Affording to buy a house can be hard enough even as a couple. And for single mothers, unless they earn a high income, getting home loans is even harder.
Fortunately, there are home loans for single mothers out there. FHA loan, for example, is a good option for a single parent on a low income due to its low down payment and low score requirements.
If you are a single parent looking home loans, click here to get pre-approved.
The Down Payment: the hurdle for single mothers to get home loans
What makes it difficult for single mothers on a low income to get qualified for home loans is the down payment. The down payment for a conventional loan is 20% of the home purchase price.
For example, if you want to buy a house for $450,000, you will need to come up with $90,000. That is simply the down payment. Adding another 5% for closing cost brings you to $112,500.
Coming up with that kind of money is hard, if not impossible, considering the fact that you’re probably have other monthly expenses. Granted, you can get a conventional loan with smaller down payments (as low as 10 percent).
But the problem is you will have to pay much higher interest rates, including private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is an insurance that protects the lender in case you default on your loan.
Get started by comparing FHA loan rates, to find the best rates and terms that suit you.
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Fortunately, the government has created programs to help single mothers get home loans. For instance, FHA loans only require 3.5% down payment of the home purchase price.
To illustrate, suppose you’re looking to purchase a modest house for $100,000. For a 3.5% down payment, you will only need to come up with $3,500. This low down payment is indeed flexible for low income single mothers seeking home loans.
Best Home Loans For Single Mothers
1) FHA loans
Despite having a single source of income, there are home loans for single mothers out there. Indeed, FHA home loans are a popular choice for single mothers first time home buyers.
An FHA loan is a government loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (hence, the acronym “FHA”).
The FHA down payment can be as low as 3.5% and the credit score can be at least 580 or higher. If your credit score falls between 500 to 579, then you will need to put at least 10% down.
To know if your credit score is at least 580, get a free credit score at CreditSesame.
Program assistance for the down payment
Even if the FHA down payment is this low, single mothers seeking home loans and those who are living paycheck to paycheck can still have a hard time to come up with that money. Fortunately there are solutions.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which manages the FHA loan program, has recently allowed the 3.5% down payment to come from a third party.
They can be a friend, a family member, or a employer. This is good news for a single parent, as it means that they don’t have to use their own money to get a home loan.
2) VA Loans
If you’re convinced that FHA loan is a good idea, then you’d love VA loans. VA loans help homebuyers to buy home with $0 down. In addition, there is no private insurance mortgage (PMI) and has a very low interest rate.
Check to see if you’re eligible with a VA Lender.
So if you’re a veteran or service members, you may be eligible. If you were or are in the army, marine corps, navy, Air force, Coast guard, or you are a spouse of a service member, you may be eligible.
Don’t meet these requirements? You may still be eligible; talk with a home loan specialist now.
The $0 down payment is what makes VA home loans attractive among single mothers. With VA home loans, qualified single mothers can finance 100 percent of the home’s purchase price with absolutely no money down.
The other benefit of a VA loan is that there is no PMI. That is because the government backs the loan and assumes the risk.
Looking for a VA loan quote? Speak with a VA Lender today.
The Bottom line…
Being a single mother on a low income can be tough. But that should not prevent you from buying a home you have always dreamed of. The good new is there are programs that help single mothers buy a home. And those programs are the FHA and VA loans.
Additional tips for single mothers seeking home loans:
The first step in securing a home loan is to shop and compare multiple mortgage rates to choose the best one.
The second step is to get pre-approved by a lender. This is known as the pre-qualification process. The loan officer will assess your situation and determine what you qualify for. Once you have an idea of how much you can afford, you can submit your application.
FHA Loan Requirements – Guidelines and Limits
3 Things No One Ever Tells You About Buying a Home With a FHA Loan
How to Buy A Home With A Low Credit Score
Not All Mortgage Lenders Are Created Equally
When it comes to getting a mortgage, rates and fees vary.Â LendingTree allows you to view and compare multiple mortgage ratesÂ from multiple mortgage lenders all in one place and at the same time, so you can choose the best rates for your needs. LendingTree makes getting a loan faster, simpler, and better.Â Get started today >>>
The post Best Home Loans For Single Mothers appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Are you in the market for a new or new-to-you car? If so, you’ve probably wondered “How much car can I afford?”
While your local car dealership might be happy to tell you the sky’s the limit regarding your car purchase, your personal budget might be telling you a different story. Spending more than you can afford on a car turns that car from a blessing into a burden.
How much should I spend on a car?
Deciding how much to spend on a car starts with knowing your current financial numbers. You'll need to know your current income, expenses, and savings amounts.
Know your numbers
There are several financial factors that can influence how much you should spend on a car. The amount of money you earn, of course, needs to be taken into account.
When determining how much you earn, always use your net take-home pay to start with. From there, factor in the other financial obligations you have.
In other words, look at your budget. If you don’t normally use one, now is a good time to start. Having a clear view of all other monthly financial obligations will help you better determine how much you can afford.
The 50-30-20 budget plan can be helpful. In short, the 50-30-20 budget plan works like this:
50 percent of your budget goes toward must-have and must-do obligations, such as housing expenses and child care
30 percent of your budget goes toward savings and debt obligations
20 percent of your budget covers unnecessary expenses and “fun” money
There are many ways to design a budget, but the 50-30-20 budget gives you a good place to start. It will certainly point out of there are any areas that are totally out of whack.
What do you have in savings?
Having a healthy savings account balance is important when making a car purchase as well. If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.
If you don’t have an emergency fund with a balance equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses, building that emergency fund up should be a priority.
With an added car payment, having a plush savings balance will help you ensure you can cover the new payment even if you hit a financial bump. Or, for instance, if the car needs repairs.
Determine the total cost of the car
Once you have looked at your budget and determined the amount of money per month you are comfortable spending on a car you'll want to be clear on the total car costs before you make your purchase. Affording a new car isn’t simply about the payment.
There are several other costs associated with car ownership, such as:
Insurance policy costs
Fuel and parking costs
Maintenance and repair costs
You can call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering. If you are still trying to narrow down what type of car you want, check out this list of the most and the least expensive cars to insure.
Call your insurance company ahead of time and get a quote for the new vehicle you're considering.
Fuel costs are fairly easy to determine. A Google search will give you the MPGs of any car you could think of. Compare that to your current car to see if your costs will change.
Maintenance and repair costs can be harder to determine but you can get an idea by using averages across a brand. Here's an article from Autowise that displays the cheapest and most expensive cars to maintain.
Be sure to factor in an accurate estimate of these additional car ownership costs as you determine a purchase price and payment amount you’re comfortable with.
