Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Co-Sign a Friend’s Loan

Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Co-Sign a Friend's Loan

Co-signing your friend’s loan might seem like a nice thing to do. But it can put many things in your life at risk, including your finances, your credit score and even your friendship. While it’s possible to co-sign a friend’s loan and never face any negative consequences, it might not be worth it. Check out five reasons why you shouldn’t co-sign a friend’s loan.

1. You’ll Be Responsible for the Loan

No matter how trustworthy or wonderful your friend may be, he might end up defaulting on the loan he took out. Anything could happen. Your friend could lose his job or find out that a relative needs help paying for medical treatment.

If your friend can’t pay back the money he borrowed, you would have to pay for the loan if you co-signed it.

2. Your Credit Could Take a Hit

Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Co-Sign a Friend's Loan

If you co-sign a friend’s loan and he misses a single loan payment deadline, your credit score could drop. If that happens, it might be harder for you to buy a house or get a low interest rate on a loan in the future.

If your friend fails to pay back whatever he owes, the lender might sue you first. In the lender’s eyes, you are far more likely to pay back the loan since your credit score is probably higher.

3. Your Property May Be at Risk

Sometimes a co-signer will secure a loan with his or her own property. If you (the co-signer) put up your car or house as collateral and your friend doesn’t pay back the loan, you could potentially lose your property.

4. You Could Destroy Your Friendship

If you’re forced to cover the cost of the loan you co-signed, you could end up resenting your friend. After all, it can be difficult to remain friends with someone who put you in a complicated financial situation.

5. It Could Be Harder to Get a Loan Later On

Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Co-Sign a Friend's Loan

Co-signing your friend’s loan could make qualifying for another loan more difficult. For example, if you co-sign your friend’s car loan and then you try to take out a personal loan, a lender might reject your application. Co-signing your friend’s loan will affect your debt-to-income ratio (the amount of debt you’re paying off compared to your monthly gross income). A lender might not want to lend money to someone who already has a lot of debt to pay off.

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Pool Loan Calculator: See Your Monthly Payments

Once you have a solid cost estimate for your new pool and you’ve decided to finance it with a loan, the next step is to figure out your monthly payments so you can budget for them.

Enter a loan amount, repayment term, and estimated APR to see how much you might pay each month and the total interest.

How much does it cost to build a pool?

An above-ground pool costs $2,500 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, while an inground pool can run you $50,000 or more. The price can vary based on the size of the pool and materials you use.

When you finance with a personal loan, your annual percentage rate can be anywhere from 6% to 36%, and some lenders will finance up to $100,000 over a two- to 12-year repayment term.

Your credit score is an important factor lenders consider when they decide your loan amount and rate. On average, NerdWallet members with excellent credit (720 or higher FICO) received pre-qualified loan offers with rates between 10.7% and 12.5% in 2020, according to marketplace data. Lenders also consider factors like your income and existing debt.

A $50,000 loan with a six-year repayment term and a 11% APR would require monthly payments of $952. That loan would cost $68,544 in total, and $18,544 of that would be interest.

How to compare pool loans

Here are a few features to consider as you compare offers.

Annual percentage rates: APRs are the best apples-to-apples comparison for personal loans because they include the interest rate and other fees a lender charges. You can use this rate to compare offers between loans or to compare a loan with other financing options like a home equity loan.

Repayment terms: Most personal loan terms span from about two to seven years, but some lenders offer extended repayment terms on home improvement loans. For example, online lender Lightstream lets borrowers choose a repayment term up to 12 years. Your repayment term determines your monthly payment and the loan’s total interest — the longer your repayment term, the more you pay in interest.

Funding time: Some online lenders say they can fund a loan the day your application is approved or the following day. Banks and credit unions, however, can take a few days. Most personal loans can be funded within a week, though.

Ability to pre-qualify: Many online lenders let you pre-qualify to see your potential rate, loan amount and repayment term without affecting your credit score. You can pre-qualify with multiple lenders at once on NerdWallet to nail down another estimate of your monthly pool loan payments.


Popular 2021 Home Upgrades — and How to Pay for Them

Staying at home during the pandemic has changed the way homeowners renovate, but not always in ways you might expect.

You could assume, for example, that homeowners are desperate for privacy and therefore adding more walls.

But interior designer Max Humphrey says rumors of the open floor plan’s death, which bubble up every year, are exaggerated.

“I think middle America still loves their open floor plans,” says Humphrey, who is based in Portland, Oregon. “Designers are talking about how open floor plans are over, but believe me, they’re not.”

Instead, homeowners are creating spaces they’d want to visit if they didn’t live there. Home kitchens have replaced restaurants, and your favorite outdoor bar is now your patio.

Many homeowners paid for their upgrades with savings last year, according to NerdWallet’s 2020 Home Improvement Report. Indeed, if the economic impact of the pandemic hasn’t hit your own finances, cash is the cheapest way to cover home renovations.

But there are also affordable financing options, including cash-out refinancing and personal loans, for those who don’t have or want to use savings.

Here are projects interior designers expect to see more of as the pandemic stretches into 2021, plus financing options to make them a reality.

Whole house renovations

Stephanie Sullivan is busier now than at any time since she became a full-time interior designer in 2014.

Her clients are seeing again the things in their homes they wanted to change when they bought the house but stayed busy enough over the years to ignore.

“It’s amazing how we don’t notice stuff until we’re stuck at home going, ‘hmm, really,’” she says. “So they’ve been walking past it for years, and now everybody’s home and they’re going, ‘Wait, I can’t do this.’”

A homeowner asking her to redesign the entire house is common these days, says Sullivan, who is based in Austin, Texas.

She says multiple clients in the last year have said, “I just need you to start at the front door.”

Fully remodeling most or all of the rooms in your house is likely an expensive endeavor.

If your project is $50,000 or more, certified financial planner Sarah Ponder recommends a cash-out refinance, which involves replacing your existing mortgage with a larger one and using the extra money to renovate.

Cash-out refinance is a good option only if you have enough home equity to match the project cost and if you get a low interest rate — a real possibility given today’s low mortgage rates, says Ponder, whose company, Real Estate Wealth Planning, is based near Austin.

It’ll take patience, too. The refinance process used to take about a month, Ponder says, but lately, it can take two or three months.

Room conversions

Another common request Sullivan says she receives from homeowners: Turn a master bathroom into an at-home spa.

“Since they can’t go to the spa, they’re creating spa retreats in their bathrooms,” she says.

They’re redoing their kitchens as places to connect with family, she says, but they also want their own getaway, even if it’s just upstairs.

Homeowners are also transforming basements and spare rooms into home offices and study rooms, or gyms and playrooms, Humphrey says.

He says his clients are looking for ways to sprawl out.

For midsized projects like one- or two-room renovations, refinancing your mortgage may not be worth the time and effort.

San Antonio-based CFP Tess Downing says a personal loan could work for projects around $20,000. These loans don’t use your home as collateral, and qualifying is based on your creditworthiness and finances. Good credit and little existing debt are must-haves to get a low rate.

Consumers who qualified for a personal loan in 2020 with excellent credit (720 or higher FICO) typically were approved for rates between 10.7% and 12.5%, according to NerdWallet marketplace data.

DIY projects

There are also affordable ways to get a fresh look in your home on a budget.

Replacing light fixtures can make a big difference, says Humphrey, and first-timers can get help from YouTube.

“It’s things that you notice every day, you know, that’s the light in your house,” he says. “Even as a renter, I would swap light fixtures.”

Homeowners can also add a roll of stick-on wallpaper, he says, or a fresh coat of paint. Even new towels, lightbulbs and bedsheets can change the look of a room.

If the cost of your project is below $10,000, a zero-interest credit could be a good pick, Ponder says. If you can pay the balance during the card’s promotional period (often 12 to 18 months) you’ll finish your project interest-free.

More traditional credit cards and store rewards cards can also help you cover purchases on these projects, especially if you have a card with a hardware or furniture store. Be sure you can pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest.

Resale considerations

It’s probably not worth your time and money to go all-out renovating a home you’re going to sell in a couple of years because you won’t make that money back, Humphrey says.

He cautions his clients against overpersonalizing a home they don’t plan to stay in long-term.

“I don’t love to think about resale when I’m designing for somebody, but the pandemic isn’t going to be forever,” he says. “So I do encourage people to think a little bit about resale.”

But for as long as home remains a restaurant, spa, gym, school and office, go ahead and make some changes you can afford just because they make you happy.


The Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation

If you have multiple streams of debt, like high-interest credit cards, medical bills or personal loans, debt consolidation can combine them into one fixed monthly payment.

Getting a debt consolidation loan or using a balance transfer credit card can make sense if it lowers your annual percentage rate. But refinancing debt has pros and cons — even at a lower rate.

