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Man with a plan: Sam Newsom moves from homelessness to a six-figure salary consulting job

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Sometimes the worst thing that happens to you turns out to be the best thing.

In 2015, “I got in a real bad accident,” said Sam Newsom. His broken knee and back injuries prevented him from ever going back to his physically demanding job of climbing ladders and crawling through attics as an HVAC technician. It also left him dependent on prescription opioid pain medication, which grew from dependency to addiction.

By June 2016, his state disability insurance had run out, his savings were exhausted, credit cards were maxed out, and he had sold “pretty much anything of value” that he owned. Unable to pay rent or physically work, he moved into the back of his 2001 GMC Sonoma pickup with a camper shell and a mattress.



Cold weather, despair and an opioid monkey on his back drove him to Utah’s Place in October 2016, where he walked with the aid of crutches to the front door for help.

Utah’s Place in Grass Valley is Nevada County’s only 24/7 emergency shelter for the general homeless population. It is run by Hospitality House, a nonprofit community organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Nevada County.



“I felt discarded and alone,” Newsom said in a Jan. 18 interview in his clean and spacious home in North Highlands. “You have lost everything. It can take you down some very dark thoughts.”

He quickly learned from the other homeless guests that many in the shelter also felt discarded, but he was assured over and over that he was not alone and his life mattered.

Because Newsom had a history of being housed and employed, and welcomed recovery treatment, he was a prime candidate for Hospitality House’s Ready to Rent program, a six-week course designed to open doors to housing through education with an emphasis on credit repair, money management and budgeting, and landlord and rental etiquette.

“I work from home 80% of the time,” said Sam Newsom, a former guest of Hospitality House’s Utah’s Place. He has dedicated one bedroom of his four-bedroom house in North Highlands as his home office.
Tom Durkin

Hospitality House staff members Fred Skeen, Danielle Dawson, Heather Bailey and Charles Hungate were “super great” to him, he recalled.

“Sam responded well to case management suggestions of going into treatment first, securing a job second, and regaining control of his life,” said Skeen, a registered nurse and long-time volunteer and case manager at Hospitality House.

Newsom responded so well to the wraparound services provided at Hospitality House that he is now making a six-figure income working from home as a lighting and HVAC “subject matter expert” for Ecology Action, in addition to being the proud owner of a four-bedroom, two-bath home with a garage and swimming pool. But transitioning from homelessness to homeowner didn’t come easy.

ROCK BOTTOM BOUNCE

“It was just hitting that very rock bottom” that opened Newsom up to the possibility of a better way of life.

“It’s all about sticking to your plan,” he insisted.

The plan he developed with the help of Hospitality House staff was simple: rehab, job, place to live, save money, repair credit and buy a house.

“Half the people I went to high school with are all dead. Most died from opioid overdoses,” he said. With that motivation and “great counseling,” Newsom neutralized his addiction.

One Stop showed Newsom how he could transfer his skills as a master HVAC technician to “more of a desk-type job.”

In November 2016, he landed a job as a customer support tech in the Roseville office of Slakey Bros., a regional wholesaler of HVAC and plumbing supplies and equipment.

Because of the chronic affordable housing shortage, Newsom stayed at Utah’s Place and commuted daily to Roseville until he found cheap places to rent in January 2017. The first place was a “roach motel” in North Highlands, but he moved a few months later to a room above a warehouse in Auburn.

“It wasn’t the Taj Mahal, but I was able to rent it for $350 a month,” he said. It was “a place to sleep and get a shower.”

For the next two years, he stayed there saving money, repairing his credit, and saving more money, all according to the plan.

Former Utah’s Place homeless guest Sam Newsom, 39, stands in front of the home he purchased in North Highlands near Sacramento. Eventually, he plans to return to Grass Valley because he said he wants to live in a community that supports a facility like Utah’s Place.
Photo by Tom Durkin

“You gotta have patience,” he stressed. “You gotta keep your eye on the prize.”

Although he was making good money at Slakey Bros., it wasn’t enough to buy the kind of house he wanted. So, in September 2019, he got a better job with Ecology Action, a prestigious nonprofit founded on Earth Day 1970.

“I design custom packages for clean air, especially now with COVID,” he said. He also advises building owners how to retrofit cost- and energy-efficient LED lighting systems.

With a six-figure salary, Newsom finally had the “debt-to-income” ratio he needed to put a prized house key in his pocket.

According to the plan devised at Utah’s Place in October 2016, Sam Newsom bought a house in December 2019 using a first-time-buyer FHA loan with a 3% down payment.

But that is not his dream home. “I really do want to move back to Grass Valley,” he said. In a few years, after he’s built some equity, he wants to either sell or rent the North Highlands house so he can get a place in Grass Valley — with a few extra rooms to offer as affordable housing.

“I wish I had 10 rooms I could rent to people at a fair price to help them out,” he said.

While 10 rooms would be ideal, for now Newsom pays it forward by renting two of his bedrooms to people who need affordable housing, as he once did himself. “I give them a reduced rent to help them out, so they can try to get on their feet,” he explained.

More than anything, Newsom wants others to know if he can do it, they can do it. In a follow-up email on Feb. 2, Newsom wrote: “Hospitality House gave me hope that I was not alone, and I did not have to go to bed hungry or use the bathroom in the woods. A decent dinner, warm shower and bed does a lot for the soul. They gave me enough to get my life restarted.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer for The Union.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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

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

What is Sallie Mae?

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

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

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

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

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

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

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

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

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

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

The bottom line

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

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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

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

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

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

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

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

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

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

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

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

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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

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

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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