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In-State Tuition: A Look at Establishing Residency

If you’re attending a public university that is not in your home state, establishing residency could help reduce the tuition bill. Though, establishing residency for the sole purpose of qualifying for in-state tuition can be very difficult.

Qualifying for in-state tuition can mean significant savings. According to the College Board , the average out-of-state tuition in the 2020 to 2021 school year was $27,020, whereas for the average in-state tuition the same year was $10,560.

Establishing Residency

Each state has their own requirements for establishing residency. Requirements can also vary based on the university, which can add confusion to the process. Here are some of the general requirements that states and universities usually require to determine residency:

•   Physical Presence. Most states need you to be a resident for 12 consecutive months before you qualify for in-state tuition. The time to establish residency could be more or less, depending on the state.

•   Intent. Students must prove that they are living in a state for more reasons than just attending school.

•   Financial Independence. Typically, students must prove they are financially independent in some way.

3 Tips for Establishing Residency

Establishing residency can be difficult, but with these tips and a little legwork, you may figure out how to become a resident of the state of your choosing, and as a result, possibly reduce your tuition bill.

1. Consider Relocation…Like Yesterday

Since most states require you to be a resident for 12 consecutive months, it makes sense to relocate as soon as you can. If you are currently enrolled in a school, and are hoping to establish residency, this could mean spending your summers on-campus or at the very least in that state.

You’ll generally have to cut ties to your home state too. This means things like changing voter registration, renting or buying property, and paying income taxes in your new state.

2. Boost Your Reasons for Moving

You’ll need to prove the reason you moved to the state wasn’t solely for getting in-state tuition.

There are a few things you can do to help prove intent:

•   get a new driver’s license

•   register a vehicle

•   get a state hunting and/or fishing license

•   open a local bank account

•   get a local library card

On the other hand, having any of these things in your old state may make it more difficult to establish residency in your new state.

3. You May Have to Distance Yourself from Your Parents

One of the requirements for establishing residency is financial independence. This can make establishing residency extremely difficult for students between the ages of 18 and 22 who are planning on heading to college right after high school. Becoming an independent student before the age of 24 is challenging, both logistically and emotionally.

You may become an independent student before then if:

•   you are married

•   you are a veteran

•   you have dependents of your own

•   you are a legally emancipated minor

If you are a dependent student , it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of establishing residency on your own. It could mean delaying graduation and paying for college without any help from your family.

Alternatives to Establishing Residency

Establishing residency in a new state isn’t always the only option for getting in-state tuition. For some students, it can pay to go to school close to home — even if it’s out of their home state. Some states participate in regional reciprocity agreements that let students attend colleges in bordering states at a discount.

Here are a few examples:

1. New England Regional Student Program

Run by the New England Board of Higher Education, this program allows New England residents to enroll in out-of-state New England public colleges and universities at a discount. To be eligible for the program, students must enroll in an approved major that is not offered by the public colleges and universities in their home state.

This program includes six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

2. Midwest Student Exchange Program

Through the MSEP , public institutions agree to charge students no more than 150% of the in-state resident tuition rate for specific programs. Some private colleges and universities offer a 10% reduction on their tuition rates.

Participating states include: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. You can use its database to find colleges and universities participating in the program.

3. Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market

This program is similar to the New England Regional Student Program. It provides tuition-savings to students in the 16 SREB states who are interested in pursuing degrees that are not offered by their in-state institutions. Students are able to enroll in out-of-state institutions that offer their degree program, but they pay the in-state tuition rate.

Participating states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. You can use its database to find participating institutions.

4. Western Undergraduate Exchange

The Western Undergraduate Exchange is open to students from any of the 16 states that participate in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The program allows students to enroll as nonresidents in more than 160 participating public colleges and universities and pay 150% (or less) of the enrolling school’s resident tuition.

Participating states and territories include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

5. Exceptions for Students without Residency

Sometimes, residency rules are waived or are more lenient for students with special circumstances, including, veterans or the children of military personnel.

There is no single database of these exceptions, so if you think you may qualify for one, check with the colleges you are interested in to see whether there are any exceptions and how you can apply for them.

Types of Student Loans to Help Students Pay for College

Even if you’re able to establish residency in a new state and qualify for in-state tuition, you still may need help paying for college. Scholarships, grants, and work-study are generally aid that is not required to be repaid, which can be incredibly helpful. Beyond that, student loans are also an option. There are two major categories for student loans: federal and private.

Federal Student Loans for Undergraduate Students

Federal student loans are funded by the U.S. government and are subject to a set of standard rules and regulations. The interest rate on federal loans is fixed, which means it remains the same over the life of the loan. These interest rates are set annually by Congress.

