Podcast: First Time Home Buyer
For this podcast I sat down with Walt Wollet, mortgage loan officer with Pacific Residential where we discussed his experience as a first time home buyer. Learn about the home buying process from the perspective of a mortgage lender and how handled the process and what things he might have changed to make it even better. You can connect with Walt Wollet on LinkedIn, Facebook.
You can connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram. About the author: The above Podcast “Podcast: First Time Home Buyer” was provided by Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. With over 10+ years experience, if you’re thinking of selling or buying, I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise.
I work in the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Adams, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.
[00:00:09] Paul Sian: Hello, everybody. This is Paul Sian, Realtor with United Real Estate license in the state of Ohio and Kentucky. And with me today is a returning guest, Walt Wallet with 5th 3rd Bank. He was with a different lender in the past, and now he’s with 5th. 3rd. We’ll talk Are you doing today?
[00:00:24] Walt Wollet: I am fantastic today, Paul. We’re out here at the on my new piece of property that you helped me acquire and I’m excited. Toe do a podcast. It’s been a while.
[00:00:36] Paul Sian: Yeah, that’s that’s one of the reasons to that we decided to do this. Podcast is hey, your lender. I’m the You know, I’ve been through the process of myself of buying my own house as a real real estate agent, so I know how it is. So let’s we want to get the perspective of a mortgage lender, you know, buying the house. So I guess let’s just start from the very beginning. What’s what’s the first step that anybody has to do If they’re they’re interested in buying a house, they skip, you know, leave out the real estate agent. They know they want to buy a house, and they’re gonna talk to a lender at 5th, 3rd, and that happens to be you. So what’s their What’s their first step?
[00:01:10] Walt Wollet: So for my first step, and we talked a little bit before this about just being an active consumer, and we’ll get more into that. But it really it really what I what I would tell people is that you need to do an honest debt analysis, and you honestly need to look at budgeting eso. You need thio when you’re when you’re buying a place you need, you need to take in all what all those costs are, you know? So what are the costs that you know you have to pay every month, is there, You know, do you have a $40 credit card bill you pay every month? Your cars? You know, your auto loans, whatever, whatever you pay every month and you need you need to analyze that. Um, just just so that way you’re not wasting your time, right? So it’s like the first thing I would do is get is get pre qualified or talk to a lender, you know, And I’m an insider, so I kind of knew what I had to do and what I did was before I got pre qualified, was paid off, paid off all my credit cards because I could, um, you know, just to make sure that when my credit was pulled, I had I had a score that was higher so that I could get the best rate in terms that are available. Um, so that that was that was that was a big That was a big thing that I that I did your credit score a big part of it is is factored by credit utilization. So a lot of times, people that are borderline approval if they can get, get added to a secure card or get added to, you know, another account, unauthorized user account or pay down credit cards, Um, you know, say from 70% to below 50% utilization than their score could shoot up. And we can, you know, we can qualify them for, for for what they really want to buy. So that that that that would say that would be the first step is always to just talk to different lenders and talk to different people. Don’t go toe one lender and just trust them and like I wouldn’t want any what, buddy? That I work with to just talk to me. I want them to do their own research. And I want them to know that I’m going to take care of them now If they find someone else that maybe is promising them better numbers or whatever. You know, we I hope that we can talk about that. But, you know, at the end of the day, we have toe, we have to perform and do what’s best for consumers. Yeah,
[00:03:27] Paul Sian: definitely looking at that. Going back to the the credit score. And you mentioned credit score affects your your interest rate. And you know what? Let’s do you have Ah, breakdown. Basically, you know what? What credit scores and how how much impact on your interest rate is? I mean, is it is something easy to quantify? Or is it a little more, you know, computer oriented than that or computer algorithm oriented than that?
