What Is Home Title Insurance – Policy Costs, Coverage & Need

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You’re all settled into your dream home — the one you saved up years to afford. You’ve unpacked every last moving box, arranged the furniture, and made the first payment on your mortgage. Life is good.

Then, one day, you hear a knock at the door. The person standing there hands you an official-looking document and tells you the now-grown child of a previous owner is suing you. They believe the property belongs to them, and they have the previous owner’s will to prove it.

You know you need to hire a lawyer. But you’re all tapped out after paying tens of thousands of dollars for the down payment. You’re in a serious bind — one that could get worse if the person suing you prevails. But if you had home title insurance, you probably wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to defend yourself. 

What Is Home Title Insurance?

Home title insurance, or simply title insurance, is a special but common type of real estate insurance that protects your financial interest in a specific piece of property. 


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You can buy title insurance on your primary residence, second home, or any investment property you buy directly. You don’t need title insurance to invest in real estate indirectly, such as through publicly traded real estate investment trusts or real estate crowdfunding. 

Most forms of insurance provide financial protection against future losses. For example, homeowners insurance protects against costs related to damage to or theft from your home. Title insurance protects against future losses too, but it covers out-of-pocket expenses associated with future ownership disputes.

Title insurance also covers a lot of upfront work that happens before you even own your home. After you make an offer on a new property but before you close, your title insurance premium covers the cost of investigating the title. It also covers the cost of fixing any title issues, such as old liens or ownership disputes, before they cause greater financial harm. 


What Does Home Title Insurance Cover?

Title insurance policies typically have three functions:

  • Cover the cost of investigating the chain of title, the official ownership records of the property in question
  • Cover the expense of fixing any problems discovered during this investigation 
  • Pay future legal expenses for any action against or attempts to collect money from the current owner resulting from any undiscovered issues 

Though title insurance policies vary from state to state and provider to provider, they always cover the cost of conducting a title search. A title search is a thorough examination of relevant public records to determine whether any problems exist with the title. These records are typically held with the city or county where the property is located.

Ideally, a title search looks at the entire history of a property stretching back to its original platting or subdivision. That’s generally done by scrutinizing the property’s abstract, a document containing the complete chain of ownership and historical liens. 

A comprehensive title search doesn’t stop there. Since abstracts can be incomplete or contain erroneous information, title searchers rely on other sources, such as local tax records, previous owners’ wills, and past court judgments.

Curing or Resolving Problems

Title insurance policies also cover the cost of resolving or “curing” most title problems uncovered during the search, which insurance professionals call “defects.” Common title defects include:

  • Liens for unpaid property taxes, known as tax liens
  • Construction liens — also known as mechanics’ liens — for unpaid construction, renovation, or repair bills
  • Liens for other unpaid debts that used the home as collateral
  • Court judgments, such as a post-divorce judgment awarding part of the property to a former spouse

Old liens or judgments don’t necessarily jeopardize the sale. But in rare cases, the title search does uncover egregious problems with the title that make it difficult to proceed. 

For instance, the title searcher might discover the seller doesn’t really own the property and thus doesn’t have the right to sell it or that a previous deed transferring the property was forged and the true owner can’t be located. 

In such cases, the lender could refuse to issue a mortgage on the property and force the buyer to walk away.

Finally, title insurance policies cover future costs arising from title disputes. For example, if you have a valid title insurance policy, you won’t have to pay out of pocket when a building contractor stiffed by the previous owner sues you.

In the rare event a court rules the most recent transfer of the property was invalid, your title insurance policy compensates you for any loss of equity in the property. That might occur if it’s discovered a previous owner deeded the property to a third party in a previously undiscovered will, for example.

A title insurance policy’s coverage limit is usually equal to the property’s assessed value when the policy is issued. The lender’s appraisal sets that value.


Types of Title Insurance

Title insurance comes in two basic forms: lender policies and buyer policies. 

As the buyer, you’re generally responsible for paying the full cost of both policies. That expense is one of many closing costs. However, in a buyer’s market, you may be able to work out a cost-sharing arrangement with the seller or even convince them to cover the entire cost.

Either way, each policy type works slightly differently. 

Owner’s Title Policy

Also known as an owner’s title policy, a buyer’s policy protects your ownership interest as the buyer and future property owner. That interest increases with time, which means your financial liability for any title issues also increases with time. 

Owner’s title insurance is not mandatory. However, the cost is a fairly small share of total closing costs, and going without it could have serious financial consequences, so it’s worth the investment.

Your owner’s policy remains in force for as long as you own the property, even after you pay off your mortgage. 

Lender’s Title Policy

Also known as loan policies, lender policies protect the mortgage lender’s interest in the property, which usually decreases over time. For this reason, they tend to cost less than buyer’s policies.

Lender policies remain in force for the entire life of the loan or until you refinance the loan, at which point the lender obtains a new policy.


How Much Does Home Title Insurance Cost?

Like other types of insurance, title insurance policies wrap their fees into a single charge called a premium. Unlike most other types of insurance, title insurance premiums don’t recur every month or year. You pay them all at once during closing.

Some of the factors that affect title insurance premiums include:

  • The value of the property — typically, more expensive properties have higher title insurance costs
  • The amount of work necessary to maintain accurate, up-to-date information on the covered and adjacent properties
  • The amount of work necessary for the title search and examination
  • The amount of work required to cure any defects or adverse interests uncovered by the title search
  • The expected cost of compensating the insured parties for any title defects

The average title insurance policy carries a one-time premium of about $1,000, which covers all upfront work and ongoing legal and loss coverage. However, premiums vary substantially. They can range from less than 0.5% to more than 1% of the purchase price.

State regulation also plays an important role in title insurance premiums. Some states tightly regulate the industry, severely limiting how title insurers can structure their policies and how much they can charge.

In other jurisdictions, title insurance regulation is lighter, and insurers have more leeway to set rates. For example, Wisconsin allows title insurers to follow a “file-and-use” standard, where they can change rates on the fly as long as they notify the state within a set time frame.


Do You Need Title Insurance Coverage?

You’re not required by law to purchase an owner’s title insurance policy. In that sense, you don’t “need” owner’s title insurance.

But choosing not to buy title insurance for yourself could be a very costly mistake. There’s a reason your lender has title insurance. It has seen far too many examples of title issues causing serious financial hardship for homeowners and doesn’t want any part of them.

Without title insurance, you could be held liable for old liens, fines, and other debts attached to the property. Yes, even if the owner who was supposed to pay them is long gone. As the current owner of record, it falls to you to make the creditor whole.

If you’re not able to pay old debts that come to light, you risk losing the property to foreclosure. That’s most commonly for unpaid property taxes, which can be hefty. If you can’t pay the bill for back property taxes and can’t work out a payment plan, the city or county could seize your property and sell it in a tax foreclosure auction.


How to Choose the Right Home Title Insurance Policy

You’ll receive a title insurance recommendation at some point during the underwriting process. Depending on how real estate transactions work in your state, this recommendation might come from your mortgage lender, title agent, real estate agent, or real estate attorney.

Title insurance costs and policy terms rarely vary much between insurers operating in the same jurisdiction. And purchasing title insurance is just one of many things you must do to close on a mortgage loan, so you might feel tempted to act on this recommendation without a second thought.

But you don’t have to. A federal law known as the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act prohibits anyone from forcing you to use a particular title insurance company. As a real estate buyer, you always have the option to shop around for an owner’s title insurance policy and choose the provider that best fits your needs. You can’t shop around for a lender policy, though.

Because title insurance is so standardized, the most important factor to consider when shopping for an owner’s policy is price. The first closing estimate you receive from your lender should include a line item stating the estimated total cost of your owner’s policy. That’s your number to beat — you want a cheaper policy.

To find that policy, search online using terms like “owner’s title insurance policy in [your state].” Visit each provider’s website and look for pricing information. If you’re lucky, you’ll find actual prices listed on the site, but don’t be surprised if you don’t. A quick phone call should get you a ballpark estimate. 

