7 Tips for Improving Your Financial Health

Poor financial health can linger like a stubborn cold that just won’t go away. Plenty of fluids and rest might get someone back in fighting shape, but there’s no single cure that’ll bring someone’s finances back to good standing. However, that doesn’t mean throwing in the towel.

Staying in good financial standing means a stronger credit score, peace of mind, and often better terms when applying for loans in the future.

Improving financial health takes time, effort, and often multiple strategies. Take a cue from these seven tips below to help kick that financial cold once and for all.

Making a Budget

For most, the idea of budgeting brings a sense of dread. Budgets conjure the image of fewer meals out, clipping coupons, and generally saying “no.” But in reality, a budget is a tool for efficiency.

It could help determine how much to spend and save in a month, and might actually create a sense of freedom. It might help eliminate that stomach ache that arrives each month when the credit card bill comes in the mail. One way to start budgeting is to collect the previous month’s spending in a single place. Think of it like the Marie Kondo method.

Pull everything out all at once into one big pile to get an idea of each month’s spending patterns and income—taking note of multiple bills for rarely used streaming services might “spark” a budgeter to unsubscribe and save a few bucks a month.

This spending information could be found in bank statements or credit card bills or might need to be logged manually depending on how much cash a person uses. Budgeting might include the following financial information, but this is in no way an exhaustive list:

•   Credit card statements and debt
•   Education loans
•   Car loans and additional expenses, including fuel, insurance, etc.
•   Health care insurance premiums
•   Rent/mortgage, including home or renter’s insurance
•   Utilities
•   Monthly food expenses
•   Child care, child support, or related family obligations
•   Additional transportation (excluding a car)
•   Savings/investments, such as a 401(k), an IRA, or automatic savings deductions
•   Average monthly income from pay stubs or bank account statements

With this information, a budgeter can get a general sense of net expenses month over month. Do months generally net out positive or negative? Is there money left over or is it a close call?

This might be the toughest part of the budgeting process, and once it’s in the rearview, creating a simple budget moving forward could make all the difference. Every budget will look different for every person, but one guideline to keep in mind is the popular 50/30/20 budget.

This budget dictates that:

•   50% of post-tax income goes to essential spending. This includes finances that are required, such as rent/mortgage, groceries, health insurance, and utilities.
•   30% of post-tax income goes to discretionary spending. This is spending that a person could cut if they were in a pinch. It includes things like dining out, Netflix memberships, and fitness classes.
•   20% of post-tax income is dedicated to savings. This money is put toward future spending, whether that be retirement contributions, emergency savings, or larger loan payments.

Sticking close to the 50/30/20 budget at the outset could help illuminate blind spots in spending. It might reveal that a budgeter is spending too much on dining out, going far beyond the 30% discretionary spending.

Or it may show that essential spending, like astronomical monthly rent, doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the 20% savings. Expenses and spending habits might wax and wane with the seasons, but that’s no excuse to keep a person from establishing a budget.

It’s a good idea to start with a budget that’s simple to maintain and easy to stick with but still helps manage money and improve financial health.

Paying Off Debt

The amount of debt a person carries can have a pretty big impact on their overall financial health. Thirty percent of a person’s credit score consists of how much they owe in relation to their credit limits.

To stay in good financial health, it’s a good rule of thumb to use no more than 30% of the credit available.
If a borrower is trending above that 30% limit, they might make paying down debt a top priority to improve financial standing.

There’s no one right way to pay down money owed, but these are some popular strategies that could help eliminate debt faster:

Snowball Method

The snowball method starts small and grows as it picks up momentum. Debtors pay the minimum on all loans, regardless of interest rate and amount. From there, they’ll put any surplus cash in their budget toward paying off their smallest debt.

Once the smallest debt it paid, they’ll roll the amount of that monthly payment into the next smallest balance. This method continues, growing monthly payments toward larger loans as the smallest are eliminated. This method makes for wins early on, knocking out the little guys first, and growing toward those large or intimidating balances.

