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Enough Is Never Enough: Americans Weigh In on How to Help Those Struggling Financially During Pandemic

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Welcome to the new normal.

Shelter-in-place orders brought on by the pandemic caused unemployment to skyrocket as businesses struggled to cope.

According to Pew Research Center, the unemployment rate shot up nearly nine percentage points in three months, rising from 3.8 percent in February to 13.0 percent in May. This three-month spike was greater than the rise seen in the entire two years of the Great Recession, from late 2007 to early 2010.

The U.S. government issued stimulus checks to families to help keep the economy alive and supplement lost income as an addition to unemployment assistance—but was the one-time effort enough?

We surveyed 3,000 Americans to get a better idea of their thoughts on how to aid those who have lost income due to the pandemic. Here, we’ll dive into the results.

Key Findings

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that “more needs to be done to help those who have lost income due to the pandemic.”
  • Despite this, 67 percent wouldn’t consider donating a second stimulus check (were it to be issued) to help those who have lost income to the pandemic.
  • Instead, respondents said a second stimulus check would most likely go toward bills, savings, mortgages and credit card debt.

Americans in Agreement: Let’s Help Those Who Have Lost Income

When asked if they agreed with the statement that “more needs to be done to help those who have lost income due to the pandemic,” 68 percent responded “yes.” Women were slightly more likely to respond “yes” at 70 percent, compared to 66 percent of men.

Does more need to be done to help those who have lost income due to the pandemic? Lexington Law survey results: Yes: 67%. No: 32%. Other: 1%.

But when it comes to financial aid for millions of Americans, the solution isn’t always so simple. How can a nation ensure its citizens are adequately taken care of in a way that makes fiscal sense? Does the burden fall on individuals to make personal contributions?

To find out, we asked if respondents would be willing to donate a second stimulus check—should one be issued—to those who have lost income due to the pandemic.

Donating Second Stimulus Checks Not the Solution

Despite the majority of respondents agreeing that Americans need more aid during this time, 67 percent would not consider donating a potential second stimulus check to those who have lost income.

This is likely because the pandemic has resulted in many Americans becoming financially strapped already, whether due to unemployment, furloughs, reduced wages or other factors. 

Despite the fact that 68% of respondents agree that more needs to be done to help those who have lost income due to the pandemic, 67% would be unwilling to donate a second stimulus check.

It’s worth noting that while Americans aren’t prepared to donate their second stimulus check, our survey didn’t confirm whether they would be willing to donate at all. Perhaps smaller, more bite-sized donations would better suit peoples’ current financial capabilities.

So How Would Respondents Spend a Second Stimulus Check?

When it comes to spending a second stimulus check, respondents were much more likely to use their check for more pressing matters. Utilities and bills were the most popular choices, selected by 30 percent of respondents.

Interestingly, 20 percent of respondents said they would use the check to pay down credit card debt. This is perhaps part of a larger trend of shrinking consumer debt during the pandemic. CNN reported that consumer debt shrank by approximately $100 billion from February to July in 2020. With consumers having less discretionary income or just wanting to tighten up their finances during this crisis, it makes sense that they would be swiping their cards less frequently.

According to Experian, the decrease in consumer debt has had a positive impact on credit health. The average VantageScore has increased by five points and credit utilization has decreased from 30 percent to 25 percent, falling into the recommended utilization range.

How would Americans use a second stimulus check? Utilities and bills: 30%. Saving or investment: 26%. Rent or mortgage: 21%. Paying down credit cards: 20%. Recreation and hobbies: 9%. Charitable donations: 8%.

For the latest updates on the status of the second round of stimulus checks, visit CNET’s page.

Take Care of Yourself First—Physically and Financially

Despite uncertain times, the fact that consumer debt and credit scores have improved is an encouraging sign to anyone looking to improve their financial health. When you’re revisiting your budget during these times, remember to prioritize making on-time debt payments to keep your credit healthy.

If you’ve had a more difficult time making payments in recent months, or if your credit score has seen a temporary dip, don’t give up. There’s still potential for another stimulus check to be approved, and no matter what happens, you might be able to take steps now to improve your credit score.

It’s also important to continue to monitor your credit report for false or inaccurate items. When coupled with financial hardship, these can wreak unnecessary havoc on your credit score. We can help with that.

Methodology

This study was conducted for Lexington Law using Google Consumer Surveys and interpreted by Siege Media. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in September 2020.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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How to remove inquiries from a credit report

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young family reviewing credit report together

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Credit scores naturally fluctuate from month to month depending on your usage, payments and transactions. For the most part, your credit score is directly tied to your actions. Occasionally there will be errors on your report that were out of your control, such as with hard inquiries and lines of credit. If you notice a sudden decline in your credit score, even if only by a few points, you may be suffering from the effect of an unwarranted credit inquiry.

Credit inquiries occur when a lender requests your full credit history from one of the credit reporting agencies. These inquiries into your credit history can affect your credit score negatively and will typically stay on your report for up to two years.

Inquiries stay on your record for so long because they reflect how many times you have applied for credit. Lenders use how many times you have applied for credit to judge whether you should be approved for an extension of credit.

In certain circumstances, an unapproved inquiry can be removed from your credit report by sending a credit inquiry removal letter to the credit reporting agency or by disputing it online.

The difference between hard and soft inquiries

difference between hard and soft inquiries

Although there is no difference between the data provided in a hard and soft inquiry, they do not affect your credit the same way. A common misconception is that checking your own credit history will negatively affect your score, but this is not true. When you check your own credit history, it is considered a soft inquiry and will not show on your credit report or affect your score.

Hard inquiries, by contrast, occur when a lender pulls your credit report. A lender may pull your credit history while going through an application for a new loan, a new credit card or any line of credit. Additionally, banks and property managers may pull your credit while setting up accounts or determining approval for an apartment.

Occasionally, a hard credit report can sometimes be pulled without your knowledge, approval or without your full understanding. Hard inquiries that were pulled without your request can be removed from your credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

How do credit inquiries affect your credit score?

Hard inquiries count as minor negative entries and account for 10 percent of your credit score. Although the exact effect on your credit score will vary depending on your credit history and current standing, you can typically expect to see a one to five point drop in your overall credit score.

Although the exact hit to your credit score will vary, you can expect to see drops in your score when these inquiries start to add up. Occasionally lenders will either pull your credit by mistake, pull your credit multiple times or pull your credit without your knowledge whatsoever.

Can you remove inquiries from your credit report?

reasons to dispute a hard inquiry on your credit report

Hard inquiries can be removed from your credit history if they occurred without your approval. If you did not have knowledge of the hard inquiries pulled from your credit profile, you have the right to ask for the inquiry to be removed

You can remove a hard inquiry if:

  • The inquiry occurred without your knowledge.
  • The inquiry occurred without your approval.
  • The number of inquiries exceeded what you expected.

How to send a credit inquiry removal letter

To send a credit inquiry removal letter, you should contact any credit reporting agency that is reporting the inquiry. Credit inquiry removal letters can be sent to both the credit reporting agencies and the lender who issued the credit inquiry.

1. Send the credit inquiry removal letter via certified mail
Certified mail is a way in which the sending and receiving of a letter or package is recorded. This form of mail will give you proof that the credit issuer or lender received the proper first notification to remove the hard inquiry.

2. Notify the lender first
Notifying the lender before you send a removal notice is necessary if you plan to take the dispute further to court. This is the proper first step for removing hard inquiries.

3. Include a copy of your credit report
Including a copy of your credit report with the highlighted unapproved hard inquiries may help with referencing your case. Although the credit reporting agencies will have easy access to your report, a hard copy will help investigators when processing your request.

4. Send to the appropriate credit bureau
It is important to send your letter to the credit bureau with a record of the hard inquiry you want removed. Below are the addresses for each bureau:

Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Equifax Dispute Information Center

Experian
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Experian Dispute Information Center

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
TransUnion Disputes Information Center

Credit inquiry removal letter template

Date
Your name
Your street number, street name
City, state, zip code
Your phone number
Social Security Number
Name of credit bureau

Re: Reporting Unauthorized Credit Inquiry

To whom this may concern,

I am writing to request the removal of unauthorized credit inquiry/inquiries on my (name of the credit bureau—Equifax, Experian and/or TransUnion) credit report. My latest credit report shows (number of hard inquiries you are disputing) credit inquiry/inquiries that I did not authorize.

I am writing to dispute the following inquiries and ask for their removal from my credit report.