[00:03:53] Walt Wollet: So this is another. This is another question. Where it gets into every bank is gonna be different on that account. Okay, so you have the agencies Fannie and Freddie, right? That that back these the back these loans and securitized these loans. And they said, Ah, lot of what the fees and charges are on on those you know on those products and and those were built in to the actual interest rate into the actual loan. In a lot of cases,
[00:04:21] Paul Sian: those almost like base fees,
[00:04:22] Walt Wollet: right? But then other people. So what a lot of banks will do and Chase Chase is an example is notorious for this, but so say they don’t want They don’t want a certain loan. They still legally have to offer it. But they’ll raise the interest rate on that product so that they don’t have to, you know, originate or services many of those loans. So, you know, truthfully, you know certain certain companies will do that with government loans if they don’t want, You know, they don’t want to deal with the potential risk of having the the agency’s forced them to buy back those loans if there’s any sort of auditing or documentation issues, so they just set their their margins, you know, like this that their rate really high, um, to try to dissuade people from applying and you’re seeing that a lot with refinances that some of the larger lenders now, too, Just for the same. The same exact reason.
[00:05:17] Paul Sian: So what do you tell us about some of the hiccups that you had happened to you in your specific alone while you were trying to buy a house?
[00:05:25] Walt Wollet: So I would say that I would say that any hiccups we had Mike, who helped helped who helped us out on this purchase, did a did a great job with, you know, a soon as stuff came out of underwriting. Soon as underwriting came back with a message, he would reach out to me and anything we needed, we would get. We did a good job together. Me being an insider, of documenting everything up front that we needed Thio. So any letters of explanation and any sort of thing like that, I’d say that the biggest hiccup was probably and especially right now with Kobe, it was the appraiser. So you way had required a desktop appraisal on this purchase, which is essentially a drive by appraisal. Now, typically, you know, in any other market, a normal market. I guess you might say you would have that appraiser reach out. They would be reaching out to the selling agent so the agent would know. Okay. The appraiser has seen the property. They’re out here
[00:06:25] Paul Sian: there physically walked in the property, right? And almost like a home inspection,
[00:06:28] Walt Wollet: right? And so that didn’t happen with this purchase, I guess. I think he pulled. He might have pulled into the back, you know, a little bit and checked out some of the buildings and took off, right. Um and then and then the appraisal came back. Luckily, was all good, but I think one of the hiccups was just that. That that cellar not knowing that the that the appraisal was done and that the seller’s agent not knowing. And that kind of elevated there, um, anxiety, right?
[00:06:55] Paul Sian: E, remember talking with the seller’s agent, basically, you know? Hey, when’s the appraisal happening? And, you know, I asked, I did ask the agent. You know, did they praise will call you and that kind of send up red flag on her part unintentionally because, you know, they won’t be contacting her. They would just be driving by, you know, looking at the back of building or looking, walking the building that really get, you know, looking to get inside the building.
[00:07:20] Walt Wollet: But as far as just just hiccups now and generally on in this market with loans is ah, big thing I talked to with my team and my manager all the time is just getting things in is clean and as clear as possible, you know? So what I think a lot of especially first time clients don’t understand is you cannot tell me that your student loan payment is this when really, it’s this and you cannot You cannot say that you make this much money when really you make this much money and every little detail of that application is gonna be verified and is gonna be put through extreme due diligence. So with that said, you know, like where when where we run into problems or where any lender will run into problems is when the story changes, you know? So it Z okay, we’re calculating, you know, 40 hours a week for your income, and then we get you know, the verification of employment back. And it’s it’s 32 you know, a week. Um, even though your recent pay stub stay safe 40 like, you know, those kind of issues I think everyone runs into and deals with, and it’s just like we have to have it perfect, you know? So if we’re talking about homeowners insurance numbers up front and this is what they are, and this is what you know, this is what they need to be. Then that’s what it is, you know. So we can’t I guess we can’t have, you know, radical changes in process or else you’re gonna have a loan that goes on forever and ever.
