Showing posts with label Fee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fee. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dangerous Business of Non-profit Debt Consolidation

Wipe our Debt
Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)
These days a large number of people are in debt. Some of them are in a deeper hole, while some are beginning to get stuck in the never ending cycle of debt repayment. Loan may provide you with funds required to fulfill your immediate demands, but the normal human attitude towards money is to spend it when you have it, and beg for more afterwards. Be it begging for time or money, after all, time is money!

This may not be something everyone wants, but the problem of debt is faced by almost everyone at some point in their life. These days, loans are taken right at the time when one is very young and he or she would get stuck in the debt repayment cycle for a very long time.

There are times when people need immediate action to solve the problem of debt payment. Suppose you are in debt, you have to pay $50000 by end of 3 years. If you default on repayment, you risk losing your house or car, whatever it is. This is where two options are usually seen, one is to borrow more money so you can pay off the other creditor, or go to a debt consolidation company who would extend your repayment period and also reduce the interest rate.

These debt consolidation companies have their own fees, which might just be an additional burden on you. But there are also these non-profit debt consolidation loans companies which charge absolutely nothing to you (At least that is what everyone thinks). Not all companies that use the tag non-profit are all honest and care for the people. They can scam you right away and you will be in an even deeper hole.

Such debt consolidation companies often advertise how quickly they would remove your debt by reducing you interest rates and the amount you pay. Often they tell you things which are too good to be true. There can be testimonials from people who are smiling and telling you how quickly their debt was cleared. But there is always a catch which can dig an even deeper hole in your bank account.

Signs of a Good Nonprofit debt consolidation company
  • Nonprofits should charge a very small amount of fee to setup your account and other stuff that is required. A nonprofit debt consolidation company who charges no fee and promises to fix your debt problem should be carefully examined before dealing with them.
  • Ask for a nonprofit organization license issued by the government or the state government. Most of the states require all nonprofit organizations to have a license to operate. Not having one would apparently look like some shady business and it is advisable for one to stay away from them. 
  • If any debt consolidation company promises you to get you out of debt very fast, then they are lying. Stay away from them! Getting in the debt took you time, and getting out of it would require time too! Considering that you are at a tipping point is the reason why you went to a nonprofit debt consolidation company, i.e. you are in a deep hole. Filling a hole deep enough requires time. 
  • Check out online reviews for all the nonprofit debt consolidation companies that you have on your list. If you need to make a choice, there is a very great website known as BBB (Better business Bureau). All you have to do it enter the organization name and check out their reviews.
Remember, no consolidation company is going to miraculously make your debt go away. It takes time to get out of it. Spend the money wisely, and choose a good debt consolidation company to pay off your debts.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Understanding Annuities: Fixed Annuities vs. Variable Annuities

With annuities, it's important to know what you're getting into. This is a huge decision that'll determine how much and how often you get paid during your retirement years. Should you go with a fixed annuity or a variable annuity? Let's take a look at some of the differences between fixed annuities and variable annuities, and you can decide which one sounds more along the lines of what you're looking to do with your money.

What Are They?

First things first, let's define them. A fixed annuity is a contract offered by an insurance company. You deposit money and the insurer agrees to pay a certain interest rate over a specified period of time. A variable annuity is an insurance contract that, at the end of the accumulation stage, the insurance company guarantees a minimum payment. The rest of the income payments can vary depending on the performance of the managed portfolio.

Essentially, variable accounts are similar to mutual funds. You can invest in one or more accounts, and those accounts can own stocks, bonds, or a combination of both. Variable annuities have more fees than mutual funds, though, which leads to them having a higher annual operating expense than mutual funds.

The Tax Differences

One important difference between fixed annuities and variable annuities is the way that they're taxed. With both fixed and variable annuities, any earnings remain untaxed as long as they within their annuity. However, if they're withdrawn, the earnings are taxed like normal income. If you draw before the age of 59, you'll pay a 10 percent penalty.

The earnings in your variable annuity are taxed at ordinary income rates instead of long-term capital gains rates. This essentially converts all long-term capital gains to ordinary income, which is a definite disadvantage for variable annuities because it boosts the share of your gains that go to the government. If you pull your money out within the first seven to 10 years, you'll have to pay an early withdrawal penalty. You may need to calculate different types of annuities to see which one works best for you.

The Safety Difference

A fixed annuity offers more security than a variable annuity, but the upside potential is very limited. With variable annuities, you accept more short-term volatility because the value of your investment will fluctuate with the value of the stock and bond markets. You're essentially looking at risk versus return.

With a variable annuity, if the market goes up, you're golden; if it goes down, you lose money. Fixed annuities are also based on the market, but they don't directly participate in it. The interest is paid out at certain intervals based on how well a specific measure of the market is performing.

Rather than just offering a guarantee, variable annuities provide the opportunity for growth. Your return will depend entirely on how well the investment you select does, and may be greater or less than that of a fixed annuity. If you die before you begin receiving annuity payments, your heirs will receive at least as much as the total of your premium payments.

The Hidden Costs

Fixed annuities don't usually have hidden fees. If they do have a fee, it'll be an annual policy fee, which could run $25 to $50 annually, which can be waived if your investment meets a minimum specified amount. Variable annuities, however, have a ton of hidden fees and charges. They have mortality and expense risk charges, administrative fees, sales and surrender charges, and charges for optional benefits and riders.

It basically comes down to risk tolerance and how much control you want over the investment decisions. Fixed annuities have very little risk, but there's no growth potential. Variable annuities provide a much greater potential for growth, but there's a huge risk involved. Your investment decisions can impact the growth of the annuity. There's a lot of management involved with a variable annuity as well.

For a steady stream of income after retirement, a fixed annuity is the way to go. With little risk and a guaranteed minimum return, you know exactly how much you're getting. Variable returns are much riskier and nothing is really guaranteed; you shouldn't rely on variable annuities as a source of income. Sure, your investment could pay off big time, but you could be left without a retirement fund. If you've got the extra money, a variable annuity might be a fun venture, but otherwise, a fixed annuity seems like a much safer option.

Have an annuity tips from first-hand experience? Leave a comment below.

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