If you’re buying lender’s insurance and owner’s insurance from the same company, ask about a bundle discount. They won’t necessarily offer one unless you ask. And if the seller bought the home less than 10 years earlier, ask the title company for a reissue rate — basically, an extension of the seller’s current policy.

Once you have several quotes, choose the lowest one. Make sure the policy you end up selecting covers a full title search, defect curing, and future legal expenses. 


Final Word

Title insurance doesn’t come cheap. Depending on factors like where the property is located, how much it’s worth, and how many times it has changed hands over the years, your owner’s title insurance policy could cost anywhere from less than 0.5% to more than 1% of the purchase price.

Add in the lender’s title policy, which is typically cheaper but by no means free, and you’re looking at a sizable addition to your closing costs.

But does that mean title insurance is a bad deal? Hardly. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of homeownership, and the protection it provides is potentially invaluable. Though title issues are relatively unlikely to arise on any given property, title insurance ensures you’re not financially liable for past debts or legal expenses related to those issues. 

And in a worst-case scenario, title insurance could mean the difference between staying in your home and losing it to foreclosure. 

When you put it that way, home title insurance sounds like a bargain.

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Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he’s not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What To Do If a Tenant is Late on Their Rent

This step-by-step guide can help you resolve a late rent situation with your tenant.

This step-by-step guide can help you resolve a late rent situation with your tenant.

Property managers and landlords want responsible tenants that pay rent on time. Rent helps landlords pay their other expenses, such as utilities, mortgages and building maintenance costs. When a renter is late with a payment or stops paying altogether, the situation can quickly become stressful and aggravating. Here’s what to do if your tenant is late on rent.

1. Set up a phone call or a meeting

Meet with the tenant to discuss rent.

Meet with the tenant to discuss rent.

Most lease agreements include a three to five-day grace period to pay the monthly rent. When that date has come and gone and you’re still missing a payment from a renter, check your records to make sure your tenant has not paid. And a bounced check is also considered unpaid rent.

Reach out by phone to see if they’ve simply forgotten, or if something else is preventing them from paying. Direct communication can help resolve the situation calmly. If your tenant lost their job or is dealing with family issues or illness, this may affect their ability to pay the rent. Find out what’s going on before deciding what to do next.

2. Negotiate a payment plan

If your renter wants to pay you but can’t afford the full monthly fee, set up a new agreement for the short-term where you’ll accept reduced rent. Showing good faith can help develop a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

Should you decide to draw up a new or temporary lease, outline the grace period, any late charges and your plan if the rent remains unpaid.

3. Document everything

Write everything down.

Write everything down.

Keep track of all communications between the two parties. Document phone conversations and emails so you have a record of how you handled the situation in case you need to seek legal action in the future.

Notify and name renters on all documentation who required co-signers or guarantors on the lease, as they’re also responsible for paying the rent in full.

4. Send a formal late rent notice

This written document politely reminds the renter of payment obligations according to the lease. The letter should state amounts still owed, including late fees. It also explains the steps you’ll take next should the rent not be paid. You can hand the document to your tenant in person, send it by registered mail, email it or tape it to their door. Always follow up to ensure they received it.

Sending an official late notice confirms you have not received a rent payment on time. Although it’s not legally required, receiving this notice in writing often motivates tenants to pay up.

5. Give your renter a payment or quit notice

Paying rent late or not at all violates the lease agreement signed between landlords and tenants. When renters don’t pay, they have breached the contract.

If your tenant still does not pay the rent after you’ve tried to reach an agreement, you have the legal right to begin the eviction process. The first step is serving them with a payment or quit notice stating that the renter has violated the lease agreement.

This document details the total amount of rent past due, including late fees, the due date of payment and your intent to evict the renter if rent is not paid immediately. Check with your state or city for specific requirements regarding posting an eviction notice.

Depending on where you live, landlords or property managers can hand the notice to tenants directly or send it by registered mail so there’s a formal record of it being served. Technically, the eviction process begins as soon as you serve the document. Often, this action will prompt the tenant to pay.

Starting the eviction process does not give property managers or landlords the right to harass the tenant, however. You’re not allowed to make threats, remove their belongings, cut off utilities or change the locks.

6. Take them to court

Suing your tenant could be the last resort.

Suing your tenant could be the last resort.

You might need to take legal action against tenants for unpaid rent if all other options have failed. If their security deposit amount does not cover how much they owe, you can sue tenants to recover lost rent.

An eviction lawyer can help you file the paperwork, including all documentation since you first communicated with your tenant about late rent payments. Once you’ve decided to seek legal action, do not accept partial payments from your tenant. This might overrule the legal proceedings, and you’d have to start the eviction process all over again.

While filing a lawsuit will cost you time and money without guaranteeing you’ll be paid, it’s sometimes the only way to recoup money owed to you.

Be proactive about late-paying tenants

Chasing after late rent payments or going to court takes money, time and energy. Property managers and landlords should put several processes into place before a tenant stops paying.

1. Get rent default insurance

Suing your renter can take month, costing you thousands in lost rental income. Rent default insurance for landlords can cover this loss, usually for up to six months, while you wait for a judgment.

2. Make it easy for tenants to pay online

Paying rent online could help you get your money more efficiently.

Paying rent online could help you get your money more efficiently.

Using an online rent payment tool can encourage your renter to pay on time. Plus, it’s an efficient way for landlords to keep track of rent payment records, send payment reminders and collect money without having to deposit checks at the bank. You can also send out reminders a few days before the rent is due.

3. Develop a positive landlord-tenant relationship

Foster good relationships with your tenants so you can work out potential conflicts in advance. If they advise you that they’ve lost their job, for example, you can collaborate to find a payment solution that works for both of you.

Avoid issues by screening your tenants carefully

Once prospective tenants respond to your rental listing, you should conduct a thorough background and credit check before signing a lease with a new renter. Make sure a tenant’s income-to-rent ratio is within the accepted range.

Discuss the terms of the lease with prospective tenants, including your policies about paying rent on time. Let them know you intend to enforce the rules, so you can avoid late payment problems before they happen.

Source: rent.com

Buy and Hold Defined – Is This the Right Investment Strategy for You?

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Investor Warren Buffett once famously said, “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for 10 years, don’t even think about owning it for 10 minutes.” 

Buffett was describing the buy-and-hold investment strategy. The idea is for investors to research companies before buying shares only in the ones they believe will thrive for the long term.

This passive investment strategy has been used by countless people to build wealth, but what exactly is it, and should you use it in your investment portfolio?


What Is the Buy-and-Hold Investment Strategy?

The buy-and-hold strategy is an investment strategy centered around thoroughly researching a stock, buying it, and holding it for a long period of time regardless of its short-term price fluctuations.


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With enough research and fundamental analysis, investors should be able to determine whether the company is successful and likely to maintain that success over the next decade or more. Once you’re confident the company is a strong buy, you purchase the stock and pretty much forget about it.

Over the course of a long-term investment, buy-and-hold investors pay little attention to short-term volatility, remaining confident that their original research will lead to a long-term win.  

Because of the set-it-and-forget-it nature of buy-and-hold investing, following this strategy is considered passive investing. However, passive doesn’t necessarily mean no work is involved. For this strategy to work out well, investors must put in significant due diligence in the beginning and rebalance their portfolios at least once annually. 

There are two ways to go about building a buy-and-hold investment portfolio, either through researching and purchasing individual investments or buying shares of investment-grade funds like exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and index funds.


How the Buy-and-Hold Investment Strategy Works

Here are the steps to employing this strategy:

Step #1: Determine How You’d Like to Invest

Start by determining how you’d like to go about investing: by purchasing individual stocks, bonds, and other assets, or by purchasing investment-grade funds. 

