Ready To Buy a House? 3 Questions To Ask Yourself.

Ready To Buy a House? 3 Questions To Ask Yourself.The “American Dream” that we are all encouraged to chase includes the purchase of your own home.

With mortgage interests rates still reasonably low, it seems like a great opportunity and you might be thinking that this is the right time for you to buy a house.

Of course, I believe that everyone should strive to reach the goal of home ownership.

As you consider this major decision here are a 3 questions to ask yourself to determine if the time to buy a house for you is now.

1. Are you on firm financial ground?

  • Are you completely debt free (credit cards, medical bills, student loans, car loans, etc.)?
  • Do you have an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses (preferably 6 months)?
  • Are you saving for retirement (15% of your annual household income) and for college expenses?

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2. Can you really afford to purchase a home?

  • Could you make the home purchase with a 15 year mortgage at a fixed interest rate?
    • Avoid mortgage loans with adjustable interest rates and balloon payments.
    • Remember, there is a large difference in interest paid between a 15 year loan and a 30 year loan over the life cycle of the mortgage.
  • Have you saved up for a down payment of between 15% and 20%? With a 20% down payment you will avoid paying for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) which protects the lender in case of default on the mortgage.
  • Will your monthly mortgage payment (taxes and insurance included) be equal or less than 25% (or 1/4) of your monthly take home pay? A mortgage payment that takes too much of your monthly take home pay will put a lot of strain on your budget.
  • If you want additional guidance on the process of getting a mortgage, this article from The Simple Dollar is a great resource.

3. What are your purchasing goals?

  • Have you made your list of “must have” elements vs. those which are “nice to have”? For example:
    • Do you need 4 bedrooms or could you be all right with 3?
    • What about bathrooms: is it 2 or 2.5?
    • What is more important to you: size or location?
    • What about the quality of the school district?
    • Make a list and evaluate the potential houses against that list.
  • Do you have to buy the first one you see?
    • Take your time when looking and guard against “house fever”.
    • For my first home purchase in 1996, I looked at around 25 houses.
    • For our second home purchase, my wife and I looked at 20 different homes.
    • There is no need to rush the decision on this investment which will be one of our largest purchases of your life.
  • Who is helping you?
    • It is a very big decision so you should seek professional help.
    • Secure the services of a good realtor that knows the area and has sold many houses and helped many buyers.
    • Interview 2 or 3 before you make the selection.

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.”
Proverbs 24:27 (ESV)

10 Years of Financial Peace

10 Years of Financial PeaceDo you remember what your financial situation was 10 years ago? I do and very vividly. It was not a good situation at all. Let me share with you where we were:

I had a very good stable job, with a great income. But we like many people, were living paycheck to paycheck.

We were using credit cards to make up the difference at the end of each month.

We also had almost $50K in consumer debt (car loan, credit cards, student loans, medical bills, etc.) and had no savings for emergencies or retirement and no plan to pay for college for our son.

Worst of all, my wife and I were not working together as a couple and we also realized that we were not honoring God in managing the money He had entrusted to us.

However, and most importantly, we also realized that we needed help to change our situation.

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What Did We Do?

It is true that the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem. Once we did, we turned to God for help. I prayed for a way to change our situation and He answered in a big way.

In September of 2005, our church offered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) course and I attended the course (which back then lasted 13 weeks).

I started learning and applying biblical principles for sound financial management. My wife joined me in the process and we began a life transforming journey for our family.

What Happened?

The changes we made paid off. We are still living on a budget. We still have a plan for our finances. We have learned to live on less than we make.

In 29 months we paid of all of our consumer debt ($50K). We now have a 6 month emergency fund. We were also able to pay for our son’s college education without borrowing money and without him borrowing money.

We have a structured plan for retirement savings which we know will give us options and control of when and how to move on to the next stage in our lives when the time comes.

More importantly: we are honoring the Lord with our financial management and we are working together as a couple in every area of our lives including our money.

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What Have We Learned?

As I reflect on how our lives have changed over these past 10 years, several thoughts come to mind.

