How to Know if You Need a Cosigner

A look into what a cosigner is, why you might need one and the risks serving as one presents

close-up of a person's hand as they are signing a legal documentLoans are an economic staple in most people’s lives; they can help pay for education, transportation or living arrangements. Of course, getting a good loan from the bank or some other financial institution can be quite difficult for some people. This is especially true for buyers who are just starting out and don’t yet have a sound credit score.

For these individuals, seeking out a cosigner might just be the way to go. A cosigner allows people to receive a loan or transaction they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Being a cosigner can be quite risky financially, so it’s important to know exactly when you need to ask somebody to serve as one on your behalf.

What is a cosigner?
Investopedia defines cosigning as “the act of signing for another person’s debt which involves a legal obligation made by the cosigner to make payment on the other person’s debt should that person default.” While the person requiring the cosigner isn’t always in debt, a payment due is always involved.

In summary, a cosigner is someone who agrees to make payments on a loan if the primary recipient of said loan is unable to do so. Oftentimes, the person who takes out the loan is more than able to pay it back, but is unable to receive the original loan without someone else backing them.

By having someone serve as a cosigner, individuals can gain access to much larger loans than they would have been able to by themselves. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that interest rates are usually much higher for individuals with a cosigner.

When do you need a cosigner?
Justin Pritchard of The Balance explains that the most common reason people require a cosigner to receive a loan is due to their credit score. If the individual has a poor credit score and history, they will be unable to receive stronger loans without the guarantee that someone with a better credit score is backing them.

Several different transactions often necessitate the need of a cosigner. Some of the most common are purchasing a car and renting or buying a house.

A cosigner is not necessary for just any transaction, though. Consigners should be found for important financial endeavors that are required to meet basic needs, like the aforementioned lodging or transportation.

Who can serve as your cosigner?
The individual who signs up to be a cosigner is required to have a strong credit history more often than not. They should have enough money saved up and have a strong enough credit score that signing up to cosign shouldn’t negatively affect them. Nevertheless, simply by serving as a cosigner, they do run the risk of hurting that credit score. For this reason most cosigners are people close to the person applying for the loan. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes that most cosigners are family members and most often parents.

Your lender does not designate who must be your cosigner, but will accept anyone who meets their credit standard and guidelines.

What are the risks of serving as a cosigner?
Signing up to be a cosigner is a decision that requires a lot of forethought. If something goes wrong with payments, it will be the cosigner’s responsibility to cover those payments. Cosigners are held to an equal amount of responsibility for paying the loan as the original person who applied for it. Despite this, Kristy Welsh noted in USA Today that lenders will often take legal action against the cosigner first if payments are not made, knowing that the cosigner probably has a larger, more reliable amount of money.

Your lender will provide your cosigner with a disclosure that summarizes their obligations.

Before you consider seeking out a cosigner, it’s important to consider whether the loan you are looking to sign up for is for something that’s absolutely necessary. Settling for a smaller loan might mean settling for a smaller home or car, but it often means that neither you nor your potential cosigner will suffer serious financial burdens down the road.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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What Does a 529 College Savings Plan Cover?

 

529 college savings plans are only eligible for spending on certain expenses

Jjar of money labeled collegeThe cost of attendance at American universities is skyrocketing year after year, with a college education now costing up to six figures. 529 college savings plans offer a tax-free way to save money for your education. However, there are a few conditions since the money is tax-free, including what you can spend that money on. Here are a few of the qualified expenses included in the plan.

Tuition and education fees
Of course, the most obvious college expense is tuition. Any of your 529 savings money can be applied toward basic tuition. Many colleges charge mandatory fees such as application fees and additional course fees, and your savings plan can be used on those as well.

Keep in mind that your savings plan can only contribute to mandatory fees. Writer for Washington’s Top News, Nina Mitchell, warns against the use of 529 savings funds for fraternity and sorority membership dues or club and activity fees. “These are considered extracurricular and are not eligible,” says Mitchell.

