing. They reconnected earlier this spring when Sergine and Dave lost their RV and were forced to move back into the motels.

About two dozen people lined up for a hot meal, including a woman Sergine had worked with a few years earlier at Walmart and a man who helped with maintenance at the Gator Motel in exchange for a break on his room.

“She’s a beautiful soul,” Sergine said of Austria, who was unloading folding tables from the back of her pickup truck. Her hair was pulled back in a tight black braid. A fanny pack where she kept her pistol hung from her waist.

Austria ran Kissimmee-Poinciana Homeless Outreach, a small street ministry, with the help of a former Army cook and few volunteers from her church. One of the volunteers handed Phoenix two s’mores cookies.

“Who found marshmallows this big?” she said. “They probably make them.” She took a bite into one of the cookies and handed the other to Jayden. “Most of the people here know me, and I like it,” she said.

A few yards away, Sergine was telling Austria about their nights sleeping in the car.

“When will you be able to get back in a hotel?” Barbie asked.

“Friday,” Sergine replied.

A month earlier, when they were short of cash for a room, Austria had given her $150. This time Austria didn’t offer money. Instead she said she would try to help Sergine find a housecleaning job, though both knew the prospects were bleak. No one wanted strangers cleaning their house in the middle of a pandemic.

Dave grabbed four containers of food and some sandwiches that would have to last them the day. It was too hot to go to the McDonald’s parking lot so they parked in the shade of an oak tree adjacent to an RV park full of snowbird retirees. Behind them was a shopping center that Dave said he had painted four years earlier.

“You built it?” Phoenix asked.

“Nah, just painted it,” he said. “Me and two other guys.”

Dave leaned against a barbed wire and chain link fence that separated the lot from the RV park. He gazed out at the campers.

“My RV dream,” he said.

A thunderstorm was approaching. Sergine was reading a story on her phone about a new proposal from the state to extend eviction and foreclosure protections for a few more months. Neither proposal would help her.

“It’s going to be a sh—y day,” she said.

When the sun had set and the temperatures cooled, Jayden and Phoenix chased each other through the parking lot of a nearby strip mall and tossed Phoenix’s new ball until they lost it in the dark.

Then they looked through old photos on Sergine’s phone. Here was a picture of Dave one year earlier, standing in front of their RV in his black chef’s uniform smiling. He looked at least 30 pounds heavier. Sergine showed Phoenix a shot of her second birthday party.

“If I had a cake, why did I also have cupcakes?” Phoenix asked.

“We had money, and it was only $100,” Sergine replied.

Around 10 p.m., Sergine sprayed the kids with mosquito repellent. In the back of the family’s hatchback, Jayden and Phoenix drifted off to sleep. In the front, Sergine worried that the long hours in the car were making Jayden more withdrawn, less confident and sociable. She wondered if sleeping curled up next to his sister would stunt his growth; if going without glasses would permanently damage his eyesight. Phoenix carried on as normal, which worried her, too, because nothing about the last two months had been normal.

Phoenix and Jayden look into the windows of closed stores, while in the parking lot of a strip mall in Kissimmee, Fla.

Phoenix Marecheau plays with Pink Slime she purchased at a dollar store in the parking lot of a RaceTrac gas station in Orlando.

Phoenix Marecheau reaches into the trunk of her family’s car. Most of the family’s belongings are in storage.

In the morning they were back at the homeless encampment where Austria was once again passing out food. “I feel like I’ve failed my kids,” Sergine told her. “I feel like I’d be better off dead.”

“I wish I had answers,” Austria told her.

“We never get answers,” Sergine said.

Austria was packing up the food when she called Sergine over and offered to give her the money she needed for a motel until Friday when Dave would collect his first paycheck. The total bill for the Econo Lodge came to $217.11, which Austria said they could pay back in $10 weekly installments. They made plans to get a room that afternoon, but because of a glitch with Austria’s credit card, they had to spend one more night in the car.

