Guide to Getting Caught up on Late Payments

Sometimes life throws a few curveballs your way. When those curveballs include unexpected expenses—hello, car repairs and medical bills—it can be hard to keep a budget on track. This can lead to paying some bills late (or not at all), which isn’t fun for anyone involved. The business expecting the money is upset. And it can mean you wind up paying more in interest while having your credit score decline.

Here’s helpful advice if you find yourself dealing with late payments. You’ll learn:

•   Why people fall behind on bills

•   Tips for how to catch up on bills

•   What to do once you are caught up on bills.

Why People Fall Behind on Their Bills

Before we talk about how to get caught up on bills, let’s look at some common reasons people fall behind on bills. Knowing the typical pitfalls can make it easier to avoid them in the future and stay on track financially.

A Loss Of Income

Many things can happen in a typical person’s work life to send their income drifting downward. Sometimes an employee doesn’t get as many shifts as they thought they would. Other times they’re laid off and lose all of their income. Maybe they quit their job and have a gap between when they start a new one. Seasonal employment can come to an end. Tips can fall short.

The point being, there are many reasons why someone may lose part or all of their income. It’s hard to pay bills when unemployed or even underemployed. If the income loss was unexpected, the situation can be even tougher.

Medical Emergencies

Healthcare expenses can get so costly that you may receive medical bills that you can’t afford. All it may take is one MRI that isn’t covered by insurance, and you may have a significant amount of debt that can be hard to manage. When the expense is an emergency (perhaps major surgery, a hospital stay, or ongoing treatment), the bill can be staggering. What’s more, a medical emergency may cause a person to lose income if they have to take time off work.

Family Emergencies

•   What types of family emergencies can make it harder to pay bills?

•   A child gets sick, and mom or dad has to skip their shift to stay home and take care of them.

•   Grandma breaks a hip and her son needs to travel across the country to take care of her.

•   A family member passes away, and someone must cover the funeral expenses.

•   A pet (they’re family too, after all) gets injured and requires expensive surgery.

Those are just a few examples of family emergencies that can cause financial strain. It’s easy to see how throwing money at a problem can make it hard to pay bills.

Auto Accidents

From small inconveniences like hitting a curb to major accidents, car repairs can certainly be expensive. Even if you have adequate auto insurance, those deductibles and related expenses can add up fast.

Car accidents can set up a chain reaction in terms of bills going unpaid. Many consumers need to prioritize auto bills as they require transportation to get to work. When those unexpected bills get paid first, a person can fall behind on other monthly expenses.

Household Emergencies

If your roof springs a leak during the rainy season or your air conditioning quits during a heat wave, you are stuck with a big expense you didn’t see coming. When you spend money to remedy this kind of problem, other bills may fall by the wayside. It may become harder to, say, pay your student loan when a home repair is suddenly required.

Spending Too Much

Sometimes, people simply overspend. Their expenses are higher than their earnings. For example, maybe you were invited to a destination wedding, really wanted to go, and ran up a lot of debt flying to Hawaii for the celebration. Or maybe you were thinking about a new car and went ahead and splurged on one after seeing an ad. It happens! But the aftermath of these major expenses can leave a person struggling to stay current on their monthly expenses.

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Tips for Getting Caught up on Bills

As you’ve just read, there are many reasons why people can fall behind on their bills. But once you are dealing with overdue debt, you don’t have to just stay stuck there. So let’s look at tactics for getting caught up on bills and boosting financial health.

Making a List

First things first: It helps to spend a bit of time developing ways to organize your bills. Gather all your bills, and make a list of which ones are overdue, from most overdue to least. This way, it’s easy to see the total amount owed and which fires need to be put out most urgently.

Sometimes, people want to hide from stressful situations like this, but confronting your debt and missed due dates can ultimately be a positive thing. This organizational step can give you the knowledge you need plus a sense of control when you’re behind on bills.

Paying Priority Bills

Now that you have a list of bills ordered by importance, it’s a good idea to start identifying and paying priority bills first. If they all have the same due dates or are all overdue, then you might begin with the bills that have the highest interest rates first (like credit card or loan payments) or the bills that charge the largest late fees. The more interest that accrues, the harder it can be to catch up on bills.

The exception, however, is any overdue bills that relate to necessities, like rent or utilities, taxes, car loans, and child support. Those types of bills need to be taken care of first to keep everyone living in the home safe.

