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Personal Finance

    Some restaurants have come under fire for charging Covid-related surcharges. But the revenue is down and expenses are up for most local restaurants. Clark Stinks makes a return to the show this week! If you have a Clark Stinks to share go to Clark.com/ClarkStinks. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 5.22.20 Restaurants incur higher expenses start surcharging customers; Clark Stinks appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • Memorial Day is looking a little different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s always an important time to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. In addition to honoring our nation’s heroes, you can typically find great bargains during Memorial Day weekend. In fact, money expert Clark Howard says you can find great car deals right now if your finances are strong and you need a car. “If you are a lucky person who has a job that is secure and you were planning to buy either a new or used vehicle, this is a great time to buy,” he says. To help you choose, U.S. News & World Report just released its list of 2020’s Best Memorial Day Car Deals. The list includes a mix of cars, trucks and family vehicles, along with financing or lease incentives. Here Are the Best Car Deals for Memorial Day Now let’s take a look at some of the vehicles in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Memorial Day car deals list: Model Best Cars Rankings Score (Out of 10) Available Deal 2020 Buick Enclave 8.0 0% financing for 84 months 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 8.3 $363 per month for 39 months with zero due at signing 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid 8.3 0% financing for 72 months 2020 GMC Canyon 8.5 0% financing for 84 months 2020 Honda CR-V 8.7 $320 per month for 35 months with zero due at signing 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata 8.4 0% financing for 60 months with up to $1,000 bonus cash and a 90-day first payment deferral 2020 Subaru Outback 8.0 $249 per month for 36 months with $2,449 due at signing 2020 Toyota Corolla 8.0 $149 per month for 36 months with $2,999 due at signing 2020 Volkswagen GTI 8.6 0% financing for 72 months with a 120-day first payment deferral See the complete list from U.S. News & World Report here. Final Thought Clark says the pandemic has hurt the car industry, so dealers are looking to get rid of their inventories by offering big discounts.  “May, June, early July, it’s going to be a great time for people who are in the market for a vehicle, whether it is new or used,” he says. If you plan to start shopping for a car soon, here are five things you need to consider before making this major financial purchase. More Car Content From Clark.com: Best & Worst Auto Insurance Companies 7 Rules for Buying a Cheap Car With Cash How to Buy a New Car in 5 Steps This article was originally published on Clark.com The post New Report: The Best Memorial Day Car Deals appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • At-home exams for life insurance are starting to become the norm instead of being the exception to the rule. Buy life insurance on the internet in order to avoid the hassle. A lot of hiring isn’t going to take place on the giant career websites. Look to horizontal job platforms for sector-specific job opportunities during the recovery. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 5.21.20 How the life insurance industry is changing; Where the hiring is actually happening appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • If the coronavirus pandemic has you thinking about what would happen to your family if you died, you’re not alone. “We have had more questions about buying life insurance in the last two months than we’ve had all total in the last five or six years,” money expert Clark Howard says. “People have been much more concerned about mortality as a result of coronavirus.” In this article, we’ll talk about what’s happening in the life insurance marketplace right now and give you Clark’s advice for policy shopping. And that includes one thing Clark says you absolutely must do. Take This Critical Step if You’re Shopping for Life Insurance In the past, buying life insurance might have meant calling your agent and letting her know you were interested in a policy. But technology and other developments — particularly COVID-19, at the moment — have shaken things up. “There are strange distortions going on in the life insurance market right now,” Clark says. Clark cites a May 10, 2020, Wall Street Journal article: It says some insurers have stopped offering life insurance for people over 70 because of the high mortality rates for older Americans with coronavirus. But, as Clark points out, that’s a small number of insurers. He says there’s currently a bigger factor at play. “Insurers live off of the money you pay in premiums being invested,” Clark