What is Altcoin Season? Why Does It Happen?

2021 has been a heady time for cryptocurrency. Led by Bitcoin, the whole sector has seen huge rises in prices and tremendous volatility along the way. There’s been a massive development of decentralized finance (DeFi) technology applications and cryptocurrency ecosystems that allow people to trade and lend their tokens without the support of a traditional financial institution.

With all this activity and volatility, some have wondered what it will mean for the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Will Bitcoin continue to dominate and soar? Will other coins rise up to take the top spot in the field? Insiders have already coined a phrase for the possibility of Bitcoin stalling out and other cryptocurrency products and token rising in value. It’s known as “altcoin season.”

Altcoins: What Are They?

Basically, altcoins are cryptocurrencies that aren’t Bitcoin or Ethereum. In fact, Bitcoin is so dominant in the field that even Ethereum is sometimes referred to as an altcoin.

Bitcoin is the big kahuna of cryptocurrency, the one that started it all, the one that’s traded the most every day, the one that’s gotten the most backing from mainstream financial institutions, and, of course, the one that’s worth the most ($885,497,080,149 as of December 17, 2021). Ethereum is similar: a long track record, a variety of projects and systems built on top of it, substantial trading volume, and a high overall value (worth $459,827,737,310 as of December 17, 2021).

Altcoins are just about everything else. Sometimes they’re tokens built on top of Ethereum for DeFi projects, sometimes they’re offered in an “initial coin offering” for use with a specific product, sometimes they’re spun up by developers because they think there’s something wrong or missing in the current crypto ecosystem. This could be variants or forks of mainstream coins (like Litecoin (LTC) or Bitcoin Cash), or a whole new type of coin with a specific usage (stablecoins like Tether or USDC), or tokens for use in a specific ecosystem, like XRP for use in Ripple.

When Does “Altcoin Season” Happen?

Altcoin season happens when there’s steady outperformance of tokens and coins that aren’t Bitcoin.

There’s no promise or guarantee that every runup in Bitcoin will turn into a downturn later or that altcoins will start outperforming the original crypto. In fact, it’s not uncommon for all cryptos to rise together, as excitement about the sector grows and new money goes into all sorts of coins looking for profits.

There are a number of theories for why altcoin season could potentially happen. One popular one is that Bitcoin investors will pocket their gains from a surging Bitcoin, maybe by selling some of it, and then move those gains into other cryptocurrencies.

They might do this for one of two reasons:

1.    To realize gains. This might happen if the value of Bitcoin owned by an investor has gone up relative to the dollar or other fiat currencies or cryptocurrencies, and they want to spend some of those gains on things that can’t be bought with crypto itself.

2.    Expectations of future growth change. After a large runup of Bitcoin, an investor’s projected future growth or value of an asset might change compared to the price of investing. So, with inflated Bitcoin values, it’s possible that altcoins could be a better investment going forward. And if enough investors and traders make that decision, they will be.

How Do You Know If It’s Altcoin Season?

You can’t determine altcoin season just by looking at the price of altcoins or Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency in isolation.

Looking at their “market cap”, or the total value of all the circulating tokens, can be a better indicator of what’s going on with investor valuation of cryptocurrencies. This is because price isn’t just determined by investor interest or disinterest, but also by the number of outstanding coins.

How Are Altcoins Doing Relative to Bitcoin?

To tell if we are in altcoin season, we have to look at two things. The first is Bitcoin’s “dominance” vis a vis the rest of the crypto market as well as the performance of altcoins relative to Bitcoin.

At the time of writing in December 2021, according to CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin’s dominance is 41% of the total market. Near the beginning of this year, it stood at 70%. Bitcoin’s highest dominance was 96% in late 2013, Bitcoin’s lowest dominance was early 2018, when it stood at around 33%. Its lowest this year is around 40%, which it hit in May of this year.

Bitcoin has fallen in value by almost 40%, giving a chance for altcoins to gain value in comparison. But we can also compare Bitcoin market value to that of altcoins:

•   Bitcoin’s market value has grown from $176 billion to $885 billion.

•   XRP, the cryptocurrency associated with Ripple, has had its market cap grow from $9 billion to just under $38 billion.

•   Cardano (ADA), whose token is called ADA, has grown from about $3 billion to $41 billion.

•   Litecoin, a Bitcoin alternative founded in 2011 and thus one of the oldest altcoins, has grown from around $3 billion to $10 billion.

•   Ethereum (ETH), the least alt of the altcoins, the most well established of all non-Bitcoin tokens, has grown from $29 billion to $459 billion.

Whether altcoin season is happening at all — and if so, whether it will continue — still remains to be seen.

The Takeaway

Altcoin season describes a time period when altcoins steadily outperform Bitcoin. There are a few ways to try to determine altcoin season, but it remains impossible to predict. Basically, you’ll know it when you’re in it.

Interested in crypto? With SoFi Invest®, you can trade cryptocurrency online from a selection of more than two dozen coins – from Bitcoin and Ethereum to altcoins like Chainlink, Dogecoin, Solana, Litecoin, Cardano, and Enjin Coin.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

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18 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

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Most students have to borrow student loans to go to college. But very few know anything about them. That’s pretty scary considering you’re likely to take on several tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And making mistakes with that much money could cost you just as much. 

Take it from me. I borrowed six figures to get a doctorate to work in a notoriously low-paying field. And thanks to taking advantage of years of deferments, forbearances, and an income-based plan designed to help borrowers with high debt and low income, I now owe twice what I originally borrowed. 

Don’t make my mistakes. Instead, learn about the most common student loan borrowing and repayment errors. That way, you can avoid an overwhelming amount of student loans and get out of debt faster.

Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

Most student loan borrowing and repayment mistakes deal with misunderstanding what you’re borrowing, how interest works, how to pay off debt quickly, and how to avoid default. Steer clear of these top mistakes to ensure you borrow smartly and don’t end up in over your head. 

Mistake 1: Applying for Aid at the Last Minute

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to qualifying for all financial aid of any kind. That includes federal grants and student loans as well as state grants and most institutional aid — the grants, scholarships, or loans offered by your school. 

The FAFSA opens for applications every Oct. 1, and you must complete it by June 30 before the academic year you need aid for. You must complete a new FAFSA every year you plan to enroll in school.

Many colleges and universities also require additional forms, such as the CSS profile (short for the College Scholarship Service profile), which dives even deeper into your family’s financial situation. So check with the financial aid office to find out what they are, and stay on top of deadlines. 

