Navient Settlement: 66K Borrowers Get $1.7 Billion Student Debt Canceled

Borrowers who qualify for private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022 and will be refunded any payments made on canceled private loans after June 30, 2021.
A major student loan servicing company has reached a settlement that will cancel .7 billion in student loan debt for around 66,000 borrowers, as well as provide million in restitution – around 0 each – to 350,000 borrowers.
According to the settlement statement, borrowers who qualify don’t need to take any further action other than to make sure the U.S. Department of Education has their current address through their studentaid.gov account.

  • Redirecting borrowers into forbearance instead of pushing them toward more sensible income-based repayment options.
  • Through its predecessor, Sallie Mae, directing borrowers to subprime loans that they knew would likely default.

Federal loan borrowers receiving the approximate 0 restitution payment will receive a postcard from the settlement administrator in the spring of 2022.
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How to Find Out if the Navient Settlement Affects You

While wholesale student loan forgiveness remains a distant possibility, it’s best to use the extended forbearance period to your advantage and make a debt payoff plan.
If you’re nearing retirement and still owe on student loans, here are six ways to cope.
If you’re unsure who your loan servicer is, you can easily find out by logging into your account at studentaid.gov.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
You should be able to identify the types of loans you have as well as your servicer through your account dashboard. Or you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.

Tips for Anyone Struggling With Student Loan Debt

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Here are some strategies for paying down your student debt — fast and forever — including checking into whether you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
“Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior . . . and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement. 
Here’s what you need to know about the settlement. <!–

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Navient’s settlement with attorneys general in 39 states is over two primary accusations:

What Is Fibonacci Retracement in Crypto Trading?

A retracement level is the price at which a stock or cryptocurrency tends to see a reversal in its trend. Fibonacci retracement is a popular tool in technical analysis that helps determine support and resistance levels on a price chart.

What Are Fibonacci Retracement Levels?

Fibonacci numbers are a series where each number equals the sum of the two previous numbers. The most basic series is: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377 etc.

When it comes to technical analysis, investors use Fibonacci Replacement Levels, expressed as percentages, to analyze how much of a previous move a price has retraced. The most important Fibonacci Retracement levels are: 23.6% 38.2%, 50% and 61.8%.

Some analysts refer to 61.8% as “the golden ratio,” since it equals the division of one number in the series by the number that follows it. For example: 8/13 = 0.6153, and 55/89 = 0.6179.

The other Retracement levels reflect other calculations: Dividing one number by the number three places to its right equals 23.6%. For example: 8/34 = 0.2352. Bitcoin traders often use 78.6%, which is the square root of 0.618,

Some prefer the 0.618 and 0.382 levels because these are the retracement levels analysts believe are most likely to generate a trend reversal. These levels are considered inflection points where fear and greed can alter price action. When an asset is trending upward but loses momentum, it’s possible that a pullback to the 0.618 price level could result in a bounce upward, for example.

How Does Fibonacci Retracement Work and What Does it Do?

There are several theories as to why the fibonacci retracement works. Some of these include:

•   Fibonacci price levels reflect the effects of extreme fear and greed in the market. To use this to their advantage, traders might buy when people are panicking and sell when others are getting greedy.

•   Fibonacci patterns are often observed in nature as well as in mathematics. For example: fruits and vegetables. If one would look at the center of a sunflower, spiral patterns could appear to curve left and right. Counting these spirals, the total often is a Fibonacci number. If one could divide the spirals into those pointed left and right, then two consecutive Fibonacci numbers could be obtained. Therefore, it’s thought that these patterns may be important in financial markets as well.

•   The law of numbers: If a greater percentage of people practice Fibonacci crypto trading, then the likelihood of its accuracy increases.

At its core, a Fibonacci retracement is a mathematical measurement of a particular pattern. When it comes to Fibonacci in crypto, traders try to apply these patterns to price action to predict future price movements.

Who Created Fibonacci Retracements?

While traders commonly use Fibonacci in crypto today, the number sequences pre-date the invention of cryptocurrency by many centuries. Fibonacci numbers are based on the key numbers studied by mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci (or Leonardo of Pisa) in the 13th century, although Indian mathematicians had identified them previously. He was a medieval Italian mathematician famous for his “Book of the Abacus”, the first European work on Indian and Arabian mathematics, which introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe.

Formula

In an uptrend or bullish market, the formulas for calculating Fibonacci retracement and extension levels are:

UR = High price – ((High price – Low price) * percentage) in an uptrend market; where UR is uptrend retracement.

UE = High price + ((High price – Low price) * percentage) in an uptrend market; where UE is an uptrend extension.

For example: A stock price range of $10 – $20, could depict a swing low to swing high.

Uptrend Retracement (UR) = $20 – (($20 – $10) * 0.618)) = $13.82 (utilizing 0.618 retracement)

Uptrend Extension (UE) = $20 + (($20 – $10) * 0.618)) = $26.18 (utilizing 0.618 retracement)

If a stock pulls back $13.82 could be a level that the stock bounces back to reach higher levels than its swing high price, e.g. $20. In an uptrend, the general idea is to take profits on a long trade at a Fibonacci price extension Level ~ $26.18.

What Does a Fibonacci Retracement do?

Markets don’t go straight up or down. There are pauses and corrections along the way. To buy stocks in an uptrend, one would look to get the best price possible.

Some traders use Fibonacci Retracement to determine how much a stock could pull back before continuing higher. Traders can use these retracement levels to find optimal prices at which to enter a trade.

A swing high happens when a security’s price reaches a peak before a decline. A swing high forms when the highest price reached is greater than a given number of highs around it.

Swing low is the opposite of swing high. It refers to the lowest price within a timeframe, usually fewer than 20 trading periods. A swing low occurs when a lowest price is lower than any other surrounding prices in a given period of time.

Support and Resistance

Support is the price level that acts as a floor, preventing the price from being pushed lower, while resistance is the high level that the price reaches over time. Analysts often illustrate these as horizontal lines on a graph.

A support or resistance level can also represent a pivot point, or point from which prices have a tendency to reverse if they bounce (in the case of support) or retreat (in the case of resistance) from that level.

Learn more: Support and Resistance: What Is It? How To Use It for Trading

Limitations of Fibonacci Retracement

Fibonacci retracements in crypto or other markets may be slightly predictive. But over relying on them can be counterproductive for reasons such as:

•   Fibonacci retracements, like any other indicators, could be used effectively only if investors understand it completely. It could end up being risky if not used properly.

•   There are no guarantees that prices will end up at that point, and retrace as the theory indicates.

•   Fibonacci retracement sequences are often close to each other, therefore it may be tough to accurately predict future price movements.

•   Using technical analysis tools like Fibonacci retracements can give investors tunnel vision, where they only see price action through this one indicator. Assuming that any single indicator is always correct can be problematic.

A Fibonacci retracement in crypto trading could wind up being even less predictive than in other financial markets due to the extreme volatility that cryptocurrencies often experience.