On a Monday afternoon, after five nights in the car, they moved into the Econo Lodge, more exhausted than elated. Jayden flipped on a cartoon channel and collapsed on the bed. Sergine and Phoenix headed immediately for the shower.

“Do we have money to put towards dinner?” Jayden asked his father.

“Eat what’s in the room,” Dave said tersely.

Jayden and Phoenix eat breakfast in their room at the Econo Lodge. Barbie Austria, an acquaintance of their mom’s helped get the family of four back into a motel until Dave received his first paycheck.

The car’s gas gauge read empty. The family was down to its last 48 cents. Stacked on top of the mini-fridge were a dozen single-serving boxes of Cheerios, a crushed peanut butter and jelly sandwich and six single-serving packages of crackers. Jayden bit into the sandwich, while Sergine searched on the phone for food giveaways that they could walk to from the EconoLodge the next day. Almost all of them took place in the middle of the day when Dave would be at work.

As the evening wore on, the family relaxed and tempers cooled. Dave climbed into bed next to his son and picked up one of Jayden’s spiral notebooks, pausing over a creation that was half-man, half-battery.

“You used to draw stickman,” he said. “From stickman to this … wow.”

“This is my final concept of what I want that character to look like,” Jayden said.

“It’s nice. It’s good,” Dave told him. “I wish I could draw like that.”

Now that they were someplace cool and safe, Sergine took a moment to think about the mistakes they had made since coming to Florida. “We get a little money and rush out,” she said. “That’s what we did with the RV. We rush into things without planning because we want out so bad.”

Dave fell asleep next to Jayden, who was watching cartoons and drawing. Sergine curled up in the bed next to Phoenix. By 10 p.m. the lights in their room were out. The air conditioner was humming. The faint smell of mildew hung in the air. They had made it back to the place where they had started seven years ago.

Sergine and Phoenix organize all of their sample-size toiletries they have collected from donations and staying at different motel rooms on May 18.

Sergine says she worries about her children, Jayden and Phoenix. Jayden often squints over his notebooks because his broken glasses haven’t been replaced.

Sergine Lucien spends time outside of her family’s room at the Econo Lodge in Kissimmee, Fla.

Julie Tate contributed to this story.

Greg Jaffe is a national political reporter for The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009. Previously, he covered the White House, foreign policy and the U.S. military for The Post.

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Swimming Pool Loans: Finance with a Personal Loan

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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, all opinions are our own.

The average cost of installing a pool in the U.S. is about $35,000, according to HomeGuide. If you’d like to get a pool but don’t have the cash, a personal loan could help you cover the cost.

Here’s what you should know about swimming pool loans:

Personal loans for swimming pools

A personal loan can be used for a wide variety of reasons — including swimming pool installation. Here are Credible’s partner lenders that offer personal loans for swimming pools:

Avant

Avant offers personal loans for up to $35,000, as well as fast loan funding. If you have fair credit and would like to finance a pool installation, Avant could be a good choice.

  • Rates: 9.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5*
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000**
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, IA, LA, NV, NY, SC, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: $24,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day (if approved by 4:30 p.m. CT on a weekday)
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, emergency expense, life event, home improvement, and other purposes

Avant personal loans review

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.

Axos

Axos personal loans range from $5,000 to $35,000 and can be used for home improvement and more. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need very good credit to qualify for an Axos loan.

  • Rates: 9.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5*
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000**
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, IA, LA, NV, NY, SC, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: $24,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day (if approved by 4:30 p.m. CT on a weekday)
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, emergency expense, life event, home improvement, and other purposes

Avant personal loans review

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.

Best Egg

Best Egg offers personal loans up to $35,000, with highly competitive fixed interest rates. Just remember that you’ll need good credit to qualify for the lower end of these rates.

