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What are ancillary products (and are they really worth it)?
If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle, you’re probably familiar with the same old spiel—the finance representative at the dealership sits you down and begins offering you product after product to protect your interest, and if you’re like most people, you end up feeling overwhelmed and confused.
You may be wondering what other ancillary products exist and if they are really worth it? Ultimately that decision is up to you, but here we’ve highlighted some features and benefits about different loan protection options to help you make an educated choice the next time you’re faced with the decision to add ancillary products. Check them out below.
If you’re in a serious accident or your car’s been stolen, the last thing you want to hear is that you owe more on your car loan than the car is worth. GAP insurance (or Guaranteed Asset Protection) is protection offered by finance companies, either through a dealership or through your credit union or bank, to cover any difference on your loan (that your insurance doesn’t pay) if your vehicle is totaled and/or stolen.
Some things you may want to consider as you think about GAP insurance include:
- The cost of GAP can range from $300 to as much as $900 depending on where you purchase this coverage (e.g., through a credit union or bank versus a dealership).
- If you are upside down (meaning you owe more than the vehicle is worth), GAP can be a huge money saver. For a relatively small investment of $300 (competitively priced GAP), you could save thousands down the road. On the other hand, if you end up paying $900 (on the higher end of GAP coverage), your margin of savings will be much less.
- The key is knowing your loan-to-value (LTV). LTV is a percentage based on the amount you owe divided by the value of your vehicle. Example: if you owe $20,000 on your vehicle, but it’s worth $15,000, your LTV is 133%. Generally speaking, if you are over 90% LTV, you could benefit from GAP coverage. On average, cars depreciate roughly 19% in the first year, and as much as 50% in the first three years—unless you plan on paying off your car in three years, GAP could be a huge money saver.
- Another factor to consider is some GAP policies will also pay your insurance deductible, so instead of paying $500 or $1,000 or higher (depending on your deductible), you pay nothing out of pocket.
GAP insurance doesn’t necessarily make sense for everyone, though. If the amount you owe is less than the car’s value, or only a little more, there’s no reason to keep GAP insurance because there will be little or no payout possible. Additionally, you should remember to cancel GAP insurance if you ever sell your car.
Mechanical Repair Coverage
When that weird sound coming from under the hood turns into a big repair bill, having Mechanical Repair Coverage can come in handy. Mechanical Repair Coverage (MRC) or extended warranties are offered in addition to the manufacturer warranty. The cost of extended warranties varies greatly depending on the make and the model of the vehicle, and who you purchase the extended warranty through.
It is important to note the difference between MRC, an extended warranty, and regular car insurance. Your car insurance covers damage caused by a collision, theft, weather event, or other incident, while MRC typically covers vehicle parts after a mechanical breakdown that’s a result of normal use. MRC pays the cost of covered repairs directly to the repair facility, with no out-of-pocket expenses for you aside from any applicable deductible. Similarly, extended warranties cover vehicle parts after a mechanical breakdown that’s a result of normal use. There are also extended warranties that cover only specific areas of the car, such as powertrain warranties, which cover the powertrain and associated parts.
Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself before considering the purchase of an extended warranty:
- How many years/miles does my manufacturer warranty have left on it? Most manufacturers offer a three-year/36,000-mile factory warranty.
- What is the difference between the basic manufacturer warranty and the powertrain warranty? The basic warranty typically covers everything bumper to bumper, whereas the powertrain warranty only covers the powertrain and associated parts.
- How long do I intend to keep the vehicle?
- How much will repairs cost if I encounter them down the road?
Most extended warranties cover you well over 100,000 miles—if you plan on keeping your car for longer than that, an extended warranty could be a great money-saving option. Some institutions will allow you to extend the term of your loan in order to absorb the cost of coverage while keeping your monthly payment the same. Of course, doing initial calculations and analyzing your budget and needs is necessary before making any financial decision. Mechanical repair policies can be quite comprehensive, but like any insurance product or extended service plan, they won’t cover everything, so be sure you understand what is covered.