Fibonacci Retracements and Bitcoin

Fibonacci retracements can also be used for trading cryptos such as Bitcoin (BTC), similarly to how they’re used in stocks. In this case, one would use the levels 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8% and 78.6% to determine where the cryptocurrency price would reverse.

Crypto prices are very volatile, and leverage trading is common. Leverage is the use of borrowed funds to increase the trading position, beyond what would be available from the cash balance alone. Therefore, it can be important to have some reference as to when the price could reverse, to not incur major losses.

Using the Fibonacci Retracement Tool to Trade Cryptocurrencies

In order to get started with a Fibonacci Retracement Tool, a trader could find a completed trend for a crypto, say, Bitcoin, which could either be an uptrend or downtrend.

Below are some steps on how to use Fibonacci retracement tool:

1.    Determine the direction of the market. Is it an uptrend or downtrend?

2.    For an uptrend, determine the two most extreme points (bottom and top) on the Bitcoin price chart. Attach the Fibonacci retracement tool on the bottom and drag it to the right, all the way to the top.

3.    For a downtrend, the extreme points are top and bottom and the retracement tool could be dragged from the top to the bottom.

4.    For an uptrend or downtrend, one could monitor the potential support levels: 0.236, 0.382, 0.5 and 0.618.

Recommended: Crypto Technical Analysis: What It Is & How to Do One

Fibonacci Retracement Example for Bitcoin

In December 2017, Bitcoin fell from $13,112 to around $10,800, within a short timeframe. After that, it rallied up to $12k twice, but did not break above that level until 2021. That indicates a bearish pattern, as it couldn’t break above its previous high. In technical analysis it is called a double top.

On the Fibonacci tool, the $12k resistance point coincided with the 50% level of retracement. When the price could not reach this level, it started to fall again. In this scenario, traders using Fibonacci Retracement might consider this a good time to exit a long position or establish a short position. A short trade is based on the speculation that the price of Bitcoin is going to fall.

By February, 2018, the trade materialized as Bitcoin continued its downtrend falling all the way to $9,270. The short trade would have worked and traders could have realized a profit from using the crypto Fibonacci Retracement tool, although those who managed to HODL for years after that would have made even more.

FAQ

Does Fibonacci retracement work with crypto?

While the Fibonacci retracement tool is traditionally used for analyzing stocks or trading currencies in the forex market, some analysts believe it is also helpful in determining a crypto trading strategy.

How accurate is fibonacci retracement?

In crypto, Fibonacci retracement levels are often fairly accurate, although no indicator is perfect and they are best used in combination with other research. The accuracy levels increase with longer timeframes. For example, a 50% retracement on a weekly chart is a more important technical level than a 50% retracement on a five-minute chart.

What are the advantages of using fibonacci retracement?

Here are some benefits of using Fibonacci Retracement.

•   Trend prediction. With the correct setting and levels, it can often predict the price reversals of bitcoin at early levels, with a high probability.

•   Flexibility. Fibonacci Retracement works for assets of any market and any timeframe. One must note that longer time frames could result in a more accurate signal.

•   Fair assessment of market psychology. Fibonacci levels are built on both a mathematical algorithm and the psychology of the majority, which is a fair assessment of market sentiment.

The Takeaway

The Fibonacci Retracement tool can help identify hidden levels of support and resistance so that analysts can better time their trades. Analysts believe this tool is more effective when utilized with types of cryptocurrency that have higher market-capitalization, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, because they have more established trends over extended time frames.They consider it less effective on cryptocurrencies with a smaller market capitalization.

Whether you use Fibonacci Retracement or other methods to create your cryptocurrency trading strategy, a great way to get started is by opening a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest investment app. You can use it to trade more than a dozen different coins, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Cardano, and Dogecoin.

Photo credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
SOIN1221533

Source: sofi.com

Chase United Business 150,000 Miles Offer ($20,000 Spend)

Update 1/13/22: Offer is back. Hat tip to reader cxr

The Offer

Direct link to offer

  • Chase is offering up to 150,000 miles on the United Business card. Bonus is broken down as follows:
    • 75,000 miles after $5,000 in purchases within the first three months
    • An additional 75,000 miles after $20,000 in total spend within the first six months

Card Details

  • Annual fee of $99 not waived first year
  • $100 annual United travel after 7 United flight purchases over $100
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores.
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on local transit and commuting, including taxicabs, mass transit, tolls, and ride share services
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
    • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 5,000 bonus miles each card anniversary when you have both the United Business card and a personal United credit card
  • Last seat availability
  • Miles don’t expire
  • Free checked bag when you pay with card (for 2 people)
  • Priority boarding
  • 2 Club passes per year
  • No FX fees
  • 5/24 rule applies to this card

Our Verdict

We’ve seen two bonuses on this card since it launched:

This is basically the same as the previous 75k offer but with the option of earning an additional 75k miles as well and the AF not waived. If you can hit the $20,000 spend requirement and have a use of the United miles then this is a great offer and we will add it to the best credit card bonuses. As always read these things everybody should know about Chase cards before applying.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

The Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania in 2022

  • Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State for its role in U.S. history
  • The state’s roots are deep in manufacturing, including industries such as coal and steel
  • Living in Pennsylvania gives you access to all the riches of the state, no matter what city you call home

Pennsylvania holds a notable place in the history of this country. Not only did it help shape our formation into the United States, but its roots are deep in the coal, steel and railroad industries. Living in the Keystone State puts you among historic locations that paved the way for the development of so much of this country.

It’s a lofty reputation to hold up, but staying grounded in industry and opportunity has enabled the state to maintain itself as an attractive spot for those looking for employment. With affordable housing across the state, plenty of colleges and universities and a slew of historic landmarks, why wouldn’t you want to call this northern state home?

For all these reasons, the best places to live in Pennsylvania stretch from one side of the state to other. Some cities are easily recognizable, while others you may hear about for the very first time. Regardless, you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to finding the perfect home in Pennsylvania.

Allentown, PA

Allentown, PA

  • Population: 125,845
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,885
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,027
  • Median home price: $187.750
  • Median household income: $41,167
  • Walk score: 59/100

A rich Dutch history gives Allentown a unique look and feel. Situated on the Lehigh River, this busy city is full of beautiful parks and gardens. It offers up a diverse collection of inhabitants with plenty to do to accommodate any lifestyle. There are plenty of job opportunities and thriving districts for the arts, theater and culture.

A day out and about in Allentown isn’t complete without a walk through the Allentown Art Museum, The Liberty Bell Museum, America On Wheels Museum and more. If the season is right, grab tickets to see the infamous Lehigh Valley IronPigs AAA baseball team go a few innings as well.

Bethel Park, PA

Bethel Park, PA

  • Population: 33,577
  • 1-BR median rent: $975
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,099
  • Median home price: $240,000
  • Median household income: $79,894
  • Walk score: 46/100

A Pittsburgh suburb, Bethel Park combines affordable housing with excellent schools and an abundance of green space. The city’s population is a combination of retirees and young professionals, but it’s also a great place for families. In addition to the parks, you’ll find plenty of bars, coffee shops and retail outlets.