Keep in mind that while there’s more work involved in choosing individual assets, doing so gives you the most control over your money. 

Step #2: Choose Your Investments

This step will be different for those choosing individual investments and those investing in funds. Here’s how each works:

Individual Investments

When choosing individual investments, research is the name of the game. Think of stocks and bonds that might represent the type of companies you’re interested in owning. Then, thoroughly research the fundamentals of each company 

During this fundamental analysis, pay close attention to the following:

  • The Company’s Current and Historical Success. How successful is the company at the moment? Since you’re buying assets to hold for the long term, it’s important to invest in companies that have achieved a high level of success and are likely to continue to do so. Is the company one of the strongest in its category? Is it profitable? Is it generating substantial revenue? 
  • Economic Moat. Only invest in companies with an economic moat. This is a term Buffett uses to describe competitive advantages like patents and proprietary supply chains that stop competitors from offering the same products. 
  • Financial Standing. Determine how strong the company is from a financial perspective by digging into its balance sheet. Even profitable companies are often funded by debt, which could be a recipe for disaster. Make sure you’re not investing in companies following that recipe. 
  • Management. A company is only as strong as its management team. Look into who’s running the company and their history as executives, both where they are now and at the companies they helped to lead in the past. Is the team one you want at the helm of a company you own?
  • Valuation. Although short-term fluctuations aren’t important to buy-and-hold investors, it is important that you purchase stock at a fair valuation. Using metrics like the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, PEG ratio, and price-to-book value ratio, compare the stock to others in its category and make sure you’re paying a fair stock price when buying shares. 

Investment Grade Funds

When choosing investment-grade funds, you’re letting the fund managers do the work for you, but it’s still important to compare your options. Closely consider the following:

  • Historic Performance. Although historic performance isn’t always indicative of future long-term returns, it’s a good measure of how successful the fund manager has been over time. Look at the rate of returns over the past five to 10 years to get an idea of what you can expect ahead. 
  • Expense Ratio. Investment-grade funds come with an annual cost outlined as an expense ratio, or the percentage of your investment dollars you’ll pay each year to invest in the fund. Make sure you pay the lowest expense ratios possible because high expenses cut into your profits. 
  • Passively Managed. Actively managed funds don’t generally buy and hold assets for a long period of time. As such, it’s important that the funds you choose are passively managed, increasing the holding periods of assets in the portfolio. This will help reduce your tax burden on these investments while allowing you to stick to your strategy of holding assets for the long run. 

Step #3: Buy

Using your favorite brokerage account, purchase the stocks and bonds that you’ve decided have the most potential to generate meaningful long-term returns. If you’re not already working with an online broker, it’s time to start looking around at some of the best brokers online. 

Keep in mind that timing is everything in the stock market. You don’t want to buy on highs just before a correction. One of the best ways to time your buy-and-hold investments is through a gradual process called dollar-cost averaging, which involves making multiple equal investments over a period of time to ensure you don’t buy in at the top.

A common way to buy in gradually is to invest a portion of every paycheck or make automated contributions toward your investments every month or quarter.  

Step #4: Hold

Sometimes the hardest part of using a buy-and-hold strategy is the holding. Markets go up and down all the time. A little market volatility is enough to send some types of investors racing for the exit.  

Buy-and-hold investors who have done their research are holding investments they expect to pay off years down the road, not necessarily this week. Resist the urge to watch the markets every day, because the short-term price fluctuations don’t really matter to you until you decide it’s time to sell your investments. 

Step #5: Rebalance Occasionally

A healthy investment portfolio is one with proper asset allocation, but over time, some assets will move at different rates than others, creating an imbalance. When this happens, your portfolio will either become overexposed to risk or underexposed to potential returns. 

To avoid this issue, investors should rebalance their portfolios at least once annually. Many investors rebalance semi-annually, quarterly, or even monthly. 


Pros and Cons of the Buy-and-Hold Investment Strategy

As with any other strategy for accessing the market, there are pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a buy-and-hold investor. 

Pros of the Buy-and-Hold Strategy

Some of the biggest perks to using this strategy include:

1. A Common-Sense Approach

Rather than using intricate technical analysis in an attempt to exploit market volatility, the buy-and-hold strategy takes a more common-sense approach. The goal is to find companies that are successful and likely to maintain their success over time. 

You won’t need complex math, a detailed understanding of technical indicators, or the expertise to find patterns in a chart when taking this approach to investing. 

2. Low Taxes on Capital Gains

Any time you make money in the United States, the IRS wants its cut. That cut is smaller on gains from investments held for a year or more than it is on gains from short-term investments. 

According to the IRS, most investors will pay long-term capital gains taxes of no more than 15%. High-income earners will pay a maximum of 20%. However, short-term capital gains are considered standard income, taxed at the standard income tax rate, which caps out at 37%, according to the Tax Foundation.

3. No Need for Market Timing

You’ll be holding your investments for several years, during which time peaks and valleys will happen. So, there’s no point in trying to time the market to find the best entry point. Instead, buy-and-hold investors are better served using dollar-cost averaging to average their entry cost over a period of time. 

4. Reasonable Returns 

Finally, those that take research seriously at the beginning of this strategy have the potential to yield significant long-term returns. While you’re not going to get rich anytime soon using the buy-and-hold strategy, it is a compelling recipe for building wealth over time. 

Cons of the Buy-and-Hold Strategy

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to follow this strategy, but there are a few drawbacks. 

1. Potentially Lower Returns

Passive investing comes with lower levels of risk, but also a lower potential return than active investing. Those with a higher risk tolerance who want to outpace overall market returns are generally better served as active investors.

2. Hard to Hold Through Bear Markets

Following this strategy means you should hold your investments regardless of market conditions. This can lead to painful declines during bear markets that take some time to recover from. 

3. Time to Profitability

Buy-and-hold investments are made for the long term with little concern for short-term growth. As a result, these investments may take a while to pay off, and in some cases, may never reach profitability. 


Is Buy-and-Hold Investing Right for You?

The question of whether buy-and-hold investing is the best option for your portfolio is impossible to answer without knowing more about you. Everyone has a unique tolerance for risk, goals, and financial circumstances. 

Buy-and-hold investing might be best for you if:

  • You Are Risk-Averse. This strategy tends to focus on steady, stable companies with a proven record of success, making it a strong option for risk-averse investors. 
  • You Are Patient. This strategy is a slow-growth option. Although you won’t get rich overnight, it is a tried-and-true way for a patient investor to build wealth over the long run.
  • You Are Busy. Although there is some upfront work involved in this strategy, once your investments are set up, there’s really not much left to do. That makes buy-and-hold a perfect strategy for people who don’t have the time or desire to constantly check in on markets and the companies they invest in.  

Final Word

The buy-and-hold strategy is a compelling way for patient and risk-averse investors to capture the wealth-building power of financial markets. If you choose to follow this strategy, keep in mind that research will be the foundation of your success. 

Take the time to get to know each investment before throwing your hard-earned money into the ring, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the long-term results. 

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Since 2017, Masterworks has successfully sold three paintings, each realizing a net anualized gain of +30% per work. (This is not an indication of Masterworks’ overall performance and past performance is not indicative of future results.)

Masterworks Sidebar 2

Joshua Rodriguez has worked in the finance and investing industry for more than a decade. In 2012, he decided he was ready to break free from the 9 to 5 rat race. By 2013, he became his own boss and hasn’t looked back since. Today, Joshua enjoys sharing his experience and expertise with up and comers to help enrich the financial lives of the masses rather than fuel the ongoing economic divide. When he’s not writing, helping up and comers in the freelance industry, and making his own investments and wise financial decisions, Joshua enjoys spending time with his wife, son, daughter, and eight large breed dogs. See what Joshua is up to by following his Twitter or contact him through his website, CNA Finance.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Negotiate Medical Bills: A Step-by-Step Guide

The hospital bill arrives in the mail, and you’re tempted to throw it away (again) without opening it. After all, you don’t have the money to pay for that trip you took to the emergency room.