But note that states and colleges have limited grant resources. And those resources tend to go to the students who apply early. In other words, they’re first come, first served. So the earlier you get your applications in, the better.

And while the federal government is unlikely to run out of education loan funds, if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to resort to private loans, which are costlier and feature less favorable repayment options.

Apply as early as possible to ensure you get as much grant and scholarship aid as you can qualify for. The more grants you can get, the fewer loans you’ll need to borrow.

Mistake 2: Borrowing Too Much

It’s possible to borrow every cent you need to finance your education anywhere you want to go to school. But it’s crucial to ask whether you should. Getting in over your head with student loan debt can have catastrophic consequences. I’m living proof.

I needed a doctorate for my original career plan of teaching college. But few college professors earn enough income to manage the types of monthly payments I had along with other living expenses. That’s how I ended up in the deferment-forbearance cycle.

And it’s not easy to get out of. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program I was counting on and how colleges operate, my teaching position doesn’t qualify me for forgiveness. Additionally, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is currently so difficult it’s nearly impossible. And settling federal student loans isn’t any easier. 

The first step to reducing overwhelming student loan debt is to exhaust every other means of paying for college, including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Search online for scholarship aid using a national scholarship database like Fastweb.

And never count on options like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Historically, the government’s made it nearly impossible to get. Do your homework to increase your chances of getting it and apply for it if you qualify. But don’t base your student loan repayment strategy on it.

Additionally, consider less expensive colleges. State schools tend to give most students the best value. It only matters where you go to college for a select few graduates, such as those looking to build connections with specific financial or law firms. 

Finally, do a cost-benefit analysis. I found out the hard way all degrees don’t pay off, so as much as you want to pursue your passion, it might not be worth it financially.

Search sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out how much you can reasonably expect to make in your chosen field and compare that to the cost of school. As a rule, don’t borrow more than you can expect to earn as your annual salary your first year out of school. That ensures you can pay it off in 10 years or less. 

Mistake 3: Not Understanding How Loan Forgiveness Works

Historically, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been notoriously difficult to qualify for. The program was overhauled in the fall of 2021. But until then, only 2% of applicants who believed they qualified had their loans forgiven.

Much of that is likely due to bureaucratic mismanagement, hence the overhaul. However, the mismanagement led tens of thousands of borrowers into making payments under the wrong repayment programs. 

On Oct. 6, 2021, the government announced Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which allows previously nonqualifying payments to be counted toward loan forgiveness as long as those payments are certified before Oct. 31, 2022.

But moving forward, it’s crucial that borrowers are clear about the rules of loan forgiveness. You don’t want to find out after 10 years that your application is ineligible and you have to start all over.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must:

  • Have Federal Direct Loans. Private loans don’t qualify for forgiveness, nor do other types of federal loans, such as Perkins loans. If your federal loans aren’t direct loans, you can consolidate them into a direct loan to qualify. 
  • Work Full-Time for the Government or a Nonprofit. Payments only qualify while you’re employed full-time for an American federal, state, local, or tribal government or qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. That includes military service, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps but excludes labor unions and partisan political organizations.
  • Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Program. No other repayment options qualify. But even if your income is so low your calculated payment under the plan is $0, being enrolled qualifies you. 
  • Make 120 Qualifying Payments. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they must qualify, meaning you have to make them under an income-based plan.
  • Submit the Forgiveness Certification Form Regularly. You must fill out and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program certification form yearly and each time you switch employers. While not required, doing so ensures the payments you’re making qualify for forgiveness and allows you to make any changes you need to before you’ve made too many nonqualifying payments.

See all the rules at StudentAid.gov. 

Mistake 4: Taking Out the Wrong Type of Loan

There’s more than one type of student loan. But it’s generally best to exhaust your resources for federal aid before turning to alternatives. 

That said, while rare, some students may find the caps on how much you can borrow in federal direct loans don’t cover the total cost of attendance. 

Fortunately, graduate students and parents of undergrads can borrow PLUS loans up to the total cost of attendance. So there’s no need for many students to resort to other sources. If that’s not an option for you, students can sometimes borrow from their state government or the school they plan to attend. 

But the primary source of alternative loans for student borrowers is private student loans from banks or credit unions.

Federal student loans almost always win out over private student loans because of their lower fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, borrower protections, and the potential for forgiveness.

But if you’re planning to borrow PLUS loans and definitely won’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, it’s worth it to find out whether you could get a better deal on a private loan if you have excellent credit. 

Mistake 5: Not Shopping Around for the Best Interest Rate & Terms

If you decide to borrow private student loans, always shop around for the best loan you can qualify for.

Private lenders compete for your business. So going with the first lender you find could mean leaving a better rate on the table.

Use a comparison site like Credible, which matches you with prequalified rates from up to eight lenders with only a soft inquiry on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your credit score. That way, you can compare all your student loan options in one place. 

But it’s not only interest rates that should matter to your bottom line. The best private student loan companies offer various borrower perks in addition to low rates.   

For example, most lenders reduce your interest rate when you enroll in autopay. And some reduce your rate even further with loyalty discounts for doing other business with them, such as opening bank accounts or taking out personal loans. 

Some lenders also offer perks for specific borrowers, such as special payment plans for medical and dental students during their residencies. And some even offer unique perks like free financial coaching or career planning services.  

Just remember to read all the fine print so you know exactly what loan terms you’re agreeing to before you sign. For example, it may lack options for deferment if you fall on hard times or a co-signer release option. Don’t be lured by a shiny interest rate on its own.  

Mistake 6: Not Understanding How Variable & Fixed Interest Rates Work

The rate is only one piece of the interest puzzle. How that rate works also affects how much accrues over time. 

For example, all federal student loans come with fixed interest rates set each year by law. That means the rate stays the same for the life of the loan, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the interest rate during the year you borrowed. 

But some private student loans have variable interest rates. These fluctuate with market conditions. Although the variable rates are generally the lowest offered rates, it’s because the borrower is assuming the risk that the rate won’t go up, which is likely if you take 10 or more years to repay your student loans.

If you already have a variable-rate private loan, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan while rates are low. 

And once you start making payments, contact the student loan company to find out if there are any ways to lower the interest rate, like signing up for an autopay discount.

Mistake 7: Not Understanding Interest Accrual & Capitalization

Another factor to consider is when the interest begins to accrue (accumulate). On subsidized federal loans, that doesn’t happen until after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Thus, whatever you borrowed is what you owe up until the day you’re no longer enrolled full time. 