Negotiating Bills

When you’re behind on bills, you may have more wiggle room than you think. You may be able to work out a lower interest rate with your credit card issuer or you might be able to adjust a loan repayment schedule a bit. Or if you’re facing major medical expenses, you could investigate how to negotiate doctor bills with your provider to make them more affordable. The point is, communicating with the entity you owe money to and negotiating may lighten your load.

Creating a Budget

Once you know how much you owe, you can create a budget to help play catch-up. After paying off the bills with high interest rates in full, you might then total up the remaining bills and set a goal for how fast they want to pay them off. You’ll need to look at how much after-tax money you have every month and how much your “musts” (food, shelter, utilities, medical care) cost. The money that’s left typically goes towards debt, savings, and discretionary spending.

You may have to re-allocate a bit to pay off debt. Perhaps you can’t save as aggressively as you would like for a down payment on a house and need to focus on clearing up your bills. Or maybe you need to delay travel plans for a while to free up some cash to take care of your remaining debt.

Side Hustles or Second Jobs

If you are struggling to keep up with bills that are overdue, you might consider the potential benefits of a side hustle or second job. These options can be especially helpful if you have overdue bills with high interest rates that threaten to make your debt snowball. The faster you pay those bills down, the less interest you will pay. You can always take a break from the extra work when the overdue bills are gone.

It’s worth noting that sometimes these steps aren’t enough. If you are feeling overwhelmed by debt, you may need to consolidate high-interest debt (say, by finding a balance transfer credit card that gives you a no- or low-interest rate for a while so you can catch up). Another option is to take out a personal loan at a lower rate than the debt you owe, so you are swapping more expensive debt for less expensive debt. Or you might want to talk to a credit counselor at a non-profit organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC.

When You Are Caught Up

Once you pay off your overdue bills, consider how to move forward. There are steps you can take to avoid falling behind again in the future.

Following Your Budget

Re-evaluate your budget. Focus on paying down your debt; you might be able to budget for extra debt payments each month. This doesn’t necessarily mean a full additional payment. Look into how automatic bill payments work, and see if you can, say, put an extra $100 or more towards a loan’s principal every month to pay it down more quickly.

Saving for an Emergency Fund

So, why is saving for an emergency fund a financial priority? When someone has an emergency fund, if, say, a job loss or unexpected bill arises, they have some extra cash. They don’t need to turn to credit cards or loans. Having at least three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses can be a welcome relief if you encounter a rainy-day situation.

Paying on Time

Prioritizing on-time payments is a wise move once you no longer have late bills. It’s a very important step that contributes to your financial well-being. You might want to explore how bill pay works and set up automatic payments to make sure you hit your due dates.

Not only can paying bills on time make it possible to avoid extra interest payments and fees, but it helps improve your credit score. Prompt bill-paying is the single biggest contributor to that three-digit number that can impact the mortgage rates you qualify for and more.

Tracking Spending

Tracking expenses can make it easier to see where money is going and to adjust a budget accordingly. It also makes spending more conscious and makes it harder to accidentally overspend. Some people like to log this sort of information in a journal or on a spreadsheet; others use one of the many apps available. The latter can even cluster your spending by category to show you trends in how you use your cash.

Bank Accounts That May Help You Save and Budget

If you want to save on banking fees, you may find an online bank or a credit union that suits your needs. Credit unions are not-for-profit so they tend to charge their members fewer and lower fees. They may well offer them higher interest rates on savings accounts too, which makes it easier to spend less and save more. Online banks are also usually able to offer these perks since they save so much money by not having expensive bricks-and-mortar banking locations.

What’s more, these kinds of financial institutions may offer educational tools and/or apps that help enhance your money savvy and build your skills.

Banking With SoFi

There are a lot of reasons why people fall behind on their bills. Fortunately, with a little planning and wise budgeting, it is possible to play catch-up. After that, use your newly honed money skills to put an action plan in place to avoid future debt traps.

The bank you partner with can also impact your financial status. At SoFi, we make banking easy and can help your money grow faster. Open a new bank account with direct deposit, and your Checking and Savings will earn a competitive APY while you pay absolutely no account fees.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall. Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Should I pay all my bills at once?

Paying all your bills at once, if possible, can help you stay on top of your expenses and may help improve your credit score. This step can streamline the process and help make sure nothing slips through the cracks. That said, there’s nothing wrong with spacing bills out throughout the month to make it easier to afford them as long as they’re paid before their due dates.

