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How To Save For Retirement When Your Job Has No 401(k) Plan



When it comes to saving for retirement, putting your money in a low-interest savings account is akin to shoving your money under a mattress. Ideally, you’d invest your money for bigger gains over time while reaping a few tax benefits instead. In other words, you’d contribute to your employer’s 401(k) plan.

So, what if you don’t have one?

More than a third of all private-sector workers over the age of 22 don’t work for a company that offers a retirement plan, according to data analyzed by The Pew Charitable Trusts. That number jumps to 41 percent for millennials.

Fortunately, if you don’t have access to a 401(k) or another employer-sponsored retirement plan, you’re not out of luck. Whether you work for a company or for yourself, here are six types of accounts that can help you reach your retirement savings goals.

1. Traditional IRA

Best for: Just about anyone.

How it works: An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a type of tax-advantaged retirement savings account. It’s similar to a 401(k) except you don’t have to open one through your employer. “It’s common for people to change employers frequently, and the great thing about an IRA is that it’s employer-independent,” said Lyn Alden, the founder of Lyn Alden Investment Strategy. “You can keep the same account open and keep contributing to it year after year, regardless of who you work for.”

An IRA lets you contribute pre-tax dollars, which grow tax-deferred. You only pay taxes on the investment gains when you make withdrawals in retirement. One of the biggest benefits to contributing to a traditional IRA is that it’s easier to make larger contributions since you don’t have to pay taxes on the money. That lets you take full advantage of compounding returns while you’re young. Plus, if you don’t contribute to a retirement plan through work, you can deduct your IRA contributions on your taxes.

The downside is that the contribution limits for IRAs are much lower than for 401(k)s. For 2019, you can contribute a total of $6,000 across all your IRA accounts ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older) or your taxable income for the year, whichever is smaller. You’re allowed to begin making penalty-free withdrawals when you turn 59½. Once you reach 70½, you can no longer contribute and must start making required minimum distributions instead.

2. Roth IRA

Best for: Lower-earning employees who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement.

How it works: A Roth IRA is similar to a traditional IRA with a few exceptions. The first is the way your money is taxed: Rather than contributing pre-tax money, you contribute funds after taxes have already been taken out. “That money is never subject to capital gains taxes or dividend taxes from that point on,” Alden said. In other words, your withdrawals in retirement are made tax-free.

This can be a major benefit to workers who don’t earn a lot now but expect to increase their income significantly in the future. For example, maybe you just graduated from medical school and are in your first year of residency. Eventually, you plan to open your own private practice. In this case, you will likely save money on taxes by paying them now while your income is relatively low instead of at retirement. “Tax-deferred compounded growth over decades can really make a big impact to one’s retirement nest egg, in addition to being able to have tax-free income later on during retirement,” said Celeste Hernandez Revelli, a certified financial planner and director of financial planning at eMoney Advisor.

Another major benefit? “You can also withdraw your principal at any time without penalty if you need to, so it’s one of the more flexible types of accounts for retirement and general investing,” Alden said. Keep in mind this applies to principal only and not investment earnings.

The downside is there is a cap on how much you can earn in order to be eligible for a Roth IRA. The income limit for single filers in 2019 is $122,000–$137,000, depending on the contribution amount. Roth IRA contribution limits are the same as traditional IRAs. And despite the benefits, there are a few other reasons why you might want to think twice about contributing to a Roth IRA.


Best for: People who are self-employed.

How it works: The “SEP” in SEP-IRA stands for simplified employee pension. Contributions to this type of retirement plan are made by the employer on the employee’s behalf. The good news is that any employer with one or more employees can create a SEP plan. So if you’re self-employed ― for instance, you own a small business or are a freelancer ― you are both the employer and employee. Contributions are also tax-deductible for the business, and the money isn’t taxed until it’s withdrawn in retirement.

Contributions made in 2019 to an employee’s SEP-IRA can’t exceed 25 percent of compensation or $56,000, whichever is less. The nice thing about the SEP-IRA is that your contributions to any personal IRAs don’t affect the limits for the SEP employer contributions. That means you could max out both plans if you wanted. However, participating in a SEP plan could affect your ability to deduct traditional or Roth IRA contributions, since the IRS doesn’t allow you to deduct as both employer and employee.

