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Archive for November, 2008

Home Equity Loan To Pay Off Debt?

November 24th, 2008 at 05:49 am

One of the most common questions I am asked is:

"Should I get a home equity loan to pay off all of my non-house debt?"

Here is my response.

I am not a big fan of consolidating one's non-house debt into a home equity loan. This is for several reasons, and I have outlined those reasons below.

* This is addressing a symptom, not the root cause. This question is usually motivated by our need for immediate action. It is the same motivation that causes us to purchase a car and finance it for five years.
* Borrowing from home equity makes it more difficult to sell the house. This is especially true in today's house market. There are a ton of people who now owe more on their house than it can be sold for. Consequently, they become trapped in the house.
* Changing spending behavior is a process. If one runs out and consolidates their debts, it might remove the urgency from the need to change spending behavior. Changing one's spending behavior takes time. I am convinced that if I had obtained a home equity debt consolidation loan in December 2002, I would not have changed my spending behavior. However, because it took fourteen months to address our debt, our spending behavior was completely changed. We have never looked back!

Having spoken with thousands of people and working one-on-one with nearly one thousand people in the past two years, I am convinced that obtaining a home equity loan is not the best way to eliminate debt. The most common result from obtaining a home equity loan is less equity in the house and the consumer debt shows back up because the spending behavior was not changed.

This is, in fact, my own story. I obtained a debt consolidation loan to move a pile of credit card and consumer debt to one payment. After paying $315.60 a month for an eternity, I wanted to celebrate, but I could not. Why? Because while I had finally paid off the debt consolidation loan, I had not changed my spending behavior and my credit card debt had grown back to more than I had consolidated in the first place!

What do you think?

Read Recent Posts

Related Tools/Articles
* Debt Elimination Tools
* SERIES: "How To Pay Off Debt"

Help! I Can't Pay My Bills. Part 4

November 20th, 2008 at 06:57 pm

This is a series written for those who are struggling mightily with their finances and tough decisions are being made about who will be paid and who will not be paid. It is my hope that this series will provide practical steps that can be taken to walk out of this situation and into financial freedom.

Part 4 Take Action!
I have found that whenever I am overwhelmed, I move toward doing nothing. I just want to shut down and ignore everything. Running away feels like the right thing to do.

Yet, the FACT is that running away will just make the situation worse. Will it be extremely difficult to work through this situation? AB-SO-LUTE-LY! But the cost of NOT doing something is even more difficult! You CAN do this.

Below are some practical tips that have worked for me when I have wrestled with overwhelming situations.

* Action List I prepare a list of items and prioritize them
* Establish accountability Someone who I trust who will hold me accountable to my actions
* Seek Help Here at NewSpring Church, we provide FREE one-on-one financial counseling for over 500 people each year. We provide this service on-site at all of our campuses. You can request this free counseling HERE. We will not try to sell you anything. Our counselors are winning with their money and are passionate about helping folks do the same!

Read the entire series

Help! I Can't Pay My Bills. Part 3

November 18th, 2008 at 10:29 am

This is a series written for those who are struggling mightily with their finances and tough decisions are being made about who will be paid and who will not be paid. It is my hope that this series will provide practical steps that can be taken to walk out of this situation and into financial freedom.

Part 3 Prioritize
When the financial sky is falling down and the walls are closing in on you, it is imperative that spending is prioritized. Here is my suggested order of priority for spending when there just is not enough to pay everything.

1. Housing Must take care of the mortgage and utilities first. Now if the mortgage payment has run out of control and it is 60% of one's take home pay, then it is high time that the house be sold or income be tripled within a couple of months.
2. Food I am going to eat before one single bill is paid! We must be able to eat. I am not talking about Olive Garden or fast food. I am talking about groceries bought with coupons and much attention to frugality.
3. Transportation If transportation is required to produce income, then it is imperative that the vehicle payments, insurance, taxes, gasoline, and maintenance be funded.
4. Back Taxes Owing the government back taxes is a terrible thing, and it must be addressed. I would rather owe anyone besides owing Uncle Sam!
5. Secured Debts If there is additional money remaining after Housing, Food, and Transportation are taken care of, it is time to pay the secured debt payments. This is debt where the lender can come take something - like a car, boat, motorcycle, tractor, etc. If the lender repossesses the item, they will sell it at a wholesale auction and come after you for the difference.
6. Family & Friends Debts If you owe family and friends and you still have some money left, it is essential to pay on debts owed to family and friends. Unpaid debts to family and friends has been the cause of untold relationship issues since time began. Avoid this!
7. Unsecured Debts It is time to address the unsecured debts. Credit cards, student loans, signature loans, etc. One thing to note is that unsecured debt holders will be screaming and hollering the loudest because there is nothing they can come take from you. As a result, they will try to play upon your emotions to get you to pay them before you pay anyone else. And it works! I have met with a lot of people who have kept their credit cards current while letting the house payments fall behind. Not good!

Go back to the spending plan you have prepared and ensure that your priorities are in order.

Help! I Can't Pay My Bills. Part 2

November 17th, 2008 at 06:17 am

This is a series written for those who are struggling mightily with their finances and tough decisions are being made about who will be paid and who will not be paid. It is my hope that this series will provide practical steps that can be taken to walk out of this situation and into financial freedom.

Part 2 Ask Questions

It is extremely important to ask questions that help define the true root cause of the issue.

When I am counseling someone experiencing this sort of situation, I have a series of questions I ask to help me grasp the issues. Here are some of the questions for which I am seeking answers. These are not in any particular order.

