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Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – How to Avoid Paying It

By Kira Botkin

house calculatorIf you look at your monthly mortgage statement and see a line for “PMI,” you’re paying for private mortgage insurance. It probably costs you between $50 and $200 per month, depending on the balance of your loan and your PMI rate.

But why are you paying it? Essentially, your lender is requiring you to pay the premiums for an insurance policy that partially reimburses them should you default on your mortgage. We’ll discuss when you’re required to have PMI, what this insurance protects, who needs to carry it, and ways to avoid paying it.

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When Should I Refinance My Mortgage Loan?

By Kira Botkin

mortgage keysRefinancing your mortgage can be a money-saving move, but not in every situation. Since there are costs associated with all refinances, sometimes getting a lower interest rate can actually be more expensive than keeping your current loan. Plus, sifting through all those lender offers can be overwhelming and even misleading.

So how do you determine if a refinance is right for you? First, you need to understand how refinancing works. Then, consider your financial situation and what you want to accomplish with a refinance. Finally, take a look at loans you’re eligible for in the context of your long-term financial goals.

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What Is a Balloon Payment Mortgage?

By Kira Botkin

balloon house mortgageMortgages come in many different varieties and if your situation is unusual, you may be best served by an unusual type of mortgage.

One of these lesser-used mortgage types is known as a balloon mortgage, also referred to as a balloon payment mortgage.

In this article, we’ll discuss what it is and how it’s different, when you might use it, and its benefits and drawbacks.

What Is a Balloon Mortgage?

When you purchase a home with a balloon mortgage, you will begin making monthly payments for an amount that is similar to a standard 30-year fixed mortgage at the same rate.

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How to Refinance a Mortgage on Your Home

By Kira Botkin

mortgage statement checkRefinancing your mortgage can save you thousands in interest over the years and lower your payment. But while you’ve probably seen commercials with mortgage lenders claiming that they’ll take care of everything, you’ll only get a “great” deal if you do your homework first.

Before applying, understand what the mortgage lender will be asking you to provide, what type of mortgage you are (and aren’t) looking for, and whether it make sense to refinance now or wait.

If you’re ready to refinance, follow these steps to get the best possible deal on your new mortgage.

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Should I Save for a Down Payment on a House or Pay Off Debt?

By Kira Botkin

down payment houseWhen you’re preparing to buy a home, it’s important to get your finances in order. Not only will you have to be organized to fill out the loan application, but you want to otherwise streamline your finances to improve your chances of being approved for a loan and qualifying for a lower interest rate and a larger mortgage amount.

In fact, how much you have for a down payment is pivotal to this determination as is an assessment of your existing debt. But this creates a conundrum. If you have both a healthy down payment and a fair bit of debt already, what do you do? Do you pay off the debt and put up a smaller down payment, or do you keep both the debt and down payment intact?

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Best New & Used Car Buying Services Online

By Kira Botkin

woman buying carIf you want to buy a car, but don’t want to haggle with salespeople or spend weeks reading the classifieds, using a car buying service may be exactly what you need. It could save you time, aggravation, and even get you a better deal.

With that in mind, there are several national services available to help you find both new cars and used cars that fit your needs and budget.

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Beware of the Mortgage Prepayment Penalty

By Kira Botkin

mortgage loan agreementApplying for a mortgage can be tricky. There are many things to consider, including something known as a prepayment penalty. A loan with a prepayment penalty may also come with a lower rate and so can seem more attractive.

However, the prepayment penalty will hurt you if you want to refinance or even sell “early.” For this reason, it’s imperative to understand how much the penalty is as well as when and under what circumstances you’d have to pay it. Only then can you make an informed decision regarding whether or not a mortgage with a prepayment penalty is really worth it.

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What Is Comprehensive Coverage Auto Insurance

By Kira Botkin

car break in theftIf you run into a tree or cause an accident of some sort, the cost of repairing your own car is paid for by your collision coverage.

But what if a tree falls on your car, or a deer rams into the side of your vehicle, or a thief smashes in your window to steal the radio?

