What You Need to Know About Long Term Elder Care Costs

elder care costs

In the United States, more than 12 million people require long-term care every year. Long term care can include many different kinds of services, from help around the house and with chores to personal tasks like bathing, dressing, and eating. On average, these services are needed by an individual for at least three years. If you are not factoring long-term care costs into your financial planning for retirement, chances are you should. Long-term care for elderly persons can be very expensive and create an undue burden on your retirement funds. Here are some things you should know about long-term care costs and how to plan for your future.

1. You Can’t Rely on Medicare Alone

Many people over 65 use Medicare to help cover some aspects of long-term care, but there are some significant limitations to the kinds of care Medicare will cover. Medicare tends to pay for assistance for a short period of time – nowhere near the average need of three years. For example, Medicare will only cover a nursing home or rehabilitation center stay for up to 100 days. Medicare also does not cover non-skilled assistance care for help with dressing, bathing, and eating. These forms of assistance tend to make up the majority of long-term care services. Medicare is a great help in the beginning of long-term care, but it cannot cover everything needed for you or a loved one that you are financially responsible for.

2. Medicaid and Government Support have Limits

For people under 65, Medicaid may provide some of the cost coverage needed for long-term care. Medicaid has different requirements depending on your state and income level. Different programs will provide different kinds of long-term care. The best way to determine what you are qualified for is to contact your local agency. Like Medicare, Medicaid coverage will come with time and cost limits. Other public programs, like the Older Americans Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs, will cover some aspects of long-term care. However, these programs only cover specific circumstances for select populations. While this can alleviate the full burden of the expenses of long-term care – they will not cover everything.

3. Insurance is Available to Cover Long-term Care

Long-term care insurance is a specific coverage for the support and special services needed due to aging, disease, or other health conditions. Coverage does vary, but long-term care insurance typically covers most services from in-home personal care to nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and other in-patient services. When you are selecting an insurance plan, there are typically a range of different coverage options and benefits for you to choose from. Many insurance providers are now offering hybrid policies that include long-term care coverage. These hybrid policies will allow you to add on long-term care coverage for an additional cost to an existing insurance plan, like your life insurance plan. Long-term care insurance can be expensive, but it could save you big time when the time comes to use it.

4. Relying on Family and Friends can be Taxing

Many people in need of long-term care turn to their loved ones for support. Relying on a trusted family member or friend can help alleviate the financial burden of acquiring professional long-term care. While in many cases a loved one will be up for the task of helping with long-term care, you need to be sure to pick a reliable and capable person. Providing long-term care can be very difficult, time consuming, and physically and emotionally taxing. With this kind of long-term care, it is a good idea to have a back-up plan in case the task becomes too much for your loved one to handle alone.

In general, most people do not properly think about long-term care until they already need it. Waiting until you are in the middle of a long-term care situation to start planning for your healthcare needs can limit your options for care coverage. Planning for long-term care in advance can save you and your loved ones money and alleviate the stress of any future medical events. You can start planning for long-term care today by including it in your estate plan. Veitengruber Law is experienced in offering long-term planning guidance for all stages of life. We can assist you in choosing the right legal solutions to protect your future.

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3 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Budgeting

budgeting

Every parent wants the best for their child. As a parent, it is your goal to raise bright, capable adults. And yet, even while saving thousands towards their child’s college fund, many parents do not discuss financial issues with their children. Many parents wait until high school to begin having financial discussions with their kids, but many financial experts caution against this. While it may seem shocking that your four year old is picking up financial habits, children actually start developing an understanding of money from a very early age. Even if your kids are already in their teens, it is never too late to start teaching them smart ways to earn, spend, and save money. If you are ready to have the money talk with your kids, here are some great ideas to start.

1. Teach them how to earn money.

Some parents do not like the idea of an allowance earned for work kids should be doing as contributing members of a household. It can also be difficult to find the funds for a weekly allowance. But an allowance can help your kids connect early on that work and money go hand in hand. Allowances do not have to be a lot. Starting off with quarters for certain tasks or a dollar a week can still facilitate the same lesson. You can choose to reward household chores that go above and beyond the normal household work, or instead opt to provide a financial reward for earning specific grades in school (or other similar milestones.)

