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 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.

Four Mistakes People Make With Student Loans

Stay smart with a student loan strategy
Going to college is a life-changing experience that can open doors to new careers and increase your lifetime earning potential. If you are looking for a new student loan or are trying to make the best out of the repayment period, make sure you are avoiding these common student loan mistakes.

Not considering private loans
Many would-be-students shy away from private loans because they have heard that they lack the protections and benefits that come with federal loans. While it’s true that federal loans offer a fixed interest rate in contrast to most private loans, it is often possible for a student to get a lower interest rate with a private loan, particularly if a parent cosigns. If you are able to obtain a much lower rate with a private loan, then it’s worth seriously considering whether the security of a fixed rate with a federal loan is worth it.

Ignoring retirement savings
It is understandable, and even laudable, to want to repay student loans as quickly as possible, but undertaking an ambitious repayment plan at the expense of completely ignoring retirement savings isn’t wise.

“A recent report from Morningstar Inc. subsidiary HelloWallet found that someone with a starting salary of $50,000 who pays off a $20,000 student loan ahead of schedule but skimps on retirement savings—by contributing only enough to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan to receive half the employer’s 3% matching contribution—will wind up with a net worth at age 65 that’s $150,000 below where it would have been had he or she contributed enough to receive the full match and repaid the loan over a longer period, by making the minimum required payment,” states The Wall Street Journal Reporter Anne Tergesen in an article from Sep. 2016.

Not making automatic payments
One of the best steps you can take to make sure the student loan repayment process goes as smoothly as possible is to set up automatic payments. Some people delay setting up automatic payments because they have ambitious goals of paying more than the minimum each month, and want to wait to see what their bank account balance is before determining the payment amount. While it’s great to pay more when you can (as long as you aren’t sacrificing retirement savings), it’s not worth the risk of making a late payment or missing a payment all together. Setting up automatic payments that you can afford each month is the safest bet, and if you find you have extra money after the payment is made, you can always make a supplemental payment.

Paying for assistance
If you are having trouble affording your payments, you may have been tempted by ads that offer to help you figure out your options for paying on a different schedule or seeking loan forgiveness on your federal loan.

“If someone asks you to pay for these services, you are not dealing with the U.S. Department of Education or our loan servicers,” according to Nicole Callahan, a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid in an article for HomeRoom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education. “We don’t charge application or maintenance fees. If you’re asked to pay, walk away (or hang up).”

The cost of an education that can help you start a profitable career or get a better job in your current field is money well spent, and you can make sure you are getting the best return on your investment by avoiding these four common student loan mistakes.

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

Why You Should Avoid Personal Lending

A loan from a financial institution is best
Avoiding paperwork and getting low or no interest makes a loan from a friend or family member seem like a great idea, but the complications that arise in personal lending situations make them seldom worth the trouble.

Firstly, if the money is lent interest-free, that can create problems with below-market interest legislation. This is a big deal because avoiding interest is one of the main reasons people seek loans between family members. This is an issue because the IRS wants to ensure that people don’t try to get out of paying taxes on financial gifts by disguising them as loans. In order to remain in compliance with the IRS and make it clear that the transfer of money is a loan and not a gift, it may be necessary to calculate the interest that would hypothetically be paid on the sum at the current applicable federal rate (AFR), even if that interest is never actually paid. This is known as imputed interest.

“Then you get to pay real, live income taxes on the imaginary interest,” states Bill Bischoff of MarketWatch. “The imaginary interest payments can also trigger imaginary gifts from you to the borrower, which may eat into your valuable federal gift and estate tax exemption.”

There are differences in the ways that loans between family members are treated depending on whether the repayment is achieved through a set term schedule or it is considered a demand loan, which means that the lender may demand the money back at any time. The need to calculate imputed interest and make income tax payments on the interest is dependent upon the amount of the loan. Those interested in making a loan between family members should therefore talk to their tax professional to determine if below-interest tax rules may be an issue and if interest needs to be charged or imputed interest calculated.

While these legal and financial issues can definitely create their share of problems, the main reason to avoid lending between family members is the personal and emotional impact it can cause. Money owed between family members can cause tension in the relationships and even tempt people to avoid social interactions and family gatherings. If the borrower is not able to repay on a timely schedule, the relationship can be seriously compromised.

Furthermore, if the loan is for a new business or home, it may be especially problematic to get the money from a family member. When a family member lends money to cover a down payment or business startup costs, he or she may feel entitled to become part of the decision-making process, giving you input on how to run the business or which type of home is the best deal. People may do this because they feel their advice can make it more likely you will succeed in repayment, or because they feel their investment has bought them a stake in the home or business venture.

