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The Gender Wage Gap Won't Close Until 2152

Equal pay for women? Not in this lifetime.

According to a new report from the American Association of University Women (AAUA), the pay gap may have narrowed considerably in the past 100 years, but it will still take another 136 to do away with it entirely.

In 2015, women working full-time in the U.S. were typically paid just 80% of what men were, creating a sizable 20% wage gap on average, AAUA said. Since 1960, that gap has narrowed thanks to women’s progress in education and their growing participation in the workforce. But in recent years, women’s progress has stalled, and if things continue to progress at this slower rate, “women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152,” AAUA warned. Here’s what that could mean for your money.

The Financial Effects of the Pay Gap 

As the AAUA pointed out, an average 20% pay gap affects women’s finances in myriad ways. For starters, it contributes directly to their poverty, which could be seen as recently as 2015, when 14% of women between the ages of 14 and 64 were living below the federal poverty level, compared with 11% of men, AAUA said. For those ages 65 and older, 10% of women were living in poverty, compared to 7% of men.

The damage persists well after a woman has left the workforce, AAUA said. When women retire, “they receive less income from Social Security, pensions and other sources than do retired men,” and other benefits such as disability and life insurance are smaller, since they’re typically based on earnings.

Broken down by demographic, the pay gap disproportionately affects women of color more than non-Hispanic white women and women of Asian heritage, AAUA said. And though the earnings and pay gap do vary according to a woman’s unique situation, they “persist across educational levels and [are] worse for African American and Hispanic women, even among college graduates,” AAUA said. The implication for student loan debt is concerning, since women working full-time in 2012 had a tougher time paying off their loans, on average, than men who were working full-time.

A Matter of Choice 

Personal choice also plays a key role in the pay gap. “In 2015,” AAUA said, “the U.S. civilian workforce included nearly 149 million full- and part-time employed workers; 53% were men, and 47% were women … But women and men tend to work in different jobs.” There are more women in education, office, health care and administrative support roles, AAUA said, while men are “disproportionally represented” in production, transportation, maintenance and repair roles. This means segregation is a factor, especially since the jobs associated with men tend to pay more than those occupied by women, despite requiring similar levels of skill.

While gender segregation has decreased in the past 40 years, AAUA said, women in male-dominated jobs still face other obstacles like being paid higher salaries and breaking into a historically male field in the first place. There is also the issue of parenting, which can require taking time off work or cutting back hours, which puts women with children in a tough spot. The so-called “motherhood penalty,” which goes beyond actual time taken out of the workforce, can hinder a woman’s chances of landing full-time employment.

Beyond these factors, some employers are just plain biased, and a woman’s choice of college major, occupation, work hours and time out of the workforce may have nothing to do with her odds of securing fair pay, the report said. Women are less likely to land leadership roles, AAUA said, and, of course, “gender bias also factors into how our society values some jobs over others.”

So What Can You Do? 

With all these factors in mind, how can modern-day women protect their finances? The odds certainly seem stacked against it, given the factors above. But there are ways to counter the problem. A budget can help you stay on top of your day-to-day finances without going into debt, while putting aside whatever you can afford can beef up your savings for the long term. It also helps to know where your credit stands, as this can give you a glimpse into the health of your finances. (You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every two weeks, as part of your credit snapshot on Credit.com.)

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Mortgage Rates Today, Monday, Sept. 26: Rates Go Even Lower, Home Values Up

Thirty-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates as well as 5/1 ARM rates continued their decline, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders Monday.

With rising home values across the country, though, are lower rates enough to coax potential homebuyers off the sidelines?

Mortgage Rates Today, Monday, Sept. 26 (Change from 9/23) 30-year fixed: 3.61% APR (-0.01) 15-year fixed: 3.03% APR (-0.01) 5/1 ARM: 3.51% APR (-0.02) Zillow: Home values up

Homeowners will be happy with this news, but potential homebuyers might cringe a little when they hear that U.S. average home prices increased 5% nationally over last year to $188,100 last month, according to the August Zillow Market Report.

In some metro markets, Zillow reported that home values soared by double digits, especially in Portland, Oregon (up 14.8% to $338,9000); Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (up 12% to $193,900); and Seattle (up 11.3% to $397,800).

And while the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Americans earned 5.2% more in annual household income in 2015 over 2014 — the first notable increase in eight years — wages in some of the country’s pricier metro markets still aren’t keeping pace with rapidly appreciating home values.

