Should You Take Out a Second Mortgage on Your Home?

Financial Advice By: Carmen Rita Wong

Q: Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones: I found my dream job about a year ago and am so happy with the work that I’m doing!  Unfortunately, I had to take a pay cut for this position and my money seems to be coming up short every month, no matter how I try to readjust my budget.  I’ve heard other people talking about “refinancing their home” or getting a “second mortgage.”  I’m not sure that I fully understand what either of those mean, but I do own my own home, so do you think either of those would be useful options for me to consider?

I’m thrilled that you’ve found your dream job– so few of us do that it’s nearly worth its weight in gold! But of course, dreams don’t pay the bills. It’s also good news that you are a homeowner, but let’s not go there yet.

Allow me to expand your mind first: Your income doesn’t necessarily have to based only on your full-time salary. Dream jobs plus a family (if you have one) tend to take up most of your life, but if there’s any way that you can carve out the time to find ways to bring in other income, I’d rather you head there than pulling money out of your house, which can be a slippery slope, draining your biggest asset. I don’t know what you do for a living, but there are some great, legitimate ways (stay away from those cheesy work-from-home-get-rich ads) to earn on the side, such as TaskRabbit.com or Elance.com.

And if working more is out of the question, then instead of borrowing from your home’s value–which can be costly not only in interest and fees, but in terms of lowering your own net worth–consider which relationship you want long-term: Do you want a long-term relationship with your career or with your home? When budgets can no longer be slashed, I always advise what feels like some tough love. We can’t have it all. That can mean sometimes considering selling your home instead, using some of your proceeds as a down payment on another, less expensive home, then setting aside some earnings into an emergency fund.

In that way, you maybe can’t have it all, but you can have two very important things: both a dream career and, peace of mind.

 

Carmen Rita Wong is the President and Founder of Malecon Productions. She is the former co-creator and host of the only national, daily personal finance television show, On the Money, on CNBC. Carmen was also the co-founder and former President of an all-female financial planning firm and is currently Assistant Industry Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at NYU Polytech.

Is Getting a Loan from a Title Company Right for Me?

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: I’m thinking about getting a loan from one of those title companies that advertise on TV. The ads say I can use my car title and get automatically approved. Are these legitimate lenders and would you recommend them? I will repay the full amount as soon as I am working again to avoid so much interest.

A:  This one is an easy answer: NO WAY! Why?  Super high interest rates that could be on par with a payday loan.  Borrowing that pricey means keeping you in debt, possibly just to keep up with payments.  Fix what’s really wrong here.  Are you out of work or maybe just over burdened with other loans?  If you’ve got lots of debt, first head over to an NFCC.org office near you, which is run by nonprofit credit counselors.  For a small initial fee (they don’t make money off of you), they can give you a solid assessment of where you’re at credit-wise and what lenders you should avoid.  They can also help you with a debt management plan that not only gets you out of the red for good, but improves your credit, so you don’t have to borrow at such a high interest rate.  If you’re just in a tight spot income-wise and you need cash, look instead to make more money either by taking on a part-time job or being creative such as listing yourself as a “TaskRabbit” by the hour or by the task.  Also, make sure your budget is cut as far as it can go before you borrow.  Buy nothing but essentials.  And don’t forget about your local community banks or credit unions; they’re more likely to have lower rates and loans that won’t keep you on a borrowing spiral.

 

About the writer: Carmen Wong Ulrich is the co-Founder and former President of ALTA Wealth Management and a Professor in NYU PolyTech‘s school of Finance and Risk Engineering. She is an author and the former host and co-creator of CNBC‘s “On the Money,” and currently the money advice columnist for Good Housekeeping, a contributor to MSNBC and CNN as well as a frequent expert guest on ABC’s “The View.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: I recently became unemployed and am now receiving unemployment benefits from the state. How can I negotiate with my credit card holders an affordable APR% and is there anything else I can do to lower my other monthly bills such as rent/housing payments, utilities, car notes, etc?

A: Facing piles of bills when you have little or no money coming in can feel incredibly overwhelming.  But you absolutely can do it!  The secret to keeping your head above water is to take each piece of your financial life bit by bit.  This helps to keep things from spiraling out of control and will set you right back up on your feet once you start working again.

First, let’s tackle that debt.  Getting a lower APR (annual percentage rate) happens only with leverage—the leverage a great credit record as well as an ability to pay gets you.  At this point, you may have little on your side to help get your rates down.  However, it’s always good to talk to your credit card company to see what you can do to lower your payments before you fall behind.  Call your lenders and let them know what you can pay every month.  They may even be open to settling your balances for less than what you owe.  Key here is to be proactive with each card to see where you stand.  If you end up batting zero and your payments are still unmanageable, head ASAP to a non-profit credit counselor near you.  You can find one at NFCC.org.  It’s important to go with a non-profit counselor first.  They do charge a small fee (from $20 to $50), but it’s for administrative costs.  These counselors do not make a profit off of your tough situation.  But they will give you solid guidance on how to manage these debts.

Next up is the biggest bill in almost all of our lives: Home.  There is rarely a way to cut your mortgage payment, but if you’re a renter and have been a great tenant, you can approach your landlord to see if there’s anything you can do to possibly help with building maintenance to lower your rent.  For example, offer to take out recyclables or trash, or do some landscaping in return for a cut in monthly rent.

Also, you’re right to be very mindful of all your other expenses such as groceries, gas and utilities.  Go to the free site LowerMyBills.com to shop around for cheaper landline, cell phone, cable, and utility providers.  If you have to drive, carpool as much as possible and use sites like GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest gas near you or along your commute.  As for groceries, go crazy with coupons!  Search not only coupon sites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, CouponCabin.com, but also manufacturer sites themselves.  If you like a certain brand, do a search for that brand name plus “coupons” to be directed to the manufacturer’s site.  And don’t forget promotional codes for both online and in-store shopping!  Head to FatWallet.com and RetailMeNot.com to find codes that will save you even more.  And with coupons in hand, then search for who is selling what you want for less at Pricegrabber.com.

And when you’re unemployed, you may want to stop going out or doing anything entertaining because you feel like you need to save money every day.   But don’t isolate yourself because you’re short on funds.  Reach out to your family and friends and make sure they know that you’re looking for work.  They may help in the job search and be able to offer some much-needed personal support.  Plus, you don’t need to spend much to enjoy yourself.  Offer to host a pot-luck dinner, or if the weather is warm, meet in a local park for a pot-luck BBQ.  Surround yourself with support and your head will stay well above water in more ways than one!

– About the writer: Carmen Wong Ulrich is the co-Founder and former President of ALTA Wealth Management and a Professor in NYU PolyTech‘s school of Finance and Risk Engineering. She is an author and the former host and co-creator of CNBC‘s “On the Money,” and currently the money advice columnist for Good Housekeeping, a contributor to MSNBC and CNN as well as a frequent expert guest on ABC’s “The View.