  • Rates: 5.99% – 29.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $5,000 – $35,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except DC, IA, VT, and WV
  • Min. income: None
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 640
  • Time to get funds: As soon as 1 – 3 business days after successful verification
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

Best Egg personal loans review

Discover

If you have good to excellent credit and are looking for a longer repayment term, a personal loan from Discover might be a good option. Discover offers loans ranging from $2,500 to $35,000, with terms from three to seven years.

  • Rates: 6.99% – 24.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $2,500 – $35,000
  • Fees: None as long as you pay on time
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all 50 states
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 660
  • Time to get funds: Funds can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance
  • Loan uses: Auto repair, credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home remodel or repair, major purchase, medical expenses, taxes, vacation, and wedding

Discover personal loans review

LendingPoint

You don’t need excellent credit to get a loan from LendingPoint. If you’re looking for bad credit personal loans, LendingPoint might be a good option.

  • Rates: 15.49% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $25,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except CO, CT, HI, MA, MD, NV, NY, VT, WV, and WY
  • Min. income: $35,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 585
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the next business day
  • Loan uses: Home improvement, consolidate debt, credit card refinancing, relocate, make a large purchase, and other purposes

LendingPoint personal loans review

LightStream

A division of SunTrust Bank, LightStream offers loans up to $100,000, plus repayment terms ranging from two to 12 years for home improvement. This gives you more time to pay off your pool compared to other personal loan lenders.

  • Rates: 3.99% – 19.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (up to 12 years for home improvement loans)
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $100,000
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except RI and VT
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: No
  • Min. credit score: 660
  • Time to get funds: As soon as the same business day
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

LightStream personal loans review

LightStream disclosure

Marcus

Marcus personal loans come with absolutely no fees — no origination fees, prepayment penalties, or even late fees. And if you make your payments on time and in full for a year, you have the option of skipping a payment with no interest accruing.

  • Rates: 6.99% – 19.99% APR1
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $3,500 to $40,0002
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except MD
  • Min. income: $30,000
  • Customer service: Phone
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 680
  • Time to get funds: Many Marcus customers receive funds in as little as five days
  • Loan uses: Credit card refinancing, debt consolidation, home improvement, and other purposes

Marcus personal loans review

1Rate reduction available for AutoPay.

2You may be required to have some of your funds sent directly to pay off outstanding unsecured debt.

3After making 12 or more consecutive monthly payments, you can defer one payment as long as you have made all your prior payments in full and on time. Marcus will waive any interest incurred during the deferral and extend your loan by one month (you will pay interest during this extra month). Your payments resume as usual after your deferral. Advance notice is required. See loan agreement for details.

PenFed

If you only need to borrow a small amount, PenFed could be a good choice. With PenFed, you could get anywhere from a $600 up to $20,000 personal loan with loan terms from one to five years.

  • Rates: 6.49% – 17.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 4, 5
  • Loan amount: $600 to $20,000 (depending on loan term)
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Does not disclose
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: No
  • Min. credit score: 650
  • Time to get funds: 2 to 4 business days after verification
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, home improvement, transportation, medical, dental, life events

PenFed personal loans review

Prosper

Prosper is a lending marketplace where loans are funded by individual investors. Prosper loans come with three- or five-year terms and are available for up to $40,000.

  • Rates: 6.95% – 35.99% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $40,000
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except IA, ND, WV
  • Min. income: None
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 640
  • Time to get funds: On average, within 5 days of accepting your offer
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, home improvement, vehicles, small business, new baby expenses, and other purposes

Prosper personal loans review

SoFi

SoFi offers $5,000 up to $100,000 personal loans that come with no origination fees, closing costs, or prepayment penalties. SoFi also offers unemployment protection, free financial planning sessions, and career coaching.

  • Rates: 5.99% – 18.83% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Loan amount: $5,000 to $100,000
  • Fees: None
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except MS
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: Does not disclose
  • Time to get funds: 3 business days
  • Loan uses: Solely for personal, family, or household uses

SoFi personal loans review

Upgrade

An Upgrade personal loan could be a good choice if you’re building credit or looking for fast loan approval. Upgrade offers loans up to $35,000.

