Understanding Business Lines of Credit

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Our goal is to keep you in your home, foreclosure will only be considered after all other options have been exhausted.

We want you to have the facts about your options. There are several payment alternatives available that you may qualify for that may help you stay in your home.

Foreclosure is the legal process by which a lender takes possession of the mortgaged property when the borrower fails to make monthly payments in a timely way or otherwise violates the loan agreement. We never want to foreclose on a customer’s home. Only when all other options are exhausted will we initiate the foreclosure process. Foreclosure will affect your credit score and possibly your ability to obtain financing in the future.

The action of the lender to refrain from exercising a legal right, especially enforcing the payment of a debt. An example would be a temporary reduction or suspension of payments on a loan, followed by an arrangement to cure the delinquency.

Repayment Plan
This is a type of Forbearance in which an arrangement is reached to repay past due amounts over a period of time in conjunction with regular monthly mortgage payments.

One or more of your existing loan terms may be changed in order to help. This could include: a change in mortgage loan type (such as from an adjustable to a fixed), an extension of the mortgage terms, a step rate, capitalization of delinquent amounts, and/or reduction of your interest rate.

Partial Claims
For FHA Loans only, your lender may be able to work with you to obtain a one-time payment from the FHA Insurance Fund to bring your mortgage current.

Scam artists have stolen millions of dollars from distressed homeowners by promising immediate relief from foreclosure or demanding cash for counseling services when HUD-approved counseling agencies provide the same services for FREE.

If you receive an offer, information or advice that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, help can be found FREE.

How to Spot a Scam – beware of a company or person who:

  • Asks for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance or reinstate your mortgage.
  • Guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or have your loan modified.
  • Advises you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead.
  • Pressures you to sign over the deed to your home or sign any paperwork that you haven’t had a chance to read, and you don’t fully understand.
  • Claims to offer “government-approved” or “official government” loan modifications.
  • Asks you to release personal financial information online or over the phone.

How to Report a Scam – do one of the following:

  • Go to  and fill out the Loan Modifications Scam Prevention Network’s (LMSPN) complaint form online and get more information on how to fight back.
    • Note: you can also fill out this form and send to the fax number/email/address (your choice) on the back of the form.
  • Call (888) 995-HOPE (4673) and tell the counselor you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam or you know someone who has.

Pre-foreclosure or Short Sale
Occurs when a property is listed for sale and proceeds of the sale are accepted in exchange for a release of the lien, even if those proceeds are less than the amount owed.

Deed-In-Lieu of Foreclosure
This option voluntarily transfers the title and possession of the property to the Lender in order to satisfy the mortgage loan debt and avoid foreclosure.

Am I eligible?
Every situation is unique, and will be reviewed carefully to determine if foreclosure is the only possible remedy. Use this list as a general guideline of the information we look at to determine if you qualify for a payment alternative.

  • You must demonstrate an involuntary inability to pay
  • Account in question must be a mortgage or home equity line of credit (no overdraft lines of credit)
  • Home must not be vacant or condemned
  • Property must be a 1 – 4 family dwelling

Credit scores are a concern for most of us.  can help you understand what makes up a credit score, what affects it and what you can do to maintain good credit.
Be advised that as a lender/servicer, we are required to report the current status of your loan. Any missed payments or loss mitigation option will affect your credit.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided an extensive list of HUD-approved credit counseling agencies who can help evaluate your situation and address your needs. They can help you develop a budget, provide recommendations for freeing up cash, and provide housing counseling assistance.

Visit the official HUD.gov page containing tips for avoiding foreclosure as well as summaries of various government programs designed to help lower your monthly mortgage payment, modify or refinance your loan, transition to more affordable housing and more.

KnowYourOptions.com is an official Fannie Mae website filled with helpful information about every phase of home ownership, including detailed advice and resources for avoiding foreclosure, deciding whether to stay in your home or leave it, understanding reverse mortgages, and helpful advice for those who are already in foreclosure.

This site provides step-by-step information on how to become financially literate in order to make informed financial decisions. Learn about credit reports and scores, see the true cost of owning a home, compare the costs of renting vs owning, and get in-depth, easy-to-read home loan product information.

County Resources
Visit your county’s official web page to learn about the financial programs and related resources they may have to offer.

An official program from the Department of the Treasury and HUD, this site is filled with helpful information and valuable programs that can help you avoid foreclosure, lower your monthly mortgage payments, modify a second mortgage or apply for mortgage assistance if you are unemployed.

This site provides information on taxes, grants, housing finance reform, the Recovery Act, the Making Home Affordable program and much more. You’ll also find links to other helpful government bureaus.