[00:08:45] Paul Sian: Yeah. So make sure you, you know, you’re dot your I’s cross your T’s and making sure the information is 100% correct. I mean, probably one of the best ways to do that is, you know, go on your own, pull your own credit report. Make sure you see all your accounts. Kinda like you had mentioned the beginning. Take a look at all your debts and and your assets as well. You know, make sure all your income is properly documented. Make sure all that’s documented. You know, the numbers that you’re reporting are what you’re being, what it is being reported to the lender that way. It you know, it’s smoother process underwriting is gonna have less less questions and you know you’re the one will go through easier,
[00:09:20] Walt Wollet: definitely. And one thing that I advise a lot of people to is I like to have, if possible, if time permits have that credit conversation with the clients up front. So even, you know, two weeks before they’re ready to shop, you know, even months before ideally, we talk about the credit and that there was a There was a case recently with a friend of mine, a client who’s a doctor, and he had mentioned, though I you know, I have this collection from this utility and I don’t know where it came from. And you know, there’s there’s laws that debt collectors and that people have to follow. And a lot of times you know what we’re seeing in the world, right is with with corruption and people not following rules and people not doing what they need to dio Ah, lot of times you as a consumer and you do you have rights to dispute that and toe thio and try to clean up that information yourself. The, uh, credit bureaus have legally every year have to send you a copy of your credit report if you request it so and I always advise people to do that, definitely
[00:10:21] Paul Sian: take a look at it. It mentioned fees earlier. We talked about a little bit about lenders fees and let’s talk a little bit more. I mean, what? We have your base fees that the the these other, like government sponsored entities, so to speak, the Fannie Mae Freddie Mac’s that they have charged. What sort of extra fees are you know, Banks, tacking on the loan and whatever. I guess what? Some of the reasons for these fees
[00:10:45] Walt Wollet: so every every loan requires people that work on it. So one thing is, is that I always say is you know, I would advise consumers toe, look at different lenders and talk to different people Now, I’ll tell you right now that cheaper is definitely definitely, definitely not always better. And a lot of times there are lenders out there that you know they’re overpriced and they’re at the top of the market and they know it, um, and so I guess there’s a There’s a huge discrepancy between fees in various programs and various lenders, and it’s just a matter of going and asking those questions. Okay? What is you know, why is the processing fee this why, you know, what’s this underwriting fee? And then it’s always okay to ask. Well, hey, is there anything we can we can do about this? So in my case, when it comes toe the fees or the stuff that I that I had to pay for it. So you know, certain things that the bank paid for because I’m an employee, which is a great benefit to us. Um, you know, help me, Help me, you know, save money. As I bought this place, one thing that a lot of buyers don’t think about is all those incidental fees. So every home inspection is 4 to $500. You know, every, um, you know, just just buying garbage cans out here was $150 you know? So there’s these. There’s these costs that come up, you know, the wax seal on the toilet stuff will come up, and you just have to make sure that you have that budget it in and that you’re prepared for those expenses. And so, like we you know, a lot of times if there’s multiple people living in a house and it’s it’s one person on the loan, you know, like that’s when I’ll look at it and be like Okay, well, you know, really, there’s three people that are gonna be living in this house. Three people sharing expenses. It’s different. Um, but those kind of loans are are always more difficult, you know? So you really want to make sure that, um, you understand all the costs involved, Especially if you’re especially if your debt to income ratio is higher as it is because you have a lot more expenses. So,
[00:12:54] Paul Sian: yeah, we’re talking about those fees. I mean, it’s almost example is some of the car dealers used car dealers or even new car dealers? I mean, you know, the you get through the negotiation process you got, you got the price on the car, and then you go talk to the finance finance manager quote unquote. And that’s where they you know, they start trying to tack in all these, you know? Hey, let me let me throw this warranty on you. Let me throw, you know, non, you know, payment protection in case you’re disabled. Campaign and So that’s where they start packing in things, packing their basically fees. You know, they’re fattening the bottom line of the car dealer, of course. And you know, that’s that’s part of their job. But you know, the same time to as consumers, our job is to look at that critically and say, You know, do I really need that? You know, Do I need a no payment fee? You know, because I’m disabled. I’m