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Smart Money Podcast: Buying Local, and Emergency Loans – Business – The State Journal-Register

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s SmartMoney podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions. This week’s episode starts with a discussion about how to help small, local businesses, which have been hit

Welcome to NerdWallet’s SmartMoney podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.  

This week’s episode starts with a discussion about how to help small, local businesses, which have been hit much harder by the pandemic than the big online shopping sites. One way is to seek out local sources for products you might otherwise buy from the online megastore. Another is to order directly from local restaurants rather than using delivery apps. If money is tight, a social media shoutout or five-star review can help others discover local gems.

Then we pivot to this week’s question from Michelle. She says, ‘I recently got into a fender-bender that left the back of my car pretty messed up. It still drives, but one of the doors doesn’t open, and a window is cracked. I want to get it fixed, but I don’t have enough cash to cover the repair. I’m thinking of getting a small loan, but I don’t have great credit. What do you think would be the smart thing to do?’

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Check out this episode on any of these platforms:

Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloudOur take

Many people aren’t prepared for unexpected expenses, including car repairs. If they don’t have savings or good credit, a so-called ‘small-dollar loan’ may seem like a good option.

Small-dollar loans are usually for amounts of $2,500 or less. Banks, credit unions and reputable online lenders typically don’t make loans this small, so people often turn to payday lenders or unsavory online outfits. Interest rates can be extremely high and you may have only days or weeks to pay off the loan, increasing the chances you’ll have to renew the loan or borrow elsewhere to pay it off. This is known as a debt trap.

Some credit unions offer ‘payday alternative loans’ that allow people to borrow small amounts at reasonable interest rates. Borrowers can pay off the balance over 6 to 12 months, reducing the chances they’ll have to borrow again.

Michelle’s car is still drivable, so she may have time to save up the cash she needs. If not, she has time to check with local credit unions to see if any offer these alternative loans. A co-signer also could help her get a loan at a reasonable interest rate, or she could look for lenders willing to make secured loans ” personal loans backed by an asset, such as a car or home ” at a reasonable rate.

Our tips

Explore your options. You may be able to borrow from your local credit union, or from family and friends.

Bad credit equals higher rates. If your credit isn’t great, you may be able to qualify for a lower rate by getting a co-signer or a secured loan backed by an asset you own, such as a house or a car.

Know the risks. Some small-dollar loans, including payday loans, can carry astronomically high interest rates, which can lead to a cycle of debt.

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected] To hear previous episodes, return to the podcast homepage.

Episode transcript

Liz Weston: Welcome to the NerdWallet Smart Money Podcast, where we answer your personal finance questions and help you feel a little smarter about what you do with your money. I’m Liz Weston.

Sean Pyles:   And I’m Sean Pyles. As always, be sure to send us your money questions, call or text us on the nerd hotline at (901) 730-6373, that’s (901) 703-NERD, or email us at [email protected] I am continually impressed by how insightful and smart all of your questions are, so please keep them coming, and we will keep answering them.

Liz: Also, hit that subscribe button if you want more Nerdy goodness delivered to your device every Monday. And if you like what you hear, please leave us a review. On this episode, Sean and I discuss small-dollar loans, their uses, risks and alternatives. But first, in our This Week and Your Money segment, we’re talking about how to help local businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.

Sean:  This has been something I’ve been thinking about since the pandemic began and everything shut down. One, as I talked about a couple of weeks back, I was doing some impulse shopping and I was trying to see how I could make that be more productive for my local economy and help smaller businesses. But what recently got me thinking about this as well is that there was an article I read in The New York Times that found that a third of all of the small businesses in New York City may never reopen. That was according to a report by the Partnership for New York City, a business group. So that’s really staggering if you think about how many local shops you go to for a cute houseplant or a cup of coffee or clothes for your kid ” all of these places that you know the owners and you rely on their specialty goods for. A third of them being gone is heartbreaking, and there are things that we can do to make sure that some of them survive.

Liz: And one of the things you should think about is which businesses do you want to be able to go to when this is all over. Those maybe are the ones that you target. But overall, your local economy is going to be stronger, the more money that you can spend locally. When you spend with local businesses, more of the money stays in your community and helps people that you know, and also helps you because these businesses survive.

Sean:  Right, and then they end up paying taxes and that goes to your city government, and that helps pave the streets and keep the lights on the road, and it keeps your bridges working as bridges should. All of these important things, and again, local is really where you can make the most impact, whether it’s in an election or in an economy.

Liz: I recently wrote a column after interviewing the behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, and he and his colleagues are doing something I thought was really cool. There’s 50 of them at the lab where they work, and they basically pick a local business and every week each of them spends $100 there. And that’s $5,000, which wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket to the bigger stores, but it could be enough to keep a smaller place going. And I mean, you don’t have to do this by spending $100 every week. But if you can talk to some of your coworkers or your friends and neighbors, and pick a different company or a different local business every week and put some money there, that could keep them going until the pandemic is over.

Sean:  I really love that idea because that way you ensure that you’re getting money into your local economy, helping a smaller business right in your area. I found one way to do that that isn’t as expensive for some people who maybe don’t have $100 to spend. One way was kind of a pay-it-forward gift card option where you buy a $10 gift card for a friend for a local store, and then you encourage them to do the same for someone else, And $10 is enough where you can get something small, like a succulent from your local plant store or a face mask from a local craft store. And then someone else can do that as well. So you keep supporting other smaller businesses while also connecting with your friends, which is really hard to do right now as well, so it’s a win-win in different areas.