“The housing market is starting to smooth out ever so slightly, as the peak home shopping season winds down,” Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell said in a release. “This is good news for frenzied buyers tired of tight inventory, rapidly rising home prices and intense competition.”

Gudell warned, however, that it’s “still tough out there for buyers,” especially in booming job markets in the West.

“Things won’t switch from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market overnight, but conditions are starting to improve,” Gudell said.

 

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

More from NerdWallet Compare online mortgage refinance lenders Compare mortgage refinance rates Find a mortgage broker

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: dkearns@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

3 Options to Save for Your Child’s College Education

By Mike Eklund

Learn more about Mike on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor 

For the 2015-2016 school year, college costs, including tuition, fees, and room and board, averaged approximately $20,000 per year for a public four-year university (in-state) and around $44,000 at private four-year schools, according to the College Board. In some cases, elite private schools cost more than $60,000 a year (including room and board and other fees).

If you plan to pay for four years of college, this quickly adds up. Fortunately, there are several different ways to save for college. Here are the pros and cons of three popular college savings options. The right one for your family depends on your situation.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is a tax-advantaged individual retirement account. With a Roth, you put in after-tax money, and it grows tax-free. Your contributions are nondeductible, and qualified distributions after age 59½ are tax-free. Before age 59½, you can also withdraw contributions to the account tax-free. If you withdraw any earnings before age 59½, you must pay a 10% penalty, except in some special cases.

Though a Roth IRA is intended to be a retirement savings vehicle, it can be used for college savings as well, since contributions can be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free to pay for college. Compared to other college savings options, this flexibility makes it an excellent choice for many families.

Pros
  • You can save for college and retirement.
  • Contributions can be withdrawn tax- and penalty-free at any time.
  • IRA assets are not included for financial aid calculations, improving aid eligibility for your student.
Cons
  • Earnings withdrawn before age 59½ may be taxed as income and assessed a 10% penalty.
  • There are income limits for eligibility (but high earners may be able to fund a Roth IRA through a “backdoor” strategy).
529 college savings plan

These tax-advantaged plans are offered by states and are designed to help families save for future college costs. Investments grow tax-deferred, and withdrawals are tax-free if used for qualified education expenses. All states offer plans, and you can invest in any state you choose. If your only goal is to save for college, 529 plans are a great tool. They have excellent tax benefits, but lack the flexibility of some of the other options if the money is not used for college.

Pros
  • Earnings grow tax-free.
  • Withdrawals are tax-free if used for qualified education expenses.
  • Some states offer a state tax deduction for contributions.
  • You can change beneficiaries in the future if funds are not needed.
Cons
  • Earnings withdrawn for nonqualified education expenses are subject to a 10% withdrawal penalty and ordinary income taxes.
  • Contributions withdrawn for nonqualified education expenses are subject to income tax.
  • These assets are included in determining your family’s ability to pay for college for financial aid purposes.
  • There are limits on the amount you can contribute annually.

Note that there are also private college 529 plans that allow parents to prepay for tuition credits at certain private schools, locking in future tuition costs at today’s prices. But these are even less flexible than state-sponsored 529 plans, since they are school-specific. 

Taxable investment account

This is a regular brokerage account that is funded with after-tax money. Earnings in the account are taxed, but the money can be used for anything. (This could also be cash in the bank, which won’t yield much and will also be taxed.)

A taxable investment account offers the most flexibility of any option on this list, but it’s the least desirable from a tax standpoint. However, there may be ways to eliminate capital gains taxes by transferring assets to your child and using a combination of the personal exemption, standard deduction and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. But this can be complicated, and I’d recommend working with a tax or financial professional to implement such a strategy. 

Pros Cons
  • These assets are included in determining your family’s ability to pay for college for financial aid purposes.
  • Capital gains, dividends and interest are taxed annually.
Get help

These three vehicles tend to be the best options for college savings, and many families will employ a strategy that uses more than one. Other options, like custodial accounts or cash-value life insurance, are less attractive. A custodial account is one created in the student’s name with someone else assigned as a custodian. The funds must be spent for the benefit of the child and become the child’s once he or she reaches a certain age. Cash-value life insurance includes an investment component, which parents may be tempted to use for college. But high fees and limited investment options make this a poor choice for college funding. In both cases, these vehicles lack flexibility, and since the assets are included in financial aid calculations, they may reduce the level of aid a student receives.