Pros of debt consolidation

You could receive a lower rate

The biggest advantage of debt consolidation is paying off your debt at a lower interest rate, which saves money and could eliminate the debt faster.

For example, if you have $9,000 in total debt with a combined APR of 25% and a combined monthly payment of $500, you’ll pay $2,500 in interest over about two years.

But if you were to take out a debt consolidation loan with a 17% APR and a two-year repayment term, the new monthly payment would be $445, and you would save $820 in interest. The money you save on the lower monthly payment could also go toward paying off the loan earlier.

If you qualify for a balance transfer card, you would pay zero interest during the promotional period, which can last up to 18 months. You will likely also pay a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee.

You’ll have just one monthly payment

Instead of keeping track of multiple monthly payments and interest rates, consolidating lets you combine the debt into one payment with a fixed interest rate that won’t change over the life of the loan (or during the promotional period, in the case of a balance transfer card).

But it’s not just about simplifying your repayments. Consolidating can give you a clear and motivating finish line to being debt-free, especially if you don’t have a debt payoff plan in place.

You could build your credit

Applying for a new form of credit requires a hard credit inquiry, which can temporarily lower your score by a few points.

However, if you make your monthly payments on time and in full, the overall net effect should be positive, especially if you’re consolidating credit card debt.

Paying off credit card balances lowers your credit utilization ratio, which is one of the biggest factors that determines your score.

Cons of debt consolidation

You may not qualify for a low rate

Balance transfer cards can be hard to qualify for and typically require good to excellent credit (690 or higher on the FICO scale).

Debt consolidation loans are more accessible, and there are loans tailored for bad-credit applicants (629 or lower on the FICO scale). But borrowers with the highest scores usually receive the lowest rates.

Unless the lender can offer you a lower rate than your current debts, debt consolidation usually isn’t a good idea. In this case, consider another debt payoff strategy, like the debt avalanche or debt snowball methods.

Borrowers looking to consolidate with a loan can prequalify with some lenders to see potential rates without affecting their credit scores.

You could fall behind on payments

Missing payments toward the new debt means that you could end up in a worse position than when you started.

For example, if you fail to pay off your balance transfer card within the zero-interest promotional period, you’ll be stuck paying it at a higher APR — potentially higher than the original debt.

If you fall behind on a consolidation loan, you could rack up late fees, and the missed payments would be reported to the credit bureaus, jeopardizing your credit scores.

Before consolidating, make sure the new monthly payment fits comfortably in your budget for the entirety of the repayment period.

You haven’t addressed the root problem

Though consolidation is a helpful tool, it isn’t a sure fix for recurring debt and doesn’t address the behaviors that led to debt in the first place.

If you struggle with overspending, consolidation could be a risky choice. By taking out a loan to pay off credit cards, for example, those cards will have a zero balance again. You might be tempted to use them before the new debt is paid off, digging you into an even deeper hole.

If you have too much debt, you may be better off consulting a credit counselor at a reputable nonprofit who can help set up a debt management plan, versus trying to tackle it on your own.


The Millennial Guide to Getting a Personal Loan

The Millennial Guide to Getting a Personal Loan – SmartAsset

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Personal loans have made something of a comeback over the last few years thanks to the rise of online lending. According to TransUnion, the number of consumers who are using personal loans jumped by 18% between Q3 2013 and Q3 2015. Millennials, in particular, are increasingly relying on them to consolidate debt or finance big purchases. Here’s a rundown of what 20-somethings need to know about applying for a personal loan.

Online Lenders and Traditional Banks Aren’t the Same

In the past, if you needed to borrow money you had to head to a brick-and-mortar bank to do it. The online personal loan industry has changed all that and millennials have more choices when they need loans. There are, however, some differences to keep in mind.

Because online banks tend to have fewer overhead costs, they can often afford to offer the most credit-worthy borrowers lower interest rates than traditional banks. They may also charge fewer fees. With a regular bank, however, you’ve got the advantage of dealing with a loan officer face-to-face, which may come in handy if you have a question or a problem later on.

Many online lenders also take a different approach when it comes to underwriting. Upstart and SoFi, for example, cater to millennial borrowers and both consider not just your credit score and your income but your long-term financial outlook when making lending decisions. With a traditional bank, your personal merits are less likely to factor into whether or not you’re able to get approved.

Check Your Credit Before You Apply

Even though online lenders may be a bit more flexible, they’re still going to take a look at your credit score when you apply. Considering that some online lenders charge interest rates as high as 36%, you need to know what kind of deal you can expect to get.