Liz: That’s a great idea. Another thing I like to do is frequent our farmer’s market, ” and not just because there’s always celebrity sightings there, I live in Los Angeles, that’s part of it. Sometimes smashing into a paparazzi is the first indication I have that anybody famous is standing next to me. But anyway, farmer’s markets, obviously, these are all local farmers ” this is money, again, that stays in your community. And you tend to have, at least the ones I’ve been to, there’s a pretty wide variety of stuff that you can buy. It’s not just food. It can be crafts, it can be clothes, so that’s something to check out.

Sean: Yeah. I think one thing that has been really helpful for me when trying to shop local is thinking about one, all of the new things that we have to buy in this pandemic economy, like hand sanitizer or face masks, and then thinking about the ways that local companies have been adapting to fill those needs. Obviously, people know that in Portland, we have tons of breweries and distilleries and we can’t really go to them in the same way we could before. But a lot of them are actually making hand sanitizer now that you can purchase from them, so even though I’m not going to my favorite brewpub for a beer the way I would have maybe 12 months ago, but I can get hand sanitizer from them. So that way I’m filling a need that I have while also supporting a company that I know I want to support, but can’t in the way I would want to.

Liz: That is so cool.

Sean:  Yeah, and a lot of times they come in the alcohol bottles, which makes it even more fun in a way.

Liz: Ah, I love that, I love that.

Sean:  Yeah, yeah.

Liz: And that’s a great gift, by the way. Hint, hint.

Sean: Yeah, and even for places that aren’t local in your community, that you do want to support, there’s a really easy way that you can support them while avoiding directing your money to those big online stores. Say that you’re looking for a face mask and you found a little dealer that was either at Walmart or Amazon, somewhere online, and you didn’t really want to spend your money at that shop. Google the name of the company that is listed on that website, find their direct website, and then purchase whatever you’re going to get from them. That way you can ensure that all of your money is going to support a local business and not some mega-corporation that doesn’t need that money anyway.

Liz: That’s a great idea.

Sean: And even beyond spending money, it’s really easy to promote a local business after you have maybe already purchased something or you see something that you like online by sharing it on social media. I’ve seen a lot of people tweet out local businesses, especially as we’re trying to support more black-owned businesses. That’s been one of the key ways that I’ve been able to get connected with local businesses that I want to support that I didn’t even know existed.

Liz: Yeah, those kinds of shoutouts can make a huge difference. And also, you know, the business owner appreciates it.

Sean:   Mm-hmm, and again, it’s free, free marketing, and you’re also making a difference in connecting with your network, too.

Liz: Yeah, and a lot of people right now are dealing with, money is really tight, so they don’t have a lot of extra to spread around, but that’s something that anybody can do to help out.

Sean: And one last thing I wanted to mention for people that are maybe buying takeout. I’ve been getting a decent amount of takeout lately since I can’t go to restaurants. I found that if you order directly from the restaurant, you don’t go through one of those apps that has it delivered to you. That way, you, again, you similarly make sure that all of the money that you’re spending is going directly to that company because, as we know, these apps take a big chunk of what you’re spending and put it in their pockets. And a lot of restaurants don’t even make that much, but they feel like they have to be on these servers to get any business at all. So if you want a pizza or there’s a really good pho place in my neighborhood, we just call them up. And yeah, I have to drive down the street to get the food, but it makes me feel better knowing that I’m supporting them and not some other company.

Liz: Oh, that is huge. I mean, I was using all those apps because they give you free delivery for a while, and I always like free. But then I started reading about how much of the dollar that you spend, they take, and a lot of times, the business is just barely breaking even. That doesn’t really help. So if you really want to help, call them directly.

Sean:  Mm-hmm.

Liz: All right, I think that about covers it, but I would love to hear our listeners’ ideas if they have some for how they support local businesses. So you can email us at [email protected] or send us a voice memo at the number we’ll say later. We’d love to hear what you think.

Sean: Yeah, please do. I know there’s always new ways to support local businesses, so please let us know what you’re doing so we can all make an impact together. Let’s get to this episode’s money question.

Liz: This episode’s money question is from Michelle. She says, ‘I recently got into a fender-bender that left the back of my car pretty messed up. It still drives, but one of the doors doesn’t open, and a window is cracked. I want to get it fixed, but I don’t have enough cash to cover the repair. I’m thinking of getting a small loan, but I don’t have great credit. What do you think would be the smart thing to do?”

Sean: Man, Michelle, that is a really tough place to be in. To help us talk through a few different small loan options on this episode of the podcast, we’re talking with Annie Millerbernd, a Nerd who knows a lot about small loans and ways to fund expenses like this.

Liz: All right, sounds good. Hey, Annie, welcome to the show.

Annie Millerbernd: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Sean: Hey, Annie. Let me set you up here. Our listener Michelle needs to fix her car, but she’s short on cash and her credit is not great right now. She’s thinking of getting a small personal loan to cover the cost, but she’s not sure that is the smartest choice. So to start, can you explain what a small-dollar loan is and how it’s different from other kinds of loans?

Annie: Small-dollar loans are loans typically under $2,500. Usually, they’re a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and because they have the small amount, banks and reputable online lenders don’t typically offer them ” it’s hard for them to make them profitable. So instead, these payday lenders and unsavory online lenders will fill in the gap, and those lenders typically offer APRs that are super high with short repayment terms that make them difficult to repay on time.

