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Positive people in Pinecrest : Samantha Berlan

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Positive people in Pinecrest : Samantha Berlan
Samantha Berlan

Miami Palmetto High incoming senior Samantha Berlan has a passion for community service. She’s been a Girl Scout since first grade and scouting helped cultivate her interest in helping others.

She got an early start in high school, developing the Savings for Students project, a financial literacy program to help students keep from making mistakes that will cause them to have bad credit.

“It’s about credit cards, loans, and the difference between buying and leasing a car,” she says. “I started this in ninth grade. I first collected 80-100 surveys on basic financial literacy. I wanted to get a basic understanding of what most people knew at that point.”

She compiled the results of the survey and her sophomore year she used that information to bring in presenters to speak to the graduating seniors.

The presenters included her mom, who is a former teacher at Palmetto but now works as Lead Lender Relations Specialist for the Small Business Administration. Berlan realized as she watched her mom work how little most people know about credit and finances. After watching her sister apply for student loans, Berlan decided she could put together a community service project that could teach students about the issues that come up when people are applying for loans, including student loans.

She worked with the Palmetto administration on the program. They sent the presenters to the senior classrooms for 15-30 minute presentations. This June, the program was held on Zoom and sent to the senior classes.

The Savings for Students program is the centerpiece of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

She’ll also use the project in her Silver Knight application.

Berlan is involved in Achieve Miami at Caribbean Elementary. She started in the summer program and moved on to become a Big Buddy.

“It wasn’t until this year that Achieve really impacted my life,” she says. “These three little girls are best friends. They are the reason I’d wake up ecstatic on a Saturday morning. It’s such a rewarding feeling that you have an active role in improving their reading level and be a friend and mentor to them.”

The three girls would work with Berlan and her friend. Normally it’s a one-on-one relationship but because of the bond, the director gave them permission to work two-on-three.

Berlan is on the Achieve Miami Junior Board. Because of the coronavirus, the program was put on hold when the school system shut down and remains on hold.

Until the coronavirus caused the schools to close, Berlan played on the Palmetto lacrosse team. She began playing her freshman year.

“I completely fell head over heels for the sport,” she says.

She loved it so much she sought out a club team and chose the South Florida Chaos based in Broward.

Her commitment to lacrosse was rewarded with being named team captain and she earned the Scholar Athlete Award. She hopes to play in college. However, the coronavirus has made recruiting much more difficult.

Other extracurricular activities include being Student Council secretary (junior and senior years), vice president of Key Club and English Honor Society treasurer.

She earned the Panther of Distinction Award. She was hoping to attend the summer seminar at the U.S. Naval Academy but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

In college, she plans to take STEM classes.

“Stem lets you go into any field,” she says. “I just don’t know where I want to apply it.”

Her application list includes Duke, the U.S. Naval Academy, Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld



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Ask the Fool: All about stock multiples

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A: It’s a ratio of two measures of a company. One of the most common multiples is the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, which is the stock’s current price divided by its earnings per share. Imagine Scruffy’s Chicken Shack (ticker: BUKBUK), trading at $80 per share. If it earned $4 per share over the past year, its P/E is 20 (80 divided by 4). It’s trading at a P/E ratio of 20.

There are also price-to-sales multiples, book-value multiples, cash-flow multiples and more. It can be helpful to compare a company’s multiples with those of its peers, to see whether its stock appears to be undervalued or overvalued. Nike, for example, recently sported a P/E ratio that was over 82, while Adidas’ was not quite 41. That suggests that Adidas is more attractively priced, though of course you’d want to assess many more factors.

Q: What’s the difference between a private company and a public one? – C.B., Bozeman, Mont.

A: Public companies have shares of stock available to trade on the open markets. They’re required to file quarterly earnings reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, detailing revenue, expenses, debt loads, cash levels, taxes, income or losses – and much more. These reports are publicly available.

MORE FROM MOTELY FOOL

Privately held companies are not public – meaning average investors can’t buy shares of them. They also don’t have to reveal much about their operations and financial health. According to Forbes, the 100 biggest private companies in America include Koch Industries, Cargill, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Publix, Mars, H-E-B, Pilot Flying J, Enterprise Holdings (parent of the car-rental company), Bechtel, Cox Enterprises, Fidelity Investments, Bloomberg, SC Johnson, McKinsey & Company, Staples and Amway.

Fool’s School

Prepare for disasters: It’s fine to prepare for unlikely disasters, perhaps by buying earthquake insurance in a low-risk region, or keeping garlic on you in case of vampire attack. But be sure that you’re preparing for more likely disasters, too, such as these:

Having a bad credit score: A bad credit score will doom you to high interest rates when you’re looking to borrow money, such as for a home or car. Start beefing up your score by paying down your debts and paying bills on time.

