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4 expert tips for getting the most out of online mortgage calculators





Photo: GotCredit/Flickr

Even casual home shoppers have likely come across an online mortgage calculator, which is perhaps the most misunderstood financial tool on the internet.

Based on cursory financial information inputted by the user, a mortgage calculator reveals approximately how much house that person can afford. Or, more specifically, how much money the user could reasonably borrow from a lender in order to purchase a home, complete with an estimate of the monthly mortgage payment.

And while the process may seem straightforward, it is often at this first (and crucial) step that first-time homebuyers will make a mistake.

Livabl recently sat down with Zack Tolmie, a home lending officer with Citibank, and Jodi Carter, a Certified Public Accountant working in New York City, to discuss how homebuyers can best use the data from an online mortgage calculator.

1. Find an interpreter

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story, either.

“An online mortgage calculator may tell you that you can technically afford to buy a house valued at $300,000, but in reality, based on your larger financial picture, including debts and long-term financial goals, you really shouldn’t be buying anything over $250,000,” says Tolmie.

The estimate typically does not include other potential monthly and yearly costs associated with homeownership, like cable, internet, pool cleaning and landscaping. According to the listing site Zillow, these “hidden” costs can easily add up to almost $10,000 annually for the average homeowner.

A mortgage calculator gives a broad overview, at best, of how much house you can afford based on your data, but it often doesn’t consider some important variables that can drastically reduce your estimate.

“They don’t take into consideration the portion of the monthly payment for escrow, which may include property taxes and various forms of required insurance,” says Carter.

The temptation for some buyers is to bite off more home than they can realistically chew.

“The most common and damaging mistake that prospective homebuyers make is choosing a monthly commitment that is the highest amount they believe that they can afford. They don’t leave room for ongoing savings and they find themselves working just to pay the mortgage,” adds Carter.

2. Leave no room for error

One of the caveats of a mortgage calculator is that it is performing calculations based on user-provided data, which could be inaccurate or outdated.

For example, a shopper may think that they have a “good” credit score — which ranges from about 670 to 740 — when in actuality, their score hovers in the low-600s and technically “needs work.” The difference in credit score can drastically alter how much a shopper will get approved to borrow, which directly impacts their monthly mortgage payment.

According to the mortgage calculator on NerdWallet, a buyer in Atlanta, GA with “poor” credit and an annual salary of $90,000 may only get approved for a loan of about $386,000, compared to $417,000 for a buyer with a good credit score.

Free online tools like Credit Karma allow shoppers to see the same financial information as lenders.

“A lot of shoppers are unaware of mistakes on their credit report, and mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and time. Often, buyers will find mistakes when they make an offer, and then it’s too late to do anything to fix it,” says Tolmie.

Tolmie recommends having a financial expert review your credit report a year ahead of when you plan to buy.

“An expert can give you very specific details on how to improve your credit score, like just making all of your payments on time for twelve consecutive months. On-time payments are the biggest impact on a credit score,” says Tolmie

3. Manage your debts

According to a recent study, approximately 80 percent of adult Americans (across all generations) carry some amount of debt — whether it be student loans (Millennials) or credit card debt (Gen X and Baby Boomers).

Understanding the role debt plays in homebuying and actually knowing how much debt you carry can save you from a lot of headaches and heartaches down the line.

“The fact that you have debt doesn’t hurt your ability to get a mortgage, but what lenders are really focused on is how much your monthly payment on that debt is. We want to make certain you can afford that monthly payment as well as your monthly housing debts with your current income,” says Tolmie.

Mortgage calculator estimates rely on the accuracy of the user’s data. In reality, a shopper may have a monthly debt payment over $1,000 and mistakenly downgrade that payment. Or worse yet, fail to include an estimate for future payments because they don’t know how much they will amount to.

“With student loans especially, a bank will estimate conservatively, which could curtail your borrowing power,” says Tolmie.

4. Prepare a trial run

If the estimated payment feels too high to comfortably afford, it probably is. To find out how much of a monthly payment you can truly afford, start an aggressive savings plan.

“When preparing to buy a home, take the desired down payment amount and divide it by the expected monthly cost of your new home. That calculation will give you the number of months that you will need to save for the down payment,” says Carter.

Carter advises her clients to faithfully set aside money into a savings account for that duration.

In the end, this not only proves that you have the cash for the down payment, but that you can afford the monthly payments without struggle.