not currently working, but at the same time to, you know, turn around, look at your auto insurance or look at your homeowners insurance. Are they providing some similar coverage that you know that you would need or you know would would avoid? And least in that case, in the autos auto example, It’s not so clear cut. You always don’t have that type of thing. You know you’re homeowners insurance. Not necessary gonna cover you. You know, if you can’t, you can’t pay the mortgage, but there might be other, some other benefit or some other protection. You know, your employer might be offering something for you too, you know. Why pay the extra fee to the lender. You know, when it’s saving you money and they’re just trying to pad their bottom line versus, you know, you’re trying to save your dollar and you know, it’s a long term purchase you’re investing for, you know, 2030 years. Mawr costs them or the higher the interest rate. I mean, the more you’re paying overtime,
[00:14:35] Walt Wollet: and that’s why it’s so. It’s so important up front. You have, You have power is a consumer, you know, like and lenders, you know, if if any lender doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t wanna be competitive. That za red flag, probably. You know, so especially with with us in the bigger banks, you know, we we have you know, we did until, you know, kind of some of the, you know, the new fee with Fannie and Freddie for refinances, um, kind of cut into our margins a little bit. But, you know, we’re willing, toe, do you know we’re willing to do whatever we can do toe win business, you know? But at the same time, we have to pay people off a fair wage and we employ Americans, you know, So that Z you know, that can can be a difference, right? But it’s just a matter of like weighing, weighing out things. You know different. You know this. This lender might have the best deal, but they might take a really long time to get it done. You know this lender there there really fast, But they’re very expensive, you know? And what’s the What’s the trade off? And so you know, it’s always good toe talk to multiple people about that to gain a broader understanding for yourself.
[00:15:46] Paul Sian: How are they giving those fees? I mean, I’m presuming you need to get a credit report. Run right, Okay. And then how how big of an impact is that? You know, you’re getting multiple credit reports. Let’s say I talkto 34 lenders and I say, Okay, go ahead, run my credit if I, if I do it over the same day or a couple of months, is a big difference.
[00:16:05] Walt Wollet: So as as Faras a assed faras, a hit on the credit report. Yes, it’s it’s 30 days, so you’re allowed. What sends a red flag to the to the bureau’s is when you shop for a bunch of different things. So say that when I was buying this house, I also have my credit pulled for a car and I had my credit pull it for a tractor on and I did all this financing stuff. Well, my credit score, which just start to tank because it’s because the way the agencies that their algorithms or reading that is this person doesn’t have any cash right there. They’re financing everything you know. Here’s another credit card inquiry, so it’s all within that 30 day window. So you legally you get your credit pulled once with a lender, and then you have 30 days and you could have the credit polled, so long as it’s a mortgage inquiry and not any sort of general finance inquiry. And it’s how they’re coded to the to the actual credit providers, right? But so long as it’s a mortgage inquiry, it only it’s only gonna count is one hard inquiry. So you you’re you’re the credit agencies. They don’t wanna dissuade people from shopping for mortgages because we need to have a fair, you know, a fair and ethical mortgage market. Um, and it and it iss you know it. It’s definitely better than at what I’ve heard about, you know, from from some of the people I work with in before 2000 and eight. Right? But, um,
[00:17:30] Paul Sian: but comparison comparison shopping is, uh, could be a big saver. I mean, you know, thousands upon thousands over the life of the loan. Definitely going back. Now, we’re going back to your own personal experience looking. You know, hindsight is 2020 looking back at the whole process. Is there something you think you could have done better? That you know, would be good advice for somebody else?
[00:17:51] Walt Wollet: Yeah, I think I am. I think I probably I probably should have paid off all my all my dead sooner, you know? So that was that was one thing is I really, um
[00:18:05] Paul Sian: when you say sooner, how much sooner? And say prior to applying the loan. How much quicker should you have done
[00:18:12] Walt Wollet: that? So just as an example, I had There’s a company. There’s a rental verification company, and I pay them a fee toe, add toe, add my rental trade lines to my credit report, and those were not added before my credit report was pulled. So just like things like that that I had done to strengthen my credit profile in my score, they weren’t reported, right. And then I paid off all my cards, like I said, but some of them were still reporting balances when we pulled s. So it was kind of like take
[00:18:45] Paul Sian: 30 to 60 days for some companies report.
