by Nirut Zaveri
by Sahil Vakil
If you just graduated from a US college or graduate school as an international student, you may be starting to explore making payments on your student loans. In some cases, you may find that your payments are quite high or you may wonder if you can switch to a lower interest rate.
International students are eligible to refinance their student loans under certain circumstances.
What is student loan refinancing?
Student loan refinancing means paying off your current student loan with a new loan. Compared to the original loan, the new loan has a lower interest rate and better terms like lower monthly payments.
Refinancing is a strategic way to make loan payments more manageable, reduce interest payments or get out of debt faster.
Why would international students want to refinance student loans?
After completing your US education, you may have more loan options. You may consider refinancing to modify the terms of your international student loan and to take advantage of better loan terms.
Your required monthly payments are too high
If you are struggling to meet your required monthly student loan payments, refinancing is a possible solution. For instance, you have to pay $600 every month, but you would be more comfortable with paying only $400.
In this case, refinancing may help in two ways: it may reduce the interest which may reduce the monthly payment or it may extend the term of the loan (the number of years) which may reduce the monthly payment (or it may do both)
Your interest is too high
Refinancing can help you take advantage of lower rates. Interest rates for international student loans can be 8% or even higher. Certain lenders cater specially to international students including Prodigy Finance and Quorum Federal Credit Union. Each of them usually lends at around 8-9%. If you refinance, you may be eligible for rates as low as 4%.
For instance, you borrowed $78K at 8.25% for 20 years. If you have the option to refinance at 6.55% when your balance is $60K, you can save around $18K in interest.
You want to pay less interest overall and pay off the loan faster
Most international student loans have a maximum term of 20 years. If you refinance at a lower rate and reduce the term, you can pay off the loan faster. The monthly payments may be higher but you will be debt free in a shorter amount of time.
You want to release a cosigner
If you applied for a student loan with a cosigner and your lender has no cosigner release program, you may want to consider refinancing. When you refinance the loan, you may be able to arrange for the loan to be in your name only or add a new cosigner. Adding a cosigner may entitle you to a lower interest rate or better loan terms.
Challenges US Visa Holders Face When Trying to Refinance Student Loans
Refinancing may be an option, but international students sometimes find that they will have trouble being approved. If you are a non-citizen staying in the US on a temporary visa, lenders consider you a relatively high-risk client for a variety of reasons.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the federal law enforcement agency in charge of arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants or documented immigrants with criminal convictions — is reportedly begiun nationwide raids, potentially impacting thousands of immigrant families.
Dealing with law enforcement can be stressful, so it’s important to know your rights before you’re face-to-face with ICE agents. While there’s never any guarantee that law enforcement officers will follow the law, here’s what they can and can’t legally do to you and what you can legally demand.
Don’t Open the Door:
Like police, ICE can’t enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge. You can ask ICE to slide their document under the door, if they have one, to determine whether or not it's a judicial warrant.
Ask to Speak to a Lawyer:
A good immigration lawyer can help guide clients through the complicated and often confusing system of immigration law, so find one in your area and discuss your status with them, not with law enforcement. If you're at risk, try to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Immigration Lawyer Search lets you specify what kind of immigration law you need help with, i.e., “Deportation - Removal,” and search your local area if you enter a city name or zip code; you can even search by last name if you’re familiar with a lawyer in your area by name but not sure how to find them.
Remain Silent or Tell ICE You Wish to Do So:
You have the right to remain silent in any interaction with an ICE agent, and you can tell them so. What you say can be used against you in immigration court or deportation proceedings, so always be cautious of what you say to ICE or law enforcement and ask to speak to a lawyer before any communication takes place.
Don’t Sign Anything:
Unless you’ve already spoken to a lawyer who advises it you shouldn’t sign any documents ICE asks you to. According to the Miami Herald, signing a document provided by ICE may mean you’re signing your own deportation order.
Don’t Lie or Provide False Documents:
Lying to ICE agents can be dangerous. Providing false documents can be used against you in court proceedings.
Don’t Flee or Resist Arrest:
If you run from ICE, the results can be deadly not just legally dangerous. People who help an immigrant escape ICE can be charged with things like obstruction of justice by the Department of Justice, as was the case with a judge who let an immigrant escape after a court hearing. People who attempt to physically stop an arrest can also be charged with resisting a public officer.