Generally, there are two main types of federal student loans that may be available to undergraduate students — Direct Subsidized or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Recommended: Comparing Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized Student Loans

Direct Subsidized student loans are awarded based on financial need. The interest on these loans is paid for (or subsidized) by the U.S. Department of Education during the following periods:

•   While the student is enrolled in school at least half-time,

•   During the loan’s grace period, which is usually the first six months after the borrower graduates or drops below half-time enrollment,

•   And, during qualifying periods of deferment, which is a period of time when loan payments are paused.

Borrowers with unsubsidized loans are responsible for all of the interest that accrues on the loan, even while they are attending school.

To apply for a federal student loan, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Students interested in receiving financial aid must submit the FAFSA each year.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are borrowed directly from private lenders like banks or other financial institutions. These loans may have fixed or variable interest rates. Unlike the federal student loans available to undergraduate students, which do not require a credit check, private lenders will generally review a borrower’s credit history, among other factors, when making their lending decisions.

In most cases, private student loans are considered only after all other resources and aid options have been evaluated. This is because private lenders do not offer the same protections — such as income-driven repayment plans — to borrowers.

The Takeaway

Establishing residency can help a student qualify for in-state tuition, which could lead to serious savings in tuition costs. But, as noted earlier, establishing residency for the purpose of qualifying for in-state tuition, especially as a dependent student, can be extremely challenging. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states, which could be one alternative to look into.

Students who need help paying for college after factoring federal financial aid, including federal student loans may be interested in considering private student loans. SoFi offers student loans with no fees and the option to choose between four repayment plans.

Learn more about using a SoFi private student loan to pay for college.

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

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

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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Are You Bad with Money? Here’s How to Get Better

Think you may be bad with money? You’re not alone. A lot of people feel this way at one point or another. And considering that many of us haven’t had much guidance on how to be good with money, it’s understandable.

No matter what you do in life, managing your money is considered imperative to success. But as important as it is, money skills are not taught in many schools and may not be handed down by parents or family.

But rather than just assume (and accept) that you’re just “bad with money,” it can be important to figure out exactly where you may be going wrong.

So we’ve gathered some telltale signs that you may have some work to do when it comes to money management — plus some key tips and strategies that can help you get better with money.

4 Signs You’re Bad With Money

Sometimes the signs are clear, like getting multiple notifications for overdraft fees in a week. Sometimes, however, being bad with money is less obvious. Here are some red flags that can indicate you’re heading down the wrong financial path.

You Tend to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Even if you are able to pay your bills in full each month, if you’re often broke after paying them, it can be a sign that you’re not all that financially stable.

Whatever your income or budget is, it can be wise to always have at least a little bit of extra money to put into savings. If that extra doesn’t exist, then you could be walking a financial tightrope, where a major crisis could be waiting just around the corner.

You Don’t Have an Emergency Savings Fund

Not having a contingency fund (tucked away in a separate savings account) that can cover an unexpected expense, such as a medical bill, car repair, or sudden loss of income, is an indication that you’re living too close to the edge.

Although the specific dollar amount you should have in your emergency fund varies from person to person, many financial experts say you should try to have at least three months worth of living expenses set aside to cover the unexpected.

Without this cushion, a single large expense or loss of paycheck even for a couple of months could put you in a debt spiral that can be hard to get out from under.

You Only Make the Minimum Payment on Your Credit Cards

Paying the minimum on your credit cards may seem like you’re keeping up, but in reality you are gradually getting further and further behind.

If you don’t pay the card in full each month, every dollar you put on a card can end up costing you many times more in interest charges over time. Credit card debt that you can’t get rid of can be a clear sign that you’re not being as good with your money as could be.

You Often Overdraft Your account

If you’re gotten into the habit of spending almost everything you earn, it can be easy to overdraft your account. This often results in a high fee, which can make keeping up with your expenses even harder.

Overdrafts can also result from disorganization. Maybe you have the money, but didn’t transfer it over to your checking account in time. This can be a sign that you’re not keeping close enough tabs of your money.

Recommended: How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

How to Be Better With Money: 11 Tips

Becoming better at money management doesn’t have to happen overnight. In fact, the best approach to lasting change is often to take one small step at a time. This can be much easier to do and, as you start to see the rewards (more money, less stress), you will likely be inspired to keep going.

The following tips can help put you on the path to being good with money.

1. Setting Some Specific Money Goals

You likely have a few things you’d like to do in life that having enough money can help you accomplish. Maybe you want to take a great vacation next year, buy a home in a few years, or retire early.

Setting some concrete financial goals, both for the short- and long-term, can give you something to work towards — or, in other words, a reason to be better with your money.

Recommended: What is Financial Therapy?

Need a way to manage your money?
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2. Tracking Your Cash Flow

In order to get better with money, it can help to know exactly where you currently stand.

