What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance?

Before I started writing in the personal finance space, I spent nearly 8 years working alongside my husband in a funeral home. My husband Greg worked as a mortician, and I was the Director of Family Services. I learned so much about living and dying during my years in the mortuary business, but there’s one

The post What Are the Consequences of Not Having Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

What Is a Mortgage Refinance? 5 Ways to Know If It’s a Good Idea

Jason says:

Hi, Money Girl. I’m interested in refinancing and getting a lower interest rate on my mortgage; however, I may need to sell my home and relocate in a year or so. In that case, does a refinance still make sense? If so, what factors should I consider?

Jason, thanks for your question! It’s a perfect time for homeowners to consider refinancing because interest rates are at historic lows.

If you’re a homeowner, your mortgage payment is probably your largest monthly expense, so it’s wise to stay alert for opportunities to reduce it by refinancing. Plus, your financial circumstances and needs today may be very different than they were when you originally got your mortgage.

It’s a perfect time for homeowners to consider refinancing because interest rates are at historic lows.

I'll answer Jason’s question by reviewing what a mortgage refinance is, explaining common reasons to consider doing one, and covering five ways to know if it’s a good idea for your situation.

What is a mortgage refinance?

Refinancing is when you apply for a new loan to pay off an existing loan balance. The new loan could be with your same institution or with a different lender. The idea is to swap out a higher-interest loan for a lower-interest one, which decreases the amount of interest you have to pay and may also reduce your monthly payments.

When you take out a mortgage to buy a home, various factors determine the interest rate you get offered. While your credit, down payment, and income history are critical, lenders base mortgages on the prevailing interest rates. 

An interest rate is simply the cost of money for borrowers. Rates in the U.S. fluctuate according to the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve or Fed, which is our central bank. 

A good rule of thumb is to consider refinancing when the current rate dips at least one percentage point below what you’re paying for your mortgage.

When interest rates are low, it’s like money’s on sale, as strange as that sounds! Banks should display a big banner on their front door or website that reads “bargain basement prices on dollars” or “we sell money cheap” because that’s what happens when interest rates go down. Low rates are great for borrowers, but not so good for lenders. 

The Freddie Mac website shows historical data for interest rates on 30-year mortgages since 1971. In August 2020, the average for a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage was 2.94%. A year earlier, the same loan was 3.62%, and ten years before, it was 4.43%. 

Since interest rates change periodically, the rate you’re currently paying on a mortgage may be significantly different than the going rate. A good rule of thumb is to consider refinancing when the current rate dips at least one percentage point below what you’re paying for your mortgage.

What’s the cost to refinance a mortgage?

You need at least one percentage point between the going rate and yours because there’s a cost to do a refinance. Closing a loan means you must pay fees to various companies, including your lender or mortgage broker, property appraiser, closing agent or attorney, and surveyor. Plus, there are fees required by the local government for recording the mortgage, and maybe more costs, depending on where you live. 

The total upfront cost of a refinance depends on the lender and property location. It could be as high as 3% to 6% of your outstanding loan balance. The trick to knowing if it’s worth it is to figure out when you’d break even on those costs. In other words, when do you go from the red to black on the deal? 

If you pay for a refinance but don’t keep your home long enough to recoup the cost, you’ll lose money. But if you do keep the property beyond the financial break-even point (BEP), you’ll feel like a genius because you saved money in the long run!

If you pay for a refinance but don’t keep your home long enough to recoup the cost, you’ll lose money.

You may be able to roll closing costs for a refinance into the new loan, which means you would have nothing or little to pay out-of-pocket. But adding them increases the amount you borrow and may also increase the interest rate you pay for the life of the loan. For that reason, it’s essential to ask the lender for a side-by-side comparison of all the terms for each loan option so you can carefully evaluate them. 

So, how do you figure the BEP to know if doing a refinance is wise? Here’s a simple BEP formula: Refinance break-even point = Total closing costs / Monthly savings.

For instance, if your closing costs are $5,000 and you save $150 a month on your mortgage payment by refinancing, it would take 34 months or almost three years to recoup the cost. The calculation is $5,000 total costs / $150 savings per month = 33.3 months to break even.

For help crunching your numbers, check out the Refinance Breakeven Calculator at dinkytown.com.