Consider working with a fee-only financial planner who specializes in college planning to help you decide what makes the most sense for your family. It’s important that you don’t let saving for college derail your other financial goals — especially your retirement plans. While your child can take out a loan for college, you can’t do that for retirement. Developing a college savings strategy as part of your long-term financial plan will help you determine how much you can save while still reaching your personal and financial goals.

Mike Eklund is a financial planner at Financial Symmetry in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Study: State Insurance Department Websites Are Short on Consumer Help

The trillion-dollar insurance industry is largely regulated at the state level — that’s the first place consumers should go for help and information on products such as home, auto and life insurance. But the websites of individual state departments of insurance are falling short on their duties to consumers, according to a new analysis.

The NerdWallet study looked at department of insurance websites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, scoring each on more than 20 factors to determine which sites were most helpful to insurance consumers. The results: The average insurance department has considerable work to do online when it comes to helping residents navigate the complex world of insurance.

The average rating in the analysis was 60%. The Texas Department of Insurance scored the highest at 98%, and New Mexico’s Office of the Superintendent of Insurance the lowest at 17%.

Insurance department websites were rated on offerings such as updated premium comparisons, updated insurance company complaint data, consumer education resources and the quality of consumer telephone assistance.

These departments “have a lot of information for consumers that no one else has, information that no one else can really help you with,” says Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America and former insurance commissioner of Texas.

Since being notified of the study, several departments have updated their websites, including in New Mexico, where spokesperson Alan Seeley credited the NerdWallet analysis for motivating its consumer-centric updates.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

Dozens show support after deaf woman is refused service at Dunkin' Donuts

A deaf woman who was outraged by the way a Dunkin' Donuts employee treated her is getting support from her community.

Jessica Sanzillo said she's a frequent customer at a Framingham, Massachusetts, Dunkin' Donuts and uses a texting app to order through the drive-through. She said she writes her order and what her kids want on her phone, and then will drive up the window and show them her order.

But when she drove up earlier this month, she said she was refused service because she didn't use the speaker and would not be served her coffee unless she came inside. 

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"There were three other workers there that know me, that see me every day. When the server refused to serve me my drink, none of the three people came over and told him that it wasn't OK, that she's a routine customer, she's deaf. They didn't say anything. They just stood back and watched," she told WFXT.

On Sunday, Sanzillo and several others went through that drive-through and ordered like a deaf person would. They hope this sends a message to others.

"To see, to get them the experience of people that work at Dunkin' Donuts. To know what it's like for when a deaf person is going to come through the drive-through and how to approach that better in the future,” Sanzillo told WFXT through an interpreter Friday.

Hearing people and others who have deaf family members came out to the rally, as well.

"As a parent of a deaf child, I would never want William to be excluded from anything, and so thinking of him wanting to get a cup of coffee later in life and being told he couldn't go through the drive-through like everybody else really upset me,” one parent said.Dunkin' Donuts apologized for the initial incident and said the employee involved has been fired. Read the company's statement below:

"At Dunkin' Donuts, providing a friendly and welcoming restaurant environment for all of our guests is a top priority. We are aware of the guest complaint regarding the franchised Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant at 334 Waverly St. in Framingham. We have been informed that upon learning of the customer complaint, the restaurant’s franchisee who owns and operates this restaurant spoke with the guest to apologize for the experience and to try to resolve the matter. Additionally, the franchisee informs us he has terminated the crew member involved in the incident. Franchisees are required by their franchise agreement to comply with all applicable laws."

Should I Get a FHA Loan or Conventional Mortgage?

Federal Housing Administration loans and conventional loans remain the most popular financing types for today’s mortgage borrowers. But which program makes the most financial sense for you? Here’s how to decide.