[00:18:47] Walt Wollet: Exactly. And so And here’s what I found out is that you most companies will offer what’s called off cycle reporting so you can call them like, Hey, I’m you know, I’m gonna get my credit pulled for, you know, this investment property loan. And I just paid off this credit card. I’d like it to report. And so some of them were honest with me, and they’re like, Oh, well, yeah, we can report And they did, and others said they did, but they didn’t. And it’s just the nature of, you know, the nature of it. So I would I would say a lot of that stuff. I would I would just, you know, I would just get it done as soon as possible. If you know, you know, if you know that, that’s gonna happen. Like I had my I had my credit pull twice for this home purchase. Um, because the original credit report expired right. Um, and I did that in February, you know? So I knew in February like, Okay, that’s what my actual score is. And then I use that credit report to attack the, you know, some of the balances and anything. Any other derogatory is that we’re keeping my score lower than where where I wanted it to be. Okay, so
[00:19:50] Paul Sian: all great advice and all great conversation. So I appreciate you taking the time to be on this podcast with me. Any final thoughts?
[00:19:59] Walt Wollet: Um, I, uh I just I just say everyone stay safe out there. And, um, you know, it’s just like with with what we’re talking about with with lenders, you know, and with getting different opinions and different perspectives in the world right now, that is what I would advise everyone to dio, you know, So, ah, lot of people there usedto watching CNN. They’re used to watching Fox News. They get their perspectives in their opinions, you know, from this one place. And I think that, you know, especially right now, is as you know, things were kind of, you know, getting getting a little crazy
[00:20:38] Paul Sian: up in the air,
[00:20:39] Walt Wollet: right? We need we need to All kind of, like, you know, realize that that everyone’s a person and that, you know, people are people and that we just way have to We have to do a better job working together. We have to hold our leaders accountable in this country.
[00:20:55] Paul Sian: We’re in this together basically,
[00:20:56] Walt Wollet: right, you know, And then and then that’s that’s all I That’s that’s all I would say to people is just and especially if you’re working with mortgage lenders right now, we’re all you know. We’re all stressed out and we’re swamped. And, you know, your I promise you you’re not the only client you know. So it’s like, you know, just just be patient with people. Um, you know, there’s a lot of people that that, you know, behind the scenes that work on these loans and your your loan originator eyes going to do their best for you. But a lot of times things, things happen. Unfortunately, and you know, you just need to take it as a learning experience and move forward. And I think that’s what our country needs to do with, uh, a lot of this craziness right now
[00:21:38] Paul Sian: wholeheartedly agree in the awesome advice. Thanks again for being on
[00:21:42] Walt Wollet: awesome. Thank you, Paul.
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Recover From a Holiday Binge With a Spending Freeze
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Got Cash? What to Do with Extra Money
I received a great email from Magen L., who says:
I no longer have any retirement savings because I cashed it all out to pay my debt. We also sold our home and moved into an apartment just as the pandemic was hitting. With the sale of our house, the fact that my husband is working overtime, and the stimulus money, we've saved nearly $10,000 and should have more by the end of the year. My primary question is, what should we do with it?
Right now, I have our extra money in a low-interest bank savings [account], and I'm considering moving it to a high-yield savings [account] as our emergency fund. Is that a good idea? For additional money we save, I intend to use it as a down payment on a new house. However, should I be investing in Roth IRAs instead? What is the best option?
Another question comes from Bianca G., who says:
I have zero credit card debt, but I have a car loan and a student loan. I will be receiving a large amount of money sometime next year. If my fiancÃ© and I want to buy a home, is it better to pay off my car first and then my student loan, or should I just pay down a big portion of my student loan?
Thanks Megan and Bianca for your questions. I'll answer them and give you a three-step plan to prioritize your extra money and make your finances more secure. No matter if you're a good saver or you get a cash windfall from a tax refund, an inheritance, or the sale of a home, extra money should never be squandered.
What to do with extra cash
Maybe you're like Magen and have extra cash that could be working harder for you, but you're not sure what to do with it. You may even be paralyzed and do nothing because you have a deep-seated fear of making a big mistake with your cash.