“One of the disadvantages of owing money to loved ones is that it may open up unwanted dialogue about your spending habits,” states April Maguire, writer for the QuickBooks Resource Center. “Whereas a bank won’t tell you to stop going out to dinner or discourage you from buying a new car, lenders who are also friends or family may criticize you for spending money on extravagances when you have yet to repay your debt.”

It can be hard to set up and maintain a clear separation between the financial agreement and the relationship when dealing with a personal lending situation. On the other hand, once a financial institution deems you worthy of a loan, it gives you autonomy to make your own business, home-buying and budgeting decisions.

Sticking with your financial institution helps you avoid all the hassles associated with personal lending and ensures that your relationships are never put at risk. Furthermore, it allows you to build a solid credit history with your timely repayments.

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

Do You Need a Co-signer for Your Auto Loan?

If you don’t have enough income or good enough credit, you may need a co-signer

As with any type of loan, your income and credit history will be major determinants of whether you are approved for an auto loan application. If you’ve been denied for an auto loan, you may want to consider using a co-signer.

Understanding how a lender determines loan approval
According to a January 2016 article in The Balance by author of “The Everything Improve Your Credit Book” Justin Pritchard, the lending company or financial institution must have reason to believe you will pay back the loan in order for you to be deemed worthy to receive the auto loan. A financial institution looks at two factors to determine whether you are credible: your credit score and your income.

Your credit history is a true indicator of how well you repay your loans; if you’ve borrowed money through loans previously and have successfully paid them off, or are making on-time payments, the lender will be more likely to believe you are a safe bet and will approve your loan application. On the other hand, if you have a poor credit score from defaulting on loan repayments, or don’t have any borrowing history, the financial institution may not want to approve you for a loan, explains Pritchard. To the financial institution, such a person is a bad investment, as the likelihood of the financial institution being repaid decreases.

Lenders also consider the income of the individual in deciding on a loan application, says Pritchard. In fact, the financial institution often calculates a debt to income ratio to determine if you make enough income to cover the expense of the loan payment each month.

Larger vehicles are generally more expensive than smaller ones, but smaller cars can also be more costly depending on the make and the engine build. The price of the vehicle and its calculated monthly payments under a loan in comparison to your monthly income will determine whether you have a low enough debt to income ratio to afford the monthly payments.

When to bring in a co-signer on your auto loan
If you have poor or no credit history, or your debt to income ratio is deemed too high by the lender, you will likely not be approved for a loan. In essence, the financial institution has determined you are too risky and will likely struggle to repay the loan, so it is unwilling to work with you.

A co-signer can help you meet the income and credit score requirements of the financial institution, as the financial institution considers the added income and credit history of the co-signer to the loan terms, explains Pritchard.

“Co-signing happens when somebody promises to pay a loan for somebody else. This happens when a [financial institution] won’t approve a loan (or it won’t approve the original application, but it’s willing to lend if a co-signer is involved),” says Pritchard in an October 2016 article in The Balance.

To the financial institution, the co-signer acts as a backup plan to collect payment if you default on the loan repayment. And if the co-signer has good credit history, the financial institution knows that at least one person on the loan has experience borrowing and repaying loans on time, adds Pritchard.

“The co-signer (who presumably has strong credit and income) promises to ensure that the loan gets repaid by signing the loan agreement with you. In other words, the cosigner takes full responsibility for the debt — if you don’t pay off the loan, your co-signer will have to do it.

“As a borrower,” Pritchard explains, “you need to have sufficient income and good credit to qualify for a loan. Using a co-signer therefore boosts your appeal as a borrower to the financial institution if you can’t meet the loan application requirements on your own.”

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

Three Things You Need to Do to Your Student Loans Right Now

Stay ahead of this big expense

Recent college graduates already have enough on their plates worrying about getting a job and supporting themselves — the last thing they want to do is stress over student loan repayment. For most, paying off student loans takes a long time, so no matter where you are in that process, there are three things you should stop and do right now.

1. Get organized
Take an inventory of your student loans. You can get a list by signing up at http://www.nslds.ed.gov/. After a short enrollment process, you will have a handy list of all guaranteed loans that were issued to you by the government, as well as those made by private lenders through June 2010. If you have a private nonguaranteed loan, those should all be present and detailed on your credit report, which you can find for free online.

Create a spreadsheet chronicling the name of each lender, the web address, your username and password (ensure your device is locked or encrypted), the loan balance, and the interest rate. The latter will be helpful if you opt to consolidate or pay off any interest early down the road. But be sure to keep your list up to date, as interest rates on student loans can be fixed or variable.

2. Know your repayment options
“The standard repayment schedule extends your loan payments over ten years, or 120 payments,” explained Maggie McGrath of Forbes. “However, if the standard monthly payments aren’t manageable on your budget — or if you’re unemployed or otherwise unable to repay your loans — the federal government has some alternative repayment plans for you, as well as some deferral options.”