What to do when you can’t catch up on bills?

Make a list of all bills due, prioritizing the ones that are for necessities (housing, for instance) and those with the highest interest rates. Then budget for how to pay them off. You might have to slow down saving towards a certain goal (a vacation, the down payment for a home) or consider taking on a side hustle or second job in order to get caught up.

What bills should I prioritize?

It’s a good idea to prioritize any bills relating to necessities, such as housing and utilities. Then it’s helpful to move onto bills with high interest rates and fees that can mount and make the bills even more difficult to pay off.


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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

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Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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

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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What Is Earned Income vs Unearned Income

What Is Earned Income vs Unearned Income?

There are two basic types of income: earned and unearned. Earned income is the money you make from working, and unearned income is money you receive that isn’t tied to a business or job.

The difference between these two types of income is very important when it comes to saving for retirement and paying your taxes. Here’s what you need to know about each of them, and how they affect your finances.

What Is Unearned Income?

Unearned income is a type of passive income. It’s money you make without working or performing some kind of professional service. For example, money you get from investing, such as dividends, interest, and capital gains is unearned income.

Other types of unearned income include:

•   Retirement account distributions from a 401(k), pension, or annuity

•   Money you received in unemployment benefits

•   Taxable social security benefits

•   Money received from the cancellation of debt (such as student loans that are forgiven)

•   Distributions of any unearned income from a trust

•   Alimony payments

•   Gambling and lottery winnings

Dividends from investments in the stock market and interest are two of the most common forms of unearned income. Dividends are paid when a company shares a portion of its profits with stockholders. They may be paid on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis.

Interest is usually generated from interest bearing accounts, including savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs).

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How is Earned Income Different From Unearned Income?

Earned income is the money you make from a job. Any money you earn from an employer — including wages, fees, and tips in which income taxes are withheld — counts as earned income.

If you’re part of the freelance economy and the companies you work for don’t withhold taxes, those wages still count as earned income. These could be wages earned by performing professional or creative services, driving a car for a ride share service, or running errands.

Money you make from self-employment — if you own your own business, for example — also counts as earned income, as does money you earn from a side hustle.

Other types of earned income include benefits from a union strike, disability benefits you receive before you reach full retirement age, and nontaxable combat pay.

This guide can help you learn about all the different types of income there are.

How Income Types Affect Taxes

All earned income is taxed at your usual income tax rate.

Taxes on unearned income are more complicated and depend on what type of unearned income you have, including:

Interest

Interest, which is unearned income from things like bank accounts and CDs, is taxed the same as earned income that you work for.

Dividends

Dividends from investments fall into two categories: qualified and non-qualified. Generally speaking, qualified dividends are those paid to you by a company in the U.S. or a qualified foreign company, and are taxed at a lower rate. Non-qualified dividends don’t meet IRS requirements to qualify for the lower tax rate and are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income.

Capital Gains

Investments that are sold at a profit are subject to capital gains taxes. If you held the investment for less than a year, your profits are subject to short-term capital gains rates, which are equal to your normal income tax rate. If you kept the investment for a year or more, it’s subject to long-term capital gains rates, which means it will be taxed at 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on your income. The higher your income, the higher your rate.

Social Security

If your income is more than $25,000 a year for individuals or $32,000 a year for married couples filing jointly, you will pay federal income tax on a portion of your Social Security benefits. You’ll be taxed on up to 50% of your benefits if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000 for an individual, or $32,000 to $44,000 for a married couple. And you’ll be taxed on up to 85% of your benefit if your income is more than that.

Alimony

As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony payments that are part of divorce agreements made after January 1, 2019 are not taxable by the person who is paying the alimony, nor are they taxable for the person receiving the alimony.

Gambling Winnings

Money you earn from gambling — including winnings from casinos, lotteries, raffles, and horse races — are all fully taxable. This applies not only to cash, but also to prizes like vacations and cars, which are taxed at their fair market value.

Debt Cancellation

If you have a debt that is canceled or forgiven for less than the amount you were supposed to pay, then the amount of the canceled debt is subject to tax and you must report it on your tax return.

If you have debts to pay off, debt payoff planning can help you pay what you owe.

How Earned vs Unearned Income Affects Retirement Savings

Retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and the Roth versions of both, provide tax advantages that help boost the amount that you are able to save.