says. “Right now, insurers can’t earn the kind of returns on the money they’re investing that they have historically.” So while some insurers are getting pickier about who they will cover, others are simply raising their rates. Insurance is a very large industry with a huge number of players. There are thousands of companies that write life insurance policies, according to Clark. For that reason, you must do your research. “It has never been more important that I can recall in my lifetime for you to shop with multiple insurers for quotes,” Clark says. If insurers are raising rates because they’re worried about their earnings on premiums, it could mean one carrier’s price is more than 20% more expensive than another for the same coverage. For that reason, it’s really important to use one of the shopping services (a list is below) to compare quotes. And the type of insurance you shop for is of utmost importance: Clark says level term insurance  is the only kind of life insurance most people should ever buy. “Level term is the right kind of life insurance to buy for probably 95% of people because there’s no investment in it, no savings accounts in it,” he says. “It pays your survivors in the event of your death. It’s really simple, really cheap, and the premiums stay the same for the period you buy it for — 10 to 30 years.” Read our guide on How to Buy Term Life Insurance Luckily there are several sites that let you compare quotes for level term life insurance from multiple companies. They include: SelectQuote Policygenius Coverhound Quotacy Accuquote I decided to give one of these services a try to see if the quotes I got reflected Clark’s warning about the wide variation in prices right now. Based on a review by Theo of Team Clark, I decided to check quotes through Policygenius, since I knew I’d get offers instantly. After inputting the required information about myself (a non-smoker in his mid-40s with no serious medical conditions), here are the quotes I got for level term policies with $1,000,000 of coverage for 20 years on May 18, 2020: Insurer Monthly Premium Transamerica $98.90 AIG $104.44 Pacific Life $104.71 Protective $104.96 Principal $105.94 Lincoln Financial Group $107.79 Banner Life $107.93 Prudential $108.06 SBLI $109.46 Mutual of Ohama $120.62 As you can see from the chart, the majority of the quotes I got were in the $100 to $110 a month range. However, there was a substantial difference between the lowest and highest quote. In fact, the most expensive quote I got was almost 22% higher than the least expensive option. To put it even more starkly: If I paid these premiums over the full 20-year term, I would spend $5,212.80 more with Mutual of Omaha than with Transamerica. Final Thought The bottom line: While you should comparison shop for almost anything you buy, it’s particularly important right now with life insurance. “There’s never been a time where it was easier to shop from company to company, and it’s what you need to be doing because of the unusual distortions in the marketplace,” Clark says. I was able to get my quotes in less than five minutes — not a bad use of my time to save thousands of dollars. More Life Insurance Stories From Clark.com: How to Buy Term Life Insurance The Best Term Life Insurance Companies Ask Clark: Should I Buy Life Insurance Right Now? This article was originally published on Clark.com The post Coronavirus and Buying Life Insurance: What You Need to Know appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • If you’re one of the many people trying to get a COVID-19 test due to the coronavirus pandemic , the first thing you should know is that they’re free under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Nevertheless, there’s still a need for a buyer beware. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that criminals are charging people money for phony tests. COVID-19 Testing Scams: How They Work Crooks are looking to capitalize on the increased demand for COVID-19 screening as the nation’s testing capabilities continue to expand. According to the BBB, s cammers may use one of the following ways to reach you: Robocalls where they direct you to a “clinic” and ask you for personal information, including your credit card number. Fake websites where you are directed to fill out a form and share sensitive information. At-home testing kits which the BBB says, “will not give accurate results.” “ In all versions, the person or website selling the test is short on details,” the BBB says in a news release. “They aren’t willing or able to provide any information about how the test works, where it is sourced, and what laboratory processes it.” How to Avoid COVID-19 Testing Scams Here are some ways to avoid being scammed by fake COVID-19 tests: Never give your personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know: That includes over the phone, email or via text message. Find a testing site through your doctor: Because many COVID-19 testing sites are in parking lots, it may be hard to know if all are legitimate. Ask your doctor to refer you to one so you know it’s safe, the Federal Trade Commission says. Local authorities should also be aware of the legitimate testing sites in your area. Say no to any at-home testing kit: The Food & Drug Administration says that there is no approved kit that can be completely used and tested at home. Final Thoughts If you suspect that a COVID-19 testing site is a fraud, you can call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or use this form. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, reach out to your doctor and follow the health guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . No matter what anybody tells you or tries to sell you, there is no vaccine for coronavirus yet , so don’t fall for it. You can stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus scams and learn more about protecting yourself here. More Content From Clark.com: Coronavirus: Follow These 3 Steps to Prepare Now for a Recession Coronavirus & Your Finances: What to Know and Do Should You Sell or Stay Put in the Stock Market? This article was originally published on Clark.com The post Warning: Scam Targets People Trying to Get COVID-19 Tests appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • The coronavirus pandemic all but obliterated the idea of leisure travel for the last couple of months. Now that more states are reopening for business, you might be wondering if it’s a good idea to book summer travel. Money expert Clark Howard knows the travel industry as well as anyone: He used to own his own travel agency, and he’s still a true globe trotter. In this article, we’ll tell you what Clark is thinking about future travel right now, and we’ll offer some suggestions for summer trips you might not have considered. Here’s When Clark Howard Plans to Travel Again Clark says that no one wants to travel afraid. It takes all of the joy and relaxation out of a vacation. “My wife and I are holding reservations for travel for our 25th wedding anniversary in October. I booked a really fancy trip,” he says. But Clark’s wife Lane says their final decision to go — or not — will depend on whether the virus has abated and whether she feels safe. “We were so excited about this trip, but it’s not worth the risk for me if it hasn’t,” she says. To protect themselves, Clark says everything he booked is refundable up to 14 days out. “And it’s not just that we can change the date on the travel: I booked everything fully refundable,” he says. Clark recommends that if you do book travel now, consider buying a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy, which almost always covers supplier default. “If the airline or whatever supplier you’re going to use does go bust, your money is protected by the insurance,” he says. “It’s an added cost, but trips are so much cheaper right now to book that it’s really not as big of an expense as it used to be to insure a trip.” Clark says that basic trip insurance has proved to be a big disappointment to some people recently because it doesn’t usually cover pandemics. “Cancel for any reason” policies typically help you recoup only about 75% of your trip costs, but you will be covered even if you just decide not to travel because of the coronavirus. Alternatives to Traditional Summer Vacations “People are starting to ask me: ‘What do I do about summer vacation?'” Clark said on a recent podcast. “We’re just weeks away from when a lot of kids will be out of school, and people are going to want to get out and about. They’ve got itchy feet after being locked up, particularly if they have kids.” But the world has changed over the last few months, so it only makes sense that the ways we travel will change, too — at least in the short term. “As a practical matter, how people get away this summer is going to be very, very different,” Clark says. So how does he see Americans spending their vacation time in the coming months? Here are a few of his predictions. Private Rentals, Not Hotels “One of the businesses in the United States that’s been devastated is Airbnb,” Clark says. “But I believe a lot of Airbnb properties in the U.S. are going to have a strong comeback in the latter half of May and through August.” The reason, he says, is that “people are going to feel more comfortable renting somebody else’s place for a week than they are staying in a hotel, where they don’t know who’s been there and they have to pass other people in the hallways.” Driving, Not Flying “A lot of people are going to want to go on a vacation where they drive and not fly,” he says. “People don’t have confidence that it’s safe to get on an airplane right now. So, we’re going to get in our vehicles and we’re going to drive somewhere.” The good news, according to Clark, is that the low gas prices we’ve seen recently will likely remain in place through the summer vacation season. The Rise of the RVs Speaking of hitting the open