With less than 30 minutes between Pittsburgh and Bethel Park, the town draws in those still commuting in for work, but who are looking for a quieter place to end each day. On weekends, locals will stay put and enjoy everything from the Montour Trail to the Hundred Acres Manor.

Camp Hill, PA

Camp Hill, PA

Source: ApartmentGuide.com/Society Hill
  • Population: 8,130
  • 1-BR median rent: $890
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,422
  • Median home price: $225,900
  • Median household income: $87,008
  • Walk score: 34/100

One of the best places to live in Pennsylvania is a small city along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Camp Hill gives you a nice amount of waterfront to explore. The town is also home to the northernmost engagement of the Gettysburg campaign during the Civil War. To honor this piece of history, you can follow the West Shore. There you’ll find historic buildings and battle sites.

For outdoor lovers, Camp Hill is a perfect home base to access hiking, biking, skiing and water activities. There are also plenty of local parks for a simple stroll.

Collegeville, PA

Collegeville, PA

  • Population: 5,043
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,060
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,655
  • Median home price: $380,000
  • Median household income: $112,500
  • Walk score: 44/100

As a suburb of Philadelphia, Collegeville got its straightforward name from Ursinus College. Academic life still plays an important role here, although the city is also a popular destination for a variety of businesses.

While there’s plenty of shopping and plenty for college students, the area’s top feature is the Perkiomen Trail. This 20-mile path follows the river, connecting many parks and historical sites. You can walk, bike and even ride horseback along the path.

Harrisburg, PA

Harrisburg, PA

  • Population: 50,099
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,137
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,407
  • Median home price: $199,025
  • Median household income: $39,685
  • Walk score: 55/100

As the state capital, Harrisburg is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania as much for its location within the state as for its history. Living here puts you near the Susquehanna River, Appalachian Trail and the cities of Hershey and Gettysburg. You can easily sample a little nature and history with so much close by.

Within Harrisburg itself, you have access to the city’s own island. Here you’ll find a beach, riverboat, arcade and more. It’s a great stop during the day. When the sun goes down, keep yourself occupied with the upscale bars and restaurants downtown.

Hershey, PA

Hershey, PA

  • Population: 13,858
  • 1-BR median rent: $915
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,075
  • Median home price: $339,900
  • Median household income: $69,688
  • Walk score: 57/100

Yes, it’s named after that chocolate bar. Hershey is often referred to as one of the sweetest places on earth because, to this day, Hershey’s still calls the city home. This not only means a variety of job opportunities working with chocolate but plenty to lure in tourists. The city also boasts Hersheypark, which has rides and a zoo, Hersey Gardens and Hersheypark Stadium.

Although the city grew up around a single company, today, it contains all the attractive elements of a smaller town one could want. Step away from the more touristy areas to find scenic hiking trails, museums, restaurants and shops.

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster, PA

  • Population: 58,039
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,269
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,453
  • Median home price: $225,625
  • Median household income: $45,514
  • Walk score: 56/100

Situated alongside Amish Country, Lancaster is home to the Pennsylvania Dutch. While you can tour Amish attractions and even immerse yourself into the lifestyle for a special experience, locals have plenty of other activities to occupy their time.

As one of the best places to live near Philadelphia, the downtown area is full of shops, theaters, restaurants and art galleries. Underground caverns provide a little adventure for those seeking something different. You can also take a ride on the country’s oldest operating railroad or see a different side of the city’s history with a ghost tour.

Perkasie, PA

Perkasie, PA

  • Population: 9,120
  • 1-BR median rent: $995
  • 2-BR median rent: $995
  • Median home price: $425,000
  • Median household income: $77,420
  • Walk score: 38/100

Another commuter town, Perkasie is one of the best places to live in Pennsylvania because it’s a great small town that’s only about an hour away from downtown Philadelphia. Once known for its factory that made baseballs for the major leagues, Perkasie today has managed to grow while holding onto its rural appeal.

A fantastic park system and revitalized downtown area provide the perfect combination of hometown activities for residents. There’s no shortage of restaurants, shops, music venues and more.

Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, PA

  • Population: 1,603,797
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,872
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,102
  • Median home price: $260,000
  • Median household income: $45,927
  • Walk score: 84/100

The most populated and well-known city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia definitely has one of the rooms where it happened. Not only is it the original home of the Liberty Bell but it also housed our Founding Fathers as they signed the Declaration of Independence into being.

Popular in its own right, Philadelphia offers additional appeal for its proximity to New York City. Hop a train into the city for work or a weekend of fun. You can also stay close to home and snack on an authentic Philly cheesesteak as you enjoy the art and history of downtown. There’s no shortage of 300-year-old buildings, cultural attractions, quaint parks, bars, restaurants and shops.

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

  • Population: 302,971
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,435
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,890
  • Median home price: $217,000
  • Median household income: $48,711
  • Walk score: 69/100

Bookending the state, Pittsburgh is the most populated city on the opposite end from Philly. Known as the City of Bridges, Pittsburgh has long shared a connection with steel, however, the industry is only part of what makes this area so special. As a highly walkable city, you can easily explore on foot but wear comfortable shoes. With over 712 sets of city-maintained steps, you’re going to get a great workout.

If walking isn’t your thing, don’t worry, Pittsburgh has you covered. For sports fans, this affordable town is home to professional baseball, football and hockey teams. For those looking toward higher education, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are the notable tip of Pittsburgh’s collegiate iceberg.

Reading, PA

Reading, PA

  • Population: 95,112
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,475
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,540
  • Median home price: $160,000
  • Median household income: $32,176
  • Walk score: 69/100

Named after the Reading Railroad, which all you Monopoly players should know well, the town of Reading sits in the southeastern part of the state. Today, it’s uniquely known for the variety of pretzel companies that call the area home. Reading is also a combination of culture and history. It’s easy to divide your day between looking at an Egyptian mummy in the Reading Public Museum and hiking through the Nolde Forest. You can also check out Daniel Boone’s birthplace for some real American history.

With plenty of affordable, suburban housing, residents get drawn into Reading for the charms of the city itself, as well as its proximity to Philadelphia. These two cities on the list of best places to live in Pennsylvania are only about 60 miles apart.

Scranton, PA

Scranton, PA

  • Population: 76,328
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,184
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,095
  • Median home price: $149,000
  • Median household income: $40,608
  • Walk score: 58/100

Laid out more like a traditional small town, Scranton has tight-knit neighborhoods clustered around a thriving downtown. You’ll find trendy restaurants, boutiques and art galleries nestled among the historic Lackawanna County Courthouse building.

Taking into account its high population of young professionals and families, Scranton caters to its residents with plenty of special activities, including cultural festivals and monthly art walks. Scranton also pays homage to its nickname, the Electric City, with The Electric City Trolley Station and Museum. The first streetcars, successfully powered by electricity, ran here in the 1880s.