Textbooks, computers and school supplies
Alongside the rise of tuition prices, textbook prices are also increasing each year. According to Brian Boswell, contributor at Forbes.com, your savings plan can be applied toward textbook rentals and purchases each year. You can also put your savings money toward school supplies, including items like pencils, pens, backpacks and notebooks.

Modern-day education often requires students to have their own personal computers or laptops. With advancing technology, laptops are more expensive than ever. Laptops and desktop computers can be purchased through your 529 savings plan, says Boswell, easing the burden of buying new, up-to-date technology. Printers are also covered under the plan.

Room and board
Your housing costs as a student are covered under your 529 savings plan as well. Whether you live in a campus dorm and are paying for student housing, or if you pay rent off-campus, your savings money can be used for your rent and utilities. While you’re a student, your savings money can also be applied to your dining plan and grocery costs.

However, Boswell explains there is a catch to off-campus living, “To be considered qualified, [off-campus living] costs must be less than or equal to the room and board allowance from the college’s cost of attendance figures. If the total cost living off-campus exceeds the school’s allowance, the student would have to pay the difference using funds from another source.”

If your university charges a fee for internet usage, or if you live off campus and have to purchase an internet package yourself, you can pay those expenses out of your 529 savings plan. Additional software deemed necessary for your education is also covered.

Disability equipment
If you have a disability that requires medical or mobility equipment, you can purchase those items with the money in your 529 savings plan, says Boswell. These items include wheelchairs, prosthetics and transportation costs.

Saving and paying for college tuition alone can be stressful enough, but having to worry about additional school-related expenses just adds to the frustration. Luckily, these expenses are all covered under your 529 savings plan. Consult your tax advisor regarding your personal situation and the possible impacts and benefits of this type of program.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

What You’ll Need for an Auto Loan

Make sure you have these things before you go into an office for a car loan

Car keys, calculator, and loan paperwork on a deskWhen buying a new car, getting a loan to cover the cost is an increasingly popular option chosen by new drivers. In fact, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and reported by CNN Money shows that a record 107 million Americans currently have auto loan debt, a number which has been growing rapidly over the past 5 years.

If you plan to take out your own loan for your next vehicle, you are definitely in good company. However, first-time buyers may be surprised that getting an auto loan requires bringing along a certain number of items.

Proof of income
According to CarsDirect, proof of income is the first document that the lender will want to see, and the reasoning for it is fairly self-explanatory: whether the lender is a bank or an automaker, it wants to know that you are employed and therefore capable of paying back the loan. CarsDirect adds that proof of income generally would take the form of your last two pay stubs, or your direct deposit receipts if your employer prefers that payment method.

These pay stubs offer a good deal of information about your employment history, including how much money you have made to date, how much you pay in taxes, how long you have been with this employer and whether you have any wage garnishments.

If you are self-employed, you will need to provide at least a year’s tax returns, although it’s a good idea to bring more just in case.

Credit and banking history
According to LendingTree, the next thing a lender will want to see is your credit history. This may include mortgage or lease agreements, statements from credit cards or banks and records from any alimony or child support payments.

This also means that a lender will be looking at your credit score. This three-digit number encompasses the above information, plus other factors, to show how much risk would be involved in giving you a loan. As such, a good credit score would show a potential lender that you are trustworthy, and you’ll have a better chance of securing a loan and setting better terms for that loan.

Since holding a good credit score is so important to this process, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers a few rules for doing so.

First, pay your bills and loans on time and take care of any missed payments as quickly as possible to stay current. Then make sure you’re not too close to your credit limits, since credit scoring models check to see if you are close to maxing out. On a related note, you should only apply for credit that you need. Many credit applications in a short amount of time signal that you are in dire economic straits and may not be able to pay back a loan.

In general, the CFPB adds, a long, consistent credit history is the end goal to achieving a strong credit score. The longer you continue paying on time (and catching any mistakes), the better the effect will be.

Proof of residence
According to CarsDirect, proof of residence confirms to the lender that you live where you say you do. This information is needed so you can be contacted by mail or, in a worst case scenario, so your vehicle can be located for repossession. This document can be a bill or driver’s license, showing both your name and the address given on the loan application.