For example, 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, which can then be invested in the account. The investments are then allowed to grow tax deferred until withdrawals are made in retirement, and then they are subject to income tax. Contributions to Roth accounts are made with after-tax dollars. These grow tax free, and withdrawals made in retirement are not subject to income tax.

You must fund your retirement accounts with earned income. You cannot use unearned sources of income to make contributions.

There are certain exceptions to this rule. If you’re married and you file a joint return with your spouse and you don’t have taxable compensation, you may be able to contribute to an IRA as long as your spouse did have taxable compensation.

Recommended: 3 Easy Steps to Starting a Retirement Fund

The Takeaway

The difference between earned income and unearned income is an important distinction to comprehend, especially when it comes to paying your taxes. Unearned income, which is income you make not from a job but through other means, such as investments, can be taxed at different rates, depending on what type of unearned income it is. Make sure you understand yours — and the tax implications. Doing so can have a big impact on how you save for your future.

Keep tabs on all the types of income you have by tracking your checking, savings, investment, and retirement accounts in one place with SoFi’s money tracker app. It allows you to organize your accounts on a single dashboard, as well as monitor your credit score and budget for financial goals.

With SoFi you can track your money like a champion!

FAQ

Why do I need to know the difference between earned and unearned income?

It’s important to understand the difference between earned and unearned income because the two may be taxed differently. Also, in most cases, you must use earned income to fund your retirement accounts.

What is an example of unearned income?

Unearned income is money you receive without working for it. Interest, such as that from a bank account, and dividend payments are two of the most common types of unearned income.


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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

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How to Cancel a Credit Card Without Affecting Your Credit Score

How to Cancel a Credit Card Without Affecting Your Credit Score

Canceling a credit card might seem like a good idea if you’re trying to get debt under control or you want to consolidate your cards. But closing a credit account may do more harm than good and damage your credit standing. Before you take action, here’s what you need to know — and other strategies you may want to consider instead.

Understanding the Impact of Credit Utilization Ratio

In order to understand why canceling a credit card can hurt your credit score, you need to know about something called the credit utilization ratio. This is the ratio of your total credit to your total debt.

Another way to think of it is how much of your available credit you’re using. For instance, if you have two credit cards with a total line of credit of $20,000 and you use $5,000 of that, you have a credit card utilization ratio of 25%. In addition to credit cards, your credit utilization ratio can include things like loans, such as a mortgage, car loan, and personal loan.

Your credit utilization ratio directly affects your credit score. In fact, it accounts for 30% of your FICO score. Your credit utilization ratio is the second most important factor in your credit score (payment history is number one). Ideally, lenders like to see a person’s credit utilization ratio below 30%.

When you cancel a credit card, you reduce your available credit, which can cause your credit utilization ratio to jump up, especially if you owe money on other credit cards. This can negatively impact your credit score.

Reasons to Cancel a Credit Card

There are several factors that may be motivating you to want to cancel a credit card, including:

•   Too much debt. Perhaps having the card on hand is causing you to overspend and take on even more debt. If canceling the card will help you manage your finances better and get your debt under control, it can be a good option.

•   A high annual fee. If the card’s fee is high and you aren’t taking advantage of any of the perks like travel rewards to offset it, you may want to find a card that’s a better fit.

•   Too many cards. If multiple credit cards are causing you to stress out and miss payments, fewer cards might help lighten the load.

How to Cancel a Credit Card

If, after considering the pros and cons, you’ve decided to go ahead and cancel the credit card, here’s how to do it:

1.    Pay off the remaining balance on the card, or transfer the balance to another credit card.

2.    Contact the credit card company, preferably by phone. Some credit card companies allow customers to cancel online, but most will require a call. Keep in mind the company wants to hold onto customers, which could mean that they will try to entice you with offers or deals. You have the right to cancel at any time.

3.    Consider sending written confirmation to make things official. Send a letter to the credit card company informing them that you have canceled the same credit card account. Post it via certified mail to ensure the company receives the letter with confirmed receipt.

4.    Look at credit reports for changes to your credit score. The canceled account should be reflected in your credit score within several weeks. AnnualCreditReport.com offers a free copy of your credit report once a year.

5.    Cut up the card. Shredding or destroying the card helps prevent fraud.

Can Closing a Credit Card Impact Your Credit History?

Closing a credit card can affect the length of your credit history. That’s important because credit history is one of the factors used to help determine your credit score. In general, creditors want to know that you’ve had credit accounts over a period of time, so the longer the relationship, the better.