Take a look at your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to make sure your accounts are being reported properly. If you see an error, it’s best to dispute it as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could pull your score down and you could end up with a higher interest rate on a personal loan.

If you’re still in your 20s and you don’t have a substantial credit history yet, you might face an uphill climb to getting a loan. Paying your student loans and other bills on time each month and applying for a secured credit card with a low limit are two effective ways to establish credit. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score so it’s a good idea to focus on that area if you’re aiming to get a personal loan with the best rates.

Crunch the Numbers on the Payoff

Personal loans aren’t open-ended, which means you have a fixed amount of time to pay them back. Depending on the lender, the loan term may last anywhere from one to five years.

If you’re in your 20s and you’re not making a lot or you’re balancing student loan payments, you need to be sure that you can afford the monthly personal loan payments. Missing a payment could do serious damage to your credit. Doing the math is also important where the interest is concerned.

For example, let’s say you want to borrow $5,000 to consolidate credit card debt. Bank A offers you a 3-year loan with a 12% simple interest rate while Bank B is offering you a 5-year term at a 10% simple interest rate. On the surface, the lower rate seems like the better deal but if you go with Bank B, you’ll end up paying at least $700 more in interest.

If you’re on the lookout for a loan, using our personal loan calculator can help you figure out the true cost of borrowing.

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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3 Things Startups Should Know About Using P2P Loans

3 Things Startups Should Know About Using P2P Loans – SmartAsset

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Starting a new business requires a certain level of commitment. You’ll also need to have access to plenty of money. Startups often have a hard time qualifying for business loans. But peer-to-peer (P2P) lending could be a financing option worth considering if you can’t get funding elsewhere. Here’s what you need to know about using P2P loans to kickstart a business.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

1. You May Have to Apply for a Personal Loan

Getting a personal loan to support a business isn’t the same thing as getting a business loan. That’s something to keep in mind since borrowing limits for personal P2P loans may not be as high as they are for business loans.

Lending Club, for example, lets you borrow up to $40,000 for a personal loan. But the maximum borrowing limit for business loans is $300,000. If you want a business loan, your company needs to be at least two years old and you need to have at least $75,000 in annual sales.

If you can’t qualify for a business loan, you may need to take out more than one personal loan. But by taking on more debt, it may take longer for your business to become profitable.

2. Lenders Will Look at Your Personal Credit History

When you’re trying to get a personal loan through a P2P lender, your odds of being approved hinge solely on your personal credit history. Every P2P lender has its own credit rating system for borrowers. Finding someone who’s willing to loan you money may be difficult if you have bad credit.

Get your free credit score now.

Before you start shopping around for a loan, it’s best to learn about the credit requirements that different P2P lenders have. Then you can check your credit reports and scores to see how you measure up. If your score is lower than you expected it to be, you might want to put off launching your business. The higher your credit score, the more appealing you’ll be to P2P loan investors (and you’ll probably have access to better loan terms).

3. You’ll Be Personally Responsible for What You Borrow

Getting a personal loan to fund your new business will be one challenge. Another will be paying back what you borrow. If your business doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped, that won’t change your responsibility to the P2P lender or the investors who funded your loan.

If you default on the loan, your lender may sue you. And your personal assets could be seized (depending on the way your business is structured). Before you commit to a P2P loan, you’ll need to know exactly what you’ll be risking if things don’t work out.

Related Article: How to Get a Personal Loan

Final Word

As you’re comparing P2P lenders, it’s important to pay attention to interest rates and fees. Compared to banks, peer-to-peer loans often come with higher rates, which increase the cost of borrowing. If you want the best deal on a loan for your new business, it’s best to shop around.

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She’s worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans

How to Start Investing in Peer-to-Peer Loans – SmartAsset

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Back in the day, if you needed a personal loan to start a business or finance a wedding you had to go through a bank. But in recent years, a new option has appeared and transformed the lending industry. Peer-to-peer lending makes it easy for consumers to secure financing and gives investors another type of asset to add to their portfolios. If you’re interested in investing in something other than stocks, bonds or real estate, check out our guide to becoming an investor in peer-to-peer loans.

Check out our personal loan calculator.

What Is Peer-to-Peer Lending?

Peer-to-peer lending is the borrowing and lending of money through a platform without the help of a bank or another financial institution. Typically, an online company brings together borrowers who need funding and investors who put up cash for loans in exchange for interest payments.