Willow Grove, PA

Willow Grove, PA

Source: ApartmentGuide.com/Willow Pointe
  • Population: 13,730
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,907
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,230
  • Median home price: $300,000
  • Median household income: $79,162
  • Walk score: 57/100

A small town with big fun, Willow Grove offers residents a quiet, laidback community that doesn’t lack the amenities you’d want close by. There are plenty of shopping and dining options that you’d expect to find in bigger cities.

As a Philadelphia suburb, Willow Grove has the nearby city going for it as far as activity goes, but it’s not without its own set of museums and historic sites to occupy residents. Visit the 42-acre grounds and home at Graeme Park or check out the indoor playground at Urban Air Adventure Park for something really different.

Find an apartment for rent in Pennsylvania

The best places to live in Pennsylvania spread to all four corners of the state. Each city has its own charm, beauty and history to explore, not to mention job opportunities and affordable housing.

Once you decide what area is right for you, begin the hunt. Look for apartments for rent in Pennsylvania to see all your options. Then, start narrowing things down by location, amenities and more. You’ll find the perfect place to call home in no time.

The rent information included in this summary is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and Rent.com as of December 2021.
Median home prices are from Redfin as of December 2021.
Population and median household income are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The information in this article is for illustrative purposes only. This data herein does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

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Is a Warehouse Store (Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s) Membership Worth It? – Costs, Pros & Cons

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Additional Resources

Smart-shopping blogs and magazines teem with stories about the great deals you can get at warehouse stores. Shopping experts say joining a warehouse club can save you money on nearly everything — groceries, tires, even vacations. 

But there’s one obvious snag. Before you can fill up your cart with these bargains, you have to pay an annual fee of around $50 just to get in the door. How can you tell if your annual savings will be enough to offset this membership fee? 

To answer that question, you need to delve into the murky depths of warehouse store shopping. That means getting the details on how warehouse clubs work, what they cost, and how good the prices are on the items you buy most.

How Warehouse Stores Work

Warehouse stores use a different pricing model from other retail stores. Regular retailers, such as Walmart, make their money from the markup they charge. That’s the difference between the wholesale price they pay to their suppliers and the retail price they charge to customers.

According to Entrepreneur, the markup at a typical retail store is around 50%. In other words, the price you pay is twice what the store paid.

By contrast, warehouse stores charge a much lower markup. For instance, Costco’s markup is only 14% to 15%, according to Forbes. They make up for the lost profits by charging a fixed yearly fee to each customer. 

That’s why these stores sometimes refer to themselves as buying clubs. You pay upfront to become a member, and in return, you get to buy products at rock-bottom prices. In addition, you gain access to various other special deals on everything from health care to travel.

Top Warehouse Store Chains

There are three major warehouse chains in the United States. The biggest is Sam’s Club. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, started this store in 1983 as a supplier for small businesses.

Today, Sam’s Club is a nationwide chain with nearly 600 stores in the U.S. and millions of members. Its products range from groceries and office supplies to big-ticket items like jewelry and furniture.

The closest competitor to Sam’s Club is Costco. This chain started in Seattle in 1983. Ten years later, it merged with another club store called Price Club, which had been catering to business owners since 1976. 

Today, Costco boasts over 100 million members and has hundreds of stores stretching across the United States and beyond. The chain sets itself apart from other warehouse stores with its focus on high-end goods, such as organic food and designer jeans.

The third major chain is BJ’s Wholesale Club. BJ’s is a smaller chain than its competitors, with 200-plus stores in the eastern U.S., Michigan, and Ohio. But like Sam’s Club and Costco, it offers a wide range of goods and services, from groceries to vacation packages.

Warehouse Stores Work

People who love warehouse stores really love them. Forbes reports that Costco members are extremely loyal, with more than 9 out of 10 choosing to renew their membership each year.

And they have many good reasons to feel this way. Warehouse stores offer a plethora of benefits, including the following:

1. Low Prices — At Least on Certain Items

The main reason shoppers love warehouse stores is their low prices. Independent studies have found that warehouse clubs really do offer great bargains in certain areas, such as:

  • Groceries. In 2018, Consumers’ Checkbook went grocery shopping at warehouse clubs and supermarkets. It found that prices at both Sam’s Club and Costco beat major supermarket chains by 17% to 41%. (However, BJ’s prices failed to beat Walmart’s.)
  • Gasoline. A 2020 analysis by CSP compared prices across gas stations around the country. Costco was the winner, beating the national average price by nearly $0.25 per gallon.
  • Prescription Drugs. In 2018, Consumer Reports checked retail prices on five drugs at over 150 U.S. pharmacies. The complete set cost over $900 at CVS, but only $153 at Sam’s Club and $105 at Costco. And some generic drugs at Sam’s Club are only $4.
  • Car Tires. In a 2021 analysis by Clark Howard, Sam’s Club was second only to Walmart for the lowest average price on car tires. All three warehouse clubs were in the top six.
  • Booze. According to Spoon University, Costco offers the lowest unit prices on all types of alcohol. For those willing to buy in bulk, the club charges significantly less for Skyy vodka and Blue Moon beer than other retailers.
  • Pet Food. In a 2019 analysis of name-brand pet food prices by Consumers’ Checkbook, Sam’s Club and BJ’s topped the list for lowest average prices. (Costco, which mainly sells its own Kirkland Signature brand, was not covered.)

2. Access to Services

When you join a warehouse club, you don’t just get access to its products. These stores also offer a variety of services exclusively for members.

For instance, a Costco membership gives you access to Costco’s car-buying service. It provides haggle-free low prices on new and used cars and RVs from approved dealers. It also gives you 15% off car parts and services from participating providers.

Costco members can also save on vacations with Costco Travel. It provides special deals on airfare, hotels, auto rentals, cruises, and travel packages. The store also offers photo printing, banking services, insurance, home renovation, eye care, and bottled water delivery.

Other warehouse clubs offer a similar menu of services. Sam’s Club doesn’t provide banking or insurance services, but it gives members discounts on concert and theater tickets, theme parks, and attractions. 

Sam’s Club also offers discounts on various subscription services. Members can get lower prices on music streaming, video streaming, educational apps for kids, and fitness apps.

Likewise, BJ’s offers travel, vision care, home improvement, and photo services for members. One special perk it provides is free technical support for all its electronics.

3. High-Quality Store Brands

Shoppers are impressed with the quality of warehouse stores’ house brands — especially at Costco. In a 2019 Consumer Reports survey, Costco was one of only three out of 96 grocery chains to earn top marks for the quality of its store brands. 

The magazine’s editors get more specific in a 2017 article. They call several Kirkland products  as good as or better than name-brand competitors. These include laundry and dishwasher detergent, batteries, toilet paper, bacon, mayonnaise, and organic chicken stock. 

Another product that gets high marks from reviewers is Kirkland Signature dog food. According to DogFood.Guide, this brand has “surprisingly high quality” for a store brand. It’s made by Diamond Pet Foods, a leading manufacturer of high-end foods like Taste of the Wild.