If you have a little one with an entrepreneurial spirit, encourage them to practice their business savvy with babysitting jobs, neighborhood yard work, or a lemonade stand. The main goal here is to connect hard work with financial gain. Money does not just magically appear and it is important for kids to understand the dedication and commitment required to earn a buck.

2. Teach them how to spend money.

One of the biggest lessons you can teach your child is how to differentiate between needs and wants. Even adults struggle with this lesson sometimes, so including your kids in conversations about spending can give them the head start they need for future financial success. We often make financial decisions on behalf of our children without explaining why. If your child is begging for ice cream on your weekly grocery run, instead of just saying “no,” take a minute to explain why getting chicken, potatoes, and veggies for the whole family is more important. When back to school shopping, explain why pencils and notebooks are more important than decorations for their locker.

In addition to this, let your kids make real life transactions. Help them count out coins from their allowance to buy a treat. When they are a little older, make them responsible for buying their lunch by giving them actual money instead of simply adding money to their online account. A big part of being a financially healthy adult is knowing how to spend responsibly. Teaching budgeting skills early can set your child up for success in the future.

3. Teach them how to save money.

Let’s face it: saving money can be boring for adults, much less kids. It can be hard for kids to fight the desire to instantly gratify their spending urges when they finally have money of their own. Adding a little creativity and fun to savings can liven up the process while still allowing your kids to learn very important financial lessons. Have your child draw something that symbolizes the item they are saving for and then slowly start to color it in the more they save for it. This will give them a visual to remind them of their goals and help them see how far they have come in achieving them.

While piggy banks are time tested savings tools for smaller children, when your child get a little older it may be worthwhile to open a savings account in their name. Whether you do this at an actual bank or online, opening an account for your child will give you the opportunity to teach your kids about banking. From monthly statements and fees to deposits and withdrawals, your child will be able to watch their savings grow. You could even designate this savings account for college, a car, or some other big financial expense. Involving your child in the saving process for these big ticket items will help your child feel invested in their financial future.

There are plenty of creative and meaningful ways to teach your kids about good financial habits. Taking the time to provide lessons about money now can save them from struggling in the future. When it comes to teaching your kids about money, it is never too early to start!

NJ Foreclosure: Am I Entitled to Mortgage Surplus Funds?

mortgage surplus

Most people view foreclosure as the end of a long battle to keep their home. While it may feel as though you are losing everything, there is still a chance you could get something out of the process. Foreclosure can be a very frustrating experience, but there is a potential for you to receive some funds from the sale of your home to help ease the burden of losing your residence. The monies homeowners can be entitled to after the sale of their home at auction are known as mortgage foreclosure surplus funds. Here, we take a look at who is entitled to mortgage surplus funds.

Once your lender has obtained a final judgement of foreclosure, they will begin trying to sell your home in a sheriff sale in order to make up for the money you owe on your mortgage and any expected costs or fees that have accrued. A sheriff sale typically occurs in the form of an auction. The lender can start the bidding at any amount up to the total amount owed to pay off the debt. However, if multiple buyers are interested in the property, a bidding war can jack up the ultimate sales price. If the buyer ends up paying more for the house than the total amount the owed by the original homeowner, there is a mortgage surplus. Alternatively, if the home sells for less than the borrower owed on the house, the remaining balance is a deficiency. While the lender can file a separate lawsuit to recuperate these funds, it is not a common practice to do so in New Jersey.

Am I entitled to any mortgage surplus funds?

You are likely entitled to surplus funds if: 1) your home was sold in foreclosure for more than you owed the lender, 2) you had equity in your home before foreclosure, or 3) you received a letter from the foreclosure trustee notifying you of surplus funds. It is important to note that any other creditors with liens or judgements on the property may also be eligible to receive surplus funds. If these other creditors do not make application or if there are no other creditors connected with the property, the funds will go to the homeowner.