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Is getting an MBA worth it? How to make a decision





Obtaining an MBA degree requires a significant amount of investment. You’re not only spending money but investing a large amount of time and effort into it.

While preparing for your MBA, it is important to critically access if the benefits of enrolling in a graduate business school outweigh the costs, according to experts. Your current financial capabilities and commitments are key factors to consider before determining whether applying for an MBA is the right choice for you.

According to experts, one great way to weigh the short-term financial benefits of an MBA is to research the average salary of recent graduates of business schools and compare that figure with the average number of student loan debt.

Of all the ranked business schools that provided salary figures in the U.S. News Best Business Schools ranking, the average starting salary among 2018 graduates from full-time MBA programs was $87,683.88. While for 2018 graduates of full-time MBA program at the ranked business schools, the average debt burden was $51,671.90.

For schools that provided both salary and debt figures, the average salary for MBA graduates was $86,253.72—167% higher than the average debt burden at those schools.

Mike Catania, the founder of the coupon website and a student in the executive MBA program at the University of California—Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, noted that one of the major reasons he chose to attend business school was a strong desire to expand his network.

“I got exactly what I wanted – access to brilliant classmates and faculty that I would never have encountered on my own,” he noted. “It’s difficult to ascribe a value to that, but I look at it as only temporarily intangible – the relationships forged over the next few years will positively affect my opportunities as an entrepreneur moving forward.”

According to a financial ROI report on MBA published by Quacquarelli Symonds—a higher education data, consulting and research company—within 10 years of earning an MBA degree, the average MBA graduates from either a U.S. or international business school had an estimated ROI of $390,751—even after deducting tuition and opportunity costs of attending an MBA program. The report also went further to show that the average decade-long ROI of an MBA graduate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business is higher than $1 million.

While the financial benefit of an MBA degree is a huge factor to consider, experts also note that there are other non-financial factors to consider, such as if getting the degree would either facilitate career change or accelerate career advancement.

“Often candidates have a career progression in mind – ask whether people who have followed that path have been helped by an MBA,” said Mark W. Nelson, the dean of Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. “Also, consider your personal opportunities for growth. What do you want to work on? Consider how an MBA would help you develop those capabilities.”

For example, with the future of data analyticslooking bright for data scientists, getting an MBA might be what you need to boost your chances of landing a great job.

Another important thing to consider when deciding to pursue an MBA degree is your current lifestyle. It is a venture that requires serious commitments, said Catania.

“It’s just going to eat up so much of your time, and all of the (business) schools make it abundantly clear that this is on par with a job,” he adds.

Also, Nelson noted that an MBA is best suited for individuals who want to begin a major change in their career path. “An MBA is a good path when candidates are looking for a career switch or a significant career advancement,” he said.

However, Elissa Sangster, CEO of the Forté Foundation—a non-profit organization with a mission to increase the representation of women in business schools and corporate leadership positions—warns that an MBA is not necessary for every type of business career.

“You could trick yourself into thinking you need to go and pursue an MBA because, if you’re going to run a yoga studio or you’re going to … open up a car wash or run a food truck, those are all businesses,” she said.

“Getting an expensive MBA degree may not be a smart financial decision for someone who wants to run a small local business, while it could be a strategic move for someone who hopes to start or manage a large, influential corporation.”

According to Phil Strazzulla, an entrepreneur and the founder of two companies in the software sector – Select Software Reviews and NextWave Hire – who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, he noted that while it is a chance worth taking, it is one that needs to be carefully analysed.

“Chances are, if you’re thinking about getting an MBA, you are an analytically rigorous person who’s done the analysis on whether it makes sense to pay now for future gains in salary,” he said. “And, if you go to a top school, it undoubtedly is. However, the other way I’d recommend thinking about your decision is how it’ll impact your overall happiness.”

Furthermore, SiqiMou, the co-founder and CEO of the tech-driven beauty company HelloAva who earned an MBA degree from Stanford, notes that one of the key advantages of attending a high-quality business school is that it provides exposure to a wide array of career opportunities.

“I would say the advantage of coming to one of these relatively prestigious business schools is that you have a lot of options that are open to you,” she said. “You can go back into finance or consulting types of jobs, or you can also start something yourself.”

Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York City, added that an MBA provides project-based learning activities that allow students to practice solving real business problems.

“An MBA can be much more than the knowledge and skills acquired through coursework; it can truly expand you and your world,” he said.

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Comment se protéger des risques associés à l’utilisation des outils bancaires





La technologie financière est en constante évolution. L’introduction continuelle de nouvelles options bancaires en est la preuve.