You can do this by gathering all your financial statements for the past several months, and then adding up all of your after-tax income to see how much is coming in each month.

Next, you can tally up how much you are spending each month. To do this, you may want to make a list of all your spending categories and then come up with an average amount you’ve been spending on each.

You may find it helpful to actually track your spending for a month or two, either by journaling or using an app that tracks spending right on your phone.

Ideally, you’ll want to have more coming in than going out each month. That means you have money you can siphon off into saving and investing, which can help you build wealth over time.

3. Coming Up With a Budget Method That Works for You

Once you have a clear picture of what’s coming and going out each month, you can create a plan for how you want to spend your money moving forward — in other words a budget.

While budgeting may sound onerous, it’s simply a matter of going through your expenses, seeing where you may be able to cut back, and then coming up with target spending amounts for each category.

One budgeting framework that may help you get started is a 50/30/20 budget breakdown. The idea is that 50% of your after-tax income should go to necessities, 30% goes to fun spending or “wants,” and 20% goes to savings goals.

These percentages may not work for everyone, especially if you live in an area with a high cost of living, but they can give you a general rule of thumb as you get started with budgeting.

Recommended: Determining The Right Budget Categories

4. Curbing Impulse Purchases

If you tend to shop without a plan, it can be easy to grab this and that without realizing how quickly these small costs can add up. A perfect example is going grocery shopping. But the same thing can happen if you are mindlessly browsing shops at the mall or online.

Making a list–and sticking to it — whenever you shop can help you avoid overspending. If you see something you really want but you weren’t planning to buy, it can be a good idea to put the purchase on pause for a day or two.

Once you have a cool head and a fresh perspective, you can then ask yourself if you’ll actually use this item and if you can afford it, meaning you can pay cash for it now. If not, it may be a good idea to skip it.

5. Thinking About Larger Spending Cuts

There are only so many lattes you can skip or cents per gallon you can save by heading to the cheaper gas station around the corner. So when you’re trying to find places to save money in your budget, you may also want to think bigger.

For example, you might decide to ditch your car in favor of biking to work — a move that means you save not only what you’d be spending on gas each month, but also insurance, registration, and likely a monthly car payment. (And you might even be able to ditch your gym membership, with all that moving around!) Or, you might consider moving to a less-trendy neighborhood or getting a roommate to help split the rent and other household expenses.

While lifestyle changes might be harder to enact up front, once you commit to them, they can help you save large amounts of money on a regular basis.

6. Automating Your Savings

Building an emergency fund and saving for future financial goals are key steps toward fiscal wellness. So once you have graduated from being at risk of overdrafting your accounts, a great next step can be to automate your savings.

That means setting up an automatic transfer of money from your checking account (or wherever your money is deposited) to one or more accounts designated for saving. This can be done on a monthly (or bi-monthly) basis, and can be timed to happen right after your paycheck hits.

If saving is a chore that you have to remember to do every month, you may get busy and forget. Why not let technology do the heavy lifting for you?

7. Bringing in More Income

Do you feel like you’re cutting back on spending as much as possible, but not getting anywhere? You may need to work on earning more money.

How exactly you go about this goal is up to you, of course. Maybe this means sitting down with a boss and creating a path towards earning more money. Or, it could mean picking up some freelance work in your profession, or starting a side hustle (like pet-sitting or signing up with a ride-share or delivery app).

8. Listing All of Your Debts

Many bad financial habits are born from the easy access consumers have to money that isn’t theirs — and the need to pay those debts back, with interest.

As with budgeting, the first step in conquering your debts is knowing exactly what you’re up against. To get the big picture, you may want to create a computer spreadsheet (or just make a chart with pen and paper) and then list each source of debt that you currently hold.

This includes student loans, credit cards, car loans, and any other debts you may have. You may also want to include the loan servicer, the size of the debt, the interest rate, and the amount and date of the monthly payment on each debt.

9. Knocking Down Debt One at a Time

If you’re paying the minimum on more than one high interest credit card, you may want to focus on getting rid of one entirely. It could be the debt with the highest interest rate, or it might be the smallest overall balance, to give you the psychological victory of kicking a source of debt to the curb.

Whichever one you choose, you can then put as much extra money as you can towards the balance (principal) of that debt, while paying the minimum amount due on all the others. Once you pay that debt off, you can move on to the next one.

10. Avoiding More Credit Card Debt

Getting better at managing your money can be hard to do when you’re adding to your credit card balance. Credit cards are notoriously difficult to pay back when you’re only making the minimum payments, and can be nearly impossible if you’re doing that while adding to the balance.

So, you may want to use your newfound money management skills to find ways around going further into credit card debt. Maybe there are more cuts that can be made to your budget or some overall shifts in lifestyle that could help. No matter how you do it, it can be helpful to focus on spending only the money you actually have.