Liz: Those short repayment terms ” talk about what those are and why they’re dangerous.

Annie: The short repayment terms, they can be two weeks, maybe more, maybe less. They’re usually around a month or under for payday lenders. Short repayment terms are risky because they make it difficult for a person to pay that loan back on time. So if you have a combination of a high APR and a short repayment term, you have to pay back a lot of money in a small amount of time. And that’s a difficult thing for a lot of people who need the small amount of money to do, so they end up having to basically get another loan to repay that loan on time.

Sean: And that’s what can create the cycle of debt, because if you had a hard time scrounging up a few hundred bucks for a car repair, chances are, in a few weeks when that loan is due, you’re going to have a hard time paying back that base amount, plus the APR, which can be upwards of 300%, right?

Annie: That’s right. They have exorbitant APRs and, like you said, the short repayment terms make it really difficult to pay back all of that extra money in addition to what you borrowed.

Liz: A lot of these loans don’t require credit checks, and I know some people think that that is a positive. But actually, that can be a negative, right, Annie?

Annie: Right, so if you’re a person who needs a small amount of cash or any amount under a thousand or a couple thousand dollars, you might think that maybe you don’t have great credit or maybe you don’t have any credit at all, and having a lender not look at that would be better for you. But actually, if a lender isn’t checking their credit and income and debt and basically assessing your ability to repay, then they aren’t probably basing the APR that you’re getting on your ability to repay.

Sean: And at the same time, if you want to improve your credit by having on-time payments on your credit report, these loans aren’t going to help you get there. So you’ll be responsible for an expensive loan, and then you also won’t be getting the benefit on your credit report of making on-time payments, so that doesn’t make you any better off at the end, either.

Annie: That’s right.

Liz: So, with all these disadvantages, though, we know a lot of people are in the situation where they don’t have access to, really, any substantial amount of money to take care of an emergency expense.

Sean:  Right, but there are some alternatives to these riskier loans, ways to get some cash. Annie, can you talk about what a few of those might be?

Annie: Credit unions are one of the best options most people have for a small-dollar loan, and there are some requirements around membership for a credit union personal loan. But credit unions offer a small-dollar loan called ‘payday alternative loans,” and they’re far and few between, but these loans typically have amounts of less than $1,000 or $2,000 and they have longer repayment terms ” so one month to six or 12 months and APRs of 28% or lower, so that’s going to be your best option for a small loan. Small-dollar loans aren’t only from payday lenders and deceptive online lenders. That’s a really good option.

Sean:   Mm-hmm.

Liz: And Annie, I know that regulators were trying to get banks into this space to do these smaller dollar loans. Is that actually happening?

Annie: There used to be this suggested rate cap from the FDIC, which is the main regulator for banks, and the rate cap was at 36%. Earlier this year, the FDIC, with other regulators, issued some guidance that omitted that APR cap ” and that really was to encourage banks to start offering small-dollar loans to bring some competition to the small-dollar lending space. And there’s some research that says that banks could be well-positioned to offer these loans at sub-100% APRs while also having that existing consumer relationship where they can assess your ability to repay, and they can report your payments to credit bureaus.

Liz: Yeah, because that’s been the problem with payday loans is the lenders say they have to charge these outrageous amounts of interest because the lending isn’t profitable otherwise. They can’t do the kind of underwriting that a typical lender would do. But your bank already has all the information pretty much it needs to make these loans, right?

Annie: Yes, and banks would struggle to make a 36% APR on a $400 loan profitable. That’s not probably realistic is what some of the research says, so we’re looking at $50 to $60 on a $400 loan with a three-month repayment term which, according to some key research, consumers think would be a fair loan, and it is an APR of less than 100% that the bank can still make profitable.

Liz: OK. One of the things Michelle said is that her car is still drivable, which tells me that she has some time, so that if she does want to check out the credit union option, she has time to go online, to look for a credit union where she could be a member to sign up. She can do all those things and get a loan. That’s kind of different from an emergency situation where you need the money right now.

Sean: Annie, are there any other alternatives you think besides credit union loans that people should be aware of?

Annie: Yes. If you can borrow from a friend or family member, that’s going to be one of the safest options. Of course, it doesn’t help you build credit. But it is a way to ensure that you understand the terms of the loan and you have the opportunity to build in interest or whatever terms you and that person would like to. Of course, you’re securing it with your relationship with that person and if you don’t repay, you might get yourself in a tough spot in a personal matter.

Sean:  Yeah. One really interesting idea for funding small dollar amounts are lending circles. So if you get together with maybe a dozen or so people in your local community and you each put in, let’s say like a hundred dollars every two weeks, and then at the end of the month, one person gets that pot of money and then you do it again next month and then you rotate who gets the money so that eventually everyone gets that pot of money. So, back to Michelle, let’s say Michelle doesn’t really have any options to get money from friends or family or a lending circle. I’m wondering what you think are the best ways to get a loan when you don’t have a great credit score?

Annie: Well, if you don’t have a great credit score, there are reputable online lenders that pair their product to bad- and fair-credit borrowers. These lenders might have higher APRs, but they do tend to stick to the 36% or lower range, which is helpful for consumers who are trying to build credit and want a reasonable repayment term. They typically have one year or longer repayment terms, so those are one of the better options if you don’t feel like you can turn to a bank or credit union for that kind of loan.