Loan Protection is just like it sounds: protection that covers your payments or the entire loan balance following a significant life event, such as loss of life, unemployment, disability, and family medical leave. Some institutions, such as Georgia’s Own, provide additional protection for accidental dismemberment, terminal illness, hospitalization, and loss of life of a non-protected dependent. The cost and coverage vary from institution to institution, so it’s important to do your research. Most institutions have a cost per hundred dollars of the current loan balance.
Some highlights of loan protection programs include:
- The events covered by most loan protection programs are: loss of life, disability, unemployment, and family leave.
- Most institutions offer various loan protection packages that can cover one, two, three, or all four of the life events mentioned. Some institutions offer additional coverage.
- Loan protection programs are available for most types of loans.
- There is typically a cap of coverage over a certain dollar amount.
Benefits of loan protection programs:
- Loss of Life protection can ease the burden on your family, and your debt can be completely canceled.
- Disability protection could cover your payments for you when your income might be drastically reduced due to a disability event (most competitive employers only offer as much as 60% of your salary for a short-term disability).
- Unemployment protection could be invaluable in a time where you’ve lost your job unexpectedly and are unable to make your loan payments.
- If you are unable to work for an extended period of time, family leave coverage can help you maintain the same level of income.
There are a number of loan protection options available to help protect you when faced with the unexpected. Although these services come with a cost, it may be worth investing in the peace of mind these protection programs offer. Review your financial situation in detail so you are confident that getting a policy is the best approach for you. And regardless of your choice, be sure to have some emergency funds available for any unexpected expenses.
- GAP insurance is an optional car insurance coverage that helps pay off your auto loan in the event your car is totaled or stolen and you owe more than the car’s depreciated value.
- Mechanical Repair Coverage is a protection plan for your vehicle that prevents you from having to pay for damage due to a mechanical breakdown or part failure.
- There are various loan protection programs available that cover your payments or the entire loan balance following a significant life event, such as loss of life, unemployment, disability, and family medical leave.
Overall, these ancillary products are add-ons that may not be essential, but enhance the protection of things like your car or even your loan, and can help you cover any unexpected expenses. Ultimately, the decision to purchase an ancillary product is up to you and what you decide is best for your situation.
10 money mistakes not to make in your 30s
So, you’ve graduated from your carefree 20s into your responsible 30s. While you’ve matured over the last decade and gained some valuable experiences, you’ve still got chances to take and mistakes to make—some of them costlier than others.
You’re likely thinking about your relationships, your career, buying a home, or even starting a family. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a critical time for money management. A new decade brings new challenges, so we’re here to spell out some financial oversights that can keep you down for the count. Here are ten money mistakes people make in their 30s and how to avoid them:
1. Not planning for retirement
Retirement seems like it’s 100 years away. You’ve started to climb the corporate ladder or have just taken the first step towards making your first million. The secret to saving for retirement is recurring contributions and compounding—small deposits that will grow over a long period. Be sure you take advantage of your company’s retirement plan and maximize the company match, or open a traditional or Roth IRA and commit to regular investments. Consider this: If you invest $1,000 at age 30, make monthly deposits of $100, and earn 7% interest over the next 35 years, you’d have more than $192,000 when you reach age 65. Amazing, right
2. Diversify your savings: don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
Your retirement account is not the only place you should invest your money. Another mistake many people make is not diversifying their savings. In your 30s, there are sure to be some big-ticket items, like paying for a wedding, buying a home, or a new car. Open a savings account or brokerage account and determine your long-term and short-term financial needs. Diversify your assets among stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash to reduce risk and be strategic with liquidity.
3. Doubling down on debt
Your 30s are the prime time for promotions. You’re earning more and likely spend more, too. You can afford nice things, but sometimes this can be a slippery slope. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a real thing. Once you get caught up in that world, it’s hard to get out.
Using a credit card is an easy solution, and it can help when money is a little tight or you need to make online purchases. When you can’t pay it off at the end of the month, however, you need to reevaluate your budget and spending. Credit cards are a tool that can help establish your credit score, but when you’re paying astronomical interest on your purchases month after month, you’re creating a burden that can wreak havoc on your finances.
Consider a personal loan if you need to consolidate debt or pay for significant expenses. Personal loans offer significantly lower interest rates compared to credit cards, which will help you save big in interest in the long run.