Since how long you own your home after a refinance is critical for making it worthwhile, I’m glad that Jason brought it up in his question. For instance, if he finds out that he’d need to own his home for five years to break-even, but he only plans on staying in it for two years, that should be a deal-breaker.

How to get approved for a mortgage refinance

If you believe that doing a refinance could be wise, you’ll also need to consider if you qualify. Lenders have different underwriting requirements, but most require you to have a minimum amount of equity in your property.

Equity is the difference between your home’s market value today and what you owe on it. A critical ratio for refinancing is known as the loan-to-value or LTV.

For example, if your home value is $300,000 and you have a $150,000 mortgage outstanding, you have $150,000 in equity, an LTV ratio of 50%. But if you owed $250,000, that would be an LTV of 83%. 

You typically need an LTV less than 80% to qualify for a mortgage refinance.

You typically need an LTV less than 80% to qualify for a mortgage refinance. So, Jason should do some quick math to make sure he doesn’t owe more for his home than this threshold based on the current market value. Lenders may still work with you if you have a high LTV and good credit, but they may charge a higher interest rate.

If you have an existing FHA or VA mortgage, you may qualify for a “streamlined” refinance program that requires less paperwork and less equity than a conventional refinance. Check out the FHA Refinance program and the VA Refinance program to learn more.

Reasons to consider refinancing your mortgage

There are a variety of reasons why it may make sense for you to refinance a mortgage. Here are some situations when doing a refinance may be a good solution.

  • Rate-and-term refinance. This is when you get a new loan with a lower interest rate, a different term (length of the loan), or both. It’s probably the most common reason why homeowners refinance their mortgages. 

    Example: If you have a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 5%, you could refinance with a 30-year mortgage at 3%. That would reduce your monthly payments and the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan.
     

  • Cash-out refinance. This is when you get a larger loan than your existing mortgage, so you walk away from the closing with cash. 

    Example: Let’s say your home’s market value is $200,000, and your mortgage balance is $100,000. If you need $25,000 to pay for college or renovate your home, you could do a cash-out refinance for $125,000. After paying off the original mortgage of $100,000, you’d have $25,000 left over to spend any way you like.  
     

  • Cash-in refinance. This is when you pay cash at the closing to pay off an existing mortgage balance. That could be necessary if you don’t have enough equity to qualify for a refinance, or you owe more than your home is worth. 

    Example: You might do a cash-in refinance if having a lower LTV qualifies you for a lower mortgage rate or allows you to get rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments. Read or listen to How to Avoid PMI on Your Home Loan for more information.

You may also need to refinance a mortgage if you want to remove a co-borrower, such as an ex-spouse, from your loan. But if one spouse doesn’t have sufficient income and credit to qualify for a refinance on his or her own, your best option may be to sell the property instead of refinancing the mortgage.

5 ways to know if it’s the right time to refinance

Here are five ways to know if doing a rate-and-term refinance is a good idea.

1. You have an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)

Buying a home with an adjustable-rate mortgage comes with lots of advantages like a lower rate, a lower monthly payment, and being able to qualify for a larger loan compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. With an ARM, when interest rates go down, your monthly payments get smaller. 

Instead of worrying about how high your adjustable-rate payment could go, you might refinance to a fixed-rate loan.

But when ARM rates go up, you can feel panicked as your mortgage payment increases month after month. There are caps on annual increases, but your rate could double within just a few years if rates have a significant spike.

Instead of worrying about how high your adjustable-rate payment could go, you might refinance to a fixed-rate loan. That move would lock in a reasonable rate that will never change and make it easier to manage money and stick to a spending plan.

2. You could get a lower interest rate

If you bought a home when mortgage rates were higher than they are now, you’re in a great position to consider refinancing. As I mentioned, you need to do your homework to understand the cost and BEP fully. 

I recommend shopping for a refinance with the lender who holds your current mortgage, plus one or two different companies. Let your mortgage company know that you’re shopping for the best offer. They may be willing to waive specific fees if some of the necessary work, such as a title search, survey, or appraisal, is still current for your home.

3. You don’t plan on moving for several years

Once you know what a refinance will cost, make sure you’ll own your home long enough to pass the BEP, or you’ll end up losing money. For most homeowners, it typically takes owning your home for at least three years after a refinance to make it worthwhile.