But interest on unsubsidized federal and private loans starts the moment you get the money. So on graduation day, you owe a higher balance than you originally borrowed.

Worse, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance as though it were part of what you borrowed) once you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Since interest accrues according to the principal, that means you’ll then be earning interest on the interest.

Fortunately, you can reduce or even eliminate the burden interest can cause. Make small monthly interest payments while you’re still in school. That ensures none accrues and capitalizes on graduation. 

If you have to, take on a part-time job. As long as you keep it to part-time hours, it shouldn’t interfere with your studies, and a well-chosen college job comes with numerous benefits, like teaching you the money management skills you need to pay off those loans after college. 

Mistake 8: Co-Signing a Loan Without Understanding the Consequences

In some cases, a co-signer can help a student qualify for a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

But co-signing their loan comes with a great deal of risk. You’re taking on equal responsibility for the loan. That means if they make a late payment or miss one entirely, it could impact your credit score. And if they default on the loan, the loan company will come after you for the balance.

And it doesn’t matter how responsible or well-intentioned the borrower is. No one can predict the future, and they could fall on hard times. 

There are several programs designed to help people who have trouble paying back federal loans — if they enroll in them. But private lenders are especially hard to work with. Either way, there are risks associated with co-signing for a student loan. 

If you do agree to co-sign, ask them to look for a company with a co-signer release option, which absolves you of responsibility for the debt after the student makes a certain number of on-time monthly payments.

If not getting help means they can’t attend college, a parent PLUS loan gives you more control than co-signing a private loan. You can borrow up to the total cost of their attendance, but the loan will be in your name. 

If you want, you can still agree that they’re responsible for paying you back (though that agreement isn’t legally enforceable). Plus, if you experience financial hardship, you have access to federal repayment plans and borrower protections.

However, don’t sacrifice retirement savings or go into debt paying for your kids’ college. It could leave you unprepared, potentially placing a financial burden on them later.

Mistake 9: Putting Off Making a Repayment Plan

Many borrowers get lulled into thinking they can wait until after they graduate and their six-month grace period ends before they have to start worrying about their student loans. But you need to prepare your budget long before then.

A student loan payment could easily be $400 per month (maybe more). That’s a hefty chunk of anyone’s take-home pay. But recent grads won’t make as much as established professionals in any field. 

And if you don’t think about it for the first six months post-graduation, it’s easy to establish a post-college life that doesn’t leave room for it, such as upgrading your apartment or buying a new car.

Before you graduate, find out what your monthly payment will be. You can check your student loan balance by creating a student account at StudentAid.gov.

Then, build the rest of your post-college budget around your monthly student loan payment. That ensures you won’t take on more financial obligations than you can afford. Unfortunately, that may mean living that ramen-eating college lifestyle for the first couple of years after you graduate. 

Mistake 10: Choosing the Wrong Repayment Plan

The automatic student loan repayment schedule is 10 years of fixed payments, but it’s not the best option for all borrowers.

You don’t want to string out payments for decades unless it’s necessary. But income-driven repayment plans, which forgive any remaining balance after you make 240 to 300 (20 to 25 years) of qualifying payments, may be a saving grace for borrowers with high debt and low income. 

And for those entering public service fields, an income-driven repayment plan is the gateway to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives any remaining balance in as few as 120 qualifying payments. 

But even if you stick to the standard 10-year plan, you still have options. 

For example, you can repay your loans on a graduated plan, which lets you make smaller payments at the beginning. Your payments then gradually rise every two years. This plan is ideal for those who must start in a lower-paying job but expect their income to increase substantially as they gain work experience.

Use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov to see how much you can expect to repay under different repayment plans. It shows your monthly payments, total amount owed, and any potential balance you could have forgiven under an income-driven repayment plan as well as the date you can expect to have your loans paid off.

Use this information to weigh your options. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it better to pay off your loans as quickly as possible by sticking to the standard 10-year plan? Is that realistic at your current income? 
  • How big will your payments be 10 years down the line if you opt for graduated repayment? Are you likely to make enough money for that to be practical? 
  • Is it better to make your current situation more manageable through an income-driven or extended repayment plan? 

Lowering your monthly payment will have consequences since it means more interest will accrue. But the loan simulator can give you an accurate picture of what those consequences will look like. 

Mistake 11: Only Making the Minimum Payment

The longer you sit on debt, the more it costs you thanks to the interest. So if you have any wiggle room in your budget, put whatever money you can toward your student loans to pay them off as quickly as possible. 

Even small amounts can make a big difference.

For example, if you borrowed $40,000 in student loans at 6% interest, your monthly payment would be $444. But if you paid $500 a month instead — a difference of only $56 — you’d save $1,957 in interest and have them repaid a year sooner.

If you can, opt for a side gig or cut your expenses. Additionally, put any windfalls — like tax refunds, gifts, or inheritances — toward your loans.  

But this is key: When you make any extra payments toward your loans, ensure you indicate the company should apply it to the principal. The more you pay down the principal, the less interest accumulates.

Mistake 12: Refinancing Without Considering the Pros & Cons

Refinancing is a common strategy for lowering the cost of debt, whether it’s a mortgage refinance or a student loan. But while refinancing can score you a lower interest rate, interest rates aren’t the only consideration.

When you refinance a student loan, you can only do so through a private refinance lender. That means you lose access to all the benefits of federal student loans, including federal repayment plans, borrower protections, generous deferment and forbearance options, and federal loan forgiveness. 

It may still be worth it to you, depending on the rate you can get. But it’s crucial to weigh that against all you’d be giving up.

Even if the private interest rate is lower, the future is unpredictable, and you never know if you could need those federal benefits. And you’ll lose all access to federal loan forgiveness with a refinance.

On the other hand, if you have private student loans, there’s no reason not to refinance. 

Mistake 13: Postponing Payments Unnecessarily

Both federal and private student loans have multiple options for deferment and forbearance. These allow you to temporarily suspend payments for various reasons, including full-time enrollment in school, economic hardship, military deployment, and serving in AmeriCorps. 

Sometimes, deferment or forbearance makes sense, such as while you’re enrolled in school. But prolonged use of these options just increases your overall balance because interest keeps piling up. 

Interest accrues on all but subsidized federal loans during deferments. And it accrues on all loans during forbearance. Additionally, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment or forbearance. 

