The Baby Steps Explained, And Why They Work!

These are the steps that introduced me and my husband to what financial independence is and for that I am eternally grateful. But a lot of important considerations get looked over if you just find a list of the steps…

The post The Baby Steps Explained, And Why They Work! appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible?

The average couple has a number of topics to discuss on their to-do list before heading to the altar. The least romantic topics, if they even make the list at all, are probably concerning debt and the possibility of divorce. If you foresee a divorce in your future or are currently going through one, it’s safe to say that you have some burning questions about your finances. Perhaps you and your spouse acquired some debt during the course of your marriage and you’re now wondering who is going to be responsible for what. While it’s important to note that each situation is unique, there are some ground rules in the Divorced with Debt arena. In the below sections, we’ll address the usual ways in which debt is divided up between each spouse.

Community Property vs. Common Law Property Rules

If you’re trying to figure out what debts you will be responsible post-divorce, you will first need to know if you live in an equitable distribution state that follows common law or if you live in a community property state. When it comes to debt and the divorce process, most states follow common law for property, meaning that following a divorce, each ex-spouse will be held responsible for the debt that they took on. In a community property state, both spouses, considered to be the “community,” may both end up equally responsible for debt that incurred throughout the marriage, known as “community debt.” The following states are Community Property States:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Most of the time, the banks aren’t interested in how the courts decide to split up your debt. Even after a divorce, the original contract or credit card agreement will typically overrule a divorce decree. This means that if the original agreement was set up under your spouse’s name, the banks are going to expect the payments to be as such. As you can imagine, this could potentially cause problems with an ex-spouse who is being asked to pay off debt that is not under their name, or at least under a joint account.

To put it into perspective, let’s imagine that the court orders your ex-spouse to make payments on credit card debt under your name. If your ex neglects to make the payments on time, it’s going to have an effect on your credit report. The good news is that if this happens, you have a right to pursue legal action against your former spouse for not following court orders. However, it’s possible that by the time legal action is taken, your credit score may already be damaged.

Prenuptial agreements will affect these outcomes as well. Depending on yours and your spouse’s marital assets, the debt in question will vary. Here are the typical categories of debt that are affected during divorce proceedings:

  • Credit Card Debt
  • Mortgage Debt
  • Auto Loan Debt
  • Medical Debt

Credit Card Debt

It’s possible that you could be responsible for your former spouse’s credit card debt, but it’s not likely. If you have a joint account, then the outcomes may vary. Usually, marital debt is considered to be any debt that was created during the time of the marriage. So if you racked up credit card debt under a joint account, expect that both of you will be equally responsible for paying it off.

Mortgage Debt

If both spouses have their names on the mortgage, the easiest way of solving the mortgage debt is to sell the house and divide the earnings between both parties. It might be tempting to keep the home for a multitude of reasons, but at the end of the day, selling the property and splitting the money is usually the least complicated solution for everyone involved.

Once the house is on the market, it’s time to start communicating with your former spouse about who is going to be responsible for what amount. Come up with an agreement on who will pay which portion of the mortgage, so that neither parties’ credit score is negatively affected.

If selling the home and dividing the earnings isn’t a viable option for you and your ex, then one of you will end up fully responsible for the debt. In most cases, mortgage debt following a divorce is assigned to:

  • The spouse with the higher annual income.

OR

  • The spouse who gains full custody of the children.

When this happens, one spouse will have to buy out the other spouse’s equity in the property.

Car Loan Debt

When it comes to car loans, things become more complicated. If the car loan has both names on it, here are the two best options:

  • Refinance the car without your ex.
  • Propose automatic payments to come directly from your former spouse’s account.

Let’s say one person ends up with the car loan debt, but the other person was also on the loan as a cosigner. Unfortunately, if one spouse is held responsible for picking up the tab on a debt, and they neglect their payments, both parties can suffer those consequences.

Medical Debt

Each state has different laws surrounding medical debt and divorce agreements. If you live in a Community Property state, you might have to pay for your former spouse’s medical debt. However, if you live in a state that follows common law, the court will ultimately make the decision about who is responsible for what debt.