4. You have enough home equity

As I mentioned, you typically need at least 20% equity to qualify for a refinance. If you have less, you may still find lenders that will work with you. However, unless your credit is excellent, you’ll typically pay a higher interest rate when you have low equity.

Also, if you don’t have 20% equity, lenders charge PMI. Adding that to your new loan could cut your savings and give you a much longer break-even point. 

5. Your finances are in good shape.

The higher your income and credit, and the lower your debt, the better your refinancing terms will be. If you’re unemployed or your credit took a dive due to a hardship, wait until your overall financial situation has improved before making a mortgage application. Good credit can save thousands in mortgage interest.

Good credit can save thousands in mortgage interest.

If you investigate doing a refinance and decide that it’s not worth the cost, another strategy to save money is to ask your lender for a mortgage modification on your existing loan. You may be able to negotiate modified terms, such as a lower interest rate, without having to pay for a full-blown refinance.

If you’re unsure how much home equity you have or know that you have very little, don’t let that stop you from inquiring about your refinancing options and saving money. Getting advice and refinancing quotes from your lender is free and will help you understand your range of financial options.

7 Big Insurance Mistakes to Avoid During the COVID Crisis

The coronavirus has upset lives and livelihoods all over the globe. While insurance can’t keep you from getting COVIID-19, having the right types of insurance can reduce your financial risk as the virus spreads.

There’s never been a better time to protect your health, life, property, and business with the right insurance. Let's take a look at seven insurance mistakes you might be making during the pandemic. You’ll learn how to face new risks and challenges with the help of different types of affordable insurance.

Coronavirus insurance mistakes

Here’s the detail on each mistake you should avoid to make sure you and your family stay safe during the pandemic.

1. Skipping health insurance

The coronavirus has changed the health insurance landscape in drastic ways. If you’ve become unemployed or have your work hours cut and lost employer-sponsored health insurance, don’t go without coverage when you may need it most.

Here are several ways to get health insurance:

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be options for free or low-cost coverage if you can’t afford health insurance. These programs allow you to get coverage at any time of year, depending on your income, family size, and where you live. You can learn more at the Medicaid website at Medicaid.gov.

Your parent’s health plan may be an option if they have coverage, you’re under age 26, and they’re willing to insure you. Even if you’re married, not living with a parent, and not financially dependent on them, they can cover you until your 26th birthday.

COBRA coverage is typically available when you leave a job with group health insurance. Whether you quit, are laid-off, or get fired, COBRA is a federal regulation that gives you the option to continue your employer-sponsored health, dental, and vision insurance for a certain period, such as 18 months. However, if you have funds in a health savings account or HSA, you can use them to pay your COBRA premiums.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage is available through federal or state health online marketplaces, insurance brokers, and insurance websites. If your income is below certain limits based on your family size, you qualify for a federal subsidy, which reduces your healthcare premiums. No matter where you live, you can begin shopping at the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

2. Not using telehealth services

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), it typically only covers certain preventive care costs, such as an annual physical or vaccinations, before you meet the yearly deductible.

The CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must cover it cost-free before your HDHP deductible is satisfied.

However, the CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must also cover it cost-free before your deductible is satisfied. For other types of health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, they must also waive any cost-sharing or co-pays for remote health services.

The telehealth relief is only temporary for 2020 and 2021. However, it can give you significant savings if you have a non-emergency or medical question that you want to address with a doctor online.

3. Only getting minimum car insurance coverage

During tough financial times, it can be tempting to cut your auto insurance coverage or drive uninsured. Remember that it’s against the law to drive without having the minimum liability coverage for your home state.

Since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage.

However, since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage. This insurance protects you from a driver who hits-and-runs or is uninsured or underinsured for the damage they cause you, your passengers, and your car.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 13 percent of drivers are uninsured nationwide. My home state, Florida, has the highest number—almost 27 percent! This data from 2015 is the most recent. Due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, I’d bet those numbers are much higher now.

If you drop any auto insurance coverage, make it collision or comprehensive, which repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged or stolen (after paying your deductible). Reducing or eliminating these coverages could make sense if your car isn’t worth much, such as less than $1,000. A good rule of thumb is to drop these coverages if their annual cost is 10% or more of your car’s cash value.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductibles or bundle it with other coverage, such as your home or renters policy.