4. Solo 401(k)

Best for: Self-employed individuals who want higher contribution limits.

How it works: Another option for freelancers, small business owners and other self-employed individuals is the one-participant 401(k) plan, also known as a solo 401(k). This account has the same rules and requirements as a traditional 401(k) you’d contribute to through an employer except that it’s designed for the self-employed.

According to IRS rules, you must be a business owner to contribute to a solo 401(k), but you can’t have employees. The good news is that the plan can cover both you and a spouse.

So why would you choose a solo 401(k) over a SEP-IRA? The contribution limits, namely. It’s possible to make contributions to a solo 401(k) as both an employer and an employee. In 2019, the contribution limit for employees is $19,000, or $25,000 for those 50 and older. As an employer, you can contribute up to an additional 25 percent of compensation, or up to $56,000 in total contributions. You can choose to make traditional or Roth contributions.

5. Health Savings Account

Best for: Individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans.

How it works: If you have a high-deductible health plan, you might qualify to contribute to a health savings account.

Though an HSA is technically not a retirement savings account, it’s as good ― if not better ― than a 401(k) because the contributions are triple tax-exempt, according to Megan Gorman, a managing partner at Chequers Financial Management.

“What that means is you fund the account and get an above-the-line deduction on your tax return. The money grows tax-deferred, and if you take it out for qualified medical expenses, it is a tax-free distribution,” Gorman said. In 2019, an individual with family coverage under an HDHP can contribute up to $7,000 for the year, which can be used to cover certain medical expense.

After age 65, you can withdraw the funds tax-free to cover health insurance premiums in addition to other qualified medical expenses. You can also use the money for non-medical expenses without paying a penalty; you just have to pay taxes on the withdrawals.

About 35 percent of employer-sponsored health plans offer HSAs. However, you can open your own HSA through most financial institutions even if your employer doesn’t offer one, as long as you meet all eligibility requirements.

6. Brokerage Account

Best for: Investors who want flexibility and the ability to invest beyond their annual contribution limits.

How it works: If you want more flexibility beyond what the above tax-advantaged accounts offer, consider opening an investment account through a brick-and-mortar or online brokerage, such as Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Etrade or Ally.

“While you won’t receive tax benefits, you can contribute to this investment account with your retirement goal in mind,” explained Alissa Todd, wealth adviser at The Wealth Consulting Group. For example, you can contribute more than the annual limits on other retirement savings vehicles, making it possible to reach your goals faster.

In fact, you might find that your best strategy is to contribute to a variety of account types in order to maximize your earning and tax savings opportunities.

“Even if you have access to a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, it is best to consider saving into other types of investment accounts because each has their own unique benefits and characteristics,” Revelli said. “There are many other savings options out there that give you full control of your assets, have more flexibility in distributions and have more investment choices.”

Whichever plan you choose, the most important thing is that you do have a plan. Not everyone has the means to max out their retirement accounts every year, but saving something is always better than saving nothing. Your future self will wholeheartedly agree.

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Like To Shop From Your Phone? These 5 Apps Will Help You Save Big.




From cashback sites to coupon aggregators, there’s no shortage of money-saving opportunities for savvy shoppers. But while many of these apps are great for people who shop from their laptops or even venture into physical stores, few work as well when shopping directly from a phone.

Even so, there are a few apps that make earning deep discounts on purchases easy for mobile shoppers. And I should know ― I’ve used them all. Often, you can stack the discounts from a few of these apps on a single purchase to multiply the savings. And if you use a rewards credit card to make the purchase? Now you’re cooking with gas.

But first, a word of warning: These apps only save you money if you use them on purchases you were going to make anyway. If you get carried away chasing that rewards dragon, you’re not really saving any money.

With that said, here are five tried-and-true apps that help you save money when shopping on your phone.

1. Wikibuy

Available on: iPhone, Android

Wikibuy is my favorite shopping tool thanks to several money-saving features. I started using the Wikibuy Chrome extension a few months ago to quickly see if any item I was considering purchasing could be found elsewhere for less. I use it alongside the Honey extension to run coupon codes before finalizing a purchase.