The Nuts & Bolts of FHA Loans

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration. The program contains two forms of mortgage insurance; an upfront mortgage insurance premium calculated at 1.75% of the loan amount, and a monthly premium based on 0.8% of the loan amount. These forms of mortgage insurance make the FHA loan pricey, however the program is very flexible:

  • New mortgage post-short sale or foreclosure is a three-year wait time
  • New mortgage post Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a three-year wait time
  • Payment-to-income ratios can be as high as 55%
  • Co-signers are permitted
  • Borrowers can finance up to 97% loan-to-value paying off a first and a second loan under rate and term avoiding “cash out” (a lender term that refers to the structure of a mortgage where you’re receiving funds to pay off debt beyond what you owe. It is usually subject to more restrictive guidelines, but that’s not the case with FHA loans.)
  • Very attractive interest rates as low as 3.25% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage

When FHA Makes Sense

The FHA program makes sense when you have little equity to work with or a unique financial situation. You’ll need at least a 3.5% down payment to purchase a home using an FHA Loan. The program will go as high as the maximum county loan limit in the area in which you are looking. For example in Sonoma County, California for a single-family home that means a loan size all the way to $554,300. If your credit score is anything under 680, an FHA loan generally is optimal.

The Nuts & Bolts of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans are loans bought and sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and represent the lion’s share of the mortgage market. These loans, while the most popular, also contain tighter qualifying guidelines than FHA:

  • No mortgage insurance with just 10% down
  • The wait for a new mortgage post-foreclosure is seven years; there’s a four-year wait post short-sale; and four-year wait post Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • Offers the lowest possible payments

When a Conventional Loan Makes Sense

If you have a credit score over 680 and a 5% down payment, you have the bare minimum required to explore working with a conventional loan. Conventional loans also are stricter on employment history, requiring two years in the same field, as well as payment-to-income ratio, which is a max of 45%.

Which Loan Program Is Most Suitable for Me?

Conventional

  • Your credit score is 680 or higher
  • You have a big down payment
  • If you have a big down payment and a so-so credit score under 680, then conventional could be a good vehicle, but your interest rate will be higher due to credit score.

FHA

  • Your credit score is below 680
  • Divorced? Have a previous derogatory credit event such as a foreclosure? Then FHA would be the route to take.
  • Small down payment but great credit score? The FHA primarily would be your vehicle, although a 5% conventional loan would be a solid choice as well.

The key is to understand the characteristics of both programs and how they relate to your financial picture. Right out of the gate you might be a good candidate for either program. Selecting the right loan is a function of choosing the one that is best in alignment with your payment and cash flow expectations.

Remember, if you’re considering applying for a mortgage, it helps to know not only how much house you can afford, but also where your credit stands before you begin the process. That’s because your credit scores help determine what types of rates and terms you may qualify for. You can get two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

6 Things to Do If Your Credit Card Balances Are Creeping Up

About half of all Americans use their credit cards strictly as a method of payment, avoiding interest charges by paying each statement balance in full. The other half will frequently (or always) carry a balance on their credit cards. And while most credit card users will tell themselves that they have their debt under control, some will eventually become worried when their balances keep growing.

Since it’s considered unsecured debt, credit card interest rates are usually higher than other types of financing such as car loans and mortgages. And since credit card interest payments are never tax-deductible, letting your balance grow can be extremely costly. Furthermore, having a high credit card balance will raise your debt-to-credit ratio, and can hurt your credit score. With a lower credit score, you will receive less favorable interest rates when applying for other financing. Therefore, it’s vital that you control your credit card balances before they begin to control your personal finances. (You can see where you credit stands by viewing your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) 

If your credit card balances are creeping up and it’s starting to creep you out, consider these six things.

1. Go On a Diet

Eating less won’t necessarily help you cut your credit card balance (unless you eat at restaurants a lot), but it can make sense to go on a spending diet. Start by cutting out all unnecessary expenditures, while postponing essential purchases for as long as possible. Then, look for ways to save money on all your essential purchases. 

2. Increase Your Monthly Payments

One of the worst mistakes that you can make with your credit cards is to only pay the minimum balance. When you pay just the minimum, it can take years to pay off your credit card debt, even if you don’t make any new charges. In fact, you should be paying as much as you can in order to lower your interest charges and pay down your balance as soon as possible.

3. Make Your Payments Sooner

Just because your statement shows a due date a few weeks in the future, doesn’t mean that you should wait that long to make your payment. Credit card interest is calculated based on your average daily balance, so you will save money by making your payments as soon as you can.

4. Make More than One Payment Each Month

Another way to pay down your credit balances faster is to make multiple payments each month. For example, you could choose to make a payment twice a month after you receive your paycheck, or anytime you receive a significant amount of cash. When you do this, you will reduce your average daily balance with each payment, which will lower your interest charges.