In some cases, having your money sit idle is precisely the right financial move. But it depends on whether or not you've accomplished three fundamental financial goals, which we'll cover.
To know the right way to manage extra cash, you need to step back and take a holistic view of your entire financial life.
To know the right way to manage extra cash, you need to step back and take a holistic view of your entire financial life. Consider what you're doing right and where you're vulnerable.
Try using a three-pronged approach that I call the PIP plan, which stands for:
- Prepare for the unexpected
- Invest for the future
- Pay off high-interest debt
Let's examine each one to understand how to use the PIP (prepare, invest, and pay off) approach for your situation.
How to prepare for the unexpected
The first fundamental goal you should have is to prepare for the unexpected. As you know, life is full of surprises. Some of them bring happiness, but there's an infinite number of devastating events that could hurt you financially.
In an instant, you could get fired from your job, experience a natural disaster, get a severe illness, or lose a spouse. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we have to be as mentally, physically, and financially prepared as possible for what may be around the corner.
While no amount of money can reverse a tragedy, having safety nets can protect your finances. That makes coping with a tragedy easier.
Getting equipped for the unexpected is an ongoing challenge. Your approach should change over time because it depends on your income, debt, number of dependents, and breadwinners in a family.
While no amount of money can reverse a tragedy, having safety nets—such as an emergency fund and various types of insurance—can protect your finances. That makes coping with a tragedy easier.
Everyone should accumulate an emergency fund equal to at least three to six months' worth of their living expenses. For instance, if you spend $3,000 a month on essentials—such as housing, utilities, food, and debt payments—make a goal to keep at least $9,000 in an FDIC-insured bank savings account.
While keeping that much in savings may sound boring, the goal for an emergency fund is safety, not growth. The idea is to have immediate access to your cash when you need it. That's why I don't recommend investing your emergency money unless you have more than a six-month reserve.
The goal for an emergency fund is safety, not growth.
If you don't have enough saved, aim to bridge the gap over a reasonable period. For instance, you could save one half of your target over two years or one third over three years. You can put your goal on autopilot by creating an automatic monthly transfer from your checking into your savings account.
Megan mentioned using high-yield savings, which can be a good option because it pays a bit more interest for large balances. However, the higher rate typically comes with limitations, such as applying only to a threshold balance, so be sure to understand the account terms.
Insurance protects your finances
Another critical aspect of preparing for the unexpected is having enough of the right kinds of insurance. Here are some policies you may need:
- Auto insurance if you drive your own or someone else's vehicle
- Homeowners insurance, which is typically required when you have a mortgage
- Renters insurance if you rent a home or apartment
- Health insurance, which pays a portion of your medical bills
- Disability insurance replaces a percentage of income if you get sick or injured and can no longer work
- Life insurance if you have dependents or debt co-signers who would suffer financial hardship if you died
RELATED: How to Create Foolproof Safety Nets
How to invest for your future
Once you get as prepared as possible for the unexpected by building an emergency fund and getting the right kinds of insurance, the next goal I mentioned is investing for retirement. That’s the “I” in PIP, right behind prepare for the unexpected.
Investments can go down in value—you should never invest money you can’t live without.
While many people use the terms saving and investing interchangeably, they’re not the same. Let’s clarify the difference between investing and saving so you can think strategically about them:
Saving is for the money you expect to spend within the next few years and don’t want to risk losing it. In other words, you save money that you want to keep 100% safe because you know you’ll need it or because you could need it. While it won’t earn much interest, you’ll be able to tap it in an instant.
Investing is for the money you expect to spend in the future, such as in five or more years. Purchasing an investment means you’re exposing money to some amount of risk to make it grow. Investments can go down in value; therefore, you should never invest money you can’t live without.
In general, I recommend that you invest through a qualified retirement account, such as a workplace plan or an IRA, which come with tax benefits to boost your growth. My recommendation is to contribute no less than 10% to 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement.