Get the right kind of car loan
Doing your due diligence as you shop for a car loan is important as well. You do not have to get financing through the dealership. You will likely do better getting a loan yourself through your bank. At the very least, have an understanding of what rate you would qualify for before heading into the dealership so you know if they are offering you a fair rate.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median sales price of new homes in May 2020 was around $317,000. Even if you’re purchasing a home that falls well below that average, chances are it’s one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy. With such a big expense, you might be wonderingâhow much do you need to save for a house?
The good news? You don’t have to save for the entire purchase price. But the amount you might need on hand to buy a home can be significant. Get some idea of how much money you might need to buy a house below.
How Much Should You Save for a House Down Payment?
It all depends on the price of the home you want to buy and what type of loan program you qualify for. Down payments are usually a percentage of the home cost.
You might have heard that you need 20% down to buy a home. That’s actually not entirely true. Although the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes a case for the benefits of 20% down, it also notes that this number doesn’t work for everyone.
So, where does the 20% figure come from? It’s part of the guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government sponsored, mortgage guarantee companies. You either have to pay 20% down or pay private mortgage insurance, because analysis indicates that loans without 20% down are riskier for the lenders.
Here’s a look at some common mortgage options and how much you might need to have for a down payment:
The CFPB notes that conventional loans with PMI can require 5 to 15% down on average. If the home price is $300,000, that’s $15,000 to $45,000.
Loans through the Federal Housing Administration require down payments of at least 3.5%. That’s $10,500 on a $300,000 home.
Some loan programs, such as those for rural borrowers through the USDA, or those who qualify for loans through the VA, don’t require a down payment at all.
Other Expenses to Save for
Down payments aren’t the only thing you need to save for when buying a home. Closing costs can be thousands of dollars, and you may need to foot the bill for inspections, home repairs or even fun things, like new furniture. To make the home-buying process less stressful, it’s a good idea to save more than you expect to need for closing costs.
How Long Will It Take to Save for a House?
Saving 20% of your income could catapult you into purchasing a home in the next one to three years, depending on your market. For example, if you’re earning $96,000 per year, that’s $19,200 saved after one year. It’s $38,400 after two years and $57,600 after three. Even if you need 20% down, these amounts are roughly enough to help you buy homes worth between $100,000 and $300,000 within three years.
How Much of Your Savings Should You Spend on a House?
It’s tempting to empty out your savings or cash in your 401(k) to buy your dream home. Even if the house is just your first step into home ownership and isn’t perfect, it’s tempting to do what it takes to get those keys.
But spending 100% of your savings leaves no safety net if something happens. What if something breaks in your new home or there’s a medical emergency? Having some savings on hand to cover these issues helps protect your home, because you’re more likely to be able to continue to pay the mortgage.
Planning to Purchase a Home
If youâre planning on buying a home in the future, it’s important to start saving today. Every little bit you can do to save for a home helps make it happen.
If you want to buy a home for around $300,000 and you can’t qualify for a loan program that requires no down payment, you’ll need at least $10,500 to $15,000. You’ll also need closing costs and other fees, which typically run between 2 and 5% of the purchase price. Assuming $10,000 in closing costs, you need $25,000 minimum to position yourself for home ownership.
A Short-Term Plan
If you’re looking to buy a home within the next year or two, you’d need to save $12,500 to $25,000 a year. Saving 20% of your income can help you save the bulk of that in one or two years if you make more than $50,000 annually. To do that, though, you’ll need to set an aggressive personal budget and be willing to cut out some extras, such as cable or eating out.
A Long-Term Plan
By starting your journey to home ownership as early as possible, you can stretch your plan to five years or more. If you save over the course of five years, that’s only $5,000 a year. That’s $416 a month or just under $100 a week. You really could save for a house this way simply by cutting out a few expensive coffees, pizza nights, dinners, etc.
Start Saving Today
How much should you save before you try to buy a home? It depends on so many factors that there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. So, do your research early, make a plan and stick with it. And, as you get close to being ready to buy a home, don’t forget to shop around to find the best mortgage rates. Because those mortgage rates, along with your home price, determine how much you’ll pay for your home.
The post How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House? appeared first on Credit.com.
The death of aÂ loved oneÂ is hard to take and while aÂ life insuranceÂ payoutÂ can ease the burden and allow you to continue leaving comfortably, it won’t take the grief or the heartbreak away. What’s more, if thatÂ life insurance policyÂ refuses toÂ payout, it can make the situation even worse, adding more stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration to an already emotional period.
But why would aÂ life insurance claimÂ be refused; what are theÂ causes of deathÂ that may cause yourÂ lifeÂ insurance coverageÂ to become null and void? If you or aÂ loved oneÂ has aÂ life policy, this article could provide some essential information as we look at the reasons aÂ death claimÂ may be refused.
WhatÂ Causes of DeathÂ are Not Covered?
The extent of yourÂ lifeÂ insurance coverageÂ will depend on your specific policy and this is something you should check when filing yourÂ life insurance application. Speak with yourÂ insurance agent, ask questions, and always do your due diligence so that you know what you’re buying into and what sort of deaths it will provide cover for.
Life insurance policiesÂ have something known as aÂ contestability period, which typically lasts for 1 to 2 years and begins as soon as the policy starts. If theÂ policyholderÂ dies during this time, they will investigate and contest the death.Â
This is generally true whether her you die of aÂ heart attack, cancer or suicide. However, if this period has passed, they may only contest the death if it results from one of the following.
Suicide is a contentious issue where life insurance is concerned. On the one hand, it’s a very serious issue and one that’s often the result of mental health problems, so there are those who believe it is deserving of the same respect as any other illness.Â
On the other hand, theÂ lifeÂ insurance companiesÂ are concerned that allowing such coverage will encourage desperate people to kill themselves so theirÂ loved onesÂ will be financially secure.
It’s a touchy subject, and that’s why many companies refuse to go anywhere near it. Some will outright refuse to pay outÂ for suicide, but the majority have aÂ suicide clause, whereby they onlyÂ payoutÂ if the death occurs after a specificÂ period of time.
If it occurs before this time, they may return the premiums or pay nothing at all. And if they have reason to believe that theÂ policyholderÂ took their own life just for financial gain, they will almost certainly investigate and may refuse to pay.
Dangerous Hobbies and Driving
If you die in aÂ car accidentÂ and it is deemed that you were driving drunk, your policy may notÂ payout.Â Car accidentÂ deaths are common, and this is aÂ cause of deathÂ that policies do generally cover, but only when you weren’t doing something illegal or driving recklessly.