4. Setting yourself up to be house poor
Now that you’re making more money, you might consider buying a home. Hopefully, you’ve saved some money for a down payment and have analyzed your monthly expenses to determine how much you can realistically spend. Don’t make the mistake of not accounting for other home-related expenses, like PMI (if you put less than 20% down), property taxes, home insurance, and more. A mortgage is a long-term commitment—sitting on the floor eating ramen noodles so you can “afford” the biggest house in the best neighborhood is no way to live. How can you save for your future if all your financial efforts are spent on paying your mortgage? It’s not a purchase you can return easily, so shop smart. You’ll be happier in a home where you can live within your means.
5. Living on the uninsured edge
Insurance can feel like a waste of money, especially if you don’t have to use it. When you do, however, it pays off big time. No one wants to think about a health issue or a home disaster, but it happens. Generally, insurance in your 30s should include health, disability, life, home (or renter’s), and an umbrella policy. Insurance is largely personal, so talk with a trusted advisor to help determine your needs. Keep in mind, too, that the younger you are, the less you’ll pay for life insurance, and the healthier you are, the less expensive your health coverage will cost—buying insurance now can save you money in the long run.
6. Delaying discussions about money
When you’re dating, finances are not a fun topic, and when you’re engaged, no one wants to ruin the excitement by talking about money. Financial differences between partners can be a serious issue if it’s discussed too late in the relationship. If you’re already walking down the aisle, it’s easy to say you’ll figure it out later, but it’s the number one reason couples argue and a path that can quickly lead to divorce.
You may come from different financial backgrounds or have different ways of making financial decisions. While they don’t have to match perfectly, you should be able to decide on a mutually agreeable system to budget your household finances. Once you merge your assets, it becomes a more difficult conversation. Don’t bring it up on your first date, but start thinking about it before you fall head over heels.
7. Splurging on your firstborn
Everyone parent wants their child to have the best of everything, but too many times that translates to a house full of toys, clothes, accessories, and top-of-the-line items. We get it—with all the excitement and lack of sleep, it’s hard to make smart financial decisions. But, if you don’t take the time to check your spending and your savings, your sanity will be gone before you know it.
Do you need the elaborate carriage-style stroller or the designer footie pajamas? Should you order the custom bedding? Think about the necessities, how long you’ll use them, and what your budget can handle. Your little bundle of joy will be loved no matter how much you spend.
8. Giving into the need for a new car
Years ago, people used to keep their cars until they ran them into the ground. Now, many make the huge money mistake of buying a new one every two or three years. While you can rationalize it all you want, it’s still a depreciating asset, and making a purchase every few years leaves you with a never-ending car payment. Today’s experts recommend spacing your new cars ten years apart. Buy a new car, pay it off in five years, and for the next five years, start saving for your next car’s down payment. If you take good care of it, you may even get a few bucks when you trade it in.
Given the frequent turnover rate of cars today, you might also consider a used or “pre-owned” car (if that makes you feel better). It’s already depreciated at someone else’s expense, and if you buy from a reputable dealer, you could save some serious cash. Before you head out for a test drive, check Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of how much you should pay.
9. Looking at your career in the short-term
You probably have more than ten years of work experience by now. If you don’t love your job or there’s no long-term growth opportunities, now is the time to switch gears. With your knowledge and experience, it’s the opportune time to update your resume and see what else is available. Chance are you’ll be more valuable to the competition and should be able to negotiate a higher salary and more responsibility.
This is the time to position yourself for your peak earning years. With new job offers, consider the company’s benefits, like health insurance, life insurance, a dental plan, and a 401(k) plan. Do they offer telecommuting, a flexible schedule, or a car allowance? While your salary is important, your entire compensation package, which includes your benefits, should be the real measure.
10. Not having an emergency fund
People lose their jobs, homes need expensive repairs, and family members get sick. No one expects those things to happen, but they do. You need to be financially prepared for emergencies. A few hundred dollars won’t cut it these days, so make sure you have a plan. Experts say that you should have at least six months’ worth of living expenses tucked away in a place where you aren’t tempted to withdraw unnecessarily.