Item No.CreditorAccount

Please have these/this unapproved inquiries/inquiry removed from my credit report within 30 days, as it is harming my ability to obtain new credit. I would appreciate a copy of my credit report once this issue is resolved.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

How to stay on top of negative credit report entries

Removing questionable negative items from your credit profile can be a long and time-consuming process that can seem daunting. Although a few points’ difference may not seem like a large priority, it is important to stay on top of these entries before they add up and get out of control.

If keeping your credit score high or improving your credit score is a top priority, Lexington Law Firm may be a good option for you. Lexington’s credit repair services can help you with addressing questionable negative items on your credit report as you work on improving your credit.

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Class calculator: Which American income class do you really fall under?

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

With so much economic uncertainty, the desire for normalcy and stability has never been greater. The American “middle class” is an often vague categorization of the way most Americans live—including milestones such as homeownership, sending two kids to college and retiring at 65.  

According to a 2018 Northwestern Mutual report, 68 percent of Americans consider themselves “middle class.” But in reality, only 52 percent are designated as such (as of 2016). This discrepancy may be fueled by the desire to fit neatly into the middle, which can often be perceived as the norm. So what class do you really fall under? 

Middle class calculator

The calculator below gives an estimate of middle class designation based on state and total household income. It will also compare your results to your state’s average income and the current national average. To learn more about the evolution of the middle class, skip to our infographic.


Please enter your income and state.

You in the middle class in .

Here’s how you stack up compared to your state and the national average:

The evolution of the middle class and economic mobility

The middle class is slowly disappearing. As wealth disparity and wage gaps continue to widen, the concept of the “99 percent” versus the “one percent” becomes more of a reality.

For context, in 1971, 61 percent of Americans fell under the middle class. By 2016, this percentage had shrunk to just 52 percent—a significant drop of 9 percentage points.

Along with a shrinking middle class, downward economic mobility remains a concern. As technology and automation replace jobs, many workers will continue to lose their employment and slide into a lower income class. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, about 17 percent of middle-income jobs are at a high risk of automation.

Determining income class

There is no set standard for what is considered upper, middle or lower class. One simple method, coined by economist Stephen Rose, categorizes income class based on five buckets:

  • Poor or near-poor: $0 to $29,000
  • Lower middle class: $30,000 to $49,999
  • Middle class: $50,000 to $99,999
  • Upper middle class: $100,000 to $349,999
  • Rich: $350,000

Another method used by Pew Research Center to determine the middle class is to calculate whether income falls within two-thirds to double that of the national average—which is currently $63,179. By this method, a household with a total income ranging from $42,199 to $126,358 could be considered “middle class.”

While these methods are a great starting point, there are typically other factors that play into class, such as debt load, personal health, family situation, education and more.

The relativity of class and alternative viewpoints

The analysis of class is always relative. Psychological factors—like how we perceive our own situation—play a vital role in our happiness. “The mind is the most powerful functioning organ in our system, and thinking you are poor will definitely cause your whole system to act like it,” explains Ricardo Flores, a financial advisor at The Product Analyst. “Class is definitely relative. You can move from this position in life if you feel like you should or you can.”

Social and cultural capital are alternative ways to view class. This way of thinking approaches class as relating to how you view yourself and how you interact with others. It also allows room for your cultural background to influence your class—including art, literature, music and other important aspects of culture that make us who we are.

Just as income, education, location, social connections and mindset impact our well-being, so does debt. Credit card debt is massively expensive over time due to interest paid. But perhaps even more importantly, it has been linked to mental health issues like depression. No matter which class you fall into, proper credit management is vital—to both your physical and financial health. 

The infographic below dives deeper into the making of the middle class:

Methodology
Lexington Law used Pew Research Center’s standard of calculating income class that defines the middle class as having a household income that is two-thirds to double that of the national average. The most recent data available on average household income from the U.S. Census Bureau was used for the state and national averages. Lexington Law does not share any of the information provided in this calculator.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Paying Off Debt Early

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

The word “debt” usually has a negative connotation. Whether it’s student loans, lines of credit, consumer debt or a mortgage, most people strive to pay it off as early as possible. However, there are smart decisions to be made when paying off debt. For example, many people wonder, “Does paying off a loan early hurt credit?” This guide takes you through all the do’s and don’ts of paying off debt early so you can make the right decisions for your financial health.

What are the benefits of paying off debt early?

There are several appealing reasons why you might want to pay off your debt early.