Deaths from extreme activities like bungee jumping orÂ skydivingÂ may be questioned, especially if these hobbies were not reported during the application.Â
Your claim can be denied if you are committing an illegal act at the time of your death. This can include everything from being chased by the police to trespassing. A benefit may also be refused if you die for an intentional drug overdose using non-prescription drugs.Â
Smoking or Pre-existingÂ Health Issue
Honesty is key, and if you lie during the application or “forget” to tell them about your smoking status or pre-existingÂ medical conditions, they may refuse toÂ payout. It doesn’t matter if they performed aÂ medical examÂ or not; the onus is not on them to spot your lie, it’s on you not to tell it in the first place.
This is one of the most common reasons for anÂ insurance contractÂ to be declared void, as applicants go in search of the cheapest premiums they can get and do everything they can to bring those costs down. They may also believe they will get away with their lies, either because they will give up smoking in a few months or years or because they will die from something other than their preexisting condition.
But lying in this manner is risky. You have to ask yourself whether it’s worth paying $100 a month for a valid policy that willÂ payoutÂ without issue or $50 for a policy that will likely be refused and will cause endless stress for your beneficiaries.
Life insurance benefits generally don’t extend to the battlefield. If you’re a solider on the front line, your risk of death increases significantly, and many insurance policies won’t cover you for this. This is true even if you’re not in active duty at the time you take out the policy. More importantly, it also applies to correspondents and journalists.
You don’t invalidate your policy by going to a war-torn country and reporting, but if you die resulting from that trip, your policy will notÂ payout.
Your life insurance policy likely won’t pay forÂ dismembermentÂ orÂ critical illness, but there are additional policies and add-ons that will provide cover. You can get these alongsideÂ permanent life insuranceÂ andÂ term life insuranceÂ to provide you with more cover and peace of mind.Â
They will come at a significant extra cost, but unlike traditional life insurance, they willÂ payoutÂ when you are still alive and may make life easier after experiencing a tragic accident or serious illness.
We recommend focusing on getting life insurance first, securing theÂ amount of coverageÂ you need from a permanent orÂ termÂ life policy, and only then seeing if there is room in your budget for these additional options.
How Often DoÂ Life Insurance PoliciesÂ Payout?
We have recommended life insurance many times at PocketYourDollars and will continue to do so. We often state that it is essential if you have dependents and want to ensure they’re cared for when you die. But as much as we recommend it and as simple as the process of applying often is, there is one simple fact that we often overlook:
LifeÂ insurance companiesÂ rarelyÂ payout.
It’s a stat you may have seen elsewhere and it’s 100% true. However, contrary to what you might have heard or assumed; this is not the result of a refusal to pay theÂ death benefitÂ when theÂ policyholderÂ passes away. Sure, this accounts for some of those non-payments, but for the most part, it’s down to one of the following:
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Survives the Term
The majority ofÂ life insurance policiesÂ are set to fixed terms, such as 10, 20 or 30 years. If anything happens during thisÂ period of time, yourÂ loved onesÂ collect yourÂ death benefit, but if you survive, the policy ends, no money is paid out, and if you want another policy you will need to pay a larger sum.
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Accepts theÂ Cash Value
WholeÂ lifeÂ insuranceÂ policiesÂ are like investments crossed with life insurance. YourÂ loved onesÂ get aÂ death benefitÂ if you die, but it also accrues interest and can be cashed out. When this happens, the insurer collects, you get a sum of money, and it feels like a win-win, but in reality, the insurer has just dodged a bullet.
TheÂ PolicyholderÂ Stops Making Payments
As soon as you stop making yourÂ premium payments, you lose cover and you run the risk of your policy being canceled. This is true for pretty much anyÂ type of policyÂ and it happens regardless of theÂ policy term.Â
Unlike aÂ credit cardÂ company, which may chase you for payments, aÂ lifeÂ insurance companyÂ will place the burden of responsibility on you. After all, a creditor loses money when you don’t pay, whereas aÂ lifeÂ insurance companyÂ comes out on top.
This often happens when individuals take out substantialÂ life insurance policiesÂ at a young age, only to suffer drastically changing circumstances. Imagine, for instance, that you’re 20-years-old and you buy a house with your spouse-to-be, with a view to settling down and starting a family. You assume that you’ll need it for a long time, so you take out a 30-year-term.
But 10 years down the line, your spouse leaves you, the family you wanted didn’t happen, and you’re all alone with no dependents, and with growing debts, bills, and obligations. At that point, life insurance becomes a burden, so you may stop making payments, thus allowing theÂ insurance companyÂ to profit from 10 years of insurance premiums.
Summary: It’s Not That Cut-Throat
You don’t have to look far to find consumers who feel they have been wronged byÂ lifeÂ insurance companies, consumers who will expend a great deal of time and effort into calling out these companies for their perceived wrongdoings. But they often exaggerate the situation due to their extreme anger and this creates unrealistic anxieties and expectations.
The truth is, while there are people who have been genuinely wronged, they are in the extreme minority. The vast majority ofÂ family membersÂ who were refused aÂ death benefitÂ were let down by theÂ policyholderÂ and by the lies they told on their policy.
PolicyholdersÂ lie about their weight, smoking status, andÂ medicalÂ conditions, and when caught up in this lie, they often claim they made an honest mistake. But the truth is, most life insurance companies will overlook simple mistakes and only really care when it’s obvious that theÂ policyholderÂ lied.Â
And let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how forgetful you are, you’re not going to forget that you’re a chain smoker, alcoholic, drug user, extreme sports fan or that you recently had a medical crisis!
If the policy was filed honestly, you shouldnât have an issue when you collect, even if it’s still in theÂ contestability period. As discussed above,Â lifeÂ insurance companiesÂ stack the dice in their favor. They use statistics and probability to carefully set the premiums and benefits, and they rely onÂ policyholdersÂ forgetting to pay and outliving the term. They don’t need to “rob” you in order to make a profit. So, be honest when applying and you won’t have anything to fear.
What Causes of Death are not Covered by Life Insurance? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
So youâre at the point in your life where buying a home is not a question of if, but when. Youâre scrimping. Youâre saving. Youâre dreaming of walking through the front door of your very own home.
But as the decision draws near, you start questioning everything. Is now a good time to buy a house? Or is this the worst time? Is it more financially responsible to buy a house right now or wait? And what if you mistime the market, buying too soon or too late, and miss out on lower home prices?
Ultimately, the experts say the answer is less about economies, markets and pandemics and more about you.
So, how do you think through this decision? Youâll want to take time to thoroughly review your personal financial situation and life goals. At the same time, youâll need to gain some understanding of the market dynamics that impact home costs.
This process will take some time, but itâs well worth the effort. With a firm grasp on your personal situation and some context on the housing market, youâll be able to confidently go forth knowing youâre making a fiscally informed decision about whether to buy a house right now.