In addition to scouring the web for the best deals, Wikibuy also offers cash back on qualifying purchases and adds products I’ve viewed online to a “watchlist” that tracks price drops. It’s basically the Swiss army knife of shopping tools ― one that’s earned me an extra $8 and change on top of the savings I’ve scored so far.


Activate discounts and cash back offers directly through the Wikibuy app.

Fortunately, many of these great features translate well to the mobile app. You can search for a particular item and see which retailer is offering the lowest price, or search by store to find out what sales and cash back offers currently exist. In the example above, I searched for Macy’s and found that Wikibuy was offering 6 percent cash back on purchases there at the moment. All I had to do was click “activate” to be taken directly to the Macy’s site with my cash back reward waiting to be automatically applied.

2. RetailMeNot

Available on: iPhone, Android

RetailMeNot has been around for a long time, and though there are many competitors out there, I still find their app to be one of the most mobile shopping-friendly.


Before going through with a mobile purchase, use the RetailMeNot app to check for coupon codes and deals available through that retailer. You can filter by in-store coupons, online codes and official store sales. The coupons are crowdsourced, so they won’t always work. However, the app will note whether codes have been verified by users and allows them to leave comments for others. Some purchases also qualify for cash back.

RetailMeNot’s coupon codes are an easy way to stack savings. For instance, you might use Wikibuy to find the best deal on a particular item and activate a cash back deal. Then before you check out, you can check RetailMeNot for coupon codes. Make the purchase on a rewards credit card to earn extra points, and after the transaction goes through, your Wikibuy account will also be credited.

3. Paribus

Available on: iPhone, desktop

To continue saving money after you’ve made a purchase, sign up for Paribus. The free tool tracks online purchases you’ve made by scanning your email for receipts and automatically submits claims for refunds when the price drops within the price protection window or is delivered late.

Paribus is a great tool because all the magic happens behind the scenes. I actually forgot I had signed up for it until I began receiving emails notifying me of claims Paribus had submitted. At first, I was a little freaked out that some app was contacting companies on my behalf and demanding money. But then I started receiving that money.


Email from Paribus notifying me of a price drop.

For example, I received an email from Paribus regarding an entertainment center I recently purchased from Walmart online (side note: don’t ever buy an entertainment center online). The price had dropped within Walmart’s price protection period, so Paribus automatically contacted the retailer to request a refund for the difference. Even though I ended up returning that piece of junk item, it was nice to know Paribus had my back. I’ve also received small refunds when Amazon Prime purchases arrived past the guaranteed two-day delivery window.

4. Dosh

Available on: iPhone, Android

Dosh (which is U.K. slang for “money”) is a fairly new cash back app that’s set itself apart from the competition. Rather than researching offers ahead of time and dealing with coupons or codes, Dosh’s cash back system is more set-it-and-forget-it.

Simply link one or more credit cards to the app; when you make a qualifying purchase with that card, Dosh automatically applies your earnings ― up to 10 percent of the purchase price ― to your Dosh wallet. You can also browse the app for deals and click through to activate cash back.


The Dosh app awards cash back for purchases at thousands of retailers, restaurants, hotels and more.

I recently signed up for Dosh and connected my rewards credit card to double up on earnings. I have yet to make a purchase, but I already earned a $5 bonus for linking my first card. Once I rack up at least $25, I can cash out via PayPal or direct deposit.

5. Drop

Available on: iPhone, Android

Drop is another fairly new cash back app that works similarly to Dosh, though it has a few limitations.

By linking your debit or credit card to your Drop account, you automatically earn points on qualifying purchases. Those points can then be redeemed for cash back in the form of gift cards to major retailers such as Amazon and Whole Foods. The downside is that you’re forced to choose only five merchants from Drop’s list that will qualify for points. Choose carefully, because you won’t be able to change your selections. However, Drop also recommends one-time offers from other retailers that you can take advantage of.


Dosh lets you earn points on one-time offers as well as from your chosen retailers.

Cash is earned at a rate of $0.001 per Drop point (1,000 Drop points = $1). Dosh also recently implemented an earning cap of 5,000 Drop points per week ($5). Clearly, this is no get-rich-quick scheme. But considering you don’t actually have to do anything to earn the points once your account is set up, you might as well add this app to your mobile shopping arsenal.

