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How To Use Your Equity Smartly


Equity is the value of your home at current market value after deducting the outstanding mortgage on your home, which is what you would have left over in the event that you sold your property at market value and repaid your outstanding mortgage. Home equity is built over time; as equity builds, you create a pool of money which your can utilize it later for many purposes.

In general, it is unadvisable to spend your equity money on things that do not give you ROI (return on investment) such as frivolous vacations. Use your home equity to clear your bad debts is actually a type of spending on your equity money. You could avoid yourself from trapping into debts by carefully plan your budget and spend with what you earn.

A smarter way of using your equity is use it to grow your equity further, spend on things that will bring you ROI. Ways to use your equity smartly include:

Start Your Own Business

You can use your home equity to borrow a low interest loan to generate the capital necessary to start your own business. Just be sure that you have a sound business plan in mind and that you have other safety cushions in place.

During the initial stage of your own business, you could maintain your reliable first income stream (to protect you against any cash problems) while working to bring your own business up to the stage.

Home Improvement

A better home condition will increase your home's resale value. Hence you can dip into your equity to generate funds for home improvement. Your home improvement project will improve your home condition and provide you with a more comfortable living, and you could get a higher resale price whenever you want to sell it. But remember that not all home improvement projects will contribute equally to your homes resale value.

Children Education

Growing equity is a great way to generate fund for your children education needs. You can get loan against your home equity for your children educational needs. Using your equity to invest on your children education will get them a brighter future and at a better position to compete in the challenging job market.

Improve Your FICO Score Debt is unavoidable for many people as long as we have credit cards, mortgage or car, but you could prevent yourself from trapping into bad debts condition by carefully planning your budget and spending with your financial affordability. Instead, your equity can help you to improve your FICO score. By paying off creditors, you can improve your FICO score and potentially qualify for a lower refinancing rate. To make the most out of this process, know your interest rates, for both savings and debts. You can get help from expert such as an accountant to help you with the calculations. With so many rate variables in play, its easy to get confused about how to consolidate, how to pick the right term for your home equity loan, and how much to allocate to savings and how much to allocate to payments.

In Summary

Home equity is the money you have put down against the principal of your house as a savings account, be aware that if you fail to budget effectively and over draw your equity. You could lose your house, wind up in credit trouble, or even have to file for bankruptcy. Hence, use your equity smartly is a great way to pursue your wealth building.

Navigating the College Savings Programs


As a parent, the big financial concern with a newborn is how to set aside enough money to assist for a college education. Universities and state governments have developed many different financial savings plans to encourage parents to save money for college. Some of the plans include 529 accounts, Coverdell accounts, Roth IRAs and prepaid/guaranteed tuition costs. Unfortunately, few of the programs offer every benefit such as tax deductions, tax deferred savings, unlimited investment options, self directed investments and no penalties.

Selecting a university is a critical and expensive decision, and in my view it is foolhardy to make before the last couple years of high school. A drawback of the university-based or state-based plans (such as a 529 account) is that they impose penalties if a child doesn’t attend a specific university or in a specific state. Who knows what aptitudes, skills or interests your child may develop that necessitate a specific school that is out of your home state. University and state-based plans also impose penalties if the money isn’t ultimately used for qualified college expenses; another example where an event that is out of your control and may cause an unneeded expense. But the biggest problem with university and state programs are the financial rule changes they make – after you start the plan.

To me, the university and state-based programs are a lose/lose savings plan for parents. If the cost of tuition rises faster than forecasted, in spite their guarantees, they raise the price and leave you under-funded. Conversely, if tuition rises less than forecasted, then you end up overpaying for tuition. And the same applies to the stock market some plans force you to invest in; when the market fell in 2000 and 2001, many plans broke their promise to guarantee full tuition funding in spite of promises to the contrary.

Another drawback of state-based plans is that your investment options are severely limited to a few mutual funds run by the brokerage firm operating the account. I have evaluated several: and they have high fees and poor returns, and I’m wary of the lack of competition for many of these accounts. The brokerage firms blame economics for the lack of investment choices, saying that most of the accounts are small and not very profitable for them, so they want as little trading and customer interaction as possible.

The federal college savings plans are better because they allow the widest selection of investments (such as an educational Roth IRA or other education savings accounts), and can be applied to most any accredited university. These accounts offer tax-free growth and withdrawal is also exempt from federal taxes and some states taxes. Realistically, your situation may call for multiple accounts. Rules prohibit you from using these if your income passes certain thresholds.

In my opinion, the best place to start saving college is with U.S. government ibonds from TreasuryDirect.gov. These bonds offer the most flexibility and control, and require none of the paperwork and rules of other savings plans. They accrue a decent rate of interest every month, the principal is adjusted for inflation each quarter, the income tax is deferred, and you don’t have any brokerage fees. And when the money is withdrawn for a university on their approved list, the money can be redeemed tax-free. (As for limiting rules: you cannot withdraw the money in the first year, and if you withdraw it within five years, there is a three month interest penalty – so ibonds are not the best savings plan after a child reaches about age twelve). Since ibonds are simply savings not an educational account, the money can be spent for any type of expense that may arise.

The government and brokerage firms keep updating these accounts, so my complaints will hopefully become moot in the near future. But the criteria that you need to watch for are: many investment options, few penalties, no taxes and total control. These will maximize the money you’re setting aside for that expensive degree.