Honestly assess these aspects of your finances
Financial security is always important if youâre trying to determine when youâre ready to buy a home. To decide if now is a good time to buy a house, ask yourself the following questions about your finances:
How secure is your income?
Job or income stability is an important factor if you are buying a home in a rocky economy, such as the one triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, says real estate economist Gay Cororaton. Even in a robust economy, your income security should be top of mind when youâre thinking of buying a house right now.
If you have any inkling that your position may be eliminated or that youâll be making a career change, you may want to delay buying a home. Even a recent break in employment that caused you to draw down some of your savings may raise a red flag with lenders, says Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in the Boston area.
If youâre considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home.
Do you have enough money saved?
After income stability, savings is the next-most-important financial factor youâll want to consider to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, Ziegler says. The old rule of thumb was to save 20% of the price of the home for your down payment. While that is ideal, itâs not necessaryâfar from it, Ziegler says. In fact, it has become more common for first-time buyers to put down much less than 20%.
How much house can you afford?
The down payment is one side of the affordability coin. Your monthly mortgage payment is the other side. You need to know how much you can spend on both to determine if you can afford to buy a house right now, says Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at Zillow. Aim for a monthly mortgage payment that doesnât stretch you too thinâexperts typically put this at around 28% of your monthly gross income, according to Bankrate.
With those guidelines, you can determine what you can afford. For example, if you make $4,000 a month, you should typically spend no more than $1,120 on your monthly mortgage payment in total.
How much house that buys you depends on multiple factors: mortgage rates, property tax rates, homeowners insurance andâif you donât have the savings to put down 20%âprimary mortgage insurance, or PMI. To get a rough estimate, plug your income details into an online calculator. For a more specific figure, talk to a local lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage, Ziegler says.
Once you know your price range, you can determine how much savings you need in the bank to buy a house right now. Youâll also need to have money saved for closing costs, which vary but typically run 2% to 5% of the loan amount, according to Bankrate.
Again, Ziegler recommends talking to a lender to really understand what your individual down payment and closing costs would be. Finally, be sure to add a line item in your budget for home maintenance that will inevitably pop up after you move in. Whether itâs a dishwasher on the fritz or a leaky roof, you donât want to be caught off guard, so be sure to save money for emergency home repairs.
How is your credit?
Your credit profile is also important to lenders, and it will likely be a factor in what interest rate youâre offered. Given that, you should be checking your credit report and know your credit score before investing in a home. If youâre considering buying a house right now, you should avoid opening any new lines of credit right before purchasing a home, Tucker says.
What is your debt-to-income ratio?
Another factor lenders check is your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, Tucker says. This is the percentage of your gross monthly income that goes to paying monthly debt payments, plus your new mortgage. Lenders typically require this ratio to be 45% or less but prefer it even lowerâin the 33% to 36% range.
Have you considered the opportunity cost?
Another financial consideration when deciding if now is a good time to buy a house is the opportunity cost of delaying a home purchase, Ziegler says. If youâre renting in a market where the rent is higher than your would-be monthly mortgage payment, you may be spending a lot more money each month than if you were to purchase a home. And of course, with a mortgage, your monthly payment increases your equity.
After taking a clear-eyed look at your income, savings and these other financial factors, you will have a better sense of when youâre ready to buy a home and whether nowâs the time for you to dip into the market.
Consider key market factors
Next, take a look at factors that are outside of your control, but still influence your purchase: prices, interest rates and national employment trends.
Where are housing prices?
As youâre looking at the market, one of the biggest considerations when you are ready to buy a home will be housing prices and availability. Research your local market by talking to real estate agents who work specifically in the area where you want to buy and asking them about market trends, Ziegler says.
Track current listings and recently sold prices to get a sense of how prices look today. Generally, the tighter the inventoryâmeaning the fewer houses availableâthe higher prices will be, Tucker says.
Whatâs going on with interest rates?
When youâre ready to buy a home could also depend on another major economic factor: interest rates. When interest rates are low, your housing budget is effectively supercharged, Tucker says, and you can afford a more expensive house because youâre spending less on interest. When they are high, the opposite is true.
This is what compels people to buy when interest rates are lowâyou get more for your money. If you get a 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, you lock in that rate for the entire life of the loan, which could save you money now and into the future, Tucker says.
How does employment look nationally?
Finally, if you want to get a general idea of where the housing market may be headedâif prices will drop or rise soonâcheck out the national employment trends, Cororaton says. Low unemployment means prices will generally trend upward because more people can afford houses, boosting competition and prices, she says.
But if unemployment is inching up, then people are losing jobs and will be more likely to remain in their current homes. As a result, there tends to be less competition for them, lowering prices.
You donât need to be an expert in the market to determine if now is a good time to buy a house, but a baseline understanding of these big-picture forces can give you the confidence you need to embark on your home-buying journey.
Think about your future plans
After reviewing your savings and income and assessing the market conditions, take a step back and think about your life plans over the next few years. Your lifestyle and goals will help determine whether now is a good time to buy a house.
âFor buyers who are not certain whether they will still be living in the same place in three or five years, I would caution against locking themselves into a certain location,â Ziegler says. âIf theyâre just not sure what the future holds, it may be better to have that flexibility.â
Itâs unlikely in many markets that you will see substantial financial gain from homeownership if you move within five years, Ziegler says. Your equity gains will likely be offset by the transaction costs of buying and selling your home.
That goes for remote workers, too. Are you working from a home office these days? While widespread remote work may allow buyers to consider homes farther from their offices, ask yourself: Is my company going to permanently allow employees to work from home? Do I think there will be other remote opportunities in the future?
While youâre thinking about the next three to five years of your career, also consider the next three to five years of your personal life. Will you have a family? Will that family grow?
These can be weighty topics, so be sure to think them through on your own schedule. Buying a house is a big decision, and itâs not one to be rushed. By taking the time to assess your life, from your job security to your financial health to your lifestyle, and considering the impact of market factors, youâll have a clearer sense of when you are ready to buy a home.
If youâve decided that buying a house right now is the best decision for you, itâs time to learn more about how it will impact your budget. Get started by reading up on these eight unexpected expenses when buying a home.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.
The post Is Now a Good Time to Buy a House? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
I love making things automatic. Whether it is bill-paying, direct deposit, prescription renewals, or investing, making things automatic makes life easier, and that is where our Betterment investing review comes in.
When it comes to retirement planning, an overwhelming number of online tools and websites promise to help you create a dynamic and profitable portfolio while minimizing fees.
This growing list of services includes robo-advisors, a class of financial websites that offer to manage your portfolio with minimal in-person interaction and a heavy reliance on the latest investing tools and software.