Both Kirkland and Member’s Mark, the house brand from Sam’s Club, get good reviews for some wines and liquors. The Beverage Tasting Institute gives ratings of at least 90 points out of 100 to several Kirkland wines and to Member’s Mark tequila, vodka, and gin.

4. One-Stop Shopping

Warehouse stores allow you to condense many errands into one. You can pick up your glasses, shop for shoes, get new tires, book a vacation, and buy groceries all in one trip.

5. Free Samples

On weekends, shoppers at warehouse stores can stroll through the aisles noshing on samples of assorted food items. Naturally, the stores hope that trying the products will inspire you to buy them, but there’s no obligation. You’re perfectly free to chow down and walk away.

6. A Pleasant Shopping Experience

On the whole, warehouse club members are satisfied shoppers. In a survey by Consumer Reports, Costco shoppers reported being more satisfied with their experience than shoppers at nine other major retail chains. 

A 2021 report by the American Customer Service Index found similar results. Costco topped a list of 20 retailers, with 81% customer satisfaction. Sam’s Club and BJ’s came in a bit lower down the rankings, with a respectable 79% and 77% respectively.

7. Good Returns Policies

One likely reason why warehouse store shoppers are so satisfied is that if they’re ever unhappy with a purchase, it’s easy to return. Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer an absolute 100% money-back guarantee on virtually everything they sell.

If you’re not satisfied for any reason, you can return it with your receipt at any time. One exception is electronic items, which can’t be returned after 90 days. BJ’s policy is a bit more restrictive, allowing returns only up to one year.

Costco Warehouse Good Returns Policies

Although warehouse stores have undeniable benefits, they have their drawbacks too. Here are a few good reasons not to do your shopping at a warehouse store:

1. Membership Fees

The most obvious downside of warehouse club membership is the membership cost. The standard annual membership fee for a household or a business is $45 per year at Sam’s Club, $55 per year at BJ’s, and $60 per year at Costco. 

In addition, all three of the major warehouse chains offer higher-tier memberships. They’re called Executive Membership at Costco, Plus at Sam’s Club, and Perks Rewards at BJ’s.

These tiers cost roughly twice as much as a regular club membership. In exchange, they give you 2% back on nearly everything in the store. That means you have to spend between $2,750 and $3,000 per year before the higher-level membership will pay for itself.

2. Oversized Packages and Quantities

Warehouse stores are known for their jumbo-size packages. Buying in bulk to save money makes perfect sense with nonperishable goods, such as soap or paper towels. You can safely stock up on these bulk items as long as you have the space to store them. 

However, bulk buying can be a problem with products that don’t keep well. A five-pound bag of shredded cheese is no bargain unless you can (and actually want to) eat that much cheese before it goes bad.

3. Limited Selection

Warehouse clubs are good for grocery shopping, but you can’t always buy everything on your shopping list there. In the 2018 Consumers’ Checkbook study, the three warehouse stores only carried about half the items in a standard basket of groceries.

BJ’s was the best of the lot, with about 57% of the items available. Sam’s Club had 52% of them, and Costco had only 44%. Moreover, most of the items at all three stores were only available in bulk containers, not standard sizes.

4. Impulse Buys

Warehouse stores are huge and crammed with an incredible variety of goods. Even if all you need is cereal, milk, and toothpaste, you’ll probably have to walk past jewelry, clothes, and toys to get to those three staples. 

This makes it very easy to fall victim to the temptation of impulse buys. You could easily go in with your three-item shopping list and walk out with a whole cart full of unplanned purchases. Worse, some of these could be big-ticket items like a TV set.

5. Restrictions on Coupons

If you’re in the habit of using coupons to save money on groceries, the warehouse store isn’t the place to do it. Neither Costco nor Sam’s Club accepts manufacturer’s coupons at all. BJ’s takes them, but it only accepts select coupons in digital form.

5. Deals That Aren’t So Great

With such a vast assortment of goods gathered together in one store, warehouse stores seem ideal for one-stop shopping. However, if you buy everything on your list there, you’ll probably spend more than you need to.

My local Costco has great prices on a few staple foods, such as nuts. But its fresh foods, such as produce and eggs, are nearly always more expensive than the ones at nearby supermarkets.

Even paper goods like paper towels and toilet paper aren’t such great deals. Two dozen rolls of toilet paper at Costco cost more per roll than one dozen of the store brand from Trader Joe’s.

Warehouse stores also tempt buyers with big-ticket items like appliances, furniture, and electronics. But these products are almost never bargains. 

For instance, the current Costco savings brochure advertises LED TV sets for $700 to $3,000. But the top-rated LED TV in the same size range at Best Buy costs just $600. And a laptop Costco advertises for $700 is similar to one Lenovo sells for $565.

Deals That Arent Great

Deciding Whether It’s Worth It

The best way to figure out whether a warehouse club membership is worth it for you is to check it out in person. Scout up and down the aisles, check prices on the items you buy regularly, and  compare them to the prices at your local supermarket.

There’s just one problem with this plan. Most warehouse stores won’t even let you in the door to check prices without a membership card. One way to get around this problem is to ask a friend who’s a member to let you tag along on their next trip. 

Also, nonmembers are allowed to shop at Costco with a store gift card. However, only Costco members can buy these cards. To get around that rule, ask a friend to buy one for you or buy one secondhand through a gift card exchange site.

Two Real-Life Examples

Back in 2006, my husband and I took advantage of a free day pass to check out the prices at our local BJ’s Wholesale Club. We found that for most items we buy, BJ’s didn’t have lower prices than other stores. 

For instance, the $18 DVDs and $700 laptops in the electronics section couldn’t beat online deals. A 12-pound bag of baking soda cost more per pound than a supermarket store brand. And 24-roll packs of toilet paper cost nearly twice what we paid per roll at Trader Joe’s.

We still found good deals on a few items, like cereal, rice, and chocolate chips. But crunching the numbers, we found that we wouldn’t save enough on these items in a year to pay for the club membership.

But in 2017, we decided to give Costco a try. My husband needed new glasses, and we found the savings on those would more than pay for the $60 membership cost. 

Once we were inside the store, we started finding deals on all sorts of other things we buy regularly. Organic sugar, raisins, nuts, oatmeal, milk, and olive oil were all cheaper at Costco than at local supermarkets.

Here’s a sample of our savings from a single Costco trip. For each item, I’ve listed the amount we bought, the price, and what the same amount would have cost at the next cheapest store.

Product Costco Price Competitor’s Price Savings

Raisin Bran (14.34 pounds) $21.87 $24.38 (Aldi) $2.51

Brussels Sprouts (2 pounds) $4.99 $4.99 (Trader Joe’s) $0

Clementines (5 pounds) $5.49 $5.49 (supermarket sale) $0

Birdseed (80 pounds) $27.98 $31.96 (Lowe’s) $3.98

Organic Raisins (4 pounds) $10.79 $11.96 (Trader Joe’s) $1.17

Walnuts (3 pounds) $10.89 $14.97 (Aldi) $4.08

Canola Oil (6 quarts) $7.69 $9.00 (Shop-Rite) $1.31

Organic Sugar (10 pounds) $7.99 $17.45 (Trader Joe’s) $9.46 (less packaging waste as well)

On this one trip, we saved a total of $22.51 on a bill of $99.54. That means we saved about 22% off our entire bill. According to our credit card statement, we spent a total of $723.50 at Costco in 2018. If we saved 22% on everything we bought there, that’s a savings of $159.17.