Recommended: 10 Credit Card Rules You Should Know

How to Downgrade Your Credit Card

If you’re considering canceling your credit card because of high fees or a high interest rate, you might want to downgrade the card instead. By downgrading you can swap your current credit card for one with a lower fee or lower interest rate.

Downgrading can provide some of the benefits of canceling the card without the negative impact of closing the account.

If downgrading sounds like a good option for you, these strategies can help:

•   Research the credit card issuer. Do they have cards with a low or no annual fee? It may be worth switching to credit card issuers with one of those.

•   Call the credit card company and ask for a downgrade. They may offer to waive the annual fees on your existing card. Or they may downgrade you to a low-interest card with no annual fee.

•   Ask about a partial refund. Some credit card companies will provide a partial refund on the annual fee, depending on when you downgrade. Ask the customer service representative if they can prorate the annual fee or provide any refund.

How to Keep Your Credit Utilization Rate Low

Whether you downgrade a credit card or not, it’s important to improve your credit utilization rate since it counts for 30% of your FICO score. Here’s how to keep yours low.

•   Make more than one credit card payment a month. Making more than two automatic bill payments or one payment per billing cycle can benefit your credit score. That’s because credit card companies report balances towards the end of the billing cycle. Making several payments can reduce your credit utilization ratio when your balance is reported.

•   Keep credit accounts open, if possible. Keeping a card open, even if you rarely use it, increases your credit limit and helps lower your credit utilization rate.

•   Ask for an increase in credit limit. If you have a record of ontime payments, your credit card company may be willing to increase the credit limit for your account. And the more available credit you have, the better your ratio. Call customer service to make the request.

The Takeaway

Canceling a credit card can negatively impact your credit score, so make sure to consider all your options carefully. You can keep the credit account open, which can help with your credit history, and rarely use the card. Or you can downgrade to a card with a lower interest rate and no annual fee. In the end, the decision is yours, but it’s good to know you have choices.

You can track your credit score with SoFi’s money tracker app. It helps you stay up to date with any changes that affect your score, allows you to connect all your bank accounts, and lets you monitor your spending habits and savings all in one place.

With SoFi, you’ll always know where your credit score, and your finances, stand.

FAQ

How do I close a credit card without affecting my credit score?

Closing a credit card is likely to have a negative impact on your credit score. Downgrading to a card with a lower interest rate and no annual fee may be a better option.

Is it better to cancel unused credit cards or keep them?

If the credit card has a low interest rate and no annual fee, it can be better for your credit score and your credit history to keep the card.

Does canceling a credit card hurt your credit?

Canceling a credit card can hurt your credit score. However, practicing other good credit habits, like paying your bills on time, can help you gradually get back in good standing.


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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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What Is Competitive Pay and How to Negotiate For It

What Competitive Pay Is and How to Negotiate for It

“Competitive pay” is a term commonly used among employers looking to attract qualified candidates to their business. Offering competitive pay means providing a compensation level that is equal to or above the market rate for a given position, geography, or industry.

Competitive pay typically includes base salary as well as additional employment benefits such as a signing bonus, health insurance, retirement benefits, or stock options offered to an employee.

Why Is Competitive Pay Important?

In highly-competitive job fields, or when there is a shortage of talent, offering competitive pay can be a powerful lever for employers to attract and retain highly qualified employees. At the same time, employees that are in high demand might choose to seek out competitive pay in order to earn more than their counterparts at other companies.

Competitive pay is ultimately a measure of an employee or job candidate’s value to the business, and is something that can be offered by an employer or negotiated by an employee or candidate.

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What Determines Competitive Pay?

Competitive pay rates can be determined by a variety of factors:

Location

Where you are physically located can greatly impact the competitiveness of the pay you are offered. For example, an employee in a high-cost metropolitan area like New York or San Francisco may be able to earn more than a counterpart in a more affordable geographical area. Certain states also have higher minimum wage standards, which can increase the average compensation for any job offered within that state.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

Level of Education and Experience

Many jobs will offer competitive pay commensurate with a candidate’s education and experience. That means that a candidate with a college degree and 10 years of industry experience may be offered higher compensation than someone with no degree and fewer years of experience. Candidates with specialized degrees or certifications can sometimes use that to negotiate more-competitive pay.