11. Contributing More to Your 401(k)

You might think saving for retirement is something you don’t really need to focus on until you’re older. But the truth is that the earlier you start, the easier it will generally be to save enough to retire well. That’s thanks to the magic of compounding interest, which is when the interest you earn on your money earns its own interest.

If your company offers a 401(k), it can be a good idea to contribute at least a small percentage of each paycheck. If your employer offers matching funds, you may want to take full advantage of this perk by contributing the max amount your company will match.

Recommended: When to Start Saving for Retirement

The Takeaway

You don’t have to master all of the above concepts right away. Becoming a person who is “good with money” is a journey.

Instead, you may want to start with one area and move on to the next as you feel you have mastered each financial tool.

Looking for Something Different?

One simple step that can make it easier to manage your money is to open up a SoFi Money® cash management account. With SoFi Money, you can earn, save, and spend all in one account. And, it’s easy to track your weekly spending right in the dashboard of the SoFi app.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you keep better tabs on your personal finances.

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Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank. SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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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 . The umbrella term “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.


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Scholarships and Grants to Pay Off Student Loans

Most of us know that you can apply for grants and scholarships to help offset the cost of college, but can you get a grant to pay off student loans once you’ve already graduated?

In short, kind of! Whether you didn’t get enough financial aid or simply bit off more than you could chew repayment-wise, there are grants and other loan repayment assistance options that function very much like scholarships to pay off student loans. You may also be able to have your student loans forgiven through certain state or federal programs.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Student Loan Forgiveness?

Student loan forgiveness programs pretty much do what they say on the tin: They forgive a borrower’s student loans, provided that borrower meets certain eligibility requirements, usually related to their career.

Student loan forgiveness is most often offered through state or federal governments. For example, if you have federal loans, your remaining balance may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years on certain income-driven repayment plans, depending on your payment plan and whether you meet all the requirements.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The well-known Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is offered to government employees and those who work for not-for-profit organizations who’ve made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for their qualifying employer.

Do be aware that PSLF has relatively strict requirements and if you don’t work in public service for the full 10 years, you may not see any benefits. PSLF has strict requirements for certifying employment. If you plan on pursuing PSLF, pay close attention to program requirements.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program can wipe out up to $17,500 of your Direct Loans, subsidized or unsubsidized, if you teach full-time for five consecutive years at a qualifying low-income school. Did you borrow a Perkins loan? You may be eligible for Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation.

State Programs and Incentives

Additionally, New York offers loan forgiveness to Child Welfare Workers, and California offers loan repayment grants to Registered Nurses working in underserved areas.

Some states even offer incentive programs that aren’t tied to specific careers — and although they may not be student loan repayment grants specifically, they could still help free up some money to make ends meet and repay those debts.

For example, Maine offers loan assistance to some taxpayers living in the state through their innovative Opportunity Maine tax credit. Tulsa Remote , a program in Oklahoma, offers remote workers who move to the city a $10,000 cash grant to put toward buying a home. To see all of the state specific loan repayment programs, check out SoFi’s state by state breakdown.

Also note that many of these programs only apply to federal student loans, so if you have private student loans you may need to look for other solutions when it comes to getting help with repayment.

Can You Get a Grant to Pay off Student Loans?

Another strategy you can use when searching for grants to pay off student loans after graduation is to look for career-based grants. Grants based on your chosen specialty field can offer some serious savings on student loans.

Grants for Doctors, Nurses, and Other Healthcare Professionals

Medical professionals, listen up: you may qualify for special grants designed to ease your student loan burden, including the debt you racked up in grad school.

In the medical field, qualifying professionals can take advantage of a grant of up to $50,000 to pay off student loans if they agree to work in a high-need area through the National Health Service Corps .

If you’re a nurse, you may be eligible to pay off 85% of your student loan debt with grants available through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program if you work at a qualifying non-profit or in a high-need area.

Getting ready to graduate from medical or dental school and worried about your loans? The Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program offers up to $120,000 in grants to repay student loans to qualifying students who agree to work in an area experiencing a medical professional shortage.

Grants for Teachers

Certain state-sponsored programs may help teachers pay off their student loans. For example, Maryland offers certain teachers, as well as other public servants, assistance of up to $10,000 a year to repay your student loans through the Janet L. Hoffman Loan Assistance Repayment Program (LARP) . It’s worth checking to see if your state has any specific student loan repayment programs for teachers.

Grants for Lawyers

There are similar programs available for lawyers who spend time working in public service. Public defenders and state prosecutors may be eligible for up to an aggregate total of $60,000 towards student loans through the John R. Justice Program .

Attorneys working for the Department of Justice may be eligible for grants to cover the costs of student loans through the Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program .