Another alternative would be to add a co-signer to your loan. Some banks and online lenders let people add co-signers, which is a person who has maybe a better credit profile, less debt and a higher income. And if you add a co-signer, not only could you get a loan that you might not otherwise qualify for, you might even get reasonable rates and a higher loan amount. The downside of adding a co-signer is that that person is essentially on the hook for the loan if you can’t repay it, and so their credit is also on the line when they co-sign your loan.

Sean:   Is there one of these that you think would maybe be the best option or does it depend on your own individual circumstances?

Annie: It really depends on your individual circumstances. I would say if you can find a co-signer and the lender that you’re working with allows co-signers, that’s a really good option if you and the person you have that relationship with are both comfortable with it. You can also do a secured loan, which is typically using your car, certificate of deposit or your savings account. And those are good options, but you have to weigh the benefit of getting the loan with the potential cost of losing whatever it is you’re securing the loan with.

Liz: Yeah, you don’t want to put your car up as collateral if you need that car to get to work ” that could be a disaster.

Annie: Definitely.

Sean:   One thing that seems like a really big draw with these loans is that people can get them fast, right, so I’m wondering, how fast exactly people could expect to get this money from the time they apply to the time the money is in their account?

Annie: That really varies. It depends on the lender you’re working with. It depends on if you’re using a bank, online lender, a community bank or a credit union. Some banks will say that they can do a loan the same day that you apply for it ” they could fund it as soon as the same day or the next business day, but more often I’ve seen it where large national banks will take a few days and up to a week. With online lenders, you have the option of fast funding often, so reputable online lenders pride themselves on being able to fund a loan really quickly after you apply for it, and you may pay for that with a higher rate. So be sure to compare your options between banks and online lenders and credit unions to find the lowest rate, and then determine whether the fast funding option is a priority.

Sean:  OK, so I have one final question for you: Besides the obvious pitfall of potentially entering a cycle of debt if you get a really expensive loan, are there any other things you think that Michelle should be looking out for?

Annie: One of the things that she should look out for is her credit. Just be sure that wherever she’s looking for this loan, her credit will either come out the other side better, or at least not worse. If you get a loan from a reputable lender that does report your payments to credit bureaus, then what you’re doing is you’re getting your credit in better shape so that next time you have to turn to a personal loan or a credit card or some other credit product, you’re better positioned to get a lower rate. And the expense is a really important factor because even if your credit isn’t involved, if you get a very expensive loan and you end up having to repay that very quickly, you could slip into the cycle of debt that we talked about earlier.

Liz: Well, that was super helpful, Annie. Thank you for joining us today.

Annie: Thanks for having me.

Liz: With that, let’s get to our takeaway tips. First, explore your options. If you need cash in a pinch, ask family and friends before taking out a small-dollar loan. If you do need a loan, see what your local credit union offers, since they’ll likely have the best rates.

Sean: Next, if you have bad credit, understand your options. You might qualify for a loan, but it will likely have a higher interest rate. In that case, look into potentially co-signing with a trusted friend or family member, or look at a secured loan.

Liz: Finally, know the risks of small-dollar loans. Some, like payday loans, can carry astronomically high interest rates, which can lead to a cycle of debt.

Sean: And that is all we have for this episode. Do you have a money question of your own? Turn to the Nerds and call or text us your questions at (901) 730-6373, that’s (901) 730-NERD. You can also email us at [email protected] and visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode, and of course, remember to subscribe, rate and review us wherever you’re getting this podcast.

Liz: And here’s our brief disclaimer thoughtfully crafted by NerdWallet’s legal team: Your questions are answered by knowledgeable and talented finance writers, but we are not financial or investment advisors. This Nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes, and may not apply to your specific circumstances.

Sean: And with that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.

 

More From NerdWallet

6 Emergency Loans: Where to Get a Fast Loan How to Take a High-Interest Loan and Skip the Debt Cycle How to Take a High-Interest Loan and Skip the Debt Cycle

Liz Weston is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @lizweston.

Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SeanPyles.

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Bad Credit

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders

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Illustration by Sarah Maxwell, Folio Art

When Bridget Davis got started in the family’s payday lending business in 1996, there was just one Check ’n Go store in Cincinnati. She says she did it all: customer service, banking duties, even painting walls.

The company had been established two years earlier by her husband, Jared Davis, and was growing rapidly. There were 100 Check ’n Go locations by 1997, when Jared and Bridget (née Byrne) married and traveled the country together looking for more locations to open storefront outlets. They launched another 400 stores in 1998, mostly in strip malls and abandoned gas stations in low-income minority neighborhoods where the payday lending target market abounds. Bridget drove the supply truck and helped select locations and design the store layouts.

But Jared soon fired his wife for committing what may be the ultimate sin in the payday lending business: She forgave a customer’s debt. “A young woman came to pay her $20 interest payment,” Bridget wrote in court documents last year during divorce proceedings from Jared. “I pulled her file, calculated that she had already paid $320 to date on a principle [sic] loan of $100. I told her she was paid in full. [Jared] fired me, stating, ‘We are here to make money, not help customers manage theirs. If you can’t do that, you can’t work here.’ ”

Photograph by Brittany Dexter

It’s a business philosophy that pays well, especially if you’re charging fees and interest rates of 400 percent that can more than triple the amount of the loan in just five months—the typical time most payday borrowers need to repay their debt, says the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy. Cincinnati-based Check ’n Go now operates more than 1,100 locations in 25 states as well as an internet lending service with 24/7 access from the comfort of your own home, according to its website. Since its founding, the company has conducted more than 50 million transactions.