Recommended: 15 Entry-Level Jobs for Antisocial People

Job Title and Industry

Most job titles and industries will have a baseline market pay rate that employers use to guide their job offerings and employee salaries. If you want to compare a job offer with the market, you can find market pay rates for most jobs on the Bureau of Labor of Statistics website or through websites like Indeed and Glassdoor.

Market Demand

One of the biggest drivers of competitive pay is the overall supply and demand for a job in the market. If a job is highly in demand, either due to a shortage of workers or a sudden increase in the number of available jobs, compensation for that role may become more competitive. Candidates can potentially use that to their advantage when applying to jobs and negotiating salaries with employers.

Competitor Salaries

Similarly, when multiple companies in the same or adjacent industries are competing for employees, they may offer more competitive compensation packages to try and win over prospective job candidates.

Minimum vs Competitive Wages: How They’re Different

While competitive wages are offered at the discretion of employers, minimum wage is the minimum hourly pay rate under federal law. States can also establish and enforce minimum wage requirements for certain jobs or industries.

Like competitive pay, minimum wage typically takes into consideration living costs, geography, and job titles or industries. However, it tends not to change as often or dramatically as competitive wages. In fact, the federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009.

Also, minimum wage only takes into consideration base salary, whereas competitive pay includes other benefits and forms of compensation, such as signing bonuses.

Recommended: What Trade Job Makes the Most Money

Examples of Competitive Paying Jobs

Competitive pay rates are constantly shifting, especially as the market for talent becomes increasingly competitive. However, here are the some of the most competitive paying jobs in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Cardiologists

•   Average annual salary: $353,970

Computer and Information Systems Managers

•   Average annual salary: $162,930

Financial Managers

•   Average annual salary: $153,460

Physicists

•   Average annual salary: $151,580

Lawyers

•   Average annual salary: $148,030

Recommended: The Highest Paying Jobs by State

How to Negotiate for More Competitive Pay

Whether you’re applying for a new job or reconsidering your current employment situation, negotiating competitive pay is an important part of getting paid what you believe you are worth. There isn’t an exact formula for negotiating higher pay, and it’s important to take a methodical approach that considers both your needs and the perspective of your employer. Here are five strategies that can help you in the course of negotiating competitive pay:

1. Establish your priorities

Going into a pay negotiation, you should think about what you would need financially to consider joining or staying with a company. You’ll want to budget out your needs (including any debt you may be paying off) and try as best as you can to identify a compensation package that meets your financial requirements.

Competitive pay can also mean different things to different employees. For some, it may mean a higher base salary, while others may want other perks like assistance in paying off college tuition or student loan debt, greater workplace benefits, or better health coverage. Identifying exactly what you need is important for deciding when it makes sense to push back or walk away from a negotiation.

2. Build Your Case

Even in competitive markets, an employer may not be willing to meet your salary or benefits requirements. However, going into that conversation with evidence and clear reasoning for why you are asking for more competitive pay can help support your case. You’ll want to clearly show why you believe your compensation isn’t as competitive as you’d like it to be, due to the fact that you’ve been working harder, delivering greater value to the business, or have incurred higher living costs.

3. Know Your Pay Rate in the Market

Before negotiating, it’s also important to research how the competitive rate for your specific job title or industry has changed. Or, if you’ve suddenly taken on additional responsibilities outside of your core job function, you may want to look at what similar employees in those roles are getting paid and factor that into your pay rate. All of that data will help you to know what you’re worth as an employee and be able to communicate it to your employer.

Recommended: Examples of Low Stress Jobs for Introverts Without a Degree

The Takeaway

“Competitive pay” is a term commonly used among employers to refer to a compensation level that is equal to or above the market rate for a given position, geography, or industry. Other factors that help determine competitive pay include a candidate’s education and experience, and market demand.

If you’re not sure whether your baseline salary requirement covers your cost of living, SoFi’s money tracker app, can help. Track your money and spending all in one place so that you have the tools and information you need to negotiate the pay you deserve.

Take control of your finances with SoFi.

FAQ

Is competitive pay a red flag?

“Competitive pay” has become an industry buzzword used by many employers on their job postings and websites. While seeing “competitive pay” on a job posting isn’t a red flag, it’s still important to conduct your own research to ensure pay rates are competitive with similar industries, geographies, and employers.

Does competitive pay come with good benefits?

Competitive pay does not necessarily come with good benefits like 401(k) matching, health insurance or paid time off. However, those benefits are becoming increasingly important for job seekers. When analyzing competitive pay, it’s important to look at an employer’s full compensation package (benefits and salary) to ensure it meets your needs.