Fintech (abréviation de technologie financière) est un terme qui désigne tout type d’innovation technologique utilisée pour soutenir ou fournir des services financiers. Une telle innovation entraîne des changements importants dans le secteur financier, et donne naissance à une gamme de nouveaux modèles d’affaires, d’applications, de processus et de produits.

Si les applications financières vous permettent d’accéder facilement à vos finances personnelles, elles peuvent aussi comporter des risques allant du vol de vos renseignements bancaires, tels que votre numéro de carte de débit ou de crédit, votre nom d’utilisateur et votre numéro d’identification personnel.

C’est pourquoi il est important d’être très vigilent en partageant vos informations personnelles et bancaires en ligne. Saviez-vous qu’en fournissant vos informations bancaires ou de carte de crédit à une application financière, vous pourriez risquer de violer l’accord d’utilisation de votre institution financière?

Ce qui veut dire que, quelles que soient les caractéristiques de sécurité mises en place par une application financière, votre institution financière peut vous tenir responsable en cas de vol et d’utilisation de vos renseignements personnels à votre insu ou sans votre approbation.

Voici quelques conseils pour vous aider à protéger vos informations personnelles et bancaires, ou celles de votre carte de crédit lorsque vous utilisez les applications financières :

  • Vérifiez l’accord d’utilisation de votre banque avant de partager vos informations personnelles et bancaires, ou de carte de crédit à travers les applications financières.
  • Consultez la politique de protection contre la fraude de votre institution financière pour savoir qui est responsable de toute transaction non autorisée par vous-même .
  • Cherchez à comprendre quelles mesures de sécurité sont en place et comment vos renseignements personnels pourraient être utilisés.
  • Vérifiez régulièrement votre dossier de crédit pour voir s’il n’y a pas de demande de crédit que vous n’avez pas faite ou encore une transaction que vous n’avez pas effectuée.

Si vous soupçonnez que vos informations ont été compromises, changez immédiatement vos mots de passe. Examinez vos relevés de compte et de carte de crédit pour y détecter toutes anomalies, et signalez toute transaction suspecte à votre institution financière.

Vous pourriez aussi commander et vérifier votre dossier de crédit.

Visitez le site web de l’Agence de la consommation en matière financière du Canada pour de plus amples renseignements sur les risques associés au partage de renseignements bancaires sur des applications financières à

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Comment agir efficacement en cas de fraude





Chaque année, des milliers de Canadiens perdent des millions de dollars à cause de fraudeurs. Adolescents, aînés, gens d’affaires, tout le monde peut en être victime. Pourtant, seulement 5% des fraudes sont signalées aux autorités.

Si vous avez été victime de fraude, la meilleure chose à faire est de le signaler aux autorités concernées, et peu importe son ampleur. Ne vous sentez surtout pas honteux d’avoir été piégé car vous n’êtes pas seul à être tombé dans le panneau. En rapportant cette fraude, vous allez aider d’autres personnes à ne pas en être victime. De plus, dans la plupart des cas, l’institution financière ouvrira une enquête et vous remboursera l’argent perdu.

Gardez en tête que protéger vos renseignements personnels est essentiel pour éviter la fraude. Voici comment agir si vous suspectez une transaction inhabituelle dans vos comptes :

  • Changez immédiatement votre NIP et signalez la fraude à votre institution financière et au Centre antifraude du Canada. Informez-les également de toute correspondance suspecte que vous recevez au sujet de vos comptes.
  • Lorsque vous communiquez avec votre institution financière, assurez-vous d’utiliser le numéro de téléphone figurant sur votre relevé de compte ou au verso de votre carte de crédit ou de débit.
  • Si vous recevez des courriels trompeurs, vous pouvez envoyer une plainte au Centre de signalement des pourriels. Les escroqueries financières comprennent souvent des offres de vente ou des promotions de produits et services financiers, comme les régimes de retraite, les fonds de placement gérés, les conseils financiers, l’assurance et les comptes de crédit et de dépôt.

Le Bureau de la concurrence du Canada dispose d’un excellent guide appelé le Petit Livre noir de la fraude, et fournit beaucoup d’autres renseignements utiles par l’entremise du Centre antifraude du Canada.

Pour plus d’information, visitez le site web de l’Agence de la consommation en matière financière du Canada qui offre également une foule de renseignements et d’outils pour vous aider à vous protéger contre les fraudes et les escroqueries à

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