5. Use a Different Method of Payment

By design, credit cards make it easy to spend money you don’t have, which enables some people to get carried away. If this is happening to you, it might be time to store your credit cards in a secure place and temporarily start using cash, checks or debit cards. Some people put their cards in their sock drawer, but others will lock them in their safe or even freeze them in a block of ice.

6. Consider a Balance Transfer

The biggest problem with a high credit card balance is the interest charges that you face. Thankfully, there are credit cards that offer 0% annual percentage rate (APR) promotional financing on balance transfers that last from as little as six months to as long as 21 months. When you open a new credit card account with one of these offers, you can transfer your existing balances to that account and avoid interest charges during its promotional financing period. When the promotional financing expires, the standard interest rate will apply to any unpaid balance. Just be aware that most credit cards with 0% APR promotional financing offers will apply a 3% to 5% balance transfer fee to the new balance.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Americans Are Going to Spend a Scary Amount of Money This Halloween

Halloween spending expectations are soaring higher than a witch’s broomstick this year.

After a long summer and heightened consumer confidence, total spending for the spooky season is expected to reach a record $8.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. This is the highest amount in the survey’s 11-year history. More than 171 million people in the U.S. are expected to take part in Halloween festivities, spending an average of $82.93 (up from last year’s $74.34).

Costumes will likely be the largest spending category, with consumers planning to spend $3.1 billion on Halloween garb, according to the survey. And 47% of those surveyed plan to don costumes to celebrate the holiday. The survey found that 35% of consumers will scour the web in search of the perfect holiday tresses, getting inspiration on sites like Pinterest and Facebook, and the majority of shoppers (47%) plan to head to discount stores to buy their Halloween items.

According to the survey, 94.3% will be buying candy and spending $2.5 billion on it. Consumers also plan to spend $2.4 billion on decorations (49% want to decorate their home or yard) and $390 million on greeting cards. Many consumers (46%) will also be carving pumpkins. And all this spending will happen soon — most (44.4%) expect to start shopping in the first two weeks of October.

The National Retail Federation’s annual survey was conducted from September 6 to 13 by Prosper Insights & Analytics and asked 6,791 consumers about their Halloween shopping plans. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Don’t Get Spooked By Your Spending

If you’re one of the millions of people who plan to dish out some cash on Halloween, it’s best not to spend yourself into too much debt. If you’re carrying a large credit card balance that you’re finding difficult to pay off, consider learning from costume DIY videos to save some cash where you can. Too much debt can affect your credit score, and keep you from acquiring loans when you need them. You can monitor your credit by getting a free credit score, updated every 14 days on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

When Is an Employer Allowed to Take Money Out of Your Check?

If you’ve ever received a paycheck, you know there are plenty of deductions that come out of your overall pay: income taxes, Social Security, health insurance premiums, retirement savings and any other amounts you might’ve authorized like automatic savings or union dues.

Of course, you could also have amounts from legal garnishments taken out as well if you’ve had some issues repaying your debts or making child support payments (the leading cause of wage garnishment in the U.S., ahead of student loans, taxes, medical bills and other consumer debt). But beyond these authorized and legal withholdings, are there other times that employers are entitled to hold money from your paycheck?

First, state laws dictate what employers can and can’t do when it comes to your paycheck, so if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to reach out to your state’s labor department, an employment attorney or even your state’s attorney general to find out what your legal rights are.

With that said, we talked to Melissa Chan, an associate attorney with Cary Kane LLP in New York, which focuses on employment and labor issues, about some of the basics of what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to your money.

They Likely Need Your Consent

One of the first things Chan pointed out is that withholdings beyond those listed above —the basics like taxes, Social Security, etc. — likely require employee consent. So if you haven’t given your written approval, you might want to discuss the matter with your employer and then, if that doesn’t work, seek assistance with an attorney or state entity.

“We’ve seen examples where a server in a restaurant breaks something or serves the wrong dish and a customer sends it back and the employer tries to deduct those amounts from the employee’s paycheck, and that’s not legal unless there’s written consent from the employee,” Chan said (again, laws vary, state by state).

So, it’s a good idea to be careful about what you sign when you accept a new job, or even after you are already employed. It might even be wise to have an attorney review any employment agreements that ask you to consent to such withholdings.

What If You’re Late to Work?