After your home has been sold and the lender has received payment for the amount owed in the final judgement of foreclosure, the excess money will be deposited into the Superior Court Trust Fund. The lender is not entitled to any funds exceeding what was described in the final judgement, including taxes or insurance costs accrued after the fact. In the event that there is a surplus, the County Sheriff who oversaw the sale will be able to provide information concerning how to receive payment. The former homeowner can file a motion with the court explaining why they are entitled to these funds. If the court approves this motion, an order directing payment of the surplus funds to the former homeowner will be issued.

If you think you are entitled to mortgage surplus funds, Veitengruber Law can help. We are highly experienced in the New Jersey foreclosure process and are proud of just how many NJ homeowners we have helped to the other side of losing their home. We can help you recover a surplus from your foreclosed property. Additionally, we can help you navigate the legal process and handle complex paperwork so you can get your money back faster. We understand the stress and anxiety going through foreclosure can have on our clients. Our goal is to ensure the recovery of any monies due so your brighter financial future can start sooner!

How to Save Money This Summer and Still Have Fun

With longer days, warmer weather, and the kids out of school, summer is a time for exciting activities, long-awaited trips, and idle indulgences. It can also be very expensive. Paying for extra summer activities, vacations, a climbing electric bill, and even more daycare can cause a strain on your finances. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of ways to stay frugal while indulging in the joys of summer. Here are a few ways to enjoy the summer without letting your spending run wild.

1. Skip the Gym

During the summer, the weather is nice and you find yourself spending more and more time in the great outdoors. Summer might be a great time to consider canceling your gym membership so you can take advantage of the great weather. Walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, and outdoor sports are all great ways to stay in shape that allow you to enjoy being outside. While some people might need the gym for specific workouts, the majority of those with a gym membership could get the same workout at home without spending the extra cash. If you want to keep your gym membership for the winter, see if your gym will pause your membership plan through the summer months.

2. Find Free Fun

Summer is the ideal time for festivals, concerts, fairs, carnivals, and other free activities. Check out your town’s calendar or website to see what events are upcoming. Free events can be a great way to get the whole family out of the house and doing something together, or it can be a great excuse for an inexpensive adult escape. Take advantage of local parks. If you live near a national park, scope out the free entry days and plan a day trip. If you are looking to relax, check out a good beach read from your local public library. You don’t have to drop a ton of money to enjoy summer!

3. Travel on a Budget

Most people tend to do the most traveling in the summer months. Kids are out of school and the sunny weather energizes the explorer in all of us. The good news is you don’t have to ruin your budget to travel this summer. If you are up for an outdoors adventure, camping is a fantastic family activity that can be very inexpensive without sacrificing any of the fun. Many regions known for camping will have free campsites, allowing you to spend more money on seeing the sights and doing fun outdoors activities.

If camping just isn’t your style, you can still save money without having to rough it. Airbnb homeowners offer great options for budget travelers all over the world, from quaint cabins to glamorous apartments in big cities. Opting for a vacation rental with a kitchen can also save you money in food expenses, allowing you to stay in and cook instead of going out for every meal. When traveling anywhere, be flexible with your travel days in order to take advantage of any flight or accommodation deals.

4. Be Smart About Keeping Your Home Cool

Jersey summers can get rough. The humidity coupled with some really hot days can be miserable and force you to stay inside. On these days, it can be tempting to crank the AC. Instead, try keeping your thermostat set in the mid-70s when you’re home, turning your AC up a few degrees when you’re out of the house. Keep your home cool in other ways, like black-out curtains to block out the sun. Avoid cooking hot meals that get your kitchen boiling on really hot days. Summer is a great time to do some grilling outside or whip up something quick and easy in a crockpot. This will keep your house cool and prevent you from turning down the AC after your oven heats up the house. Keeping your thermostat at a reasonable temperature can save you up to 10% on your electric bill.