Ignoring medical bills isn’t going to make them go away, and the longer you wait — much like the cough that turned into pneumonia — the worse it’s going to get. But there is some good news: You can negotiate medical bills so that you pay a fraction of the amount you were charged.

It’s probably of small comfort, but you’re not the only one facing steep medical costs. In 2019, a quarter of adults skipped medical care, such as a visit to a doctor or dentist, because they couldn’t afford it, according to a Federal Reserve 2020 report. And 18% of those respondents had unpaid medical debt of their own or from a family member.

Those expenses aren’t limited to the uninsured — with co-pays and deductibles reaching four-figures, even people with insurance can face medical bills they can’t afford.

Craig Antico and Robert Goff, authors of the book “End Medical Debt: Curing America’s $1 Trillion Unpayable Healthcare Debt,” spoke with The Penny Hoarder about how to negotiate medical bills you can’t afford and how to pay them off before they do more harm to your finances.

How to Negotiate Medical Bills That You Can’t Afford

As hard as it may be to believe, healthcare institutions aren’t out to intimidate you and take all your money. At least, not in the beginning. And almost all of them will accept less than the full amount owed.

“If you say something up front, you can generally work out an arrangement at a lower rate,” Goff said. “If you don’t, then the full maximum amount is pursued — and it’s pursued aggressively.”

As many as 80% of medical bills contain errors, so you should make correcting billing errors your first priority. Then follow these step-by-step strategies.

1. Stop Procrastinating

First of all, you need to open the envelope. Seriously. We understand that it’s easy to get overwhelmed after a medical crisis, but the clock is already working against you.

Even if you walked out of the hospital without speaking to someone about your financial situation, you still have a window of time during which you can plead your case, according to Antico, co-founder of the national charity R.I.P Medical Debt.

“They’ve got about three or four months to talk to the hospital,” he said. “As soon as they get a bill from the hospital, a light has to go on that I must read this bill, as hard as it’s going to be.”

First, understand if this is a bill from your health provider or health insurance company. Health insurance companies may send scary-looking statements that indicate how much they paid and how much is still owed, but that amount is not necessarily how much you have to pay.

It’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider and ask them how much you still owe. You can also request an itemized bill. If you still don’t understand what you’re looking at, make them explain each charge in detail — you have the right to demand to know what you’re paying for.

2. Ask for Help (the Earlier the Better)

You’ll have a greater chance of obtaining financial assistance if you ask earlier rather than later — especially if you’re already struggling financially. If you owe a hospital money, check its website for its financial assistance policy to find out if you qualify for a discount or charity care.

Pro Tip

If you make less than the federal poverty level, ask your hospital about its charity care program, which covers the cost of healthcare for low-income patients.

“They can switch a bill from being billed to charity care within the first 90 days,” Antico said. “Even if you make more than two to three times the poverty level, they’ll give you a discount.”

3. Calculate What You Can Afford

Setting a goal to pay off medical bills rather than avoiding them is the best way to help your financial situation long-term.

But when facing a bill — or pile of bills — that seems insurmountable, it’s easy to panic and whip out your credit card to make it all go away. That’s a big mistake, since there are alternatives to handling medical debt that don’t involve the double-digit interest rates that credit cards charge.

Instead, plan your payoff in a responsible way by determining how much you can afford to pay.

“There’s a rule of thumb that I have: Only pay about 3% of your gross income toward these bills,” said Antico, who added that if you live with your parents rent-free or don’t have a car payment or insurance, you can bump up that amount to as much as 15%.

Your gross pay is your pre-tax and pre-deduction income. It includes your regular hourly or salaried pay plus any overtime.

Medical debt doesn’t accrue interest, so making hefty payments beyond your means can leave you in more dire circumstances than if you paid off other debts you owe — like those pesky credit card balances. If you don’t have one already, it’s a better idea to put at least some of that money toward starting an emergency fund.

However, deciding how much your budget can handle is essential before you call your medical provider.

4. Talk to Your Provider (or Debt Collector)

Most medical providers are willing to work with a patient who can’t afford their services — even after the services have been rendered.

So once you’ve reviewed your bill and know how much you can afford to pay, it’s time to call your provider. Typically, you’ll need to speak to an office manager at the doctor’s office or the billing department at a hospital.

Pro Tip

Even if you have multiple medical bills, avoid the temptation of a consolidation loan for the convenience of a single payment. Remember: Medical debt usually doesn’t accrue interest, but a loan will.

Speaking with a human being is the best way to present your case, whether it’s explaining you didn’t pay because the bill got lost in a move or proposing that you pay a portion of the bill in cash to have the rest of the debt forgiven.

After all, it’s in the provider’s financial interest to talk to you rather than turning over your bill to collections and potentially losing even more money.

Even if you’ve heard from a debt collection agency, there is still hope to negotiate with the provider. The collection agency at that point is working on behalf of the provider, who may be willing to make a deal with you.

“I would start by going back to the originating provider — not dealing with the bill collector,” Goff said. “If the provider can’t or won’t negotiate, then ask the bill collector if you can settle the bill for a lesser amount.”

Two people set up a payment plan.
Getty Images

5. Set Up a Payment Plan

If you’re not in a position to make a huge cash outlay to erase your medical debt, ask your provider about potential payment plan options.

Working directly with the provider to arrange a payment schedule is definitely in your best, ahem, interest.

“If you make a payment plan with a hospital, they don’t charge you interest — you just pay the principal amount that you owe the next two, three, four, five years,” Antico said. “And they’ll take almost any payment plan that someone wants to pay.”

In exchange for reliably getting paid on time, your provider might also agree to a further discount if you offer to put your installments on automatic payments.

6. Learn From Your Mistakes

Just because you’re in debt doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. You can learn from your mistakes and not put yourself further in debt.

Before your next trip to a medical provider, find out if you qualify for Medicaid or charity care — up to one-third of U.S. residents qualify for charity care, according to Antico.

If you do have health insurance, understanding your health benefit plan is essential to preventing unwanted surprises. That includes finding out what services you might not realize are covered.

“We’re actually seeing people avoid going for preventative services, although it’s not even subject to even a copay or a deductible,” Goff said. “You’re losing out on the benefit, including an opportunity to avoid greater illness.”

More than anything, both Goff and Antico stressed that early action can make the difference between paying off medical bills and sinking into financial ruin.

“When a patient doesn’t pay attention and goes anywhere, does anything, and then wakes up to, ‘Oh my god, I have all these bills and they’re not going to be covered,’ they’re already behind the eight ball,” Goff said. “If you’re going to run into an economic problem, say something early to your physician.”

After all, it’s easier to feel better when you have the remedy for your financial health, too.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Cheapest Neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. for Renters in 2022

The nation’s capital has so many things to do and so many affordable places to live.

Washington, D.C. is a thriving, vibrant city. It’s far more than just the seat of the country’s government and history. It’s a modern metropolis full of things to do, from bars and nightclubs to outdoor activities. There are enough museums and art galleries to keep you busy for two lifetimes. Everywhere you turn, there’s something going on, whether it’s concerts in the park or lectures at the library.

D.C. is one of the most diverse cities in the country. You’re likely to run into people from all over the nation and even the world. It’s even become one of the most popular cities in the U.S. for hipsters, thanks to a thriving bar and brewery scene. You’ll find your social circle here, no matter what it is!

Most of the neighborhoods are walkable and public transportation is readily available. Many residents don’t even own a car. If you’re moving to D.C. and pick the right neighborhood, you can get around using just the subway and the bus.

What is the average rent in Washington, D.C.?

The average rent in Washington, D.C. in January of 2022 was $2,604 for a two-bedroom apartment. This is a 15.87 percent increase over the prior year.