To cover these repair costs, you’ll need to add comprehensive coverage to your auto insurance policy.

What Is Comprehensive Coverage?

Essentially, comprehensive coverage pays for repairs to your car when it’s damaged outside of an accident. This includes damage as a result of theft, vandalism, acts of nature, animals, and falling objects.

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What Is Collision Coverage – Do You Need It in Your Auto Insurance?

By Kira Botkin

car accident frontIf you’re like me, you probably spend more time shopping around for a car than for the insurance you need to protect it. Most states require at least a minimal amount of coverage to protect other drivers from bodily injury or property damage you might cause them while driving. But carrying your state’s minimum insurance requirements may not be enough. After all, it’s primarily designed to protect other drivers and their cars. What about you and your vehicle?

When it comes to car insurance options, there are many. To better protect yourself, you can decrease your deductibles, increase your existing coverage amounts, or add additional coverage, just to name a few.

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How Different Types of Debt are Treated in Bankruptcy

By Kira Botkin

wipe away debt chalkboardIf you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you should know that not all debts are treated equally. For example, certain debts cannot be discharged, or forgiven, and must be repaid in full. Other debts, however, can be completely discharged either immediately or after a few years depending on if you file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Also, some debts can be modified so that you can afford the payments and keep the property the debt is attached to, such as a car or home. How your debt will be treated during a bankruptcy will indicate what you have to gain from filing one.

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How Does Bankruptcy Affect Your Credit Score?

By Kira Botkin

bankruptcy jumpThe main issue that discourages most people from filing bankruptcy is the detrimental effect is has on their credit. It’s true that a bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years and it seriously hurts your credit score. However, not filing for bankruptcy and allowing your debts to go to collections will also negatively impact your credit.

Depending on the kind of bankruptcy you file, Chapter 7 vs Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your credit score will decrease anywhere from 160 to 220 points. This is enough to take a good credit rating down to a fair or poor one. Since most lenders decide whether or not to extend you credit based on your credit score, a bankruptcy will make it much more difficult to qualify for an auto or home loan or credit cards.

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What Is a Credit Report – How to Get a Free Annual Credit Report

By Kira Botkin

credit report magnifying glassYou may have heard that you should check your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks to daylight savings time. So in the spirit of preventing a disaster, why not check your credit report as well?

Checking your credit report should be a regular item on your financial to-do list, since it can show you how others view your creditworthiness and alert you to potential credit report errors or identity theft. We’ll talk about why your credit report is important, when you should consider checking it, and how you can get your free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com.

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How to Sell a Used Car on Craigslist Online

By Kira Botkin

woman carWhen you’re selling a car, you’re more likely to get the best price from an individual as opposed to a dealer. When you’re looking for a way to find that individual, remember that Craigslist is a competitive (and still growing) marketplace for car shoppers and sellers.

It’s easy for buyers to search through ads, and you’ll be happy with the free posts to an audience of millions in your area. With pictures and lots of space, you can get more out of the listing than those expensive 20 words you might get in the local paper.

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What Is a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) – Rules & Limits

By Kira Botkin

books piggy bankGiven the alarming rate at which universities are increasing their tuition, saving for your child’s college education can seem like a daunting task. But believe it or not, it’s almost more important when you start saving as opposed to how much. So don’t delay.

Fortunately, there are specific accounts that give you a means to invest in your child’s education and provide you with tax-advantages as well.

One popular college-saving option is known as the Coverdell Education Savings Account, or ESA.

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Zombie Debt: What It Is and How to Deal with Collectors

By Kira Botkin

zombie debtIf you’ve had debt in the past you couldn’t pay, some of those accounts may have been written off as “uncollectable.” In other words, the company may have stopped trying to collect because they were unable to get you to pay or to reach you at all.

However, in recent years, a new breed of debt collector has started to buy these old debts and is attempting to collect on them all over again.

Given their propensity to rise from the grave, these debts are known as “zombie debt.”

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