AS AMERICANS AROUND THE country stay at home and social distance to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, chances are you have some extra time on your hands. If you have federal student loans and refinancing those loans is on your to-do list, you may be wondering whether now is a good time to take advantage of historically low-interest rates.
Much like mortgage refinancing, student loan refinancing allows you to take on a new loan that will pay off your existing student loan or loans. Any benefits, rates, and terms that you had on your existing loan or loans are replaced by the terms, benefits, and rates of the new loan. The federal government doesn’t refinance student loans, but you can refinance with a private lender, which includes state-based and nonprofit organizations.
Refinancing a federal student loan can save you money over time, but it means you will no longer have access to the benefits of the federal student loan program. That includes the six-month 0% interest rate on federally held loans and suspension of payments on them, which are emergency provisions in the CARES Act meant to help federal student loan borrowers financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keep in mind that this pause is only temporary, which means that refinancing after the benefit expires can still save you money in the long term. Being an informed student loan borrower means doing your research, and if you plan to refinance within the next year now is still a great time to start preparing.
Use this time to learn the basics and assess whether there are any steps you need to take. For example, if you have a low credit score that affects your ability to get a great deal on a refinance loan, you can use this time to improve your credit score or find a co-signer.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues, here are three things you can do now to prepare for student loan refinance:
- Consider your credit report and score.
- Learn how to compare quotes.
- Consider borrower benefits.
Consider Your Credit Report and Score
Many people don’t know they can look at their own credit report, and if you’re not already doing this regularly you should start now.
The quotes that you receive from each refinance lender will be based on the information on your credit report, including your credit score, whether you are current on all your existing accounts and your debt-to-income ratio. Some lenders consider additional data like the amount of money you have in savings accounts or your education, but your credit rating and the report will likely receive much more weight than these other factors.
Your FICO credit score is calculated using the information on your credit report. The data is grouped into five categories and weighted as follows: payment history, 35%; the amounts you owe, 30%; the length of your credit history, 15%; new credit, 10%; and whether you have a mix of different types of credit, 10%.
To improve your credit score, look at how you perform on each of these factors. Making on-time payments on all your accounts will help, if you are not doing that already. But you may also want to consider whether you can build a better mix of credit by opening a new credit card and paying it off every month, or decreasing your total amount of debt.
Learn How to Compare Quotes
Interest rates vary from loan to loan, and even seemingly small differences can have a big impact on the amount you will pay. When deciding whether to refinance, you should first look at whether the best interest rate quote you receive is higher or lower than the highest interest rate on your current student loans.
Interest rates can vary by lender and loan type, so make sure to get quotes from several lenders. When you compare interest rates, look at whether the quoted rates are variable, which means they will change over time based on market conditions or fixed, which means they will not change. A variable rate may be lower initially, but it comes with some risk since you do not know how the rate will change.
Note that many lenders offer a reduced interest rate if you agree to an autopay option, and this may be included in the rate that you are quoted. As you compare your student loan options, make sure you pay attention to the fine print to fully understand what is and is not included in the quoted rate and what is required of you to receive it.
The length of time to repay your loan also matters when you are comparing interest rates. Interest accrues over time, so the longer it takes you to pay off your loan, the more interest you will pay – possibly even if the interest rate is lower.
Consider Borrower Benefits
If you refinance federal student loans, be aware that you will lose access to any existing benefits offered by the federal loan program, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. You should review these benefits carefully as you think about whether a private student loan is right for you.
But that doesn’t mean your private loan can’t have any borrower-friendly benefits. When you shop for loans, look at what lenders are offering, including such benefits as loans with no upfront fees, the ability to pay off your loan early with no penalties or loan deferment for graduate school enrollment.
You can also look for nonprofit and state-based organizations that offer refinance loans at foryounotforprofit.org.
If you are thinking about refinancing your federal student loans, don’t procrastinate. You can start planning now to refinance later.
