Growing your business? These 3 financing mistakes can cost you big

(BPT) – Starting a business can be tough. Growing one can be even harder.

Dr. Nacondus Gamble knows this all too well. After her optometry practice, The South Eastern Eye Center, began to establish a reputation for great patient care, Dr. Gamble decided she was ready to expand. So she began looking for business financing to open another location in Georgia. That’s when she discovered that many lenders don’t share her commitment to high-quality service.

“I called a couple of places, but I just felt like they were taking advantage of me,” she said. “It was unnecessarily harsh.”

Dr. Gamble ended up borrowing through Funding Circle, an online platform focused exclusively on small business loans. Known for its speed, transparency and customer service, Funding Circle has helped more than 40,000 businesses around the world get financing, says co-founder and U.S. managing director Sam Hodges.

Today there are more options than ever before for businesses looking to grow. While some of these newer options can offer a significant leg up, others can actually end up doing more harm than good.

So how can you get the best deal on a business loan? It helps to watch out for these three common mistakes:

1. Not understanding the true cost of your loan

When shopping for a business loan, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by fast-talking salespeople, endless strings of acronyms and confusing terms. If it’s unclear how much you’ll really pay for financing, that’s a good sign you should walk away, Hodges cautions.

A good lender will always be willing to help you calculate the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and explain all the terms of your loan clearly. They’ll also help you understand what fees you can expect over the life of the loan — some lenders sneak in additional hidden fees, concealing them in fine print or confusing legalese, which can significantly inflate the cost.

2. Getting trapped in daily or weekly repayment cycles

Some types of business financing can seem like a godsend for a company in need of fast cash. These providers promise easy approval with quick access to funds. However, that speed can come at a steep price — in many cases, the provider takes a portion of your sales on a daily or weekly basis until the debt is repaid.

Term loans are often the better option, Hodges says. They allow businesses to borrow a set amount of money for a specific purpose, like hiring new staff or stocking up on inventory. The funds are then paid back over a set amount of time, with consistent monthly payments and no surprise fees.

3. Not knowing what you deserve

While many finance providers have your best interests at heart, the truth is that not all do. Some use irresponsible or misleading practices and take advantage of small business owners’ need for cash.

After seeing countless small businesses get stuck with credit products they couldn’t afford or understand, a coalition of small business advocates, lenders and online credit marketplaces came together to launch the Small Business Borrowers’ Bill of Rights. As the first-ever gold standard for responsible business lending, the Bill of Rights outlines the rights and safeguards that small businesses should expect from finance providers.

These include the right to transparent pricing and terms — ensuring business owners can see the cost and terms of any financing being offered in writing and in a form that is clear, complete and easy to compare with other options — and the right to non-abusive products that won’t trap you in an expensive cycle of re-borrowing. Before you take out any financing, check if your lender has signed on at ResponsibleBusinessLending.org.

Considering a loan for your business? You should know the five things business lenders typically care about when evaluating your application. To maximize your success, read more at www.Made2DoMore.com.

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Women in agriculture are challenging stereotypes

(BPT) – About a third of the nation’s farmers are women, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And most of these women are working family farms, since 99 percent of all American farms are family-owned and operated. Just under 1 million women farmers contribute $12.9 billion to the nation’s economy and are responsible for farming more than 301 million acres.

More women are seeking careers in agriculture, and they’re breaking stereotypes about what their roles can be. Many women in the agriculture industry are farmers who grow crops and raise animals, while others are helping advance agriculture by fulfilling non-traditional roles:

Seed sales representative

Megan Moll grew up working on her family’s farm in central Michigan. Today, as a sales representative for Syngenta, she supports a network of independent seed advisers who sell the company’s corn hybrids and soybean varieties. She started with the company as an intern. “If you want to go after it, go after it,” Moll advises women who may be considering a career in agriculture. “Don’t let anything stop you.”

Grape growers and winemakers

In 1999, Brenda Wolgamott and her husband, Duane, entered the wine-growing business; and in 2002, they created their own label — Marin’s Vineyard — named for their daughter, Marin Wolgamott. At age 14, Marin began delving into the science of winemaking, learning how to test grapes for sugar and pH levels in a lab, so she could provide the service to neighbors who would otherwise have to send their grapes to far-off labs for testing. Today, she is the winemaker for the vineyard. Marin’s experience and career path demonstrate “there are different avenues to get in,” she says. “Whether you want to do chemistry or love to get your hands dirty in the cellar, everyone’s job in the winery is always appreciated.”