road, Clark believes that recreational vehicles will enjoy unprecedented popularity this summer. “We’re going to see that people renting RVs is going to be a really preferred way of doing things,” he says. “I think we’re going to quickly hit maximum demand on RVs — and there will be shortages of them as we go through the summer vacation season — because that’s how people are going to feel comfortable.” And Clark predicts that people will be most comfortable visiting natural locales like beaches and mountains — everywhere but major metropolises. “People are not going to travel to big cities this summer,” he says. Don’t Overlook State Parks Clark has another good tip for you if part of your travel plan is to avoid big crowds. “You’ll find that a lot of areas have state parks adjacent to national parks, and the state parks will be less crowded than the national parks,” he says. If you’re still looking for a place where you’ll have plenty of your own space, he recommends you check to find lesser-known state parks. “That’ll be a way for you to have more potential isolation from others,” he says. Final Thought There are plenty of options out there for travel this summer. Just remember that if you’re not comfortable, it won’t be relaxing at all. Make sure anything you book is refundable in case you decide not to go. For maximum protection, buy “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. “Whatever your travel plans, make sure you have the ability to cancel without too much hit to your wallet in case there’s another surge with coronavirus or you lose your job. After all, you don’t want to add insult to injury,” Clark says. More Travel Stories You Might Enjoy From Clark.com: Coronavirus and Travel: What You Need to Know Follow Clark’s #1 Rule for Cheap Travel How to Plan a Trip: Clark’s Best Travel Tips to Save Money This article was originally published on Clark.com The post Ask Clark: Should I Book a Summer Vacation Right Now? appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • Wondering whether you should refinance your mortgage, how to do it and when? We’ve put together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about mortgage refinancing. Here’s What You Need to Know About Mortgage Refinancing If you’re a homeowner, refinancing your mortgage is a tool that could save you thousands of dollars. Here’s what you need to know: Table of Contents What Is Mortgage Refinancing? When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage? How Much Money Will You Save? What Fees Will You Pay? What Kind of Credit Score Do You Need? Where Should You Look for a Refinance? 1. What Is Mortgage Refinancing? Mortgage refinancing is a financial transaction in which you replace your current mortgage with a new one to gain some kind of financial advantage — such as a lower interest rate or a change in the length of your payment terms. In general, you might consider refinancing your mortgage if you fall into one of these categories: You want a lower monthly payment. In this case, you might refinance into a loan term that’s equal to or slightly longer than your current term. But recognize that you’ll end up paying more interest over the life of the loan. You want to get out of debt faster. Refinancing from a 30-year mortgage into a 15-year is a slam dunk for saving money long-term, but your payment will be higher each month. You’re moving from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage to lock in a lower interest rate. You want to pull cash out of the equity in your home with a cash-out refinance (something money expert Clark Howard recommends only in limited circumstances). 2. When Should You Refinance Your Mortgage? Interest rates are at historic lows. If you currently have a rate above 4%, this is a great time to take a look at a refi. But your decision shouldn’t depend only on the rate: It’s important to consider how long you plan to stay in your home. Money expert Clark Howard has a rule about break-even costs on refinancing. We’ll get to an explanation of the associated costs with refinancing in a moment, but first here’s his rule: “If you can make back the cost of the refinance in 30 months or less, you should do it,” Clark says. “It just makes financial sense. That’s the trigger.” So you need to be sure you’ll stay in the house for at least two and a half more years to make up the cost of refinancing. Clark says most people end up staying in a house longer than they anticipate, but just be sure you plan to cross that 30-month threshold. 