Pay off your debt before the divorce is finalized

 If you and your spouse can find a way to work out the kinks of your debt issues before the divorce is finalized, it’ll make things a lot easier in the long run. Work together to figure out who should be responsible for which debt, so that you can lower your chances of having to pay off a debt that isn’t yours.

If you’re working with credit card debt, one of you may need to transfer your credit card balance to a separate card. Consolidating your credit card balances is another common option when dividing debts.

Generally, credit card debt is going to be easier to deal with than the big things, like home loans and car loans. In many cases, couples who are going through a divorce will have to consider refinancing their loans under one party’s name.

Keep in mind that the original loan agreement supercedes the divorce agreement, so if you wait until your divorce is finalized, you might have a harder time moving things around. You can ask your lender to take your name off of an account and have it replaced with your former spouse’s name, but be prepared to provide the divorce decree as evidence. If it doesn’t work out this way, then seek legal advice from your divorce attorney about your options. Another common solution is to sell the asset in question and use the earnings to pay off the debt.

How your former spouse’s bankruptcy can affect you

If your ex-spouse isn’t able to keep up with the payments on their share of the debt, they might decide to file bankruptcy. This could cause problems for you if you didn’t choose to file as well.

Filing for bankruptcy does not erase the debts, instead it erases your ex-spouse’s liability for the debt. In this instance, you could find yourself in a situation where the creditor is now pursuing you for the debt. It’s also important that you check your credit report. Even if you weren’t the one who filed bankruptcy, it could still end up on your credit report.

Be cautious about any joint accounts you may still have open post-divorce. If you leave joint accounts open and your former spouse has access to them, he or she could potentially transfer balances from other accounts onto those ones. Safeguard your credit by paying off any debts you can manage to pay off ahead of time, so that you don’t have to worry about it later.

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System

The post The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

You have probably heard people talk about how to use a cash envelope budget to save money and help you get out of debt. But, what if you don’t want to use cash? Does that mean you can’t use envelopes? Nope. Not if you follow one of the cashless cash envelope methods available.

Cash Envelope system without cash

If you follow any money advice, you are usually taught about using cash and implementing the cash envelope system.  That is what I recommend here on our site.

As much as this is the perfect solution for our family (and one of the catalysts to help us kick-start our debt pay-off plan), I also understand this is not an option for everyone.  Even if you don’t use cash, you still should budget and spend as if you do.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

The way to do this is by using a cashless envelope system.  It is how to use cash envelopes without using cash.  The idea is simple, but there different ways to track it.

 

HOW DOES A CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM WORK?

The idea is the same as the regular cash envelope method.  You have a budget and need to ensure you don’t spend more than what you should.

Each pay period, you record the amount budgeted for each category onto your “envelope.”  As you spend, you keep track of it.  When you are out of money, you can’t spend anything else.

Using the cash envelope system without using cash can work – if you want it to.

 

WHY IS THIS METHOD BETTER?

When you are trying to get control of your finances, you need to know where you spend.  The best way to do this is to track your spending.  Not tracking after you spend – but as you purchase.

Most of the time, you swipe your card without worry.  This action can easily throw your budget out of balance.

While using cash has emotion attached to it, tracking every purchase requires awareness.  You are always watching what you spend and where.  There are no surprises that you spent $250 on groceries when the budget was $200.  You see it happening right in front of you.

The cashless envelope system works because:

  1. You don’t have to worry about carrying or getting cash.
  2. It forces you to track of your spending in real time.
  3. You can see exactly where your money goes and make budget adjustments as needed.

The cashless envelope system forces you to be more responsible for your spending without the hassle of carrying money.

 

CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEMS TO TRY

When you are ready to try a cashless system, you need to determine which is the best for you.  You can find one on your phone, or there is also a printable option.

 

CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE APP

There are several apps that claim they can help you keep track of your spending with virtual envelopes. If you have found one that works well for you, then I say keep using it!  But, if you are new to this idea – or want something new – the one I recommend is Mvelopes.

Mvelopes has three different plan levels, starting as low as $4 a month.  You can use the one that best suits your needs.  If you are new to the platform, I recommend starting out with the basic plan.

To start, you will add the app to your phone  — or you can use their online site (which I love).  Once you do that, you sync your various accounts.  Make certain to include the cards you will use for your various categories.