The 10 cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

No matter what your tastes are, you can find a place you love in D.C. There are historic neighborhoods side by side with modern ones. The District is eight separate wards, each of which consists of multiple neighborhoods. While D.C. has a well-deserved reputation for being expensive, you can find some deals if you look.

These are the 10 cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. in descending order. Most of them are on the southeastern side of the city and are an easy commute to the Capitol District and Downtown.

10. Southeast Washington

Southeast Washington

Southeast Washington

Source: Rent.com/Washington View
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,856
  • Rent change since 2021: -33.83%

Coming in at No. 10 on the list of cheapest places to live in Washington, D.C., Southeast Washington is south of Capitol Hill. It’s home to the Library of Congress and the Navy Yard. Fort Dupont Park holds concerts every summer and you can watch baseball games at National Park.

This neighborhood is popular with families. The schools are above average. Southeast Washington is well-connected to public transportation. Many people even walk to work. There’s also an ample number of restaurants and small stores located here.

9. Greenway

Greenway

Greenway

Source: Rent.com/Milestone Apartments
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,609
  • Rent change since 2021: 0%

You’ll find Greenway on the southeast side of the city. It’s bounded by Pennsylvania Ave SE on the southern end and East Capitol Street on the north. It’s a residential neighborhood with plenty of families and young professionals.

Greenway has many parks and Fort Dupont Park runs along part of the eastern side of the neighborhood. There aren’t many shopping, entertainment or restaurant options within the neighborhood itself, but there are plenty within easy reach. If you want a primarily residential area that’s still in the heart of D.C., Greenway is a good choice.

8. Fort Dupont

Fort Dupont

Fort Dupont

Source: Rent.com/Fort Dupont Overlook
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,609
  • Rent change since 2021: 0%

This neighborhood is on the southeastern side of D.C. and is home to both Fort Dupont Park and Fort Chaplin Park. The Benning Stoddard Recreation Center is also here. You’ll never run out of things to do if you like outdoor activities and live in Fort Dupont!

Many families call Fort Dupont home. It’s easy to get to public transportation and to commute anywhere in the city by car. The residential focus means you won’t find much in the way of nightlife, but there are a few restaurants and grocery stores to choose from.

7. Barry Farm

Barry Farm, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Barry Farm, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Source: Rent.com/Pomeroy Gardens
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,541
  • Rent change since 2021: +0.63%

A historic neighborhood on the southeast side of D.C., Barry Farm has a dense urban feel and is primarily residential. Barry Farm has the distinction of being one of the few neighborhoods created by the Freedman’s Bureau after the Civil War that’s still in existence. It’s bounded by Suitland Parkway, the Southeast Freeway and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Barry Farm is the neighborhood park and gives the neighborhood its name. It’s mostly residential but amenities are nearby, as is access to public transportation. Easy access to the highways also makes commuting a breeze. It’s popular with families, as more than a third of the residents are families with small children.

6. Marshall Heights

Marshall Heights

Marshall Heights

Source: Rent.com/5430 C St. SE
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,475
  • Rent change since 2021: 0%

Marshall Heights is No. 6 on the list of most affordable neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. It’s on the southeastern edge of the city not too far from the Anacostia River. There are two subway stops and multiple bus stops within the neighborhood, and it also has easy access to the interstates for commuting.

Numerous parks and two recreation centers are here. There’s limited shopping and entertainment options, but it’s easy to access other areas of the city. Many families call Marshall Heights home. Shopping and restaurant choices are also limited.

5. Anacostia

Anacostia, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Anacostia, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Source: Rent.com/Marbury Plaza
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,428
  • Rent change since 2021: +5.10%

This neighborhood borders Anacostia Park and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s full of parks and museums, such as the Frederick Douglas National Historic Site. Bike paths crisscross the neighborhood and its also served by both the D.C. Metro and the bus line. Anacostia is only a 10-minute subway ride from Downtown D.C.

The Anacostia Playhouse assures you’ll never run out of cultural events, and there are concerts in the parks every summer. While primarily residential, the neighborhood is home to supermarkets, restaurants and a few shopping centers, as well.

4. Congress Heights

Congress Heights

Congress Heights

Source: Rent.com/Meadowbrook Run
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,286
  • Rent change since 2021: -3.72%

An up-and-coming historic neighborhood in southeastern D.C., Congress Heights has Anacostia Park and Joint-Base Anacostia Boiling on the west and the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Entertainment and Sports Arena on the north and the Oxon Run National Parkway on the east. Not bad for one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.!

Entertainment is what draws many people to live in Congress Heights. The Entertainment and Sports Arena has basketball games and live music year-round. If arts and culture are more your thing, check out the Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, a place dedicated to showcasing local artists. The Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) and the Southeast Campus of the Washington Ballet are also located here.

You can also check out any of the many cafés and bars, spend time at numerous parks and work out at the SE Tennis & Learning Center. Like most D.C. neighborhoods, Congress Heights is well-connected to public transportation.

3. Bellevue

Bellevue, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Bellevue, one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Source: Rent.com/The Vista
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,200
  • Rent change since 2021: 0%

A historic neighborhood on the southeastern side of the District, Bellevue is almost surrounded by parks. It’s a great place to live if you want easy access to green space in the middle of the city! The Bald Eagle Recreation Center also has a 6,600-square-foot gym with a boxing ring, workout space and showers. Fort Greble Park has a splash pad and community garden.

Bellevue is a popular neighborhood for families with young children. Its location makes it easy to get to big employers, such as the Navy Yard and Joint Base Anacostia-Boiling. It’s only a 10-minute drive from the U.S. Capitol. There aren’t many shopping options within the neighborhood, but there are several large shopping centers nearby.

2. Historic Anacostia

Historic Anacostia

Historic Anacostia

Source: Rent.com/2317 16th St. SE
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,122
  • Rent change since 2021: 0%

This is a smaller subsection of the larger Anacostia neighborhood and consists almost entirely of historic buildings erected between 1854 and 1930. It has one of the most unique architectural spaces of any neighborhood in the entire city. If you’re a fan of period architecture, you’ll love this neighborhood!

One of the best features of the neighborhood, aside from being one of the cheapest places to live in Washington, D.C., is Anacostia Park, an absolutely beautiful park adjoining the neighborhood on the western side and buffering it from the Anacostia River. You’ll find a variety of restaurants and shopping options within the neighborhood.

Despite its age, Historic Anacostia is part of the modern world with a connection to the D.C. Metro at Howard Road SE. Young professionals love this neighborhood with its easy commute to downtown and other employment centers.

1. Washington Highlands

Washington Highlands, the cheapest neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Washington Highlands, the cheapest neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Source: Rent.com/Overlook
  • Average 2-BR rent: $1,099
  • Rent change since 2021: +0.65%

Washington Highlands tops the list of cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. in 2022. This neighborhood is popular with families who have young children and the elderly. It sits between Oxon Run Park and Oxon Run National Parkway on the southeastern side of D.C. United Medical Center, a major local hospital, is on the northeastern border of the neighborhood.

Interstate 294 and Highway 210 are both easily accessible from this neighborhood. Public transportation also connects to the rest of the city. The Ferebee-Hope recreation center has indoor and outdoor basketball courts, an aquatic center and a gym. The other parks also have athletic facilities, and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center are nearby.

You can catch cultural events at the ARC cultural arts center and the Oxon Run Amphitheater. There isn’t much nightlife in the area, but it’s an easy commute to more party-friendly neighborhoods of the city. You’ll also need to travel to find many shopping and eating options.

The most expensive neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

While the above list contains the most affordable neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., the most expensive neighborhood is Dupont Circle. You’ll need to bring home some serious money to afford it. A two-bedroom apartment in this neighborhood averaged $5,045 per month in January of 2022. That’s an increase of 7.48 percent over January of 2021.

Dupont Circle is an older neighborhood in the center of D.C. It’s a walkable neighborhood full of historic buildings and some of the most recognizable landmarks in the District, such as the Woodrow Wilson House. It’s popular with childless professionals. This is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city, which is part of the reason it’s so expensive.