You Don’t Have to Tell Them Where Someone Else Is:
You’re under no obligation to tell ICE where someone they’re looking for is, but you shouldn’t lie. Instead, ask the agents to leave contact information.
You’re Allowed to Ask for an Interpreter:
If an immigrant placed under arrest is not an English-speaker, they can ask for an interpreter during their detention process with ICE.
You Should Make a Plan With Family or Loved Ones:
In the event you are detained, it’s wise to have an action plan in place to handle any immediate concerns like child and pet care, and long-term issues like home maintenance and collecting mail. Attorneys also advise that loved ones have on hand the name and contact information for an attorney so they can make contact in the event of an arrest.
Keep Learning and Building Networks:
No one resource can prepare you for every possible ICE raid. But massive compilations of resources that cover workplace considerations, community preparedness, and more are available online from the information service Informed Immigrant and as collaboration projects between immigration groups.
Stay Safe homeis!
An Indian passport allows you to travel visa free to a few countries like Nepal, Bhutan, HongKong, parts of the Caribbean and even Ecuador and Haiti! However, your Indian Passport does not give you the same travel privileges that your American friends enjoy.
Thankfully, your US visa adds more power to your travel plans. Your US Visa can enable you to travel visa free to several amazing destinations worldwide.
Countries to which you can easily travel with your US Visa:
Things were so simple in India. We had our local cable operators initially and then we had Tata Sky and others. Their service wasn’t so great, but we knew we could rely on them. Selecting a package wasn’t so difficult and it shouldn’t be here too. But unfortunately, it is.
Provider websites are complicated, and their services are bundled (what’s that?). The promotional prices will expire suddenly. It makes you think if you should even go through this trouble.
Don’t worry, we’ve done the homework for you. So instead, just follow these steps below and you’ll be able to come to a decision soon. Something that meets your needs and your budget.
1. Research your options
Like we do for everything where we are supposed to pay our hard-earned money, Research. Figure out the cable providers available in your area. It’s quite simple. Google it and you’ll be redirected to AllConnect.com or Digitallanding.com.
Of course, go ahead and ask your friends and colleagues. If possible, ask your neighbours too. Figure out which service works best for you; how often does it go down and customer service.
If you are paranoid like some of us here, you can also refer to the telecommunications report. But we’ve done that too for you homeis. Customers of Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse reported the highest satisfaction, and Spectrum had the lowest satisfaction scores among the rated providers.
2. Time to select those channels
We know it was so much simpler back home. Pay a monthly fee and get close to 800 channels. No hassles of selecting the channels we want to watch. Everything is on available. (Though we hear that is changing. Thank You TRAI).
Note down the channels that you are actually going to watch. Not the ones that you’ll just scroll through. We know it is addictive. Once you’ve done that, note down some good to have channels and find out which provider is giving you the must have channels without charging too much for it. Of course, if it also offers a few channels from the other list, good for you.
Now, here comes the googly. Most of us have actually stopped watching Cable TV and instead are following a culture that is termed as “Cord Cutters” here in the US. Which basically means you’re subscribing to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Sling and others. Don’t worry, we have a completely different guide to help you with this too 😊
3. Time for Some Maths (Aren’t we supposed to be Good at it?) and Bundling
Out here, most Cable TV providers are also Internet providers and they’ve bundled their services. Imagine Airtel & Jio providing cable services. Wait, don’t they already do that?
A good TV and internet bundle will help you save a lot of money. But here’s where it gets a bit complex. We must now figure out what kind of Internet speed and type of broadband we want.
Not all bundles are good bundles, though. So, check the price of each service separately and compare that with the bundle price.
4. Check for Any deals & then Negotiate
This is the good part. You know how they say; customer is king. Out here, a “new customer” is always the king. We are notorious for bargaining and we try to keep that instinct in check here. But it is important here. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You can easily cut some costs or get extra services by using your natural ability to negotiate. Knowing what other services are offering you is always an advantage.
Cable providers will be willing to offer you a lot of deals and offers to get you on board. Typically, a discount of $20 or more off the monthly price for the first year is a norm.
But this promotion has an expiry date. Make sure you keep a note of the date the promo expires; else you’ll keep wondering why your monthly bill just shot up. Basically, read the fine print.