Only use these options when absolutely necessary. And if possible, make interest payments during periods of deferment or forbearance to prevent its accrual. 

If you’re deferring or forbearing for economic hardship and anticipate the hardship will last longer than a month or two, apply for an income-driven plan instead. 

Depending on the severity of your situation, your monthly payments could be calculated as low as $0. And some plans don’t capitalize interest and even have interest subsidies, which means the government covers the interest on your loans for a specified period.  

Additionally, those $0 “payments” count toward potential student loan forgiveness. But only periods of economic hardship deferment count toward the forgiveness clock. No other form of deferment or forbearance qualifies. And there’s a cap on how long you can defer for economic hardship.

Plus, if your financial situation changes, you can always change your repayment plan. 

Mistake 14: Missing Payments

Missing payments can result in late fees. The student loan company tacks these onto your next month’s minimum payment. So if you had a hard time paying this month, it won’t be easier next month. 

Plus, when you make your next payment, your money covers fees and interest before going toward the principal. So multiple fees could mean paying your principal down slower. And interest accrues according to the principal balance, so the higher you keep that balance, the more interest you pay.

Worse, if you miss enough payments, it can result in a default of your loans, which comes with severe consequences, such as damaged credit or wage garnishment or seizure of your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or property. 

There’s never a reason to miss a payment on a federal student loan if you’re facing financial hardship. Simply call the company and let them know. Depending on what you qualify for, you can choose from multiple options, including deferment, forbearance, or an income-driven repayment plan.

Private lenders are tougher to work with, as fewer repayment options are available. But many are still willing to work with you if you explain the situation. Most of the top lenders have limited programs for deferment or forbearance in times of economic hardship. 

Mistake 15: Keeping Your Assigned Payment Due Date

Student loan companies allow you to adjust your monthly due date. That can be helpful if you’re having trouble stretching your dollars from one paycheck to the next.

Plus, if your bills are anything like mine, most of them are due at the same time of month. Thus, if you get paid biweekly, adjusting your due date to a different time of the month can make things easier.  

If you want a different due date, contact the company handling your student loans and ask if you can adjust your due date to one more beneficial for you. You may even be able to change it through your online account.

Ensure you get confirmation of the new date in writing. That protects you if you get hit with any late fees in error. Additionally, ask when the new date takes effect. It could take a billing cycle or two, depending on the lender. 

Mistake 16: Falling for Student Loan Scams

Many borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and texts offering them relief from their student loans or warning them federal forgiveness programs will end soon if they don’t act now.

But the services these scam debt relief companies offer usually steal borrowers’ money or private information rather than grant any actual relief. 

Other student loan scams take fees for helping students apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidate their loans. However, borrowers never have to pay to sign up for any federal repayment programs. They only need to contact the company in charge of their loan.

In general, if someone contacts you, avoid giving them any personal information. No matter who they claim to be, either tell them to send their request in writing or say you’ll call them back. Then verify their story by contacting your student loan company at their listed phone number or through their website.

Additionally, never pay an upfront fee for student loan services. The government doesn’t charge application fees for any of their loan programs. They also won’t claim an offer is only available for a limited time since all the terms are set by law every year and are available to all students.

For more red flags to watch for, check out the Department of Education’s tips on avoiding student loan scams. 

Mistake 17: Forgetting to Update Your Contact Information

You are responsible for making all your loan payments whether you received the bill or not. Additionally, the lender in charge of your loan can change, and you need to ensure you’re able to receive that information so you always know who to contact about paying and managing your loans.

Thus, it’s on borrowers to ensure the company in charge of their student loans has all their current contact information, including mailing address, email address, and phone number. That’s especially the case if you moved after you graduated or listed a parent’s address on your application forms.

Log into your student loan account to ensure your contact information is current. 

If you don’t know who services your student loans, check with your school’s financial aid office. For federal loans, you can always create an account on StudentAid.gov.

Then, each time you move, get a new email address or change your number, update that info with the company handling your student loans.

Mistake 18: Not Asking for Help

Paying off student loans can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with low income or a large amount of debt. Depending on your circumstance, it could feel like you’re drowning and may never escape.

Trust me, I know how it feels. And I’m hardly alone. A simple online search reveals dozens of stories of borrowers who’ve consistently paid on their loans yet owe more than ever thanks to the compounding effects of interest, which often feels like quicksand. 

But paying late or not at all only makes the situation worse. Damage to your credit report can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a job. And default can leave you subject to wage garnishment, steep collection penalties, and even lawsuits.  

But hope isn’t lost. There is help. Resources exist for borrowers who need an extra hand.

The first step is to reach out to the student loan company. See if there’s a payment plan that’s manageable for you. Even if there isn’t, let them know what payment you can afford, and go from there. 

If the company is uncooperative, contact the federal student loan ombudsman. 

Borrowers can also reach out to nonprofit student loan counselors, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. These organizations work with borrowers to help them figure out the best strategies for dealing with their loans and overall financial health. 

Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point of needing to settle your student loans or file for bankruptcy, seek an attorney who specializes in student loans. For private student loan help, try The National Association of Consumer Advocates. For federal student loans, search the American Bar Association.


Final Word

The United States is currently experiencing a student loan crisis because of how the debt has impacted American lives.

It’s affected borrowers’ ability to save for retirement and buy a home. It’s also impacted people’s ability to start a family or even choose a job for passion over a paycheck.

And it can do so for decades. Many millennials who’ve entered middle age continue to face debt repayment. And many feel college wasn’t worth it as a result.

But you don’t have to be one of these statistics. I write about student loans precisely to help others avoid my mistakes. Learn from this list so you can borrow wisely and avoid overwhelming student loan debt.  

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What Is Fibonacci Retracement in Crypto Trading?

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

What Are Fibonacci Retracement Levels?

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

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

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

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

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

How Does Fibonacci Retracement Work and What Does it Do?

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

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

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

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

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

Who Created Fibonacci Retracements?

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

Formula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does a Fibonacci Retracement do?

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

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

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

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

Support and Resistance

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

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

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

Limitations of Fibonacci Retracement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fibonacci Retracements and Bitcoin

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

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

Using the Fibonacci Retracement Tool to Trade Cryptocurrencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fibonacci Retracement Example for Bitcoin

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

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

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

FAQ

Does Fibonacci retracement work with crypto?

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

How accurate is fibonacci retracement?

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

What are the advantages of using fibonacci retracement?

Here are some benefits of using Fibonacci Retracement.