Everything you’ve worked for could easily be swept away during a crisis, and recovering financially may not be easy. If you haven’t been saving for something like this, start now. It may be the most important thing you do to protect yourself and your family—and could help avoid a costly mistake.
The time to get serious is in your 30s. You’re getting ready for a lot of life changes, and you need to set yourself up well. Surround yourself with people you trust who can advise you and keep you accountable. Avoid the pitfalls by keeping your finances in order and focus on the future.
5 things you need to know to start your own business in Georgia
So, you’ve decided to start your own business—congratulations! While you’re undoubtedly excited, we know you also have a lot of questions. Whether you are ready to open your business in a month or are just now starting on this journey, take some time to prep with a few of the steps we will outline below. Every business is different, but all of them have to start somewhere—like with these five steps you are about to read.
1. Know your plan
Every business needs a plan before it can get off the ground. You need to start with the basics: what goods or service your business will provide, how it will provide those goods or services to customer, and whether you’ll operate from home or from another location are a few things you should have answers to before your business opens to the public. However, these beginning items are not the only things you have to consider. You will also need to look ahead. What will your business look like a year from now? When can you expect to make a profit? Having a basic plan in place will help you determine your steps to success.
2. Know the rules
Researching things like permits and licenses can be tedious, but it’s also a step you cannot skip if your business is to see the light of day. Look up your local ordinances on any permission or information you might need before getting started. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the information you find, consider speaking to a lawyer or other expert who can walk you through the process. You can even talk to city officials about specific questions you have—many of them are available to speak with you if you make an appointment. Knowing the rules now will help you from dealing with unexpected complications later.
3. Know your resources
Did you know that many local Chambers of Commerce can help you find the information you need for almost any industry? You can meet others in your field of work, learn from new business owners like yourself, and gain some very important knowledge on making your business a success. Some of these resources are even free to access and use—the ones that aren’t may still be worth your time and money to explore further. You can also consider talking to friends or colleagues who have recently undergone the process of opening a new business to get even more useful information about everything you need to know to open your business.
4. Know your community
Whether you’re opening a franchise of a well-known national company or starting up a shop of your very own, it’s crucial to know the community you will be part of. There will likely be many opportunities for you to participate in local events or activities and you will also get to know the people who may become your customers. Talk to other local businesses about ways they interact with the community—if everyone else on the block is decorating their storefronts for the holidays, go find some seasonal decals to add to your windows. Showing that you are part of the neighborhood you sell to will help your customers see your full value.
5. Know your “why”
Starting a new business isn’t easy. You already know that. And some days may be discouraging, whether you have few customers to serve or are still dealing with electrical work that is taking forever to finish. On those days, remember why you wanted to start a business in the first place. What motivated you to take this step? Write your answer down and place it somewhere you can access it easily to remind you of why you’re doing this in the first place. You can even share your motivation with others so they can help you remember what you love about what you do.
Opening a business takes a lot of work—but you can also find a lot of reward. You have the opportunity to make a difference in some way in your community, so plan ahead, get familiar with the basics, take advantage of your resources, and remember your reason for taking this step. By this time next year, your business may just be a household name.
Ready to take the leap and start your next business endeavor? Georgia’s Own is here to help with all your business banking needs—from business checking and business savings accounts to treasury management solutions and more, we offer a full suite of products designed to help your business flourish.
6 ways to market your business for free
Owning a business isn’t easy, and you might find yourself looking for new or better ways to stretch your dollars just a little bit further. You want people to know who you are, but you still have to make payroll, so how do you get your name out in the community without breaking the bank? We have six ideas that can get you started on the path to marketing your business for free.
1. Get on Social Media
The odds are high that you have a personal social media account. What about your business—does it have a social media account? More importantly, does it have the right social media accounts? Find out where your audience is most likely to be in the social media world and set up camp there for your company. This may mean you have to do a little research—tracking where your audience sees most of your posts will mean going through some trial and error. But putting in the work now can mean big payouts later.
2. Start a Blog
A blog is a great way for you to establish yourself and your business as an expert in your field. Create a blog that addresses industry updates, answers frequently asked questions, or shares important information with your audience. You can even reach out to colleagues to ask them to write a guest blog or offer to write one for them. There are also multiple reputable blogging sites have the tools you need to make your blog look professional without any additional costs.