  • Rates: 7.99% – 35.97% APR
  • Loan terms (years): 3, 5
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $35,000 ($3,005 minimum in GA; $6,005 minimum in MA)
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: Autopay
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except DC, IA, WV
  • Min. income: Does not disclose
  • Customer service: Email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 580
  • Time to get funds: Within a day of clearing necessary verifications
  • Loan uses: Debt consolidation, credit card refinancing, home improvement, and other purposes

Upgrade personal loans review

Upstart

With Upstart, you could get a $1,000 up to a $50,000 personal loan. In addition to your credit, Upstart looks at over 1,000 non-traditional credit indicators to help get you approved for a personal loan — which means those with less-than-stellar credit might still qualify for a loan.

  • Rates: 8.13% – 35.99% APR4
  • Loan terms (years): 3 to 5 years4
  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $50,0005
  • Fees: Origination fee
  • Discounts: None
  • Eligibility: Available in all states except IA and WV
  • Min. income: $12,000
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Soft credit check: Yes
  • Min. credit score: 600

    (in most states)
  • Time to get funds: As soon as 1 – 3 business days6
  • Loan uses: Payoff credit cards, consolidate debt, take a course or bootcamp, relocate, make a large purchase, and other purposes

Upstart personal loans review

4The full range of available rates varies by state. The average 3-year loan offered across all lenders using the Upstart platform will have an APR of 15% and 36 monthly payments of $33 per $1,000 borrowed. There is no down payment and no prepayment penalty. Average APR is calculated based on 3-year rates offered in the last 1 month. Your APR will be determined based on your credit, income, and certain other information provided in your loan application. Not all applicants will be approved.

5This offer is conditioned on final approval based on our consideration and verification of financial and non-financial information. Rate and loan amount are subject to change based upon information received in your full application. This offer may be accepted only by the person identified in this offer, who is old enough to legally enter into contract for the extension of credit, a US citizen or permanent resident, and a current resident of the US. Duplicate offers received are void. Closing your loan is contingent on your meeting our eligibility requirements, our verification of your information, and your agreement to the terms and conditions on the www.upstart.com website.

6If you accept your loan by 5pm EST (not including weekends or holidays), loan funds will be sent to your designated bank account on the next business day, provided that such funds are not being used to directly pay off credit cards. Loans used to fund education related expenses are subject to a 3 business day wait period between loan acceptance and funding in accordance with federal law.

See: What You Can Use a Personal Loan For

How to calculate the total cost of your swimming pool loan

How much you’ll need to borrow to cover your swimming pool will depend on the type of pool you choose.

Here are some common price points to consider before estimating the overall cost of a swimming pool loan:

  • Above-ground swimming pool: $1,500 to $16,000 on average
  • In-ground swimming pool: $3,000 to $100,000
Tip: The total cost of your loan will also be driven by the interest rate and any fees charged by the lender.

Having a good credit score could also help you qualify for a lower interest rate, so it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is as good as it can be before applying.

Before you borrow, estimate how much you’ll pay for a swimming pool loan using our personal loan calculator below:

Enter your loan information to calculate how much you could pay

Total Payment
$

Total Interest
$

Monthly Payment
$

With a
$
loan, you will pay
$
monthly and a total of
$
in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of
$
over the life of the
loan.


