Posts

Deep in Debt? Take These Drastic Steps

pennies We’ve heard a lot of discussion about the toxic assets held by our financial institutions. Here’s what hasn’t been explicitly stated too often – in order for these financial institutions to have toxic assets, many of us must be carrying toxic debt.

___

___

We’ve seen government at all levels, corporations, and yes, individuals borrow more and more money over the past few years. Many people now have this sinking feeling that they will never get out from under it all.

So today we want to talk about what to do if you have that feeling.

The King and Queen of Personal Finance

Cash is king again and credit score is queen. In the coming years, people with cash and a good credit score will have more options, be able to take advantage of more opportunities, and will experience less stress. Isn’t that a nice place to be?

A Timeless Principle Makes a Comeback

It requires discipline. It’s amazing how we can rationalize our purchasing decisions. If I can’t afford to buy it now without credit, why would I think that I can afford to pay for it later along with an exorbitant interest rate?

So we need to pay cash or don’t buy at all. Eliminate purchases on credit, even ones that promise “no interest, no payments” for some period of time. Of course, if you already have the money, and you’re just using their money, and you need the item … really need it … then go ahead and enjoy!

Two Important Financial Moves

Perhaps more so than at any time in our lives, we need to build up our emergency reserves. Financial planners have been saying it all along, for the most part. Many of us weren’t listening. Keep six to twelve months of living expenses in a readily-accessible reserve account just in case you need it.

Pay off almost all of your debt. You may not pay off your mortgage. You may even keep a car loan for a time. Get rid of all other debt; it’s robbing you of your future.

Then you’ll be ready to start looking for the tremendous opportunities that will be available to anyone with cash to invest.

Drastic Steps to Dispose of Toxic Debt

Drastic times call for drastic measures. These steps will not be easy. In fact, they will be uncomfortable at best. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of your debt, they are necessary.

Sit down and logically determine how quickly you could get out of debt, given the two exceptions we noted above. If it’s more than five years, even after considering the steps we’re about to outline, it’s probably best to seek professional help. Here are the steps:

Sell assets

Look around for anything that you don’t need, never needed, don’t use, or never used. Get rid of it and use the money to build up your cash reserves and/or pay off debt.

Get a second income

Get a part-time job or find a way to make some spare money. Even if it’s only $300, $400, or $500 a month, plowing this money into paying off high-interest debt will pay you bigg dividends in the future. This doesn’t have to be something to do forever, just do it until you get your financial situation shored up.

Cut back on contributions to your retirement plan

We always hesitate to suggest this because you’re robbing your future. Talk to your financial planner before you take this drastic step. But even with an employee match, it may be better to pay off high-cost debt. You may earn 30% by paying off a credit card, for example, and give yourself more room to maneuver through tough times and unexpected events.

Reduce housing costs

With the price of houses down in many markets and the continued lack of buyer demand, now probably isn’t the time to consider downsizing. However, analyze your specific situation because you might be surprised.

Another option might be to rent part of your home. Or find other ways to cut costs on your existing house. For example, property tax assessments will be going out in January. Check your assessment and the price of houses that have sold nearby to see if you can protest the value you’re being charged for.

Cut transportation costs

Could you get by with one less car? Could you take advantage of public transportation? Could you car pool? All of these ways put money in your pocket that can be used to build up cash and pay off debt. 

Stretch your dollars

We’ve covered the bigg ones, but it’s also important to look at all your other discretionary expenses. Many people have already cut back on dining out. Go even further – buy fewer prepared foods and cook meals yourself. Sure it will take more time, but it will save you money that can be used for stockpiling cash and knocking down debt.

Look for your recurring expenses – cable bills, cell phone bills, and everything else. Is there a way to make cuts?

Strive to stretch every penny you can out of every dollar you bring in so you get back on your feet and on track to being a bigg success!

___

Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success!
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

___

Next time, we’ll discuss the “must-haves” for your productivity tool kit. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00246-102008.mp3

Related posts

Squirrels, Nuts and Business Cycles

6 Easy Steps To Financial Freedom

Getting Aggressively Passive: Creating A Passive Income That Sets You Free

(Image by sufinawaz)

A Better Way to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

home_mortgageOver the years, a number of ways have been touted to pay off a mortgage early. Recently, we’ve seen a number of solicitations for a new way to do it.

The basic idea is to take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) with your chosen bank. You use this account like your primary checking account. You will pay all of your bills out of this account and deposit all of your income into it. Any left over money goes to pay off your mortgage.

——

——

The benefit is appealing – you may pay off your 30-year mortgage in as little as 10 years. Of course, if you have any other debt (e.g. credit card debt or car loan), it’s almost certain you should pay that off first.

We’re talking in generalities here; you and your financial planner can determine your best financial move based on your specific situation.

The pluses

We liked that the program we looked at included a great visual that showed you the exact month and year your mortgage would be paid off if you stuck with it. We also liked that you could easily see your money coming in and going out.

Using intuition

The example showed a rate of 6% on the first mortgage and an 8.6% rate on the HELOC. Intuitively, it didn’t make sense to us to borrow at 8.6% to pay down a 6% loan.

So we decided to do some calculations to see if our intuition was right.

New vs. old

We decided to compare this new way of paying down a mortgage to the oldest of the old ways – including an additional amount with each regularly-scheduled payment.

The example we looked at was for a couple who made $5,000 a month and had bills totaling $4,000 each month. They held a $200,000 mortgage, with a 30-year term, and an annual interest cost of 6%.

The main driver – with the old way or the new way – was the $1,000 in discretionary money each month. The new program also accessed the HELOC in the first or second month, but once again that money is being paid back at 8.6% instead of 6%.