5. Shop Second Hand

Summer is a great time for refreshing your style. If you find yourself with the shopping bug this season, think twice before running out to the mall. Yard sales and flea markets tend to be in full swing during summer months, offering incredible deals on everything from vintage dresses to nesting tables for your living room. Thrift shops like Goodwill and second hand home improvement stores like ReStore are great places to score excellent finds for your wardrobe or your house. In addition to the money you can save by thrift shopping – exploring yard sales, flea markets, and second hand shops are a fun and unique way to spend a summer morning.

You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy everything New Jersey’s hottest months have to offer. Keeping your finances in mind during the summer will allow you to enjoy this season without finding yourself broke in the fall.

Secured vs Unsecured Debt: Understanding the NJ Bankruptcy Petition

New Jersey bankruptcy

At the beginning of every bankruptcy case, the person filing will need to complete official bankruptcy forms. The cover document, known as the petition, will include identifying information like your name, address, and the chapter of bankruptcy you are filing. The petition will also include information about your income, your creditor claims (or debts), and assets in specific forms called schedules. Classifying creditor claims can be complicated. All of your debts will need to be listed as either a secured or unsecured claim. It’s important that you properly label each debt. Here, we look at how to list creditor claims in your bankruptcy paperwork.

Secured Claims

In order to have a secured claim in bankruptcy, you must have two things: a debt that you owe and a lien or security interest on property that you own. Examples of secured debt are a mortgage, a car payment, or another collateralized debt. If you fall behind on payments or are unable to keep up with the terms of your contract, the lien can allow the lender to recover the property through foreclosure or repossession. The lender will then sell the property and use the proceeds to pay down your account balance. Secured claims are typically voluntary, but a creditor could obtain an involuntary lien against your property. A creditor could secure an involuntary lien against your property through a lawsuit, whereas if you fall behind on your taxes, the IRS automatically has the right to a tax lien against your property.

During bankruptcy proceedings, a creditor with a secured claim has an advantage. A bankruptcy charge will remove your obligation to pay a debt, but it will not remove a lien on your property. Because of this, a creditor can still opt to take back the property if the loan does not get paid. Therefore, if you file for bankruptcy but you don’t want to lose your property, continue making payments to the lender until the debt is paid off. It is possible to get rid of specific types of property liens in bankruptcy. One option is to get a legal judgement on the grounds that a lien negatively impacts your bankruptcy exemptions. Another option is to wipe out an unsecured junior lien through Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Things can get complicated, though, if there is significant equity in the property in question, as you will be able to protect a certain amount of equity in bankruptcy. Under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee will likely try to sell the property. However, the trustee has to make enough in the sale to pay off the loan, return any exempt funds to you, and pay off creditors. The trustee will likely not sell the property if there is not enough equity to pay something worthwhile to creditors. On the other hand, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to keep any property with significant equity, as long as you can afford high monthly payments towards the nonexempt equity in the plan.

Unsecured and Priority Claims

With unsecured claims, there is no lien involved in the debt owed. It is, however, important to know if the claim is priority unsecured or nonpriority unsecured. Priority unsecured claims are not dischargeable and will take precedence in repayment plans over nonpriority debts. Examples of priority claims are alimony, child support, tax obligations, and debts from personal injury or drunk driving lawsuits. Priority debts cannot be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you will still be responsible for paying back the full balance. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will have three to five years to pay back the balance in full.

Nonpriority unsecured claims are dischargeable with the exception of student loans. Before these debts can be paid with bankruptcy funds, all priority debts must be taken care of first. Examples of nonpriority unsecured claims are credit card debt, medical bills, and personal loans.

Filing for bankruptcy includes a lot of detailed, complex paperwork. Determining how to categorize your debts can be confusing for the average consumer. Veitengruber Law offers a total approach to debt relief. Our experienced legal team knows how to expertly demystify the bankruptcy process so that our clients have a clear understanding of what is happening – every step of the way.