One of the most popular robo-advisors by far is Betterment. Conceptualized by its founders in 2008, Betterment has since grown to help its customers invest billions of dollars of their hard-earned dollars. This is an investment platform that puts your investing on cruise control, and even allows you to make money watching TV! You can open an account with no money at all, and get the benefit of professional, low-cost investment management that enables you to invest in thousands of securities with as little as a few hundred dollars.
It hasnât been easy. With other competitors like Wealthfront and Personal Capital always a few steps behind them, Betterment has struggled to find a way to stand out. Even with the competition, Betterment has emerged as one of the top online brokerage accounts and continues to grow its market share.
Open an account
0.25% to 0.40% annual management fee, depending on the plan
No trade, transfer or rebalancing fees
No minimum balance
Hands-off investing tailored to your goals and risk preference
Betterment is an online, automated investment manager that uses advanced algorithms and software to find the perfect investment strategy for your portfolio and individual needs.
The main difference between investing your money with a traditional financial advisor and Betterment is that there is minimal human interaction. Unless you email or call in, your communication with an individual advisor will be very minimal.
But, there is some good news to counteract the lack of individual service. Because of lower operating costs, Betterment is able to charge lower fees than traditional financial advisors. This can be huge for individuals who want to take a hands-off approach to their retirement accounts, yet donât want to pay top dollar for access to a top-tier financial advisor in their area.
Using complex investment software, Betterment allocates your investment portfolio based on your individual circumstances, investment time horizon, and thirst for risk.
In the meantime, they keep fees at a minimum by using ETFs (exchange-traded fund) that let you have a diversified portfolio, like mutual funds, but are tradeable much like stocks.
Since ETFs come with very low expense ratios, Betterment is able to pass those savings along to the consumer. Although the program already manages over $16 billion for their clients, they are still growing at a rapid pace.
Because the service is able and willing to deal with investors at all stages of wealth accumulation, it has become a go-to for both experienced and novice investors with various investing goals.
Further, Bettermentâs portfolio strategy isnât geared just for retirement savings; the service can also improve your returns on dollars you invest for short-term and medium-term goals like saving for college, taking an annual vacation, or building up a cash reserve.
How Betterment Works
Like post other robo-advisors, Betterment provides complete, automated investment management of your portfolio. When you sign up for the service, youâll complete a questionnaire that will determine your risk tolerance, investment goals, and time horizon. From that information, Betterment determines your portfolio will be designed as conservatives, aggressive, or some level in between.
Over time however, Betterment may adjust your portfolio to become gradually more conservative. For example, as you move closer to retirement, your asset allocation will be gradually shifted more heavily in favor of safe investments, like bonds.
Your portfolio will be constructed of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which are low-cost investment funds designed to track the performance of an underlying index. In this way, Betterment attempts to match the performance of the underlying indexes, rather than to outperform them. For this reason, investing with Betterment â and most other robo-advisors â is considered to be passive investing. (Active investing involves frequent trading of stocks and other securities in an attempt to outperform the market.)
Betterment also uses allocations based on broad investment categories. There are three in total:
Safety Net â These are funds allocated for near-term needs, such as an emergency fund.
Retirement â This will naturally be your long-term investment account and held in tax-sheltered IRAs.
General Investing â This allocation is dedicated to intermediate goals, maybe saving for the down payment on a house or even for your childrenâs education.
Given that each of the three broad goals has a different time horizon, the specific portfolio allocation in each will be a little bit different. For example, the Safety Net will be invested in cash type accounts for safety and liquidity.
Betterment Advantages And Disadvantages
Thereâs no minimum investment required.
The low annual fee of 0.25% on the Digital plan can allow you to have a $20,000 account managed for just $50 per year, or a $100,000 account for just $250.
Tax-loss harvesting is available at all taxable accounts.
Betterment Premium provides unlimited access to certified financial planners, providing a service similar to traditional investment advisors, but at a fraction of the cost.
The No-fee Checking and Cash Reserve give you cash management options to go with your investing activities.
Betterment offers several portfolio options, including Smart Beta, Socially Responsible Investing, and the BlackRock Targeted Income Portfolio.
The use of value funds also adds the potential for your investment accounts to outperform the general market, since value stocks tend to be underpriced relative to their competitors.
Flexible Portfolio will give you some control over your investment allocations, which is a feature absent from most robo-advisors.
Bettermentâs annual advisory fee is on the low end of the robo-advisor range. But there are some robo-advisors charging no fees at all.
Betterment doesnât offer alternative investments. These include natural resources and real estate, which are offered by some of their competitors.
External account syncing is available only with Betterment Premium.
The Betterment Investment Methodology
Like most other robo-advisors, Betterment manages your investment account using Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT. The theory emphasizes proper allocations into various asset classes over individual security selection.
Your portfolio is divided between six stock asset allocations and eight bond asset allocations. Each allocation is represented by a single ETF thatâs tied to an index specific to that asset class. The single ETF will provide exposure to scores or even hundreds of securities in each asset class. That means collectively your investment will be spread across thousands of securities in the US and internationally.
The six stock asset allocations are as follows:
US Total Stock Market
US Value Stocks â Large Cap
US Value Stocks â Mid Cap
US Value Stocks â Small Cap
International Developed Market Stocks
International Emerging Markets Stocks
The eight bond asset allocations are as follows:
US High Quality Bonds
US Municipal Bonds (will be held in taxable investment accounts only)
US Inflation-Protected Bonds
US High-Yield Corporate Bonds
US Short-Term Treasury Bonds
US Short-Term Investment Grade Bonds
International Developed Market Bonds
International Emerging Markets Bonds
Since Betterment offers tax-loss harvesting with taxable investment accounts, most asset classes will have two or three very similar ETFs. This will enable Betterment to sell a losing position in one ETF to reduce capital gains in winning asset classes. Alternative ETFs are then purchased to replace the sold funds to maintain the target asset allocations in your account.
Tax-loss harvesting is becoming an increasingly popular investment strategy because it effectively defers capital gains taxes into future years. Itâs available only for taxable accounts, since tax-sheltered accounts have no immediate tax consequences.
How Betterment Compares
Here’s how Betterment compares to the previously mentioned companies, Wealthfront and Personal Capital.
Minimum Initial Investment
0.25% on Digital; 0.40% on Premium (account balance over $100k)
0.25% on all account balances
0.89% on most account balances; reduced fee on balances > $1 million
On Premium Plan only
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on all taxable accounts
Yes, on Premium Plan only
Betterment Accounts and Options
For the first few years of Bettermentâs existence they offered a single investment account serving as a one-size-fits-all plan. But thatâs all changed. They still offer basic investment accounts, but they now give you a choice of multiple investment options.