Apples to oranges

We found that the new program lived up to its promise – you will pay less in interest over a 30-year period. The problem is that it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Their basic assumption is that you will use ALL of the $1,000 in discretionary money each month to pay down your mortgage if you are on their program. If not, you won’t use ANY of it – that is, you won’t pay down your mortgage OR invest it.

Apples to apples

So we decided to do our own comparison. We used the simple, old, do-it-yourself extra mortgage payments method – we added the $1,000 of discretionary income to our monthly mortgage payment.

The result?

We paid off all of our debt (which consisted of only a first mortgage) eleven months faster than they paid off theirs (which included the first mortgage and the HELOC)!

We found some of the assumptions about the timing of income and expenses questionable. With a more conservative approach, we would actually pay off all of our debt fourteen months faster using our old-fashioned strategy.

As for total interest savings, we would save between $10,989 and $24,210, depending on the timing of income and expenses discussed in the previous paragraph. This takes into account the cost of their software as well as a small annual fee on the HELOC.

Conclusions

In a strictly financial sense, the old-fashioned way is your best bet. However, it’s important to also consider the human side.

That’s where programs like this come into play – some people would be more likely to pay off a mortgage early because they could track their progress so easily.

Of course, you could set up one account yourself. With basic spreadsheet skills, you could set up a chart (or talk a friend into doing it for you) to show the effect of additional mortgage payments.

The bottom line – the old way is the better way if you’re looking to save the most money. But if you’re a little light on financial discipline, programs like this may be helpful.

Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

Next time, we’ll discuss a resource that great athletes wouldn’t do without … and neither should you. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Related posts

9 Questions to Answer Before You Make Extra Mortgage Payments 

(Image by svilen001)

I Need Money! Should I Borrow from my Retirement Plan?

balancingWe’ve been talking about money decisions in tough times and how it may affect your 401(k). We started by looking at cashing out a 401(k), which is the absolute last resort.

Next, we looked at cutting back on 401(k) contributions. This is a much better option than cashing out, but you should try to contribute up to the limit of your employer’s matching contribution. That’s found money so you’ll be thankful you did.

.

.

Now, we want to look at borrowing from your 401(k). The best advice we can give you on this is … don’t listen to us! Seriously, we can only talk about this in a general sense. So before you make a decision, talk with your professional financial advisor about the specifics of your situation. Then you can do what’s best for you with confidence.

There may be a better solution

Before you borrow from your 401(k), consider whether a home equity line-of-credit might be a better solution. You may already have one you can tap into. If not, consider applying for this type of loan instead of borrowing from your 401(k).

These loans are not as easy to get as they were a couple of years ago. You also won’t get as much of a line as you might have then because house values in many areas.

How much can you borrow?

If you decide a home equity line-of-credit isn’t your best bet, you can tap your 401(k) up to two times each year for money. It’s your money, so there’s you don’t need to be approved for the loan. You can borrow up to half of the vested portion of your portfolio, with a $50,000 limit.

Pay back is purgatory!

A loan from your 401(k) is a relatively inexpensive source of money. However, you’ll be paying the loan back with after-tax dollars (i.e the interest isn’t deductible). Compare that to a home equity line-of-credit, which is deductible in most cases.

In the eyes of the government, you and your 401(k) are two separate “entities”. So even though you think you’re borrowing from yourself, you’re not – you’re borrowing from your 401(k) so you have to pay it back within five years with an exception for first time homeowners who may have a longer payback term.

You can do that with each paycheck or you can do it in installments. You have to make a payment at least once every quarter. For example, if you borrowed $10,000, you would have 20 quarters to pay back the loan so you would have to pay $500 every quarter plus interest.

Of course, while you’re paying back the loan, you’ll have less money to spend every paycheck or every quarter, depending on which way you choose to pay back the loan. If things are tight now, what will they be like with even less free cash flow?

The other thing to consider about paying back your loan is that the dollars that were taken out of your portfolio are only earning whatever interest rate you’re paying. If that rate is less than what you could have earned if you kept it invested in your portfolio, you’re losing money you would have had at retirement.

No pay back is hell!

So it may be tempting to “borrow” the money and then not pay it back. In the government’s eyes, that’s the same as cashing out. So you’ll have to pay income taxes and, if you’re under 59½, you’ll also pay a 10 percent penalty. 

Analyzing the scenarios

The Center for American Progress Action Fund recently analyzed a number of scenarios [pdf]. Let’s look at the two extremes:

IF you take out a loan, pay it back with interest, and continue making your regular contributions, THEN there is almost no effect on your expected portfolio at retirement. In fact, in all the scenarios they considered under these conditions, there is less than a one percent difference in the end portfolio. Not so bad, huh?

But that ignores the fact that we’re borrowing money because we need it now. So we’re likely to cut back on our 401(k), if not stop making contributions altogether. That’s the double whammy.

IF you do that (i.e. the double whammy), THEN you can expect your savings at retirement to be as much as 22 percent less. 

What if …

Before you borrow, ask yourself some questions. For example, what if your company cuts back and you lose your job? Let’s spin it in a positive direction, what if you get a great job offer? You want to consider these scenarios as well before deciding if you want to borrow now.

Bottom line

Look for other ways to cut back on your spending. Even a little bit here and there can make a bigg difference. Consider temporarily cutting back on your contributions, but don’t dip below your employer’s match if you can possibly avoid it. Borrow if you must, but don’t cash out unless there is just no other alternative.

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.   

Related posts 

63 Moves to Stop Living from Paycheck to Paycheck

Don’t Make This Costly Mistake

(Image by srbichara)