Losing your job: As the ongoing pandemic has made clear, unexpected job losses happen, and they can put you in financial peril. Make sure you have an emergency fund stocked with at least several months’ worth of critical living expenses, such as food, housing, utilities, taxes, transportation and so on. It’s also good planning to make yourself more hirable by learning new skills or getting new certifications or degrees.

Needing long-term care: Long-term care is an important issue everyone should consider. If you’re wealthy, you can pay for any care you might need; if you’re poor, you probably won’t be able to pay for it at all. But if you’re in between, consider long-term care insurance. Learn more at LongTermCare.gov.

Not being able to retire: This is a big disaster awaiting millions of people who haven’t socked away enough money to retire on. The best way out of this problem is to read up well in advance, make a plan and act on it. Good strategies include working for a few more years, saving as much as possible in IRAs and 401(k)s, cutting back on spending, taking on a side gig or two and perhaps cashing out a life insurance policy if it’s no longer needed. One of your best moves might be to invest long-term dollars in the stock market, perhaps via a low-fee index fund (such as one that tracks the S&P 500).

My smartest investment

Widened Horizons: My smartest investment ever was leaving my hometown and broadening my horizons. – M.I., online

The Fool responds: That’s a terrific investment indeed. There are countless benefits of traveling: By exposing yourself to other regions and countries, you can get a sense of how other people live – which may help you appreciate just how good you have it compared to billions of others. Getting to know people in other places can help you get over any fears of outsiders or foreigners, and enjoying their hospitality can make you feel like a citizen of the world, not just your state or country. You may even end up making some very good friends around the country or the world.

Trying a wide variety of foods from various cuisines can introduce you to flavors and dishes that become lifelong favorites.

Travel abroad can be greatly enhanced if you take the time to learn the language spoken at your destination – and knowing at least one other language can also be an effective career booster, as lots of companies have (or want to have) international operations and may send employees to other countries.

Travel can boost your self-confidence, as you navigate unfamiliar locations and successfully deal with unexpected events (such as missing a train in Japan). Finally, travel can simply be fun and exciting, and it creates memories to look back on for the rest of your life.

Foolish trivia

Name that company: Back in 1833, two men – a miller and a druggist who grew herbs – decided to make and sell drugs and essential oils. Their company ended up a part of me, along with many others. I got my current name after the 1958 merger between Polak & Schwarz and van Ameringen-Haebler. Today, based in New York City and with a market value recently near $13 billion, I’m a worldwide force in scents, tastes and ingredients. In 2019, I raked in $5.1 billion from about 38,000 customers. I’m merging with DuPont’s Nutrition & Biosciences division. Who am I?

Last week’s trivia answer: I trace my roots back to 1904, when a son of Italian immigrants founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco, which morphed over time to become the world’s largest commercial bank by the 1930s. I’ve gobbled up lots of companies, including credit card giant MBNA, U.S. Trust, FleetBoston Financial (which traced its roots to 1784) and even Merrill Lynch. Today, based in Charlotte, N.C., I sport a market value recently near $262 billion. I serve about 66 million customers via roughly 4,300 retail financial centers, and about 31 million customers bank with me using mobile devices. Who am I? (Answer: Bank of America)

The Motley Fool take

Tech Dividends: Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), the world’s largest producer of networking routers and switches, has posted declining revenue for four straight quarters. Its infrastructure business, which generates over half its revenue, struggled with sluggish network upgrades, competition from rivals, the loss of Chinese contracts during the ongoing trade war and pandemic-related disruptions. Its smaller security business continued growing, but couldn’t offset its other weaknesses.

Cisco’s revenue declined 5% in fiscal 2020, but its adjusted earnings grew 4% as it cut costs and repurchased more shares. Analysts expect both its revenue and earnings to dip by about 1% this year. Those growth rates might seem dismal, but Cisco’s core business should heat up again after the pandemic passes. Warmer relations between the U.S. and China under the Biden administration could stabilize Cisco’s Chinese business, and it might pull customers away from Huawei as the Chinese tech giant struggles with trade blacklists and sanctions. A growing need for cloud and data center upgrades should also spark fresh orders for its routers and switches worldwide.

Cisco’s stock isn’t likely to rally anytime soon, but its low forward-looking price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 14 and its recent dividend yield of 3.2% should limit its downside risk. It’s raised its dividend every year following its first payment in 2011, and is likely to keep doing so. Consider Cisco for your long-term portfolio.