First of all, I am always going to be thankful to Dave Ramsey for his FPU course and his financial teachings.

You may not agree with him on everything he teaches or on his methods and you may not like his personality, but for us, what he does was life changing and I know that he has helped millions of people more. So Dave, thanks for what you have done for us and what you continue to do for others.

You truly led us to have financial peace. I hope I can join you in helping others to win with their money.

Second: once I understood the incredible power of learning to control your money I knew I had to share what I learned with others.

That’s why I became a financial coach. That’s why I blog. That’s why I do a Podcast.

I want you to have hope for the future!

If we could achieve victory with our finances, you can too! All you have to do is decide that you need help and that you will do what you need to do to change your financial destiny.

Third: I am fully convinced more than ever that if you are married, you need to work as a team with your money. You can’t have the view that it is “my money” and “your money”. Or “your debt is your problem”.

You have to be all in as a couple. If you are engaged to be married, start talking about money now. Your goals and dreams. Your fears about money. Your mistakes with money. Your view on money.

Put it all on the table and begin your life journey together by getting together on a plan for your money.

And finally, the most fundamental lesson I have learned is that we are to honor and serve God by managing our money well.

It is not only about giving tithes and offerings although that’s important for those of us who claim the name of Christ.

It is also about honoring God in how we use our money. How we save, how we plan for the future.

And it is also about having a lifestyle of generosity. If you are in a position of strength, you are in a position to really help those who are in need. Only the strong can help the weak.

We are designed to be givers. To be rivers through which the blessings of God can flow to others.

Regardless of where you are today, decide that generosity will always be an essential element of your financial plan.

So what about you? Where will you be in 10 years with your money? Or where will you be in 10 months?

Will you have financial peace? Will you be in your way to financial peace or will you simply stay where you are?

The last lesson I have for you: It is all up to you!!!!

Question: What would financial peace look like in your life?

Stay on Track with Your Finances this Summer

Stay on Track with Your Finances this SummerWell, summer is here!!! School is over and for many people this is the time of the year where they take extended vacations.

With the change in season, comes a change in pace. I was recently reminded of the importance of having a routine for staying on track to achieve your goals even when our schedule changes.

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I am in a weight management program and at our last meeting we were reminded of the importance to keeping our routine. We could plan ahead for major events and attending as many weekly meetings as possible to remain accountable.

Our church also has a special summer emphasis on staying on track with our regular giving. As people schedules change, some of the things we normally do can get off track.

Successful financial management is also fueled by routine.

Preparing a budget every month. Paying your bills on time. Saving on a regular, systematic basis.

So if you are planning to be on vacation this summer, plan ahead. Look at your budget 2-3 months in advance.

Take advantage of on-line pay bills through your bank.

Place your savings and investment on an automated draft from your checking account.

Make sure your finances stay on the cool side in the heat of the summer!!!

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The Budget is the Key

The Budget is the KeyIf you were to ask me what is the key ingredient for financial success, I would tell you the same thing I have told everyone since 2008 when we finished paying-off our consumer debt:

The answer is you have to learn how to live on a monthly zero-based budget.

This means that every month before the month begins, you list all of your income on one column, and on the other column you allocate every dollar available to a category.

On your budget sheet, the equation of total income – total expenses should equal zero.

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Here is what will happen when you start living on a monthly budget:

  • You will be able to tell where your money is going and you will be able to see in which areas you are overspending.
  • You will have have the information needed to prioritize your spending and put your basic necessities first (food, shelter/utilities, transportation, clothing).
  • As you learn and adjust your spending patterns, you can start to allocate money to emergency savings.
  • With your spending under control, necessities covered, and savings built, you can then allocate anything extra to paying-off your consumer debt.
  • When you pay-off your consumer debt, you can then start working on saving for retirement and college expenses.

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Without a working budget you can’t control your money.

If you can’t control your money, you can’t build savings, you can’t pay-off debt, you can’t plan for the future.

A working budget is the key that will open the door to your financial wellness.

You can start today and I can show you how.

“Economy is half the battle of life; it is not so hard to earn money as to spend it well.”
Charles H. Spurgeon