What You Need to Know About the NJ Appraisal Process

NJ appraisal

Whether you are buying or selling a home in the Garden State, you will have to go through the NJ appraisal process. If the buyer is taking out a mortgage, their lender will need to make certain financial decisions based on the results of a home appraisal. While this is a huge step in most real estate transactions, many people buying or selling a home aren’t sure what their role is in the home appraisal process. Here, we break down that process so you know exactly what a home appraisal can mean for you.

It’s true that a home inspection is intended to protect the buyer, a home appraisal is intended to protect the mortgage lender that is financing the real estate transaction. With a home appraisal, the lender in a mortgage is looking to get an objective estimate of the home’s value. They use this estimate to ensure that they are not lending more than the actual worth of the property. During a home appraisal, the appraiser is looking at everything on the entirety of the property, including: size, location, condition of internal and external home structures, any recent or necessary upgrades, and the price of comparable homes in the area. These pieces of information will provide insight into the true value of a home. From there, the appraiser will offer the lender a baseline sales figure.

In most real estate transactions, the buyer will pay for a licensed home appraiser to assess the property on behalf of the lender. The buyer will either pay at the time the appraisal takes place or add the fee to their closing costs. The lender will choose a licensed appraiser they feel will be the best judge of a home’s value, typically with a background in home construction, contracting, or home maintenance. A licensed home appraiser goes through at least 200 hours of coursework and must pass the state appraiser licensing exam before they can practice in the state of NJ.

A lender needs to be confident in the ability of the appraiser to remain objective in their appraisal, as well as their capability to back up every finding and their overall assessment of a home’s value. The appraisal report will include a drawing of the exterior, a map of the street and surrounding area, photos of the home’s exterior and street views, information on how the square footage was calculated, public tax and land records, and data surrounding area market sales. If any of these documents are missing, it can have a big impact on the home’s appraised value. If you notice any of this information missing, ask for another appraisal.

During the home appraisal process, it is common for the appraised home value to be more or less than the sale price of a property. If an appraisal is higher than the sale price for a home, this will benefit the buyer. But while the appraisal price and the listing price do not necessarily have to match, a major discrepancy in which the home is appraised for can lead to issues. As a buyer, you have a few options going forward. First, you can ask the seller to lower the sales price to match the appraisal price or pay the difference. A motivated seller may comply with this request.

If the seller does not comply, or the buyer is contractually obligated to move forward with the original sales price, there are still some things the buyer can do. If the buyer is concerned about losing their home loan, they can offer to increase the down payment. This way, the buyer is not borrowing as much money and may still be approved by the lender. The buyer could also agree to pay mortgage insurance. Borrowers who are financing more than 80% of their home purchase price will need mortgage insurance. This monthly payment would be tacked onto the regular mortgage payment and is typically .5%-1% of the total loan amount.

If the above options are not able to resolve the issue, a seller or buyer can dispute the home appraisal figure. The disputing party can work with their real estate agent or another licensed appraiser to come up with their own data. If this data diverges from the findings of the lender’s appraiser, there may be a case to correct the previous appraisal value. A lender will look at these findings and work with their own appraisal unit to come up with a new decision.

A home appraisal is an important part of any NJ real estate sale. Being knowledgeable of the process and understanding your options can save you a major headache later on. Real estate transactions are complex and the process never looks the same twice. Veitengruber Law’s experienced real estate team can help you navigate any potential problems with your appraisal, and throughout the entirety of your real estate transaction.

Should I Use My Emergency Fund to Pay Off Debt?

pay off debt

Most financial advisors recommend having at least three to six months savings in an emergency fund at any given time. An emergency fund can be helpful in getting through the expensive curveballs life throws your way. Unexpected car maintenance, the sudden loss of employment, medical emergencies, and unforeseen home repairs are examples of events for which you may have to use your emergency fund. Sometimes, though, it can be tempting to use this money for expenses that aren’t necessarily true emergencies. If you have a big pile of debt, it may seem like using your emergency fund to pay down the balance is a good idea. Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t use your emergency fund to pay down debt, and a few exceptions where you might want to consider it.