For example, you may charge every purchase to your credit card to earn rewards or cash back.  If this is you, you will connect your credit card.  Some may use the debit card for some purchases and a credit card for others.  Those of you who do this will connect both cards to your account.

Once that is done, you set up your online envelopes and add budgeted amounts to each.  Then, you just swipe as usual.  Every time you make a purchase, the purchase amount is deducted from your online envelope.  With a couple of swipes, you see not only how much you have left to spend, but even where you spent your money.  There is no guessing.

This system helps you give every dollar a job.  You know where it will go even before you spend it.  Using Mvelopes puts you back in control.

If you want or need even more help, Mvelopes has other plans that you can purchase.  They offer the Mvelopes PLUS plan for $19 per month.  This service includes all of the services available under the basic plan but also helps you tackle your debt.  You even receive you a personal finance trainer who will visit with you once per quarter.  This plan helps you set and achieve your financial goals.

Should you need more one-on-one help, you may want to consider the Mvelopes Complete package instead.  You get all of the benefits of the Plus plan but receive your own, one-on-one finance trainer.  This coach works with you to help you achieve your financial goals.  You aren’t left alone to figure things out as there is someone right there, guiding you along the way.

As I said you don’t need to purchase one of the larger plans as the basic plan will meet most people’s needs. However, it is great to have these options available at your fingertips.

Related:   The Best Apps for Your Budget

 

CASHLESS ENVELOPE PRINTABLE

Apps are great, but there are times when you would rather have the simplicity of writing something down rather than having to pull it up on your phone.  That’s where the printable cashless envelopes come in handy.

These work in the same way as regular envelopes — just without cash.  Print them off and keep them handy.  Record the budgeted amount for that category at the top.  Then, as you spend, keep track of it.  Jot down every purchase and keep a running total of how much you have left to spend.

I get that it is a pain to keep track of “cents”, so I recommend you round up.  For example, if your grocery budget is $200 and you spend $105.74, record that you spend $106 and have $94 left to spend.  That is MUCH easier than keeping track down to the penny.  (Truth be told, this is what I do with our cash envelopes too).

Once you reach your spending limit, then you are done with that category!  If you budget $100 for dining out and there is just $5 left, don’t pick up that coffee and cake for $7 – or you will have just busted your budget!  If you find that you are always out of money for select categories, or often have money left over for others, then it may be time to make adjustments to your budget.

printable cashless cash envelopes

Grab your cashless envelope printables.  Now, I don’t recommend you print this onto regular paper, as that is really thin and will tear easily. Purchase card stock to use to print out your cashless envelopes as they will be more durable.

Related:  How to Figure Out How Much Money to Budget For Groceries

 

Even if you don’t want to use cash, it is still essential that you continue to track your spending, so you never exceed your budget.

cashless envelope system

The post The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

I've received several questions from Money Girl podcast listeners about paying off credit card debt. It's a fundamental goal because carrying card balances come with high interest, a waste of your financial resources. Instead of paying money to card companies, it's time to use it to build wealth for yourself.

7 Strategies to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

1. Stop making new card charges

If you're carrying card balances from month-to-month, it's essential to understand what it costs you. As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

The first step to improving any area of your life is to acknowledge your mistakes, and financing a lifestyle you can't afford using a credit card is a biggie. So, stop making new charges until you take control of your cards and can pay them off in full each month.

As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

Yes, reining in your card spending will probably require sacrifices. Consider ways to earn extra income, such as starting a side gig, finding a better-paying job, or selling your unused stuff. Also, look for ways to cut costs by downsizing your home, vehicle, memberships, or unnecessary expenses.

2. Consider your big financial picture

Before you decide to pay off credit card debt aggressively, look at the "big picture" of your financial life. Consider any other debts or obligations you should prioritize, such as a tax delinquency, legal judgment, or unpaid child support. The next debts to pay off are those already in default or turned over to a collection agency.

In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

Assuming you don't have any debts in default, focus your attention on your emergency fund … or lack of one! I recommend maintaining a minimum of six months' worth of your living expenses on hand. In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

3. Make more than the minimum payment

Many people who can pay more than their monthly minimum card payment don't do it. The problem is that minimums go mostly toward interest and don't reduce your balance significantly.