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HELOCs vs. personal loans for pools

In some cases, a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) might be a good choice to pay for pool installation. Here are some pros and cons of both HELOCs and personal loans to help you decide:

  HELOCs Personal loans
Pros
  • Often have lower interest rates
  • Can use credit line multiple times
  • Quick application
  • Typically unsecured (doesn’t require collateral)
  • Few or no fees (depending on the lender)
Cons
  • If you stop payments, you could lose your collateral (i.e., your home)
  • Can come with upfront costs
  • Typically higher interest rates
  • Generally need very good credit to qualify
Best for
  • Borrowers with a good amount of equity in their home
  • Borrowers with good credit who qualify for lower rates

Learn More: How to Decide Between a Personal Loan and a Personal Line of Credit

Things you should know before building a pool

On top of paying for a pool, there are a few points to keep in mind before you take the plunge. Here’s what to consider first:

Pools won’t necessarily boost your home value

Unlike a bathroom addition or kitchen remodel, adding a new pool won’t necessarily add value to your home. If you move, you’ll be leaving it behind and likely won’t recoup the full cost — if any.

Also keep in mind that if you sell your home, buyers might not be thrilled with the added costs and safety risks that come with a home swimming pool.

The typical pool builder will recoup about $20,000 to $32,000 in value compared to an average $50,000 expense, according to HGTV.

In addition to paying for the pool, there may be additional monthly costs

Pool costs don’t stop after building and filling it up for the first time. There are a handful of common, ongoing costs related to owning a pool. The cost is around $3,000 to $5,000 per year, according to HomeAdvisor. These costs include:

  • Heating-related electricity costs
  • Pool chemicals
  • Cleaning services
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Winterizing
  • Filling and adding water
  • Additional home insurance costs

Learn More: Where to Get a $10,000 Personal Loan

Some pool dealers may offer their own financing — but you should compare your options

Some pool-building companies offer their own financing. However, it’s a good idea to compare this with other loan options you might qualify for since you might get a much lower interest rate with another lender.

If the pool dealer offers a better deal, it might be a good choice. Just remember that you’re under no obligation to finance through your pool company, especially if you can get better terms elsewhere.

If you decide to take out a personal loan to pay for your swimming pool, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.

Ready to find your swimming pool loan?
Credible makes it easy to find the right personal loan for you.

  • Free to use, no hidden fees
  • One simple form, easy to fill out and your info is protected
  • More options, pick the loan option that best fits your personal needs
  • Here for you. Our team is here to help you reach your financial goals

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Keep Reading: Where to Get a Personal Loan

About the author

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a Credible expert on personal finance. His work has been featured at Business Insider, Investopedia, The Balance, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Mint.com and more.

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Bad Credit

The case of the ugly-credit customer

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Thea Dudley

Dear Thea,

I recently had a customer apply for credit, and their commercial credit report was UGLY. They owe everyone, and they’re past due 90+ days. They have a few big orders pending with us and I feel they have been shut off everywhere else, which is why they are pushing so hard to get our orders shipped. I called the president of the company and told him we were opening his account COD so the orders pending would need to be paid prior to shipping them out. He blew up. He said he didn’t care about the information on the DNB report and it did not relate to them. Then he screamed at me, asking if we were going to send the materials. I am not interested in acquiring another slow paying account, so I need your thoughts.

Signed, Miffed in Michigan

Dear Miffed,

Control freaks, abusers of credit, and manipulators of people don’t ever question themselves. They never ask themselves if the problem is actually them, and they always say the problem is someone else. Such is the life of the slow-paying/no-paying account.

Yes, Mr. Crappy Credit Report, it is completely everyone else’s fault that your credit payment history looks like a piece of Swiss cheese: full of holes and slightly smelly. In fact, the Secret Society of Credit Managers got together last week and selected your company as THE ONE we were going to target for the month to make your professional life a nightmare. It has nothing to do with your inability to pay your invoices in a timely fashion. You, as always, are an innocent my dear customer.

Let’s be real here: customers with negative or poor credit history ALWAYS know they have bad credit, but they always posture like it is brand new information, heard for the very first time. What? My credit is bad? No, who is reporting me that way? I want names, numbers, I dispute it. This is total BS! The list of objections goes on and on. One thing they do know, it is wrong, and you need to give them credit RIGHT NOW or they will take their business elsewhere (oh, the horror.)