Thanks to peer-to-peer lending, individuals who need extra money can get access to personal loans in a matter of days (or within hours in some cases). Even if they have bad credit scores, they may qualify for interest rates that are lower than what traditional banks might offer them. In the meantime, investors can earn decent returns without having to actively manage their investments.

Who Can Invest in Peer-to-Peer Loans

You don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire or an heiress to start investing in peer-to-peer loans. In some cases, you’ll need to have an annual gross salary of at least $70,000 or a net worth of at least $250,000. But the rules differ depending on where you live and the site you choose to invest through.

For example, if you’re investing through the website Prosper, you can’t invest at all if you reside in Arizona or New Jersey. In total, only people in 30 states can invest through Prosper and only folks in 45 states can invest through its competitor, Lending Club.

Certain sites, like Upstart and Funding Circle, are only open to accredited investors. To be an accredited investor, the SEC says you need to have a net worth above $1 million or an annual salary above $200,000 (unless you’re a company director, an executive officer or you’re part of a general partnership). Other websites that work with personal loan investors include SoFi, Peerform and CircleBack Lending.

Keep in mind that there may be limitations regarding the degree to which you can invest. According to Prosper’s site, if you live in California and you’re spending $2,500 (or less) on Prosper notes, that investment cannot be more than 10% of your net worth. Lending Club has the same restrictions, except that the 10% cap applies to all states.

Choose your risk profile.

Becoming an Investor

If you meet the requirements set by the website you want to invest through (along with any other state or local guidelines), setting up your online profile is a piece of cake. You can invest through a traditional account or an account for your retirement savings, if the site you’re visiting gives you that option.

After you create your account, you’ll be able to fill your investment portfolio with different kinds of notes. These notes are parts of loans that you’ll have to buy to begin investing. The loans themselves may be whole loans or fractional loans (portions of loans). As borrowers pay off their personal loans, investors get paid a certain amount of money each month.

If you don’t want to manually choose notes, you can set up your account so that it automatically picks them for you based on the risk level you’re most comfortable with. Note that there will likely be a minimum threshold that you’ll have to meet. With Lending Club and Prosper, you can invest with just $25. With a site like Upstart, you have to be willing to spend at least $100 on a note.

Should I Invest in Peer-to-Peer Loans?

Investing in personal loans may seem like a foreign concept. If you’re eligible to become an investor, however, it might be worth trying.

For one, investing in personal loans isn’t that difficult. Online lenders screen potential borrowers and ensure that the loans on their sites abide by their rules. Investors can browse through notes and purchase them.

Thanks to the automatic investing feature that many sites offer, you can sit back and let an online platform manage your investment account for you. That can be a plus if you don’t have a lot of free time. Also, by investing through a retirement account, you can prepare for the future and enjoy the tax advantages that come with putting your money into a traditional or Roth IRA.

As investments, personal loans are less risky than stocks. The stock market dips from time to time and there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a return on your investments. By investing in a peer-to-peer loan, you won’t have to deal with so much volatility and you’re more likely to see a positive return. Lending Club investors, for example, have historically had returns between 5.26% and 8.69%.

Related Article: Is Using a Personal Loan to Invest a Smart Move?

But investing in peer-to-peer loans isn’t for everyone. The online company you’re investing through might go bankrupt. The folks who take out the loans you invest in might make late payments or stop paying altogether.

All of that means you could lose money. And since these loans are unsecured, you can’t repossess anything or do much to recoup your losses.

You can lower your investment risk by investing in different loans. That way, if someone defaults, you can still profit from the loan payments that the other borrowers make. But if you don’t have enough loans in your portfolio you’re putting yourself in a riskier predicament.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a way to add some diversity to your portfolio, investing in peer-to-peer loans might be something to think about. There are plenty of benefits that you can reap with this kind of investment. Before setting up an account, however, it’s important to be aware of the risks you’ll be taking on.

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Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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The Dos and Don’ts of Borrowing Money

The Dos and Don’ts of Borrowing Money – SmartAsset

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Taking on debt is a thorny subject. Signing on an affordable mortgage is one thing. Racking up credit card debt on unnecessary purchases? Quite another. Any time you borrow money, you put your finances at risk. That’s why it’s important to do your research before committing to new debt. If you’re not sure whether to borrow money, read our list of dos and don’ts. And if you need hands-on help managing your financial life, consider linking up with a financial advisor.