Avalanche Method

The avalanche method is nearly the reverse of snowball, focusing on interest rates of loans instead of balances. Budgeters ignore the total amount of each loan and prioritize repayment of the highest interest rate loan first.
Like the snowball method, they’ll pay the minimum on each loan every month, but they’ll put the surplus of their budget towards the high-interest bill.

Once the highest interest rate loan is paid down, budgeters will focus on the next highest interest rate, and so on. This method tackles the intimidating high-interest rates, then downshifts to the smaller loans. Like an avalanche, the method starts big, then peters off as it becomes easier to pay off low-interest loans.

Fireball Method

When someone can’t choose between the snowball and avalanche method, the debt fireball method may be the answer.
It’s a hybrid between the two strategies above, asking budgeters to sort between good and bad debt and focus on repaying bad debt first. Bad debt, like credit card debt, is debt that generally has a high-interest rate (above 7%).

Good debt, on the other hand, are things like a mortgage or student loans, they generally have lower interest rates and are good investments to make.

The general idea: Rank the bad debts from small to large based on balance. Make the minimum monthly payments on each debt, but use extra cash to pay off the smallest “bad” debts first.

Once the smallest is knocked out, pay attention to the next smallest, and so on until all bad debt is burned up. Then, budgeters need only to pay off “good” debts normally.

Without a plan to properly tackle it, debt can be crushing. However, once a person decides to torch, roll, or overwhelm their loans with a payment method, they’re in control.

Curbing Spending Habits

When spending money is as simple as swiping a card or tapping a phone, it’s no wonder impulse spending is out of control. While a couple of lattes or convenience store trips don’t feel expensive at the point of sale, they add up over time.

Prime orders make it easy to drop $20 here and $40 there, without leaving the comfort of home.
One way to curb these frivolous spending habits is instituting a “hold” period on all purchases.

Instead of hitting “buy now,” shoppers could consider waiting 24 hours, or even 72, before completing the purchase. Creating a waiting period eliminates that instant gratification dopamine rush and allows for logic and reasoning to take hold.

After the allotted waiting period, shoppers can return to the online cart or boutique to reconsider the purchase. They might just realize they don’t need it.

Automating Savings Transfers

Tackling financial health can be exhausting, and it wouldn’t be surprising if some habits fell through the cracks in the process. There’s a lot to keep track of, and that’s where financial automation can lend a hand.

Setting up an automatic transfer each month from checking to savings account means even the busiest budgeter won’t have to remember to do it manually.

Transferring an amount, even if it’s small, into saving each month might mean there’s less of a temptation to spend. Remember, saving a little is better than saving nothing at all. Making it automatic is one less thing for a busy person to remember.

Paying Bills on Time

Thirty-five percent of a credit score is based on payment history—it’s weighted more than any other factor. When it comes to improving financial health, paying bills on time can have a pretty significant impact.

One way budgeters can ensure timely payment is automating bill payment through a checking account or adding bill due dates to personal calendars. Even if a person can’t afford to pay a bill in full, they should pay the minimum amount due to avoid a penalty.

Starting an Emergency Fund

Only 40% of Americans say they’d be able to cover an unexpected expense totaling $1,000 or more. Without an emergency fund, people are forced to dip into their retirement savings or rack up credit card debt when unexpected finances arise.

A savings account could be set up using an automated savings transfer with a goal of saving $1,000 to start. This probably won’t happen overnight, and that’s okay. Even the smallest savings can build up over time.

Once a budgeter has $1,000 socked away in a savings account, they could start thinking big. With an eye on monthly expenses, they could aim to accrue three to six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account. It’s important these savings stay liquid for easy access in the event of an emergency.

Building up a robust emergency nest egg can create a sense of well-being when it comes to financial health. Budgeters can rest easy knowing they have savings set aside for whatever life throws their way.

Staying up to Date on Credit Reports

Checking a credit score is equivalent to an annual check-up at the doctor’s office. While negative factors such as late payments and collections can stick around on a credit report for up to seven years , they’ll impact a score less and less as time passes.