If you are an hourly worker, your employer can dock your pay for tardiness. Of course, being reasonable in this matter is important, as Chan pointed out.

“Even from the employer’s perspective, I think erring on the side of caution would be most prudent, because there are all sorts of lawsuits out there,” Chan said. “If it’s a person who’s a minute late, it’s probably worth just paying them for the full hour.”

If it happens to you, it could be worth sitting down with your boss to discuss the matter, especially if a full hour is being docked over just a few minutes missed.

What If You Lose Company Money or Break Something Valuable?

Again, an employer can’t typically withhold money from your paycheck for these scenarios unless you’ve agreed to allow them to do so, but it’s a good idea to check your state’s specific laws.

“The employer can discipline the employee for whatever loss was incurred, but again, unless there was an agreement in place, they can’t take that money out of the employee’s paycheck,” Chan said.

That can, however, vary if the employer can prove that the employee was grossly negligent, dishonest or acted willfully, according to many state laws. The employer will, of course, need to prove that. A simple accusation won’t give them the legal right to make these deductions.

What If You Borrow Money From Your Employer?

Chances are if your employer loans you money they’re going to want a written agreement, but barring that written agreement, they can’t deduct any amounts owed from your paycheck simply because they loaned you the money, Chan said. That doesn’t mean they can’t take separate legal action against you, however, if you legitimately owe them money.

What If Your Employer Does Withhold Money Without Consent?

Your first step should be communicating with your employer, getting as much information as possible and trying to resolve the matter. If that doesn’t work, Chan said, it’s definitely wise to seek counsel. She recommended, as we already mentioned above, that it’s a good idea to reach out to an employment attorney, your state’s labor department or attorney general to get a better understanding of what your rights are.

Also, it’s good to keep in mind that keeping your debt at a manageable level can help you get more out of your paychecks. You’ll have more flexibility in both your spending, saving and investing. To see how your debt is impacting your financial health, you can check your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, with the free credit report summary on Credit.com.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

5 Money Tips You Should Know Before Moving Out

Moving to a new home can be very stressful and also exciting. This may be your first time on your own without financial support. You want to ensure you are financially prepared and ready for the big step, so here are a few money tips to help you get started.

1. Build Your Credit

Before signing on the dotted line, you should consider building solid credit. If you have a good credit score, then you may get a low, fixed-interest rate when applying for a mortgage. If you ignore your credit score, then you may get a high interest rate or even possibly denied on your loan. If you are moving in with a partner, then consider sitting down with him or her and looking over your credit together. (You can view a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Whether you have a joint account or not, you are now both responsible for your mortgage and other expenses that come with your home. (Note: Landlords, too, often check credit, so it’s in your best interest to make sure yours is in good shape before filling out rental applications.)

2. Plan Your Budget Now

While you are still living at home, you might want to plan out your budget before moving into your new home. First, write down all of your current expenses, then include your “new home” expenses and how you will be paying for them. Your “new home” expenses may be furniture and appliances to start out, but you also want to include your mortgage or rent, utilities and any loans you plan on taking out. It might be difficult to guess how much all of your bills will be, but it’s beneficial to provide an estimate of how much you think it might cost. This way, you will be prepared and have enough money aside to pay for it.

3. Pay Down Your Debts

Moving to a new home comes with a lot of additional expenses. You might want to pay down a little (or all) of your debt now before taking on more. It might be impossible to eliminate a debt as large as student loans, but you should try to at least get your number down. So, if you already have steady monthly payments, consider putting a little extra toward it each month. Any little bit helps.

4. Save Money

Take out a pen and paper and write down all of your financial goals for your new home. Let’s say you’ve always wanted a large dining room table or a leather love seat. Try and find the cheapest option and start saving! You can choose to save one at a time or tackle each goal separately.

Whatever your strategy is, saving before you move will help you stay organized and avoid going into debt.

You might want to consider putting 10% of your net pay (take-home pay) toward your savings for your new home to help you get ready. You can even have a little fun with this and give your savings a name such as “A New Beginning.”

5. Practice Makes Perfect

You might want to practice paying your bills before you move out so you can get used to not having the money. This might be a little difficult at first, but it will only help you become more financially prepared for your move. If you find yourself struggling to meet your payments, then you may have to cut back on some expenses from your budget. If you are comfortable taking the money out of your account, consider putting it into your savings so you are ready to pay for it when you officially move in.

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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