Vehicle information
This refers to the vehicle you want to buy, not any trade-in that may be involved. For a new car, LendingTree says that you will need the dealer’s sheet or buyer’s order for the vehicle, including purchase price and vehicle identification number, as well as its year, make and model. If buying a used car, you will need the same information from the seller, along with the mileage, original title and disclosures of any loans currently on the car, called liens.

Proof of insurance
According to CarsDirect, you need to prove that the vehicle has current, valid insurance. This should take the form of a document showing the specific vehicle is insured, and not simply proof that you have insurance with a particular company.

With these documents (and a good credit score) in hand, securing an auto loan can be turned into a streamlined and easy process. However, LendingTree explains that all lenders are different, so it pays to call ahead to see what specific information they want you to bring to help speed up the process.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How to Find the Best Loan for Your Next Car

Here are the best tips on how to get the best loan for your new carYoung man and young woman  applying for an auto loan
Purchasing a vehicle is one of the largest and most important financial investments that any individual will ever make during their lifetime, excluding the purchase of a home. But the process of acquiring loans for a vehicle can often be confusing. There are many questions to ask leading up to the purchase of a new vehicle and customers need to determine whether they want to buy new or used, whether they want to buy outright or lease and which type of vehicle that they wish to purchase.

However, before any of these decisions can be made, customers need to determine how they will pay for the vehicle. While paying in cash is an option for a select group of new car buyers, most people will have to rely on an auto loan. Determining from where this money will come from can be the trickiest part of the process. Fortunately, there are ways to make the search for the best loan a little bit easier.

Loan pros and cons
While automotive loans can carry several benefits, they are not without their drawbacks. The most obvious benefit is that by using a loan, customers don’t have to pay for their new vehicle in its entirety, all at once. Another benefit is that automotive loans can help build credit. While you need good credit to qualify for most loans, paying for those loans will only improve your credit score. Auto loans, of course, do add another monthly payment to your pile of bills. Keeping up with those payments will be a necessity for many months ahead.

Who provides loans?
Automotive loans are offered to customers through a number of financial institutions. According to Consumer Reports, banks and credit unions are often the most common sources. If you have a good credit standing, then you will be able to attain some of the best loan rates from these institutions. But if your credit score is less than desirable, you may not qualify. Another very common source for auto loans is the dealerships themselves.

Determining which loan is best
Once you determine where you want to apply for a loan, the next step is looking for the best rates across the board. It’s important to pay careful attention, as some loans may look good on the surface, but could spell financial trouble in the future. As vehicle prices increase with each passing year, longer loans become available. However, Herb Weisbaum at CNBC suggests that drivers choose the shortest loan that they can afford. Not only will longer loans cost drivers more in the long run, but paying off a loan sooner removes one more payment each month.

If you happen to find the loan that works best for you before you are ready to purchase your vehicle, then this can be used to your advantage. The DMV says that getting pre-approved for a loan can carry several benefits. If you are pre-approved, this removes a lot of uncertainty during the entire financing process when it comes time to pick up your next set of wheels.

There is no such thing as a perfect automotive loan, as each driver has specific wants and needs. Still, there are processes and guidelines set in place to help you find the right loan for you.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Choosing the Best Renters Insurance Policy

What’s the best renters insurance policy for you?Portion of a renter's Insurance form , keys and a pen on a desk
Whether it’s a busted pipe that floods your apartment, smoke damage from a neighbor’s kitchen fire or a broken window caused by a windstorm, renter’s insurance can mitigate your risk of losing valuable possessions due to events outside your control.

Renters insurance is a smart and surprisingly affordable way to protect your belongings when the unexpected happens, but there’s no one-size-fits-all policy. To determine the policy that best fits your material life, consider the following tips.

Take time to comprehend the contract
Although a renters insurance policy might be a dull read, it’s important to sift through the entire policy and understand it completely before signing off.

“When you have a renters policy, an insurer typically pays for damage to your personal property, the cost of staying elsewhere if your place is inhabitable (say, from smoke damage), and accidents for which you might be legally liable—for example, if a visitor gets hurt or has property damaged at your place and sues,” explains ConsumerReports.org writer Barbara Kiviat. “Make sure any policy you buy covers all three.”