What the website doesn’t say is that many, if not most, of those transactions were for small loans of $50 to $500 to working people trying to scrape by and pay their bills. In most states—including Ohio, until it reformed its payday lending laws in 2019—borrowers typically fork over more than one-third of their paycheck to meet the deadline for repayment, usually in two weeks. To help guarantee repayment, borrowers turn over access to their checking account or deposit a check with the lender. In states that don’t offer protection, customers go back again and again to borrow more money from the same payday lender, typically up to 10 times, driving themselves into a debt trap that can lead to bankruptcy.

Jared and Bridget Davis are embroiled in a nasty court battle related to his 2019 divorce filing in Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court. Thousands of pages of filings and 433 docket entries by April 26 offer the public a rare glimpse into the business operations of Check ’n Go, one of Cincinnati’s largest privately-owned companies, as well as personal lifestyles funded by payday lending.

The company cleared $77 million in profit in 2018, a figure that dipped the following year to $55 million, according to an audit by Deloitte. That drop in revenue may have something to do with the payday lending reform laws and interest rate caps passed recently in Ohio as well as a growing number of other states.


The day-to-day business transactions that provide such profit are a depressing window into how those who live on the edge of financial security are often stuck with few options for improving their situations. If a borrower doesn’t repay or refinance his or her original loan, a lender like Check ’n Go deposits the guarantee check and lets it bounce, causing the borrower to incur charges for the bounced check and eventually lose his or her checking account, says Nick DiNardo, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. After two missed payments, payday lenders usually turn over the debt to a collection agency. If the collection agency fails to collect the full amount of the original loan as well as all fees and interest, it goes to court to garnish the borrower’s wages.

That devastating experience is all too familiar to Anthony Smith, a 60-year-old Wyoming resident who says he was laid off from several management positions over a 20-year period. He turned to payday lenders as his credit rating dropped and soon found himself caught in a debt trap that took him years to escape.

Two things happened in 2019, Smith says, that turned around his financial fortunes. First, he found a stable manufacturing job with the Formica Company locally, and then he took his mother’s advice and opened a credit union account. GE Credit Union not only gave him a reasonable loan to pay off his $2,500 debt but also issued him his first credit card in a decade. “I had been a member [of the credit union] for just two months, and I had a credit rating of 520. Can you imagine?” he says. Smith says he is now debt-free for the first time in 10 years.

Consumer advocates say Check ’n Go is one of the biggest payday lending operations in the nation. But knowing its exact ranking is difficult because most payday lending companies, including Check ’n Go and its parent company CNG Holdings, are privately held and reluctant to disclose their finances.

Brothers Jared and David Davis own the majority of the company’s privately held stock. David bought into the company in 1995, but CNG got its game-changing infusion of capital from the brothers’ father, Allen Davis, who retired as CEO of then-Provident Bank in 1998. Allen sold off $37 million in stock options and essentially became CNG’s bank and consultant.

By 2005, however, the sons were part of a public court battle against their father. Allen accused Jared and David of treating his millions in CNG stock as compensation instead of a transfer from his ex-wife (and the brothers’ mother), sticking him with a $13 million tax bill. In turn, the brothers accused Allen of putting his mistress and his yacht captain on the company payroll, taking $1.2 million in fees without board approval, and leading the company into ventures that lost Check ’n Go a lot of money. Several years of legal fighting later, the IRS was still demanding its $13 million. CNG officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jared and David split $22 million in profit from CNG in 2018 and, according to the Deloitte audit, CNG’s balance sheet showed another $42 million that could be split between the two brothers in 2019. Jared, however, elected not to receive his $21 million distribution “in order to create this artificial financial crisis and shelter millions of dollars from an equitable split between us,” according to Bridget’s divorce filing.

Worse, she claims, Jared said they would be responsible for paying taxes out of their personal accounts rather than from CNG’s company earnings, making her personally responsible for half of the $5.5 million in taxes for 2019. She believes it wasn’t happenstance that $5.5 million was wired to Jared’s private bank account in December of that same year. Bridget has refused to sign the joint tax return, and Jared filed a complaint with the court saying a late tax filing would cost them $1 million in penalties and missed tax opportunities.

“For the duration of our marriage and to the present, Jared has full and complete control of all money paid to us from various investments we have made in addition to our main source of income, CNG,” Bridget wrote in her motion. She suspects that Jared, without her knowledge or consent, plowed the money for their taxes and from other sources of income into Black Diamond Group, the fund that invests in the Agave & Rye restaurant chain. Beyond the original restaurant opened in Covington in 2018, “they have opened four other locations in one year,” she wrote, including Louisville and Lexington. (The ninth location opened in Hamilton this spring.) Agave & Rye’s website touts its Mexican fare as “a chef-inspired take on the standard taco, elevating this simple food into something epic!”

In his response, Jared wrote, “We have very limited regular sources of income.” He says he isn’t receiving any additional distributions from CNG, the couple’s primary source of income, “and this is not within my control. The company has declared that we would not make any further distributions in 2020 given economic circumstances. This decision is based on a formula and is not discretionary.” Agave & Rye helped produce $645,000 in income for Black Diamond in 2020 but has paid out $890,000 in loans, he says. Through August 31, 2020, he wrote, the couple’s “expenses have exceeded income from all sources.”