Visit the official site of United Way’s 2-1-1 / First Call For Help initiative. This free community service provides confidential information and referrals for help with food, housing, employment, health care, counseling and more. Click to visit the site, or simply call 2-1-1 to get started.

Foreclosure Prevention

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You need to borrow money to pay for your children’s college education. Alternatively, maybe you want to pay down your high-interest credit card debt or add a master bedroom addition to the top floor of your home. One way to do so is to tap into the equity you’ve built up in your home. Building up equity is one of the most important benefits of owning a home. As you pay off your mortgage, you gradually build equity. Simply put, equity is the amount of your home that you actually own. For example, if you have a house worth $200,000 and you owe $150,000 on your mortgage, you have equity of $50,000. You can access that equity in one of two ways, through a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. Home equity loan A home equity loan is a second mortgage. When you apply for a home equity loan, you’ll receive a single lump sum. You then pay that sum back over a set period of years. The size of your home equity loan will be limited, of course, by the amount of equity you have in your home. The interest rate attached to a home equity loan remains constant throughout the life of the loan. Home equity line of credit Consumers often confuse home equity lines of credit — better known as HELOCs — with home equity loans. However, a HELOC works more like a credit card than a mortgage loan. With a HELOC, you’ll receive a set credit limit. You only pay back the amount of money that you borrow, plus interest. For instance, if you have a HELOC with a credit limit of $50,000 and you borrow $10,000 from it, you’ll only have to pay back that $10,000. You’ll still have $40,000 worth of credit available to you after you’ve borrowed the $10,000. The interest rate on a HELOC is usually tied to the prime rate. Often, the rate will be 1 percent over prime. Which is better? So, which product is better? Not surprisingly, that depends on the individual borrower and the individual situation. Many economists say that a home equity loan is better suited to borrowers who need funds for a specific purchase, such as college tuition or a major kitchen remodel. Since a home equity loan features a fixed interest rate, such a product might be better for those borrowers uncomfortable with uncertainty. A home equity line of credit, though, provides more flexibility. Homeowners do not have to tap into their credit unless they need it. Because of this, many homeowners use a HELOC as an emergency fund, quick cash in the case of an emergency. A HELOC might be the right choice, too, for borrowers taking on a multi-year renovation project. These borrowers can then tap their HELOC whenever they need to write a check to move the project toward completion. The key is to do your research before choosing either a HELOC or home equity loan. Only by studying your spending habits and needs will you be able to make the right equity decision.

Home Equity Loans vs Lines of Credit

Your credit reports are important documents. They list your open credit-card accounts, loan balances and financial missteps. Reviewing these reports on a regular basis is a smart financial decision. After all, the information contained in these reports is the same information that banks and lenders use when determining whether you qualify for loans and at what interest rates. If you’re wondering why your application for a mortgage loan was rejected or why you only qualify for credit cards with sky-high interest rates, the answers might lie in your three credit reports. Fortunately, you can access your credit reports on an annual basis. AnnualCreditReport.com Three credit bureaus compile credit reports on you, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. The reports kept by each of these credit bureaus might vary, so it’s a smart idea to review all three reports at least once every year. The good news is that under federal law you are entitled to one free copy of each of your three credit reports once a year. You can access these free copies at the Web site, www.annualcreditreport.com. If you want to review your credit reports more than once a year, you’ll have to pay each of the credit bureaus for your extra copies, usually at a price around $9.99 for each report. Reading the report Once you have your credit reports, it’s time to read them. The reports will let you know exactly why lenders consider you either a good or bad lending risk. Each of your credit reports will start out with basic information about you. This basic identifying information will include your name, Social Security number, previous and current addresses, date of birth, phone numbers, employer’s name and spouse’s name. Make sure that this information is correct. Next comes a more critical part of the reports, your credit history. This section of the report lists open lines of credit and loans in your name. If you have a mortgage, it will be listed on the report. So will credit-card accounts, car loans and student loans. This section will also include the amounts of money that you owe, whether to your mortgage lender or your credit-card companies, how much credit is available to you and how well you’ve managed your loans and credit. This last part is important: Your credit report will list whether you often make your payments two weeks late. It will also list whether you’ve missed payments completely. These financial mistakes will lower your three-digit credit score. Again, if you find information in this section of your report that seems incorrect, make sure to make a note of it. Fixing these mistakes with the credit bureaus can boost your credit score. Next comes the public records section of your credit report. Ideally, this part of your report is blank because it lists such negative financial judgments as bankruptcies and foreclosures. These negative judgments can damage your credit score even more severely than will late or missed payments. The final section of the credit report is the inquiries section. This is a list of everyone who has asked to see your credit report. For instance, if you call TransUnion and ask for a copy of your report, it will show up in the inquiries section. If your local credit union asks for your report before agreeing to provide you with a car loan, that inquiry will be in the report, too. Errors It’s important to quickly correct any errors that you discover in your credit reports. Remember, the information on your credit report is used to compile your three-digit credit score. And if this score is low, banks and lenders either won’t lend you money or they’ll do so only while charging you higher interest rates. If you remove errors from your reports — maybe you closed that open credit-card account three years ago or maybe you never did miss that car payment listed as delinquent four months ago — it will have a positive impact on your score. To remove an error, though, you must correct it in writing and send that information directly to the offending credit bureau. You can’t remove errors through e-mail or through a phone call. A credit report might seem like an intimidating document. But once you understand its parts, this report actually provides you with a good roadmap of how lenders and banks see you.