Blowhards and bullies shout over the top of you and push their agenda because that’s what worked for them in the past. Their theory is “if you say it loud enough and angry enough with enough threats and forcefulness, it becomes true and others back down.”

Well, I like to throw caution to the wind and pet that kitty backwards. If you are going to come at me bro, don’t come empty-handed. You’re not the first guy to lose his stuffing at me. So, your credit report is junk. Ok, no problem. I will email you a copy and you can address it directly with the commercial credit bureau I pulled it from. Once you two have kissed and made up, I will pull a new one and if it is good, then welcome to the family!

In absence of that, let’s take a look at the trade references you listed on your credit application. I will personally call each and every one of them. Once I have made contact and have the information back, we can reevaluate. Just so we are on the same page, trade references are who you currently purchase like materials from. I do not want anyone you hire (so no sub-contractors, no contractors, no homeowners), no big box, no gas and sip, no personal testimonials.

How about some financials? I will take those. Show me what you have under the hood. Since this is a family publication, I cannot print what some of the reactions to those requests have been but most of you have pretty good imaginations and can fill in those blanks.

If someone truly believes their credit report is inaccurate, they have a normal conversation about it, in a normal tone. In this case the old adage, “the louder they are, the harder they fall” applies, so take heed.

With more than 30 years of credit management experience in the LBM industry, Thea Dudley consults with companies on a wide range of credit and financial management issues. Contact Thea at theadudley@charter.net.

 

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Bad Credit

Credit mistakes to avoid – It’s Your Money

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Small credit mistakes, like paying off your credit card a few days late, aren’t a big deal.

You pay a small penalty or a bit of interest and carry on as before. A slip up like that won’t come back to haunt you the next time you apply for a mortgage.

Other mistakes though can have a significant impact, even if they seem relatively minor at the time. They can stay on your credit record for years and potentially cause you to not qualify for a mortgage or loan or have to pay a higher interest rate.

Here’s a list of five credit mistakes that you definitely want to avoid:

Ignoring your financial details.

Not being aware of what interest rates you are paying or when a temporary or “teaser” rate ends can be very costly. Carrying debt on certain accounts harms your credit score far more (credit cards) than others (lines of credit).

You need to have a clear picture of all debts that you owe, how much they are costing you and review regularly to make improvements if necessary. 

Draining retirement funds to avoid bankruptcy.

While nobody wants to claim bankruptcy, sometimes it’s the right choice. RRSPs are generally exempt from bankruptcy proceedings (except for amounts deposited in the last 12 months in some provinces) and can be left there to help you rebuild on the other side of the bankruptcy proceedings.  

Not checking your credit.

You can check your credit report easily and for free in Canada through Equifax and TransUnion. Checking regularly (at least once per year if not twice) will allow you to become aware of any credit issues or fraud sooner so that they can be dealt with.

Having something unexpected appear on a credit report is common for Canadians and it’s up to you to watch for them.

Co-Signing a loan.

While this might make sense on a rare occasion, it should be avoided most of the time and only be considered with extreme caution.

I realize that it can be hard for young people to buy their first home these days but if they can’t qualify on their own, they likely shouldn’t be going ahead. Not only will your co-signing reduce your own borrowing capacity, if the loan isn’t repaid it can be disastrous to your own finances.  

Not carrying any credit at all.

With all the pitfalls of having access to credit, it is still a necessary evil for most people. If you elect to go without a credit card or any other credit vehicle, you won’t build up a credit score which means you won’t be able to qualify for a loan when you need one.

And don’t cancel your first credit card either. Longevity in your credit history is equally important! 

Having bad credit isn’t permanent and your score can be improved over time. But like many things in life, doing so takes a little bit of time and effort. But it’s not that hard.

Just put a semi-annual reminder in your calendar to sit down and review your credit and request a report.

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