You can save money

When it comes to debt, what can really get you is the interest rates. Luckily, if you pay off a debt earlier, you’re reducing the total interest you pay.

Let’s say you have a credit card balance of $5,000 at an average credit card interest rate of 16 percent. If you’re making a monthly payment of $200, it will take you 31 months to pay off the debt, and you’ll have paid a total of $1,122 in interest.

Now, if you increase your payment, it can make a significant overall difference. By doubling your monthly payment to $400, you will more than double the impact on interest and total loan time. Your time to pay off the debt will decrease to 14 months, and your total interest paid will be $506.

You can protect your credit

If your debt is something like a loan, then paying it off early can protect your credit. You will no longer be in danger of damaging your credit with a late or missing payment. Either of these instances can typically lower your credit score by 90 – 110 points for several months.

Additionally, paying off your debt can help your debt-to-income ratio. Your credit score is made up of five factors, and the debt-to-income ratio accounts for approximately 30 percent of your credit score.

You can decrease your debt-related stress

According to a 2019 survey produced by BlackRock, Americans identify money as their number one source of stress. Debt can make people feel insecure about their future and cause endless worry. This financial stress can start to impact job performance, quality of life and personal relationships. When you pay off your debt early, you’ll have more peace of mind about your financial state.

Potential negative consequences

You might be surprised to learn that there are some potentially negative consequences to paying off debt early as well.

Prepayment penalty fees

It’s essential to read the fine print of your debt before you start paying it off early. Some creditors choose to protect themselves from individuals trying to pay off debt early by including penalty fees. For example, many mortgages put a cap on how much extra you can contribute to your mortgage loan every year. Usually, it’s up to 20 percent of your principal balance annually.

Find out if your loan has a prepayment penalty fee, and calculate whether this fee is greater than the interest left on your loan. If your interest is lower than the penalty fee, it’s really not worth paying off the loan early.

Changes to credit factors

So, does paying off a loan early hurt your credit? The answer is, sometimes it can. For example, installment loans are different from revolving debt. Installment loans, such as mortgages, have a fixed interest rate for a period of time and fixed payments. Revolving debt, such as credit card debt, usually has high interest rates and options for minimum payments.

Keeping installment loans open can help your credit by improving your credit diversity. Additionally, installment loans show the credit scoring companies that you can reliably pay a loan. On the other hand, credit card debt, unless you’re paying it off entirely every month, can do more harm than good to your credit score.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that paying off a loan will hurt your credit score—you just shouldn’t expect it to automatically help, either. Your credit score may not change at all, or it may shift in either direction by just a few points.

Paying off debt: Do’s and Don’ts

Do address monthly expenses first

Your debt shouldn’t take priority over your monthly fixed expenses. Payments such as your rent, utilities and food are necessities. You need to pay these to continue living safely and comfortably.

Don’t neglect your savings

It’s crucial to have savings, especially emergency savings. Make sure you have an emergency fund at a level you’re comfortable with. That way, if something urgent comes up, like the loss of a job or a medical bill, you will be able to survive without falling into more debt. People without emergency funds often find themselves turning to desperate solutions (such as payday loans), which are usually more harmful in the long run.

Do consider refinancing

If the balance of your installment debt is incredibly high, it might be time to consider refinancing. This route is usually a great option if you’ve been making regular payments and have seen an improvement in your credit score. A better credit score may mean you qualify for better rates with refinancing, which can save you thousands of dollars in interest.

Talk to a financial planner first to better understand if refinancing is the best option for you.

Don’t discount investment opportunities

It can be tempting to prioritize debt above all else, including retirement. Don’t discount investment opportunities, though. Just as you should have an emergency fund, it can hurt you long term  if you don’t begin saving for retirement now.

Additionally, consider the interest rates on your debt. The average return on investments in the stock market is, historically, around 10 percent. If the interest on your debt is lower than 10 percent, investing might be a better option than paying debt off early.

Do consult a professional

The right balance of debt can actually help your overall credit. However, it’s all quite complicated, and there are a lot of different factors to take in. It’s vital to consult a finance professional before making any significant decisions.

Paying off your debt sooner than necessary isn’t quite the straightforward process it might seem to be. There are many factors to consider, and it’s important to be thoughtful before making any decisions. You can also reach out to our team at Lexington Law today to learn more about your credit.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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