Find an affordable neighborhood for your next apartment

Washington, D.C. is an incredible place to live. Whether you’re into government, history or just modern urban living, you’ll love living in the nation’s capital. There are many apartments for rent in Washington, D.C. Use this list of the cheapest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. to help you find your perfect match.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory as of January 2022. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets. The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

7 Places That Will Pay You to Move There | Updated for 2022

A woman jogs with the Baltimore skyline behind her.

A woman trots against gusty wind the day after an overnight storm, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Baltimore. Julio Cortez/AP Photo

If you could use a change of scenery, why not get free money to move somewhere?

In the face of declining or slowing population growth, some cities have decided to get aggressive about their survival.

Despite soaring real estate prices in some parts of the country, there are still cities giving away free land while others are literally handing out stacks of cash to folks who agree to move their metropolitan area.

Here are seven places that really, really want you to move there…

Places That Will Pay You to Move There

If you’re looking for a new place to call home, but you don’t have your heart set on a specific area, we’ve found six cities — and one state — that are offering deals worth thousands of dollars to entice you to make their communities your home sweet home.

1. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s second largest city is offering to pay remote workers $10,000 cash to relocate there through its Tulsa Remote program.

You’ll get $10,000 upfront cash with the purchase of a home. And they’ll throw in a desk at a coworking space so you don’t have to work out there on the plain all by your lonesome.

The only requirements are that you must be 18 years old, work remotely or are self-employed outside of Oklahoma, and, you know, want to live in Tulsa.

Click here for the application.

Need a banking service that’s built for gig workers and freelancers, helping you save for taxes and keep track of your expenses? Check out Lili. (It’s free!)

2. Lincoln, Kansas

Here’s a Kansas town offering free land to qualified inhabitants. According to its website, you’ll be able to see the buffalo roam from your home on the range, should you take them up on their offer.

You’ll have to comply with the city’s requirements for building and inhabiting a home within set time parameters. Contact Lincoln City Hall for full details.

3. Curtis, Nebraska

How’d you like to build your dream home — without spending a dime on the land itself?

It’s possible in Curtis, Nebraska.

Construct a home in Curtis within a set amount of time (and according to certain specifications), and you’ll receive the land free. All of the lots come utility ready and are located on paved streets.

And in Curtis, it’s the more the merrier — and more lucrative. The family incentive program awards $500 for the first kid, $750 for two and $1,000 for three more children who move to the city and enroll in the Medicine Valley Public Schools.

4. New Richland, Minnesota

Life’s simpler in the Midwest — especially when you can get land for free.

If you build a home within a year of receiving the land’s deed, your new property in New Richland’s Homestake subdivision will be 100% free of charge.

Plus, the town’s in proximity to a golf course, lake and bike trails.

5. Harmony, Minnesota

Want to move to the “Biggest Little Town in Southern Minnesota”?

The town of Harmony will provide home-builders a cash rebate of up to $12,000 to cover costs of construction — and the program has zero age, income or residency restrictions.

6. Baltimore, Maryland

Ready to give a little love to an underloved property — and get paid for it?

Baltimore’s Vacants to Value Booster incentive gives $10,000 to buyers of Vacants to Value properties in an effort to address the blight caused by abandonment in the area. The home must be your primary residence, and you must be willing to invest at least $1,000 of your own resources. Also, the $10,000 must go toward your down payment and closing costs.

If that’s not enough reason to move to Old Bay country, the city also has a Buying Into Baltimore program that offers a $5,000 incentive to use toward buying a home anywhere in Baltimore. You must attend a Trolley Tour event to be eligible; 20 individuals are selected on a lottery basis.

Still not convinced? We have two words for you: crab cakes.

A road shows a view of mountains in Alaska.
A view of Chena Hot Springs Road in Fairbanks, Alaska. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Bonus: Anywhere in Alaska

Why limit yourself to just one city when Alaska will pay you to live anywhere in their state?

Since 1976, Alaska has paid its residents to live there via its Permanent Fund Dividend. The payouts are funded by Alaska’s oil royalties and are divided up evenly among citizens.

Yearly payouts vary, but the 2021 dividend was $1,114. Not too shabby just for being there!

To be eligible for the rebate, you must not claim residency in any other state or country. Check out the full details here.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors, a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder, contributed to this post.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What to Do With Overripe Bananas: 15 Easy Recipes to Try

You buy a bunch of bananas with the best intentions, mostly to slice and eat on cereal or mix with yogurt for breakfast.

Or maybe you plan to eat one every afternoon as a pick-me-up since bananas are loaded with natural sugars to give you a boost. Vitamin C and potassium provide more healthy benefits. Oh, and fiber.

Then two or three of the bunch turn on you as they ripen. First they sport tiny bruise spots, then the bruises overtake the fruit until they don’t look like anything you want to eat. Rest easy, overripe bananas are not inedible but have reached another stage in their development.

Something magical happens as bananas ripen and transform from bright yellow to that unappetizing brown/black. They get sweeter as the starches develop.

So before you pitch or compost them, heed our recipe suggestions on what to do with overripe bananas. Think banana ice cream (mix slices into vanilla ice cream), banana cream pie (a smoothie with a vanilla wafer crunch), classic banana bread and even banana pancakes and muffins.

How to Freeze Overripe Bananas

If you have overripe bananas but aren’t ready to use them right away, freeze them. You may be tempted to put the ripe bananas, peel and all, into freezer bags and toss into the chill. It’s best to peel ripe bananas first or you will struggle to get the thin peel from the frozen banana once it’s thawed.

Also, keep in mind that thawed ripe bananas are best for baked goods, smoothies, puddings, and anything where the fruit is mixed in. They will mostly be mushy when thawed so aren’t great for eating out of hand.

Here are two ways to freeze overripe bananas:

  1. Peel whole ripe bananas and put them into freezer bags. Squeeze as much air as you can from the bag, and write the date on it with a smudge-proof marker. The fruit can be used frozen or thawed depending on your recipe.
  2. Peel ripe bananas and then slice in ½-inch pieces. Place banana slices on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze for about 2 hours. When frozen, place sliced bananas in a freezer bag, squeeze out air and mark the bag with date. Freezing them this way makes measurement easy for baked goods.
Pro Tip

Three medium ripe bananas 7 to 8 inches long equal 1 cup when they are smashed. Most banana bread recipes call for 1 to 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas.

20 Recipes That Use Overripe Bananas

These 20 recipes for overripe bananas might have you leaving a couple on the counter to darken just so you can make them. A mashed ripe banana or two (maybe three) is all you will need for most of these recipes.

Banana Bread Recipes

Banana bread is the go-to plan for overripe bananas. Banana bread can be dressed up with chopped nuts, chocolate chips or even dried cranberries or other fruit. A tablespoon of banana liqueur or spice rum adds another flavor profile.

1. Banana Bread

Freshly cut banana bread sits on a cutting board.
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Everyone should have a tried-and-true banana bread recipe. This one from Simply Recipes is one of the website’s most popular recipes and has nearly 6,000 reviews. The recipe makes a single loaf though many reviewers say you’ll be sorry if you don’t double it.

2. Death by Chocolate Banana Bread

This chocolate banana bread from Delish uses cocoa powder and has a generous helping of chocolate chips, making it a chocoholic’s dream. Warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? We think so.

3. Cream Cheese-Filled Banana Bread

Looking for a way to combine a love of cheesecake with banana bread? Well, maybe not but now that you’ve got the suggestion, why not? Kristyn Merkley at Lil’ Luna shares this cream cheese-filled banana bread and it is totally decadent.

4. Gluten Free Banana Bread

There are plenty of recipes out there for gluten-free baked goods. One-Bowl Gluten Free Banana Bread from the Minimalist Baker calls for three bananas, plus avocado oil and almond meal, among other ingredients. It gets 4.76 stars from more than 800 reviewers.

