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10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips

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10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips

The journey to paying down your debt can be challenging in the best of times. It can be even more complicated when you’re balancing the effects of a global recession.

Many Americans are facing immediate financial uncertainty from losing their jobs or being underemployed. The economic repercussions of this pandemic recession will be felt for years to come. Although becoming debt-free might not be your top priority during this difficult phase, you should still take steps to maximize your money.

Here are some debt consolidation tips to help recession-proof your finances.

1. Ask Your Creditors to Lower Your Interest Rates

The first on this list of debt consolidation tips is asking your creditors to lower your interest rates. Many borrowers don’t realize they can contact their existing credit card providers at any time to request a lower interest rate.

This often-overlooked tactic is a quick and easy way to reduce your debt burden, and it may result in a permanent or temporary (e.g. 12 months) interest rate reduction.

Creditors are more likely to say “yes” if you have a history of on-time payments or if your credit score has recently increased. Even if that’s not the case, the worst thing your creditor can do is say “no.”

If you aren’t successful in lowering your interest rate, don’t hesitate to ask again after a few months or after receiving lower offers from competitors. Credit card providers can issue reductions at their discretion, but it’s up to you to initiate the request.

2. Pause Low-Interest Loans to Tackle High-Interest Debt

High-interest loans and credit cards can prevent you from climbing out of debt. Although you’re hard at work making payments, interest charges are continuously accruing. This interest can quickly eat away at your monthly payment instead of chipping away at the principal balance.

To help make some headway in repaying your debt, see if you can pause payments on your lower interest loans. Then, devote those funds to your higher-interest debt. This lets you eliminate your balance faster and save you from unnecessary interest charges.

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Options for loan deferment vary by lender. In some cases, lenders might offer an interest-free deferment. Other lenders might continue charging interest on your loan during deferment.

Contact your lender to determine if deferment is available and for how long. Even a pause of two to three months can help you put a noticeable dent in your high-interest debt.

3. Consider Using a Balance Transfer Credit Card

You can quickly reduce your overall interest by taking advantage of low or 0% APR balance transfer credit cards. By transferring your existing balance from a higher interest card, you can save money and pay down your balance quicker.

A low-interest rate or promotional offer, however, might come with an additional cost in the form of a balance transfer fee.

For example, a creditor might offer 18 months of 0% APR when transferring a balance from another card. This perk typically comes with a 3-5% balance transfer fee that’s calculated based on the transfer amount. In this scenario, you could tack on up to $300 to $500 in transfer fees if you transfer an existing $10,000 balance to a new card. You’ll need to weigh your potential savings versus the transfer fee to determine if this is a good debt consolidation strategy.

Additionally, your new card might have transfer limits or a short introductory period before a higher interest rate kicks in on any remaining balance. Be sure to read the fine print and stick to your repayment strategy, so it doesn’t end up costing you more in the end.

4. Refinance With a Lower Interest Rate

Whether it’s your mortgage, student loans, auto, or other consumer debt, you might find a lower interest rate by refinancing your loan. Refinancing is one of the most helpful debt consolidation tips you should know.

Refinancing replaces your existing loan with a new loan—usually with a lower interest rate or better terms. You might qualify for a better rate than when you originally took out the loan if your credit score has since improved or if consumer loan rates have dropped.

Mortgage and student loan refinancing rates are at record lows since this pandemic began, which is a small silver lining in otherwise tragic health and economic crisis.

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The bottom line is if you can find a lower interest rate for any of your loans, take action. Remember, there might be associated refinancing fees or closing costs depending on the type of loan and lender.

5. Ask About Loan Modification

In some cases, you can benefit from modifying an existing loan instead of refinancing it into a new loan—particularly if you need immediate relief due to financial hardship.

Depending on the type of loan, the refinancing process can take months, as is the case with some mortgage refinancing options. Loan modifications, however, can be processed in a short period.

Loan modification can make your payment more manageable by reducing your interest rate or lowering your monthly payment. It can also extend your loan terms, which typically costs you more money in the long-run.

Contact your lender to explore loan modification opportunities. Always make sure you fully understand the terms and structure of your modified loan before moving forward.

6. Shop Around for the Best Loan Consolidation Quotes

If you have high-interest debt, you may be able to consolidate multiple balances into one low-interest loan. This can save you on interest fees, but it can also streamline your payments into one due date, which can prevent missed or late payments.

It’s best to grab quotes from at least three lenders any time you’re consolidating or refinancing your debt. By comparing multiple offers, you’re getting the best current rate since lenders are competing for your business. I recommend shopping around for all types of loans, especially for better student loan rates.

Student loan debt, totaling more than $1.64 trillion in both federal and private student loans, surpasses all other forms of debt in the U.S. apart from housing debt.[1] Because of this, there are plenty of opportunities to refinance or consolidate your student loans.