– This article was originally posted on US News
I was deep in thought at my favorite coffee shop, “Sip and Savor”, located in the heart of Chicago’s Bronzeville community on 43rd st. I heard a steady stream of people coming into the shop and making a bee line to the table of an unassuming well dressed man who seemed to be adored by most everyone who passed through. I looked over at him as I sipped my caramel apple cider, and continued on with my work. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to interview Philip Beckham III, in the midst of researching him I was finally able to put a name to a face and everything clicked. Of course Philip Beckham III would be the center of the universe in Chicago’s iconic Bronzeville community, he was not only an early supporter of Sip and Savor, (previously known as “The Sip”), he was embarking on changing the landscape of the community with his development company P3 Markets. His inaugural project is aptly named 43 Green and is a 91 unit 27 million dollar project located on the south side of 43rd and Calumet Ave just steps from the 43rd st CTA Green Line stop.
I asked Philip what prompted him to get into development, his answer went back generations, his grandfather Philip Beckham was among one of the first Black licensed contractors in Chicago in 1918. Equipped with a sixth grade education and a no holds bar attitude he formed PL Beckham and Sons, his grandfather’s company transformed the Morgan Park community by building more than 50 homes, and rehabbing countless properties in the Black Belt of the city. In 1966 with only 2 buses and a vision Philip Beckham II founded Beckham Transit, a school bus company that shuttled school children across the southside of the city. His company grew from a two van operation, to a major player in transit, with more than 100 buses and dozens of employees, Philip Beckham III sold the company in 2010 in a deal that would have made his late father proud.
In 2016 Philip founded MSBARC (Mid-South Business Association and Resource Center), a non-profit with an aim to build Black businesses to scale by walking them through the important steps needed to create, maintain and expand their operations. To date MSBARC has impacted over 200 businesses. Philip displays his commitment to his community by helping to create a strong business corridor in the Black Belt, similar to the one that existed in the 1900’s. In 2018 he received a call from Alderman Pat Dowell informing him that no one had responded to her RFP (Request For Proposal), for a swath of land that had been vacant for years. With no development experience, Philip saw an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. Philip envisioned a plan to anchor what he refers to as, “Downtown Bronzeville” with affordable, accessible, chic housing that combines Black culture with access to fine dining, hip boutiques and entertainment venues. After months of rejection from developers he found a partner who shared his vision. The Habitat Corporation and developer, Juan Saldana partnered with him to make his vision a reality. Months after cementing his partnership, Philip secured the 27 million dollars needed for the project, and will break ground in 2021, a world wind turnaround time in the development world.
I asked Philip about the fears that some in the Black community have raised about being priced out of the housing market, his response was that there are many apartments affordably priced in Bronzeville. The problem is that in the social media age, young people want to pivot from college to half a million dollar homes and that’s just not feasible. His advice, live in a smaller affordable space until upgrading to a larger space is sensible. By remaining focused and practicing fiscal restraint home ownership in the Black Belt will be within reach. Philip knows a thing or two about focus. He has fond memories of working for his fathers transit company from, cleaning and driving buses with his brother to sitting at the helm of the company. He believes that there are levels in life and one must appreciate them while climbing the ladder. He continues his legacy by having his twin daughters and son accompany him to meetings with developers and city officials. Continuing his family legacy of uncovering opportunities that have a lasting impact on this generation and the ones to come.
Black Firms stepping up to help stop carjackings
The move comes amid a spike in carjackings and is meant to ease the minds of women and seniors from feeling like easy targets while pumping gas.
To combat a rash of carjackings, a private security firm will be stationing guards at gas stations in areas of the city and suburbs that have been particularly hard hit.
William Kates, CEO of Kates Detective and Security Agency, said that beginning Friday between 25 and 30 guards would be posted at various gas stations, mostly on the South Side, in an effort dubbed “Operation Safe Pump.” The guards will be in security vehicles with the lights flashing between 6 and 8 p.m.
The operation is expected to last for 30 days but could be extended.
Kates is partnering with Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th). Kates said he will be paying for the service.
“This is to help seniors, as well as women, to feel safe at service stations when they pump gas,” said Kates, who wasn’t sure if the guards would be armed.
The guards will be meant “more to deter than to detain,” Kates said during a news conference at an Englewood gas station at 59th Street and Ashland Avenue, the site of a Christmas Day carjacking that left a 63-year-old woman uninjured but badly shaken.