Income-based repayment (IBR) and income-contingent repayment (ICR) extend your payment period to 25 years, capping your monthly payments at a fixed percentage of your income. The income on which payments are based and the actual percentage differ between the two plans. Pay-as-you-earn is a 20-year repayment period, with yet another varying percentage of your discretionary income.

You can read about other repayment options from the government here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans. Be wary, as these types of programs can cause your interest costs to increase over time, so always pay as close to your original amount due as you can.

3. Be aware of loan forgiveness opportunities
There are three primary programs that forgive the balance of your loan: Public service loan forgiveness, teacher loan forgiveness and Perkins loan cancellation.

“To qualify for forgiveness, your loans can’t be in default, meaning they’ve gone unpaid for more than nine months,” noted higher education expert Brianna McGurran of Nerdwallet. “Also, private student loans don’t offer forgiveness, though some lenders will let you make interest-only payments or take a temporary interest rate reduction if you’re having trouble affording your bill.”

Public service loan forgiveness requires you to have been working for a nonprofit or the government for at least 10 years in roles including, but not limited to, firefighting, teaching, the military and nursing. In the teacher-specific program, you must work full time as an educator for five consecutive years. The Perkins loan forgiveness also cancels the balance of that loan if you’ve worked as a teacher, firefighter, nurse, police officer, school librarian or public defender for about five years or more. For a complete description of eligibility requirements, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation.

If you take the time to do your homework and gather yourself before — or even while — you are repaying your student loans, the process will seem a lot less scary, and a lot more manageable.

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

Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Students

The difference between these two types of student loans

If you or a family member is in the process of applying to schools and seeking information about the various ways to cover tuition and the associated costs, you may have already learned that you can choose between applying for loans that are either subsidized or unsubsidized.

There are key differences between these two types of loans that you should learn to make sure you choose the type that better suits your financial needs.

One of the things that make the loan application process slightly more confusing is that different people or organizations may use different names when referring to the same loan. Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans are sometimes called Stafford Loans or Direct Stafford Loans, respectively, so if you’ve heard those terms, you should be aware that they are the same and not two additional loans out of four different types being discussed. Regardless of what these loans are called, when trying to figure out which type of loan is which, the most important criterion to look at is whether the loan is subsidized or unsubsidized.

Both loan types are offered by the U.S. Department of Education to eligible students who attend participating schools. They can be used at four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and trade, technical and career schools.

Qualifying for either type of loan requires the student to be enrolled at least half time at a school participating in the Direct Loan Program. Typically, the student’s chosen program must be one leading to a degree or certificate.

Direct Subsidized Loans offer students slightly better terms. This is because they are intended to go to students with financial need.

The website run by Federal Student Aid, an office of the Department of Education, defines financial need as “[t]he difference between the cost of attendance [COA] at a school and your Expected Family Contribution [EFC],” and states, “While COA varies from school to school, your EFC does not change based on the school you attend.”

Although your EFC will not change depending on your chosen school, your school will be responsible for determining the amount that you can borrow. That amount may never exceed your financial need, however.

The biggest advantage of a Direct Subsidized Loan is that the Department of Education pays the interest on the loan while the student is still in school at least half time. The federal government will also pay the interest on the loan if the student has postponed his or her loan payments with an authorized loan deferral. Furthermore, the six months following the student’s graduation are considered a “grace period,” during which time the federal government continues to pay the loan interest. This is intended to make it easier for students to make payments while searching for a job.

Although the party responsible for paying the loan interest differs, the interest rate itself does not depend on the loan type.

“As of 2013, interest rates charged for Federal Direct Loans began to be tied to the 10-year Treasury note, with an additional margin added on to cover expenses,” states Mark P. Cussen, CFP, CMFC, AFC, in an article for Investopedia. “They do not depend on the borrower’s credit score.”

In order to qualify for a Direct Subsidized Loan, the income level of the student’s family must not be above certain levels. The exact criteria that define low family income and sufficient financial need are detailed in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). More information about the regulations and processes of applying for student aid with FAFSA can be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov.

While Direct Unsubsidized Loans don’t have an income requirement, the student is responsible for the interest accrued during all periods. One advantage of Direct Unsubsidized Loans is that they are available to graduate students, which isn’t the case with Direct Subsidized Loans. A further advantage is that it is possible to take out more money with a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, so students with very large educational costs to cover may find it necessary to use a loan that is unsubsidized.

The cost of education is rising at an alarming pace, but thankfully there are many financial tools, including Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized loans, to help students and their families cover it. To delve more deeply into the details of these loans and explore the wealth of information available online for students and their families in the application process, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.

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