In addition, by becoming members, we qualified for a Costco credit card. It offered 4% cash back on gas, 3% on restaurants and travel, and 2% on everything at Costco. Those rewards save us another $34 per year or so.

So, all told, our Costco membership is saving us over $193 per year. That’s more than three times the cost of the membership card. 

Factors That Affect Your Choice

As you can see from our experience, warehouse stores aren’t all the same. BJ’s Wholesale Club definitely wasn’t a money-saver for us, but Costco definitely was.

However, what works for our family isn’t necessarily what will work for yours. It depends largely on what you buy and how much you pay for it.

Based on our experience, these are the factors most likely to make a warehouse club membership a good deal for you.

Bulk Buying

On our initial trip to BJ’s, we had to pass up a lot of deals because the containers were too big. A 30-pound sack of rice cost less per pound than a 10-pound bag, but it would have taken us years to go through it all.

However, if you have a large family or a small business, you probably go through supplies faster. That makes these jumbo-sized packages a more reasonable deal for you. All you need is enough storage space to hold them and keep them fresh.

Brand Loyalty

My husband and I usually prefer to buy store brands rather than name brands. For most products, we find their quality is just as good and their price is much lower. Most of the products we buy at Costco are the ones that come in the Kirkland store brand. 

That’s one reason we didn’t have much luck at BJ’s on our first trip. Most of its products, at least at the time, were name brands. The store’s price for Star-Kist tuna was cheaper than the price for Star-Kist at our local Stop & Shop, but no cheaper than the Stop & Shop store brand.

However, many people are loyal to specific brands. For instance, your family may insist on Heinz ketchup or Downy fabric softener. If so, there’s a good chance that a warehouse store can offer you a better price on it than your regular supermarket. 

But before you sign up for a membership, make sure the warehouse store actually stocks the specific brands you want. If you shelled out $50 for a membership card and then find out the store doesn’t carry Heinz ketchup, you’re out of luck.

Few Local Supermarkets

Nearly all our food savings from Costco come from just a few items. On most foods, especially fresh foods, the warehouse can’t beat the prices at our area supermarkets. Even if their regular prices are higher than Costco’s, we can always wait for a sale.

However, in some areas — especially rural areas — there are no big supermarkets. The main food sellers are local grocery stores and convenience stores with high prices and few great sales. If you live in an area like this, the regular prices at warehouse stores look a lot more appealing. 

A Convenient Location

Finally, location matters. If the nearest warehouse store is 50 miles away, it isn’t practical to shop there more than once or twice per year. That hardly gives you a chance to get your money’s worth out of your membership. Plus, the cost of gas will eat into your savings. 

But if the distance to the store is less than 10 miles, regular trips become practical. You can visit every few weeks to stock up on everything you need. 

Factors Affect Choice

Avoiding the Pitfalls

If you decide to invest in a warehouse club membership — or you already have one — use it wisely. To get the most for your money, maximize the benefits of warehouse shopping and minimize the drawbacks.

Don’t Give In to Temptation

Impulse buys are one of the biggest hazards of the warehouse store. This can happen at the supermarket too, but Costco and Sam’s Club have a much wider array of shiny toys to tempt you. 

However, you can avoid them the same way you would in any other store. Make a shopping list and stick to it. If you see something that looks irresistible, don’t stick it right in your cart. Instead,  jot down the item and the price and walk away. 

The next day, take another look at your note. If you still want the item, you can go back to the store and get it. But chances are, by the time you’ve had 24 hours to cool off, the new toy will have lost a lot of its appeal.

Check Unit Prices

Warehouse stores don’t always beat the supermarket on price. However, comparing prices is tricky because the containers at the warehouse store tend to be so much larger. 

To be sure you’re getting a good deal, compare unit prices. That’s the cost per ounce, quart, or whatever unit the product is measured in. 

Some stores have the unit prices of different products marked on the shelf. However, if your warehouse store doesn’t, it’s easy to calculate. Just whip out your phone and divide the total price by the container size. 

Then compare this number to the price you’re used to paying at your regular store. It helps to keep a grocery price book that lists each store’s unit prices for items you buy often. That way you don’t have to try to remember one number while staring at another.

Don’t Overbuy

When you compare unit prices, the biggest container often looks like the best deal. However, a five-gallon tub of mayonnaise is no bargain if it goes bad before you use it up. 

If you’re buying something with an unlimited shelf life, such as shampoo, then buying by the case is no problem. But when you’re shopping in the food department, try to be realistic. Go for a size you can handle, even if the unit price is a bit higher.

Focus on the Best Deals

It’s tempting to take advantage of the warehouse’s store’s variety and do all your shopping in one trip. But if you do this, you’re almost sure to overpay for something. To get the most bang for your buck, focus on the items that are great deals at your particular store. 

This goes double when you’re shopping for a big-ticket item, such as jewelry or electronics. Don’t assume the warehouse store’s prices are lowest. Take the time to shop around and look for the best deal.

Focus Best Deals

Final Word

A single visit may not be enough to figure out whether a warehouse club membership is a good deal for you. If you’re still on the fence, try signing up on a trial basis. 

From time to time, BJ’s Wholesale Club offers a free 90-day membership to give shoppers a chance to get to know the store. Keep your eyes out for these offers in your mailbox and in coupon circulars.

If you don’t want to wait, try BJ’s discounted membership offer. It gives you all the benefits of membership for $25 — less than half the regular price. It’s not free, but it’s a chance to try the store without risking the full $55.

Moreover, all three warehouse chains — BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club — promise a full refund of your membership fees at any time if you’re not satisfied. You can give any of these stores a try for a month or two, then cancel if you decide it’s not for you.

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Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

The Problem with Today’s Hot Real Estate Investment Market

Jessica Schmidt (not her real name) is a qualified intermediary for a large national firm specializing in 1031 exchanges for investment real estate. Lately, she has been working 10-hour days, six days a week.

Some days she takes up to 50 calls a day from real estate investors seeking to cash in on a hot real estate market without paying large sums of tax on their highly appreciated real estate investment.

It’s a seller’s market, and most real estate investors can garner a quick sale on amounts they had previously only dreamed of.

Everything’s great, right? Not so fast.

A Seller’s Market Isn’t Exactly a Dream

Jessica usually spends 10-15 minutes with a caller explaining the rules and regulations of a 1031 exchange. She often refers callers to her website for educational videos on the 45-Day Rule, the 3 Property Rule, and the 180 Day Rule. These are all essential and specific requirements for an investor to take advantage of our tax code’s ability to defer taxes upon a property sale.

She explains that the seller must open an exchange “ticket” BEFORE the sale of their investment property closes. Then the seller has up to 45 days to identify a qualified replacement property.

And that’s where the situation gets sticky.

Problems Finding Replacement Properties

“The problem with the inventory in the marketplace is that there isn’t any,” the chief economist for a large national title company was quoted as saying at a recent economic forum.

Today, more often than not, hopeful 1031 exchange investors find themselves in quite the conundrum. According to Jessica, the high-ticket sale and the tax deferral via the 1031 exchange may be the easy part, but finding a suitable replacement property seems to be the biggest obstacle and a common dilemma.

A Potential Solution – DST, or Delaware Statutory Trust

With that in mind, Jessica has been increasingly offering her clients a different option to consider instead of a 1031 exchange: a DST, or Delaware Statutory Trust.

DSTs are passive real estate investments that qualify as replacement property for 1031 exchanges. DSTs invest in multifamily apartments, medical buildings, self-storage facilities, Amazon distribution centers, industrial warehouses, hotels and other vital real estate asset classes. The investments are passive in nature and generate regular monthly income to investors and the potential and opportunity for growth.

Many DSTs are syndicated with some debt, usually about 50% loan-to-value. However, the debt to investors is considered non-recourse, which means that an investor has no personal guarantee or personal liability for such debt. This could be very helpful, Jessica explains to her clients, because they all want to receive a full tax deferral, and the rules stipulate that in an exchange, the investor must reinvest the sale proceeds AND replace any debt.

DSTs have been around since 2004 when the IRS issued Ruling 2004-86, which made DSTs qualify for replacement in a 1031 exchange.

Must Be an Accredited Investor

DSTs are for “accredited” investors only, which means that an investor must have a net worth of at least $1 million apart from their primary residence or have an income of $200,000 for a single person or $300,000 for a married couple. And DSTs are offered as SEC-registered securities and therefore are obtained from broker-dealers or registered investment advisers. The advisers perform extensive due diligence on the real estate syndications and each specific DST-sponsored property.

Jessica concludes that DSTs could be a perfect solution for many of her clients and investors, especially those getting closer to retirement and maybe not wanting to actively manage real estate assets any longer. Between the tax savings, the passive nature of the investments, and the high-quality assets that are generally part of DSTs, many of her clients’ problems could be effectively solved using this important passive investment strategy.

Although DSTs are attracting billions of dollars of investment funds, most CPAs and real estate investors are still unaware of this important and viable solution that could potentially solve so many problems for so many real estate investors.

After explaining all this so many times in calls from clients the past several months, Jessica decided to come up with the following “Letterman” style Top 5 Benefits of DSTs for her clients:

5 Top Benefits of DSTs in a 1031 Exchange

1. Potential Better Overall Returns and Cash Flows

It depends upon the investor. Still, some investors find DSTs could offer a better risk-return profile than a property they might manage themselves.

2. Tax Planning and Preserved Step-Up in Basis

DSTs offer the same tax advantages of real estate that an investor would own and manage themselves. Depreciation and amortization are passed along to DST investors by their proportionate share. DSTs can be exchanged again in the future into another DST via a 1031 exchange.

3. Freedom

Passive investing allows older real estate owners the time and freedom to travel, pursue other endeavors, spend more time with family, and/or move to a location removed from their current real estate assets.

4.  As a Backup Strategy

In a competitive market, an investor may not be able to find a suitable replacement property for their 1031 exchange. DSTs might be a good backup option and could be named/identified in an exchange if only for that reason.

5. Capture Equity in a Hot Market

When markets are at all-time highs, investors may want to take their gains off the table and reinvest using the leverage inside a DST offering.

DST investments come with a risk common to real estate investing and are offered to accredited investors only and by private placement memorandum only. Therefore, a prudent investor would be best served by evaluating all details of each specific offering and the track record of the sponsor firm before investing in a DST offering.

Chief Investment Strategist, Provident Wealth Advisors

Daniel Goodwin is the Chief Investment Strategist and founder of Provident Wealth Advisors, Goodwin Financial Group and Provident1031.com, a division of Provident Wealth. Daniel holds a series 65 Securities license as well as a Texas Insurance license. Daniel is an Investment Advisor Representative and a fiduciary for the firms’ clients. Daniel has served families and small-business owners in his community for over 25 years.

Source: kiplinger.com

Understanding Your Student Loan Promissory Note

Generally speaking, promissory notes are legally binding contracts that state the terms of a loan, such as the amount to be repaid, the interest rate that will be charged, and any other important terms and conditions of that particular loan.

A student loan promissory note is no different; you’ll be required to sign one, accepting the terms of your student loan(s) before the lender disburses your money.

If a student loan promissory note sounds super important, that’s because it is. You can think of it as your student loan contract. Like any legal contract, it’s important to know the nuances of what you’re signing. Here’s what you should know about student loan promissory notes and master promissory notes.

What Is a Student Loan Promissory Note?

A promissory note is your student loan contract. It details the terms and conditions of that loan, as well as any rights and responsibilities you have as a borrower. Both federal student loans — loans backed by the U.S. government — and private student loans require that you sign a promissory note.

With private student loans, borrowers will generally be required to sign a promissory note for each student loan they borrow, because each loan’s terms and conditions may be different. Federal student loan borrowers may have the option to sign just one master promissory note.

What Is a Master Promissory Note?

Borrowers with federal student loans may be able to sign just one master promissory note. If eligible, a master promissory note covers all federal loans borrowed for a period of 10 years. There are versions of the master promissory note for both students borrowing Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans and a version for borrowers who are using Direct PLUS Loans.

Whether you’ll be able to sign a master promissory note is determined by the school you attend and the types of federal loans you have. Some schools do not offer the option to have students sign a master promissory note that covers borrowing over multiple years.

So be certain to understand what your school allows, and whether you need to sign multiple promissory notes or one master promissory note. The financial aid office at your college should be able to guide you through the process.

What Should I Look for on My Student Loan Promissory Note?

Understanding the terms and conditions of a student loan promissory note is akin to understanding the terms of student loans. Here are some important items to consider on your loan, and note:

Loan type: First, it is important to know what type of loan you have. Federal loans will have different terms than private loans, which are loans accessed through an independent bank, credit union, or other lender.

Repayment options: Federal loans come with some options to help you manage your debt post-graduation, such as student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment. If you have federal loans and access to multiple repayment plans, take some time to understand the ins and outs of different plans.

Deferment options: Federal loans may also offer options for student loan deferment, which would allow you to suspend making payments during periods of economic hardship, immediately after you leave school, etc. Private loans may also offer some deferment options, but every lender is different, so you’ll need to check your note.

Interest rate: The interest rate is a percentage of the principal loan amount that the borrower is charged for borrowing money. Be certain to understand the interest rate on your student loans, and whether that rate is fixed or variable. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates.

Private student loans may offer variable rates. If the rate is variable, it is possible that it will increase in the future, which would also increase your monthly payments. Be especially wary of private loans that offer introductory rate offers that later expire — they could end up costing you quite a bit of money.