The simple reason not to pay off your debts with emergency fund money is that most debt is not an emergency. This fund is specifically meant to cover unforeseen costs and expensive emergencies. Cars loans, student loans, mortgages, and personal loans all tend to have set, predetermined monthly payments. That means this debt is controlled and you know what to expect every month. As long as you can meet those monthly payments and expect to be able to continue to pay on time, there is no reason to dip into your emergency fund. Paying off your debt over the agreed upon timeline is not, after all, an emergency.

While it may seem like you have all this debt looming over your head, you have to remember that your emergency fund is specifically there to handle the unexpected. Your monthly car payment is not going to have the same impact on your financial stability as sudden and major car repairs from an accident. Where will you be if you use your emergency fund to pay off your debts only to find yourself dealing with a major financial emergency a short time later? Since you never know when a mishap like this will occur, it is best to save the emergency fund for actual emergencies.

There are, however, a few exceptions. An “emergency” will change in definition from individual to individual. Having kids or pets, owning or renting your home, owning your own business, and the stability of your employment are factors that will likely impact what you consider an emergency worthy of tapping into your emergency fund. This also goes for determining whether or not your debt is an emergency. Unmanageable, high-interest credit card debt, for instance, may count as an emergency depending on your specific circumstances. If you find yourself struggling to pay your monthly bills and are facing down the consequences of late or missed credit card payments, this could be enough of a reason to dip into your emergency funds.

Before you panic and deplete your emergency fund to pay off debt, think about why you have this unmanageable debt in the first place. The reasons behind the debt can also be a determining factor in whether or not to use your emergency fund. Was the debt unavoidable or due to some unhealthy spending habits? If your unhealthy habits are behind the debt, it may not be the best idea to dip into your savings and emergency fund. Understanding the reasons behind the debt is the first step to changing those habits and avoiding similar mistakes in the future.

Even in the event that you do determine debt to be a financial emergency, it is not a good idea to completely drain your emergency fund. You are better off leaving your emergency fund alone (or continuing to build it) while you make the minimum payments required on your debt. Debt-swapping, or replacing your high-interest debt with a lower-interest option, should be considered before dipping into savings. If you are able to pay down the debt a decent amount, you could justify using a small portion of your emergency fund to finish paying off the debt, but even this should be a last resort.

When it comes down to it, emergency means emergency. Being honest with yourself about your financial situation is the first step to proper money management. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to build up savings or an emergency fund. Don’t let that hard work go to waste! At Veitengruber Law, we can help you come up with debt solutions to stay on top of your financial situation so you don’t have to consider dipping into your savings.

Mortgage Relief Scams: What You Need to Know

mortgage scam

If you’re in over your head on your mortgage, you may be starting to feel desperate. In these difficult times, it can be easy to see a mortgage relief scam as a lifeline to financial stability. By the time people realize the phony promises and baggage attached to these scams, it can be too late. The best way to avoid mortgage relief scams is to be informed of your rights and what warning signs to look for in a potential scam. Even if an offer looks legitimate, here are some basic precautions you can use to protect yourself against fraud.

The most important thing you can do is understand your rights as a homeowner. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission published the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) rule in order to protect homeowners from mortgage relief scams. This rule holds companies promising mortgage assistance accountable by prohibiting them from collecting any fees until after fulfilling their promises. This means that even if you agree to accept help from one of these companies, you don’t have to pay any money at all until you have received and accepted a written mortgage relief offer from your lender. The MARS rule also bars these companies from saying they work for the government or your lender and requires them to warn you that your lender may not agree to modify the loan.

When trying to spot a scam, a good rule of thumb is that any organization that tries to charge you a fee for mortgage counseling or loan modification is not legitimate. Other than accredited attorneys, the programs that can help struggling homeowners are almost always free. If a company asks you to pay up front or with a cashier’s check/wire transfer, it’s most likely a scam. Other red flags: if they guarantee results, pressure you to “sign now,” or attempt to cut you off from contacting your mortgage lender.