Grants for Veterinarians

Medical health professionals who work for our furred and feathered friends are important public servants, too! Through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program , veterinarians who work in certain NIFA-designated areas and situations where vets are in high demand can qualify for up to $25,000 per year in loan repayment assistance.

Grants for Researchers

Research scientists may also be eligible for up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance through the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) .

Corporate Loan Repayment Grants

Still looking for student loan repayment alternatives? You may be able to ask your boss!

Many companies now offer help with student loan repayment as a job perk. As more and more employees struggle with debt, employers have started to offer these benefit programs in order to attract and retain top-notch talent.

Wondering if your employer offers the same perks? Check with HR to see if you can take advantage of a company-wide loan repayment and/or grant program.

If you find a lower rate for student loan refinancing –
SoFi will match it AND give you $100.*

Student Loan Refinancing

One way to make both your public and your private loans more affordable is to consider student loan refinancing. Refinancing can potentially net you a lower interest rate which could potentially mean you spend less money in interest over the life of the loan.

Important note: Refinancing federal student loans would eliminate the loans’ eligibility for federal loan forgiveness programs and payment protections.

If refinancing seems like an option, consider SoFi. The application process can be completed online, with customer support available seven days a week. When you refinance with SoFi you’ll have access to member benefits like a discount on any additional loans borrowed and exclusive community events.

In the event you lose your job through no fault of your own, you could qualify for unemployment protection which would allow you to temporarily pause your loan payments.

The Takeaway

While most people think of grants as a way to help finance your education while you are in school, there are some options to help graduates pay for their student loans. Options may include state programs or incentives, or grants based on your career choice. Borrowers with federal loans may also consider forgiveness programs like PSLF, if they meet eligibility requirements.

Another option that may help borrowers spend less in interest is student loan refinancing. Though, as mentioned, refinancing a federal student loan eliminates it from all federal borrower protections, including federal loan forgiveness programs.

Interested in learning more about student loan refinancing? Check your rate in just two minutes to see how refinancing with SoFi could help you toward student loan repayment.

*Guaranteed Rate Match Offer: Your pre-qualified rate, and the rate match program itself, are conditional upon our verification of your application information, including verification of sufficient income to support an ability to repay. Eligible documentation of a competitor’s rate offer, issued within 30 days of your SoFi pre-qualified rate, will be determined at SoFi’s sole discretion and must be for the same loan amount and term. SoFi will only match rate offers for private student loan refinance products. The match will be on the rate, exclusive of all discounts. The $100 Rate Match Bonus is not available to residents of Ohio. To receive the $100 Rate Match Bonus, you must: (1) register and/or apply for a student loan refinance (2) provide documentation of an eligible competitive rate offer; (3) call at (855) 456-SOFI (7634) or chat on and follow the instructions to send in your proof of lower rate; (4) have and provide a valid US bank account to receive bonus; (5) complete Form W-9; (6) and meet SoFi’s underwriting criteria and book a student loan refinance with SoFi. Once conditions are met and the loan has been disbursed, you will receive your Rate Match bonus via automated clearing house (ACH) into your checking account within 30 calendar days. Bonuses that are not redeemed within 180 calendar days of the date they were made available to the recipient may be subject to forfeit. Bonus amounts of $600 or greater in a single calendar year may be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as miscellaneous income to the recipient on Form 1099-MISC in the year received as required by applicable law. Recipient is responsible for any applicable federal, state or local taxes associated with receiving the bonus offer; consult your tax advisor to determine applicable tax consequences. Additional terms and conditions may apply. SoFi may discontinue this program at any time.
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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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The Problems with Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

The Problems with Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

Life happens, which means sometimes you need cash fast, and you just don’t have it. Whether you need to pay for an emergency root canal or have unexpected home repairs, sometimes life just doesn’t wait for your next paycheck.

If you’ve spent some time researching how to access cash quickly, you might think that online payday loans are the answer. Lenders that offer payday loans typically promise you things like quick applications, no credit checks, and expedited approvals. They say you’ll get the cold hard cash you need the very next day. It’s an easy solution, and hey, what could possibly go wrong?

How Do Payday Loans Work?

Payday loans are so called because they’re meant to be paid back the next time you get a paycheck. They’re generally for small amounts, and don’t require collateral — or even necessarily a credit check — to get them.

The catch? Payday loans come at a price—and a high one, at that. They can have interest rates of more than 600%, depending on the lender you choose and which state you’re in. (Some states have stronger protective laws, including rate caps, than others.)

Such high interest rates, not to mention other associated fees, can quickly lead to situations where you end up getting behind on the loan and have to borrow more and more in order to pay it back — especially since each loan might come due in only two weeks or a month. Soon you’re in a hole so deep you might not know how to get out. It can be costly, greatly damage your credit, or even lead to bankruptcy.

How Much Does a Payday Loan Cost?