Understanding Your Credit Report

It’s tempting when you pay so many of your bills online to skip on balancing your paper checkbook. After all, balancing the checkbook is no one’s idea of a good time. And with electronic banking now so popular, it’s easy for most consumers to quickly check their balances online. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s still not important to balance your checkbook on a regular basis. Yes, you can check your balances online if you’re a fan of electronic banking. But what if you’ve forgotten about that $350 car payment and your financing company hasn’t cashed the check yet? You might mistakenly think you have more money in your account than you really have. That can lead to financial disaster: bounced checks and the fees that come with them. Don’t fear, though. Balancing your checkbook isn’t as bad a task as it seems. In fact, with some basic bookkeeping abilities, you can quickly and accurately balance your checkbook to make sure that you never accidentally drain your funds. Be a good record keeper Balancing your checkbook all starts with keeping good records. This means that you must keep track of every time you use your debit card to fill up your gas tank, write a check to your mortgage company or withdraw $20 in spending money from the local ATM. As soon as you return home after making these purchases, writing these checks or withdrawing that cash, write down the amounts you’ve removed from your checking account in your checkbook’s paper ledger. And write down these amounts exactly, down to the last cent. You need to know exactly how much money is in your checkbook if you hope to balance it. Ask for your bank statement Before balancing your checkbook, you’ll need access to your most recent bank statement. This could be simple if your bank offers online checking. Simply log onto your bank’s Web site, type in your user name and password and call up your current account balance. The odds are your bank will list your current balance and your most recent statements. If you don’t have access to electronic banking, you’ll either have to stop in or call your bank to request your most recent bank statement. Your bank might also send you your account statements on a regular basis, usually once a month. You can use that statement, but only if it’s not more than a few days old. If it’s too old, there will be too many transactions that aren’t listed on the statement. What’s cleared? Next, you need to check your checkbook ledger to determine which of your payments haven’t yet cleared. For instance, if you mailed a check to your daughter’s preschool for $500 and the school hasn’t yet cashed it, you’ll need to note this when balancing your checkbook. Your account might have $4,000 in it. But you’ll need to subtract that $500 preschool payment from this balance to have an accurate record of where you stand financially. You’ll need to do the same if you’ve made deposits to your checking account that haven’t yet cleared. For instance, a client may have sent you $500 through PayPal. Deposits made through PayPal usually take up to three business days to actually get into your checking account. When balancing your checkbook, make sure to account for these deposits, too. Remember, you don’t have to be an accountant to balance your checkbook. You just need to be willing to take a small amount of time on a regular basis — once a week or once a month, perhaps — to track what you’ve spent and what you’ve earned.

Balancing a Checking Account

Whether you are applying for a mortgage, car or personal loan, your lender will want to know one number: your three-digit credit score. This number has become perhaps the most important for anyone seeking a loan. There’s a reason for this: Your three-digit credit score tells lenders exactly what kind of a borrower you’ve been. Have you been a sloppy user, one who pays bills late or misses payments on a regular basis? Your credit score will show it. Have you been a responsible borrower, one who’s never paid a credit card bill late or missed a car loan payment? Your credit score will show that, too. Before applying for any loan, then, it is important to understand the basics of your credit score and what it means. Scoring Most lenders today rely on the FICO credit-scoring system. This three-digit score ranges from a low of 350 to a high of 850. If you want to borrow money, and you want to borrow it at the lowest possible rate, you’ll need a score closer to the higher end than the lower. What does your FICO score include? According to myFICO.com, your credit score is based on your payment history, or how often you miss payments or pay your bills late. The amount of debt you owe, the length of your credit history and the types of credit that you use will also impact your credit score. The most important of these factors is your payment history, which FICO says accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. Coming in a close second is the amount of debt you owe, which accounts for 30 percent of your score. The lesson here? If you want an excellent credit score, you need to pay your bills on time, never miss a payment and pay down as much of your credit card debt as possible. Of course, other factors will negatively impact your credit score. If you lose a home to foreclosure, you can expect your score to drop by 100 or more points. That foreclosure will remain on your credit report for seven years. If you declare bankruptcy, your score will again fall by 100 or more points. Depending on the type of bankruptcy that you file, this filing will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. What lenders want Though it varies by lender, most lenders reserve their lowest interest rates for those borrowers whose FICO credit score is 740 or higher. That is considered an excellent score by most lenders. If your credit score falls below 640, though, you might struggle to obtain a conventional mortgage loan. That is because lenders worry that borrowers with such low scores are more likely to miss payments and default on their loans. If you want to qualify for today’s lowest interest rates, you’ll need to bring an excellent credit score to the table. If you know you have a low score, it might make more sense to establish a history of paying your bills on time and cutting down on your credit card debt before you borrow again. You will benefit financially when you apply for that next mortgage, car or personal loan.