The divorce case filings start slinging mud when the couple accuses each other of breaking up their 22-year marriage and finding new partners. Jared claims Bridget began an affair during their marriage with Brian Duncan, a contractor she employed through her house flipping business. Bridget, he says, paid Duncan’s company $75,000 in 2018 as well as giving him a personal gift of $70,000 that same year. Jared says she also bought Duncan at least one car and purchased a house for him near hers on Shawnee Run Road for $289,000, then loaned money to Duncan. Jared says Duncan has been late in repaying the note.

While Bridget says Duncan has been drug-free for several years, he has a rap sheet with Hamilton County courts from 2000 to 2017 that runs five pages long. It lists a half-dozen counts of drug abuse and drug possession, including heroin and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia; assaulting a police officer; stealing a Taser from a police officer; criminal damaging while being treated at UC Health; more than a dozen speeding and traffic violations; a half-dozen counts of driving with a suspended license; receiving stolen property; twice fleeing and resisting arrest; three counts of theft; two counts of forgery; and one count for passing bad checks.

Bridget has fired back that Jared not only is hiding his money from her but spending it lavishly on vacations, resorts, and high-end restaurants with his new girlfriend, Susanne Warner. Bridget says Jared gifted Warner with $40,000 without Bridget’s knowledge, then declared it on their joint tax return as a “contribution.” Bridget’s court filings include photocopies of social media posts of Jared and Warner globetrotting from summer 2019 to summer 2020: vacation at Beaver Creek Village in Avon, Colorado; cocktails at High Cotton in Charleston, South Carolina, and dinner at Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, California; getaways at resorts in Nashville and at a lakefront rental on Norris Lake ($600 per night); in the Bahamas at a Musha Cay private residence ($57,000 per night), at South Beach in Miami, and at a private beach at Fisher Island; in Mexico at Cabo San Lucas; in the U.S. Virgin Islands at Magen’s Bay and on a private yacht ($4,500 per night); in California at Desert Hot Springs, the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, and Montage at Laguna Beach; and in the Bahamas at South Cottage ($2,175 per night).

For her part, Bridget has gone through some of the top lawyers in town faster than President Trump during an impeachment—six in all, two of whom she’s sued for malpractice. She sent four binders of evidence to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking for the recusal of Hamilton County Judge Amy Searcy and claiming Searcy was biased because of campaign donations from Jared and his companies. Rather than deal with the list of questions sent to her by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Searcy stepped down. Two other judges have since stepped into the fray, and in March Bridget filed for a change of venue outside of Hamilton County, arguing she can’t get a fair trial in her hometown. At press time, a trial date had been set for June 28 in Hamilton County.

The poor-mouthing in the divorce case has reached heights of comic absurdity. Jared claims he’s “illiquid” because he didn’t get his distribution from CNG in 2019. Bridget has received debt collection notices for the nearly $21,000 owed on her American Express card and a $735 bill from Jewish Hospital. There’s no sign yet that anyone is coming to repossess her Porsche, which according to her filings has a $5,000 monthly payment. Each party has received $25,000 a month in living expenses, an amount later reduced to $15,000 under a temporary legal agreement while the divorce case is being sorted out. Court filings show that Jared’s net worth is almost $206 million and Bridget’s is $22.5 million.


In the early 1990s, Allen Davis was raising eyebrows at Provident Bank (later bought by National City), and not only because of his very unbanker-like look of beard, ponytail, and casual golf wear. He was leading the company into questionable subprime home loans for people with bad credit and a frequent-shopper program for merchants, though the bank’s charter barred him from getting involved in full-blown predatory lending practices. With guidance and funding from his father, Jared, at age 26, launched Check ’n Go in 1994 and became a pioneer in the payday lending industry. Jared and his family saw there were millions of Americans who didn’t have checking or savings accounts (“unbanked”) or an adequate credit rating (“underbanked”) but still needed loans to meet their everyday expenses. What those potential customers did have was a steady paycheck.

Conventional banks share a big part of the blame for the nation’s army of unbanked borrowers by imposing checking account fees and onerous penalties for bounced checks. In 2019, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimated there were 7.1 million U.S. households without a checking or savings account.

The Davises launched Check ’n Go on the pretext that it would “fill the gap” for people who occasionally needed to borrow money in a hurry—a service for those who couldn’t get a loan any other way. But consumer advocates say the real business model for payday lending isn’t a service at all. The majority of the industry’s revenue comes from repeat business by customers trapped in debt, not from borrowers looking for a quick, one-time fix for their financial troubles.

Ohio’s payday lending lobbyists got a strong hold on the state legislature in the late 1990s, and by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray could rightfully claim in a campaign ad that “Ohio’s [payday lending] laws are now the worst in the nation. Things have gotten so bad that it is legal to charge 594 percent interest on loans.” His statement was based on a 2014 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The frustration for consumer advocates was that Ohioans had been trying to reform those laws since 2008, when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative placing a 28 percent cap on the interest of payday loans. But—surprise!—lenders simply registered as mortgage brokers, which enabled them to charge unlimited fees.