The short answer: a lot. But let’s look at an example.

Say you take out a $500 payday loan at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 300%. You would only pay that full 300% if you took a whole year to pay the loan off, because the APR is what you would be charged in interest over 12 months.

However, even if you only borrow money for one month, you’d have to pay 1/12 of 300%, which translates to 25%. Here’s where the math gets ugly: 25% of $500 is $125, which means that when your loan comes due at the end of its very short term, you’ll owe $625 — which might be pretty tough to meet, especially if you’re in a situation where you needed a payday loan in the first place.

What Is a Direct Payday Loan?

Payday loans are offered by a wide variety of vendors, but mainly, they all break down into two categories: direct payday loans and those offered through a broker.

Direct payday loans are those wherein the entire loan process, from application to funding to repayment, is all managed by the same company. Although these can be slightly better than indirect loans — which may involve multiple fees, longer funding wait times and harder-to-pin-down communication — they’re still a bad idea in general.

Why Is it Best To Avoid Payday Lending?

Other than the possibility that you can get money quickly if you have bad credit, there aren’t many benefits associated with payday loans. You’ll end up paying a significant amount in interest, and you’re usually expected to pay the money back in a very short period of time — usually not more than 90 days, but two weeks on average.

The interest on your loan can also compound daily, weekly, or monthly. This means that interest charges will start accumulating on the interest you already owe, which will inflate your loan balance even more.

Depending on how much you borrowed and your financial situation, compounding interest can make it incredibly difficult for you to pay back the loan. Many times borrowers end up taking out additional loans to pay off the payday loan, which can lock them into a seemingly endless cycle of debt.

You’re also unlikely to be able to borrow a large amount of money because payday and fast cash loan lenders typically have low maximum borrowing amounts.

Just to twist the knife, you won’t even be building your credit if you do manage to pay the loan back on time, because most of these lenders don’t report your behavior back to credit bureaus. In contrast, above-board lenders will report back to credit bureaus when you’re paying your bills on time and in full, and that can boost your credit score.

What Are Some Alternatives to Payday Loans?

While in an ideal world, you’d avoid any kind of consumer debt, sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. Still, there are financially favorable alternatives to consider before you sign up for a dangerous payday loan.

Paycheck Advance

The best kind of money to borrow is money you’ve already earned. While not every employer offers it, a paycheck advance can be a relatively low-risk way to fund last-minute emergencies. An advance on your paycheck basically means getting paid earlier than you normally would, with the balance deducted from your future paycheck.

But tread carefully: many employers offer paycheck advances through apps and platforms that may assess a one-time fee, or even charge interest. While the rates may not be as astronomical as payday loan rates, it’s still worth taking a second look at the paperwork to ensure you understand what you’re signing up for ahead of time.

Debt Settlement

Another option is debt settlement, which is where you offer a creditor a lump sum payment on a delinquent debt — a lump sum that often ends up being far less than the original amount you owed.

However, doing this does require some negotiating, and sometimes even some legal know-how, which is why many people seek the help of professional debt settlement companies. This, too, is tricky, because scams abound, and some debt settlement companies may try to charge exorbitant fees to “eliminate your debt,” all without actually doing any work on your behalf. The FTC has more information on debt settlement and how to look for a reliable firm, if you choose to go this route.

Personal Loans

Many personal loans are unsecured loans — meaning no collateral is involved — that can be used to pay for just about anything. And although they tend to have higher interest rates than secured loans, like mortgages or auto loans, those rates are still much lower than payday loans.

With its lower interest rate and longer term, a personal loan will likely cost you less money than a payday loan in the long run. And some online personal loan lenders can process your application quickly and even get you the money you need in a matter of days.

Unlike payday loans, you have to go through a credit check to qualify for a personal loan. However, if you have a steady income and meet the lender’s eligibility requirements, you’re likely to qualify for a lower interest rate than you would if you used an online payday loan.

Your repayment timeline may probably be much less stressful if you opt for a personal loan rather than a payday loan. Personal loans come with the option of longer terms — a few years instead of a few months.

And because you can pay your loan off over a longer term, your monthly payments might be more manageable than a payday loan. There also tend to be fewer fees attached to personal loans, and you might be able to borrow more because personal loans have higher loan maximums.

Personal loans aren’t much more difficult to apply for than payday or fast cash loans. You can typically get pre-qualified online by answering a few questions about your income, financial history, and occupation.

The Takeaway

Of course, it’s always important to repay debts on time and in full to avoid late fees and exorbitant interest charges, but a personal loan is generally more manageable than a payday loan would be.

If you need cash fast, but you want to borrow money from a reputable lender without risking out-of-control interest payments, a SoFi personal loan might be right for you. Learn more today.