3. How Much Money Will You Save? To get a sense of how much money you’ll save by refinancing your mortgage, you can turn to any of several online calculators. These calculators will show you exactly what your break-even point will be and how much money you can save over the life of your loan by refinancing: Bankrate Mortgage Refinance Calculator Mortgagecalculator.net Mortgage Refinance Calculator NerdWallet Mortgage Refinance Calculator As you type in your numbers, make sure to take a look at what your monthly payment would be if you refinance into a 15-year mortgage. Rates on 15-year loans are lower than those on 30-year loans. That’s because they’re a lower risk to lenders since they’ll get their investment back in half the time. The trade-off is that you’ll have a higher monthly payment on a 15-year loan. But if you can swing it, a 15-year mortgage is an opportunity to get out of debt in half the time. “One of my favorite kinds of refinancing is going from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan. If you have more than 23 years left on a 30-year mortgage and you refi into a new 30-year loan, you’ll extend the time you’re in debt,” Clark says. “But if you choose a 15-year loan instead, you’ll cut your interest rate even more and pay off the mortgage sooner.” If you can’t afford the payments on a 15-year refi loan, Clark suggests looking at a 20-year refi instead. 4. What Fees Will You Pay? You should expect to pay anywhere between 2% to 6% of your loan amount in closing costs to refinance your mortgage, according to LendingTree. The fees you pay fall into two categories: Closing Costs Points Closing Costs While exact closing costs vary by state, the average for a single-family home was $5,749 including taxes ($3,339 excluding taxes) in 2019. That’s according to ClosingCorp, a leading provider of residential real estate closing cost data. Closing costs include fees for a lot of things: a property appraisal and pulling your credit report — as well as fees for processing, underwriting, attorneys, notarizing the transaction and title insurance. Depending on where you live, there might be more. It is possible to refinance without paying closing costs upfront, though you’ll pay a slightly higher interest rate. But you’ll save so much money in the long run if you reduce your loan term. That’s why Clark says no-closing-cost refis can be a win/win. If you do choose to go the route with closing costs, you’ll often have the option to pay those costs upfront or roll them into your new loan. The consumer champ says the former is a smarter move. “If you’re going to stay in the property for enough years, you want to prepay the closing costs,” notes Clark. “Because otherwise, you’re paying interest every month on the money you rolled into it, so you’re taking away some of the advantage.” Points Points are another kind of fee you need to know about. A point represents 1% of the total amount of money borrowed. There two kinds of points: Origination points: This is simply a junk fee to line lenders’ pockets. Discount points: Money paid in advance to lower the interest rate over the life of a loan. Clark has a simple rule when it comes to points: Never pay points to buy down your interest rate! Keep in mind that not every lender charges points — credit unions often don’t — so if you can avoid paying points entirely, all the better. 5. What Kind of Credit Score Do You Need? As a result of the coronavirus crisis, many lenders are tightening standards for borrowers. That means you may need a higher credit score to refinance now than you would have last year. In fact, MarketWatch reports some lenders are insisting on a minimum credit score of 700 to consider a cash-out refinance application. Of course, that varies by lender. But it’s always better to have a higher credit score. We’ve got advice on how to raise your credit score fast here. But it isn’t necessary to have an 800+ credit score to get a really great offer. As long as you can hit 760, you’ll basically get the same kind of offers as people who have top-tier credit, according to Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and consumer finance analyst for U.S. News & World Report. “If you can get up to around a 760, you’re going to get the same benefits, the same offers, that someone who has an 840 score is going to get,” Harzog tells Clark.com. 6. Where Should You Look for a Refinance? One of the most common questions we get about refinancing at our Consumer Action Center is, “Which companies are the best to refinance a mortgage?” Clark points out one place where you shouldn’t look — and that’s a big bank. “Banks are so unbelievably inefficient as operations. So the mortgage market is being taken over by non-banks like Quicken Loans and others,” Clark says. “Non-banks run so much more efficiently than banks and can make a nice profit charging less on a mortgage than a giant bureaucratic bank.” Clark says the first place you should look for a refinance is your local credit union — particularly for shorter-term refis like seven or 10 years. If you’re not already a member of a credit union, check out their websites to you can see what rates they’re quoting. Or you can call a few around town to figure out which one you might want to join. “Credit unions do more creative products with the whole design being to get you debt free instead of paying the bank forever and ever,” Clark says. Meanwhile, some non-bank