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN


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

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

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

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

Source: sofi.com

Here’s What to Do Before Debt Collectors Start Calling

Take your car insurance bill, for example. When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices, anyway? You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money and help you avoid missed payments.
Make sure your bad credit doesn’t give the debt collectors more ammo to use against you. Sign up for free (it only takes about 90 seconds) and see how much you could improve your score.
Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
***Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.

1. Get Rid of Dings on Your Credit Report and Raise Your Score

If you went to the hospital without insurance or you haven’t met your deductible yet, doctors’ bills can be pretty steep.
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A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.
If your bills are lower, there’s less of a chance you’ll miss a payment due to lack of funds. And no missed payments means no debt collectors calling you every single day. But a lot of these money-sucking bills are ones you can’t cancel.
And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to 36%. But a website called AmOne wants to help.
Most Americans have some sort of debt — and not all of it is good debt, like a mortgage, car loan or student loans, which are considered good investments.

2. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company Insane Interest Rates

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The good news? A free website called Credit Sesame makes it easy to put your credit score on track to reach your debt-free goals. We even talked to one guy, James Cooper, of Atlanta, who used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.*** He says they showed him exactly what to do — he was even able to open his first credit card.
Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of 9 a year.
What could adding 300 points to your score mean for your goals? It could easily save you thousands of dollars over the life of a car loan or mortgage.
Yup. That could be 0 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

3. Lower Your Bills to Avoid Missed Payments

While it doesn’t make the debt disappear (you are still liable for these payments), a payment plan makes paying off these debts more manageable and will keep the debt collectors off your back so long as you make each monthly payment.
If you have a low score with a few dings on your report, you won’t get access to decent interest rates on your loans. That means you’ll be paying more in interest and less on the actual loan amount — taking you sometimes years longer to pay it off and thousands of dollars more. If it’s a mortgage, the cost of your poor credit score could mean tens of thousands of dollars gone to waste.
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 2.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
Thankfully, doctors and hospitals can be willing to work with you. Some medical providers will offer a discount if you’re strapped for cash, and most are open to payment plans. So instead of 0 out of pocket today, you could be paying a little over a month for the next six months.
If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape and the debt collectors will set up camp on your doorstep forever…

4. Try to Negotiate Your Payments and Get On a Payment Plan

In just 90 seconds, Credit Sesame will give you access to your credit score, any debt-carrying accounts and a handful of personalized tips to improve your score. You’ll even be able to spot any errors holding you back (one in five reports have one).
Ready to stop worrying about money?
You don’t need a perfect credit score to get a loan — and comparing your options won’t affect your score at all.  Plus, AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Debt happens.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
What does your credit score have to do with debt? Turns out — it can be a major factor in you getting out of debt quicker. <!–

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Credit card debt, medical debt, overdue bills and high interest loans are just a few of the types of bad debt that can wreak havoc on your life. They can destroy your credit, snowball into even more debt and, yep, have the debt collectors hounding you to pay up.

How to Use the Debt Lasso Method to Pay Off Debt Faster

Remember how we talked about the importance of committing because of later temptations? Here’s where that comes into play.
By automating your payments, you’ll be less tempted to reduce the amount when your minimum payment goes down — sort of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality.
And don’t limit yourself to credit card offers. Using a personal loan to pay off multiple cards has the same effect.
Before you reach the end of a zero-interest period, start looking for other offers that allow you to transfer your balance so you can avoid getting socked with the new higher interest rate on your old card.

What Is the Debt Lasso Method?

Auten and Schneider should know: They started their own debt lasso journey with ,000 in credit card debt. After years of poor financial choices, the couple was sitting on the floor of their basement apartment when they realized that their debt would never allow them to buy a house or enjoy life the way their friends were.
Yeehaw!
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Who Should Use the Debt Lasso?

Decide on an amount greater than your total minimum monthly payments that you can reliably put toward your debt every month.
So if you have ,000 in credit card debt and your gross income (before taxes and other deductions are taken out) is ,000, you’re a good candidate for the debt lasso. But if you have ,000 in credit card debt with the same salary, you may want to seek other assistance to help you pay off your credit card debt.

Pro Tip
We’ll look at all the pieces, but let’s first decide if the debt lasso method can help you.

And if you’re wondering when you’ll reach the end of your debt lasso, they include a calculator on debtlasso.com to help you figure out how long it will take to pay off credit cards based on your interest rates and debt amounts.
Stop using your credit cards. No exceptions.

How the Debt Lasso Method Works

This portrait shows a gay couple sitting on a couch together in the mountains after being married.
Developed by David Auten, left, and John Schneider, the married couple known as the Debt Free Guys, the debt lasso method involves corralling your high-interest debt into a low-interest one so you can pay down the principal balance more quickly. Photo courtesy of Studio Lemus

To determine if the debt lasso method is right for you, start by adding up how much you owe in credit card debt. Then compare that total debt to your annual income. If your debt is less than half of your income, the debt lasso method could work for you.

1. Commit

After you’ve paid down a portion of your balance, your credit card company tells you that your new minimum payment is only . Yay! But that doesn’t mean you now have to spend — you should continue paying 0 each month, sending even more money toward your principal balance.
Saving your cash for now will let you build an emergency fund in case you do lose income. And if it turns out that you end up with an extra nest egg, consider it a bonus payment as you return to the debt lasso method.
Start with the easy wins by paying off any credit cards that have low enough balances to knock out in less than six months.
You can still benefit from the lasso method by negotiating a lower interest rate with your current credit card company or transferring the balance to a card with a substantially lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying.

  1. But if you have a less-than-stellar credit score, those offers may be tough to come by. Don’t give up.
  2. Remember that you’ve committed to not using your credit cards (see Step #1). So hold onto the ones you’ve paid off. Why?

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2. Trim

Developed by David Auten and John Schneider, also known as the Debt Free Guys, the debt lasso method involves corralling your high-interest debt into a low-interest one so you can pay down the principal balance more quickly — and for less money.
You may have multiple credit cards, but we’ll keep the example simple with one card: When you began your debt lasso journey, your minimum monthly payment was , so you committed to paying 0 on your credit card — 0 extra each month.
Time to saddle up.