Banana Breakfast Recipes

You could just grab coffee and a bagel for breakfast, but why would you with all these sweet banana recipes?

They’re like eating a dessert that’s socially accepted as breakfast. This is a win, especially if you add a punch of vitamin C from orange juice.

5. Banoffee Scones

Banoffee is an English banana-toffee flavor traditionally appearing in pie form. Banoffee Scones from King Arthur Baking Company brings this combo to the breakfast table. The reviews alone will make you want to tie on an apron and get baking.

6. Nutella Banana Swirl Muffins

Bananas love nuts and chocolate so the chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella is a perfect pairing. Nutella Banana Swirl Muffins from The Novice Chef satisfies all sorts of cravings.

7. Banana Bread Donuts with Browned Butter Caramel Glaze

A tutorial on how to brown butter in the microwave from Averie Cooks blog will set you up to make Banana Bread Donuts with Browned Butter Caramel Glaze. If you don’t have a donut pan, these also make great donut holes using a muffin pan.

8. Banana Pancakes

This Banana Pancakes recipe from Once Upon a Chef calls for just one overripe banana and the “browner, the better.” There’s double banana flavor thanks to the smashed banana in the batter and sliced just-ripe banana on the top. Would it be too much to top with whipped cream?

Healthy Banana Recipes

If you would rather work out every day than give up your sweet tooth, we’ve rounded up some healthy — or healthy-ish — recipes. Share them with family and friends and spread the joy around.

9. Gluten- and Dairy-Free Strawberry-Banana Muffins

Strawberry-banana muffins from Delicious Obsessions are a cool spin on the traditional smoothie pairing, using coconut flour and coconut oil.

10. Paleo Banana-Blueberry Breakfast Bread

Michele Rosen at Paleo Running Momma is an avid runner and still has time to bake delicious, healthy treats like this gluten-free banana bread. The antioxidant properties of fresh blueberries pack an additional nutritious punch.

11. 3-Ingredient Flourless Banana Bread Cookies

Arman Liew at The Big Man’s World creates easy, healthy sweets and breakfast recipes. His banana-oatmeal cookies look really good and are manageable for even a novice baker.

12. Tropical Green Smoothie

A green smoothie is photographed.
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This tropical green smoothie from Ashley Manila at Baker by Nature makes it easy to be green. Use frozen overripe bananas for this pina colada-esque smoothie. The vivid color comes from spinach, kale or Swiss chard. Use what you’ve got on hand.

Ripe Bananas Dessert Recipes

Bananas by themselves are the dessert of the produce section. But the real magic happens when you add a little flour and butter. Now, you have desserts that make all the other fruits jealous.

13. Cinnamon-Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache

If you’re baking to impress, Cinnamon-Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache is the ticket. It may sound fussy but know that the cake is baked in a Bundt pan and the ganache is dripped over the top in an irregular pattern. No need to be precise. Plus, it’s from Eating Well magazine via Diabetic Living Magazine which means it has less processed sugar.

14. Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Shake

Is Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Shake a dessert, breakfast or serious afternoon pick-me-up? Maybe all three once you make this great recipe from Blissful Basil. It’s vegan and gluten free but chock full of delicious flavors, for sure.

15. Banana Pudding Cake

Banana pudding is a favorite dessert, but you need firm bananas to make it look good. Enter this banana cake recipe from Holly at Spend With Pennies. The mixture goes into the oven light and pudding-like and comes out as a cake with its own sauce. It’s the best of both worlds!

16. Banana Upside-Down Cake

Do you like the sound of caramelized brown sugar and bananas atop a delicious cake? Then we can be friends. And we can go find Jessica Kraft at Sprinkle Some Sugar and thank her for the genius idea of swapping out pineapples for bananas in this upside-down cake.

17. Velvet Elvis Cupcakes

A list of overripe banana recipes would be complete without the King’s favorite flavor combo. Elvis Presley may be known for his fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but Ingrid Beer at The Cozy Apron has perfected PB&B in these Velvet Elvis cupcakes.

18. Banana Cookies

These banana cookies from Lovefoodies are basic, and you can customize them with your favorite add-ins, including Heath baking chips, chocolate chips or chopped nuts. This is a soft cookie no matter how you make it. The moisture from the banana makes sure of that.

19. Rock Lobster Cocktail

Is it a cocktail dessert? Well, it certainly can be if you’re making the Rock Lobster Cocktail from Spruce Eats. The adult drink gets plenty of tropical kick from coconut rum, dark rum and banana liqueur. What a way to use a very ripe banana. Cheers!

20. Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

Tuck the recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bars away for when you’ve got a bunch of overripe bananas. This great recipe from Butter with a Side of Bread calls for five of them. Wrap a bar (or a square depending on how you cut them) and tuck into your kids’ lunch boxes.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Will It Discharge My Debts?

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Filing for bankruptcy can help you clear out overwhelming debt and press reset on your financial situation. Although bankruptcy does impact your credit, it can also help you avoid foreclosure and gives you breathing room to get a better grip on your finances. 

Multiple types of bankruptcy exist. If you have some assets and a regular income, Chapter 13 bankruptcy might be the option that works best for you.


What Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is sometimes called a wage earner’s plan, since a steady income is one of the requirements for it. The specifics of the bankruptcy are spelled out in Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. 

You must file Chapter 13 bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court. The process is overseen by the court with input from the U.S. Department of Justice.


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The goal of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is to repay your debts, usually over a three to five year period. You create a repayment plan that details how you’ll repay your debts. The court reviews the plan and decides whether to approve it or not.

Your creditors have a say, too. If they don’t like what you’ve proposed, they can object to the court. The court is obliged to listen to your creditors but has the ultimate say in whether your repayment plan is approved or not. 

Depending on your situation, your payment plan might have you repay your debts in full or in part. 

Chapter 13 bankruptcy isn’t a get out of debt free card. You can’t include every type of debt in your repayment plan. For example, if you’re struggling to repay your student loans, you’ll want to explore other options besides bankruptcy. Bankruptcy doesn’t wipe out student debt.

The same is true for:

If you have a mortgage or car loan and you want to keep the asset, you can continue to make payments on either loan while in the repayment plan. A Chapter 13 repayment plan can also help you get caught up if you’re behind on these types of loan.


Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 isn’t the only bankruptcy option out there. Depending on your situation, Chapter 7 bankruptcy might be a better choice. 

Chapter 13 is a type of reorganization bankruptcy, while Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy. If you file Chapter 7, you usually have to sell some assets to pay off your debts. 

There are notable differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

  • Who Can File. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are open to individuals. Businesses might also file Chapter 7, but can’t file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 11, which is similar to Chapter 13, is another option for businesses.
  • Income Requirements. Chapter 7 bankruptcy has income limits for individual filers. You need to have income below a certain threshold or you need to pass a means test, which shows that your disposable income isn’t sufficient to repay your debts. Chapter 13 doesn’t have a means test but does require you to have a source of income.
  • Debt Limits. According to the Bankruptcy Code, you can file Chapter 13 only if your unsecured debts are less than $394,725 and your secured debts are less than $1,184,200. These limits may change over time, so refer to the Bankruptcy Code for up-to-date figures.
  • What Happens to Your Property. If you file Chapter 7, you usually have to sell assets and property to pay off your debts, with the exception of your primary home, car, and other essential items. You can also keep your home and other property if you file Chapter 13, since you’re making a plan to repay your debts.
  • How Long the Process Takes. Chapter 7 typically takes a lot less time than Chapter 13. Once everything’s liquidated, it’s over. Usually, that’s after a few months. Chapter 13 can take as long as five years, depending on your payment plan. 
  • Impact on Your Credit. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years. Chapter 13 bankruptcies stick around on your credit report for seven years. In either case, you can start to rebuild your credit after filing bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is another type of reorganization bankruptcy. But, unlike Chapter 13, Chapter 11 is usually reserved for big corporations or partnerships. When you hear about a company filing for bankruptcy, but not going out of business, it’s usually filing Chapter 11.