The Davis family and five other payday lending companies controlled 90 percent of the market back then, an express gravy train ripping through the poorest communities in Ohio. The predatory feeding frenzy, especially in Ohio’s hard-hit Rust Belt communities, prompted a 2017 column at The Daily Beast titled, “America’s Worst Subprime Lender: Jared Davis vs. Allan Jones?” (Jones is founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Check Into Cash.) In 2016 and 2017, consumer advocates mustered their forces again, and this time they weren’t allowing for loopholes. The Pew Charitable Trusts joined efforts with bipartisan lawmakers and Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a statewide coalition of faith, business, local government, and nonprofit organizations. Consumer advocates found a legislative champion in State Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican from Springfield.

It no doubt helped reform efforts that former Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger resigned in spring 2018 amid an FBI investigation into his cozy relationship with payday lenders. Rosenberger had taken frequent overseas trips—to destinations including France, Italy, Israel, and China—in the company of payday lending lobbyists. In April 2019, Ohio’s new lending law took effect and, since then, has been called a national model for payday lending reform that balances protections for borrowers, profits for lenders, and access to credit for the poor, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. New prices in Ohio are three to four times lower for payday loans than before the law. Borrowers now have up to three months to repay their loans with no more than 6 percent of their paycheck. Pew estimates that the cost of borrowing $400 for three months dropped from $450 to $109, saving Ohioans at least $75 million a year. And despite claims that the reforms would eliminate access to credit, lenders currently operate in communities across the state and online. “The bipartisan success shows that if you set fair rules and enforce them, lenders play by them and there’s widespread access to credit,” says Gabe Kravitz, a consumer finance officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Other states like Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan are following Ohio’s lead, Kravitz says. Some states, such as Nebraska, have even capped annual interest on payday loans. As a result, Pew researchers have seen a reduction in the number of storefront lending op­erations across the country. Even better, Kravitz says, there’s no evidence that borrowers are turning instead to online payday lending operations.

Cincinnati is one of five cities chosen for a grant to replicate the success of Boston Builds Credit, an ambitious effort that city launched in 2017 to provide credit counseling in poor and minority communities by training specialists at existing social service agencies. The program also encourages consumer partnerships with credit unions, banks, and insurance companies to offer small, manageable loans that can help the unbanked and underbanked improve their credit ratings. “Right now, local organizations are all kind of working in silos on the problem in Cincinnati,” says Todd Moore of the nonprofit credit counseling agency Trinity Debt Relief. Moore, who applied for the Boston grant, says he’s looking for an agency like United Way or Strive Cincinnati to lead the effort here.

Anthony Smith is thankful that he’s escaped the downward spiral of his payday loans, especially during the pandemic’s economic turmoil. “I’m blessed for every day I can get paid and have a job during these difficult times, just to be able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities,” he says. “I’ve always kept a job, but until now I’ve had crappy credit. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy.”

Can others worth millions of dollars say the same?

Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders Source link Inside the Highly Profitable and Secretive World of Payday Lenders



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What’s Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?

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Questionable’s definition means that something’s quality is up for debate. If a lender says that your credit score is questionable, it’s likely that they mean it’s poor, or at the very least, they’re hesitant to approve you for vehicle financing. Here’s what most lenders consider questionable credit, and what auto loan options you may have.

Questionable Credit and Auto Lenders

Many auto lenders may consider questionable credit as a borrower with a credit score below 660. The credit score tiers as sorted by Experian the national credit bureau, are:

  • Super prime: 850 to 781
  • Prime: 780 to 661
  • Nonprime: 660 to 601
  • Subprime: 600 to 501
  • Deep subprime: 500 to 300

The nonprime credit tiers and below is when you start to get into bad credit territory and may struggle to meet the credit score requirements of traditional auto lenders.

This is because lenders are looking at your creditworthiness – your perceived ability to repay loans based on the information in your credit reports. Besides your actual credit score, there may be situations where the items in your credit reports are what’s making a lender question whether you’re a good candidate for an auto loan. These can include:

  • A past or active bankruptcy
  • A past or recent vehicle repossession
  • Recent missed/late payments
  • High credit card balances
  • No credit history

There are ways to get into an auto loan with questionable credit. Your options can change depending on what’s making your credit history questionable, though.

Questionable Credit Auto Loans

If your credit score is less than stellar, it may be time to look at these two lending options:

  • What Is Questionable Credit and Can I Get a Car Loan With It?Subprime financing – Done through special finance dealerships by third-party subprime lenders. These lenders can often assist with many unique credit situations, provided you can meet their requirements. A great option for new borrowers with thin files, situational bad credit, or consumers with older negative marks.
  • In-house financing – May not require a credit check, and is done through buy here pay here (BHPH) dealers. Typically, your income and down payment amount are the most important parts of eligibility. Auto loans without a credit check may not allow for credit repair and may come with a higher-than-average interest rate.

Both of these car loan options are typically available to borrowers with credit challenges. However, if you have more recent, serious delinquencies on your credit reports, a BHPH dealer may be for you. Most traditional and subprime lenders typically don’t approve financing for borrowers with a dismissed bankruptcy, a repossession less than a year old, or borrowers with multiple, recent missed/late payments.

Requirements of Bad Credit Car Loans

In many cases, your income and down payment size are the biggest factors in your overall eligibility for bad credit auto loans. Expect to need:

  • 30 days of recent computer-generated check stubs to prove you have around $1,500 to $2,500 of monthly gross income. Borrowers without W-2 income may need two to three years of professionally prepared tax returns.
  • A down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the vehicle’s selling price. BHPH dealers may require up to 20% of the car’s selling price.
  • Proof of residency in the form of a recent utility bill in your name.
  • Proof of a working phone (no prepaid phones), proven with a recent phone bill in your name.
  • A list of five to eight personal references with name, phone number, and address.
  • Valid driver’s license with the correct address, can’t be revoked, expired, or suspended.