* "What was the cause of this situation?" Ultimately, I am trying to determine if the current situation is the result of a long series of financial decisions or the result of a catastrophic event (job loss, medical issue without insurance, death of income provider, etc.)
* "Is this an INCOME or an OUTGO issue?" I want to see where the money is going. That is why Part 1 is so important. The spending plan will help you more clearly determine the answer to this question. From experience, I have seen that it is an OUTGO issue in most cases.
* "What are the required debt payments?" Is this unsecured revolving debt (credit cards) or is this installment debt on an asset (car, boat, motorcycle, etc.)? This question will be key for Part 3 of this series.
* "Is there something that can be sold?" If there are items that can be sold, this needs to be fully investigated to understand how it can help the situation.
* "What expenses can be stopped?" Are there any "extras" in the OUTGO?
* "How can INCOME be increased?" An extra job or tons of OT may not be appealing, but living in a squalor of debt with no hope is even worse! It is very important to investigate short-term ways to increase income to get out of the current late bill payment situation.

Readers: What other questions would you add to this list?

Help! I Can't Pay My Bills. Part 1

November 13th, 2008 at 05:40 am

Welcome to the latest series - "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills."

This is a series written for those who are struggling mightily with their finances and tough decisions are being made about who will be paid and who will not be paid. It is my hope that this series will provide practical steps that can be taken to walk out of this situation and into financial freedom.

Part 1 Prepare a written spending plan

There is so much power in a written spending plan! I never realized where all of my money was going until the day that I began planning my spending.

You might say, "But Joe, I know that the outgo is more than my income so why should I even bother with preparing a spending plan?"

I would respond with this answer. "It is hard to slay a dragon if you do not know how many heads it has!" A spending plan will ensure that you know the ACTUAL situation instead of the IMAGINED situation.

So go ahead and prepare your plan - even if you know it is going to be awful. This is the start of your journey to financial freedom!

You can use the free budget tools HERE to get started on your plan.

Helpful Tools/Articles
* FreeBudget Tools
* "How Do I Budget?" Series

Are You Prepared?

November 6th, 2008 at 11:33 am

I am a HUGE fan of savings. I used to live with an average bank balance of $4.13, and I thought that we were doing really good because we had paid all of the bills on time.

The fact was that every single time life happened, our finances were crushed.

So today's question is: "Are You Prepared?"

As I share in I Was Broke. Now I'm Not., my family has experienced its fair share of "life happens" events. Here are some of them.

* Hospital My daughter could not breathe and went to the emergency room.
* Car Part Repairs The car broke down. Multiple times. Repairs included power steering rack, AC failure, ignition switch, and water pump.
* Car Body Work The car was involved in an accident with our truck. Yes, one of us in our family was backing up the car and scraped it along the side of the truck. We also had a small fishing boat fall over and hit our car leaving a huge dent.
* Appliances The dryer died.
* Healthcare Jenn had to have major surgery in 2003. Just ten months later, she had to have major surgery again. In 2007, I had hernia surgery. Now, Jenn has just had surgery again.
* House Repairs We purchased a thirty year old house in 2007. It required lots of repairs. LOTS more than we originally anticipated.
* Emergency Trips For death in the family.

We have experienced lots of "life happens" events that have cost a ton of money. Before December 2002, we would have just pulled out the credit card to cover these types of events. Since December 2002, we have been prepared with a fully-funded emergency fund.

Are YOU prepared?

Budget Booster - Swagbucks

November 4th, 2008 at 08:45 am

I am a big fan of receiving money for doing something that I already do, and that is why I am pumped about Swagbucks.

Let me tell about Swagbucks. It is a search engine that you use to find stuff on the internet. By signing up for and using Swagbucks for your internet searches, you can earn Swagbucks - a currency that can be converted into rewards ranging from five dollars to hundreds of dollars.

A single Swagbuck has a value of around $0.08, but it can add up! At the rate I have been earning Swagbucks, I believe that I will be able to obtain a $50 gift card every three months or so.

Based on what I have seen, Swagbucks returns the same results as Google.com but pays you to use it!

You can register for your own Swagbucks account HERE.

Find dozens more budget boosting ideas on the Next Steps site.

NEXT STEPS - A New Part Of The Crusade - Part 4

November 3rd, 2008 at 06:11 am

I am PUMPED about Next Steps, the newest division of IWBNIN. In this series, I will be sharing different components of this division which is solely focused on providing practical next steps toward financial freedom.

Eliminate Debt
The Eliminate Debt section was developed to help folks develop a plan that will allow them to become 100% debt-free. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, and my bride and I made a commitment in December 2002 to rid ourselves of debt. In just fourteen months, we became debt-free except for the house and are now well on our way to eliminating the mortgage!

You can become debt-free too, and the Eliminate Debt section was prepared especially for you.

Here are the pages located in the Eliminate Debt section.
* Debt Freedom Date This page is focused on helping you understand your debt situation. There are links to obtain your free credit report (it truly is FREE), calculate your debt freedom date, calculate the actual cost of your debt, and an early pay-off calculator.
* 0% Interest Balance-Transfer Credit Cards I am not a fan of credit cards at all, but if you are carrying a balance and paying interest - why not surf the balance to a 0% card? That way ALL of your payment is applied toward the debt! We have searched the internet to find cards that charge a minimal transfer fee, but allow you to transfer the balance and pay 0% interest for an entire year. There are even a few cards that allow you to transfer the balance with no transfer fee.
* Debt Pay-Off Spectaculars Yes, these are also located in the Free Tools section, but for your convenience we have also located the page in the Eliminate Debt section.

Back when I was swimming in debt, I asked myself the two following questions that changed my life forever.

* "How much do I pay each month to debt?"
* "What else could I do with this money?"

Use the Next Steps Eliminate Debt section to get started on your own Debt Freedom March!

Read more of the series on Next Steps