Magen mentioned Roth IRAs, and it may be a good option for her to rebuild her retirement savings. For 2020, you can contribute up to $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re over age 50, to a traditional or a Roth IRA. You typically must have income to qualify for an IRA. However, if you’re married and file taxes jointly, a non-working spouse can max out an IRA based on household income.
For workplace retirement plans, such as a 401(k), you can contribute up to $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re over 50 for 2020. Some employers match a certain percent of contributions, which turbocharges your account. That’s why it’s wise to invest enough to max out any free retirement matching at work. If your employer kicks in matching funds, you can exceed the annual contribution limits that I mentioned.
RELATED: A 5-Point Checklist for How to Invest Money Wisely
How to pay off high-interest debt
Once you're working on the first two parts of my PIP plan by preparing for the unexpected and investing for the future, you're in a perfect position also to pay off high-interest debt, the final "P."
Always tackle your high-interest debts before any other debts because they cost you the most. They usually include credit cards, car loans, personal loans, and payday loans with double-digit interest rates. Remember that when you pay off a credit card that charges 18%, that's just like earning 18% on an investment after taxes—pretty impressive!
Remember that when you pay off a credit card that charges 18%, that's just like earning 18% on an investment after taxes—pretty impressive!
Typical low-interest loans include student loans, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit. These types of debt also come with tax breaks for some of the interest you pay, making them cost even less. So, don't even think about paying them down before implementing your PIP plan.
Getting back to Bianca's situation, she didn't mention having emergency savings or regularly investing for retirement. I recommend using her upcoming cash windfall to set these up before paying off a low-rate student loan.
Let's say Bianca sets aside enough for her emergency fund, purchases any missing insurance, and still has cash left over. She could use some or all of it to pay down her auto loan. Since the auto loan probably has a higher interest rate than her student loan and doesn't come with any tax advantages, it's wise to pay it down first.
Once you've put your PIP plan into motion, you can work on other goals, such as saving for a house, vacation, college, or any other dream you have.
Questions to ask when you have extra money
Here are five questions to ask yourself when you have a cash windfall or accumulate savings and aren’t sure what to do with it.
1. Do I have emergency savings?
Having some emergency money is critical for a healthy financial life because no one can predict the future. You might have a considerable unexpected expense or lose income.
Without emergency money to fall back on, you're living on the edge, financially speaking. So never turn down the opportunity to build a cash reserve before spending money on anything else.
2. Do I contribute to a retirement account at work?
Getting a windfall could be the ticket to getting started with a retirement plan or increasing contributions. It's wise to invest at least 10% to 15% of your gross income for retirement.
Investing in a workplace retirement plan is an excellent way to set aside small amounts of money regularly. You'll build wealth for the future, cut your taxes, and maybe even get some employer matching.
3. Do I have an IRA?
Don't have a job with a retirement plan? Not a problem. If you (or a spouse when you file taxes jointly) have some amount of earned income, you can contribute to a traditional or a Roth IRA. Even if you contribute to a retirement plan at work, you can still max out an IRA in the same year—which is a great way to use a cash windfall.
4. Do I have high-interest debt?
If you have expensive debt, such as credit cards or payday loans, paying them down is the next best way to spend extra money. Take the opportunity to use a windfall to get rid of high-interest debt and stay out of debt in the future.
5. Do I have other financial goals?
After you’ve built up your emergency fund, have money flowing into tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and are whittling down high-interest debt, start thinking about other financial goals. Do you want to buy a house? Go to graduate school? Send your kids to college?
How to manage a cash windfall
Review your financial situation at least once a year to make sure you’re still on track.
When it comes to managing extra money, always consider the big picture of your financial life and choose strategies that follow my PIP plan in order: prepare for the unexpected, invest for the future, and pay off high-interest debt.
Review your situation at least once a year to make sure you’re still on track. As your life changes, you may need more or less emergency money or insurance coverage.
When your income increases, take the opportunity to bump up your retirement contribution—even increasing it one percent per year can make a huge difference.
And here's another important quick and dirty tip: when you make more money, don't let your cost of living increase as well. If you earn more but maintain or even decrease your expenses, you'll be able to reach your financial goals faster.
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