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4 Signs Another Recession Is Coming ― And What It Means For You




What a wild ride the last couple of months have been.

On Dec. 4 the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled by almost 800 points, only to rally nearly 800 points three days later. That following Monday, it fell again by close to 500 points, but then recovered to end positively for the day.

A few weeks later, we entered into what is now the longest-running government shutdown in history, with no end in sight.

These events and others have many people wondering if the next recession is looming. The short answer: maybe. Here’s what you need to know about a possible recession and how to prepare for one.

Are We Headed For A Recession Soon?

Here’s the thing: There’s essentially always a recession on the horizon. That’s because recessions, which are often defined as periods of significant economic decline that last at least two consecutive quarters, are a natural part of the economic cycle, according to Zhi Li, owner and financial planner at Twelve Two Capital. “It is reasonable to anticipate that a recession will happen sometime in the future and reasonable to think one might happen soon given the long expansionary period that we are in,” he said.

But as far as predicting when, exactly, a recession will happen, you might as well consult your magic eight ball. Although there are a few data points we can look to when predicting an approaching recession, nailing down a specific time frame isn’t possible. Even so, plenty try.

According to Li, most economists don’t predict a recession will happen this year, but they do think one is likely to happen within the next two. Here’s why.

Signs A Recession Is Coming

Whether or not a recession will occur soon depends on who you ask.

Take the Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index, for instance. It examines 10 leading economic indicators to arrive at a growth or decline rate for the economy, and it helps predict recessions in the months leading up to the downturn. In November, the LEI grew by 0.2, which signals that our economy is still humming along though growth has slowed a bit.

Advisor Perspectives /

“The LEI has historically dropped below its six-month moving average anywhere between 2 to 15 months before a recession,” according to Advisor Perspectives.

Then again, other common economic measures say otherwise. Here are a few reasons why we might actually experience a recession soon.

Stock market performance is often considered a strong indicator of overall economic health. And historically, stock market peaks have preceded economic downturns by an average of seven to eight months (the actual range is a lot wider). On Oct. 3, the Dow Jones hit its highest closing record for the 15th time in 2018 at 26,828.39, following the record-setting day prior.

Less than three months later, the stock market experienced the worst December since the height of the Great Depression.

Even so, you should take these “signs” with a grain of salt. As the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson joked decades ago, “the stock market has predicted nine of the last five recessions.” Certain stock market behavior can signify a recession is coming, but by no means heralds one.

A somewhat more reliable indicator is the yield curve on U.S. Treasury securities. “Historically, when the yield curve inverts ― the interest rate on shorter-term treasury bonds is higher than the interest rate on longer-term Treasury bonds ― a recession can sometimes follow,” said Rockie Zeigler III, a certified financial planner and owner of RP Zeigler Investment Services.

How closely are the two correlated? Let’s just say the curve was inverted prior to the past seven recessions. In early December, the front-end of the yield curve inverted for the first time in more than a decade, meaning the yield on 5-year Treasury notes dropped below the 2- and 3-year notes.

Another major number that could point to an imminent recession is unemployment. And counterintuitively, it’s a low rate of unemployment that often signals a slowdown.

Recently, unemployment dropped to 3.7 percent ― a nearly 50-year low. Wages are also growing at the fastest rate since 2009. According to Forbes, strong job market statistics like these indicate that we’re reaching the end of the latest economic cycle rather than the beginning. In fact, an unemployment rate below 4 percent ― which is quite rare ― has often immediately proceeded past recessions.

Finally, as mentioned above, recessions are a normal part of the economic cycle. “While it’s not a very technical indicator, a long run of economic expansion can tell us something, too,” Zeigler said. “We haven’t had a recession or bear market since 2008-2009. The economy has been expanding (albeit slowly) since then. So have the stock markets.”

For these reasons, Zeigler said, we might actually be overdue for slowing economic growth, if not a recession.

What Does This Mean For You?

Zeigler added recessions impact the average person in two major ways. The first is unemployment: “When a recession hits, generally it’s accompanied by rising unemployment,” he said.