Pros recommended checking on credit scores at least once a year or more to stay on top of financial health. Federal law allows for one free credit report every 12 months, but budgeters looking to go above and beyond can also try major credit bureaus Experian , Equifax , and TransUnion for free annual credit reports, but not scores. You could also use a credit score monitoring tool like SoFi Relay.

Checking in on credit score regularly will give budgeters not only a sense of how their efforts to improve financial well-being are going, but they’ll also make it easier to find and dispute errors if they arise.
Think of regular check-ins on credit like progress reports on a person’s financial health.

Tracking Financial Wellness with SoFi Money®

Tackling all the steps to improve your financial well-being can be overwhelming, but with a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can track all your spending and saving with a single dashboard. You could set up automatic transfers to savings accounts for different goals, all while earning competitive interest.

With SoFi Money®, it’s easy to save, spend, and earn all in one place. Get started today.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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.
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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Tips for Creating a Financial Plan

It’s time to talk about the big picture for a minute, so close your eyes and imagine your future. What does it look like? Are you sitting poolside, sipping margaritas while someone else takes care of your property?

Maybe you’re in an apartment at the heart of New York City, within walking distance to all the greatest shows and restaurants. Or maybe you simply want to have enough money to fully retire—no part-time gig needed.

How to Create a Financial Plan

A financial plan is not just another word for budget or debt-reduction plan. It’s the long-term roadmap that could help make your vision a reality. The smaller pieces, like budgets and debt-payoff strategies, are tools to help you get there.

And whether you sit down with a financial planner or do it yourself, putting pen to paper and writing down not only what you want, but how you plan to get it, could help take it out of your head and make it real. (If you’re the creative type, you might even consider a vision board.)

Setting Your Goals

While everyone’s financial goals will be different based on their individual situation, these three tend to rise to the top of the list:

•   Having an emergency fund. Many recommend a goal of three to six months worth of living expenses. It might help cover those unexpected expenses that show up, or float you through a loss of income, without wrecking your plan.
•   Growing your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. Contributing at least as much to your 401(k) that your employer is willing to match at 100% is akin to doubling your money. Combine that with the magic of compound interest, and you could see your balance grow at a nice pace.
•   Getting rid of high-interest debt. It’s no secret that eliminating your credit card debt could not only save you thousands of dollars in the long run, it could also help improve your credit score.

While those are certainly important, they’re not the entire list. Some other financial goals that might make sense to you could include:

•   Getting (and keeping) good credit. If your dreams include large purchases, or even starting a small business, a bad credit score can be a deal-breaker. The minimum number needed to buy a home, for example, currently sits at around 620 for a conventional loan. (If you’re struggling with bad credit, there are ways to help increase your score.)
•   Paying off your student loans. If this is one of your financial goals, you likely share it with more than 44 million of your closest friends. And while a student loan is generally considered “good” debt, it still accrues interest. It’s also a potentially large chunk of money that could go toward other areas of your plan.
•   Living within your means. Conventional wisdom suggests you shouldn’t borrow more than you can afford. If you think you may need to borrow money, you could begin with a reality check to decide if you can afford to pay off the debt. If not, you may want to consider saving money until you can.
•   Saving for your kids’ education. No one can predict what the higher-ed landscape will look like when your kids are ready to start filling out applications. But we do know that the average costs for tuition and fees for a public college are hovering at just over $10,000 and are currently increasing at a rate of 3.1% over inflation .
•   Growing your investment portfolio. This might include items like your 401(k) and IRA, but it can also mean a foray into the world of stocks and mutual funds. Becoming a smart investor can not only be a goal by itself, but a way to achieve many of your other goals.

The goals that you choose as part of your financial plan may be on vastly different timelines, and you may need to accomplish one before you can move on to another.

One way to stay focused is to remember that you’re in it for the long haul, and huge changes probably aren’t to happen overnight (unless you win the Powerball, of course.)

Understand Your Resources

Knowing exactly what you have to work with might be one of the most important keys to building a plan that works. To put the entire puzzle together, though, you’ll need to find all the pieces.

One way to get started is to gather up all your paper and electronic bank statements, billing accounts, and portfolio documents. (You might also consider storing all your passwords in one place while you’re at it.