3. Lasso

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
So they made a two-part commitment — which you’ll also need to do if you want to use the debt lasso method:
You cannot successfully use the debt lasso method unless you’re willing to commit.
Automating your minimum monthly payments for all but your lassoed credit card will allow you to focus on paying off one debt at a time. But automating your payments can do even more to help.
But if you fall somewhere in between, the lasso could help you pay off debt in a shorter amount of time and with less interest.
Compared to the average rate on credit cards, which was 17.13% in the third quarter of 2021, personal loans offered a better deal at 9.39%, according to the Federal Reserve.
If the debt avalanche and snowball methods leave you feeling a bit cold when you think of all the interest you’ll end up paying, consider the debt lasso method.
This is no time to put your debt payment strategy out to pasture. Monitoring your accounts is an important last step, as those credit card rates can run wild if left unattended.
Each time you pay off one credit card, put your money toward paying off the next highest balance.
“That was our particular rock-bottom moment, realizing that here we were in this financial and literal hole,” Schneider said.
Although opening new accounts could temporarily hurt your credit score, Auten and Schneider emphasized that the long-term benefits of paying off debt faster can help counteract that effect.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder who is fully committed to corny puns. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

4. Automate

“If you do get an offer and then you end up not being able to make your payments, then you could get stuck with an interest rate that’s 25 to 30%,” Auten said.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
Although it may be tempting to pay every dime toward your debt, don’t drain your emergency fund when practicing the debt lasso method.
The early victory not only offers a psychological benefit but also helps your credit score.
If you’ve read about other debt payoff methods, you might be wondering if the lasso method is just a balance transfer. Auten and Schneider get that question a lot.
Ready to wrangle in that credit card debt?

5. Monitor

This woman monitors her accounts online.
Getty Images

Maintaining those credit lines will decrease your credit utilization, which accounts for approximately 30% of your credit score. And the higher your credit score, the better position you’ll be in when you’re ready to lasso.
Want to learn more? Auten and Schneider told us all about the debt lasso, including who it can help the most — and who shouldn’t use it.

Credit card agreements often include a clause in the fine print that allows them to raise your interest rates if you miss a payment during the zero-interest offer period. Some will even sneak in the right to recoup any money you saved previously during the promotional period at the new interest rate.
The takeaway lesson: Read the fine print.

Who Should NOT Use the Debt Lasso Method — For Now

A word of warning: If you’re in an industry where you could be furloughed or laid off suddenly, you should probably hold your horses — and your cash.
If you have a good or excellent credit score, finding a zero-interest offer where you can transfer your highest interest credit card debt should be your goal.
Committing to the process is essential, Auten and Schneider said, as it will help you later when you may be tempted to stray off course.
If you still have additional higher interest balances, prioritize paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate first.
You also might not benefit from taking up the lasso if you can realistically pay off your credit card debt in six months, since the associated fees (typically 3% to 5% of the amount being transferred) could cost you more than you’d save by taking advantage of a lower interest rate.
“The reality is that a central piece of the process is doing some sort of consolidation — whether that’s a balance transfer to a zero-interest credit card or a low-interest loan,” Auten said. “But a lot of people forget those first two pieces and the last two pieces.”
A card that doesn’t have a balance means you have more available credit, thus helping improve your credit score. And a higher credit score will help you get approved for another zero-interest credit card.

Putting all of the extra money toward your card with the highest interest rate will help you pay the least amount of interest over time. And that’s where the last step becomes crucial.

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“To get you from 20% to 25% down to a 9% to 15% — that’s a great first step,” Schneider said.

What Is a Ledger Wallet? An Overview

Ledger is a brand of crypto hardware wallets. They are among the most trusted in the industry and were responsible for bringing the first hardware wallets to market.

In the years since Ledger’s debut, many other wallet makers have hit the scene. But the Ledger name is still synonymous with secure crypto hardware wallets. The company derives its name from blockchain technology. Understanding the question “what is a crypto ledger” sheds light on why the company chose this name.

What Is a Crypto Ledger?

The term “crypto ledger,” or simply ledger, refers to the public ledger of transactions recorded on the blockchain. These transactions are recorded in the form of Bitcoin addresses. Whenever someone makes a transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain or any other blockchain, the transaction is recorded in the blockchain ledger along with the relevant information. This includes the time the transaction occurred, the amount sent, the sender and recipient’s addresses, and the current number of network confirmations.

A new blockchain begins with something called a “genesis block.” This is a manufactured block to start things off because no transactions have occurred yet. From that point on, transactions are grouped into additional “blocks,” with each block being added to the one that came before it. Subsequent blocks form a “chain,” giving rise to the term blockchain. A blockchain is, therefore, a public ledger of transactions.

Ledger, the company, is a leader in the cryptocurrency hardware wallet space. In 2014, they released the first such wallet to the general public.

Recommended: Cryptocurrency 101: A Beginner’s Guide

How Does a Ledger Wallet Work?

First, a brief answer to the question “what is a cryptocurrency wallet”: Wallets are where people send and receive crypto. Hot wallets hold private keys online while cold wallets (such as hardware wallets) hold keys offline. Hot storage vs. cold storage in crypto is an important distinction to make.

Ledger wallets are designed for newer users. Getting started is rather easy. The wallets require a separate application, also made by Ledger, to work. This app, called Ledger Live, lets users interact with their hardware wallet on a desktop or laptop computer.

The display of a Ledger crypto wallet has two parts: the small screen on the device itself and the Ledger Live app on a computer or mobile device. Most users’ actions take place in the app, although pushing one or both small buttons on the device itself is required to confirm some actions, like sending transactions.

The buttons are also used to navigate between the different cryptocurrency wallets. Each wallet is referred to as its own app within Ledger Live. For each crypto they want to manage, users have to install the appropriate app first.

What Are the Different Types of Ledger Wallets in Crypto?

Ledger makes two different wallet types:

1.    Ledger Nano S

2.    Ledger Nano X

Ledger Nano S

The Nano S has become known as one of the most popular and best-selling crypto hardware wallets to date. That said, it only has enough memory for about three apps at a time. That means users who want to work with more than three cryptocurrencies will have to repeatedly uninstall and reinstall new apps.

For example, say someone holds Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum. If they also want to use Dogecoin, they will have to uninstall the Litecoin app and install the Dogecoin app. Any Litecoin balance will still be held on the wallet, but to access it and send transactions, the Litecoin app will need to be reinstalled, which would require uninstalling an existing app.

Apps for different cryptocurrencies take different amounts of memory, so the potential number of installed apps may be higher than three. While limited currencies can be managed at one time, the list of Ledger-supported crypto is 1,800 coins long.