Photo credit: iStock/insta_photos

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

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Things to Budget For After Buying a Home

Things to Budget for After Buying a Home

After you purchase a new home, there are many things to budget for, such as moving costs, new furniture, and of course, ongoing expenses such as your mortgage. Although it may seem like many of the significant expenditures are out of the way once you close on a property, there are a lot of additional costs that can add up.

To avoid financial surprises, it’s wise to jot down and budget for all of the extra expenses you will encounter when you move into your new place. To help you organize your finances, here are the things to budget for after buying a house.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait

Moving-Out Expenses to Budget for

Before you take up residence in your new home, you must move all of your things. Even if you pack and move all your belongings yourself, you’ll still have to spend on things like boxes, packing materials, and a truck. And if you use movers, it will cost you even more.

Recommended: The Ultimate Moving Checklist

Moving Your Belongings

There are three main options for moving your belongings:

•   Renting a truck and doing it yourself. It’s more cost efficient than using professional movers, but DIY moving yourself still adds up. You’ll have to pay for the truck rental fee, gas, and damage protection. If you’re moving across the country, you may also have to factor in the costs of shipping some of your items. Even though you can enlist your friends and family to help you do the heavy lifting, the cost of moving yourself can still be significant. And it’s a lot of work.

•   Hiring movers. If you decide to use professional movers, it’s wise to shop around to find the best price. Here’s why: For moves under 100 miles away, the national average cost is $1,400, and it ranges from $800 to $2,500. If you’re moving long distance, the average cost can be as high as $2,200 to $5,700. To cut costs, you can do your own packing, which may save you money.

•   Moving your things in a storage container. Another option is to use a hauling container — you load your things in it, and the container company moves it to your new location. This usually costs between $500 and $5,000, depending on the distance and how much stuff you’re moving. Long-distance moves will usually cost more than local ones.

Moving Supplies

If you decide to go the DIY moving route, you will need to buy boxes, bubble wrap, labels, and tape. And you likely have more items to wrap and box up than you think, which requires even more supplies.

Cleaning Supplies

You’ll probably want to clean your current property before you move out, and you’ll definitely want to clean the new place when you move in. That means buying mops, sponges, cleaning solutions, and paper towels. You may also want to get the carpets cleaned or hire a professional house cleaner if the place needs a deep cleaning.

10 Common Expenses After Buying a Home

Once the move is done, there are other expenses you’ll need to account for as you settle into your new abode. Here are a few things to budget for after buying a home.

Furniture and Appliances

You’ll likely bring some furniture and decor from your old place, but you’ll probably want to purchase some new things as well. For example, if the appliances are outdated, you might want to upgrade to new ones. And you may have more rooms to furnish, which requires additional furniture.

Consider opening a savings account for the new items you want to purchase. It can also help pay for any unexpected costs, such as having to replace a hot water heater that breaks.

Mortgage Payments

As a homeowner, every month you will making a mortgage payment that typically includes:

•   The principal portion of the payment. This is the percentage of your mortgage that reduces your payment over the life of the loan. The more you pay toward principal, the less you will have to pay in interest.

•   The interest. This is the amount you pay to borrow funds from the bank or lender to purchase your home.

If you are using an escrow account to pay your mortgage, other things may be included in your payment, such as your property taxes, insurance, and private mortgage insurance. This guide to reading your mortgage statement can help you understand all the costs involved in your mortgage payment.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are the taxes you pay on your home. In many cases, these taxes are the second most significant expense after your mortgage. Property taxes are based on the value of your home, which is typically governed by your state. The county you live in collects and calculates the sum due. Usually, property tax calculations are done every year, so the amount you owe may fluctuate annually.

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance helps protect your home from damage or destruction caused by events like a fire, wind storm, or vandalism. It can also protect you from lawsuits or property damages you are liable for. If someone slips and falls on your sidewalk, for instance, homeowners insurance will pay for the injured person’s medical bills and the legal costs if they decide to sue you.

The cost you pay for this coverage will vary by the type and amount of coverage you select.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

For borrowers who can’t afford a down payment that’s 20% of the mortgage value, lenders usually require private mortgage insurance (PMI). This type of coverage is designed to protect the lender if you default on your mortgage payments.

PMI can cost as much as a few hundred dollars per month, depending on the sum you borrow.