Because, let’s be real, remembering all your logins might be the hardest part of this whole process.) So, what are you looking for? The details on where your money is, how it’s moving, and whether it’s working for or against you. This might include:

•   Income: Salary, investment income, alimony, monetary gifts
•   Expenses: Bank debits, monthly billing statements, and other sources of everyday spending
•   Assets: Savings accounts, home equity, or physical items you own (your house, car, collectibles, etc.)
•   Liabilities: Credit card debt, student loans, mortgage(s), and any other sources of debt

The next step—categorizing spending—might be one of the most challenging due to the ever-changing nature of monthly expenses. (But you’ll likely thank yourself for putting in the work later.) An app like SoFi Relay® can give you a birds-eye view of your finances and let you track expenses all from one place.

However you choose to organize your finances, you might want to consider a method that feels natural rather than trying to force yourself into a pre-set structure. You might be more prone to let all your hard work go idle if you just don’t like the system.

Analyzing Outcomes & Exploring Alternatives

If the organization is the outline of your financial puzzle, then creating and analyzing your working plan is like filling in the center. If a piece doesn’t work one way, you can turn it around and try something different.

For example, if your 401(k) continues to grow at its current rate, and you continue to contribute the same amount each month, how much will you have at age 65? What if you push your retirement until age 67, or increase your risk-tolerance on your retirement accounts?

Or, if your debt will take too long to pay off using the snowball method, might another strategy work better? You could keep an eye out for areas in your plan that fall especially short and consider giving them some extra TLC.

With a lot of diligence and “if this, then that” tinkering, you may soon find yourself looking at a realistic, workable financial plan.

Looking for Help If You Need It

But if the picture just isn’t coming together, don’t forget that DIY doesn’t mean do it alone. If you look around, you’re likely to find quality, no- or low-cost expert advice that could help ensure you’re on the right track.

Your employer may offer access to planning tools, for example, as part of their employee benefits package. A number of low- or no-cost services may also be available to you, such as the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Association .

And, if you become a SoFi member, you’ll have complimentary access to financial planners.

Implementing the Plan

Did you think you’d get through an entire article on how to make a financial plan without one mention of the “b” word? Here it is—the part where you create a budget that helps you implement your plan.

If saving is your ultimate goal, one helpful way to create a solid budget is to track every cent to the penny. Understanding your spending habits could be an effective way to control them.

You might also want to stick to some of the basic tenets of personal finance, like paying your bills on time, keeping one eye on your credit report, and choosing your financial institutions wisely.

You could get your money growing quickly, for example, by setting up a SoFi Money® cash management account.

Monitoring and Reviewing

It’s been a few months since you implemented your financial plan, and so far, so good. But things may have changed a bit.

You paid off one credit card, so you need to reallocate that payment to the next debt. Or, a goal that used to be at the top of your list isn’t so important any more.

Reviewing your plan can mean not only making adjustments, but simplifying. This can include automating any new payments, consolidating new debts, or opting out of paper statements to reduce clutter.

Plus, having the right accounts can go a long way toward helping a person achieve their financial goals. Learn more about how SoFi Money can help.

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.
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.
Third Party Trademarks: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design), and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.
SoFi Relay is offered through SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor. For more information, please see our Form ADV Part 2A, a copy of which is available upon request and at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov . For additional information on SoFi Wealth LLC, SoFi Relay, and products and services of affiliates, see SoFi.com/legal.
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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Tips for Finding a Lost Bank Account

With all of the demands on your time, you could lose track of an old bank account. While that might sound outlandish, it can happen to the best of us.

In California alone, there is $9 billion worth of unclaimed property—this includes lost bank accounts, “uncashed checks, insurance policy money, stocks, safe deposit boxes, and other unclaimed cash.”

Sometimes it’s your own account that you’ve forgotten about. Other times it can be an account you inherited after the death of a loved one. Whatever the reason, once you realize you’ve misplaced a bank account, you’ll likely want to track it down.

Finding Old Bank Accounts

If you’ve lost track of money that belongs to you, don’t panic. Here are a few potential ideas for how to find lost money in bank accounts. It might take a little leg work, but finding the unclaimed money due to you can be worth it.