If you already have private student loans, you should be shopping around for better interest rates at least once per year. Lowering your interest rate is the priority, but also compare origination fees, repayment terms, and any available cashback offers to pay down your debt further.

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If you have federal student loans, the decision gets more complicated. Depending on your financial situation and career goals, it might be more advantageous to keep your existing federal student loans due to their various protections (e.g. deferment and forbearance), flexible income-driven repayment plans, and available forgiveness programs.

7. Work on Improving Your Credit Score

Before consolidating a large amount of debt, take steps to improve your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better interest rates you’ll be offered.

Common ways to improve your credit score include:

  • Disputing any errors or outdated information on your credit report
  • Paying off smaller credit cards and keeping your loan balances low
  • Refraining from applying for new credit accounts in a short period
  • Keeping revolving credit accounts active

These actions can help lower your credit utilization rate while maintaining your credit history length. Both are important factors in determining your credit score.

8. Cancel Any Small Credit Cards After You Consolidate Debt

Another often overlooked debt consolidation tip is canceling small credit cards. If you use a debt management program or a debt consolidation loan, you might be required to close certain credit card accounts as part of the agreement. This gives the lender more confidence that you won’t run up new balances and increases the likelihood that you’ll repay the debt.

Even if you choose a different method of consolidation, it’s a good idea to cancel your smaller or newer credit cards by choice—or cut them up—to discourage you from using them.

9. Run a Credit Check to See If You Forgot About Any Debt

With endless opportunities to borrow money, payments can slip through the cracks. Check your credit report periodically to ensure you haven’t forgotten about a small loan or debt.

For example, you may find that a medical bill has been sent to collections without ever physically receiving a notice because it was sent to a previous or incorrect address. Perhaps you simply forgot about a loan that has an old email on file. You could be in default without realizing it.

You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—every 12 months.

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By keeping an eye on your credit report, you can head off any surprises and actively resolve any financial issues that arise.

10. Sign Up for a Budget-Tracking Service

An often overlooked debt consolidation tip is signing up for a budget tracking service. It’s easy to become detached from your money when you’re swiping your credit card instead of paying with cash. This psychological separation leads to overspending and more debt.

Free and paid budgeting tools can help you reconnect with your finances and keep you accountable along your journey. Platforms, like Mint or You Need A Budget (YNAB), can help track your expenses and give you a big picture view of your finances.

There are many free and paid budgeting tools out there, so find one that matches your financial needs and goals.

Debt Consolidation Efforts Won’t Solve All of Your Problems

Although these debt consolidation tips can help you save on interest and streamline your debt payoff strategy, it’s only one piece of the financial puzzle. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you’ll continue to get trapped in the debt cycle.

Start by setting a realistic budget, which might include significant lifestyle changes. You might need to trim down some of your expenses or find a way to bring in additional income. By relying less on credit to make ends meet, you’ll reduce the likelihood of repeating the debt cycle.

More Tips for Better Financial Management

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Travis Hornsby

Founder & CFA, Student Loan Planner

10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips What Is a Good Credit Score (And How to Get One)

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There

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Financial Freedom is Not a Fantasy: 9 Secrets to Get You There

Have you ever considered your life now, and how it would be if you had more time to spend with your family and less worries about money?

Nowadays, financial stress is one of the most troublesome weights in life. If you’ve ever encountered financial stress, you know the difficulty of not having enough income to pay your obligations or bills.

Many people say that money is not the ultimate goal of life. While that’s true, money certainly plays a very significant role. The meaning of financial freedom changes with the different phases of our life, but ultimately, it is something that many people strive for.

In this article, we’ll explain how to capture that financial freedom you’ve been looking for. Read on to learn the secrets to financial freedom.

Break Free of Your Finances

Financial freedom is about having a constant flow of cash from your assets to cover all your regular needs.

When you are not worried about your income, or living paycheck to paycheck, you gain a great sense of freedom. It’s the freedom to be obtain and do what you truly need to make your way through everyday life.

Gaining financial freedom, though, is a process of growth, making small improvements and gaining emotional strength.

Though it seems hard to believe, it is really very simple to get financial freedom.

To do so, you simply need to make sure that your assets exceed your liabilities. In other words, you’ll need to find the sweet-spot where your residuals meet or surpass your expenses. This is something that you can achieve with the proper plan.

While not every person will accomplish financial freedom, the potential for anyone to do so is certainly there. Anyone can achieve this success, regardless of their income level.

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Outlined below are 9 secrets that will help you in your goals of achieving financial freedom.

1. Stop Unnecessary Spending

We often spend money inwardly, instead of objectively.

For example, you may spend when you’re anxious, depressed, restless, exhausted, from fear of missing out, or to please others. This is a very unhealthy way to handle your finances.

To stop this habitual spending, log down all your spending over the course of a month.

Just as some people keep a food diary, keep an expense diary. Remember not to just write down how much and what you spent the money on, also include the circumstances of why you spent the money. Was it an impulse buy at the checkout line or was it something you planned to purchase?