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

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Swimming Pool Installation: Costs, Ideas, and Tips

If, as they say, the American Dream is to own your own home, then the sensational sequel, for many people, is to have your own swimming pool installed.

Few other home improvements have the same potential to turn a property into an oasis for parties, playtime for the kids, or simply hanging out and spoiling yourself.

But paying someone to build that backyard paradise could become a nightmare without the right swimming pool financing in place. (Unless you happen to have $30,000 to $60,000 lying around, of course. That’s the average cost of adding an inground pool.)

How to Finance a Swimming Pool

If you don’t have enough saved to pay upfront for a pool — or even if you do — you might be wondering what types of loans or other options are appropriate for this type of backyard remodel.

There are several pool financing choices available to homeowners — including personal loans and cash-out refinancing; home equity loans and home equity lines of credit; or credit cards and options offered through a pool company.

Before you take the plunge into financing a pool, you may want to consider the pros and cons of each type, including the overall costs of borrowing and whether you might qualify for a particular type of loan. Understanding some of the different ways you can finance a pool can help you decide what’s right for you. So, take a deep breath — we’re diving in.

Using a Cash-Out Refinance to Pay for a Pool

Homeowners who have enough equity built up in their house may want to check into doing a cash-out refinance.

With this strategy, borrowers replace their existing mortgage with a new mortgage for a larger amount. Then, they can use the lump-sum of cash they get back to pay for a pool (or pretty much anything they want).

Pros of a Cash-Out Refinance

When interest rates are low (as they are now), a cash-out refinance can have a few benefits.

•   Eligible homeowners typically can borrow up to 80% of their home’s equity, which could be enough to cover the cost of putting in a pool — and maybe even some extras, like a new barbecue or lounge chairs.

•   Borrowers with good or improved credit, or those who bought their home when interest rates were higher, may be able to refinance to a lower interest rate.

•   A mortgage interest tax deduction may be available on a cash-out refinance if the money is used for capital improvements on your property. (Consult with a tax professional for more details as they apply to your situation.)

Cons of a Cash-Out Refinance

There are some downsides to going the refi route, including:

•   Borrowers must go through the mortgage application process all over again to get a new loan, which usually means submitting updated information, getting an appraisal, and waiting for approval.

•   If your credit isn’t great (maybe your credit cards are maxed out from other improvements), you may not be able to get the new loan.

•   Borrowers may have to pay closing costs, generally from 2% to 6% of the total loan amount. (That’s the old loan plus the lump sum that’s being added.)

•   If the term on the new mortgage is longer than the remaining term on the original loan, it could mean more years of making payments (and paying more in interest overall).

•   Your mortgage is a secured loan, which means if you can’t make your payments, you could risk foreclosure.

Using a Home Equity Line of Credit to Finance a Pool

Another way borrowers can use their home’s equity to finance a pool is to take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that uses your home as collateral. It works much like a credit card in that:

•   The lender gives you a credit limit to draw from, and you only repay what you borrow, plus interest.

•   As you pay back the money you owe, those funds become available to you again for a predetermined “draw” period. (Usually 10 years.)

Pros of a HELOC

Here’s why a HELOC can be a popular way to pay for home improvements:

•   Borrowers only pay interest based on the amount they actually borrow, not the entire amount for which they were approved, as you would with a regular loan.

•   The interest rates are generally lower than credit cards and unsecured personal loans.

•   The interest on HELOC payments might be tax deductible, according to IRS rules , if the funds were used to “buy, build, or substantially improve your home.”

•   A HELOC may be easier to obtain than some other types of loans, and the costs might be lower.

Cons of a HELOC

Just as with a credit card, if borrowers aren’t careful, a HELOC can become problematic. Here’s why:

•   HELOCs generally come with a variable interest rate, which means when interest rates increase, the monthly payments could go up. Although there may be a cap on how much the rate can increase, some borrowers might find it difficult to plan around those fluctuating payments.

•   HELOCs are easy to use — and overuse. Some of the same things that can make a HELOC appealing (easy access to cash, lower interest rates, and tax-deductible interest) could lead to overspending if borrowers aren’t disciplined.

•   Adding a HELOC could affect your ability to take out other loans in the future. When lenders are deciding whether to offer a loan, they look at a borrower’s existing debt load. If you add a HELOC to a mortgage, car loans, and maybe some credit cards and other debt, it could appear to increase the risk that you won’t be able to make payments.

•   Just as with a cash-out refinance, the borrowers’ home is used as collateral, which means the lender could foreclose if something happens and you can’t make your mortgage payments.

Using a Home Equity Loan for Pool Financing

A home equity loan is yet another way to tap into the money you’ve already put into your home. But unlike a HELOC, borrowers receive a lump sum of money.

Pros of a Home Equity Loan

Home equity loans have a few positives that make them worth considering for financing a swimming pool.