This is Bettermentâs basic investment plan. There is no minimum initial investment required, nor is there a minimum ongoing balance requirement. Betterment charges a single fee of 0.25% on all account balances.
You can also add any other portfolio variations, except the Goldman Sachs Smart Beta portfolio, which has a $100,000 minimum account balance requirement.
Betterment Premium works similar to the Digital plan, but it delivers a higher level of service. The plan provides external account synching, giving Betterment a high altitude view of you your entire financial situation. External investment accounts can help in enabling Betterment to better coordinate your portfolio allocations with assets held in outside accounts. They can also make recommendations out to better manage those external accounts.
And perhaps the biggest advantage of the Premium plan is that it comes with unlimited access to Bettermentâs certified financial planners. In this way, Betterment is competing more directly with traditional investment advisors, but doing it with a robo-advisor component.
Youâll need a minimum of $100,000 to invest in the Premium plan, and the annual advisory fee is 0.40%. Thatâs just a fraction of the usual 1% to 2% typically charged by traditional investment advisory services.
Betterment Cash Reserve
The account pays a variable interest rate, currently set at 0.40% APY. Betterment doesnât actually hold these funds directly, but rather invest them through participating program banks.
Thereâs no fee for this account, and you can move money as often as you want. And for those with very high cash balances, the account is FDIC insured for up to $1 million through the program banks.
Betterment Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
SRI portfolios are becoming increasingly popular in the robo-advisor space. It involves investing in companies that meet certain standards for social, environmental, and governance guidelines. Betterment indicates that the ETFs they use in their SRI portfolio have produced a 42% increase in their social responsibility scores.
SRI portfolios work with both the Digital and Premium plans, using a similar investment methodology. But they make certain modifications, holding ETFs based on SRI in place of the ETFs used in non-SRI portfolios.
SRI portfolios do not require a minimum balance and charge no additional fees. And like their Digital and Premium plans, taxable SRI investment accounts take advantage of tax-loss harvesting.
Betterment Flexible Portfolios
The key word in the name is âflexibleâ because the main feature is adding personal options to your portfolio allocations.
This is done by adjusting the individual asset class weights in your portfolio. For example, if you have a 7% allocation in emerging markets, you may choose to increase it to 10% if you believe that sector is likely to outperform others. But you can also decrease the allocation if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Betterment Tax-Coordinated Portfolio
This is less of a formal portfolio and more of an investment strategy. It must be used in combination with a taxable investment account and a tax-sheltered retirement account. Betterment will then allocate investments based on their tax impact.
For example, income generating assets â that produce high dividend and interest income â are held in a tax-sheltered account. Investments likely to generate long-term capital gains are held in a taxable investment account, since you will be able to take advantage of lower long-term capital gains tax rates.
Goldman Sachs Smart Beta
This option is for more sophisticated investors, and requires a minimum account balance of $100,000. And since it is a high risk/high reward type of investing, it also requires a higher risk tolerance.
Betterment uses the same basic investment strategy as they do in other portfolios. But itâs an actively managed portfolio that will be adjusted in an attempt to outperform the general market. Securities will be bought and sold within the portfolio and can include either individual securities or Smart Beta ETFs.
The portfolio has many variations, including a wide range of allocations. Stocks are chosen based on four qualities: good value, strong momentum, high quality, and low volatility.
And like other portfolio variations Betterment offers, there is no additional fee for this option.
BlackRock Target Income Portfolio
Betterment recognizes that some investors are more interested in income than growth. This will particularly apply to retirees. The BlackRock Target Income Portfolio invests in portfolios based on your risk tolerance. This can mean low, moderate, high, or even aggressive.
Those categories may seem unusual for an income generating portfolio. But while the portfolio attempts to minimize risk of principal, it also recognizes that some investors are willing to add risk to their portfolio in exchange for higher returns.
A low-risk portfolio may have a higher allocation in US Treasury securities. An aggressive portfolio may center primarily on high-yield corporate bonds or even emerging-market bonds that have higher interest rates due to greater risk.
Betterment No-fee Checking
Provided by Betterment Financial LLC in partnership with NBKC Bank, this is a true no-fee checking account. Not only are there no monthly maintenance fees, but there are also no overdraft or other fees. Theyâll even reimburse all ATM fees and foreign transaction fees you incur. And thereâs not even a minimum balance requirement.
Youâll be provided with a Betterment Visa Debit Card with tap-to-pay technology, that you can use anywhere Visa is accepted. All account balances are FDIC insured for up to $250,000. And as you might expect from a company on the technological cutting edge, you can deposit checks into the account using your smartphone.
Check out our full Betterment checking review.
Betterment Key Features
Minimum initial investment: Betterment requires no funds to open an account. But you can begin funding your account with monthly deposits, like $100 per month. This method will make it easier to use dollar-cost averaging to gradually move into your portfolio positions.
Available account types: Joint and individual taxable investment accounts, as well as traditional, Roth, rollover and SEP IRAs. Betterment can also accommodate trusts and nonprofit accounts.
Portfolio rebalancing: Comes with all account types. Your portfolio will be rebalanced when your asset allocations significantly depart from their targets.
Automatic dividend reinvestment: Betterment will reinvest dividends received in your portfolio according to your target asset allocations.
Betterment Mobile App: You can access your Betterment account on your smartphone. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.
Customer contact: Available by phone and email, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, Eastern time.
Account protection: All Betterment accounts are protected by SIPC insurance for up to $500,000 in cash and securities, including up to $250,000 in cash. SIPC covers losses due to broker failure, not those caused by market value declines.
Financial Advice packages: Betterment offers one-hour phone conferences with live financial advisors on various personal financial topics. Five topics are covered:
Getting Started package: This package gives new users the professional vote of confidence they need as a professional will assess their account setup. $199
Financial Checkup package: This package takes it a step further, providing the customer with a professional opinion on their portfolio and financial circumstances. $299
College Planning package: As its name implies, this package helps parents who are investing with the goal of paying for their childrenâs college education in the next 5-18 years. $299
Marriage Planning package: Merging finances can be tricky, so Betterment created this plan to help engaged couples and newlyweds to succeed as they unite their lives and assets. $299
Retirement Planning package: Your investment goals and strategies change as you near retirement. This particular package helps keep you on target to meet them. $299
Retirement Savings Calculator: Robo-advisors are popular choices for retirement accounts. For this reason, Betterment offers the Calculator to help you project your retirement needs. By entering basic information in the calculator (it will sync external accounts if you have a Premium account â including employer-sponsored retirement plans) it will let you know if you are on track to meet your goals or if you need to make adjustments.
