Is consolidation a smart move?
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I've got my beginner's emergency fund in place, and I'm close to wiping out my consumer loan debt. I still have about $32,000 in debt from six different government-insured student loans, but they're in deferment at the moment. I was wondering if I should try to consolidate them.
Well, you get to consolidate these one time. After that, you're stuck. So, you'll want to make sure that the net interest rate you get through consolidation is lower than your current rate. Also, make sure the interest rate is fixed. You don't want to jump through hoops to make this deal happen, and end up with an interest rate that's equal to or higher than the one you had before!
Student loans are the only things I'll tell people to consolidate. They're a little different animal than ongoing loans and other kinds of credit. Chances are you're not addicted to going to class, so you probably won't go out and ring up more student loans after you've finished your education and paid off these things.
Just maintain that gazelle intensity, keep working hard to get out of debt, and pay these things off early. Remember, too, that in lots of cases consolidating student loans will move them out of deferral. There's a good chance you'll have to start making payments right away!
Areas of success for marriages
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What are the areas do you think couples should be in agreement on before marriage?
We've worked with several marriage counselors and thousands of couples over the years, and in the process we've learned that fights over money and the resulting problems are probably the biggest cause of divorce in North America. That's why I believe detailed, in-depth pre-marital counseling is an absolute must. I'm not talking about one meeting, a high-five with the preacher as you walk out the door, and everything's cool. You wouldn't undertake an important work project or try to run a marathon without adequate preparation, right? So why on earth would you promise yourself to someone else, and enter what is supposed to be a life-long commitment without preparing yourselves?
It's been our experience that couples have a high probability of having a successful marriage if they can agree in detail on four things before they walk down the aisle: money, religion, kids, and in-laws. When it comes to money find out who is the spender and who's the saver. Get all your cards out on the table, no secrets allowed, and construct a game plan for your finances. You don't want to get married only to wake up to a bum who's irresponsible, won't work, and spends everything they make!
Next, be in agreement on religion. Statistically speaking, two people from the same faith have a much better chance of making a marriage work. With kids, the big question is do you want them or not? If so, how many and when? Are you going to let them run around like wild Indians, or are you going to make them behave? And when it comes to your future in-laws you really need to learn what you're getting into. What are they really like, and where are the boundaries when it comes to their influence in your lives?
Everyone has a past and opinions, and all of these issues should be talked about, dealt with, and agreed upon before the rings go on the fingers. Otherwise, you're liable to get yourselves into a real mess!