For example, let's assume your card charges 15% APR, you have a $5,000 balance, and you never make another purchase on the card. If your minimum payment is 4% of your card balance, it will take you 10½ years to pay off. And here's the worst part—you'd have paid almost $2,400 in interest!

4. Target debts with the highest interest rates first

Make a list of all your debts, including credit cards, lines of credit, and loans. Include your balances owed and interest rates charged. Then rank your liabilities in order of highest to lowest interest rate.

Getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most.

Remember that the higher a debt's interest rate, the more it costs you in interest per dollar of debt. So, getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most. Then you can use the savings to pay more on your next highest interest debt and so on.

If you have several credit cards, evaluate them the same way—tackle them in order of highest to lowest interest rate to get the most bang for your buck. And if a credit card isn't the most expensive debt you have, make it a lower priority.

In general, debts that come with a tax deduction such as mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and student loans, should be paid off last. Not only do those types of debt have relatively low interest rates, but when some or all of the interest is tax-deductible, they cost you even less on an after-tax basis.

5. Use your assets to pay off cards

If you have assets such as savings and non-retirement investments that you could use to pay down high-interest credit cards, it may make sense. Just remember that you still need a healthy cash reserve, such as six months' worth of living expenses.

If you don't have any or enough emergency money saved, don't dip into your savings to pay off credit card debt. Also, consider what you could sell—such as unused sporting goods, jewelry, or a vehicle—to raise cash and increase your financial cushion.

6. Consider using a balance transfer card

If you can’t pay off credit card debt using existing assets, consider optimizing it by moving it from higher- to lower-interest options. That won’t make your debt disappear, but it will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Balance transfers won’t make your debt disappear, but they will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Using a balance transfer credit card is a common way to optimize debt temporarily. You receive a promotional offer during a set period if you move debt to the account. By transferring higher-interest debt to a lower- or zero-interest card, you save money and use it to pay down the balance faster.

7. Consolidate your high-rate balances

I received a question from Sarah F., who says, “I love your podcast and turn to it for a lot of my financial questions. I have credit card debt and am wondering if it’s a good idea to get a personal loan to pay it down, or is that a scam?”

And Rachel K. says, "I love listening to your podcasts and am focused on becoming more financially fit this year. I have a couple of credit cards with high interest rates. Would it be wise for me to consolidate them to a lower interest rate? If so, will it hurt my credit?" 

Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

Thanks to Sarah and Rachel for your questions. Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan is not a scam but a legitimate way to shift debt to a lower interest rate.

Having an additional loan added to your credit history helps you build credit if you make payments on time. It also works in your favor by reducing your credit utilization ratio when you reduce your credit card debt.

If you qualify for a low-rate personal loan, here are some benefits you get from debt consolidation:

  • Cutting your interest expense
  • Getting a fixed rate and term (such as 6% APR for 60 months with monthly payments of $600)
  • Having one monthly debt payment
  • Building credit

A couple of downsides of using a personal loan to consolidate debt include:

  • Being tempted to continue making credit card charges
  • Having potentially higher monthly loan payments (compared to minimum credit card payments)

While it may seem counterintuitive to use new debt to get out of old debt, it all comes down to the interest rate. Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

What should you do after paying off a credit card?

Credit cards come with many benefits, such as purchase protection, convenience, and rewards. Don't forget that they're also powerful tools for building credit when used responsibly. If maintaining good credit is one of your goals, I recommend that you keep a paid-off card open instead of canceling it.

You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To maintain or improve your credit, you must have credit accounts open in your name, and you must use them regularly. Making small purchases charges from time to time that you pay off in full and on time is enough to add positive data to your credit reports. You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To learn more about building credit and getting out of debt, check out Laura’s best-selling online classes:

  • Build Better Credit—The Ultimate Credit Score Repair Guide
  • Get Out of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Is Being Debt Free Worth it?

I had a great talk with Millennial Money Man yesterday and my favorite piece of advice he gave me was to “write what you’re passionate about.” It took me literally five seconds to think of the one thing I’m really passionate…

The post Is Being Debt Free Worth it? appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

If you’re constantly getting hassled by debt collectors, you might be left feeling helpless and anxious. Maybe you’ve thought about putting an end to these relentless phone calls but didn’t know how. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) exists to protect us from unfair and abusive debt collection practices. 