“No one is exempt from this other pandemic,” said Coleman, who called on other security firms to join in the effort.
“Our police department, they’re doing the best they can, and we’re just here to help,” she said.
Early Walker, who owns W&W Towing and runs I’m Telling Don’t Shoot, an anti-violence organization, said he came up with the idea because his company, through contracts with various police departments, regularly tows carjacked vehicles that are later found abandoned.
“I talk to a lot of victims, and I often hear, ‘I got carjacked at a gas station,’” said Walker, who reached out to Coleman to get the ball rolling.
The alderman said she hopes “Operation Safe Pump” helps change the narrative that some people have of Chicago being “crime, guns and violence.”
A list of the gas stations where guards will be located is expected to be posted at www.imtellingdontshoot.com.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Thursday there had been 144 carjackings since the beginning of the year.
The skyrocketing figure from the first three weeks of 2021 comes after the number of carjackings more than doubled to 1,417 carjackings in 2020.
Friday night, at a town hall meeting for the 2nd police district — which covers South Side neighborhoods such as Hyde Park, Oakland and Washington Park — police reiterated they are taking every step they can to stem the tide of carjackings and offered tips for residents to stay safe: Namely, pay attention to your surroundings.
Police also warned residents not to get in their vehicle and spend time on their phone or with other distractions, and to never leave their vehicle running unattended. They noted the majority of carjackings across the city are being perpetrated by teenagers who use the vehicles to commit other crimes, or simply take them on a joyride.
“We’ve got to put our arms around the entire community and reach out to those young people who might be on the edge of falling in with a bad crowd … to say, ‘Hey, this is not a game, somebody can get hurt,’” said Glen Brooks, the department’s director of public engagement.
“We are scared to death of a tragic instance where, one, a victim gets hurt or killed, and two, that one of these children will think this is a game and point a weapon at an officer, and we have tragic circumstances.”
‘Black-Owned Business’ signs show solidarity in communities hit hard by looting
After large-scale protests in response to the death of George Floyd devolved into violence and looting downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, many small businesses in Chicago have been hurt by property damage and inventory loss.
Keeana Barber, owner and CEO of WDB Marketing Group, said she was distressed to see businesses damaged, especially knowing that many black-owned businesses were among those affected. After a conversation with a friend about what could be done to help protect local businesses, Barber realized she could use her unique skill set and resources to help.
The Roseland native enlisted her company’s printing services to produce signs that read “Black-Owned Business” and “Don’t Destroy Our Black Business,” and set to work distributing them to stores, particularly on the hard-hit South and West sides.
“I was heartbroken to see so many black-owned businesses get looted,” Barber said. “I don’t know how much [the signs] will protect some people. … I think, more than anything, it gives people pride, unifying them in something they can stand for.”
On Monday, after printing about 500 signs, Barber posted photos of them Facebook and urged business owners to come pick one up if they wanted to display it. She was flooded with offers from volunteers to help hand them out, and inquiries about donating to help cover her printing costs.
As of Tuesday, hundreds of storefronts on the South and West Sides — along with businesses in the south suburbs — were displaying her signs in their windows.
“I didn’t expect it to be that popular,” Barber said Tuesday, adding that she had since printed another 250 signs to keep up with demand.
“What I love about it is that it’s not just us; we’re a vehicle for people who are saying, ‘Hey, I just want to give these out in my community. I want to give [black-owned businesses] something special to have, and to be proud to identify themselves.’”
Vanetta Roy, owner of Surf’s Up South Shore, a restaurant that specializes in seafood, noticed someone had placed a sign in her window when she came in Tuesday morning.
“I saw it and I said, ‘Thank God,’” Roy said. “We had no idea this was happening.”
Barber says her goal isn’t to drive would-be looters to other businesses, but to send a broader message to the community about solidarity.
“I support all small businesses,” she said. “But at the same time, I am going to give my businesses the support to identify themselves. There’s nothing wrong with identifying ourselves to protect ourselves.”
Article Sourced from Chicago Sun Times –
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