Ledger Nano X

The Nano X is the newer, upgraded version of the Nano S. Both wallets work with the Ledger Live app, and function in generally the same manner. However, the Nano X has a few extra features and allows for the storage of many more crypto apps at once.

While the Nano S supports only 3-7 apps at a time, the Nano X supports up to 100. Ledger Nano X users can connect to the app via mobile devices as well, thanks to the Nano X’s Bluetooth compatibility.

The Nano X can also run off of battery power and connect to a mobile device via Bluetooth. All of these extra features and upgraded functionality help explain why someone might choose the more expensive Ledger Nano X over the Nano S.

Why Consider Getting a Ledger Wallet?

The biggest reason to consider getting a Ledger wallet is for the additional security. Holding crypto in a hardware wallet results in greater security for two main reasons:

1.    Coins can be held offline in cold storage.

2.    Private keys are held by the individual.

Holding coins in cold storage means the private keys aren’t connected to the internet, so there’s no way for hackers to access them. While a hardware wallet generally has to be connected to an internet-connected device to send transactions, when not doing so the wallet will be completely offline.

Holding the private keys yourself means there’s no need to trust a third-party like an exchange. If an exchange gets hacked, and there’s no insurance policy, then users could be left empty-handed. This might be why those who hold large sums of crypto choose to make the investment in a hardware wallet like those made by Ledger.

Let’s take a closer look at how hardware wallets, and wallets made by Ledger specifically, come with increased security for long-term storage of cryptocurrency.

Ledger Hardware Wallet Security

Ledger wallets come with the following security features:

1.    24-word backup recovery seed phrase

2.    PIN

3.    Certified Secure Element (CC EAL 5+) hardware

When setting up a new wallet, users have to create a PIN that will be used to access the wallet. A seed phrase is also provided.

This 24-word string can be used to restore the balances held on a wallet. It’s best to keep that phrase somewhere safe and never store it digitally. Anyone with access to the seed phrase can steal the private keys, and therefore the coins, from your wallet. The seed phrase and PIN come standard with most hardware wallets.

Ledger uses something called Secure Element chips. Chips like these are also used to protect credit cards, SIM cards and passports. Ledger wallets are certified as being secure by an independent third-party.

There are different degrees of Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL), and Ledger has achieved the level EAL 5+. There are only two levels higher than EAL 5. According to Ledger , they are the only company that makes hardware wallets that have earned this level of security certification.

The Takeaway

A Ledger wallet for digital currencies can be used to hold crypto in a more secure manner. Cold storage is considered to be the ultimate in blockchain security measures.

While hardware wallets like those made by Ledger come with increased security for crypto, they also require greater user responsibility. Using a hardware wallet means you hold the private keys to your crypto, rather than them being held on an exchange. If you make a mistake like losing your PIN and backup seed phrase, the crypto held on that wallet will be gone forever. There’s nothing that Ledger or anyone else will be able to do to help.

That’s why investors holding a small amount of crypto might not need a crypto wallet like Ledger. For some people, a trusted third-party custodian like an exchange might be the best option.

Interested in investing in crypto? With SoFi Invest®, you can trade cryptocurrency online from a collection of more than two dozen coins including Bitcoin, Chainlink, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Solana, Litecoin, Cardano, and Enjin Coin.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

Photo credit: iStock/Free Life Design


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

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

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

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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.
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Source: sofi.com

Best Personal Loans for 2020

Maybe it was an unexpected dental procedure, or a tax bill you didn’t plan for, or a car repair that came out of nowhere.

Whatever the reason, if you need money quickly, a personal loan can deliver it.

As you shop for a personal loan to solve your short-term problem, look for loan terms that won’t hurt your long-term financial life.

7 Best Personal Loans & Lenders for 2020

Online lending has opened a new world of personal loan options. 

Not that long ago we had just a couple of legitimate choices:

  • Your Local Bank or Credit Union: You can usually borrow money at a decent fixed interest rate at your neighborhood bank or credit union. The downside: You’d need to make an appointment or at least spend an hour or two on the phone.
  • A Credit Card: It’s hard to beat the convenience of a credit card, but the interest rates, late fees, and over-the-limit charges can make this option too volatile.

We still have these two options, and sometimes they can get the job done. But we also have scores of online lenders that compete to give you installment loans with more competitive interest rates. You can also finalize loans and receive money more quickly online.

Here are some of the best personal loan choices:

  • Credible
  • LendingClub
  • Payoff
  • PersonalLoans.com
  • Prosper
  • SoFi
  • LendingTree

Credible Personal Loans

I’m starting here because Credible isn’t a lender. It’s a way to connect with and compare a variety of lenders, including several from lower on this list. To start the process, you’ll submit Credible’s initial application which generates up to six loan offers.

This initial process will run a soft check of your credit score which shouldn’t hurt your score the way a hard check can. If you like one of the offers, you can complete the next steps to apply for the loan which will, of course, result in a hard credit check.

Pros & Cons of Credible Personal Loans

Pros:

  • An efficient way to compare loan offers
  • Fast and easy application process
  • Many quality participating lenders

Cons:

  • Not for people with credit scores below 640
  • Could result in unwanted phone calls from lenders

LendingClub Personal Loans

I was an early fan of LendingClub back in 2007, and I still recommend this trailblazer in the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending market.

Rather than using bank funds, P2P lenders finance your loan with money from investors. You’ll still have to go through an application process, but LendingClub has opened new doors to people who don’t want to borrow from a bank.

  • Loan Amount: LendingClub’s maximum loan amount is $40,000. You can repay the money in terms ranging from three to five years. 
  • Costs: Interest rates typically range from 7 to 36 percent depending on your qualifications. The higher your qualifications, the lower your rate.

LendingClub continues to evolve. It now has debt consolidation loans and allows for co-signers which lets more people borrow.

Pros & Cons of LendingClub Personal Loans

Pros:

  • Credit scores of 600 can get approval
  • New co-sign option lets more people borrow
  • Debt consolidation loans available
  • No prepayment fee

Cons:

  • Loan origination fees (1% of loan)
  • Check processing fee ($7)

Payoff Personal Loans

As the name indicates, Payoff Personal Loans specializes in debt consolidation, helping you pay off other debts. You can potentially save money by having fewer loans and paying a lower interest rate.

The payoff isn’t a good option for people with shaky credit, though. 