What Your Credit Score Means

Credit cards provide you with financial freedom. However, if you do not use them correctly, these cards can also leave you with mounds of debt and a bad credit score. The problem? If you charge items on your credit card and then don’t pay them off when your next statement arrives, you’ll be charged interest. That interest can add up more quickly than you think. Interest Say you purchase an item — anything from a TV to an audio system to a home computer — that costs $1,000. Even if you have an attractive rate of 10 percent on your card, you might still pay more than $100 in interest charges depending upon how quickly you pay off your purchase. For example, if you pay only the minimum monthly balance on your credit card of $40, it will take you 29 months at an interest rate of 10 percent to pay back your $1,000 purchase. While paying this back, you’ll be charged $126 in interest. This means that your $1,000 purchase actually cost you $1,126. It gets worse with higher rate credit cards. Consider if you made the same purchase with a card with an interest rate of 25 percent and you made just the $40 minimum monthly payment. It would take you 36 months to pay back your purchase. Over that time, you’d be charged $427 in interest, making the total cost of your purchase $1,427. Minimum payment This is why it is always important to pay more than the minimum monthly payment. The University of Minnesota says that most credit card companies charge a minimum monthly payment of 4 percent to 6 percent of the card’s total debt. This means that, depending on the size of your debt if you make only the minimum payment each month, you might not pay off your credit card debt in your lifetime.

Understanding Credit Costs

You’ve made bad financial decisions in your past, and now you have the debt to show for it. You’ve maxed out your credit cards and can no longer afford your minimum monthly payments. Alternatively, maybe you’ve financed a car that you could not afford, and you’ve fallen behind on your car loan payments. Large amounts of debt can easily overwhelm you. Fortunately, you do have some options. You might be able to work with your creditors to reduce the amount of money you owe. Alternatively, you might be able to persuade your creditors to give you more time to pay back the money you’ve borrowed. Before negotiating Before starting negotiations with your creditors, take a honest look at your financial situation and your debts. You need to know before you begin talking with your creditors exactly how much money you can afford to pay each month to reduce your debt. To do this, create a household budget. Determine how much money comes into your household each month. Then total the amount of money you need to spend on expenses each month. This can include mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, car payments, insurance and other items that you must pay each month. Once you compare your monthly debt obligations to your monthly income, you’ll see how much you have left over. You can then decide how much of this money you can dedicate to paying back your creditors. Don’t enter into negotiations with creditors until you know this number. What to negotiate Once you are ready to talk with your creditors, you can ask for several concessions to help you repay your debt. For instance, you might be able to negotiate a lower interest rate with your credit card company; something that will reduce the amount of money you must pay them each month. You might be able to negotiate new terms with the lender who provided you with your car loan, maybe persuading this lender to extend your payback period, lowering your monthly payments in the process. Maybe a creditor would be willing to allow you to skip two payments without penalty to help you catch up on what you owe. You might even be able to negotiate bigger-impact solutions. Many lenders might agree to a settlement that would allow you to pay 50 percent of what you owe them. Others might decide to set up a repayment plan that allows you to pay what you owe over a timeframe that works for you and without any added interest or fees. Don’t, though, expect to get off without having to pay anything back. Your creditors remember, don’t have to negotiate with you at all. Don’t ask for everything; if you do the odds are higher that you will not get anything. Tips There are certain tips you should remember while negotiating with creditors. The first is that federal law protects you from harassment from your creditors and collection agencies. Your creditors are not allowed to call you several times a day or at odd hours. They also are not permitted to threaten you. You also can’t be jailed for failing to pay back your debt. The United States does not have debtors’ prisons. Don’t be impatient. Negotiating with creditors is a complicated process. These negotiations can last for weeks and include several rounds of offers and counter-offers. Finally, always remember what you can afford to pay back each month. Never agree to a settlement that requires you to pay more each month than you can afford. This will just get you in more financial trouble.