If you’ve accessed the account within the past year, you might be able to recover the account directly from the bank. Exactly how to recover a lost bank account number will likely vary based on the financial institution. Your account information can be found on checks and often on old account statements.

If it’s been longer than a year, you might have to dig a little deeper to recover a lost bank account. The best place to start in a quest for unclaimed property is through your state of residence’s unclaimed property division, usually run through the state treasury department.

Each state will have its own rules and regulations for how individuals should go about proving ownership of the unclaimed money. Most of the time the process starts with filling out an online form. Generally, states will require substantial evidence that the money rightfully belongs to you.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators operates MissingMoney.com, which is a multi-state directory that allows you to search by name for missing or unclaimed money. You could also search for missing money from a lost bank account on Unclaimed.org , which directs you to your state’s unclaimed property office.

If you belonged to a credit union in the past, it may be worth checking the unclaimed deposits listing run by the National Credit Union Administration.

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to provide proof of your address from decades past. If you’re claiming money on behalf of a deceased relative, you may need more than just a death certificate—sometimes a full probate court order is required. You could check with the local government to confirm the regulations in your state.

Be on the Lookout for Fraud

As you’re searching for lost bank accounts, you may find organizations that offer to find unclaimed money, generally for a fee somewhere between 10% and 20% of the amount recovered. AARP recommends avoiding any services that require payment upfront.

Be wary of any emails or letters you receive offering to return unclaimed property to you for a fee—these are generally scams.

If you encounter an organization or individual who claims to be a part of the government and offers to send you unclaimed money for a fee, these are also generally a scam. Government agencies will not contact individuals about unclaimed money nor will they charge a fee.

If you’re in need of assistance as you search for lost bank accounts, you could consider consulting your financial planner.

Some financial planners offer services to clients to help them look for unclaimed money that may be owed to them. Depending on the financial planner, these services may not even have an additional fee.

Other Sources of Unclaimed Money

Unclaimed money isn’t limited to lost bank accounts. There are a variety of reasons you could be missing money due to you—perhaps you switched jobs and lost track of a pension plan or 401(k). Maybe you forgot to update your address and missed a payment or tax refund.

Pension and Retirement Plans

If you previously worked for a company that offered a pension plan, you can search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s unclaimed pension database .

For lost or missing retirement plan funds, you could check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits , which is operated by PenChecks Trust, one of the largest providers of retirement plan distribution services.

Tax Refunds

If you suspect you are owed a missing tax return, you could use the online resource Where’s My Refund? , which is operated by the IRS. To use the tool, you’ll need to know your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status, and the exact amount of the refund.

The IRS recommends calling regarding a missing tax refund only when it has been more than 21 days since you e-filed or six weeks since you mailed in your tax return.

If you’re missing a tax return, know you are working on a deadline. You have just three years to claim a missing tax refund before the money becomes the permanent property of the U.S. government.

Rolling the Money Into Another Account

Once you’ve successfully tracked down your lost bank account or other unclaimed money, you might consider choosing a new bank or want to compare the different types of deposit accounts available to you.

Finding the right account for you is a personal choice. One option you could consider is a cash management account like SoFi Money®. SoFi Money offers easy money management and saving all in one.

With SoFi Money®, you’ll have instant access to your accounts anywhere you go. The account allows you to easily track your spending and savings so you can see your cash flow at any given moment.

And if you’re working toward a few savings goals simultaneously, you could set up individual financial vaults for each goal. Plus, there are absolutely no account fees (subject to change) associated with SoFi Money®.

As a SoFi member, you’ll also have access to other member benefits, like career counseling and the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a financial advisor who can help you create a personalized financial plan.

Want to make the most of your recently found money? Find out more about how a SoFi Money® account can help.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Pros & Cons of Living Cash-Only

When it’s time to split the bill at dinner with your friends, most people these days throw down a stack of credit cards. The world at large seems to be moving in the direction of plastic. About 30% of American adults say they don’t use cash at all to buy things in a typical week, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Meanwhile, the survey found that only 18% of respondents use cash for nearly all of their purchases. Some stores and restaurants have stopped accepting cash entirely, in some cases inviting municipal bans on the practice. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are transitioning to become nearly cashless societies.