Copyright 2021 the Motely Fool
Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication

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Subprime Auto Loans: The Basics You Should Know

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Before you dive head-first into the world of subprime auto financing, it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into and what to expect. We’re covering the common requirements of subprime lenders and the items you need to prove that you’re ready for a car loan.

What is a Subprime Lender?

Subprime lenders are also called bad credit auto lenders. They specialize in assisting borrowers with poor credit, those who’ve gone through bankruptcy, and those in other challenging credit circumstances. Subprime can also refer to the credit rating as well, typically defined as a credit score around 501 to 600, or those with a credit score below 660. Borrowers with credit in this credit score range are typically referred to as bad credit borrowers and may need the help of subprime lenders to get an auto loan approval.

Getting into a subprime car loan means finding a dealership that’s signed up with these lenders. Many dealerships are signed up with third-party lenders that can finance borrowers with lower credit scores. The finance manager at these dealerships acts as the middleman between you and the lender. Locations that are signed up with subprime lenders are called special finance dealerships.

Subprime lenders differ from traditional auto lenders (think banks, credit unions, online lenders, and some automaker’s captive lenders) in that a poor credit score isn’t enough to get turned down for financing. They know that your credit isn’t going to be perfect when you’re seeking a subprime car loan. So, they look at your credit history as a whole, your income, living situation, and many other factors to determine your creditworthiness and eligibility for vehicle financing.

Requirements of Subprime Auto Loans

Since every lender varies in their specific requirements, we can’t provide an all-encompassing list of requirements – but we can provide some of the more common ones you’re likely to encounter. At Auto Credit Express, we’ve created a network of dealerships that are signed up with subprime lenders. Thanks to our dealer network, we know the commonly requested documents you need to prepare for a trip to the dealership.

Subprime Car Loans: The Basics You Should KnowCommon requirements of subprime financing typically include:

  • Income – To qualify for any car loan, you need income. Subprime lenders usually require around you to have $1,500 to $2,500 of minimum monthly income (before taxes). Prove your income with 30 days of computer-generated check stubs that show year-to-date income. This requirement typically needs to be met by a single source, but some subprime lenders may allow multiple sources of income to meet this requirement in certain circumstances.
  • Residency – Subprime lenders require proof of permanent residence. This can be proven with a recent utility bill in your name, or a recent bank statement.
  • Down payment – Having bad credit almost always means needing a down payment to qualify, and subprime lenders typically require at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price.
  • Working phone – Subprime lenders may need to contact you, so they require a working contract cell phone or landline phone. Proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • Valid driver’s license – To drive the car off the lot, you need a valid driver’s license. This also proves your identity. Your license can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.
  • Personal references – This isn’t a requirement to qualify for financing, but it’s likely the lender will ask you for a list of references. Typically, they ask for five to eight references with complete contact information. The only requirement with references is that they don’t share your address.

Remember that these are only general guidelines for what to expect from a subprime lender, but it’s definitely a good place to start!

Your personal situation may require the need for more or different documents to qualify you for auto financing. For example, if you had a bankruptcy that was recently discharged, then you may need your discharge papers to prove you’re in the clear. Another common situation is if your income isn’t W-2 and you don’t receive check stubs. If you’re a 1099 worker, then you’re likely to need two to three years of tax returns to prove you have the income for an auto loan.

Letting the special finance manager know what your situation is can make the process easier, and help move it forward without too many snags.

Finding a Special Finance Dealership

Subprime lenders are third-party, so locating one without finding a special finance dealership isn’t likely to be easy, but we want to help. Let us get you connected with a dealership that’s signed up with subprime lenders in your area.

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve created a nationwide network of dealers that are ready to assist borrowers in all sorts of tough credit situations. Get started right now by filling out our free auto loan request form. There’s never an obligation to buy once you get matched to a dealer, it’s completely free, and we do all the hard work of looking for the bad credit resources for you.

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How can I refinance my mortgage with bad credit?

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If you have poor credit but want to take advantage of the current low interest rates and refinance your mortgage, make sure first it makes good financial sense, and don’t forget to factor in closing costs and other fees. (iStock)

Bad credit happens. This may be especially true for the thousands of people out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, you can refinance your mortgage with bad credit. It may be more challenging, but it’s possible.

The coronavirus pushed interest rates to record lows. Such low rates are the driving force behind the surge in mortgage refinances — up 89.54% from last quarter and up 297.3% from just one year ago, according to US Mortgage Originations.

Take a look at your options and your limitations, and visit Credible to compare rates from multiple lenders all in one place.