For greater liability protection, Nerdwallet.com writer Juan Castillo recommends investing in “umbrella insurance, which gives you an additional layer of liability coverage above the limits of renters insurance.”

Kiviat also recommends paying special attention to the “perils” covered in the policy. According to Kiviat, you’ll be covered by most policies if your belongings are impacted by vandalism, smoke, riots, explosions, fire, hail and theft, but damage incurred due to floods and earthquakes typically require additional, distinct insurance policies.

Let circumstances dictate choice
Although renters insurance is considered an overall affordable expense because of the protection it provides, your budget still might be less than accommodating. If your budget is rigid, Castillo recommends you “consider increasing your deductible. But first ask yourself: ‘How much can you pay out of pocket in the event of a damage claim?’”

Your dwelling would not be a home without your furry best friend, and although a dog is usually a source of unconditional love, sometimes your precious Fido can exhibit Cujo-like behavior.

“A lawsuit against you over a dog bite could ruin your finances for years. If you want coverage for this, make sure dog bites are covered by the liability portion of your renters insurance policy,” advises Castillo.

The philosophy of “what’s mine is yours” is an amiable way to live with a roommate, but it probably shouldn’t extend to insurance matters.

“Before you sign a policy, have a frank discussion with your roommate about how to share insurance payments—especially if your roommate has a lot of stuff that could drive up the cost of the quote. Be sure you agree, too, on the type of renters insurance coverage you’ll get,” advises Castillo.

Do the math
Since most items lose value over time, it’s important to understand the difference between cost and value.

“Policies cover either the replacement cost of property or its actual value. The latter takes into account that older items may have lost value over time. You might save on your premium by opting for actual-value coverage, but it’s usually well worth the price to go with a policy that covers replacement cost, because that’s what you’ll have to pay to buy new things,” explains Kiviat. She also notes that you can purchase additional coverage if you posses high-ticket items that your policy won’t provide full replacement cost for.

Renters insurance is a must-have budget item, and with solid research and a thorough assessment of your belongings and lifestyle needs, you will be able to buy the right renters insurance policy.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Should You Cancel a Credit Card with $0 Balance?

The downsides of cancelling a credit card are usually not worth itCollage of overlapping credit cards
Many consumers are tempted to limit their debt by closing one or more credit cards as a result of the steady rise of the cost of living and credit card interest rates. However, though there are many reasons to close a credit card, there are ultimately even more and better reasons not to.

Adverse effect on credit score
If you care about maintaining a good credit score, you should avoid closing a credit card even if you have fully paid off the balance. This is because your credit score is based on a number of different factors that will almost all be adversely affected by closing a credit card.

“An account closure could wind up hurting your score because it eliminates the available credit line associated with the card and could easily skew your…credit utilization. It could also lower the age of your credit report, which may affect your score over time,” warns Jeanine Skowronski, credit card analyst and reporter for Bankrate.com.

According to FICO™, the United States’ biggest credit scoring service, 10 percent of your credit score is determined by credit mix. The more diverse the mix of your credit types, the better, so you should especially avoid cancelling a credit card if it is your only one or one of just a few.

Another 15 percent of your credit score is determined by the length of credit history. Because of this, you should take care not to close your oldest credit card. “Lenders tend to view borrowers with short credit histories as riskier than borrowers with longer histories,” writes LaToya Irby, credit and debt management expert, in a May 2017 article for TheBalance.com. “Closing your oldest credit card won’t impact your credit score immediately. But, once the credit card falls off your credit report several years down the road, you might see an unexpected credit score drop.”

More importantly, 35 percent of your credit score is determined by your payment history. If the credit card you want to close has a long and good history, closing it will hurt your credit score significantly. “If you have a good payment history on a card, then it is a good idea to leave that card open. This is especially important if you have a poor history with other cards or forms of credit,” says Chizoba Morah, contributor for Investopedia.com.