Working with Creditors

Before applying for a mortgage, car or personal loan, you need to know if you earn enough income every month to pay back your new debt. Fortunately, there is an easy way to do this: You just need to calculate your debt-to-income ratio. Debt-to-Income Ratio Lenders will calculate this ratio every time you apply for a loan. They do this for a simple reason: They want to make sure that you will not be so overwhelmed with debt that you will not be able to repay their loans. You should determine your debt-to-income ratio yourself to make sure that you will not be placing too much of a financial strain on yourself when you take on new monthly debt. You do not want to take on a new mortgage or car loan only to discover two months later that you do not make enough income each month to afford the payments. The guidelines Lenders typically rely on two debt-to-income ratios, depending on what type of loan you are seeking. Your front-end debt-to-income ratio looks at how much of your monthly income that your total housing payment — including principal, interest and taxes — consumes. In general, lenders want your monthly housing payment to take up no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income, your income before taxes are taken out. Your back-end debt-to-income ratio looks at how much of your gross monthly income that all of your debts — everything from your mortgage payment and car loan to student loans and minimum monthly credit card payments — take up. Lenders want your total monthly obligations to equal no more than 36 percent of your gross monthly income. Your personal debt-to-income ratio Calculating how much you should be spending on monthly debt payments is pretty straightforward. First, determine your gross monthly income. If you make $36,000 a year, your monthly income is $3,000. Next, multiply that figure by 36 percent. This will give you $1,098. This means that you should be spending no more than $1,098 each month on debt payments. What if you are spending more than this? You’ll want to calculate your back-end debt-to-income ratio to determine how much you are paying on debt each month. First, calculate your total monthly payments. You can do this by digging up your recent credit card bills, mortgage loan statement, car loan statements, student-loan bills and any other loan payments you make each month. Don’t include household expenses such as the money you spend on groceries or utilities. Once you’ve determined this figure, divide it by your monthly gross income. This will give you debt-to-income ratio. For instance, if you are spending $1,000 on debt each month and your gross monthly income is $2,500, you have a back-end debt-to-income ratio of 40 percent, which is too high. You have two options when it comes to reducing your debt-to-income ratio. You can either boost your gross monthly income or reduce your monthly expenses. Whatever approach you take, know that lenders of all kinds will pay close attention to your debt load. Make sure, then, that you do the same.

Understanding Your Debt Load

You have to make a lot of financial decisions in your life. How much money should you deposit in your 401(k) plan every two weeks? Should you apply for a rewards credit card or a traditional one? Should you sink your dollars into a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA? With so many big decisions to make, you might give little thought to your checking account. That, though, can be a mistake. Bank checking accounts are rarely alike. Make the wrong decision, and choose a checking account that doesn’t mesh with your spending habits, and you could end up paying big fees each month. So that is far from a financially sound move. Here’s what you should look at before opening a checking account. Your Spending Habits Do you want dozens of checks each month? Do you have the bad habit of bouncing checks on a fairly regular basis? Do you frequently find yourself withdrawing money from ATMs that aren’t connected to your financial institution? These can all factor into which checking account makes the most financial sense for you. For instance, if you write many checks, you’ll want to apply for a checking account that allows you to write an unlimited number of them each month. Some checking accounts allow you to write a limited number of checks per month. You’ll then pay a fee for every check you write over that limit. If you use checks to buy your groceries, pay your bills and fill up your gas tank, you could end up paying big each month if you do not take out an unlimited checking account. What about bouncing checks? You’ll pay a big fee from your financial institution every time you bounce a check. If you are habitual bouncer, you might consider taking out a checking account with overdraft protection. If you write a check at your local department store for $200, but only have $150 in your account, your financial institution will cover the difference, allowing you to complete your purchase. Of course, overdraft protection is not free. You’ll have to pay for the service. However, you’ll pay much more in overdraft fees. You can also lose a lot of money each month if you are frequently withdrawing money from out-of-network ATMs. You can solve this problem by taking out a checking account with a bank that boasts a large network of ATMs. If that is not feasible, you might find a bank that covers any out-of-network ATM fees that you incur. Finally, some checking accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee. Avoid these. There are plenty of free checking account options out there. There’s no reason to pay for one. Interest One of the factors that should have little impact on your decision, though, is earning interest. Yes, it is nice to earn interest on the money in your checking account. However, if you use your checking account to pay your bills, the odds are that you will not have all that much money sitting in it at any one time. If that is the case, you will not earn much interest on a relatively low balance. Generally speaking, checking accounts do not perform well as savings vehicles. You would be better off opening a savings account and keeping funds that are in excess of your transaction needs in that account. When you are deciding on a checking account, then, take a far closer look at the fees you might have to pay. Those are far more important than earning interest.