How To Sign Up For A Betterment Account
The Betterment sign up process is one of the most user-friendly out there for any brokerage. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions and as streamlined registration process which users can navigate through in a matter of minutes.
First get the process started by clicking the button below.
Sign up for a Betterment Account
After the initial sign up process, users can expect a simple transaction as they transfer funds into the account, much like moving money from a checking to savings account.
When you begin the sign-up process, youâll be given a choice of four different investment goals:
I chose âInvest for retirementâ. It will ask your current age, your annual income, then give you a choice of accounts to use. That includes a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA, or even an individual taxable account. I selected a traditional IRA.
Based on a 30-year-old with a $100,000 income, Betterment return the following recommendation:
You even have the option to have the specific asset allocations listed. After clicking âContinueâ, youâll be asked to provide your email address and create a password. Youâll then be taken to the application, which will ask for general information, including your name, address, phone number, and how you heard about Betterment.
Once your account has been set up, you can fund it immediately, by connecting your bank account, or by setting up recurring deposits.
You can also set up other accounts, such as âManage spending with Checkingâ or âInvest for a long-term goalâ.
Why You Should Open An Account With Betterment
While nearly anyone who invests could benefit from the online portfolio management and advising, this service is definitely geared to certain types of investors. In most cases, Betterment will work best for:
Hands-off investors who have some investing knowledge â Since it takes care of the heavy lifting for you, it works best for investors who want to take a hands-off approach to their investment portfolio. Passive investors can let Betterment handle the logistics while using online account management to keep a close eye on their accounts.
Novice investors who need help â Beginning investors who are just learning the ropes can turn to Betterment for online portfolio management with low fees. The many online tools and user-friendly interface make it easy for beginners to get a grasp on basic financial concepts and investing strategies.
Robo-advisors are growing in popularity and could easily replace in-person advisors in the near future. With lower fees and advanced software that can maximize results, online investing is certainly gaining an edge.
Whether Betterment is right for you depends on your individual needs and investing goals. If youâre a hands-off investor who wants to grow your retirement funds without paying a lot of fees, then Betterment might be ideal. Additionally, beginning investors can benefit handsomely from the online tools and investing education offered through the Betterment website.
If you think Betterment investing might be exactly what your portfolio needs, sign up for a new account today.
However, if you determine that you would be better served by a more hands-on approach, check out the other online brokerage account options. Being a certified financial planner, I have had a chance to work with several of these platforms and have done the following reviews:
Motif Investing Review
Lending Club Review
Ally Invest Review
The post Betterment Investing Review: Make Investing Automatic appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
When you're ready to buy a home, choosing the best lender and type of mortgage can seem daunting because there are many choices. Since no two real estate transactions or home buyers are alike, it's essential to get familiar with different mortgage products and programs.
Let's take a look at the two main types of mortgages and several popular home loan programs. Choosing the right one for your situation is the key to buying a home you can afford.
What is a mortgage?
First, here's a quick mortgage explainer. A mortgage is a loan used to buy real estate, such as a new or existing primary residence or vacation home. It states that your property is collateral for the debt, and if you don't make timely payments, the lender can take back the property to recover their losses.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price.
In general, a mortgage doesn't pay for 100% of a home's purchase price. You typically must make a down payment, which could range from 3% to 10% or more, depending on the type of loan you qualify for.
For example, if you agree to pay $300,000 for a home and have $15,000 to put down, you need a mortgage for the difference, or $285,000 ($300,000 – $15,000). In addition to a down payment, lenders charge a variety of processing fees that you either pay upfront or roll into your loan, which increases your debt.
At your real estate closing, the lender wires funds to the closing agent or attorney. After you sign a stack of mortgage and closing documents, your down payment and mortgage money go to the seller and various parties, such as a real estate broker, title company, inspector, surveyor, and insurance company. You leave the closing as a proud new homeowner and begin making mortgage payments the next month.
What is a fixed-rate mortgage?
The structure of your loan and payments depends on whether your interest rate is fixed or adjustable. So, understanding how these two main types of mortgage products work is essential.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy.
A fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that never changes, no matter what happens in the economy. The most common fixed-rate mortgage terms are 15- and 30-years. But you can also find 10-, 20-, 40-, and even 50-year fixed-rate mortgages.
Getting a shorter mortgage means you pay it off faster and at a lower interest rate than with a longer-term option. For example, as of December 2020, the going rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage is 2.4%, and a 30-year is 2.8% APR.
The downside is that shorter loans come with higher monthly payments. Many people opt for longer mortgages to pay as little as possible each month and make their home more affordable.
Here are some situations when getting a fixed-rate mortgage makes sense:
You see low or rising interest rates. Locking in a low rate for the life of your mortgage protects you against inflation.
You want financial stability. Having the same mortgage payment for decades allows you to easily budget and avoid financial surprises.
You don't plan to move for a while. Keeping a fixed-rate mortgage over the long term gives you the potential to save the most in interest, especially if interest rates go up.
What is an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)?
The second primary type of home loan is an adjustable-rate mortgage or ARM. Your interest rate and monthly payment can go up or down according to predetermined terms based on a financial index, such as the T-bill rate or LIBOR.
Most ARMs are a hybrid of a fixed and adjustable product. They begin with a fixed-rate period and convert to an adjustable rate later on. The first number in the name of an ARM product is how many years are fixed for the introductory rate, and the second number is how often the rate could change after that.
For instance, a 5/1 ARM gives you five years with a fixed rate and then can adjust, or reset, every year starting in the sixth year. A 3/1 ARM has a fixed rate for three years with a potential rate adjustment every year, beginning in the fourth year.
When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go.
ARMs are typically 30-year products, but they can be shorter. With a 5/6 ARM, you pay the same rate for the first five years. Then the rate could change every six months for the remaining 25 years.
ARMs come with built-in caps for how much the interest rate can climb from one adjustment period to the next and the potential increase over the loan's life. When shopping for an ARM, be sure you understand how often the rate could change and how high your payments could go. In other words, you should be comfortable with the worst-case ARM scenario before getting one.
In general, the introductory interest rate for a 30-year ARM is lower than a 30-year fixed mortgage. But that hasn't been the case recently because rates are at historic lows. The idea is that rates are so low they likely have nowhere to go but up, making an ARM less attractive.
I mentioned that the going rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 2.8%. Compare that to a 30-year 5/6 ARM, which is also 2.8% APR. When ARM rates are the same or higher than fixed rates, they don't give borrowers any upsides for taking a risk that their payment could increase.
ARM lenders aren't making them attractive because they know once your introductory rate ends, you could refinance to a lower-rate fixed mortgage and they'd lose your business after just a few years. They could end up losing money if you haven't paid enough in fees and interest to offset their cost of issuing the loan.
