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Image description: Our very own #AskMarietta talks about keeping teens safe online and being a smart consumer. Check out her interview and tweet her your own questions using the hashtag #AskMarietta. 

Image description: Our very own #AskMarietta talks about keeping teens safe online and being a smart consumer. Check out her interview and tweet her your own questions using the hashtag #AskMarietta. 

Image description: Want to avoid scams and keep your money safe? Here are three ways to be a smarter consumer.

Image description: Want to avoid scams and keep your money safe? Here are three ways to be a smarter consumer.

Ask Marietta: Buying Your First Home

Video description

In this video, Marietta answers a question from a young woman in graduate school who wants to know how she can buy her first home while managing her student debt.

Video transcript

Hi everyone it’s Marietta with the Consumer Action Handbook and I’m here to answer some questions from you, consumer questions, that may be able to help you in your daily life.

We got some many questions after our Google Hangout and we want to just keep answering questions that you may have, so with that said, let’s jump right in.

The first question comes to us from a young lady. She’s a recent college graduate and she’s in graduate school now. She says she’s interested in buying a house, but she’s a little concerned because she lives in a very expensive area — the DC metro area, which is a very expensive area — and then also she has student loan debt and she’s in graduate school right now so she’s going to increase the amount of student loan debt that she has. And she just really is concerned about how she can make this dream a reality.

So I can definitely relate to this as a young professional living in the DC area. I also can relate to how expensive it is here and just that desire to be able to buy a home.

I have friends back in the Midwest who’ve bought lovely and fabulous homes, and I don’t know when that’s going to be a possibility for me.

But I try to keep this in mind and I hope she will too, that it’s a marathon not a sprint. You don’t have to buy a house right away and we want to make certain that we can not just buy a house, but we can keep our house.

And that involves having some reserve funds for emergencies, for being able to make payments on other things, utilities, taxes, and just things like that.

So even though she’s not making a down payment today there are things you can do every day to help make that goal become a reality. And I just want to share a few of them with you.

First I would suggest to save regularly.

It’s so tempting to want to buy the new fabulous pair of shoes or take every vacation with your friends, but knowing that you need to take care of yourself and your savings first is a crucial thing in this whole marathon of buying a house.

And so yes, you should definitely have some money budgeted for fun things and activities with friends and family, but make certain that you’re making saving a priority in your financial portfolio.

And if you need help on knowing how to save particularly for young adults there are some resources on mycreditunion.gov that are specifically geared toward our savings goals and things that we’re facing.

Another place that you can go is publications.usa.gov. There’s tons of government money and saving and investment resources there that you can order or download.

So that’s one step: saving regularly.

Another is pay your bills on time.

You’d be amazed how important that is as you’re trying to apply for mortgages down the line. It helps determine what sort of interest rate you get, what sort of programs you’re eligible for. It shows you’re a responsible creditor, that you pay your bills on time and can manage your debt. It’s crucial when lenders are looking to determine if they’re going to give you a mortgage loan.

So I would suggest that you pay regularly on your credit, on all your bills.

The third thing I would suggest is look into repayment plans for your student loans. She mentioned that she’s a federal employee, and the Office of Personnel Management offers a repayment plan for people who are federal employees so that their student loans can be reduced, and that’s a significant lift of your mind if you know that you don’t have to pay everything back out of your pocket for your student loans since there’s some help available.

And maybe you’re not a federal employee, there’s still other programs available if you’re a public servant, police and teachers, they often have similar programs in cities and states or jurisdictions for repayment of loans.

And some companies actually have student loan repayment programs.

So take heart on that. That may be a possibility too.

So I would say keep the faith, stay encouraged, and keep working hard and finish graduate school and don’t really worry about this in the day to day.

But just do all these things together to help you be on the path so that you’re able to buy a house and enjoy it and not worry.

So thanks for your question!

If you have questions, we’d love to hear from you. We’re still taking them and answering questions as you can see.

You can write us (Ask Marietta, 1800 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20405), you can email us (askmarietta@gsa.gov) or you can tweet us using the hashtag #AskMarietta. Thanks!

Ask Marietta: Paying Down Debt

Video description

In this episode, Marietta answers the age old question, “What’s the best way to get rid of personal debt?”

Video transcript

Hi it’s Marietta with the Consumer Action Handbook. After our Google Hangout we had so many questions left to answer. We heard from so many people that we wanted to take time to answer as many as possible. And so that’s what I’m here to do, to answer more of your questions.

So without anymore…let’s just dive right in.

Today’s question is really about credit and it’s says, “What’s the best way to get rid of personal debt.”

And there are really two schools of thought on this in the personal finance world.

The first way is based on interest rates. Basically you pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first and then move through all of your debt until you’ve paid off all your debt all the way.

Over time this will allow you to pay less interest on each credit card or each type of credit because you’re paying off things with the higher interest rate first.

The other strategy is more so based on the balance on the debt, but it’s in the reverse. You pay off things with the lowest balance and then move up the line. So if you have several accounts you pay off something with a $500 balance completely and then you pay off things that have a $1000 balance and move up the line.

The strategy behind this gives you a sense of accomplishment and allows you to have some momentum. You’ve seen success, you’ve seen that you’re able to do this that you’re able to tackle your debt and pay it down and get rid of it so it gives you the momentum and strength and just the willingness to stick to it because you’ve seen that you’ve done it and you can continue you to do it.

Regardless of what strategy you use, you should pick one that works best for you. Knowing what your motivated by is a good thing. If you’re motivated more so by rationality and numbers, maybe the interest rate version works better for you. But if you need something to get you started and give you some steam to keep going, maybe using the balance as your motivating factor is the best one.

Regardless always of which method you use, you definitely want to make sure you’re making at least the minimum payments on all of your accounts because that demonstrates you’re making significant strides to managing your credit reports and credit history.

So thanks for your question.

If you’d like to ask us a question, we’d love to hear from you! You can write us by postal mail to Ask Marietta, 1800 F St. NW, Washington DC, 20405, email us (askmarietta@gsa.gov) or tweet us using the hashtag #AskMarietta.

Ask Marietta: Live Google Hangout

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Did you miss yesterday’s live hangout with Marietta where she answered your consumer questions? Don’t worry! We recorded it, and you can check it out now