Finding the Right Checking Account for You

Some financial decisions are harder than others. Should you apply for a 15-year or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan? Should you purchase a new car or a used one? Will going back to school in your 40s bring you a high enough salary to offset the high cost of a college education? Some decisions, though, require a bit less analysis. Choosing between a savings account or a money market account is one of these. The reason? Despite the different names, there is little difference between money market and savings accounts. The Accounts You probably know what a savings account is. It is a safe place in which to hold your money. Your bank or credit union will pay you interest on the money in your account — though the interest rate on savings accounts is typically rather low. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union Association insures savings account, up to certain amounts, so that you will not lose your dollars even if your bank or credit union falls into financial ruin. A money market account is a surprisingly similar economic tool. It, like a savings account, is a safe place to store your money. Also, like a savings account, your dollars are protected. There are a few minor differences, however. Money Market Accounts Money market accounts usually require consumers to maintain a higher minimum balance. Money market accounts might also be more flexible, allowing you to write checks — and quickly access the money in your account — against the dollars you’ve deposited in them. The primary benefit of a money market account? They typically pay out higher interest rates on the money you’ve saved. Traditional savings accounts usually require that you maintain a lower minimum balance. Also, savings accounts do not come with any checking options. You cannot write checks against the balance in your bank savings account. Finally, savings accounts pay a lower amount of interest. Does it Matter? The truth, though, is that for most consumers, the difference between savings accounts and money market accounts do not matter too much. The main difference between the two is the higher interest rates that come with a money market account. However, rates on these accounts are still fairly low when compared to other investment vehicles. This means that you’d need to invest a lot of dollars in your money market account to generate an appreciable amount of interest. Who is a good candidate for a money market account? Someone who has a lot of money to deposit and who would prefer the flexibility to write checks against their savings. However, in reality, the decision to go with a traditional savings account or a money market account will not make too much of a difference in your financial health.

Savings vs. Money Market Accounts

If you have a low credit score and are currently unemployed, you might struggle to qualify for a checking account at your local bank. You might also find that you cannot qualify for any of those credit-card offers that keep filling your mailbox. You do have the option, though if you do not want to carry large amounts of cash with you at all times: prepaid debit and credit cards. These cards, which you load with funds, allow you to make purchases, both online and offline. You can use them, too, to withdraw money from ATMs. However, you need to be careful. Be aware that some prepaid cards come with potentially pricey fees. The Benefits of Prepaid Cards Prepaid cards do not appeal to everyone. However, if you have a limited or weak credit history and you have struggled to hold down a full-time job, such cards might work for you. That is because you will not have to submit to a credit check or a review of your employment history to acquire one. There’s a reason for this: You are directly providing the funds for your prepaid card with your money. Say you deposited $1,000 on a prepaid card. You now have a balance limit of $1,000. You cannot spend more than that, though you can increase your prepaid card’s balance whenever you’d like. Another advantage? These cards are easy to get, and you can qualify for them quickly. In fact, you can usually purchase prepaid cards in minutes online. Once you load the cards with money, you are free to start using them. Most merchants are not shy about accepting prepaid cards. You’ll find that most stores, restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets will accept your prepaid card. You can also use your prepaid cards at ATMs to withdraw quick cash when you need paper money. Finally, if you have a history of running up big credit-card bills or emptying your checking accounts, prepaid cards offer protection. Because your purchasing power is limited to the amount of money on your card, you cannot overspend. Beware of Fees This does not mean, though that prepaid cards are perfect. Many do come with a big drawback: high fees. Some providers of prepaid cards, for instance, will charge you a fee — often as high as $4 — when you use your prepaid card at certain ATMs. Others might charge you a small fee for every transaction you make with your prepaid debit or credit card. These can add up. Other providers of these cards will charge you if you try to withdraw more money than what you currently have in your account. If you do not keep careful track of your spending, you will run the risk of incurring this often costly fee. If you are aware of the fees, though, and you take the steps necessary to avoid them, you might find that prepaid cards are the right option for you. If you use these cards wisely, you might even boost your financial health enough to qualify for traditional credit cards again.