There you go. You are now equipped to select the best Cable plan for yourself and your family. Reach out to us if you have any other questions.
by MYRA Wealth
Even if you are a temporary worker in the US, you can buy a home. When does buying a home make sense when you're on an H-1B visa?
Despite the uncertainty inherent in being on a work visa, H-1B visa holders may wish to purchase their own home(s) in the US for a variety of reasons.
In most US cities, you can save $300 to $500 a month by buying instead of renting. In some cities with exceptionally high home values, renting is more affordable than making mortgage payments. Examples of these cities include: New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Honolulu or Oakland.
If you’re not sure which option is cheaper for you, use a rent vs. buy calculator to see if you are better off owning your home or renting.
Having a mortgage can have significant tax benefits. If you itemize your deductions on your tax return, you can claim the mortgage interest deduction on the first $750K of your mortgage. Take note that the tax savings will only apply if you itemize your deductions. If you are taking the standard deduction, which is $12.2K for single filers and $24..4K for joint filers (in 2019), you can’t itemize and thus can’t take the mortgage interest deduction.
In addition, you can deduct state property and local taxes (SALT) of up to $10K (per the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act until 2025), which include property taxes. Like the mortgage interest deduction, this is only relevant if you itemize.
When you live in a rental, your landlord may raise the rent if you want to renew your lease.
If you buy a home, your mortgage payments will be mostly uniform. Even loans that start with an adjustable rate can usually be refinanced to a fixed rate before the rate adjustment schedule. Buying a home reduces the chances of encountering unexpected increases in living costs.*
*There are always unknown expenses when owning a property. Insurance, taxes, and HOA fees can all rise dramatically and unpredictably
by homeis New York
by Real Estate Simplified
Every year, Gallup surveys Americans to determine their choice for the best long-term investment. Respondents are given a choice between real estate, stocks, gold, and savings accounts.
For the sixth year in a row, real estate has come out on top as the best long-term investment! That has not always been the case. Gallup explains:
“Between 2008 and 2010, covering most of the Great Recession period that saw plummeting home and stock values, Americans were as likely to name savings accounts or CDs as the best long-term investment as they were to name stocks or real estate.”
This year’s results showed that 35% of Americans chose real estate, followed by stocks at 27%. The full results are shown in the chart below.
Now that the real estate market has recovered, so has the belief of the American people in the stability of housing as a long-term investment.For general questions drop a comment below! For customized home buying and selling solutions, text us at 408.401.1003
by Sahil Vakil
If you have a job at a company that offers incentive stock options (ISOs), you may be excited and curious about how to understand, exercise, and benefit from them. ISOs are the most common type of stock option, although, under certain circumstances, your employer may offer you non-qualified stock options (NSOs or NQSOs) which are taxed differently.
The best part about ISOs is the ability to defer taxes until you sell the stock.
#1: All About ISOs
So what is an ISO?
An incentive stock option (ISO) gives you the right (but not the obligation) to purchase your company’s stock at an Exercise Price subject to certain conditions. The date your employer issues the ISO is called the Grant Date.
When you receive the ISO, you can’t use it to purchase stocks right away. You still need for the options to vest. This means that you have to stay with the company for a certain period before you can exercise or use your ISO to buy stocks.
On the Grant Date, your employer will determine the Exercise Price (aka the Strike Price) of your ISO. The Exercise Price of your ISO is the price at which you can buy your company’s stocks after it has vested on a future date. The day you use your ISO to buy the stocks is the Exercise Date.
The Exercise Price for the ISO should not be lower than the market value for the stocks at the grant date.
When your company issues an ISO, they will specify how many shares you can buy at the Exercise Price. After receiving the ISO, you need to wait for the option to vest before you can use it to buy shares.
Many companies have a four-year vesting schedule with a “one year cliff.” A one year cliff with four-year vesting means that you will only have access to the first 25% of the shares you were granted after the end of your first year and nothing before that. After that, vesting will happen monthly or quarterly with 25% of the ISOs vesting per year. Note: 25% vesting schedules are the norm. However, some firms may have a different vesting schedule, such as, 20% in Year 1-3, and 40% in Year 4.
Do you have questions about ISOs? Comment here!