3. Optimize Those Search Engines
Have you ever heard of SEO, or search engine optimization? It’s a way to identify and use specific words or phrases to ensure that if someone comes looking for a specific service, your website will show up at the top of the list. Do some research on this one, because it’s an art form—too few keywords or phrases won’t help enough, while using too many can actually cause your website to be lower in search results. But finding the magic formula for your website can go a long way in letting people know you’re there.
4. Send Some Emails
You might receive dozens of marketing emails a day, and you probably delete most of them. But, much like SEO, there is a technique to sending emails—and the best part is you can do it for free. Different companies will find success through different methods, so now is your chance to look up some ways to ensure that your next email blast will be opened by a significant percentage of the recipients. Once you find what works, you can use email to make a name for your business.
5. Make it Pretty
Do you have interesting industry info to share? Try putting it on an infographic to gain some follows and shares through social media and beyond. This is another area where you may need to go through some trial and error before finding out what works best for your company, but once you home in on the style that attracts the most viewers, you can begin to make all sorts of interesting images to share.
6. Say It In a Video
Similar to infographics, videos are paving the way to increasing engagement for many companies. While the elusive Facebook algorithm doesn’t follow a consistent pattern, videos are often given a little more airtime on Facebook news feeds. Videos are also a fun way to show others more about your business, while offering up some useful information at the same time. You can create a free YouTube account to share all the videos you make.
Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive—you just have to do the right research to learn what your target audience will respond to best. So join social platforms, search for tips on writing that email, ask a colleague for a book recommendation on best blog practices, and start letting everyone know why you’re the best at what you do!
American Rescue Plan Child Tax Credits: What to expect
The last 18 months have brought about a lot of financial changes, and almost as many financial aid programs as a result. Keeping up with them may seem overwhelming, but we have you covered. Keep reading below to learn more about the American Rescue Plan Child Tax Credit and what it means for you:
What is the American Rescue Plan?
Much like the stimulus funds that most Americans received over the last two years, the American Rescue Plan is a similar process of getting funds to people to aid in times of financial crisis. You can find all the details you want (and more!) at the Treasury website, which outlines answers to many frequently asked questions.
How much do I get?
It’s okay—you can ask! The American Rescue Plan clearly outlines the amount that will be distributed: up to $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for couples, and an additional $1,400 for each dependent in the household. Unlike the previous stimulus payments, dependents are defined as anyone you claimed as a dependent on your tax returns, not just children 17 and under.
There is another change to this plan that distinguishes it from previous stimulus packages: the expansion of the Child Tax Credit. While this credit was not created for the American Rescue Plan, it was expanded under the plan. Now, the credit has been raised to $3,600 for children under age 6, and to $3,000 for children under the age of 18.
When will I get the money?
The IRS announced that they will begin sending monthly payments to disperse the funds beginning July 1, 2021, and lasting until December 31 of 2021. The IRS is creating an online portal to allow eligible people to make any necessary changes or updates, like adding a child who was recently born so the IRS knows to adjust their credit amount accordingly.
This credit is best thought of as an advance of sorts, because the 2021 tax filing season on which the credit is based will not occur until 2022. However, payments will continue from January through June of 2022 to ensure families receive a year’s worth of funds.
This amount will vary for each family—the monthly payments are meant to disburse the funds based on how much each child is eligible to receive. For instance, the benefit could be worth up to $300 per child per month if each child is under the age of six as of December 31, 2021. Again, each family’s amount will be different, but you can figure out your monthly payment based on the ages and number of your qualifying children.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
You probably are—an estimated 90% of Americans are eligible for the updated Child Tax Credit benefits. If you meet the following qualifications, you can receive the credit:
- An adjusted gross income of $75,000 for individual taxpayers
- An adjusted gross income of $112,500 for heads of household
- An adjusted gross income of $150,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and widows/widowers
While no one is sure yet if the credit will be extended beyond its initial run, some have proposed that the credits continue until 2025, but nothing has been finalized in this regard. The IRS has stated that they plan to create a public campaign that will ensure that everyone understands any updates as they become available.
Do I have to pay back the money?