The second is spending. “If a person is able to keep their job, they probably won’t be completely confident in spending their money on things like TVs, cars, homes and services because of all the negativity that accompanies a recession,” Zeigler said. “Our economy is very dependent on consumer consumption of goods and services and folks tend to ‘hunker down’ during recessions because they fear losing their job.”

That means regardless of when the next recession hits, it pays to be prepared.

Build up your emergency fund. According to Bradley Nelson, president of Lyon Park Advisors, your top concern during a recession should be staying on top of your bills and ensuring you have a reliable source of income.

“Everyone should have an emergency fund of three to nine months of mandatory expenses, depending upon their circumstances,” Nelson said. “A money market account is a good place to have this stashed.” He also suggested thinking about what skills and resources you have at your disposal in case that fund isn’t enough, including spouse employment, side hustles and part-time jobs.

Know your risk tolerance. Though it can be difficult to predict your own behavior during certain situations, you should ask yourself what you’d do if the market were to drop by 10, 20 or even 50 percent. “If the answer sounds like ‘I’d sell everything to preserve what’s left,’ alarm bells should go off,” Nelson said. “It’s a sign your portfolio doesn’t match [your] risk tolerance.”

If that’s the case, you should reexamine your asset allocation. “Better to come up with an allocation you can live with through thick and thin now, rather than wait for markets to drop and sell your assets at fire sale prices,” Nelson said.

Take advantage of rock-bottom prices. Even though continuing to invest during a major market downturn might feel like lighting money on fire, it’s actually the smart thing to do in most cases. “Investors should have a shopper’s mentality. This means… having a shopping list of quality products to buy at bargain prices,” Nelson said.

In other words, you should aim to sell high and buy low. And though it’s probably hard to think of a recession as an opportunity, for the savvy investor, that’s exactly what it is.

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Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster With These 7 Tips




Student loans aren’t just a nuisance plaguing today’s young college grads. More than 44 million Americans collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. There’s a good chance that includes you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to finally get rid of that debt and be able to spend money on things you actually care about? The good news: There are a few strategies you can use to pay down those loans faster. Here are seven you can try.

1. Turn windfalls into extra payments.

One of the best ways to pay down your student loan debt fast is by making more than the minimum payments. Of course, “just pay more” isn’t realistic advice for most people. But hear me out on this one: Even a few one-off extra payments can have a significant impact on your student loan balance.

For example, you could apply part of your yearly bonus from work or a tax refund to your debt, said Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner and financial planning manager at SoFi. Or you could participate in a challenge like dry January or a no-spend month to come up with the extra cash. It might feel painful to put something fun like a cash windfall toward your student loan debt, but the results can be dramatic.

Don’t believe it? Say you have a $20,000 loan at 6 percent interest and 10 years left to pay it off. If you made just one extra payment of $100 each year, you’d pay off your loan five months sooner and save $315 in interest.

2. Split your payments in two.

Another trick you can use to pay off your loan faster is dividing your monthly payment into two. For example, if you have $300 due at the end of every month, make one payment of $150 on the 15th and a second payment of $150 on the 30th.

“This little trick could knock off an entire year of payments.”

– Sean Moore, certified financial planner

Not only can this make payments a little easier to manage, since most people get their paychecks every other week, but “paying half every two weeks equals one extra payment made each year without even noticing the difference,” said Sean Moore, a certified financial planner and founder of SMART College Funding.

That’s because, on a monthly schedule, you’d make 12 payments per year. However, splitting payments among 26 weeks (52 weeks in the year, divided by two), you end up with 13 months’ worth of payments over the same time period.

“On a typical 10-year repayment schedule, this little trick could knock off an entire year of payments (and interest)!”

3. Sign up for auto-pay.

Though it won’t have the most dramatic impact on your student loan debt, signing up for automatic payments can knock off a bit of interest and help you put more cash toward the principal balance.

This tactic allows your student loan servicer to automatically deduct your payment from your bank account each month. Besides ensuring that you pay on time and never miss a payment, some lenders may also give you a discount just for enrolling,” said Janet Alvarez, a personal finance expert at Wise Bread. Usually, that discount is 0.25 percent.