Do: Comparison shop when deciding where to borrow

Thinking of borrowing money? Don’t just go for the first credit source you can find. Look around for a loan that meets your requirements and leaves you with monthly payments you can actually afford. If you’re not happy with what lenders are offering you, it may be best to take the time to build up your credit score and then try again.

Don’t: Just look at the interest rate

Comparing loans is about more than searching for the lowest interest rate you can get. Look out for red flags like prepayment penalties. Stay away from personal loans that come with pricey insurance add-ons like credit life insurance. These insurance policies, particularly if you decide to finance them by rolling them into your loan, will raise the effective interest rate on the money you borrow. Approach payday loans and installment loans with extreme caution.

Do: Go for “good debt”

Good debt is debt you can afford that you use on something that will appreciate. That could be a home in a desirable neighborhood or an education from a reputable institution that will help your future earning power. Of course, you can’t be 100% sure that your home will appreciate or your advanced degree will pay off but you can take leaps based on thorough research.

Don’t: Go overboard with consumer debt

Consumer debt is generally considered bad debt. Why? Because it’s debt taken out for something that won’t appreciate. You’ll spend the money and get fleeting enjoyment but you’ll be making interest payments for months or years. In other words, it’s generally better to save up for that new tablet or vacation than to finance it with consumer debt.

Do: Keep a budget

Real talk: Anyone who has debt should be on a budget. Budgets are great for everyone, but those who owe money to lenders are prime candidates for a workable budget. Start by keeping track of your income and your spending for one month. At the end of that month, sit down and go over what you’ve recorded. Where can you cut back? You can’t be sure you’ll be able to make on-time payments unless you’re keeping track of your spending – and keeping it in check.

Don’t: Be late

Speaking of making on-time payments: Making a late payment on a bill you can afford to pay is not just careless. It’s also  costly mistake. Late payments lower your credit score and increase the interest you owe. They can also lead your lender to impose late-payment penalties and increase your interest rate, making your borrowing more expensive for as long as it takes you to pay off your debt.

Do: Seek help

If you’re having trouble keeping up with your debt payments or you’re not sure how to tackle a handful of different debts, seek help from a non-profit credit counseling organization. A credit counselor will sit down with you and review your credit score and credit report. He or she will help you correct any errors on your credit report. Then, you’ll work together to set up a debt repayment plan. That may mean you make payments to your credit counselor, which then pays your lenders on your behalf.

Don’t: Throw good money after bad 

Why a non-profit credit counselor? Well, there are plenty of people and companies out there that want you to throw good money after bad. They may offer counseling or they may try to sell you on bad credit loans. At best, they’ll charge you an arm and a leg for advice about debt repayment that you could be getting for free. At worst, they could lead you further into debt.

Do: Automate

If you have debts to pay off then automation can be your friend. Setting up automatic transfers for your bills and your loan payments will remove the temptation to overspend, to make only the minimum payment or to skip a payment altogether. If you can afford it, set up automatic savings while you’re at it. The sooner you start saving for retirement the better. Just because you’re still paying off your student loans doesn’t mean you should defer your retirement savings until middle age.

Bottom Line

Most of us will borrow money at some point in our adulthood. These days, it’s easier than ever to borrow money online and take on debt quickly. The choices we make about when, how and how much to borrow? Those can make or break our finances. Before you take on debt, it’s important to ask yourself whether that debt is necessary and how you will pay it back. Happy borrowing!

If you want more help with this decision and others relating to your financial health, you might want to consider hiring a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with top financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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Should You Help a Family Member in Debt?

Should You Help a Family Member in Debt? – SmartAsset

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Watching loved ones struggle with their personal finances is never fun, especially when you’re doing relatively well yourself. But before you rush to the aid of your mother, your brother or your favorite cousin, it’s a good idea to consider how that might impact your own financial situation. Check out some of the pros and cons of loaning money to a family member in debt.

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The Pros

Being able to support a family member who’s facing a financial difficulty can make you feel good about yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to work together to implement good financial strategies and in the process, you might learn something that can help you manage your own money more effectively. And since you can never be completely sure about your own financial future, helping your relative get back on track might provide you with a safety net that you can rely on if you need help from that same relative later down the line.

It’s important to take the time to sit down with your relative and discuss what has worked well for you financially in the past. You can help him or her create a tighter budget (with loan repayments to you built in) and connect him or her with a professional financial advisor or credit counselor if need be. The more comfortable your family member is with talking about money, the better the experience is likely to be.

The Cons

When it comes down to it, helping family members out of debt is a big deal financially speaking. Before you make that move, it’s best to think about how it could affect your relationship. You run the risk of turning your personal relationship into a business transaction, and you might feel like money is all you talk about. Eventually, it might create tension or lead a serious disagreement.

You could also make yourself financially vulnerable by lending a family member a portion of your wealth. If you choose to let someone borrow your money, keep in mind that you don’t want to lend any amount that could get you into trouble.

Related Article: 5 Tips for Lending Money to Friends or Family

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

As you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of lending money to a relative, there are several things you’ll need to clear up. Will this be a temporary situation or an ongoing arrangement? A gift or a loan? Can they afford to pay you back at some point? What will you do if they can’t?

You’ll also have to consider whether providing someone with a loan is a good use of your money. Instead of relying on you, could your family member turn to debt management, debt settlement or bankruptcy? Are there other ways you can help?

Related Article: 4 Signs It’s Time to File Bankruptcy

Final Word

Deciding how to assist a family member in need isn’t easy. As an alternative to becoming your relative’s sole source of financial support, (or turning down his or her request) you can always offer to fund part of the debt repayments. Managing your expectations and finding a happy medium that won’t jeopardize your chances of achieving financial success are key.

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Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz’s articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.
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The Best Cities for Motorcycle Owners

The Best Cities for Motorcycle Owners – SmartAsset

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, as of 2012 there were at least 8.4 million registered motorcycles in the United States (a number that has likely risen in the past four years as the economy has strengthened and auto sales have ballooned). That’s a lot of hogs – about one for every 37 people in the U.S. 

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In some states, the concentration is even greater. South Dakota, for example, has one registered motorcycle for every 11 residents.

There are numerous factors that might make some places better for motorcyclists than others. Weather is an obvious one. Going for a ride is a lot more pleasant if it isn’t pouring rain.

Likewise, frigid temperatures can push even the most die-hard motorcycle owner to consider an alternate means of transportation. For many motorcyclists, access to the open road is also important. A few hours of traffic can suck the fun right out of an afternoon joyride.

So what are the best cities for motorcycle owners? To answer that question, SmartAsset analyzed data on every U.S. city with a population of at least 150,000. Along with the weather and traffic congestion in these cities, we also looked at such metrics as the state max speed limit on highways and the number of registered motorcycles per capita. (Read our full methodology below.)

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Key Findings

  • Best rides out west. With its many natural wonders and its long stretches of open road, the American West is something of a playground for motorcycle enthusiasts. It probably comes as no surprise that seven of the top ten cities in SmartAsset’s analysis are out west.
  • Southern California has best motorcycling weather. Seaside cities like Oxnard and Chula Vista have weather that is warm and dry year round. Incredibly, San Diego records zero days a year in which the average max temperature is less than 40 or higher than 90.

1. Fort Collins, Colorado

Why is Fort Collins the best city in the U.S. for motorcycle owners?

First, take a look at the location. Along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and 40 miles south of the Wyoming border, Fort Collins is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and opportunities for great rides. For instance, a loop through the Roosevelt National Forest, up to Laramie, Wyoming, and back down to Fort Collins would cover 220 miles of mountains and valleys in about four and a half hours.

Next, check out the traffic (or lack thereof). Motorists in Fort Collins spend an average of less than 20 hours per year sitting in traffic, making it one of the 20 least-congested cities in SmartAsset’s analysis. Colorado also has some of the lowest gas taxes in the country, with a state tax of just 22 cents per gallon.

2. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

South Dakota, which is one of the top states for an early retirement, may also be the best state for motorcyclists. Drive along I-90 on any summer day and you are sure to see numerous packs of motorcycles zipping along. The state is home to what may be the world’s largest annual gathering of motorcycle owners, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which in 2015 drew an astonishing 739,000 people.

While that rally is located across the state from Sioux Falls, there are plenty of reasons motorcycle owners will be happy in South Dakota’s largest city. (Sturgis and nearby Rapid City were not included in SmartAsset’s study as their population is less than 150,000.)

The average motorist in Sioux Falls spends just 15 hours per year in traffic, ninth-lowest among the cities we analyzed. Likewise, given the city’s strong economy and low housing costs, motorcycle owners should have some spare income to spend on the upkeep and improvement of their motorcycle collection.

3. Boise, Idaho

Located in central Idaho’s Treasure Valley, Boise is within a day’s ride of many of the country’s most beautiful regions. It is less than eight hours from Yellowstone National Park, less than eight hours from Lake Tahoe and less than eight hours to Oregon’s Cannon Beach. Utah’s Arches National Park is about eight hours and 15 minutes away from Boise.