4. Not purchasing a non-owners auto insurance policy

If you’ve sold your car or you tend to borrow or rent cars when needed, don’t forget that you still need the protection of a non-owner auto insurance policy. This coverage gives you liability protection when you drive a car you don’t own or are a passenger in someone else’s car.

Here are some situations when you need non-owner car insurance:

  • You rent a car and don’t already have insurance on a vehicle you own.
  • You use ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
  • You borrow cars from family, friends, or neighbors for short or long trips.

5. Overlooking a renters insurance policy

According to the III, a surprisingly low number of renters, 35 percent have renters insurance. Whether you mistakenly believe that your landlord is responsible for your personal belongings (they’re not) or that you don’t have enough to insure (you probably do), you should have a policy.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Standard renters insurance offers a lot more protection than many people think. It covers your possessions if they’re stolen or damaged from a covered event, such as a water leak, fire, or natural disaster. A renters policy also pays living expenses if you have to move out while repairs get made after an insured disaster, such as a tornado or fire.

Even more important is the liability protection I mentioned. If you get involved in a lawsuit related to property damage or medical injuries, you’ll be covered up to your policy limit.

Renters insurance gives you a lot of protection for the money. It’s probably more affordable than you might think, costing only an average of $188 per year across the nation. Bundling it with your auto insurance could even reduce the cost.

6. Working from home without commercial coverage

Due to stay-at-home mandates during the pandemic, most people who can work from home are doing so. If you’re self-employed as a solopreneur or operate a small business from home, be aware that your home or renters insurance excludes most home-based business activities.

For instance, if you keep inventory at home or have special business equipment, they aren’t covered under a standard homeowner or renter policy. Make sure your business assets and liability are protected by having a separate commercial policy or adding a home-business rider or endorsement to your existing insurance.

The type of business coverage you need varies depending on your industry, whether you drive for business purposes, if you see clients at your home, the value of your business assets, and how much potential risk you have. But it could cost as little as $150 per year. Check with your existing insurance company or a trade association for your industry about getting coverage.

RELATED: How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

7. Thinking you can’t get life insurance

It’s not fun to think about death or what would happen to your family if you weren’t alive. If your surviving spouse, partner, children, parents, other dependents, or business partners would be hurt financially after your death, you need life insurance to protect them.

Think about how your survivors would care for your children and meet financial obligations without additional income. Consider how your children would survive if you and your spouse or partner died at the same time. If you’re procrastinating getting life insurance or increasing your current coverage, think about the legacy you want to leave.

The good news is that term life insurance is affordable and still readily available during the pandemic. For example, a $500,000 payout for your family could cost about $200 a year if you’re middle-aged and reasonably good health. Bankrate.com is a good site to learn more and get free life insurance quotes.

3 Ways Health Insurance Protects Your Personal Finances

Medical care is expensive. And affordable health insurance can be difficult to find. But finding fund for the monthly premium in your budget can protect your finances in the long run. Alternative solutions like urgent care and prescription discount finder tools have popped up to help people find more affordable prices. But these cheaper services… Read More

The post 3 Ways Health Insurance Protects Your Personal Finances appeared first on Credit.com.

3 Ways Health Insurance Protects Your Personal Finances

Medical care is expensive. And affordable health insurance can be difficult to find. But finding fund for the monthly premium in your budget can protect your finances in the long run. Alternative solutions like urgent care and prescription discount finder tools have popped up to help people find more affordable prices. But these cheaper services… Read More

The post 3 Ways Health Insurance Protects Your Personal Finances appeared first on Credit.com.

What Is an Insurance Deductible?

When you have an insurance policy, you may have to foot the bill for some of your medical expenses before your insurance company starts chipping in. This initial amount is your insurance deductible. The size of deductibles can vary depending … Continue reading →

The post What Is an Insurance Deductible? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

A Guide to Coinsurance and Copays

Having health insurance makes it possible to receive medical care while only paying a fraction of that care’s true cost. Insurance doesn’t cover everything, however. Some of the cost of your care is still up to you to pay, and … Continue reading →

The post A Guide to Coinsurance and Copays appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

5 Best Places to Find Insurance for Freelancers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 million workers are self-employed in the country. Being a self-employed worker can be liberating, but it also means you’re your own HR department, too. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding affordable insurance options. With a traditional employer, you had a limited array of

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