When a corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it needs to create a repayment plan and that plan needs to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

You might file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as an individual if you’re not eligible for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. For example, if you have too much debt to file for Chapter 13, Chapter 11 might be your best bet. The same is true if you don’t have a source of income.


Should You File for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy isn’t something you rush into or a decision to take lightly. The process can be complicated and time consuming. It can also do a number on your credit. Some people are better off avoiding it.

But for some people, bankruptcy is the best way to get out of a financial hole and to start the credit rebuilding process. If you’re behind on payments and are struggling to keep afloat, the impact of bankruptcy on your credit score probably won’t be that terrible, as paying late has already damaged your credit. 

Whether Chapter 13 is right for you depends on the type of debts you have, your income, and the overall impact on your financial life. 

  • You Have Regular Income. You need to have regular monthly income to qualify for Chapter 13. If you have income and the difference between your earnings and your obligations isn’t enough, Chapter 13 can help you out.
  • You Own a Home and Car. If you’re at risk of foreclosure or are behind on your mortgage or car payments, Chapter 13 gives you an out. You can usually keep your primary home and vehicle — and possibly other vehicles and real estate — under Chapter 13. 
  • You Have Eligible Unsecured Debts. If you have medical bills, credit card debt, or personal loans, filing Chapter 13 can mean you end up with a more manageable monthly payment. 
  • You Have Few If Any Priority Debts. Priority claims or debts include alimony, child support, and student loans. Bankruptcy doesn’t eliminate these debts.
  • You Can Repay Based on Your Payment Plan. Critically, you need to be able to pay based on the plan the court approves. If you miss payments, the court could dismiss your bankruptcy and force you to sell assets.
  • You’re Really Struggling to Make Ends Meet. Think of filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy as pressing a big, red emergency button. It’s not something you press when you’re experiencing a temporary setback or when there are other options to help you pay your debts, such as getting a side hustle or finding ways to trim expenses. Only file for bankruptcy if as a last resort.

Eligibility for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

You’re eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you have regular income and your debts aren’t above the limits for unsecured or secured loans. Beyond that, there are additional requirements.

  • You Need to Provide Tax Returns. You need to file tax returns and be current on your tax payments.
  • You Can’t Have a Recently Dismissed Bankruptcy. You’re not eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if you had another bankruptcy dismissed within 180 days for failure to comply.
  • You Can’t Have Recently Filed for Bankruptcy. If you filed for Chapter 13 before, the discharge, or end of the bankruptcy, can’t have been within two years. If you filed for another type of bankruptcy, such as Chapter 7, the discharge can’t have been within the past four years.
  • You Need to Complete Credit Counseling. You must complete credit counseling to be eligible for a discharge under Chapter 13. 

The Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Process

Once you’ve decided to go forward with Chapter 13, consider hiring a bankruptcy lawyer to help you through the process. There are many steps involved and a lot of paperwork required too. Your attorney ensures you have the documents needed to file and can help speed up bankruptcy proceedings.  

1. Filing

The first step is to submit the required documents and forms to the bankruptcy court. You need to give the court the following:

  • A list of your assets and debts
  • A list of your current income and expenses
  • A list of current leases and contracts, such as an apartment lease or cell phone contract
  • A statement of your financial affairs

You also need to submit a copy of your most recent tax return, plus any tax returns you filed during the case. 

Along with submitting the right forms and information when you file your bankruptcy petition, you also need to pay a case filing fee and a miscellaneous administrative fee. You can pay these in up to four installments, if necessary.

Once you’ve filed your bankruptcy petition, the court appoints someone as your bankruptcy trustee. The trustee is an impartial individual who oversees your case. You make payments to the trustee and they disburse the payments to your creditors.

Filing the petition also creates an automatic stay, meaning your creditors can’t pursue the debts anymore. The stay also applies to any co-signers on your debts.

2. Credit Counseling Course

When you file for bankruptcy, you need to provide the court with evidence that you completed a credit counseling program through an approved agency. The U.S. Department of Justice has a list of approved credit counselors. The credit counseling needs to be within 180 days of your filing.

The goal of counseling is to determine if you earn enough to qualify for Chapter 13. Counseling also verifies that bankruptcy is the right thing to do. If it isn’t, your counselor will point you toward other options, such as cutting expenses or earning more money.

During your counseling, you might work on creating a debt repayment plan with the agency. If that’s the case, you should submit a copy of the repayment plan to the court when you send in your bankruptcy petition.

3. Debt Repayment Plan

You can submit a repayment plan with your bankruptcy filing. If you don’t, you have 14 days after the filing to send one to the court. Under the plan, you make fixed payments to the trustee, the individual assigned by the Justice Department to oversee your case. These payments may be either monthly or biweekly. 

Based on the type of debt you have, your plan might include the following claims:

  • Priority. Priority debts include federal student loans, child support, alimony, and tax debts. You need to pay these back in full
  • Secured. A secured debt is any debt with collateral behind it, such as a mortgage or car loan. If you want to keep the asset connected to the debt, you need to pay the loan back in full. You can continue to make payments on secured debts after the payment plan is over.
  • Unsecured. An unsecured debt, such as an unsecured personal loan or credit card, doesn’t have a claim to a specific piece of valuable property. As long as the unsecured creditors get as much as they would have if you liquidated the debt under Chapter 7, your repayment plan doesn’t necessarily have to pay off your unsecured debt in full.

Begin making payments to the trustee based on your repayment plan within 30 days after filing, even if the court hasn’t approved the plan yet.

4. Confirmation Hearing

At least 21 days after filing for bankruptcy, the trustee will call a meeting of the creditors. The meeting gives creditors and the trustee the chance to ask you more about your financial situation and the payment plan. It gives you a chance to work out any issues with the creditors before moving forward.

Within 45 days of the creditors meeting, a confirmation hearing needs to occur. During the hearing, a judge will decide if the plan is feasible and meets the bankruptcy code’s standards. Creditors receive notice of the hearing and can object to the plan’s confirmation.

At the hearing, the judge can do one of three things:

  • Confirm the plan
  • Request modifications to the plan
  • Dismiss the case

If the judge dismisses the case, you remain responsible for any debts. You can refile right away if the case was dismissed without prejudice. If it was dismissed with prejudice, you might have to wait to refile, as specified in the court order. In some cases, the judge might prohibit you from filing again.

5. Discharge

After the court confirms the repayment plan, it’s up to you, the debtor, to make payments as outlined. You can pay the trustee directly or set up payroll deductions, whatever is easiest for you. 

Failing to make payments can lead to your case being dismissed. The court can also convert the case to a liquidation bankruptcy if you don’t pay according to the plan.

Once you’ve made all the payments, usually within three to five years, your case can be discharged. To be eligible for discharge, you must have completed an approved financial management course and not had another bankruptcy discharge.

After discharge, you’re freed from any further obligations to your unsecured creditors. Chapter 13 bankruptcy discharge won’t wipe away your priority debts or your mortgage or other secured debts.


Final Word

Chapter 13 bankruptcy isn’t an instant pass to a debt-free life. You’ll need to pay back your creditors based on the repayment plan and you might still have some debt left after your discharge. 

But, depending on your financial situation, it could set you on the path to rebuilding your credit score and improving your financial footing. 

Before you decide to file for Chapter 13, talk to a credit counselor and a bankruptcy attorney to get familiar with your options and to see what’s best for your circumstances. It’s worth taking a little extra time to get this very important financial decision right.

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Amy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Her interest in personal finance and budgeting began when she was earning an MFA in theater, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country (Brooklyn, NY) on a student’s budget. You can read more of her work on her website, Amy E. Freeman.

Source: moneycrashers.com