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March 4, 2010

Mold invasion

Posted: 07:19 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money?  Do your money goals seem impossible?  Clark Howard wants to help you!

We're looking for families or individuals who are willing to be profiled on HLN.  Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Help Me Clark • Home repair • Living


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January 7, 2010

Do I qualify for the student loan forgiveness program?

Posted: 02:07 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

LaRisha:
My mom told me about the Federal Student Loan Repayment Forgiveness Program. I have looked at that section on your website and it reads, "Public service employees will enjoy full loan forgiveness after making 10 years of monthly payments on their federal loans." I have been teaching for 13 years. Six of those years were in the USA but the other seven have been in England where I currently reside. Does this loan forgiveness still apply to me?

Clark:
Well, actually, under the loan forgiveness plan, because it's a new law, prior years of service do not count. So going in to what's known as the income based repayment plan and then starting the eligibility clock is how you count your 10 years. It also does not count outside of the U.S.

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Filed under: Finance • Student loan


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January 6, 2010

You CAN save while living paycheck to paycheck!

Posted: 02:30 PM ET

Money Coach with HLN’s Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money? Do your money goals seem impossible? Clark Howard wants to help you!

We’re looking for individuals or families who are willing to be profiled on HLN.

Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.

This week's question comes from Ashley Bothwell of Atlanta, Georgia.


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Filed under: Money Coach • Savings


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January 4, 2010

Sixty days to raise credit score

Posted: 03:55 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Vanessa:
I've been in my current home 12 years. I am trying to get a mortgage loan to purchase a bigger home. The bank wants to send me through FHA. My middle credit score is 576. I need to be at 620 for FHA to consider my loan. How can I raise my score in as little as 60 days?

Clark:
Doing so within 60 days is difficult, and 120 days is possible. The factors that would have your score below 600 would be two things. One, you may have some late payments on your credit report. The second thing is you may be using too much of your available credit. If you can attack that and reduce the amount of your available credit, that will have the quickest positive effect on your credit. The third thing is if you have any unpaid bills that were charged off. Paying those off will help your score immensely, again in 120 days.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Credit • Finance • Living


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December 17, 2009

Should I pay off my mortgage?

Posted: 12:20 PM ET

HELP ME CLARK!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Kathy:

I have recently inherited enough money to pay off my mortgage ($130,000) and still have a lot left over ($100,000.) I also have $12,000 in savings for emergencies. I am single, 62 years old and give 10% to charity each year. Should I pay off my mortgage?

Clark:

Generally, the answer to that question depends on what your interest rate is. If the interest rate on your mortgage is 5.5% or higher, then it would be a no-brainer to pay that mortgage off. If your mortgage interest rate is below 4.5%, it's really a lifestyle choice if you want to pay off the mortgage just so you have the peace of mind that you no longer have that obligation. But I'll tell you, if you have a mortgage rate that is 4.875% or less, forget the piece of mind. Keep the money and pay the mortgage off as agreed for the entire length of the loan. So you've got a three-parter here. One, your interest rate is higher than 5.5%, pay it off. Your interest rate is between 5% and 5.5%, it's a tossup. If your interest rate is below 5%, no way you should rush to pay it off.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • Living • Mortgage


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November 13, 2009

Cheaper cars on the way?

Posted: 01:07 PM ET

Clark Behind the Headlines
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

There are changes coming to the car market that are so exciting. The cost of reliable transportation has come down and down and down. And we are now in an era where you can buy new cars for as cheap as $10,000!

Manufacturers will often release versions of their lowest price point models – some as low as $8,000 or $9,000 – and many of them come equipped with just about anything the typical buyer would want: cruise control, automatic windows, automatic transmission, etc. Wait, it gets better!

Nissan, one of the world’s largest automakers, is putting out a car in Asia in about two years that will cost around $2,000 bucks!

Now why in the world would you care about a car that’s being sold in Asia? Well, I want you to think historically. In electronics, the trends often emerge from Japan. The Japanese market is a leading indicator of what’s coming to the United States and to Western Europe.

Now we’re not going to have $2,000 or $3,000 cars in the United States anytime soon because of our safety requirements. The cars have to be designed to meet our safety and emission rules and that’ll pump up the price to around $6,000 brand new, but that’s still a heck of a deal!

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • Money Coach


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November 12, 2009

How can we save for our son's future?

Posted: 11:52 AM ET

Money Coach with HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

Having trouble managing money? Do your money goals seem impossible? Clark Howard wants to help you!

We’re looking for individuals or families who are willing to be profiled on HLN .

Those chosen will get money advice and information from Clark Howard.
This week’s question comes from Dan and Heather Sostrom of Gainesville, Florida.

Clark:
Wow you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in that household, now another one on the way. Three children that you’re going to have to raise and pay for college for.

But the thing is, do you know what? You paid for your own college you said that set you back. But the truth is there are so many ways to pay for college, but you know what? There’s only one way to pay for your own retirement.

So you love your children, you want the best for the them but key thing, your primary focus and goal should be to beef up your savings for retirement. You need to contribute more each and every month to that and then if there’s money left over, put it toward your kids’ college in a prepaid plan or the 529 plan.

