Never a Debtor

Tom Scott  |  May 6, 2024

I HATE BEING IN DEBT. It makes me feel anxious and uncertain, as though my finances are out of my control. If I don’t pay all my bills in full every month, I feel trapped, and I’m endlessly restless until I get free.
I understand that other people manage their finances quite differently, and are happy to pay their bills in installments. Not me.
Years ago, I made a small bet on a minor thing.

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Matters of Principal

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 22, 2024

HAVE YOU EVER HAD one of those debates where you come up with the winning argument—hours later, long after everybody has gone home?
Among the many financial topics that cause confusion, extra-principal payments on a mortgage deserve a special mention. For decades, I feel like I’ve been trying to stamp out the nonsense that’s spouted on this topic, and I think I finally have the answer. Maybe.
The chief reason for all the confusion is a mortgage’s shifting mix of principal and interest.

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House of Cards

Jonathan Clements  |  Oct 7, 2023

I’VE KNOWN AT LEAST half-a-dozen folks who regularly carried five-figure credit card balances. In fact, I was once friends with a woman who had $100,000 in card debt—not just a staggering sum, but also a warning sign about her spending habits that I should have heeded far earlier than I did.
Folks who flock to HumbleDollar tend to be financially disciplined, so this sort of behavior will no doubt spark tut-tutting among some readers.

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Know the Score

Crystal Flores  |  Sep 28, 2023

IF YOU’RE IN THE market for a home and a mortgage, this is a tough time, with shrinking inventory, lofty home prices and interest rates that feel overwhelming. I know all about this—because I’m a mortgage broker.
For many, today’s housing and mortgage market mean putting their homebuying dreams on hold. What if you go ahead, despite 30-year fixed-rate mortgages above 7%? I advocate controlling what you can. One of the variables that you can influence—and which can help save a tremendous amount of money—is your credit score.

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No Interest

Ken Cutler  |  Jul 24, 2023

THE HOUSE I GREW UP in was built in 1950 by my father, with some assistance from his best friend Joe, who was a master homebuilder by profession. After his work day as an accountant for a local hardware and lumber chain, my dad would head over to the job site and labor into the night.
My mom also provided some sweat equity, painting and even swinging a hammer at times. I was born in 1962,

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Disney or Bust

Richard Quinn  |  Apr 11, 2023

AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED in The Wall Street Journal told the story of Americans in their 30s who are spending heavily and piling on debt as we leave the pandemic behind.

One family with an income of $80,000 in Lincoln, Nebraska—where the cost of living is low, with housing costs 22% below the national average—had $20,000 in credit card debt and $160,000 in student loans.

They used stimulus checks to work down their credit card debt.

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Pay No More

Kevin Thompson  |  Feb 10, 2023

IF YOU PUT DOWN less than 20% on a conventional home loan and you’re still paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), do what I did: See if you can get those pesky PMI payments eliminated.
I purchased a home in September 2017 for $341,000. The interest rate was near 4% and I put down roughly 10%. Why not put down 20%, so I could avoid PMI? My thought: If I can borrow money at an interest rate below 5% and get a reasonable rate of return elsewhere,

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Credit Where It’s Due

Ron Wayne  |  Dec 20, 2022

THE BEST FINANCIAL advice I could give to a Gen Z or millennial is this: Join a credit union. But they probably wouldn’t listen.
A GOBankingRates survey earlier this year found that fewer adults under age 40 are banking with credit unions, instead preferring national or online banks by as much as a two-to-one margin. I’ve done all my banking with a local credit union for almost 18 years, and it’s provided me with a degree of personal customer service that’s likely less common with banks.

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A Hardship Indeed

Greg Spears  |  Sep 9, 2022

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.

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This Old House

Greg Spears  |  Aug 31, 2022

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,

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Grateful Debt

Sanjib Saha  |  Jul 18, 2022

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,

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Reverse Engineering

Mike Roberts  |  Jul 12, 2022

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.

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Home Rich Cash Poor

Mike Drak  |  Jul 1, 2022

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.

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A Perfect Score

Donnie Mattox  |  Jun 8, 2022

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,

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You May Be Surprised

Mike Roberts  |  May 31, 2022

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.

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