4. Santa Clarita, California

Santa Clarita is located in Los Angeles County, but unlike in the City of Angels, traffic in Santa Clarita is not a major problem. In fact the average commuter in Santa Clarita spends less than 15 hours per year sitting in traffic. (LA motorists, in contrast, spend 80 hours in traffic.)

While bypassing the bad traffic, motorcycle owners in Santa Clarita still get to enjoy Southern California’s scenic mountain roads and warm weather. The city averages just 23.9 days per year in which precipitation exceeds 0.1 inches.

5. Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park is the second largest city in the state of Kansas. Of the 171 cities in SmartAsset’s analysis, it has the 14th highest income after housing costs (like mortgage payments and insurance). That means motorcyclists should have spare money to spend on motorcycle repairs and improvements.

Overland Park also has the 16th lowest property crime rate of the cities in SmartAsset’s analysis. There were just 279 auto thefts in the city in 2014, 1.5 for every 1,000 residents.

6. McKinney, Texas

McKinney is about 30 miles north of Dallas, but when it comes to traffic it is a world apart. In fact, the average motorist in McKinney spends just nine hours a year in traffic congestion, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. That is lowest of any city in our study. For motorcyclists, it means less time waiting for the car ahead to move and more time on the open road.

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7. Santa Rosa, California

Located in the heart of one of America’s top wine regions, Santa Rosa is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Motorcyclists have numerous options, whether they want to go for a quick afternoon joyride or take a longer weekend tour. Potential destinations include the Pacific Coast Highway, which is less than an hour away, and Redwood National Forest, which is about four hours away.

8. Oxnard, California

If you love the beach and love your motorcycle, Oxnard may be the place for you. It is located along the Pacific Coast, west of Los Angeles. The city’s weather is stunning. Average maximum temperatures never fall below 60 or exceed 80. In fact, on average the city has just one day a year in which the temperature gets over 90 degrees.

9. Cary, North Carolina

This North Carolina city is the number one city on the East Coast for motorcycle owners. Like the rest of the East Coast, it is wetter than most cities in the west, averaging 76 days per year in which it receives at least 0.1 inches of rain. On the other hand, the climate in Cary is fairly temperate. Maximum temperatures fall below 40 degrees an average of 15 days a year, and rise above 90 degrees an average of 33 days per year.

The area is not lacking for beautiful routes. For instance, the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s favorite drive,” is located about three and a half hours from Cary. The North Carolina coast is less than three hours away.

10. Chula Vista, California

Take a ride through the Sonoran Desert or down the Coast of Baja California. Check out Cleveland National Forest or Joshua Tree National Park. All of these destinations are just a few hours from Chula Vista. The city also has some of the best motorcycling weather of any city in the U.S. It ranked in the top 15 cities in our study for both its limited rainfall and lack of extreme temperatures.


To reach these results, SmartAsset analyzed data on 171 U.S. cities with a population of more than 150,000. Specifically, we looked at the following seven metrics:

  • Precipitation: the average number of days per year in which precipitation exceeds 0.1 inches.
  • Temperature extremes: the number of days per year in which average maximum temperatures are either lower than 40 degrees or higher than 90 degrees.
  • Traffic: the average hours per year lost to traffic congestion for auto commuters.
  • Property crime: the annual number of property crimes (including but not limited to auto theft) per 100,000 residents in each city.
  • Discretionary income: the median income after typical housing costs in each city.
  • Maximum speed: the maximum speed limit on highways of the state in which each city is located.
  • Motorcycle registrations: the number of residents per registered motorcycle for the state in which each city is located.

We ranked each of the 171 cities in our analysis according to those seven metrics. (For state-level metrics, cities in the same state received the same ranking.) We then averaged those rankings, giving half-weight to the two measures of weather and full weight to all other metrics.

The overall index was calculated based on that average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received an index score of 100, while lower average rankings correspond with lower index scores.

Data on temperature and precipitation comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Data on traffic congestion comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Data on maximum speed limits comes from the Governors Highway Safety Administration. Data on the number of motorcycle registrations comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Data on property crime rates comes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement agencies. Data on discretionary income comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

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Nick Wallace Nick Wallace studied Economics at the University of Washington. He enjoys getting people thinking about finances by looking at the numbers. Nick is a freelance journalist and data analyst living in Michigan. He still lends his economic and analytic expertise for SmartAsset’s studies.
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