BORROWING FROM MY 401(k) helped my wife and me buy our home in 1997. I’m grateful I was able to reach inside my retirement plan for the money we needed for the house down payment.
Experts often warn against 401(k) loans because, even if the loan is repaid, the money borrowed can miss out on investment gains. That’s certainly a risk. Still, there’s a second way of taking money out of a 401(k)—and it’s far more harmful to retirement savings.
WHEN WE MOVED to Pennsylvania in 1996, I wanted to buy an old house. After months of looking, we found a stone farmhouse close to my new job and in a good school district. There was just one problem: We didn’t know if we could afford it.
We hadn’t been able to sell our home in Maryland, so we didn’t have any home equity to bring to the table. When our real estate agent saw the asking price,
THE AGE-OLD DEBATE about not borrowing to buy depreciating assets came up again in a recent HumbleDollar article. Despite being a big proponent of debt-free living, I could relate to the story of borrowing to buy a car. In fact, I’m guilty of having gone deeply into debt in my younger days to feed my passion for music—and I don’t regret it.
I grew up listening to Indian music of various genres,
WHAT IF I SAID YOU could borrow to buy a home and have no mortgage payment? Would you think I was nuts?
Trust me, I’m not. If you’re age 62 or older, it’s possible to finance a home purchase and have no ongoing mortgage payments. How? By taking advantage of a home equity conversion mortgage, or HECM. The federally insured HECM is the most popular reverse mortgage in America today.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
ACCORDING TO MY local newspaper, the average home price in my town rose 450% over the past 25 years. That made me ponder how I could use my home equity to fund my desired retirement lifestyle. I’m certainly not alone in thinking this way.
There are three ways you can access home equity. You can sell your home and downsize, you can take out a home equity line of credit or you can take out a reverse mortgage.
THE HIGHEST CREDIT score possible is 850, and I’ve hit that mark in eight of the past 12 months. In the other four months, I had a score of either 844 or 846 under the credit rating formula created by FICO, formerly called Fair Isaac Corp.
A FICO score between 800 and 850 is considered exceptional and gets you the best rates on loans. A score of 670 or more is considered “good,” but more doors and opportunities are available when your score hits 740,
IF YOU’RE LIKE MANY people, you’ll cringe when I mention reverse mortgages. The perception is that they’re loans of last resort for desperate retirees who don’t have any other options. But I suggest keeping an open mind. I believe reverse mortgages can be a shrewd way to unlock liquidity during retirement.
Reverse mortgages have evolved significantly, and retirees are often pleasantly surprised when they learn how today’s loans work. They find that many of the negatives they’ve heard are no longer true.
WE NEEDED MONEY to close on a new home. The mortgage process progressed smoothly—until the underwriters suddenly rejected the property right before closing. To get together the money needed to close, my wife and I had to resort to loan sharks—ourselves.
We borrowed from our IRAs. The rules allow tax-free distributions for either a 60-day rollover to a new IRA or reinvestment back into the same IRA. When we called Vanguard Group to execute our “rollovers,” the phone reps were well-versed on this short-term,
BUY NOW PAY LATER is an online payment method that’s growing in popularity. Money and investors have moved toward participating companies big and small, as they seek to stake their claim in this growing market. What’s the big deal and why is everyone excited?
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) allows consumers to purchase goods and pay for them in the future. Approval happens in seconds. You make a down payment, such as 25% of the total purchase,
I HAD A NEW HOME built in 2017. I financed it with a 30-year mortgage at a 3.875% interest rate.
Early last year, when interest rates dropped due to the pandemic, I suggested that readers refinance. I took my own advice, replacing my 30-year loan with a 15-year mortgage at 2.99%. The cost of refinancing seemed well worth the reduction in my loan interest rate.
Two months ago, I saw that mortgage rates had continued to decline,
WHAT’S YOUR CREDIT score? That’s hard to answer because none of us has just one. You likely have a dozen or more. So how did consumers come to think that one credit score—the FICO score—is the sole reflection of their ability to repay a loan?
Following decades of growing consumer spending, and associated data collection, the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 required credit bureaus to open their files. The intent was to protect consumers from lenders who were relying on incorrect information.
FINANCIAL FIRMS spend heavily on marketing to create a friendly, customer-first impression. But these firms aren’t your friends, at least not in the ordinary sense of the word. They make their money, fairly and legally, by providing specific services to customers.
Friendliness at a retail level keeps your capital in place, where it works for the firm’s benefit. Every once in a while, I see language that clearly expresses what they want from our “relationship.” These communications help me review where I do business,
QUITTING CREDIT CARDS might be more difficult than quitting cigarettes. I’ve done both. I’ve not smoked in 36 years. But it wasn’t until 11 months ago that I stopped charging on my credit cards.
I got my first card at age 15 from the biggest department store in my hometown. It was 1971, and my card’s limit was $50. The store was locally owned, so perhaps it was easier to obtain credit as a minor without steady income.
I HATE DEBT. A very happy day was when we paid off the mortgage. I’d rather walk on broken glass than pay a penny of interest on my credit cards. But there have been a few exceptions to my usual rule, all involving car purchases.
The first was many years ago when I reached what I thought was an all-cash deal on a new car. The salesman surprised me when he offered the same price with 0% financing.
IT’S BEEN MORE THAN three years since my wife and I paid off the last of our consumer debt. Since then, we’ve enjoyed the benefits of a debt-free life: less stress, no interest payments and a lower cost of living.
While these reasons alone make a strong case for paying off credit card balances, car loans and other consumer debt, the true cost of borrowing goes beyond the obvious. Here are five drawbacks that I wish I’d considered before taking on debt: