But here’s the big takeaway: That money is yours, and those savings stay with you whenever you quit a job.
If you have less than $1,000 in your 401(k)
If your 401(k) has less than $1,000 when you quit a job, the IRS allows the plan administrator to automatically withdraw your money and send you a check, minus 20% in taxes, per the IRS.
You can also initiate a rollover: a direct transfer of your money from a 401(k) account to another tax-advantaged retirement account. (More on rollover deadlines and tax implications later.) The easiest way to roll over your money is to contact your 401(k) administrator and have them handle it.
Communicate your preferences quickly, though — if your 401(k) account has a low balance, most companies won’t delay closing the account and cutting you a check, according to CNBC.
If you have between $1,000 and $5,000 in your 401(k)
If your 401(k) has between $1,000 and $5,000 when you quit, your employer may move your money into an individual retirement account, or IRA, according to the IRS.
If you don’t have an IRA, some employers will automatically open an account for you and deposit your funds into the account. If you do have an IRA, you initiate the rollover by contacting your 401(k) administrator.
You can also withdraw your money, but you’ll pay 20% in federal income tax, as well as a 10% early withdrawal penalty (unless you’re at least 59 ½ years old), according to the IRS.
An IRA is a tax-advantaged retirement account that an individual typically sets up, unlike a 401(k) account, which an employer sets up.
If you have at least $5,000 in your 401(k)
If your 401(k) account has at least $5,000 when you quit a job, your employer isn’t allowed to move your money without your consent. What happens next is up to you. There are a few things you can do with your money, according to the investment advisor Vanguard:
Roll over your money into a new retirement account
Leave your money in your old 401(k)
Cash out your 401(k) — and potentially pay a 10% federal penalty tax
Let’s dig into those options.
Rolling your money into a new 401(k) or IRA
What is a rollover?
Reminder: A 401(k) rollover is the process of moving money from your 401(k) account into another retirement account.
So, say you’re leaving your job for a different position, and your new employer offers a 401(k) plan. You can roll over your old 401(k)’s funds into a new 401(k) account, if your new employer allows this, according to the IRS.
Or you can roll over your old 401(k) to an IRA. This type of account typically offers more investment options than a 401(k), says Christopher Manske, a certified financial planner and the president and founder of Manske Wealth Management in Houston.
“In your individual retirement account, you’re going to have a lot more flexibility to tailor the investments to the wide world of what’s available out there,” Manske says.
Whether you roll over your retirement savings into an IRA or new 401(k), moving your money to a single fund can make it easier to manage your money and keep track of your retirement savings.
That’s as opposed to simply keeping your old 401(k) open, which becomes one more account to manage. (We’ll dive into that option in a bit.)
How to roll over funds — and avoid tax missteps
If a rollover sounds like a solid option, contact the administrators of both your old 401(k) and the other retirement account — either your new 401(k) or an IRA. Tell them you’d like to roll over your funds.
They’ll collect information from you and initiate a direct rollover, which means one institution directly transfers funds to another institution, according to Fidelity.
This is as opposed to an indirect rollover, meaning your 401(k) plan administrator sends you a check, and you personally deposit the 401(k) funds into another retirement account. In that case, your plan administrator would likely withhold 20% of your 401(k) funds for taxes.
With this indirect rollover, you then have 60 days to deposit the complete 401(k) account balance — including the amount kept for taxes — into the new account. So to deposit the full amount, you would need to come up with the 20% portion yourself. Then you’d get a refund for that amount come tax time.
If you miss the 60-day deadline, you’d likely get penalized for early withdrawal and have to pay income taxes on the distribution, according to Capitalize, a 401(k) rollover resource.
One last important note: Whether you choose a direct or indirect rollover, if you move money from your old 401(k) account to a Roth IRA — a specific kind of IRA — you’ll have to pay income tax on that transfer, according to the IRS. (This doesn’t apply if you’re rolling over your funds from a Roth 401(k), though.)
Leaving your money in your old 401(k)
Another option? Do nothing.
Your 401(k) account isn’t going to disappear once you quit a job; that money will always be there. But once you leave the job that set up the 401(k) account, you can’t make any more deposits, per Vanguard.
While leaving your 401(k) on autopilot is the simplest option, it may not be in your best interest. Assuming you’ll continue investing in another account or have a new 401(k) at your next employer, it will be harder to track your finances in more places.
And some 401(k) plan providers may charge you fees if you’re no longer an active employee, according to Charles Schwab, the financial services firm.
“I can’t think of any pros of leaving it there,” Manske says. “You’re not really connected formally to that company anymore, so why would you keep your money there? They don’t have a reason to keep you happy.”
Cash out your 401(k) — which is rarely recommended
Yes, you can withdraw the cash from your 401(k) whenever you want. But there are significant downsides to this option.
Pulling out money from your 401(k) before retirement can trigger hefty taxes, says Joe Buhrmann, certified financial planner and senior financial planning consultant at Fidelity’s eMoney Advisor.
Any withdrawals from a 401(k) before you reach the age of 59 ½ are considered early withdrawals and are slapped with a 10% penalty tax, per the IRS. That’s in addition to federal income taxes and, depending on where you live, state income taxes.
“Hypothetically, on a $50,000 401(k), you might lose as much as $20,000 to taxes and penalties and be left with $30,000,” Buhrmann says.
If you urgently need cash, that might be a reason to withdraw some money from your 401(k). But doing so should be regarded as a last resort, Manske says.
There are other ways to get money quickly that don’t come with taxes and penalties, such as community loans, gig work, and more.
Buhrmann encourages individuals to not just consider the immediate losses that come with withdrawing your 401(k), but also the long-term earnings they’re missing out on.
“They’re not just having to pay some taxes and pay some penalties,” Manske says.
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations.
A personal loan is money borrowed from a lender that can be used for almost any purpose, from debt consolidation to home improvement projects.
Most people don’t have $5,000+ sitting in their bank accounts—that’s where personal loans come in. Just like a mortgage or auto loan, personal loans allow you to cover large purchases or expenses under the terms that you’ll pay off the loan over time, typically with interest.
If you’re considering taking out a personal loan, here’s all you need to know to ensure you’re making the right money moves to fund your future investment.
What Is a Personal Loan?
A personal loan is money borrowed from a bank, credit union, or other financial institution that can be used for virtually any personal expense. Like any other installment loan, personal loan borrowers are expected to pay the money back over a set period.
The typical amount you can take out for a personal loan can range anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, depending on several factors. Interest rates are just as variable—they can be as low as 6% and as high as 36%, depending on your unique financial situation. The current average interest rate for personal loans is 11.04% as of May 2023.
Get matched with a personal
loan that’s right for you today.
Why Would I Need a Personal Loan?
If you’re planning on making a big purchase, getting a better handle on your debt, or have run into some unexpected expenses, applying for a personal loan can help cover the costs. People usually take out personal loans for:
Unexpected medical expenses
Vehicle repairs or financing
While you could technically use this type of loan for, well, anything, there are a few things you should avoid using a personal loan for, like:
College tuition: It’d make more financial sense to use a federal student loan vs. a personal loan to pay for college tuition. Federal student loans typically come with lower interest rates, plus most don’t require a credit check. You may even qualify for a subsidized loan or an income-driven repayment plan.
Home down payment: Most mortgage lenders won’t accept a personal loan as a down payment, and even if they did, the increase a personal loan could cause to your debt-to-income ratio might disqualify you from the loan anyway.
Starting a business: Taking out a personal loan to open a business won’t help you build business credit since the loan is in your name. Instead, consider applying for a business credit card to start building credit so you can apply for a business loan down the road.
Everyday expenses: If you’re strapped for cash now, taking out a personal loan to cover bills and other living expenses may just create a bigger problem in the long run since you’ll have to repay the loan amount plus interest. Consider re-budgeting or finding ways to increase your income instead.
Personal Loans vs. Lines of Credit vs. Payday Loans
Personal loans, personal lines of credit, and payday loans are all money-borrowing options that can help you manage your finances or cover a significant expense. However, they’re typically used for different purposes.
Personal loans vs. lines of credit: Personal loans are typically used to cover large purchases or expenses since all the money is available upfront. On the other hand, personal lines of credit allow the borrower to use the credit available as needed and pay it off on their own timeline, so they’re more ideal for smaller everyday purchases.
Personal loans vs. payday loans: Whereas personal loans allow you to borrow a large sum of money with a loan term typically spanning several years, payday loans offer borrowers a small amount of cash—typically around $500 or less—at a higher interest rate that has to be repaid within 2-4 weeks. Payday loans are best if you have an urgent expense and know you can repay the loan within the term offered.
What it’s best for
Supplies the borrower with a large sum of money upfront that must be paid back in fixed monthly payments throughout the loan term
Large purchases or expenses
Personal line of credit
Lets the borrower use credit as needed and pay it back on their own timeline with a variable interest rate
Building credit on everyday purchases
Gives the borrower a small sum of money—around $500 or less—at a high-interest rate that usually has to be repaid within 2-4 weeks
Quick cash for urgent needs, especially if the borrower does not qualify for a traditional loan
Types of Personal Loans
Before you apply for a loan, research the type of personal loan that will best serve your unique financial needs. Your credit history, credit score, and reason for needing the loan will determine which is best for you.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the seven most common types of personal loans:
Type of personal loan
Who it’s best for
Unsecured personal loans
Do not require any sort of collateral to qualify
Borrowers with excellent credit and a steady source of income
Allow you to take out a small sum of money to demonstrate that you’re a reliable borrower by making regular on-time payments
Borrowers with low or no credit history looking to improve their credit score
Debt consolidation loans
Typically can be borrowed at a lower interest rate than most credit cards or other bills you plan to consolidate, saving you money on interest
Borrowers with multiple debt balances or balances with high interest rates
Co-signed and joint loans
Allow a co-signer to assume responsibility for a loan if the borrower does not qualify
Borrowers who do not qualify for a traditional loan or are hoping to be approved for a lower interest rate
Come with an interest rate that does not change over the repayment term, so the borrower pays the same amount every month
Borrowers who plan on paying off their loan over an extended period
Come with a fluctuating interest rate that could increase or decrease monthly payments over time, but rates are sometimes lower vs. fixed-rate loans
Borrowers who only need to borrow funds for a short period
How Do Personal Loans Work?
You have to receive a personal loan through an authorized lender, typically a bank or credit union. Here’s how the personal loan process works:
You must first apply for a personal loan. The lender will decide if you qualify based on your creditworthiness, income, and the type of personal loan you’re interested in.
If you qualify for a loan, your lender will usually set a loan term to determine how long you have to pay the money back. This can range anywhere from months to years, depending on the lender and your needs. A fixed or variable interest rate—the cost of taking out the loan—will also be applied to your monthly payments.
If you qualify for a loan, you’ll be issued a lump sum deposited into your bank account. You’re free to do with the money as you wish, but you’re expected to make regular monthly payments until the loan is paid off.
How to Apply for a Personal Loan
Personal loans are a great tool for financing some of life’s most important—and unexpected—milestones. If you’re ready to apply for a personal loan, follow these steps:
Check your credit: Your credit history will be one of the biggest determinants of whether or not you’re approved for a loan, so it’s important you know where you stand. Most lenders will want to see a “good” credit score (620) or above to ensure you can be trusted to meet your loan terms.
Decide how much to borrow: You may qualify for a $50,000 loan, but before you sign on the dotted line, you need to know how much you can realistically afford to borrow. Carefully consider your current and future financial situation before jumping into any personal loan.
Pro tip: Try our loan payment calculator to easily estimate monthly payments for different personal loan options.
Know your consumer rights: According to the Truth in Lending Act, lenders must disclose the APR finance charges, principal amount, and any fees and penalties associated with a loan offer. If you come across a lender that refuses to share this information, you’ll want to look for a different lender.
Gather essential documents: In addition to your credit report, potential lenders may also want to see the following documents to speed up the application process.
Proof of your annual income
Your debt-to-income ratio
Your Social Security number
Recurring monthly debt (like your house payment)
Your cosigners financial information (if applicable)
Research loan options: Personal loan requirements and terms vary by the type of loan and lender, so you’ll want to research before applying. Details that may sway your decision include the loan amount, APR, monthly payments, loan term, secured or unsecured, and more. Ask lenders for this information in advance before applying for a personal loan.
Submit your application: Once you’ve settled on a loan that meets all your requirements, fill out your application, read it carefully for typos or errors, and submit it to your potential lender. You’ll likely know whether your application was approved within a day or two whether your application was approved.
How to Qualify for a Personal Loan
Each lender is different, so minimum requirements for personal loans vary. However, if you’re hoping to qualify for a large unsecured personal loan with a competitive interest rate, here are a few general requirements most lenders will want to see:
A minimum credit score of 620
A positive and established credit history
A debt-to-income ratio less than 36%
A steady income with proof of employment
Again, these requirements vary from lender to lender. In some cases, you may qualify for a loan with no credit at all. Some lenders even prioritize things like education and work history when evaluating applicants. Inquire with potential lenders before you apply for a personal loan to better understand what you need to qualify.
Personal Loan Alternatives
If credit history, high interest rates, or substantial fees are preventing you from applying for a personal loan, there are money-borrow alternatives that may be a better fit, like:
Home equity loans: Home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOC) are secured by the equity a borrower has built in their home. Because this is a type of secured loan, interest rates tend to be lower compared to an unsecured personal loan. The repayment terms are also longer than most personal loans, sometimes up to 20 years.
Credit Cards: Credit cards allow borrowers to use credit and pay it back as they go, offering more flexibility than personal loans. Many credit cards also offer rewards like cash back or airline miles for money spent.
Personal lines of credit: Like credit cards, personal lines of credit allow you to borrow money and pay it back as you go. However, personal lines of credit have a set draw period—once the period is over, you won’t be able to tap your line of credit and will need to pay back your balance. Interest rates for personal lines of credit are typically lower than credit cards, so they’re ideal for large ongoing projects.
Retirement loan: If you’re looking for more relaxed loan requirements, you may be able to borrow from your employer-sponsored retirement plan in the form of a 401(k) loan. This is a great alternative for borrowers with less-than-stellar credit, but keep in mind that you’ll be restricted to your current retirement accounts, and you may have to repay the loan early if you leave your current job before the loan term ends, often with penalties.
Still weighing your personal financing options? We answered some of the most frequently asked questions about personal loans to help with your decision.
Will a Personal Loan Affect Your Credit Score?
Applying for a personal loan may cause a light dip in your credit score because lenders will run a hard inquiry on your credit. While a hard inquiry shouldn’t affect your credit score too much, it’s important to narrow down your options before applying to avoid multiple hard inquiries from multiple potential lenders.
It’s also wise to wait to apply for a personal loan if you’ve just opened another line of credit, which could cause an even bigger drop in your score.
Do You Need a Down Payment for a Personal Loan?
You do not need a down payment for a personal loan. However, In the case of a secured loan, you’ll need collateral, such as a car or money in a savings account.
Can You Use a Personal Loan for Whatever You Want?
A personal loan can be used for just about any purpose. Some lenders may want to know what the money will be used for, but others just want to be certain you’ll be able to pay it back. However, a better financing option may be available if you plan on using your loan for things like tuition or daily expenses. Research your options before applying for a personal loan.
How Big of a Loan Can I Get With a 700 Credit Score?
You’ll likely be able to borrow higher limits with a 700 credit score or higher, but other factors, including your income, employment status, and the type of loan you’re applying for will also impact how big of a loan you qualify for.
How Often Can You Apply for a Personal Loan?
There is no limit to how often you can apply for a personal loan. You can have multiple personal loans open at once, but remember that too much existing debt may lead lenders to disqualify you from taking out more loans or opening new lines of credit.
Researching personal loans can be daunting, especially if you’ve run into sudden unexpected expenses. The best loan for you will depend on your unique financial situation. Check out the personal loans at Credit.com to quickly compare options and see potential APR, terms, and maximum loan amounts.
The Possible Card — issued by Coastal Community Bank, in partnership with Possible Finance — began slowly rolling out to the public in April 2023. As of this writing, the card is available in most states, with the exception of Hawaii, Nevada and Maryland.
While still in its early stages, the Possible Card won’t help propel your credit journey forward because it currently doesn’t report payments to major credit bureaus like TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Even once it begins reporting payments, it still won’t be your most cost-effective option. Possible Finance touts “peace of mind” that you won’t be charged interest, but there’s a big caveat: Instead of an annual percentage rate, the card has a monthly fee.
Monthly fees on credit cards are a hot trend now, especially among young financial technology companies (fintechs). But depending on the balance you’re carrying, that fee can be more expensive than interest charges you’d find on a traditional credit card.
The Possible Card does offer predictability in terms of your monthly payment, and it also allows you to bypass a credit check and security deposit. But unlike a security deposit, which is refundable, those monthly fees won’t be. Plenty of other credit cards can jump-start your credit-building goals at a lower cost.
Here’s what you need to know about the Possible Card.
While any credit card’s rewards, benefits and fee structure can be adjusted at any time, new cards from startup financial technology companies are particularly prone to significant changes as they find their place in the market. Keep that in mind as you research your credit card options.
1. The monthly fee adds up
The monthly fee to hold the Possible Card is either:
$8 per month ($96 annually) for a $400 credit limit, or
$16 per month ($192 annually) for an $800 credit limit.
That makes the Possible Card more expensive than similar newcomers in its class. For example:
The Tomo Credit Card (currently waitlisted as of September 2023) charges $2.99 per month. There’s no credit check, upfront deposit or APR.
The Pesto Mastercard costs $3.33 a month, and while a deposit is required, it can be an asset instead of cash.
In fact, for no monthly or annual fee at all, you could consider cards like the Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card, which lets you set your own security deposit, or the Grow Credit Mastercard, which has a free membership tier. Neither card carries an APR, neither conducts a credit check, and all of these aforementioned cards report your payments to credit bureaus.
Or, you could fare even better with a traditional secured credit card. Yes, you’ll have to come up with a one-time security deposit upfront, but for many of the best secured credit cards, you need a minimum of just $200, or nearly what you’d pay — every year and nonrefundable — for the Possible Card’s higher-limit version. Plus, many traditional secured cards come with upgrade paths to better products. The Possible Card does not, nor do many newer fintech-backed cards, for that matter.
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a good example of the kind of features to look for in a starter card. It requires a minimum security deposit of $200, but it has a $0 annual fee and earns rewards. It reports payments to all three major credit bureaus, and Discover begins automatic reviews starting at seven months to see whether you qualify to upgrade to an unsecured card and get your deposit back.
If you’re approved for the Possible Card, you can immediately start using the virtual card if you enroll in autopay. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.
2. There’s no credit check
The Possible Card doesn’t require a credit check and instead relies on a cash-flow-based underwriting algorithm to determine whether you qualify. But that underwriting process requires you to link an eligible account through a third party called Plaid.
This practice of skipping a credit check in exchange for linking a bank account has become a fairly common practice for certain credit cards, especially newcomers backed by fintechs. But there are better credit cards that don’t require a credit check.
The previously mentioned Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card, for instance, requires opening a Chime Spending Account, but it doesn’t charge any fees or interest. It’s a secured credit card with a flexible deposit. The amount of money that you move from the spending account to the Credit Builder secured account is the amount you have available to spend.
3. No APR or late fees apply, but don’t be fooled
Some credit cards that charge monthly fees instead of interest market the idea of being “predictable,” for budgeting purposes. Possible Finance claims on its website that the monthly fee is cheaper than the charges on a traditional credit card, but that’s misleading. For most credit cards, interest charges don’t apply at all if you pay off the balance in full every month.
With the Possible Card, you’ll owe the monthly fee whether you carry a balance or not.
Depending on the size of your balance, that monthly fee could cost more than the interest charged on a traditional credit card, especially in cases where the card’s credit limit is relatively low. You can use the sliding scales below to illustrate this:
For context, the average APR for credit cards assessed interest in May 2023 was 22.16%, according to Federal Reserve data. If you have less-than-ideal credit, that percentage may be higher.
Trying to get approved for a card?
Create a NerdWallet account for insight on your credit score and personalized recommendations for the right card for you.
4. You can carry a balance over a short term
Unlike some credit cards in its class, the Possible Card allows you to revolve a balance, up to a limit. The card’s Pay Over Time option lets you pay off the balance over four installments if you schedule automatic payments and enroll in the app. There’s no additional charge to use this option as long as the account has a balance of at least $50 and no pending payments.
The downside of the Pay Over Time feature is that the card will be locked and cannot be used for new purchases or automatic recurring expenses until the installment loan is paid off. But the benefit is that this guardrail can prevent you from taking on more debt than you can handle.
If you’re using your Possible Card to make automatic recurring payments for streaming services or other expenses, make sure to change your payment method when you opt in to the Pay Over Time feature.
5. It doesn’t report payments to credit bureaus
The Possible Card is still in its infancy and does not report payments to the credit bureaus as of this writing. The company shared in an email that it has plans to start reporting payments to one bureau in the fourth quarter of 2023.
When your goal is to build credit with a credit card, reporting payments to the three major credit bureaus is a must-have feature. Ideally, you want your credit history to be recorded by all of them so that future lenders can access that information easily.
See more from Chime
Chime says the following:
The Chime Credit Builder Visa® Card is issued by Stride Bank, N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted.
To apply for Credit Builder, you must have received a single qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more to your Checking Account. The qualifying direct deposit must be from your employer, payroll provider, gig economy payer, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit OR Original Credit Transaction (OCT). Bank ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, cash loads or deposits, one-time direct deposits, such as tax refunds and other similar transactions, and any deposit to which Chime deems to not be a qualifying direct deposit are not qualifying direct deposits.
On-time payment history may have a positive impact on your credit score. Late payment may negatively impact your credit score. Chime will report your activities to Transunion®, Experian®, and Equifax®. Impact on your credit may vary, as Credit scores are independently determined by credit bureaus based on a number of factors including the financial decisions you make with other financial services organizations.
Money added to Credit Builder will be held in a secured account as collateral for your Credit Builder Visa card, which means you can spend up to this amount on your card. This is money you can use to pay off your charges at the end of every month.
On top of sorting out whether you’re eligible for federal student loans and the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, you may be wondering how student loans may impact your taxes and whether student loans count as income. In a nutshell, the answer is no, student loans are debt, and do not count as income.
Fellowships and other forms of financial grants, however, may be counted as income, depending on how the funds are spent. And loans that are forgiven have counted as income.
Read on for more about the tax implications of student loans, grants, and student loan repayment. Of course, this is just a helpful guide as you begin to explore the basics of student loans and taxes; always seek out a tax professional to help you with your specific situation.
Are Student Loans Taxable?
There are multiple types of student loans — each with their own unique terms. As noted earlier, though, student loans are not taxed as income.
This is true of other types of loans generally as well, like credit card spending, mortgages, and personal loans (unless the loan is forgiven) — basically most credit that needs to be repaid. The IRS considers student loans a form of debt — not income — therefore, it is not taxed.
The only time that student loans (or other types of debt) can be taxed is if they are forgiven during repayment. If you are eligible for a federal student loan forgiveness program and have met the requirements (which vary, and may include stipulations like making eligible payments for 20 to 25 years via an income-driven repayment plan or completing eligible public service work/payment requirements, and others), the remaining balance on your student loans (the amount forgiven) may be taxed as income, depending on the repayment plan. This could amount to a hefty tax bill.
Are Scholarships Taxable?
The high-level answer to this question is: it depends. There are many different forms of scholarships, grants, and fellowships that are awarded to students to cover the costs of studying and research. Some are need-based and some are merit-based. The basic difference between scholarships and loans is that a scholarship is given while a loan is borrowed. You won’t typically have to pay back a scholarship, but you do have to pay back a loan.
Most scholarships are not taxed when you are enrolled in a formal educational institution and the scholarship is directly used to cover the costs of tuition, fees, books, and supplies used for study.
There are some situations in which scholarships can be taxed, however. For instance, a scholarship can be taxed as income if you use it to cover what are considered “incidental” expenses related to your education such as travel, room and board, and supplementary equipment and supplies.
Another type of scholarship that can be taxed is a scholarship that has a service-related requirement to it. This frequently applies to scholarships for graduate students. If you are required to teach, provide research assistance, or perform other services as a condition of your scholarship, it can be taxed as income and you will be required to report the scholarship as part of your gross income.
(For more about which types of scholarships are considered income and what scholarship-related activities are taxable, check out IRS Publication 970 .) 💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.
Do Student Loans Come with Any Tax Benefits?
Student loans aren’t usually taxable as income, and in fact, may come with a tax benefit that is meant to make repayment a little easier on borrowers investing in their education.
The Student Loan Interest Deduction allows you to deduct the amount of interest you paid on both federal and private student loans, up to a maximum of $2,500 per year. In order to be eligible to deduct the full amount, your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) must be $70,000 or less (or $145,000 for married couples filing jointly). The amount you’re allowed to deduct is gradually reduced if your modified AGI is more $70,000 but less than $85,000 (or more than $145,000 but less than $175,000 for married couples filing jointly. Income above these thresholds renders you ineligible for the deduction.
As a tax deduction, the amount deducted helps to lower your overall taxable income, potentially resulting in a lower tax bill or higher tax refund. This deduction can also help defray some of your repayment costs.
Are Employer Student Loan Payments Taxable?
An increasingly popular benefit offered in some workplaces is help with education costs and student loan repayment. Employers such as Aetna, Fidelity Investments, Google, and more offer student loan assistance programs to employees.
Currently, employers are allowed to contribute up to $5,250 toward employees’ qualified education costs tax-free. Payments or reimbursements above that amount are considered taxable income for the employee. It’s important to note that this special tax treatment is temporary, however, and expires December 31, 2025. After this date, the full amount of any employer contributions toward education expenses or student loan repayment will be taxed as income.
How Can I Make My Student Loan Repayment Easier?
The cost of a student loan comes in the form of the interest you pay each month on the balance owed. Consider this example: Say you have a $30,000 loan with a 7% interest rate. On the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, you would pay roughly $11,800 in interest in addition to repaying the $30,000 principal.
So what can make repayment easier, other than the student loan interest deduction? One option is to refinance your student loans with a private lender.
If you already have private and/or federal student loans, you may be able to refinance your student loans at a lower interest rate than you currently are paying. If you are eligible to refinance your student loans, you could shorten your term length, qualify to lower the interest rate on your loans, or possibly lower your monthly payment (by extending your term). But there can be some drawbacks to think about.
For instance, federal student loans come with several benefits and protections such as forbearance, deferment, income-driven repayment plans, and certain forgiveness programs that private loans do not offer. If you think you might need some of these benefits, or if you are eligible for student loan forgiveness, it might not be the right time to refinance.
However, if you have a steady income and good cash flow — along with other aspects of your financial picture that are appealing to a lender — and you are ready to focus on paying down your loans, refinancing might be the right solution for you.
SoFi is a leader in the student loan space, offering refinancing options to help you save on the loans you already have.
Generally, student loans are not considered income, so they are not taxed. The exception is when some or all of your student loan balance is forgiven. In some cases, the IRS may count the canceled debt as taxable income.
Educational grants and scholarships, on the other hand, may or may not count as income. Typically, they are taxed when they are spent on expenses outside of tuition and fees, such as room and board and travel.
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.
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-criteria 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.
SoFi Loan Products SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.
Student Loan Refinancing If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
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.
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.
According to the Federal Reserve, consumer debt in the United States in the second quarter of 2021 totaled more than $4.2 billion. So if you’re struggling with debt, you’re definitely not alone. If you’re looking for a way to dig yourself out of debt, a debt consolidation loan could help.
But what is a debt consolidation loan? Find out if it’s the right option for you by learning more about it, including pros and cons. You’ll also find information about other alternatives.
In This Piece
What Is Debt Consolidation?
Debt consolidation occurs when you bring multiple existing debts under a single umbrella. This usually means you use some type of credit or other financial tool to convert multiple debts into a single debt. Debt consolidation loans are one of the most popular ways to consolidate debt.
What Is a Debt Consolidation Loan?
A debt consolidation loan consolidates, or combines, your various debts under a single account.
Pros of Debt Consolidation Loans
Cons of Debt Consolidation Loans
Potentially lower interest rates, especially if you now have the credit score to consolidate high-interest loans under better terms
May require good credit to obtain or get a good rate
A single payment, making it easier to manage your finances
Might leave paid-off credit card and other revolving accounts open, creating an opportunity to run up even more debt than you started with
Your debt possibly spreading out over a greater amount of time, making each monthly payment more affordable
Could potentially temporarily impact your credit score if it involves closing a lot of other accounts
What’s the Difference Between Debt Consolidation and a Personal Loan?
A personal loan is an unsecured loan that you can use for just about anything. In some cases, you could use the funds from a personal loan to consolidate some debts, making it a debt consolidation loan.
However, a loan specifically for the purpose of debt consolidation may be handled a bit differently. For example, in some cases, the lender may not pay the money directly to you. They might pay off your debts directly instead.
Alternatives to Debt Consolidation Loans
Your options depend on your credit, existing assets, and how much debt you want to consolidate. Some alternatives to debt consolidation loans are highlighted below.
1. Refinance Your Mortgage If You Have Equity
If you have equity in your home, you can refinance it or take out a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. These options give you cash you can use to pay down debt.
Pros of Refinancing a Mortgage to Consolidate Debt
Cons of Refinancing a Mortgage to Consolidate Debt
Home equity loans and HELOCs tend to have much lower interest rates than personal loans and credit cards
You use your home as collateral for the debt, which means if you don’t pay it, the lender has a claim on your house
You may be able to deduct interest on home loans to reduce tax burdens
Variable-rate loans could come with increased interest in the future
The total number of payments you need to manage each month is substantially reduced
Credit cards you pay off could be run up again, leaving you with more debt than you started with
You’re less likely to forget to pay a debt related to your home
Tip: Don’t pocket the money that refinancing frees up every month. Instead, use it to create an emergency fund. Once that’s set up, use the money as prepayment against your home loan or to boost retirement savings.
2. Use a Balance Transfer Card
Apply for a balance transfer card if your credit is in good shape, or call a card provider to ask if they’d be interested in offering you a balance transfer option on an existing card. This lets you transfer higher-interest credit card debt to a card with lower interest rates. Some balance transfer cards offer 0% APR for six to eighteen months on balance transfers for new account holders.
Pros of Balance Transfer Cards for Debt Consolidation
Cons of Balance Transfer Cards for Debt Consolidation
Can substantially reduce the cost of credit card debt
Balance transfers usually come with fees of 3% to 5%—still less than your typical interest costs might be on high-interest credit card debt, but something to keep in mind
Makes it easier to pay off credit card debt
It can be tempting to use your old credit cards again, running up more debt and ending up with double the debt you started with
Might let you consolidate multiple cards into a single account for easier management
If you don’t pay off the debt in the introductory period, you could end up with expensive interest fees
Tip: Keep your old credit card accounts open for extra benefits to your credit score. It helps your credit utilization rates and credit age. But avoid using those accounts unless you have the money to pay them immediately.
3. Borrow from Retirement Savings
If you have retirement savings, you might be able to borrow from it to pay off debt. Remember, though, that you’ll need that money later. Only consider this option if you can pay back the money quickly so you don’t lose time building your retirement funds.
Pros of Borrowing From Retirement Savings for Debt Consolidation
Cons of Borrowing From Retirement Savings for Debt Consolidation
Doesn’t require a credit check, so you don’t need a healthy credit file
You might owe taxes and penalties on the money if you withdraw early from your retirement
Interest rates are low, and you’re actually paying it back to your own account
You can borrow against some employer-sponsored retirement plans, but debt consolidation might not be an allowed reason
You could reduce how much money you have in retirement, especially if you can’t pay back the money
Tip: Consider this option as a last resort loan or if you have some money coming in soon, such as from a tax return. If you can pay the money back within a month or two, you don’t have as much to lose.
4. Ask a Friend or Relative for a Loan
If you know someone who has some extra money, it might be worth asking them for a loan at a low interest rate. You can use the money to pay off your debts and make one monthly payment to the person in question.
Pros of Asking Someone for a Loan for Debt Consolidation
Cons of Asking Someone for a Loan for Debt Consolidation
No credit check or requirements
If you blow it, you might ruin an important relationship
Your family member or friend can earn some interest
The IRS can be a real pain when it comes to family loans, so consult a tax professional
Loan payments won’t be reported to your credit reports or potentially help your score
Tip: Treat the transaction as you would with a bank or other lender. Put everything in writing, agree to fees or penalties if you miss payments, and strive to make timely payments.
5. Try Debt Counseling
Debt or credit counseling with a reputable organization can help you create a viable personal budget and potentially negotiate with creditors for better terms. Debt counselors may help you understand how to better manage your income and expenses and leverage debt payoff strategies to get out from under your debt.
Pros of Debt Counseling
Cons of Debt Counseling
Can provide you with some tools to better manage debt
May not reduce the overall cost of your debt
May help you see solutions that you didn’t see before
May rely on you making personal sacrifices in your budget
Helps you pay off debt with your own resources, which can be satisfying
If you don’t work with a reputable organization, you might be scammed out of large fees with promises that the company can’t keep
Tip: Don’t work with debt counseling companies that offer 100% guarantees to reduce or wipe out your debt or that charge excessive fees. These are red flags that could point to scams.
6. Enter a Creditor Assistance Program
Many creditors have assistance programs to help account holders who are experiencing financial distress due to sudden loss of income or an emergency. These programs range from mortgage modifications, which might reduce your interest rate or total monthly payment, to skipping a single payment and having it added onto the end of the loan penalty-free.
Pros of Creditor Assistance Program
Cons of Creditor Assistance Programs
May not require good credit, especially if you have a solid payment history with the creditor
Aren’t always available
Could offer a fast, convenient solution to short-term cashflow issues
You can typically only take advantage of these tools once or once every so often
Tip: Anytime you’re experiencing financial distress or might be late with a payment, don’t ignore the issue. Call your creditor to find out what they might be able to do to help.
Bankruptcy is a last-resort option that can help you discharge or restructure your debts and make a new start in a few years.
Pros of Bankruptcy
Cons of Bankruptcy
If successful, you can have all or many of your debts discharged
Bankruptcy can be a long and stressful process
You may be able to keep certain assets, such as your home or car
It can dramatically impact your credit in the short term
Filing for bankruptcy establishes an automatic stay, so creditors can’t continue to attempt to collect or foreclose unless the bankruptcy is dismissed
Depending on what type of bankruptcy you file, you may not be able to get credit for a while
Tip: Talk to a bankruptcy attorney about this option before you take action. Most provide free consultations to help you understand if bankruptcy is a good choice for you.
The Bottom Line on Debt Consolidation
If you’re struggling with debt, you’re not alone. And you do have options. Look into a debt consolidation loan or one of the options above to start working on financial stability for the future.
You can get an apartment with bad credit, but it may take some strategizing. Apartment applicants with low credit scores can boost their odds by applying with a cosigner, paying more upfront, offering references, or changing the type of units they apply to.
In today’s housing market, you want every possible advantage on a rental application. While letters of recommendation and a solid rental history will get you far, more and more landlords want a high credit score. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to ask if you can get an apartment with bad credit.
While it takes some strategizing, you can get an apartment with low credit. To help you along, we’ll explain how credit impacts your application, explain steps you can take to compensate for low credit, and share tips on boosting your score.
How Credit Impacts Getting Approved for an Apartment
Many landlords and renters run a credit check as part of their rental application process. Like lenders, landlords check your credit to see if you can pay your bills on time. Because renting is an investment, property owners want to minimize risk. So, they assume tenants with high credit are more likely to pay their bills on time.
Remember that your credit score isn’t the only factor on a rental application. While a high score helps, the details on your credit report matter, too. How you got a high or low score can sway property managers one way or the other.
What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?
The score you need depends on the unit. Some rental companies provide an ideal range for their listings. A score of 620 or higher will generally keep landlords from denying your rental application. However, some landlords will expect more, while others don’t look at your score at all.
What Do Landlords Look for on a Credit Report?
Renters may treat your credit score like a headline, but there’s more to a credit report than a number. Credit reports tell a story about your spending habits and income. To help landlords pick reliable tenants, a rental credit check includes:
Rental history: Some landlords report rent payments to credit bureaus. As a result, evictions, broken leases, and late or missing payments may appear.
Employment history: Current or past employers may show up on a credit report. Typically, they only appear if you listed them on a credit card application or loan.
Payment history: Credit reports show your history of payments to lenders. Late or missing payments will lower your score and work against your rental application.
Debts: Current and past debts show up on your credit report. By providing payslips, landlords can calculate your debt-to-income ratio. If you make enough to repay your debts responsibly, that improves your application.
Delinquent or collections accounts: An account is delinquent if you miss a payment due date. If you miss enough payments for lenders to transfer your account to a collection agency or sell it to a debt buyer, it becomes a collections account. Both of these hurt your credit score.
Bankruptcy status: Bankruptcy filings will affect your credit score. Landlords may take recent bankruptcies as a sign that you’re a high-risk tenant.
Derogatory remarks: These remarks refer to negative items on your credit report. They include auto repossessions or foreclosures. They hurt your score and hamper a rental application.
Landlords gauge the risk they pose by looking at how applicants spend their money. Someone with a high income but a history of late payments may not make the cut. On the other hand, someone who filed for bankruptcy years ago may be more responsible now.
How to Get an Apartment with Bad Credit
While a low score sets you back, you can learn how to get approved for an apartment with low credit. By following these methods, you can get a leg up in rental applications:
Make an Upfront Payment
Putting down more money upfront can give you an edge on rental applications. Landlords will usually request a security deposit or the first and last month’s rent upfront. To sway a landlord’s opinion, offer the first three months’ rent or put down a higher security deposit.
At the end of the day, renting is an investment. If you can show your landlord that you’ll give them a reliable ROI, it’s all the more likely they’ll accept you. As a bonus, paying more in advance saves you a financial burden for the next few months.
Find a Guarantor or Cosigner for Your Apartment
If a landlord can’t trust you to make payments, you can get someone to sign your lease with you. Someone with a great credit score who signs on with you can assuage a property manager’s worries. However, remember that the person who helps you takes on financial risk. You have two options for this approach:
Cosignerssign a rental agreement with you and share the financial responsibility for it. They must do so on your behalf if you can’t or won’t pay rent.
Guarantors share cosigners’ responsibilities, but they have fewer rights. More specifically, they vouch for you and can make payments on your behalf. However, they aren’t entitled to reside in your unit.
Offer References and Supporting Documents
While credit reports outline your financial history, you aren’t the sum of your spending decisions. You can offer other documents to show your responsibility in an apartment application. Additionally, these documents can prove you can pay rent each month. Some examples of supporting documents include:
Payslips: Offer pay stubs that show you make enough money to pay rent each month.
Letters of recommendation: Reference letters from a friend or employer can attest to your character and responsibility.
Proof of reliable rental history: Account statements and landlord testimonials can prove you always pay rent on time.
A snapshot of your savings account: If all else fails, you can show landlords you have the money to make rent. Be sure to censor sensitive information on your snapshot.
Utility payments: A history of on-time utility payments shows your trustworthiness.
Find Apartments to Rent with No Credit Check
While credit checks are common, not all landlords require one. While these properties aren’t the most competitive, that isn’t always a problem. Apartments with no credit check tend to cost less than ones with one.
If you’re looking for another option, some landlords advertise units with low credit requirements. Again, these properties set a low credit requirement for a reason. That said, if you inspect the unit and it looks good, this route can save you a headache. As you live in low-credit apartments, you can build your score for future applications.
Adjust Your Expectations
If you can’t get around a credit check, reassess the kinds of apartments you can apply for. This isn’t to say you should only apply to units in poor condition. Instead, consider what you’re willing to compromise on. You may have an easier time qualifying for an apartment:
Farther away from your work or downtown area
Without amenities like a gym or pool
That doesn’t include parking
With less square footage than you’d prefer
If you apply with a roommate
Bear in mind that compromising on these points means the apartment may cost less. While living in a less-than-ideal unit, you can save and rebuild your credit while renting. When it comes time to look for a new apartment, you’ll have better odds of getting the one you want.
Tips to Raise Your Credit Before Renting an Apartment
If you plan to send rental applications down the line, you should work to improve your credit. Bear in mind that increasing your credit score takes time. To see a major change, expect months or even a year of work. In that time, follow these tips to improve your credit:
Pay Your Bills on Time
A person’s payment history can make or break their credit score. Central to that payment history: whether you paid your bills on time. Making timely and consistent payments plays a big role in improving your credit score. On top of that, timely payments prove your reliability to a landlord, boosting your chance of getting approved.
Pay Down Any Debt
Paying down debts is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. For this reason, someone who takes on and pays off debt won’t get punished for the debt they take on. Paying off debts shows your fiscal responsibility and proves your finances are on an upward trajectory.
Paying off any kind of debt can improve your score. The main ones to look out for include:
Credit card debt
Become an Authorized User for Credit Piggybacking
If you don’t have the resources to boost your credit alone, you can try credit piggybacking. Credit piggybacking lets you benefit from a friend or family member who pays down their debts. By becoming an authorized user on their account, your credit report reflects their payoffs.
You can break the process into a few steps:
Find a friend or family member you trust to spend responsibly.
Become an authorized user on one of their credit cards or lines of credit.
As they pay down their debts, this will show up on your credit report.
By piggybacking on their credit payoffs, your score will improve.
Dispute Credit Report Errors
Sometimes, a low credit score isn’t your fault. Credit reporting errors can come from major credit reporting agencies or the companies giving them information. Credit reporting errors aren’t uncommon, so you should review your report for issues.
Credit reports may contain errors related to:
Accounts held by another person with a similar name to you
Accounts opened by fraudsters who committed identity theft
Closed accounts that still read as open
Accounts incorrectly labeled as delinquent or in collections
Payments that don’t get reflected in your report
Multiple listings of the same debt
Accounts with inaccurate balances or credit limits
To dispute credit report errors, contact the credit bureaus and the company that reported inaccurate information to them. You want to provide supporting documentation that proves the report contains errors. While you can send a dispute by phone, this doesn’t leave a paper trail. Instead, mail a dispute letter or use an online form.
FAQs on Renting an Apartment with Bad Credit
You may still have questions about getting approved for an apartment. To help you out, we’ve answered FAQs on renting apartments with bad credit.
Is 500 a High Enough Credit Score for an Apartment?
You can rent an apartment with a credit score of 500. While it might take you out of the running for expensive units, you should still have a good chance of renting:
Apartments with low credit requirements
Apartments with no credit requirements
Apartments you apply to with a cosigner or roommate.
Can I Reapply for an Apartment After I Get Denied for Bad Credit?
You can apply for the same apartment after getting denied on your first attempt. That said, some renters may throw out your application or ignore it. If you reapply, try to improve your credit and finances between applications.
Do Landlords Need Permission to Run a Credit Check?
Landlords need your permission to run a credit check. The Fair Credit Reporting Act calls rental applications a “permissible purpose.” This gives them the right to view your credit. However, that doesn’t mean landlords can check your score without your consent.
Improve Your Credit for an Apartment with Credit.com
Managing apartment applications is hard enough, even without a low credit score. However, you can get an apartment with bad credit by following the right steps. You’ll see more housing opportunities by learning how credit works, reviewing strategies for getting an apartment with low credit, and following tips to boost your score.
If you’d like a way to streamline raising your credit for rental applications, Credit.com can help. Our rent and utility reporting services ensure that your on-time payment gets reflected on your report. Even if your landlord doesn’t report payments, our tool helps build your credit with every rent payment reported.
New York Department of Financial Services New York requires at least 20 hours of pre-license education. You must meet at least one of these conditions: Pass on both the National and New York State components of the SAFE exam; Pass on both the National and stand-alone UST components of the SAFE exam; or Pass on … [Read more…]
Quick answer: Yes, it’s possible for undocumented immigrants to get a mortgage loan. They face legal and financial obstacles that don’t stand in the way of other purchasers, but millions have done so successfully.
You don’t need to be a resident to own real estate in the United States. Many documented immigrants own homes. While it’s difficult to get accurate statistics about undocumented homeowners for a number of reasons, in 2014, the Migration Policy Institute estimated that around 3.4 million undocumented immigrants owned homes in the United States.
Keep reading to discover how your residency status impacts the home loan process. We’ll also highlight some important information you should know about your rights when applying for a mortgage.
In This Piece
How Residency Status Affects a Home Loan
Understand Your Rights
How to Get a Mortgage
How Residency Status Affects a Home Loan
Overall, residency status plays a significant role in determining the availability and terms of home loans for individuals in the United States.
Green Card Holders
Green card holders are permanent residents eligible for most types of mortgages available to U.S. citizens. This means they must provide proof of income, credit history and other financial documents to qualify for a home loan. In some cases, green card holders might face additional challenges during the home loan and purchase process. Those can include difficulty in obtaining mortgage insurance or a higher down payment requirement, which can vary based on the lender and the type of loan.
Refugees and Asylum Grantees
Refugees and asylum grantees are individuals granted legal status in the United States due to persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries. They may be eligible for certain types of mortgages. However, their ability to obtain a home loan might depend on their specific immigration status and financial circumstances. For example, refugees or asylum grantees who have been in the United States for less than 2 years might have a harder time getting a mortgage because many lenders require at least 2 years of residency to establish credit history.
Get matched with a personal
loan that’s right for you today.
DACA recipients, or individuals who’ve been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, are not eligible for most types of home loans. This is because they don’t have legal permanent residency status. However, some lenders may offer alternative financing options or assistance programs specifically designed for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants.
Additionally, DACA recipients who have obtained an Employment Authorization Document and can demonstrate a stable income and credit history may be able to get a mortgage under certain circumstances.
Understand Your Rights
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. Immigrants, including those who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are protected under the FHA and have the same rights as other individuals.
The right to rent or purchase housing without discrimination based on national origin
The right to be treated the same as U.S. citizens or permanent residents in all aspects of the housing process, including advertising, application, screening and approval
The right to request reasonable accommodations in housing, such as modifications to the physical structure of a home or changes to policies or procedures, if disabled
If you believe you’re being discriminated against during the home loan, home buying or other housing process, you should report it.
How to Get a Mortgage as an Undocumented Immigrant
Undocumented immigrants aren’t usually able to qualify for mortgages through traditional services, such as those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, individuals with an ITIN may be able to get approved for special loans from private lenders. An ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is a unique identifier the IRS uses to process tax returns and payments for those that do not have or do not qualify for a social security number.
Apply for an ITIN
The first step is to apply for an ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You do this by completing Form W-7 via mail, in person at an IRS-authorized agent or in person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
Save for a Down Payment
Because undocumented immigrants can’t usually qualify for federally backed loans, such as those through the FHA, they probably won’t qualify for mortgages with low down payment requirements. Private lenders may require down payments as much as 20% or even 30%. If an undocumented immigrant wants to buy a home, they should start saving as soon as possible. That might mean paying down other debt first.
Get Documentation Ready
In addition to the ITIN, undocumented immigrants will have to provide information to help qualify them for a private home loan. That information can include:
Proof of income, such as recent pay stubs, tax returns or other financial documents
Information about credit history, including any outstanding debts, loans or credit accounts
Recent bank statements that show account balances and transaction history
Identification documents, such as passports or government-issued IDs
Proof of residency status, such as a lease agreement or utility bill in the person’s name
Proof of employment or self-employment, such as a letter from an employer or recent tax returns
Apply for an ITIN Mortgage
Once you have an ITIN, a down payment and all the necessary documentation, you can apply for an ITIN mortgage. Start by browsing the mortgage options in the Credit.com marketplace.
You may hit one of those life moments where you need a bundle of cash and fast. Maybe you have been hit with a major car repair bill, you want to attend a destination wedding, or you’re motivated to pay off your student loans ASAP.
Whatever the situation, there are smart strategies that will help you accrue that money as quickly as possible. Tactics like trimming your expenses, selling your unwanted stuff, and bundling your insurance can help you meet a savings goal at top speed.
In this guide, you’ll learn those techniques and more to help you finance whatever is most urgent on your financial to-do list.
How to Save Money Fast 10 Ways
One person’s goal for saving money quickly might be, “I need $500 by the end of the week.” For another, it could be, “I’m going to stash away $10,000 within the next year.” Wherever you may fall in terms of your short-term financial goals, these 10 tactics will help you save money daily and achieve your aspiration.
💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Open a bank account online so you can manage bills, deposits, transfers — all from one convenient app.
1. Getting Rid of Unnecessary Expenses
In an age of automated billings and subscriptions, it is easy to lose track of what exactly you’re paying for each month. It is entirely possible that you’re paying for something you’re not even using.
In order to pinpoint any potentially unwanted expenses, review a month’s worth of auto debits from your bank account. You may find that you’re paying $5 a month for a digital magazine you no longer read or that you could save on streaming services by dropping one or two you don’t watch but are paying $15 a month for.
Once you’ve canceled, you could reroute the money you would have spent directly into your savings account. While $20 or $30 a month saved on subscriptions might not seem like much, even small amounts can quickly add up over time. In combination with other savings techniques, this might help you build your savings fast.
Ready for a Better Banking Experience?
Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning up to 4.50% APY on your cash!
2. Negotiating and Automating Your Bill Payments
Did you know that some companies offer discounts when you set up automatic bill payments, or autopay? This means connecting a bill directly to your bank account and allowing the company to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill on the due date.
Some companies offer a discount in these situations because automatically debiting your account gives the company assurance that the bill will be paid on time. The bonus for you is double: You might get a little discount on your bills, and you won’t have to remember to manually pay the bill each month.
Autopay might also help you avoid unexpected late fees, which in turn could help you build up savings faster. There might be some downsides to autopay, however. If you set up an autopay agreement but then don’t have enough money in your account to cover the charge, you might end up with a canceled subscription or overdraft or NSF fees from your bank.
3. Carefully Considering Big Decisions
Yes, it’s hard to save money, but learning to be mindful about your purchases can help. Instead of buying something as soon as you want it, you might want to sleep on it overnight and see if you still want it the next morning. Giving yourself more time before pulling out your credit card could help you determine if you really need the item or if you were just caught up in the excitement of shopping.
This can be especially useful when making big purchases because they might require more research anyway. For example, if you’re buying a couch and you fall in love with a sectional sofa, waiting overnight might give you a chance to read reviews, double-check the measurements of your space, and look to see if there are similar styles available online that might cost less.
Some people wait longer still. They use the 30-day rule, which involves writing a note in your calendar for 30 days after you see the item you want. If you still are determined to buy it when the calendar alert pops up, then you can probably feel confident that it isn’t an impulse buy and go for it.
By delaying purchases this way, you may be able to avoid compulsive shopping and save funds, which can go towards your savings goal.
4. Considering a Spending “Fast”
Ready to learn another way to save money quickly? Some savers find that they can save money fast with a challenge: They plan a day or two every week where they eliminate all unnecessary spending. That’s what’s called a “fast”: You avoid spending money, similar to the way a dietary fast means you eat nothing.
For example, if you decide to do a two-day spending fast, you might decide that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays you don’t spend any money other than what it costs to commute to work. That means that on those days, you might choose to forgo your daily pitstop at the coffee shop, a lunch from the salad place (you’d bring food from home), or ordering the brand new book you’ve been waiting to read.
Planning to not spend could help you reign in unintentional spending. Chances are that you barely think about that $4 you spend at the coffee shop, but if you give it up twice a week, that’s $8 that could be going into your savings.
If you save an average of $40 a week with a two-day fast, that could add more than $2,000 to your savings in a year.
5. Putting Your Accounts to Work
Choosing the right account for your money can be a great way to save funds fast. Some checking accounts charge monthly or annual account maintenance fees, with little to no interest.
Savings accounts might offer higher interest rates than a checking account, but the reality is that the average interest rates on a standard savings account can still be very low. Instead, you might shop around for a no-fee, high-interest account to make your money work harder for you. These kinds of accounts are often found at online vs. traditional banks.
If you currently have, say, $5,000 sitting in a checking account, earning no interest, if you were to put it in a savings account at 4.50% interest compounded daily, you’d have an extra $230.12 a year later, with no effort on your part.
💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more each month? Grow your personal savings by opening an online savings account. SoFi offers high-interest savings accounts with no account fees. Open your savings account today!
6. Bundling Your Insurance
Insurance can be one of those “set it and forget it” expenses. You might buy a policy and then never really focus on the cost of the premium again.
Many insurers, however, will reduce your rate if you give them more of your business. Typically, this means having your auto and home insurance with the same company. You might be able to save a chunk of change and put it towards your savings goal.
It can also be wise to review your insurance annually. You might be paying for coverage you don’t really need.
7. Starting a Side Hustle
Sure, cutting back on your spending is one way to save money fast. But so is bringing in more cash. Many people find starting a side hustle is a good way to bring in more income. This could mean anything from selling your nature photography on Etsy or providing social media services to a local business or two.
While one of the key benefits of a side hustle is the money it can bring in, you also might find it personally rewarding and even an entry to a new full-time career.
8. Saving on Essentials
Looking for another idea for how to save money fast? There’s no doubt that many things you spend money on are necessities. Food, personal-care items, and gas for your car. But there are plenty of ways you can trim those costs.
• To save on food, you could do some meal-planning so you can more efficiently manage your grocery budget. Using up what you buy vs. wasting food can help you save a bundle towards your goals.
• You could get a gas card to save at the pump. There are also plenty of apps that point you towards the cheapest gas stations in your area.
• Joining a warehouse or wholesale club can help you save on your typical purchases. If you find the quantities too large (say, a 12-pack of shampoo), partner up with a friend of two to share the wealth.
9. Selling Your Stuff
If you’re trying to save money fast, you might be able to “find” a pile of cash by selling your used items that you no longer need. This could mean anything from selling gently worn clothes online (say, on Poshmark or thredUP) or IRL (at Buffalo Exchange perhaps); putting functional electronics up for sale on eBay; or offering items on places like Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace.
Just be cautious as there are scammers who try to prey on direct sellers.
10. Checking Your Tax Withholding
Here’s another idea for accumulating money quickly: Double-check your tax withholding. If you get a sizable tax refund every year, you may feel as if you are getting “free money.” Not at all! That’s actually your hard-earned money that you overpaid to the government and are now getting back. It could have been earning interest in the bank rather than being whisked out of your paycheck.
If you typically receive a refund, tweak your withholding, and then put the additional money that stays in your paycheck into your savings.
Is Saving Money Fast Realistic?
Saving money fast can be realistic, as long as you keep in mind your income and the fact that most financial experts say to save 20% of that figure. That’s one of the principals of the popular 50/30/20 budget rule. Fifty percent of your money goes towards essential spending, 30% goes to discretionary expenses, and 20% gets socked away as savings.
So, if you earn $100,000 a year and have an important goal in mind, such as the down payment for a house, you might be able to stash $20K in a single year. That might involve pausing your retirement savings for a year as you go all-in on accumulating as much cash as possible for a home purchase.
Also, if you are able to bring in more income (whether by selling your stuff, starting a side hustle, or via passive income ideas), that can accelerate your savings as well.
Keeping Your Savings Safe With SoFi
Whichever strategies (or combination of tactics) you try, it’s important to find the right banking partner where your money can grow. You’ll likely want a financial institution with Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation coverage, low or no fees, and a healthy interest rate.
Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.
Better banking is here with up to 4.50% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.
How can I save $1,000 fast?
To save $1,000 fast, you can try a combination of such techniques as trimming subscriptions, essential, and discretionary spending; bundling insurance to cut costs; selling your unwanted items; and/or using the 30-day rule.
How to save up $10,000 in 3 months?
To save $10,000 in three months, you need to save $3,333 after-tax dollars per month. Your income and expenses will influence how doable this is. Some ways to save this amount include going on a spending fast (meaning you eliminate all possible discretionary spending) and starting a side hustle to bring in more money.
How to save $5,000 ASAP?
To save $5,000 ASAP, you can try cutting your expenses, avoiding big purchases, making sure your money is earning a good interest rate, and bringing in more cash via a side hustle.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.
SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.50% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.
SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.50% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.
SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.
Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.
Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 8/9/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet..
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.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Here’s how this social worker has paid off $28,000 of student loan debt in 15 months.
Today, I have a great debt payoff progress story to share from Taylor. Taylor is a social worker who is working on paying off $277,000 of debt and retiring early. She shares tips on how she is cutting her expenses, the ways they’ve increased their income through various side hustles, house hacking advice, and how she qualified for an $88,000 student loan award.Enjoy!
Now, don’t let the title deceive you into thinking we are debt free; we most certainly are not.
As of this writing, we still have $251,195.39 of debt (all student loans).
This is our story about the debt payoff strategies we used in paying off $28,026.02 of debt and our goals for the future!
Who are we?
My name is Taylor, and I am a 29-year-old medical social worker who finished grad school in 2018. I am also a part-time social media coordinator and with both jobs combined, I make $96,000 (gross).
I live with my husband, Bret, who I have been with for 11 years and married for 3. He is a full-time student and has been in grad school since September 2020 (he has about 2 more years left). We love to travel, try new restaurants, hang out with our friends and family, and just have a good time.
I also have a blog at Social Work to Wealth.
How did we get here?
First, I need to give you some background before we get into the nitty gritty of our debt numbers and payoff strategies.
2012: We met when both of us were in college. I was 18 and Bret was 22. Soon after we met, Bret took a few years off from school while I finished my bachelor’s. I relied entirely on student loans, and don’t remember applying to any scholarships. When Bret returned to school to finish his bachelor’s, he did receive some scholarships and worked a summer job to pay forhousing but still needed to rely on student loans to pay the bulk of his tuition.
I will speak for myself when I say I didn’t take the time to calculate how much loan money I actually needed and blindly accepted the total amount. Looking back, maybe I would have needed it all or maybe not, but I wish I would have at least done the exercise.
We have always been open with talking about our debt and money in general, but I remember us both expressing the thought that we would probably always have our student loans. We would just live our life, pay our minimum payments, and that would be that. There was never any talk about debt payoff strategies, or any money management strategies, really.
We went through many life transitions. Living apart for two years while I went to grad school, him returning to school to finish his bachelor’s, various jobs, and a post-bach program.
2019: Bret was finishing up his post-bach program and got accepted into grad school. We were newly engaged and began planning and saving for our wedding scheduled for July 11th, 2020. Such exciting stuff!
March 2020: We got the news our wedding venue was closing for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we decide to cancel our wedding. We switched gears and used the money we saved for a down payment on a new home. Then, we had a small intimate wedding featuring a hot-air balloon with 18 of our closest family members! We personally saved a ton and also had tremendous help from our family.
September 2020: I start a new job and Bret starts grad school. We are newlyweds and settling into our new home in a new city.
I wish I could talk more about 2020 because it was a HUGE year for us with buying a home, moving, getting married, Bret starting grad school and me starting a new job, but that’s a conversation for another day!
From frugal to spenders
When we were saving for our wedding, we were very frugal. Any extra money we had, we put toward our wedding savings (which again, ended up being used for the down payment on our house and a smaller wedding ceremony).
We went from frugal to swiping our cards left and right to prepare for our wedding and furnish our house. It was sooo nice to finally be able to spend the money we had been saving for so long! But this continued into 2020… and 2021…
We were mostly spending on eating out and experiences. We do like to buy “things” but we definitely value food and experiences a lot more. We even decided to put a trip to Hawaii on our credit card costing us around $5,000, along with other expenses, because why not? We deserved it!
We didn’t have much of a budget, our bills were getting paid, but the credit card bill kept increasing. Since I was the only one bringing in income, we took out some student loans to help with a portion of our living expenses. And the credit card bill continued to increase.
The “wake-up call”
The “wake-up call” is such a theme throughout many debt payoff stories. So, here’s mine.
I went to breakfast with two friends in December 2021, and one of them brought up high-yield savings accounts (HYSA). I had never heard of this type of account before and was shocked to learn that these savings accounts had a way better interest rate than a regular savings account.
How was I just hearing about this at 28 years old? My mind was blown!
I thought, what else don’t I know? So of course, that led me to deep dive into the world of personal finance. I consumed any book, video, blog, or podcast I could get my hands on. I read stories after stories of people paying off thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, leveraging credit card points for free travel, investing, and so much more!
It was so motivating. I was hooked! (And still am.)
Bret was open and willing for me to share with him what I was learning. We started realizing that for the last year and a half, we hadn’t been telling ourselves “No”. We had just been buying whatever we wanted, and we had the credit card bill and no savings to show for it.
We learned that we could pay off all our debt and it didn’t have to stay with us forever. We learned there was a way to use a credit card responsibly (we thought we were). We learned that we could even retire early. That one sounded real nice! We dreamed of having more time doing our hobbies, traveling and being with our friends and family. And if we ever had kids, we dreamed of being able to work part-time so we could be home more with them and available for school activities.
Knowing this, we started reining in our spending, trying to just be more “mindful”, but no major change was made.
We take on more debt
April 2022: People in our neighborhood were getting new fences. We started thinking, “Hey, we need a new fence, too…” In some areas it was broken, it hadn’t been stained so was rotting, and was 15 years old. We were also going to get an updated appraisal to see if we could get our primary mortgage insurance (PMI) removed after just two years of owning our home and thought a new fence might help.
A coworker told me she was using a home equity loan to buy a fence and to do some other home renovations. We investigated options and ended up opening a $20,000 home equity line of credit (HELOC) instead with about a 4% interest rate. We buy our fence which ends up being about ~10,000 and we were set on it…
The second “wake-up call”
When it was all said and done, we loved our fence. We still love our fence, it’s beautiful! (And it better be at that price!) We stained it and we believe it will last us for many years.
But we start talking again about our debt and how we probably didn’t need this fence right now. We know we didn’t need this fence right now. Our PMI was removed, and it could have maybe happened even without the fence. Who knows.
We began thinking we need to make some serious changes in the way we manage our money. We need to do more than just be “mindful” about our spending. We make a real plan. We plan to make an actual budget, stop taking on unnecessary debt, and take a break from using our credit cards for the foreseeable future.
May 2022: Beginning of our debt payoff journey
Since we were serious about our new money management changes, I documented how much debt we had so we could track our progress.
Here was the breakdown:
$260,390.25 in student loans, Bret & I’s combined – various interest rates
$10,676.24 HELOC – 4% interest rate
$5,430.76 is from credit card spending – 4% interest rate*
$449 for furniture – 0% interest rate
$775.16 for Peloton bike – 0% interest rate
*We moved our credit card debt to our HELOC since our credit card was around a 25% interest rate.
July 2023: Current debt numbers
Our current debt balance is $251,195.39, * which are all student loans.
We have paid off a total of $28,026.02 of debt!
*Our current balance will increase to ~$255,000 once Bret gets his final student loan disbursement (more on that later).
I want to also mention that we do have our mortgage, but we aren’t trying to pay that down as quickly as possible for a few reasons: we have a 3% interest rate, we don’t plan on this being our forever home, and one day we might rent it out or sell it.
Actions that helped us pay off $28,026.02 of debt in 15 months
We found a budgeting method that worked for us
We realized we could live off my income alone and not take on anymore debt, but we would have to have a somewhat rigid budget.
Finding a budgeting method that worked for us took some time. I don’t know how many times over the years I have tried to track my expenses in a budget app or an excel sheet, only to find out it was too overwhelming and that I was still overspending!
I am a visual person and learned about the envelope budgeting method, so we decided to give that a try, but use a digital variation.
So, for our entire money management system we have 4 checking accounts and 2 savings accounts (short-term and emergency fund). Our checking accounts include bills, food and miscellaneous, and two personal spending accounts.
This may seem like a lot of accounts to some, but it has worked tremendously for us. I love having a separate account for each major category in our budget so I can easily see how much money we have left in a certain category without having to add every expense into an app or Excel spreadsheet. We are joint owners on all of these accounts.
We then use the zero-based budget method to determine how much goes into each account.
We do have multiple cards to manage, but the pros VERY MUCH outweigh the cons here.
And with our own spending accounts, we have a certain amount of money allotted to us each month, so we individually have some spending freedom. We don’t have to feel guilty and know this money is set aside specifically for our personal spending.
Cut expenses and increased our income
I know some people are tired of hearing about this recommendation, but it’s something that really did help us! We reined in our spending a bit but mostly we had to increase our income. At a certain point, there wasn’t much more to cut.
We didn’t have many streaming services, started to limit our eating out, we didn’t have car payments, and we meal planned and prepped. We did (and still do) aaalll the things. We had to increase our income somehow.
Ways we increased our income
My income increase
I continued with my second job as a social media manager and then started dog sitting.
I have been dog sitting for about 5 years and have primarily used the Rover platform to list myself as a dog sitter. I like this app because it’s easy to use and I can specify various services to offer (e.g., house sitting, boarding, drop in visits, day care, or dog walking).
It also allows me to mark which days I am available and then people reach out to me if I seem like a good fit and my availability matches with their needs! Setting up my profile took some time, but now that it’s done, everything else is fairly low maintenance.
I now just have to respond to inquiries in a timely manner and set up a meet and greet if it seems like a good fit.
I currently only offer house sitting and on Rover and I charge $65/night. Rover takes a cut, so I end up pocketing $52. I also have private clients who pay me directly, and I have gotten those by referrals from past Rover clients. I charge my private clients $40/night.
I recently increased my rates on Rover and have been slow to increase my price with my private clients because they’re loyal.
I don’t make a ton of money dog sitting, but I am able to make a couple hundred dollars a month. My schedule is very limited, but there are people with better availability who make significantly more than I do!
I love animals and we don’t have any due to our sporadic work schedules, so it’s a great way for me to spend time with pets and get paid, too!
Bret’s income increase
Last year, Bret decided to take a break from grad school and soon after, he was offered a summer job in Alaska.
When we first started dating, he used to spend almost every summer there working for a family who owned a set-netting fishery. His uncle had spent many summers in Alaska working for this family and one summer brought Bret to work with him. They would catch salmon and sell it to a buying station in their area.
He went up there for about 6 summers in a row, until he got too busy with school and couldn’t go anymore.
He hadn’t been to Alaska in over 5 years, but someone who worked for the buying station remembered Bret, called him, and asked if he’d be interested in working at the buying station! Since he was already on a break from school, he said yes and worked up there for 8 weeks.
We were able to put every paycheck he earned towards our debt because we could manage all our expenses on my income alone. It was also a great way for Bret to spend part of his summer and I was finally able to visit as I never gotten the chance in previous years.
We also started house hacking! We had a spare bedroom and bathroom I would use for my office and occasionally, for guests. A friend of mine and her husband are really into the real estate space and gave us the idea to rent it out.
We weren’t comfortable with the idea of having a long-term roommate, and with both of us working in healthcare, we knew there was a need for short-term and furnished housing for travelling healthcare professionals.
For us, short-term meant renting for 1-6 months, but we were open to individuals staying longer if it worked well for everyone involved!
Some questions we had to address before renting:
Did we need a permit?
How much should we charge for the deposit, rent and pets?
What furniture and amenities are important for travelers?
Where should we list the room?
How to create a lease agreement?
In our county, we did not need a permit to rent out the room if we were renting for at least 30+ days at a time.
After researching rental prices in our area, I found rooms that were of similar caliber listed for $1,100 per month or more. We wanted to be competitive and so we initially settled on $900 per month and have steadily increased it. We have now landed on $995 per month which includes all utilities and internet.
We set the deposit at $995, with an additional $300 for a pet deposit, and no ongoing pet rent.
We wanted to upgrade the furniture in the room and IKEA was a great place for us to find affordable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing furniture. We made sure the room had a bed, large dresser, bedside table, and we kept my desk in there too.
I read it’s important for travelers to have their own TV available so they can unwind in their room. We were able to find a decently priced smart TV off Facebook Marketplace.
Furnished Finder is where we decided to list our room, which started out as a platform for traveling nurses to find furnished housing. It is now used heavily by many healthcare professionals, students, and professionals in other fields.
Travelers reach out to us through the Furnished Finder website and if the dates work out, we move forward with scheduling a video interview. It’s important for us to be able to talk to the person, even if it’s just over video, and we want them to see our faces and home in real time as well.
For the lease agreement, we used ez Landlord Forms, because they have leases for each state with specific information on what’s required to include.
We don’t ask for anything major from tenants. The most important things to us are that they are respectful of our space, don’t smoke in the house, and pay their rent on time. We also added a page at the end for tenants to add two emergency contacts in case we need to call someone on their behalf.
We have had 4 renters so far with the room being occupied for 13 out of the last 14 months. It has really helped us with our debt payoff goals and we have also met some awesome people through the process! We plan to continue renting it out for the foreseeable future.
Applied for in-state student loan help
My state offered a program called the Oregon Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program where they help minorities in the behavioral health field, or those who serve them, pay back their student loans.
This program is funded by The Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative which has the goal of recruiting and retaining behavioral health providers who, “Are people of color, tribal members, or residents of rural areas of Oregon, and can provide culturally responsive care for diverse communities.”
To apply, I had to show I was employed and actively providing behavioral health services and give them detailed documentation about my student loans. I also had to answer two essay questions related to being a part of and/or working with communities who are underserved and how my training has equipped me with supporting these communities.
I applied last year and was a recipient of an award!
As a recipient, there is a two-year service commitment which means I have to continue providing some sort of behavioral health service during that time frame (which I planned to). Over the next two years, I will be getting ~$88,000 in quarterly disbursements to put towards my student loans. So far this year, I have received ~$11,000, and it’s been life changing to say the least!
Alongside this support, I am also pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for additional student loan relief.
Managing our mental health while paying off debt
Since I am a social worker, I often think about how money and debt affect individuals’ mental health. It’s one of the reasons why I started my blog in the first place.
I realized managing money is a universal task and many of us don’t know what we are doing because talking about money is taboo. And when you have financial stress, it can really take a toll on your mental health. So, I wanted to share our journey in hopes of helping others.
Bret and I aren’t those individuals who want to avoid eating out and fun experiences until we are debt free. And, we are also privileged to not have to take those extreme measures either. It has been important for us to make this journey sustainable and not deprive ourselves of experiences while we are going through it.
Here’s how we are making our journey sustainable:
Still going out to eat
Budgeting for personal spending money, aka fun
Setting realistic debt payoff goals
Putting aside money for travel
Not comparing and thinking other people are better than us because they’re able to pay off their debt quicker
Tracking our debt payoff progress (we use Excel). With so much debt left to pay off, being able to see our progress is really motivating
Openly talking about our debt. Avoidance is a coping mechanism for many, for us, acknowledging and addressing it has been so freeing (but it wasn’t always this way).
Talking about our dreams and reminding ourselves why we want to do this in the first place
We know that if we eliminated going out to eat, budgeting for fun, or both, we could be paying off our debt much quicker. However, that sounds miserable to us. It’s worth it to still go out to dinner, travel, or buy plants (in my case) than to deprive ourselves of the joy these things bring.
We are making great progress and we know in time, we will be debt free.
Our debt payoff journey is not linear
A few months ago, we decided to take out $6,000 of student loans. Bret currently has a full tuition scholarship, so we are tremendously lucky in that regard, but he just learned about some conferences that would be really helpful to his professional growth. We have gotten $1,500 of this loan money already which is included in our current debt balance, but we haven’t received all of it yet.
We could have pinched and saved to avoid taking on any of this debt, but that would have caused me to work more than I currently am. Again, not in line with our current goal of making this journey sustainable!
We were very intentional about how much to take out. We estimated how much he would need for a few conferences and declined the rest. We even opened a separate savings account for the money to make sure it didn’t get accidentally spent on anything.
I’m SO proud of us for that!
The goal here is progress not perfection. So cliche, I know. But we are learning how to think critically about our money, spend thoughtfully, use our money as a tool to reach our goals, and enjoy our life along the way. And right now, that meant taking on a little more debt.
We are moving in the right direction, and we know when he starts working, that will really accelerate our debt payoff journey since we have proven to ourselves we can live on my income alone.
Our plan going forward
Bret is still in school which means his loans are on deferment, so we currently have his on the back burner.
With the loan payment assistance I am receiving, it’s allowing us to put any extra money we have each month towards our savings. Our priority right now is building up a good emergency fund of about $16,000 (~4 months’ worth of expenses).
This has been difficult because of inflation and just little emergencies that keep popping up, but we are slowly making progress.
I am also prioritizing investing in my employer retirement plan, but only up to the amount that gets me my employer match which is 6% of my income.
Bret will be graduating in 2025, so at that time, we will pivot to incorporating his loans into our budget. Our goal is to be debt free by 2028.
It will take a lot of discipline and persistence, but I think we can do it. I am manifesting it!
We want to continue to learn, implement, and grow. We want to keep having transparent discussions about money and building our money foundations. And I personally want to continue sharing our journey with hopes of inspiring, encouraging and educating others. Here’s to sharing the wealth.
Do you have debt? What are you doing to pay it off?
Taylor is a social worker and personal finance blogger at Social Work to Wealth where she shares tips, resources, and lessons learned on her family’s journey to paying off $277,000 of debt and retiring early. She hopes to inspire and empower social workers with financial education so they can have a better relationship with their money. When she’s not working or blogging, you can find her traveling, gardening, trying a new restaurant, or buying too many plants.