How to refinance your mortgage with bad credit

If you have bad credit, you may qualify for private-sector programs, options backed by the federal government, or you can try co-signing with a stronger borrower. If you’re considering using a cosigner or want to see if you’re eligible for a refinance on your own, Credible can help. Click here to learn more about refinancing your mortgage and whether you’d be approved today.

Here are four mortgage refinance options for potential borrowers with bad credit.

  1. FHA Streamline Refinance program
  2. FHA rate-and-term refinance
  3. VA refinance 
  4. Portfolio loan

1. FHA Streamline Refinance program

If you have an existing FHA loan, you may qualify for the FHA Streamline Refinance program, which can permanently lower your monthly payments. Most lenders won’t check your credit or demand an appraisal because you already have an FHA loan. You may qualify for current refinance rates, but you’ll likely have to show you’ve made six consecutive monthly payments on-time, in-full.

2. FHA rate-and-term refinance

A rate-and-term refinance is for anyone who already has an FHA loan. It’s meant to help you refinance your current mortgage and reduce monthly payments. A new home appraisal and credit check are part of the application process, and like the Streamline Refinance program, you must show six months of consecutive on-time payments, paid in full.

3. VA refinance

If you currently have a VA loan, you can refinance with the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL). Generally, lenders won’t require a credit check or home appraisal to qualify. The VA allows you to refinance up to 100% of the property’s value, but there is an upfront funding fee that may be added to the loan amount.

4. Portfolio loan

A portfolio loan is originated and retained by your mortgage lender. Because your mortgage lender is 100% responsible if you default on your loan, your credit history and finances will be reviewed. There are likely closing costs and other fees due at the time of closing or added into your loan payment.

HOW TO DECIDE IF YOU SHOULD REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE 

What are today’s mortgage rates?

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed interest rates lower than they have been in many years. That’s why it’s such a good time to refinance your mortgage — even if you have bad credit.

These are current mortgage rates, according to Freddie Mac:

  • 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage (FRM): 2.79%
  • 15-Year FRM: 2.23%
  • 5/1-Year Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM): 3.12%

Mortgage interest rates fluctuate with supply and demand in the secondary market. If the supply of money goes up and the demand for money goes down, interest rates will go down as well — exactly what has happened due to COVID. If you want to take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates, make sure you use Credible’s free online tools to refinance and start saving today.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t set mortgage rates, but it can influence rates. This past August, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell stated that interest rates would likely stay low for some time to recover from the recession the COVID-19 pandemic caused.

Compared to the current rate of 2.65% for a 30-year FRM, on January 2, 2020, the 30-year mortgage rate was 3.72%, and on December 26, 2019, the rate was 3.74%. On the same date in 2018, the rate was 4.55%. Even one percentage point can make a big difference in your monthly payments.

If you have bad credit, but you want to take advantage of the current low-interest rates, use an ​online mortgage refinance calculator to determine new monthly costs. Credible can also help you crunch the numbers and determine what your monthly payments and total costs would be.

REFINANCING YOUR MORTGAGE? 5 QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK FIRST

Should I boost my credit score first?

Banks, credit unions, and many online lenders offer better interest rates to people with good credit. Although the required credit score to qualify for a refinance varies from lender to lender, most mortgage loans require a minimum credit score of 620, according to Experian.

To get the best rates (and pay less interest over the term of your loan), it makes sense to boost your credit score before applying for a mortgage refinance. Accordingly, interested borrowers should visit Credible​ to get prequalified without impacting their credit score.

THE MORTGAGE REFINANCE WINDOW COULD END SOON: WHY YOU SHOULD ACT NOW

How to increase your credit score

  1. Make all your payments on time. Payment history accounts for a large chunk of your credit score—35%. 
  2. Pay down debt. Paying down all credit card balances to less than 30% can improve your credit utilization ratio (the percentage of credit you’re using compared to your available credit) and boost your credit.
  3. Don’t close old credit accounts. Even if you’re not using an old credit card, keep it open to improve your credit history.
  4. Don’t open too many accounts. Lender’s inquiries into your credit can hurt your score, and carrying too much debt is never a good idea. 
  5. Keep a close eye on your credit score. Checking your score doesn’t hurt your credit. It can also give you an idea of where you stand when applying for a mortgage refinance
  6. Make sure your credit report is error-free. When you look at your credit report and find the information you’re not sure about, contact the three major credit bureaus and report your findings. 

If you’re thinking of refinancing, consider using Credible. You can ​use Credible’s free online tool​ to easily compare multiple lenders and see prequalified rates in as little as three minutes.

REFINANCING YOUR MORTGAGE? DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE

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