This increased self-awareness could enable you to avoid triggering situations in the future when you are considering an impulse buy.

2. Plan a Monthly Budget

This is a great opportunity to get serious.

Take a seat with your spouse or partner and make a monthly budget based on your income, not your expenses. You are never again going to spend more cash then you have on hand.

Overspending is the thing that led you to more financial obligations. Make sure you decide every month what is coming in and what will be going out and stick to that budget… no matter what.

3. Cut-up Credit Cards

Perhaps you are the type of person who always pays your credit card balance in full before the end of your billing cycle, and enjoys the reward points you gain. If this is the case, then you’re already way ahead of the game.

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If not, you may want to consider ridding your life of the burden that credit cards bring.

Many cards have strategies set up so that if you make a certain number of late payments, they will raise your interest rate much higher. This can really add up in the long run and you won’t be doing your financial situation any favors. If you’re prone to late payments or have a large balance due on your cards, cut them up!

Without proper self control on credit card spending and payments, you are basically throwing your money away. To ensure that you have better control over your spending, use only cash or debit for all future purchases (and don’t forget to pay at least your minimum payment on your cut-up cards each month!).

4. Increase Savings

There is no doubt that for a comfortable retirement you must accumulate satisfactory savings throughout your working life.

It’s good practice to save up to 15% of your income.

Start with your workplace 401(k), if you have one. If not, a Roth IRA (if you are eligible) or a traditional IRA (if you are not eligible for the Roth) are the next logical steps.

Increase in longevity means you might be able to look forward to 25 to 30 years in retirement, or possibly even significantly more. Investing now in good retirement plans will ensure that you have a guaranteed a stable monthly income when the time comes to stop working. [1]

5. Invest Wisely

Consider investing in funds.

Specifically, you will gain higher returns if you invest in different types of mutual funds such as Debt funds, Equity funds and Hybrid funds with a proper balance, although it absolutely relies on your personal preferences and sense of risk taking.

To get the most of these benefits, make sure you are investing in a variety of assets. Another resource of investing in mutual funds is SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) where you invest some money every month in funds. SIP works by averaging the per unit price of the stock.

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Mutual fund investors are aware of the benefits of an SIP (Systematic Investment Plan). For one, it is the most secure way to invest in equity mutual plans so that wealth is created over a long period of time. This plan also helps you to gain a better sense of financial discipline, which will come in handy in all your financial endeavors.

6. Invest in Gold

There isn’t really a better way to invest in gold than to have the physical gold itself in your possession.

You can purchase gold coins and bars from mints as well as from coin dealers and other private sellers.

Another way to invest in gold is through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds).

These are is similar to mutual funds but they are exclusively investments of gold. ETFs are great because they offer more liquidity; the ETF owns the actual physical gold, stores it, and retains the value of the shares. These shares can then be bought and sold in the stock market, and one big benefit is that the transaction costs of gold ETFs are much lower than the that of physical gold.

With its consistently-increasing demand, investment in gold can be very wise long-term investment to make.

7. Stash Emergency Funds

Whether it’s a cash gift or a work bonus, always try to save any extra money that comes your way rather than making unneeded purchases.

If you get paid every other week, you’ll get an “extra” paycheck (three rather than the usual two) twice a year. Either save those paychecks towards your emergency funds or utilize the money to pay down other obligations, such as loans, credit cards or other debts.

Make it hard to get your cash.

Put your savings in an alternate bank, maybe an online bank that forces you to delay for several business days before transferred money hits your regular bank account.

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8. Find Fabulous Mentors

Find a mentor, such as a friend or family member, who has exceptional control over their finances and pay attention to everything they do.

If you do not have any friends or family that are enjoying financial freedom, then find a mentor online! There are numerous blogs and guru websites featuring the advice of many people who have reached financial freedom, and they exist primarily to let you in on how to achieve it for yourself.

There are also plentiful forums available that share tips and tricks on how to best achieve financial freedom. Read as much as you can and start changing your habits for the better.

9. Be Extra Patient

Patience is the key of financial success.

Being patient can be quite tough, especially when you’re struggling with your finances, but having faith is worth it. You’ll continuously be on the right track if you are taking the proper steps above.

So don’t be discouraged, even if you are only saving a few dollars a month; it all adds up. Within just a few years you’ll look back proudly at your accomplishments and be glad that you had the patience to get there.

Financial Freedom for All

Anyone can achieve financial freedom, regardless of their financial circumstance.

Use the tips provided above to get yourself on the track to financial freedom and toss your monetary concerns out the window. If you wish to achieve a life with financial freedom for yourself and your family then you must adopt a disciplined approach towards your finances.

Following the simple secrets above is a great start to making your money work for you, so you can work less and live more!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Hartford Gold Group: IRA Retirement Accounts

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