The Benefits of Prepaid Cards

Looking for a safe place to invest your dollars, an investment vehicle with a guaranteed rate of return? A bank-issued certificate of deposit — usually known as a CD — might be a good choice. Credit unions might also refer to them as certificate accounts. Be aware that CDs, despite their safe nature, are not perfect investment vehicles. You’ll tie up your money for a potentially long time. Also, the rate of return might not be as high as it could be with other investments. Here are some factors to consider before investing in a CD: What They Are Banks and credit unions typically offer CDs or certificate accounts as low-risk investments. However, when you invest in low-risk investments, your rate of return is often lower, and that is often the case with these types of accounts. If you are interested in investing in a CD, you can simply walk into a bank or credit union and deposit your funds into one. You can also purchase a CD through a broker. CDs are typically available covering differing periods of time. One CD might require that you keep your dollars invested for three months. Another might require that you keep them invested for a year or more. If you withdraw your money before this period ends, you’ll face withdrawal penalties. Make sure, then, that you can keep the money you place in a CD for as long as your financial institution requires. When you invest in a CD, you’ll receive a guaranteed interest rate. This rate is usually higher than the rate offered on traditional savings or checking accounts or with money market accounts. However, CDs still offer a relatively low rate of return when compared to investment vehicles such as IRAs. Once your CD reaches its end date — known as maturing — you’ll receive your original deposit back along with the interest that this deposit generated. Remember that interest earned on a CD are taxable income. The Advantages of a CD The main advantage of a CD is the stable nature of the investment. Deposits in a CD are insured, so even if your bank or credit union falls into financial ruin, you will not lose the money you’ve invested. You also know up front the interest rate on your CD. This means that your rate of return is guaranteed. There won’t be any unpleasant surprises — or any surprises at all — once your CD matures. The Disadvantages of a CD CDs, though safe, are not perfect investment vehicles. They do come with some disadvantages. First, you’ll be tying up your investment dollars for a potentially long time, as much as a year or more. You will not be able to access those dollars, whether to spend them or move them into a new investment vehicle, without paying a financial penalty. However, the potentially bigger drawback is that CDs, despite their stable nature, don’t boast exceptionally high rates of return. You will not lose money by investing in a CD, which is part of their appeal. However, you might not make as much money as you could have by investing in the stock market. Only you can determine if a CD is the right choice for you. It comes down to how much risk you are willing to tolerate when investing.

Putting Money in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) Account

Trying to cut down on your credit-card bills? Don’t like to carry around large sums of cash? Then a debit card might be right for you. Debit cards, in fact, have grown in popularity over the years. That is because they are so easy to use. Consider a debit card an easy alternative to writing a check. When you go to your local grocery store, you can take out your debit card and pay the $80 for your groceries. You will not, though, have to pay that money back with interest as you would with a credit card. Instead, the dollars are taken immediately out of whatever bank account is connected to your debit card. In essence, debit cards are like plastic checks, except you will not have to take the time to write a check while you are paying for your groceries, gas, clothing or any other purchase. Usually, you’ll have to enter a PIN, your personal identification number, when you complete a debit transaction. After you swipe your debit card through a reader, you’ll be prompted to enter your PIN before the purchase is complete. This protects you in case your debit card is lost or stolen. Make sure, of course, that your debit card’s PIN is a difficult one for anyone else to guess. Don’t, for example, use your birth date or street address. Cautions Debit cards come with an obvious benefit: If you use them as an alternative to credit cards you will not be running high amounts of credit card debt and the interest that comes with it. Moreover, with a debit card you will not have to carry cash with you that can be lost or stolen. There are, however, some risks with a debit card. First, if you do not carefully track your purchases, you do run the risk of accidentally draining the account connected to your card. That could lead to expensive penalties from your bank. It might also lead to bounced checks, missed payments and late fees. So before you swipe that debit card, make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for your purchases. Also, be sure never to let your account balance get low enough so that a $25 fill-up at the local gas station puts you at risk of emptying your account. You should be careful, too, of thieves. If a criminal should gain access to your debit card — especially one that only requires a signature to complete a purchase — that thief can quickly empty your accounts. Keep an eye on your accounts for any unusual purchases. If you do suspect someone is using your card, immediately call your bank. You can also protect yourself by not using your debit card in particular dangerous places. Security experts, for example, recommend that you only use your card at ATMs located inside banks or other buildings. Thieves can easily connect machines to ATMs located outside that skim your debit card numbers as you swipe your card. What’s especially tricky about these skimming machines is that they often fit over the real card slots at ATMs. This makes them difficult to see, especially for consumers. Gas station fuel pumps are another dangerous area; security experts say. Again, the problem is often skimming. Many gas stations are busy places, with cars driving in and out and people milling about. There may also be little supervision. Because of this, criminals can easily set up a skimming machine on your favorite station’s fuel pumps. Finally, be careful using your debit card to make an online purchase. If someone steals your information online, that thieve could gain instant access to your cash. Instead, rely on your credit cards for online purchases. You know that setting up a household budget is something that you need to do. Doing so can help you prepare for your retirement, pay for your children’s college educations and make sure that you do not run up high-interest-rate credit card debt. Unfortunately, budgeting is also something few people like to do. It takes time and it requires organizational skills. That is something that many of us lack, or at least think we lack. However, here’s the good news: Creating a budget does not have to be difficult. In fact, there are three simple ways to create an accurate budget for your household. Just pick the method that works best for you and commit to it. Bring Out the Envelopes There was a time when the envelope method of budgeting was king. Today, this method feels a bit old-fashioned, what with the proliferation of online budgeting tools available. However, for many households, the envelope system works just fine. Here’s how it works: Set aside a series of empty envelopes and label each of them with a particular expense category. One envelope might read “mortgage payment.” Another might say “groceries,” while still another might say “entertainment.” When you receive your paycheck, put the appropriate amount of money — the money you’ve set aside for each expense in your monthly budget — in the right envelope. If you stick to this method, when each of your bills come due, you should have enough money in the corresponding envelope to pay it. Also, when you want to go to the movies or eat out, you can only do so if there’s enough money left in that “entertainment” envelope. This method has fallen a bit out of favor as more consumers are using their debit and credit cards to pay their bills each month. However, if this method works for you and your family, there’s no reason to abandon it. It is simple and effective, if done properly. Online Budgeting The Internet brings us the late-breaking celebrity news seconds after a star divorces or shows up on the beach 15 pounds too heavy. It lets us waste days Tweeting about what we ate for breakfast. It also gives con artists an easy way to scam people out of their hard-earned dollars. However, the Internet has given us some good things, too, such as online budgeting tools. The Web is now full of these tools, all of which let consumers enter their expenses and revenues to determine quickly where their money is going and whether they’ve breaking their budget. Some of the more popular online budgeting tools include Quicken and Mint. Both are powerful offerings that come with money management tools, financial calendars, calculators, spreadsheets and everything else you need to track your spending and earning each month. Mint and Quicken are just two options. Search the Internet for “online budgeting tools” and see what you find. The only way to find the right online budgeting tool for you and your household is to try out several. You’ll soon discover the online tool with which you feel the most comfortable. Separate Accounts You can use your bank for budgeting, too by opening separate checking or savings accounts for your various expenses. For instance, open a checking account reserved solely for your mortgage. For each paycheck you receive, deposit the right amount of money in that account. Then, each month, your mortgage payment should be ready to go. Do this with your monthly grocery allowance, an entertainment fund, insurance allotment and car payment fund. If done properly, this method works a bit like the envelope method of budgeting. Only with separate accounts, you will not have to worry about storing large amounts of cash in your home. Of course, these are just three of the many budget methods that you can employ. Be creative and experiment. You’ll soon find the budgeting strategy that works best for you. The only wrong method is not budgeting at all. That is a formula for running into debt and scrambling to pay your bills each month.