4. Refinance.

If you have a steady income and good credit, you might qualify to refinance your student loans. Refinancing involves taking out a new loan and using the funds to pay off the old loan. Usually, people refinance their loans to achieve a new term length, a lower interest rate or both.

For instance, you might refinance a 10-year student loan to a term of seven years. It would result in higher monthly payments, but you’d pay the loan off faster and save money on interest. And if you can refinance to a lower interest rate as well, more of your money will go toward paying down the balance as fast as possible.

Let’s take our $20,000 loan example from above. With 10 years left at 6 percent interest, your monthly payments would be $222.

Now let’s say you refinance to a slightly lower rate of 5 percent. Your bill would drop to $212. Not a huge difference, sure. But what if you kept paying $222 each month despite the new lower bill? You’d knock off six months and $335 in interest from your loan. Now imagine what would happen if the interest rate difference was even bigger.

Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner, suggests creating a refinancing ladder to maximize your savings. “The way you do this is start with a payment you can afford pretty easily, say, a 10- or 15-year loan. Pay extra when you have extra, and you’ll cut down the amount that you owe rapidly,” Hornsby explained. “After a couple of years, you can refinance again to a seven-year loan, often with the same payment but with a lower interest rate. Finally, you could refinance one more time to a five-year loan before you finish paying off the entire amount.”

Keep in mind that you should work with a lender that doesn’t charge loan origination fees, which might cancel out interest savings. It’s also a good idea to weigh the risks of refinancing federal student loans, because doing so would change them to private loans and permanently forfeit federal protections such as income-driven repayment and forgiveness options.

5. Join a company that offers repayment assistance.

If you’re looking to change jobs, it’s worth looking into companies that help pay student loans as a benefit.

“These programs will give you money toward your student loans simply for working at the company.”

– Adrian Nazari, CEO and founder of Credit Sesame

“More and more employers are embracing an employee benefit called student loan repayment assistance,” said Adrian Nazari, CEO and founder of Credit Sesame. “Unlike tuition reimbursement, where you get paid for going to school, these programs will give you money toward your student loans simply for working at the company.

Only a small percentage of companies currently offer this perk, but those that do include Fidelity, Aetna and Staples. “The amounts vary from as little as $500 per year to $10,000 per year,” Nazari said.

6. Volunteer.

According to Nazari, there are organizations that offer student loan repayment assistance in exchange for working on nonprofit projects. For example, SponsorChange and similar organizations match volunteers who have sought-after skills with sponsors who fund student loan payments for each project completed.

“You do need to adhere to their guidelines and successfully complete the program according to their requirements in order to qualify for loan repayment assistance,” he said. “But it can be a great way to give back while making a dent in your student debt.”

7. Pay according to your personality.

Finally, if you have more than one loan to tackle, it helps to follow a repayment strategy that aligns with your personality. According to Willie Anderson, who advises clients and writes on various financial topics, there are two main methods for debt repayment: The debt snowball and debt avalanche.

The debt snowball method is ideal for people who need to experience wins right away. “With this strategy, you’ll begin paying the smallest balance off first,” Anderson said. “Continue to make the minimum payments on your other accounts and put as much money as you can towards the smallest balance.” Once the smallest balance is paid off, combine the amount you were paying on that balance with the minimum payment on your next-smallest balance, and so on. “This strategy can help keep you motivated and encouraged since you should start to see some results right away,” Anderson said.

If you’re more about saving as much money as possible, you might want to give the debt avalanche a shot. “With this method, you throw the largest payment you can at your highest-interest-rate debt every month, while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.” By focusing on interest rates rather than the balances, you save more money overall.

A final thought:

Keep in mind that as annoying as student loan debt is, it might not always be the most urgent financial matter to address.

“Before aggressively paying down your student loans, you should make sure you paid off high-interest debt such as credit cards or personal loans,” said Walsh. “You should also make sure you are saving enough for your long-term goals,” he said ― think retirement ― since, over time, the returns from investing have been higher than the interest rate most people pay on student loans.

So if you have most of your financial ducks in a row and your student loans are the last thing holding you back, by all means, pay them off as fast as you can.

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