Additional costs: In addition to the loan’s interest rate, a student loan promissory note should include information on any additional costs, such as a loan fee (also known as an origination fee). Student loan fees will vary by lender, so be sure to check yours. Sometimes a loan fee is deducted directly from the amount that is disbursed.

Prepayment fees: Speaking of additional costs, one thing to check for is whether your student loan allows you to “pre-pay” loan payments. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want to pay your loan back faster than the stated terms, check to see whether prepayment is allowed, and if so, how additional payments are applied and whether there are any fees attached. Making prepayments on the principal value of the loan could help reduce the amount of money you owe in interest over the life of the loan.

Cosigner removal: With some loans, especially private loans, you may be required to have a cosigner. (That’s because private loans rely on your — or your cosigner’s — creditworthiness to determine the terms of your loan. Federal loans do not.) Upon graduation, some borrowers want to release their cosigner of the responsibility of having their name on the loan, so you may want to find out whether that’s a possibility.

Allocation of funds: Some loans may require that the money is spent only on designated expenses, such as books or tuition. If you’re looking to upgrade your apartment, you might not be allowed to do so using student loan funds. Make sure to check on any stipulations on how you can spend the money.

When Is the Promissory Note Signed?

In general, borrowers will need to sign the promissory note for their loans before receiving any funds. Students who are borrowing federal student loans are able to sign their master promissory note online by logging into their federal student loan account.

Private lenders may have their own policies for signing a promissory note, it’s helpful to check-in directly with the lender if you have any questions.

Understanding Your Options

If you haven’t picked up on it already, knowing how student loans work and understanding your student loan contract is the name of the game. Taking out a student loan can be a huge financial commitment and shouldn’t be done without careful consideration — which means knowing what’s on that promissory note.

Before going to sign your student loan promissory note, it’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about your financial goals. A good place to start is by looking at how much you’ll take out in loans, total, and compare that to how much money you can expect to make after you graduate from school. Use a student loan calculator to get an idea of what your monthly payments could be given your total debt and the interest rate.

Rarely is it financially sound to take out more in loans than you absolutely need. It might seem like Monopoly money now, but this is all money that you’ll have to pay back, with interest. The repayment process can be painstaking, especially as a person early in their career or during a setback, like layoffs or a health issue. Taking out the bare minimum in student loans may mean working part-time in college, exploring more affordable college options, or continuing to apply for scholarships after you’re enrolled.

Once you’ve graduated, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans is a way for some graduates to lower the interest rates on their loans or lower their monthly payments. Refinancing is a process where your existing loans are consolidated and paid off with a new loan from a private lender.

Generally, the borrower has the option to keep the same repayment schedule or increase or decrease the amount of time left on their loan. (Increasing the duration of a loan may result in paying more interest over time, whereas decreasing the duration of a loan may result in higher monthly payments, but less interest paid overall.)

If you’re planning on using your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing with a private lender may not be the right choice for you as you will lose access to those federal benefits. However, some private lenders, like SoFi, offer protections to borrowers who lose their jobs or experience economic hardship. SoFi even provides career counseling to help their borrowers get back on track.

The Takeaway

A student loan promissory note is a contract between the borrower and the lender that details the loan’s terms and conditions and where the borrower promises to repay the loan. Federal student loan borrowers may be able to sign just one master promissory note, which will cover all federal loans for a period of up to 10 years. Private lenders generally require a promissory note for each individual loan.

Understanding the terms and conditions of your loan when signing of the promissory note can help you set your expectations for borrowing and ultimately repaying your student loans.

Whether you need help paying for school or help paying off the loans you already have, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and great member benefits as well.

See what you’re pre-qualified for in just a few minutes.


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SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs.
SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Source: sofi.com

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How to Get 8 Free At-Home COVID Tests From Your Health Insurance

If you have private health insurance, you’re eligible for free at-home COVID tests starting Saturday, Jan. 15. The Biden Administration announced earlier this week that private insurers would be required to foot the bill for eight home COVID tests per month for each customer covered under a plan.

But finding tests could still be a challenge in the weeks to come. Also, many insurers won’t have the systems in place that would allow customers to access tests without paying out of pocket. That means it’s likely that you could have to pay up-front for tests and then submit a claim to reimbursement for your insurer.

Want to learn more about how to access free home COVID tests? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is My Insurance Company Required to Provide Free Home COVID Tests?

Yes, if you’re covered by a private insurance plan. If you have coverage through your employer or you bought a plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, your plan is required to cover the cost of eight tests per month.

Does Everyone in My Household Get 8 Free Tests?

Yes. The mandate requires insurers to cover eight free tests each month for each person covered under a plan. If you have a family of four and everyone is insured under your plan, your household can receive 32 tests per month.

How Do I Get My Free COVID Testing Kits?

Check with your insurer about whether it has a network of preferred pharmacies and retailers. If you get your test from within your insurance company’s network, you should be able to get your tests with no out-of-pocket cost.

You can also buy your test elsewhere and submit a claim for reimbursement. If you go that route, be sure to save a copy of your receipt. But be aware that your insurer can cap reimbursement at $12 per test if it has a preferred network and you choose to go out of network. If your insurance company doesn’t have a preferred network, they’re required to cover 100% of the cost no matter where you buy your testing kits.

Pro Tip

If your insurer requires you to submit a claim for reimbursement, purchase your COVID tests separately from other items and get a receipt to streamline things.

Will I Need to Pay Up Front?

Check with your insurance company. But there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay out of pocket for tests at the beginning. As The New York Times reported, home tests don’t have the billing codes that insurers need to process claims. Many insurance companies will require customers to save their receipt and submit a claim for reimbursement, just as you would if you went out of network for care.

Can I Buy All 8 Tests at Once?

Yes. You’re allowed to buy all eight tests at once or space out your purchases throughout the month. But keep in mind that as of this writing on Jan. 14, 2022, testing kits remain in extremely short supply.

What if I Don’t Have Health Insurance?

The federal government is purchasing 1 billion home tests and will soon launch a website that will allow anyone to request a free home test. You can also go to a community health center that offers free rapid tests.

Can I Get Free Tests if I’m on Medicaid?

Yes. State Medicare programs and Children’s Health Insurance Programs were already required to cover home testing kits under the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that passed in March 2021.

Can I Get Free Tests if I’m on Medicare?

At-home tests aren’t covered by original Medicare. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, check with your plan about whether they’ll pay for home testing. You can also access free tests once the federal test-ordering website launches or go to a community health center for rapid testing.

Will the VA Cover Home Tests?

Veterans Affairs won’t send out free tests for now, but in many circumstances veterans can receive free testing at VA hospitals. Once the federal website launches, veterans will also be able to order free tests.

Will I Get Reimbursed for Tests I’ve Already Paid for?

Check with your insurer. Insurance companies aren’t required by federal law to retroactively cover home tests purchased before Jan. 15, 2022. However, some states already require insurers to cover at-home tests.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com