Like the previous stimulus funds, you will not have to pay back any money—unless your information is out of date. For instance, if you a child who aged out of the eligibility last year but have not filed your 2020 taxes to reflect that, you may be overpaid by the IRS, and you would be expected to repay the excess amount next year. Be sure to keep your tax returns updated with the latest information to avoid any confusion or overpayments.
No one could have predicted the events of the last couple of years, but it’s safe to say that there are some solutions to struggles on the horizon. If you’re still not sure whether you qualify for the Child Tax Credit or what it means for your family, we’re always here to help. Reach out with your questions and learn what this credit means for you.
Money advice for kids: What you need to be sharing and why
How do you decide if and when your kids are ready to talk about money? While there is no timeline that will look exactly the same for every family, you can still use some general guidance to help know when it’s time to have the money talk, and what you should say. Read on for some ideas on ways to start financial conversations with your kids.
Get everyone on board
If you and your spouse or partner are raising your kids together, you need to talk to each other first to make sure you both agree on what type of information to share and when. You might even want to write out a game plan or schedule to help you hit the points you want to emphasize to your kids. Having your thoughts written down will help you steer the conversation in the direction you want to go.
How young do I start?
For those with younger kids, you’re probably wondering if this even applies to you. Talking about finances can be useful for most ages, but it’s reasonable to wait until you feel your child has a better concept of supply and demand. This doesn’t mean they need a full understanding of global economics; rather, they just need to realize that there is a cost associated with things they want (i.e., if you want a snack at school, you have to sit down at the table first). As your child grows more familiar with these concepts, you can begin explaining that most things cost something, whether it’s money or time or something else.
What do I say?
Each family is different, but you can still work through some basic concepts that should apply across the board. Work on age-appropriate ways of introducing finances to your children when you feel they are ready. Here are some ideas on how to get started:
Young children: Begin the conversation by using an example they are familiar with, like the grocery store. They may have to choose between two items they want because you are only budgeted for one, or you might show them how you count out the money you use to pay for your grocery order. They don’t need to be able to add up the total, but seeing that money is exchanged for goods or services is a great first step to understanding a budget.
Older children: If your kids receive an allowance or earn screen time and other privileges through chores, this is an opportunity to help them understand the idea of budgeting and saving. You can show them how they have to think ahead – their allowance is only given at certain intervals and they need to make the money last until the next allowance payment if they want to continue to use their funds. That may mean waiting to buy a favorite toy or new item of clothing, or looking for less expensive alternatives. Either way, you can begin to show them how they have to use their money to pay for each item they wish to purchase.
Teenagers: Typically, even young teenagers have all of the cognitive resources to understand the concept of money only lasting so long and for certain items or services. Talk to them openly about why budgeting matters so much, and how they can create a budget that is specific to their needs. This is also a great time to shift some financial responsibility to them – they don’t need to take over your mortgage, but they can begin to fund small purchases, like their cell phone bill or going out for meals with friends. If your teenager has a job, it’s also a good idea to show them how saving now can make a big difference later.
Adult children: Every parent knows that just because the kids are out of the house doesn’t mean their job as parents is done. As your child leaves home for college or a job, offer to sit with them and help them budget for this new phase of their life. They may need to cover rent, utilities, groceries, and many other things they have not tackled alone before. Prepping them early will help, but it’s still a good idea to review their budget with them if they’re not confident in their spending habits.
Why does it matter?
Some of us had to learn about budgeting the hard way, because no one sat down and gave us the basics outside of a class at school. But budgeting is crucial for everyone, even if you are not currently worried about having the funds you need. Between emergency situations, market fluctuations, and the changing cost of living, the budget you make today may need a major overhaul in five years. Being prepared will make a big difference.
Since you’re responsible for covering the financial needs of your children until they are grown, it may seem silly to start these conversations so early. But getting your kids used to the idea of being smart with their money is a skill they will use for the rest of their life. Showing your young child why budgeting matters so much will mean they already have a firm grasp of important financial concepts when they are responsible for maintaining their own budget.
Money conversations can feel uncomfortable, but it’s true that practice makes perfect. Use the opportunities life gives you to help your children understand why it’s critical to learn about using their money well, and watch as they take those lessons with them to the next phase of their life.