But is the move away from cash really a good thing? Some people have decided to buck the trend and go in the opposite direction, opting for a cash-only existence. And when it comes to your own personal spending, is it better to rely on debit and credit cards or turn primarily to cash?

There’s no one answer to these questions—both methods come with advantages and drawbacks. If you’re trying to figure out whether living on a cash-only basis makes sense, here are the different factors you may want to consider:

Pros of Cash-Only Living

Spending money the old-fashioned way can offer some significant perks. Here are some benefits that come with using cash for all your transactions:

It Can Help You Budget and Save

Waving a credit card around can sometimes feel like magic. It can be easy to forget that you’re spending real money and to end up charging more than you intend. Using cash can help some people stick to a budget, supporting them to get out of debt or save more.

With cash, you can take out the amount you have to spend for a certain period of time, and when you’re out of bills, you’re done. Or you can set aside the amount you’ve budgeted in envelopes labeled with categories like “rent,” “food,” and “entertainment.” Using only the cash you’ve withdrawn can keep you from spending outside of those limits.

You Can Maintain Your Privacy and Security

Every debit or credit card transaction leaves a digital paper trail. You may not be keen on the idea of corporations keeping a record of everything you buy and when you buy it. An even more troubling concern is the potential for data leaks and identity theft.

In 2017, 143 million people had confidential personal information compromised in the data breach at Equifax, a major credit reporting agency. Identity theft, whether through digital loopholes, a lost credit card, or other means, is a widespread problem.

In 2018, more than 14 million Americans fell victim to identity theft. Using only cash is likely to make you less vulnerable to these security threats, since you will have less of a digital presence.

It’s Convenient

Sure, swiping a credit card can be faster than counting coins. But unlike credit cards, cash is accepted nearly everywhere, especially with more U.S. cities expanding legislation to ban cashless stores.

Instead of figuring out how to split a restaurant bill multiple ways using credit cards, you can just pay what you owe.

You Can Avoid Interest and Fees

Credit cards often come with extra fees. Some retailers charge extra to use a credit card since they have to pay for the transaction. Many credit cards also come with annual fees. Sometimes these fees are waived during the promotional period and can sneak up on you later.

If you don’t pay your credit card balance in full, you’re likely to end up paying exponentially more thanks to high interest rates. As of May 2019, the average credit card interest rate was 17.85% . And if you’re tardy with making payments, you may owe late fees as well.

Cons of Cash-Only Living

Using cash only can also have risks and disadvantages. Here are some of the drawbacks:

It Comes With Costs

Many ATMs charge fees for withdrawing cash, which can be troublesome if you find yourself suddenly out of money and need to use an ATM outside of your own bank.

By using credit cards instead of depending on ATMs, you may be able to avoid those costs. There also may be times when you need to mail a check (such as for rent or utility bills), since mailing cash is risky. Postage charges, however slight, can add up.

It Has Security Concerns of Its Own

Keeping cash on your person or in your home comes with vulnerability. You could be a victim of theft or your cash could be destroyed in a disaster. With no record behind it, the money is as good as gone. On the other hand, you can report a lost or stolen credit card and dispute any fraudulent charges.

You Miss Out on Perks

Some credit cards come with benefits—cash back or rewards points that can be redeemed for travel or other items. So if you pay in cash, you could be missing out on free money.

Credit cards may also come with perks that go beyond the financial, such as fraud protection, no foreign exchange fees, discounts at certain retailers and restaurants, or insurance for travel or car rentals.

You Fail to Build Up a Credit History

There’s something ironic about the way lenders look at credit history: If you haven’t borrowed much in the past, lenders may be reluctant to lend to you now.

Opening a credit card account is one way you can build up a credit history (other forms of credit, such as student or car loans, count as well).

A strong credit score is based in part on the average age of your account (the older the better), as well as a history of paying your bills on time and low debt relative to the amount of credit available to you.