In the following sections, we will discuss the FDCPA in greater detail so that you can feel better equipped to deal with debt collectors. If your situation fits the criteria, there may be something you can do about it.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) places restrictions on how third-party debt collectors act to handle situations in which they are trying to collect debts owed to another person or entity. 

This federal law limits the ways that collectors are legally allowed to make contact with those who owe. These restrictions include rules surrounding what time of day debt collectors are allowed to contact debtors as well as how many times they are allowed to contact them. 

If your rights, according to the FDCPA, have been violated, you have one year to file a lawsuit against the debt collection company as well as the individual debt collector. 

How the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Protects You

The FDCPA was established to protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices such as being called at odd hours of the night, being harassed, and being wrongly accused of owing a debt. This federal law puts control back in your hands so that you can feel more confident about your interactions with debt collectors.

Here are some of the ways that this law protects you:

You are in charge of the communication: You have the power to place restrictions on when and how you are contacted by debt collectors. By law: 

  • Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you at inappropriate times such as early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) or late at night (after 9 p.m.).
  • You can request to not be contacted while at work.
  • You may choose to have an attorney represent you, in which case, the debt collectors would have to communicate with them. 
  • Debt collectors are not allowed to discuss your debts with family members, employers, family, neighbors or other third parties. 

If you have any specific demands for how you want the communication to flow between you and the debt collectors, you will need to form a written request. Under the FDCPA, any requests made over the phone will not be valid. For some guidance on what your letter should look like, take a look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website to view some examples. 

Debt collectors can NOT harass or use abusive language/behavior towards you:  In the game of unpaid debts, things can get really ugly, really fast. No one likes to be asked to pay back money they owe over and over again, but there is a fine line between asking and harassment. It starts to become harassment once the debt collector starts to use misleading language or fear tactics in order to get you to do what they want. Some examples of this could include but are not limited to:

  • Using profanity.
  • Calling excessively and repeatedly.
  • Threats or violent language. 
  • Calling without properly identifying themselves. 

In many cases, this type of hostile behavior is indicative of a scam. The last thing you want to do is give your money to a scam debt collector. Be wary and observant of this so that you do not make this mistake. Jot down any instances where this behavior has occurred and use it to file your claim.  

Debt collectors must be honest: Debt collectors lying to you about how much you owe, what consequences you will face is something that the FDCPA does not tolerate. Debt collectors must not mislead or lie to you about:

  • How much you owe.
  • Whether or not it is past the statute of limitations.
  • Legal consequences/punishments if you do not pay. 
  • The company they are representing. 

Debt collectors are always obligated to be truthful about your debt situation, but they also have a right to say nothing at all. If you find yourself unable to get information from your debt collector, it might be in your best interest to seek out advice from a legal agency in your neighborhood.

Debt collectors have to play fair: In desperate situations, some debt collectors might resort to making threats to coerce you into paying your debts. Some examples of this type of behavior may include but are not limited to:

  • Asking you to write a postdated check to cover the debt.
  • Threatening to deposit or depositing your postdated check prior to its date. 
  • Threatening to take ownership of your assets as payment. 
  • Asking for and accepting more money than what is actually owed. 

Debt collectors are required to validate your debt: They will have to send you a validation letter to prove that you are responsible for the debt they are asking for. If you still feel like you need additional information, you may also request a verification letter. In accordance with the FDCPA, debt collectors have five days to send you a validation letter once they first make contact with you. The letter must state:

  • The amount of debt you owe.
  • The name of the creditor/entity that you owe payment to. 
  • That the collector will assume the debt is valid unless it is disputed during the allotted 30-day timeframe. 
  • That you are entitled to request additional information regarding the original creditor within 30 days of the first contact.
  • That if you choose to dispute the debt, you must submit a written request within 30 days. 

Final Thoughts

In the unfortunate circumstance that your rights are violated, you basically have two options. You can either file a complaint or sue the collection agency. Filing a complaint is pretty simple. In fact, a majority of the complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are regarding violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. 

The best thing you can do is keep a detailed record of the abusive practices to help prove your case. A lot of times, this malpractice occurs over the phone and can be hard to prove. Save evidence of all the phone calls, what time they took place, and notes about what was said. The more information you have about what happened, the better chance you have at proving your claim.

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com