Depending on your individual situation, you may need fewer or more items to apply for a bad credit auto loan. However, preparing these documents before you head to a dealership can speed up the process!

Ready to Get on the Road?

With questionable credit, finding a dealership that’s able to assist you with an auto loan is easier said than done. Here at Auto Credit Express, we want to get that done for you with our coast-to-coast network of special finance dealerships.

Complete our free auto loan request form and we’ll get right to work looking for a dealer in your local area that can assist with many tough credit situations.

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Entrepreneur Tae Lee Finds Her Fortune

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By Jasmine Shaw
For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham native Tae Lee had plans last year to visit the continent of Africa, the South American country of Columbia, and the U.S. state of Texas.

“I was going to stay in each place for like four to six weeks, and then COVID-19 happened,” she said. “So, I just was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go to Mexico and stay for six months.’”

Once home from Playa Del Carmen, located on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the 33-year-old entrepreneur put the final touches on “Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt,” a financial literacy card game for ages 10 and up.

“We created ‘Game of Fortune’ because we realized there was a gap in learning the fundamentals of money,” said Lee. “We go through life not knowing anything about money and then—‘Bam!’—real life hits. Credit, debt, and bills come at us quick!”

Lee believes the game “gives players a glimpse of real life” by using everyday scenarios to teach them how to make wiser financial decisions without having to waste their own money.

“I feel like [financial literacy] can be learned in ways other than somebody standing up and preaching it to you over and over again,” she said. “You can learn it in ways that are considered fun, as well.”

Which is why “we want the schools to buy it, so we can give students a fun way to learn about financial literacy,” she added.

Lee, also called the “Money Maximizer,” is an international best-selling financial author, speaker, coach, and trainer who is known for her financial literacy books, including “Never Go Broke (NGB): An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Money and Freedom” and the “NGB Money Success Planner High School Edition.” The Birmingham-based financial guru focuses on creating diverse streams of income in the tax, real estate, insurance, and finance industries.

For Lee, it’s about building generational wealth, not debt.

Indispensable Lessons

Lee got her first glance at entrepreneurial life as a child watching her mother, Valeria Robinson, run her commercial cleaning company, V’s Cleaning. Robinson retired in 2019.

“My grandmother had a cleaning service, too,” said Lee. “So, even though I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur, watching my mom and grandma do it taught me a lot.”

Lee grew up in Birmingham and attended Riley Elementary School, Midfield Middle School, and Huffman High School. She then went on to Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama, where she earned bachelor’s degree in physical education. She struggled to find a career in her field and became overwhelmed by student loans.

“My credit and stuff didn’t get bad until after college,” she said. “I was going through school and taking money, but nobody told me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna have to pay all of this back.’”

Before embarking on her extensive career in money management, Lee had not learned the indispensable lessons that she now shares with clients.

“‘Don’t have bad credit.’ That’s all I learned,” she remembers. “Financial literacy just wasn’t taught much. I learned the majority of my lessons as I aged.”

In an effort to ward off collection calls and raise her credit score, Lee researched tactics to strategically eliminate her debt.

“I knew I had to pay bills on time, and I couldn’t be late with payments,” she said.

Lee eventually began helping friends revamp their finances and opened NGB Inc. in 2017 to share fun, educational methods to help her clients build solid financial foundations.

“People were always coming to me like, ‘How do I invest in this?’ and ‘How do I do that?’ So, I said to myself, ‘You know what, people should be paying to pick your brain.’”

Legacy Building

While Lee enjoyed watching her clients reach milestones, like buying a new car with cash or making their first stock market investment, she was also designing “Game of Fortune” to teach the value of legacy building.

“The game gives players the knowledge to build generational wealth, not generational debt,” she said. “It gives you a glimpse of life, money, and what can truly happen if you mismanage your coins.”

Using index cards to create her first “Game of Fortune” sample deck, Lee filled each card with pertinent terms related to debt elimination and credit and wealth building. She then called on a few friends to help her work through the kinks.

Three of her good friends—Barbara Bratton, Daña Brown, and Sha Cannon—were just a few of the people that gave feedback on the sample deck.

“From there I met with Brandon Brooks, [owner of the Birmingham-based Brooks Realty Investments LLC], and four other financial advisors to fine-tune the definitions and game logistics,” Lee said.

Though Lee was unable to land a job in physical education after graduating from college, she now sees her career with NGB Inc. as life’s unexpected opportunity to teach on her own terms.

“Bartending and waitressing taught me that working for someone else was not for me,” she replied. “In order to get the life I always wanted, I had to create my own business.”

In her entrepreneurial pursuits, Lee strives to be an open-minded leader who embraces the need for flexibility.

“COVID-19 has shown me that in entrepreneurship you have to maneuver,” she said. “When life changes, sometimes your business will, too. You may have to change the path, but your ending goal can be the same.”

“Game of Fortune: Win in Wealth or Lose in Debt” is available and sold only on the “Game of Fortune” website: gameoffortune.money. To learn more about Tae Lee and Never Go Broke Inc., visit taelee.money and nevergobroke.money or email [email protected]; you also can follow her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nevergobrokeinc) and Instagram (@nevergobrokeinc).

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