online lenders you may want to consider include: Guaranteed Rate Rocket Mortgage Quicken Loans Finally, you may also want to check the Costco mortgage program for refinances. The bottom line: You’ll likely save thousands of dollars on refinancing your mortgage if you shop around. Clark recommends that you get quotes from at least three different sources. But don’t fall into the trap of getting hung up on interest rate alone when comparison shopping. The interest rate is the bright, shiny object most people tend to focus on. But it’s only part of how you compare one loan offer to another. You’ve also got to consider points, if any, and closing costs. When you put the offers side-by-side and compare all three factors — interest rate, closing costs and points — you’ll be able to see which is the best deal. Final Thought With mortgage rates at record lows, refinancing is a good way to secure a lower interest rate and pay off your housing debt faster with a shorter loan term. Or you can refinance your mortgage to get cash out of your home or move from an adjustable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage. If you can’t afford a higher payment on a shorter loan term, you can still refinance into a new, traditional 30-year term with a lower interest rate. Then just pay extra toward the principal each month if you can. By doing that, you’ll get out of debt faster without being tied to a higher payment. If you have additional questions about refinancing your mortgage, reach out to our Consumer Action Center. More Related Stories on Clark.com: Is a Cash-Out Refinance Right for You? Best and Worst Home Insurance Companies How to Buy a House in 9 Steps This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 6 Things to Know About Refinancing Your Mortgage appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • The phone lines could be tied up at your bank or lender as MANY people are seeking relief. Clark tells you what to do. Second home communities will likely have a tough time for a while. Prices will likely go down for homes in these locations. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 5.20.20 Getting debt relief from financial institutions is hard right now; Second home communities will hurt for a while appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • If you’ve just graduated from college, you may be ready to get in the driver’s seat in more ways than one. A recent report from car sales site Autotrader.com lists the best vehicles on the market right now for recent college graduates. Autotrader’s 2020 list features several choices for young people looking for affordable options. They include new cars as well as used vehicles.  “If you just graduated from college there is still plenty to celebrate,” Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader, says in a news release. “Unfortunately, grads will be entering one of the toughest job markets in recent memory. Our advice is not to overdo it when it comes to getting a new car.” Here Are the Best Cars for Recent College Graduates in 2020 Model Year(s) Vehicle Lowest Probable Price 2011-2015 Chevrolet Volt Around $10,000 2012-2017 FIAT 500 Around $10,000 2015-2017 Ford Mustang Around $20,000 2016-2018 Honda Civic Around $20,000 2018-2019 Hyundai Kona Around $20,000 2012-2017 Jeep Wrangler Around $20,000 2021 Kia Seltos Around $30,000 2020 Nissan Sentra Around $20,000 2010-2015 Toyota Prius Around $10,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback Around $20,000 Clark’s Advice on When to Buy a Car Money expert Clark Howard expects we’ll see some great car deals over the next few months. “May, June, early July, it’s going to be a great time for people who are in the market for a vehicle whether it is new or used,” he says. One thing to remember is that the car-buying process has changed a bit in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “No matter which car you choose, your local dealer will certainly be offering ‘social distancing’ services like virtual walkarounds, remote or online paperwork and, in some cases, test drives at home,” Moody says. Want to learn more about buying a car? Here’s how to Buy a Used Car in 7 Steps . More Car Resources From Clark.com: Should You Buy a Vehicle Right Now? Buying Gas From a Station on This List Is Better for Your Car 7 Rules for Buying a Cheap Car With Cash This article was originally published on Clark.com The post Report: Best Cars for Recent College Graduates in 2020 appeared first on Clark Howard.
  • Walmart has been one of the biggest quarantine winners as earnings have gone up substantially. Cyber insurance is becoming an even bigger necessity as more people are working from home. But it’s also getting more expensive. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Watch the video This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 5.19.20 Walmart earnings soar; Cyber insurance is more necessary now – and more costly appeared first on Clark Howard.