•   Unlike HELOCs, which typically come with a variable interest rate, home equity loans usually have a fixed interest rate. The borrower can expect a reliable repayment schedule for the duration of the loan.

•   Because it’s a secured loan, the lender may consider it a lower risk, so the loan may be easier to get and the interest rate may be lower than other options.

•   And, once again, there is a potential tax break. If the loan is used for capital improvements to the home, the interest may be deductible.

Cons of a Home Equity Loan

There are two main downsides to a home equity loan.

•   Borrowers may run into a long list of fees when closing on a home equity loan. Some aren’t that high, but they can add up.

•   Borrowers might put their home at risk for foreclosure if they can’t make their loan payments.

Using a Personal Loan

You don’t necessarily have to tap into your home’s equity to finance a swimming pool. Financial institutions offer unsecured personal loans that can be used for this purpose.

If you haven’t owned your home for long, or if your home hasn’t gone up much in value while you’ve owned it, a personal loan may be an option. Here are some pros and cons:

Pros of a Personal Loan for Pool Financing

Applying for an unsecured personal loan can be a much more straightforward process than getting a secured loan.

•   With a personal loan, borrowers don’t have to wait for a home appraisal or wade through the other paperwork necessary for a loan that’s tied to their home’s equity. There generally are fewer fees. And if the loan is approved, you may get your money faster.

•   Because your home isn’t being used as collateral, the lender can’t foreclose if you don’t make payments. (That doesn’t mean the lender won’t look for other ways to collect, however.)

Cons of a Personal Loan for Pool Financing

Cost is the big factor when comparing personal loans to other borrowing options.

While it may be easier and less expensive upfront to get an unsecured personal loan, interest rates may be higher for this type of loan than a loan that requires collateral. However, borrowers who have good credit and don’t appear to be a risk to lenders still may be able to obtain loan terms that work for their needs.

Should You Finance a Pool?

Installing a pool is an expensive home improvement, so you may want to (or have to) borrow some money to pay for all or part of the project.

If you do decide to borrow, it’s pretty easy to go online and research multiple lenders to find the best loan terms for you. Once you’ve estimated how much money you may need, you can shop lenders to find the best interest rate and loan length, and to get an idea of how much your monthly payments will be. You also can check on all the upfront costs of getting the loan. If timing is important, you also can ask how quickly you’ll find out if you qualify and how long it might take to get your money.

The Takeaway

If you’re considering using a loan or line of credit to pay for your pool project, there are several financing options.

Applying for a personal loan tends to be a simpler process than what might be required for other types of loans — and you won’t have to use your home as collateral. Another plus: Online personal loans, like those available through SoFi, can be ready in just a few days. But each type of financing has some pros and cons, so it can be useful to shop around and see what would work best for you.

Pool Financing FAQs

Q: What credit score is needed for pool financing?

A: Every lender has its own process for evaluating a borrower’s creditworthiness — and different types of loans can have varying requirements. If your credit score is in the fair range (below 670) you still may qualify for a personal loan with some lenders. But the better your credit, the better the chances are that you can qualify for more types of loans, lower interest rates and/or a higher loan amount.

Q: Is it smart to finance a pool?

A: Borrowers who have enough cash saved to pay upfront for a pool may still want to consider financing all or a part of their purchase if they want to keep that cash accessible for emergencies and other needs. Financing with a low-interest loan (when you can afford the payments) can make paying for a pool manageable. But before you borrow a large sum, you may want to consider how long you plan to live in your current home, how much pool maintenance might cost each month, if you’ll actually use the pool enough to make it a worthwhile purchase, and if the value added to your home is worth the investment.

Q: How hard is it to get pool financing?

A: A lot depends on your credit and how much you hope to borrow. Lenders want to be certain borrowers can pay their loans. If you have a track record of making late payments, or if you already have a high debt-to-income ratio, it may be difficult to qualify for a pool loan. You may choose to wait until your financial situation improves before you apply for a loan.

Q: Don’t pool companies usually offer financing?

A: Yes, but that financing likely will come from a financial institution the pool company works with — not the pool company itself. If you get a loan offer through a pool company, compare the rates and other terms to those offered by a few lenders before signing on the dotted line.

Q: What about using a credit card?

A: If you’re only financing a portion of the pool’s cost, you could consider using a card with a low- or zero-interest introductory rate. But if you can’t pay off the balance during the introductory period and the rate flips to a higher rate, financing the entire amount or even a chunk of the cost could get expensive.

Q: How long is the typical pool loan?

A: The length will depend on the type of loan you choose and could range from a few years (for a personal loan) to decades. Borrowers can shop for a repayment pace that suits their needs when they research pool loans.

Ready to dive in? Explore SoFi’s personal loans and see if we can help you build the pool of your dreams.

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

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
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.
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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