You’d need a score of 650 to 660 — and a few years of credit history on your report — to get approval at a decent interest rate. So don’t wait until you’ve already fallen behind on your other debts to consolidate with Payoff.

  • Loan Amounts: Eligible borrowers can get up to $35,000 to pay off other lenders such as credit cards, auto loans, or other personal loans.
  • Interest Rates: Loans range from about 6 to 25 percent depending on your borrowing credentials.

Pros & Cons of Payoff Personal Loans

Pros:

  • No late or check processing fees
  • No prepayment penalty
  • See interest rate without a hard credit check

Cons:

  • Not for people with shaky credit
  • A loan origination fee of 2% to 5%

PersonalLoans.com

Applicants with rocky credit histories appreciate PersonalLoans.com because the site lends to people with credit scores as low as 580.

  • Loan Amount: You could borrow up to $35,000 on a six-year (72-month) payback plan through PersonalLoans.com. Spreading money across six years can lead to lower monthly payments.
  • Interest Rates: This sounds like a friendly situation, but remember you’ll pay higher interest — up to 36 percent — if you have a lower credit score, and the interest can increase your monthly loan payment significantly.

Pros & Cons of PersonalLoans.com

Pros:

  • Available to credit scores 580+
  • Easy-to-use online application
  • Up to 72-month term loans
  • Access money within a day

Cons:

  • Wide range of interest rates (5.9%-35.99%)
  • Uses a third-party lender

Prosper Personal Loans

Many borrowers like the way Prosper Personal Loans gives them a platform to share why they need to borrow money. This opportunity comes during the application process to this P2P lender. You can use this platform to appeal directly to the investors who would be funding your loan.

Of course, the numbers will tell their story, too: You’d need at least a 640 credit score to get funding, and Prosper’s rates range from 6.9 to 35.99 percent APR.

  • Loan Amount: If you qualify, you could borrow up to $40,000 with payments spread over three to five years.
  • Interest Rates: Prosper also offers a wide range of rates, from 6.9 to 35.99 percent.

Pros & Cons of Prosper Personal Loans

Pros:

  • Soft credit check to see terms
  • No prepayment penalties
  • Fast and efficient service

Cons:

  • Higher interest for lower credit scores
  • Origination fee can reach 5%
  • Late fee is steep ($15 or 5% of payment, whichever is higher)

SoFi Personal Loans

SoFi has become a standard in student loan consolidation, but the lender also has personal, unsecured loans for non-academic borrowing.

SoFi stands out because the lender does not focus exclusively on an applicant’s credit score. This can be misleading because you’d still need a 680 or higher to get a loan.

But SoFi will not deny a loan if you have a short credit history as many lenders do. Instead, this P2P lender will consider your career and earning potential. In this way, SoFi can be a good fit for young professionals starting new careers.

SoFi calls its borrowers “members” and hosts social gatherings in major cities for members which can lead to networking opportunities.

  • Loan Amounts: SoFi will lend up to $100,000 which is significantly higher than most online lenders.
  • Interest Rates: SoFi’s rates range from 5.75 to about 17 percent.

Pros & Cons of SoFi Personal Loans

Pros:

  • Larger loan amounts (up to $100,000)
  • Good for someone with a short or thin credit history
  • Flexibility to change due dates
  • No loan origination fee

Cons:

  • Funding can take up to 7 business days
  • 680 or higher credit score required

LendingTree Personal Loans

I started this list with Credible, an aggregator, and I’ll conclude it with a nod to another aggregator.  LendingTree helped establish one-stop shopping for loans back in 1998, and the service has continued to lead the industry.

Like Credible, LendingTree turns one application into loan offers from a variety of lenders. You’ll still need to assess each offer on its own merits, but LendingTree can save you a lot of legwork.

Pros & Cons of LendingTree Personal Loans

Pros:

  • Efficient way to shop
  • Trusted leader in the field

Cons:

  • Can send too many loan solicitations 

Other Personal Loan Options to Consider

My list of best personal loan providers above includes most well-known lenders. You’ve probably heard of most of them already.

Below I’m including a list of lesser-known options that have gotten my attention for various reasons. Most of these are loan matching services with P2P funding sources.

AmOne

AmOne has been around 20 years and has about a million customers. I like the company’s versatility. It can handle all sorts of borrowing needs, including personal loans.

  • Amounts: Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000.
  • Interest rates: You’ll find a wide range, but highly qualified borrowers should get competitive rates. 

Fiona

Fiona provides another loan-matching service similar to Credible or LendingTree. The service hasn’t been around long, but it’s growing quickly by partnering with a lot of the lenders on this list.

Fiona works quickly — many applicants have funds within a business day.

Monevo

Yet another loan shopping service, Monevo stands out because of its speed and its high loan amounts. You could borrow $100,000 through the site.

I like the site’s simplicity and its large volume of partnering lenders which means a wider variety of borrowers can benefit.

Federal Trust

Federal Trust partners with Fiona, which I listed above, to match loan shoppers with potential lenders. 

You could borrow up to $100,000, and with such a wide variety of lenders in their network, Federal Trust can find competitive rates for eligible borrowers.

I also like Federal Trust’s option of a seven-year installment loan for someone who needs to keep loan payments as low as possible.

Will A Personal Loan Work For You?

Yes, personal loans can help get you out of a tough financial spot. But they’ll also cost you money for months or years, depending on how long you need to pay back the loan. 

It goes without saying: You should always look for the lowest, fixed interest rates when borrowing. 

Here are some other ways to save money when you borrow:

  • Look for Shorter-Term Loans: Monthly payments will be higher with shorter-term loans, but you’ll pay less money over the life of the loan. If you can afford the higher payments, go with a shorter-term loan.
  • Avoid Fees: Even if you’re getting a lower interest rate, be sure the lender isn’t compensating by charging high origination fees or punitive late fees that could eclipse your savings on interest. 
  • Pay it Off Early: Look for a loan with no prepayment penalty, but even if you would incur a prepayment fee, consider whether this fee would exceed the interest you’d be paying over the life of your loan. 
  • Avoid Borrowing: Maybe this isn’t the time or place, but as a financial advisor I have to say it: If you can save up an emergency fund, you may be able to avoid borrowing in the first place. I recommend having at least three months of income in reserve. Then you can borrow from yourself in an emergency. Maybe it’s too late to save for the current emergency, but this is something to think about when life gets back under control.

Wherever you borrow — online or at a neighborhood bank — try to look out for your future as well as your present financial situation.

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Source: goodfinancialcents.com