Popular Budgeting Methods

You finally committed to making a household budget, listing your monthly expenses and revenue streams. However, at the end of each month you find that you’ve overspent on going to the movies, eating out or buying clothes. It is enough to make you feel like a budgeting failure. Here’s the good news: You can fix your budget. You simply have to identify the most common reasons why budgets fail, find these common mistakes in your household budget and then correct them. Here, then, are the most common mistakes people make when crafting a budget: 1. They are unrealistic: When we sit down to make a budget, we too often do so with unrealistic hopes. We plan to spend just $50 a month on eating out, or we promise that we’ll only spend $400 a month at the grocery store. Then when the end of the month comes we discover that we spent $100 on pizza alone. At the grocery store, we ended up spending $700. The best way to avoid this mistake? Be realistic about your spending habits. If you like nothing more than catching a first-run movie on the weekend, don’t pretend that you’ll go through the entire month spending just $25 at the theater. 2. They do not plan for emergencies: Things go wrong, every month. Maybe your washing machine goes on the fritz. Maybe your dishwasher springs a leak. Maybe your dog needs an emergency visit to the vet. These emergencies require money, usually enough to break your monthly budget if you do not plan for them. Put aside a set amount of money each month for emergencies. If you do not need to spend that money? Great. However, you can bet that the following month, something will come up. 3. They forget birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day: Special occasions are not as infrequent as we sometimes think. Each month, it seems, features at least one birthday, holiday or anniversary. Buying presents and cards can eat into your monthly budget. Make sure to include a line item in your budget for these special events. 4. They give up too soon: Failure is not fun. When you reach the end of another month only to find that you’ve overspent again, it is too easy to give up on the budgeting process together. Don’t do this. Try again next month. Think of it this way: Yes, you overspent last month. However, if you did not have a budget in place, how much more would you have spent? 5. They reward themselves: It is easy to want to splurge if you receive an extra-large commission check or an unexpected bonus. However, be careful. It is easy to spend all that money on entertainment, gifts or high-end electronics. Once you’ve gone down that path, it is just as easy to continue with the habit of overspending. After all, you purchased that iPad with your bonus money. It sure would be nice to have that keyboard attachment to go with it. That purchase, though, won’t be funded by a bonus. That purchase could very well scuttle your monthly budget.