Your credit score is an important factor if you’d like to take out a loan in the future, such as an auto loan or mortgage. If you always pay in cash, you may have trouble showing that you have the credit history to qualify.

SoFi Money to Help Bridge the Gap

If you like to pay in cash but still want to earn a return, SoFi Money® may be the right option for you. This is a cash management account where you can spend, save, and earn all in one place.

Additionally, you’ll have access to unlimited ATM fee reimbursements all around the world and there are no account fees (subject to change).

Plus, you can complete transfers and deposits on your mobile phone or send money instantly to other SoFi Money users. It takes just 60 seconds to open an account online.

Spend cash conveniently while paying no account fees with SoFi Money.

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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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Paying Off Credit Card Debt with a Personal Loan

People talk all day long about their workouts, favorite apps, and their love lives, but bring up the subject of money, especially credit card debt, and suddenly everyone clams up.

But just because we don’t talk about debt doesn’t mean it’s not an issue. After all, the average American household carrying a credit card balance has over $9,300 in credit card debt as of March, 2020. And it can cause a great deal of stress.

In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s latest “Stress In America” report , money is the number two cause of stress—ahead of family and health concerns—and second only to work. Over 50% of Americans with debt who were surveyed in a 2017 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants poll said it had negatively affected their lives.

If you’re a Millennial, the same poll found that you might be twice as likely to worry about debt than Baby Boomers. While the poll found that 56% of people with debt said that it had a negative effect, that figure jumps to almost seven in 10 for Millennials. The study also found that Boomers and Millennials are equally likely to have debt.

So unless you’re expecting a windfall from a long-lost relative (who probably didn’t talk about money either), it’s likely up to you to come up with a game plan to manage your finances.

But how do you pay off credit card debt? There are many methods to choose from—here are just a few.

Budgeting Debt Payoff

Before embarking on paying off credit card debt, a good first step might be putting together a budget—which can help you better manage your spending.

There are simple options like an online spreadsheet and more advanced ones like pay services to track your spending. And you might even find money in your budget to put towards that outstanding debt.

If you’ve got more than one type of debt, say a mortgage, student loan, and maybe a car loan, you may want to think strategically about how you’re going to tackle them.

Some finance gurus recommend taking on the most expensive debt first—then the debt with the highest balance. Another approach is to pay off the smallest debts first, meaning the debts with the smallest balances.

Then you can take next month’s debt-paying money and funnel it into the next smallest balance. This method gives you some small wins early and over time can give you some room to make larger payments on some of your other outstanding debts. (Of course, for either of these strategies, keeping current on payments for all debts is essential.)

Looking for a better way to get rid of
high-interest credit card debt?
Check out SoFi Personal Loans.

Refinancing or Consolidating

Refinancing or consolidating debt are other strategies, especially for those in the post-grad plateau—the early stages of a promising career—if, for example, there’s a raise waiting just around the corner. In simple terms, refinancing is taking one loan or line of credit and replacing it with another (for instance, balance transfers). Consolidating is similar to refinancing, as it combines all your debt into one loan that you then have to pay off.

There are lots of reasons to consider refinancing. You may want to lower your monthly payment. Maybe you want to pay over a different period of time. Or maybe you just want to work with a new lender or loan servicer.

With fixed-rate credit cards becoming more difficult to find, and the average annual percentage rate (APR) for variable-rate credit cards hovering around 17%, you could potentially save by refinancing credit card debt (depending on how much you owe, of course) with a credit card consolidation personal loan—which, as of late 2019, had an average rate of 9.41%.

Fortunately, applying online typically doesn’t take more than a few minutes. And there are more options than ever with innovative fintech startups doing what they can to make the process of refinancing your credit card debt, quick and easy.

Again, there’s also the potential for saving. Of course, everyone’s situation varies, but you can use SoFi’s credit card interest calculator and personal loan calculator to do the math on your own.

So You’ve Decided to Apply for a Personal Loan. Now What?

The steps for paying off a credit card with an unsecured personal loan aren’t particularly complicated, but having a plan in place is important.