HOA Dues

This is a Homeowner’s Association fee, which goes toward the upkeep of property in a planned community, co-op, or condo. The amount can range from a couple of hundred dollars a year to more than $2,000, depending on the amenities you’re paying for (like a pool and landscaping). You typically pay HOA fees monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Utilities

Your utility payments include water, gas, electric, trash, and sewer fees. Some bills like water and electricity are based on the amount you use every month, so monitoring your electric and water usage, like taking short showers and turning lights off, can help lower your cost. Other payments, such as your trash or recycling, might be a fixed amount.

Lawn Care

Maintaining the curb appeal of your home requires landscape services and lawn care. If you choose to mow your own lawn, you may need to factor in the purchase of a mower, which can cost about $1,068 on average. If you hire a lawn service to cut your grass, you may pay $25 to $50 a week.

Pest Control

Pests such as ants, ticks, rodents, or mice, can wreak havoc on your home and your family’s health. For these reasons, many homeowners hire a pest control company to prevent the infestation of pests around their homes. The company’s initial visit may cost between $150 to $300, then $45 to $75 for every follow-up.

Home Improvement Costs

As a homeowner, there are likely things you want to change about your house. From painting the walls to a complete kitchen renovation, transforming your property can add to the cost of owning a home. According to the HomeAdvisor 2021 State of Home Spending Report, interior painting was the number one project homeowners completed, costing an average of $2,007.

Additionally, as the features of your home age, you will need to replace and repair them accordingly.

Common Mistakes After Buying a Home

One of the most common mistakes people make when buying a home is spending more than they can afford. For instance, you may forget to factor in utilities, lawn care, HOA fees, costs of upkeep, and other hidden expenses that come with owning a home. It’s crucial to do your research to determine extra costs and add them up before you move forward with purchasing a property.

Another mistake new homeowners make is taking on too many DIY projects. TV shows can make home renovations look easy. However, many of these projects require professionals who know what they are doing. Attempting a home improvement project could cost you more to fix than hiring a pro in the first place. In fact, about 80% of homeowners that attempt their own renovation projects make mistakes — some of them serious.

Unless you can afford an expert, you may want to rethink purchasing a home that requires a lot of renovation.

The 50/30/20 Rule

For help planning your budget as a homeowner, you can use the 50/30/20 rule, which breaks your budget into three categories:

•   50% goes to to needs

•   30% goes to wants

•   20% goes to to savings

That means you’ll be budgeting 50% of your income to go toward necessities such as housing costs, grocery bills, and car payments. Then 30% will go toward things you want, such as entertainment (movies, concerts), vacations, new clothes, and dining out. The remaining 20% goes towards saving for the future or financial goals such as home improvement projects.

Using a 50/30/20 budget rule is simple and easy. It allows you to see where your money is going and helps you save.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Lifestyle Tradeoffs in Order to Budget

With so many things to budget for after buying a home, you may need to cut back on spending. Start by looking at your discretionary spending and think about where you can trim back. For example, instead of eating out regularly, you can cook more meals at home. Or perhaps you can put your gym membership on hold and do at-home workouts for a while to stay in shape physically and financially.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

The Takeaway

After you buy a house, there are many expenses you may not have accounted for, such as the cost of hiring movers; buying furniture; and getting your new place painted, cleaned, and ready to move into. Making a budget is vital to keep you on track financially, so you can enjoy your new home.

SoFi’s money tracker app can help you organize your money all in one place. You can link your bank accounts, monitor spending and savings, and plan for future goals, like home renovations.

With SoFi, you’ll always know where your budget, and your finances, stand.

FAQ

How much money should you have leftover after buying a house?

After buying a home, the amount you have left will vary depending on your financial situation. However, it’s a good idea to have at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses in reserve. That way, in case of an emergency, you can stay afloat financially.

Is it worth putting more than 20% down?

Putting more than 20% down on your home can help lower your monthly mortgage payment and interest because you’ll be borrowing less money. It also gives you more equity in your home from the beginning. But make sure you can afford to pay more than 20% in order not to stretch beyond your budget.

What’s the 50-30-20 budget rule?

The 50/30/20 rule means that you budget 50% of your expenses for needs (housing, groceries, loan payments), 30% for wants (entertainment, eating out, shopping), and 20% toward savings goals (retirement, renovations, new furniture).


Photo credit: iStock/ArtMarie

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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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