Here are some precautions you can take as a homeowner to protect yourself from mortgage relief scams:

1. Do your research.

Check to see if the establishment has a website and verify that the contact information listed matches the information you have. Make sure the business address is legitimate, and not just a P.O. box. The Better Business Bureau can also provide helpful information; more specifically if the company is associated with any known scams. Do not provide any personal information until you have taken the time to do ample research.

2. Don’t sign without reading the fine print.

Be careful what you sign. Make sure you have read the document thoroughly and understand it completely before you put pen to paper. It is very important for you to understand what you are agreeing to when you sign a document. If you are in doubt about anything, recruit the help of a lawyer to look over the document and explain to you in plain language what the agreement will be.

3. Keep up with mortgage payments.

Some scams advise homeowners to stop making regular payments on their mortgage while they “negotiate” with your lender. Never do this. Missing monthly mortgage payments can increase your risk of foreclosure and damage your credit, putting you into a deeper financial hole. It is also important to note that you should never be sending your mortgage payments to anyone other than your lender unless your lender has directly told you, in writing, to do so.

4. Never sign over your deed.

Under no circumstances should a mortgage relief company ask you to sign over your deed to a third party. There are two times you can sign your deed over: when you sell the home or if you sign it over to your lender in order to fulfill a debt forgiveness agreement. Signing your deed over to a third party will not save your home.

If you do find yourself the victim of one of these scams, the best thing you can do is to report it. This will give you the best chance of recovering some of your money, although the process may be lengthy. You can file reports through the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, or through an attorney.

Most people fall for mortgage relief scams looking for a quick way to get out of a financial jam, but getting on top of debt takes time and commitment to financial responsibility. If you find yourself in trouble with your mortgage, the best thing you can do is work with your lender to come to an agreement on the situation. Going to your lender directly can be intimidating. Veitengruber Law is here to help. Our experienced NJ real estate legal team can work with you to determine real debt relief solutions for your specific situation.

Are You Ready to Buy Your First NJ Home?

NJ home

In the US, homeownership has come to symbolize achieving part of the American Dream. Owning a home can offer independence, the opportunity to start a family, and a place to belong in the world. But owning a home isn’t for everyone—at least not right away. If you are considering purchasing your first NJ home, there are a lot of things to consider before you take the plunge. After all, the decision to own a home is a huge investment that will impact your life for years to come. If you are on the fence about homeownership, here are the top signs you are ready to buy a home.

1. You Plan to Stay in the Same Geographic Area

Being happy with where you are is a great sign you might be ready to plant roots and buy a home in your area. On the other hand, if you are planning to move in a few years or are unhappy with your current location, don’t purchase a home. With the cost of buying a home, between a down payment and closing costs, it doesn’t make sense to buy a home only to turn around and do the whole process over again in two or three years. You could also end up in the difficult position of being unable to sell your home, or having to sell your home for less than what you paid for it. For these reasons, it is important to only buy a home you plan to be in for a decent amount of time.

2. Your Finances are in Order

There are three financial aspects of the home buying process that you will need to be ready for: the down payment, the closing costs and associated fees, and the mortgage itself. For the down payment and the closing costs, you will need to have money in hand to complete a home purchase. Typically, a down payment is 20% of the purchase price and closing costs can range anywhere from 2-3% of the price of the home. You will also need to make sure you have a clear credit history with a decent credit score in order to secure a mortgage with good terms. But the financial responsibility of homeownership extends beyond your mortgage. You need to make sure that your income can support not only your mortgage, but home upkeep, property taxes, utilities, regular living costs, debt payments, and unplanned expenses.

3. You Are OK With the Idea of Home Maintenance

When you own your own home, you can’t call your landlord if something needs to be repaired. Every house will require repairs, maintenance, and improvements—and these can be costly and time consuming. All the time you spend on general upkeep of your home is less time spent doing the things you did pre-homeownership. This can impact your lifestyle. If spending the weekend painting the living room sounds terrible to you, you may want to reconsider a lower-maintenance housing option, like renting.