1. Getting the whole picture.

It can be scary, but getting the hard numbers—how much debt you have overall, how much you owe on each specific card, and what the respective interest rates are—gives you a sense of how big of a personal loan you’re aiming for.

2. Searching personal loan options.

These days, you can do most—or all—of your personal loan research online. What you’re looking for is a personal loan with an interest rate lower than what you’re currently paying on your cards. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for origination fees, which can cost you more and could throw off your payoff plan.

3. Paying off the debt.

Once you’ve chosen, applied, and qualified for your personal loan, you’ll likely want to immediately take that money and pay off your credit card debt in full.

The process of receiving the personal loan may differ; some lenders will pay off your credit card companies directly, others will send you a check that you’ll then have to deposit and use to pay off your credit cards yourself.

4. Hiding those credit cards.

One potential risk of using a personal loan to pay off your credit cards is that it makes it easier to accumulate more debt—after all, a $0 balance on a credit card can be a temptation. The purpose of using a personal loan to pay off your credit card debt is to keep yourself from repeating the cycle.

If possible, you can take steps like hiding your credit cards in a drawer and trying to use them as little as possible. This is where creating a budget comes in handy!

5. Paying off your personal loan.

A benefit of using a personal loan to consolidate your credit card debt is that you only have one monthly payment to worry about—instead of several. You’ll want to make sure you don’t miss any of those payments, so you may want to set up a monthly reminder or alert.

More Details About Personal Loans

So why would you consolidate credit card debt with a personal loan?

Most unsecured personal loans come with a fixed APR. A fixed APR is a rate that won’t fluctuate or change based on an index.

This doesn’t mean that your rate will never change over the life of your loan (for example, it could change if you missed several payments). But if it does remain the same, it means you’ll be paying the same amount monthly over the life of the loan.

Another pro is the ease of online applications and access to live customer support from many lenders. With online applications, the process for getting a personal loan can be quick and easy, and you don’t have to trudge to a post office or send certified mail or print out complicated tax documents. You also may be able to access live customer support to help you out with any questions.

Another possible benefit is pausing your payments in case of certain situations. Your loan(s) will typically have to be in good standing to be eligible for this benefit (among other requirements), but if you lose your job some lenders, like SoFi, may temporarily pause your payments and help you find a new job. (Note that interest accrues during the forbearance period and is added to principal when you resume repayment.)

SoFi’s Unemployment Protection Program is offered in three-month increments that can be renewed up to a maximum of 12 months over the life of the loan.

Borrowers looking to apply for this benefit may be eligible if they are (among other qualifications): a current SoFi member, have an eligible loan that is in good standing, certify that they have lost their job through no fault of their own (involuntarily), and actively work with Career Services to look for new employment.

Finally, there’s also the benefit of ending the vicious cycle of credit card debt, without resorting to a balance transfer card.

You may be among the 49% of Americans who know that balance transfer credit cards exist. Balance transfer credit cards are just credit cards that usually have an introductory offer of some sort to give you a lower rate (or a 0% rate) if you transfer your balance to the new card.

This might seem like an appealing offer. But if you don’t pay off the balance before the enticing offer is up, you could end up paying an even higher interest rate than you started with. You also may have to pay a transfer fee to the new cardholder.

Planning Debt Reduction

Armed with new information and a debt reduction plan, the next time the subject of money—specifically credit card debt—comes up, you’ll have plenty to talk about. You could now be able to confidently discuss APRs on personal loans compared to credit cards, the merits of no fees, and the plusses of a fast and easy user interface for a loan application.

And if you share this article with friends who want to cut up a few of their credit cards, they can join the conversation, too. Because chances are, based on the numbers, some of those friends might be among the 55% of Americans with credit cards who are also carrying other debt.

Maybe they’re as shy about their debt as you used to be and could use some handy advice from a friend or a solid five reasons why a personal loan might be worth investigating.

Remember, however, personal loans aren’t for everyone. While they typically have lower interest rates than credit cards, they are still debt and should be considered carefully and used responsibly.

Ready to get rid of your credit card debt? Look into a SoFi personal loan. You can check your rate in just a few minutes.

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.
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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