This conflict I’ve just talked about, I hear this over and over and over again. And when I talk with older couples whose kids are now grown and then I ask 'What did you save for retirement?' They kind of can’t look at me because they’ve taken all the money and put it toward their kids’ college.

Remember what I just said. Your primary goal with your long term savings is not your kids’ college. There’s work, there’s loans, there’s grants, there’s scholarships but for retirement you’ve got one thing and that’s you.

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Filed under: Children • Clark Howard • Finance • Living • Money Coach • Retirement


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November 11, 2009

Help! Old medical bills

Posted: 10:40 AM ET

Help Me Clark!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

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Jerry:
I recently received a medical bill from a doctor I used in 2007. His office said an audit turned up a lab bill that was not filed and they want me to pay it.

My insurance company says it's beyond their time limit for doctors filing claims. One person at the insurance company said not to pay it if the doctor says I'm responsible. However, I worry about my credit score if I do not pay it. Any suggestions?

Clark:
You are so right to worry about your credit score and in this case what is a reasonable amount for you to pay the doctor is what your insurance would have left as your co-pay portion.

If the doctor failed to do a timely claim it is not reasonable to hold you liable for the full amount of the lab bill when it was the doctor's office that didn't do their part. So normally with lab work there would be a portion of it that would come out of your pocket; offer them that amount of money.

If they don't want to play you send them a letter by certified mail that their failure to bill you in a timely fashion has caused you harm because it is no longer within the window that you can file with insurance and that you have made an offer to them and that if they at any time attempt to put this on your credit report, that you are prepared to sue them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Finance • health care


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November 9, 2009

My mom charged $11,000 to my credit card

Posted: 10:15 AM ET
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.

Help Me Clark!
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

JAMES:
Two years ago, my mom charged about $11,000 dollars to my credit card and now they're coming after me. I am 22 and just graduated from college, and many employers look at my credit as a negative towards hiring me. The debt collectors call me and I have tried offering a settlement and they will not accept it even after I have explained the situation to them. What should I do? I cannot afford to pay them anything.

CLARK:
Well what a sad thing that your mom betrayed your trust and charged to your credit card. I get this question a lot where a family member or a friend abuses your credit card and you're left holding the bag.

Normally you would have to fill out an affidavit where you swear that you did not make the charges and you say that they were made by your mom and if you do that at the time that the charges have taken place or the time you knew the charges had taken place you normally are not liable for those charges.

You've let this go on and it doesn't sound at all like you want to put your mom in to legal jeopardy so it's going to be up to you to try to make a deal. You have two issues. One is the affect on your credit which for seven years the unpaid debt harms you on your credit report. If you reach a deal and the debt no longer exists on your report the harm to you lessens enormously and with time essentially disappears so the most important thing is to try to cut a deal. And the key number for you is you're two years out from this, once you hit statute of limitations in your state, which means the amount of time that somebody could sue you against a debt you have far more negotiating power to negotiate a settlement for a much smaller amount than the 11,000.

Likely once you go outside of statute of limitations you should be able to settle the debt for 1,000 or so dollars.

If you go and do a Google or Bing search and put in your state and put statute of limitations on debt as the search, you'll see. And that varies by state from either 3 or 4 years on a credit card debt. Some states it will be longer than that.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Credit • Finance • Money Coach


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November 3, 2009

Can a "short sale" help me?

Posted: 12:16 PM ET
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.
HLN Money Expert Clark Howard.

Clark Behind The Headlines
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

“Short sale” is a term that no one had heard of 18 months ago. And, even today, it’s very misunderstood.

A short sale is where I own a home, and  I owe more on it than what it’s worth.  I need to get out and I don’t want to be foreclosed on.  So I ask my lender if I can market the house as a short sale, meaning that the price of the home is marked to market. The bank then takes a hit on the loss between what the mortgage is and what the market is today.

Now, are banks running charities?  No way!  The reason why a bank would do a short sale is that it’s much cheaper for them than a foreclosure.  The costs of foreclosures are much greater for the bank because, ultimately, they get less than what they’d get on a short sale, and they end up with enormous costs going through the foreclosure process and the aftermath.  So it sounds like it would be a logical thing to do in a marketplace where people who bought at peak with 100% financing are now so far upside down.

What has changed is the federal government is now subsidizing the banks to allow short sales to go through. The feds are eating some of the losses as an incentive to try to get the banks to do something that’s better for them anyway from a business stand point, which is to cut a deal with people short of foreclosure.  For the seller, it’s a deal because you get out with the shirt still on your back and you didn’t suffer foreclosure.  Your credit score does suffer in a short sale but not as much as it would with a foreclosure.  Quite often, foreclosures lead to bankruptcies, which devastate your credit standing.

So the short sale thing is starting to flip.  It doesn’t mean that every lender has it together.  The biggest lenders have set up the equivalent of war rooms with specialists whose job it is to process these.  Some of the big lenders now take short sale request electronically rather than give that phrase we kept hearing: “Oh, the paperwork is lost”.  So as someone who has long derided short sales, I want to tell you they’re back in the game if you’re looking for a distressed piece of real estate.

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Filed under: Clark Howard • Living • Mortgage


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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!