Debt and identity theft
Limiting debt and preventing identify theft are among the top two reasons people might decide to close a credit card. According to Morah, “When people feel they are spending too much money and cannot resist the lure of the credit card, they close the account.”

Furthermore, Morah adds that “by closing a credit card, they can lessen the chances that their identity will be stolen,” a risk that is increasingly at the front of people’s minds given the increase in identity theft in recent years.

While these are legitimate reasons to cancel a credit card, there are alternative methods to tackling these without incurring penalties on your credit report.

Alternative methods
There are a couple of steps you can take to keep a credit card open while making it very difficult to use it, thus limiting the aforementioned temptation and risk of identity theft. One step is to remove your credit card information from any online retailer that still has it, such as Amazon, so that it can never be unintentionally used by you or the retailer.

Another step is to destroy the physical credit card itself so that there is no risk of losing it or having it stolen. “If you have an inactive credit card or a card with a high balance, cut it up instead of closing it so that the history remains on your credit report but you won’t accumulate more charges on it,” advises Morah.

Ultimately, the negative consequences of canceling a credit card more than offset the potential benefits, especially as these benefits can be explored via alternative means. Unless the credit card you want to cancel is very new, mostly unused and one of many other credit cards, you are likely better off leaving it open.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

What Does Your Car Insurance Really Cover?

Deciphering car insurance coverageCar Insurance registration form
Car ownership involves purchasing auto insurance. But what circumstances does it protect you against? What does car insurance not cover? Discover the ins and outs of car insurance to make sure you have the coverage you need.

Collision coverage
According to Barbara Marquand, contributor at Nerdwallet.com, this type of insurance protects you during a car accident with either another car or an object. It also covers you if your car flips over and suffers damage.

Comprehensive coverage
This type of insurance is usually sold together with collision coverage, as a package. Comprehensive coverage protects you from harmful incidents not related to car accidents. Per Esurance.com, it covers damages incurred from storms, falling objects, vandalism and collisions with animals like deer.

Liability coverage
In the case of an accident with another car, this type of coverage goes towards paying for the person’s injuries and any car damage incurred.

Liability coverage is usually expressed in three numbers, as Marquand states. For example, a 100/300/500 liability coverage means it will pay a maximum of $100,000 bodily injury per person, $300,000 bodily injury per accident and $50,000 property damage per accident.

Each state varies in the minimum liability insurance that they require; check your state’s requirements before purchasing car insurance to make sure you comply with this standard.

Personal injury coverage
Even if you have health insurance, it’s wise to opt for a car insurance policy that includes personal injury coverage. It covers the medical bills for you or passengers in your car in the case of an accident. If the accident proves fatal, this insurance covers funeral expenses.

Personal injury coverage can be broken down into two subcategories: medical payment coverage or personal injury protection. Some states require one or the other policy, so check your state’s requirements before purchasing this type of insurance.

Uninsured motorist coverage
This insurance protects you if you have an accident with someone who is uninsured or underinsured. It covers your medical expenses if the other driver doesn’t have insurance. If the other driver’s insurance covers only some of your medical bills, then uninsured motorist coverage will pay the difference.

According to Christina Couch, contributor for Bankrate.com, some states have more uninsured drivers than others. In Mississippi, for example, one in three drivers is not insured. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to purchase this insurance option, find out what the statistic is for your state.

Circumstances not typically covered
Although collision and comprehensive car insurance policies can shield you from a wide variety of circumstances, there are some situations that they will not cover.

As Couch notes, car insurance usually won’t cover you for items that are damaged or stolen from your car. For instance, it would cover features that came with your car when you first bought it, such as the radio or CD player. However, it would not cover any gadgets or personal items that were in your car.

Car insurance usually will not cover drivers who are living with you, unless they are specifically listed on your car insurance policy. So this insurance would not cover an out-of-the-house friend or relative who borrowed your car.

Towing and roadside maintenance are two other services that car insurance typically will not cover. However, many insurance companies offer these services as available add-ons to your overall insurance package.

Equipped with this knowledge, you can have peace of mind knowing what each type of car insurance coverage means and exactly what circumstances your policy protects you from.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.