Unless you believe that rates can drop further (or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings), they aren't a wise choice in the near term.
So, unless you believe that rates can drop further or until ARM rates are low enough to offer borrowers significant savings, they aren't a wise choice in the near term. However, always discuss your mortgage options with potential lenders, so you evaluate them in light of current economic conditions.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Credit for a Mortgage Approval
5 types of home loan programs
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, here are five loan programs you may qualify for.
1. Conventional loans
Conventional loans are the most common type of mortgage. They're also known as a "conforming loan" when they conform to standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These federally-backed companies buy and guarantee mortgages issued through lenders in the secondary mortgage market. Lenders sell mortgages to Fannie and Freddie so they can continuously supply new borrowers with mortgage funds.
Conventional loans are popular because most lenders—including mortgage companies, banks, and credit unions—offer them. Borrowers can pay as little as 3% down; however, paying 20% eliminates the requirement to pay an additional monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium.
2. FHA loans
FHA or Federal Housing Administration loans come with lenient underwriting standards, making homeownership a reality for more Americans. Borrowers need a 3.5% down payment and can have lower credit scores and income than with a conventional loan.
3. VA loans
VA or Veterans Administration loans give those with eligible military service a zero-down loan with no monthly private mortgage insurance required.
4. USDA loans
The USDA or U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to buyers who plan to live in rural and suburban areas. Borrowers who meet certain income limits can get zero-down payments and low-rate mortgage insurance premiums.
5. Jumbo loans
Jumbo loans are higher mortgage amounts than what's allowed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so they're also known as non-conforming loans. In general, they exceed approximately $500,000 in most areas.
Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
This isn't a complete list of all the loan programs you may qualify for, so be sure to ask potential lenders for recommendations. Remember that just because you're eligible for a program, such as a VA loan, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. Always compare multiple loan products and get quotes from several lenders before committing to your next home loan.
Coronavirus hasnât entirely ended life as we knew it, but itâs certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.
For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?
No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.
Letâs examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?
Thereâs good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.
If youâre feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If thereâs nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.
But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:
Non-payment of premiums â if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you wonât be covered until payment is made.
Providing false information on an application â if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if youâre a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
Death within the first two years the policy is in force â often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If itâs determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.
None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didnât disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldnât interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.
How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance Youâre Applying For?
This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.
But whatever you do, donât let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And thatâs not a sales pitch!
No matter whatâs going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. Thatâs because youâre younger and likely healthier right now than youâll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, youâll pay a higher premium by applying later when youâre a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.
Donât let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.
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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.
The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While thereâs been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyoneâs guess at the moment.
What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus
If youâre under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as itâs ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.
That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Ages 65 and older.
Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since theyâre known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.
If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.
There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:
Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
Certain heart conditions
More Specific Application Factors
But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.
For example, if you have a significant health condition and youâre over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.
The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if youâre currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.
Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If youâve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until youâve completed a recommended quarantine period.
Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected
Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If youâre concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.
Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:
Employer-sponsored life insurance. Thereâs not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
Health insurance. Thereâs been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if youâre concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.
Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus
Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.
I recommend the following:
1. Be proactive about your health.
Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.
2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.
Donât wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.
3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.
If you donât have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.
4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.
Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.
5. Keep a healthy credit score.
Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.
6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority
This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.
The virus and the uncertainty itâs generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than theyâve been in years. Youâll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.
7. Start an emergency fund.
If you donât already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.
You should also do what you can to maximize the interest youâre earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest thatâs more than 20 times the national bank average.
8. Get Better Control of Your Debts
In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.
If you donât have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.
For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, youâll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.
Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.
Related: The Best Life Insurance Companies
Weâve covered a lot of ground in this article. But thatâs because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. Itâs been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your familyâs finances when youâre no longer around to provide for them.
Thatâs where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasnât changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But thatâs why itâs so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.
The post How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
Did you need to undergo a medical procedure such as an MRI or a CT scan? If so, your insurance provider may require a referral or pre-authorization from your physician.
Even if the facility agrees to provide the procedure without a referral or pre-authorization, your insurance provider may not agree to cover the cost. To rectify the situation, see if your doctor can reach out to your insurance carrier and let them know about ordering the procedure for you. (Physicians and other healthcare specialists using services like Fortis Medical Billing may have an easier time working with your insurance carrier.)
Your policy does not cover the procedure
Even with proper pre-authorization or a referral, you must check with your insurance provider or look over your policy to ensure your plan includes the procedure. Even if your carrier previously covered the procedure, your latest plan may not include it.
You used an out-of-network provider
Something else to double-check on your insurance plan is whether the provider you want to see is in your current provider network.
Provider networks are common for exclusive provider organizations and health maintenance organizations. If you do not use an approved provider who agrees to your carrier's payment terms, your insurance carrier may deny your claim. Occasionally, insurance companies will accept a claim from an out-of-network provider, but you may have to pay a higher percentage of the costs than you normally would.
If you want to have the option of using out-of-network providers, ask your current carrier if you can include out-of-network benefits on your current health insurance plan. That way, you receive non-emergency and/or elective treatment.
Your claim contains typos
A clerical error on your part may be the reason for your denial. Check to see whether you listed your birth date, name, address, and all other personal information correctly on your claim. If you notice a typo, reach out to your provider's customer service department to correct it.
Your physician billed the wrong provider
Perhaps the mistake was your doctor's and the wrong insurance carrier received your claim. This sometimes happens if you go to a doctor or another healthcare provider you have not been to in a while. They may have outdated or inaccurate policy information on file.
Do you have multiple health insurance policies? Maybe you and your spouse have separate plans through your employers but see the same physician. If so, your doctor may have sent the bill to your spouse's carrier rather than yours.
If your physician billed the wrong provider, see that the office sends the bill to the right company as soon as possible. Waiting too long could result in a denial because the bill did not arrive on time to qualify for approval.
Your service was not considered medically necessary
Another reason insurance companies deny claims is that they do not feel the requested service qualifies as medically necessary. Even though you may need a procedure, treatment, or service, you may have to make your policy provider understand why you need it.
Team up with your doctor to supply your carrier with adequate evidence of your medical need. Also, ask yourself if you truly need the service to improve your health or if you only want the service for vanity or nonessential reasons.
You did not choose the less-expensive option
Insurance companies are a business, which means they want more money coming in than they do funneling out. If you opt for a more expensive medical option when a less expensive one achieves the desired result, your carrier may deny your claim based on cost-efficiency.
Always choose the less-expensive procedure or treatment first. If results do not work the way your physician would like, then you can see if your provider would cover the more expensive option.
Do not lose hope if your carrier denies your claim. A phone call and the right information could change everything for the better.