4. You Are Realistic About Your Home Goals

This means you know how much house you can afford as well as how much homes in your area are being sold for. A real estate agent can help you with this, but you need to know what kind of buying power you are bringing to the table and what kind of home will fit your budget best. Start going to open houses to get an understanding of what you get for the listing price. Look into a wide array of different kinds of houses in the neighborhoods you are interested in. How many bedrooms and bathrooms are there? Are there any special features? Is it up-to-date or does it need some work? All of these factors will help you determine what goes into a list price. Work with a real estate agent to get information about the estimated costs of repairs so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you buy a home. Buying a good home in your price range is key to homeowner success.

Buying a home can seem intimidating—and for good reason. The purchasing of a home is likely one of the biggest investments you will ever make. The rewards of owning your own space are innumerable, but it is also important to understand the work and commitment that goes into owning a home. If you need help working through the minutiae of buying a NJ home, Veitengruber Law is happy to help demystify the home buying process as well as make sure you are getting the most out of your real estate contract.

5 Mistakes to Avoid if You Ever Want to Retire

People can spend their entire working lives dreaming about retirement. Retirement is a time to travel, to enjoy leisurely days, and to do the things we have always wanted to do. How comfortable our golden years will be depends a lot on how well we prepare for retirement. More and more often, would-be retirees are finding they must work long after they wish to retire because they did not save enough money to get by without working. If you want to avoid working into your 70s, here five common mistakes to avoid.

1. Start Planning Too Late

Most of us aren’t thinking about retirement when we first enter the work force.  Young workers believe they have plenty of time to save or that they can’t afford to put money towards retirement. But starting to plan for retirement as soon as possible can make a huge difference down the road. Every year sooner that a young worker starts saving for retirement takes about a year off how long they will have to work. Starting to plan for retirement too late can make it very difficult to make up the difference. Even if all you can only save a little, it is important to start saving as soon as possible.

2. Having Too Much Debt

It will be hard to make any serious plans for retirement if you’re struggling under a mountain of debt. It is important to include being smart about debt when you are planning for retirement. If possible, consolidate your debt. This could lower your monthly payments which would free up money you could put towards your retirement savings. If most of your debt is from credit cards with high interest rates, it may be worthwhile to look into refinancing that debt. Personal loans with fixed interest rates can help you save money by spending less on high interest debt.

3. Taking Money Out of Your 401(k)

It can be very tempting to cash out money from your 401(k), especially when sudden and expensive life events occur. A lot of people also end up cashing out their 401(k) when they leave a job. While using the money you have saved in your 401(k) before retirement can seem like a good idea at the time, it can really damage your ability to retire comfortably later. Early withdrawals can come with high penalties and taxes. In a financial emergency, it is better to take out a low-interest loan than cash out money from your 401(k). This will allow your retirement fund to remain untouched as it continues to grow. Another option is to borrow against your 401(k). This way, you are borrowing from yourself and paying yourself back as your 401(k) keeps growing.

4. Assuming Social Security Will Be Enough

The average Social Security retirement benefit is $1,411.00 per month which is about $17,000 per year. Assuming this will be enough, or even close to enough, to live off of in retirement can be a big mistake. If you earned more during your working years, you will collect more than that. However, the max benefit is $2,788 per month. For many retirees, this is simply not enough to pay for monthly bills, medical expenses, and other financial responsibilities.

5. Underestimating How Long Your Retirement Will Be

In the US, people tend to retire around age 62 or 63. Knowing when to retire can be hard as you do not want to retire too early and run out of money, but you also want to enjoy the personal benefits of retiring as early as you can. The hard part is you never know how long you will live into retirement. The money you saved might get you to 85, but what happens after that? On top of this, many people end up retiring earlier than they planned. Health reasons, downsizing, or a workplace closure can all cause older workers to retire early. For this reason, it is wise to work as long as possible.

The key to retiring well is to plan well. Get started as early as possible and follow these tips to ensure you can enjoy your golden years in peace and financial security. You work hard to provide for yourself and your family. Make sure all that hard work pays off in the end by taking steps towards your retirement goals today.