TV host and photographer

Born and raised in rural Iowa, Marj Guyler-Alaniz graduated from Grand View University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, photography and journalism, and immediately went to work in agriculture for a crop insurance company. Inspired to draw attention to the roles of women in agriculture, she founded FarmHer, an online social community for women farmers. She now hosts the award-winning television show “FarmHer on RFD-TV.” “I think showing women who are successfully farming or ranching plants a seed in the younger generation,” Guyler-Alaniz says. “Younger girls who are interested in getting into agriculture or carrying on a family tradition can see for themselves that they can do it.”

Agrobacterium researcher

At a time when few women went to college, let alone pursued a higher degree in a scientific field, Mary-Dell Chilton, Ph.D., had the curiosity and drive to bring about major change. When one of her students turned in a paper suggesting bacteria that caused a common plant disease could actually transfer a portion of its DNA to the afflicted plant, Chilton thought his theory was wrong. In the spirit of the scientific method, she tested it and instead found her student’s theory to be true. Her research laid the groundwork for transforming how scientists conduct plant genetic research. Her work in plant biotechnology has significantly affected the global agriculture industry. “I give young people today the same advice I’ve given throughout my career,” Chilton says. “Pursue what you love and what fascinates you, and the rest will follow.”

To learn more about women in agriculture and farm news, visit SyngentaThrive.com.

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The time is right to seek new income opportunities

(BPT) – Whether you plan to watch the ball drop in Times Square this New Year’s Eve or be in bed by 10 p.m., one thing is certain: a new year is coming, and with it comes a chance for change. It’s a time to reflect on what works best for you and reset your course for the coming year. Research shows that 41 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, and after spending the holidays indulging in food and festivities, it’s not surprising that the most popular resolutions include weight loss, improved fitness and healthier eating.

As the holiday bills start coming in, it’s also common for people to focus on getting their finances into better order. The Federal Reserve Board discovered in a survey of working Americans that nearly half of U.S. adults don’t have enough cash on hand to pay for a $400 emergency. If that’s a concern for you, consider joining the 44 million Americans who have found ways to make money in addition to their main source of income. Common options include waiting tables, working retail, becoming a rideshare driver and direct selling.

Direct selling, also called direct-to-consumer sales, has been around for over 160 years, and companies like WorldVentures, Avon, Tupperware and Amway have been offering new business opportunities to independent sales representatives since they opened. The direct-sales business is still booming, with a record 20.5 million people involved in the U.S. alone in 2016. The estimated direct retail sales of $35.54 billion in 2016 was the second-highest in direct-selling history.

Is working in direct sales right for you? Benefits of working in the industry can include:

* Flexibility — You determine your schedule, and you choose to work as many — or as few — hours as you want. If you have a knack for direct selling, you could ultimately make it your main source of income.

* Personal growth and development — Take advantage of the tools and training offered by your direct selling company to help you build your business.

* Companionship — Connect with fellow sales representatives and prospective customers, any of which can lead to lasting relationships.

Passion for travel and financial freedom prompted Wayne Nugent, founder and “chief visionary officer” of WorldVentures, to launch his direct sales business in 2005. “We’ve been changing the way people take vacations for more than a decade, all while helping our independent representatives discover their potential and experience more in life,” says Nugent. “We have a world-class product and we embrace a culture of success.”

WorldVentures, a direct seller of travel and leisure club memberships, is just one of many opportunities waiting for you. Whether you decide to go into direct sales, housesitting or part-time bartending, the possibilities for supplemental income are limited only by your imagination.

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Growing need for ag expertise: Not all high-paid careers are on the farm

(BPT) – (BPT) – As the farming industry faces growing consolidation in the U.S., one might get the impression fewer jobs are now available in agriculture.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Today, one in three people worldwide — more than a billion employees — work in an ag-related industry.

Industry growth and digital innovation combined with retirements are driving significant demand for college grads and other professionals, including those without experience in typical ag-related subjects, and many feature excellent salaries. The USDA and Purdue University predict 57,900 jobs requiring ag skills will become available each year between now and 2020 while only 35,000 grads in food, ag, renewable resources or environment studies will look to fill those jobs each year. Further, the average starting salary in the U.S. for those graduating with bachelor’s degrees in agriculture or natural resources was a healthy $54,364 as of winter 2017, a 12 percent increase from 2016.

“People are starting to discover (agriculture) is a pretty good industry to be in,” Iowa State College Career Services Director Mike Gaul recently told CNBC. “They realize this sector isn’t our traditional what-we-joke ‘cows, plows and sows’ industry anymore. It’s incredibly diverse.”

The expectation is that grads with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and/or the environment will fill 61 percent of all ag-related openings, while employers must seek grads in other majors to fill the 39 percent gap. Notably, women already make up more than half of the higher-ed grads in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environmental studies.

High school grads considering degrees in agriculture might consider one of these highest-paying ag occupations:

1. C-suite executives: The CEOs, COOs and CFOs at ag startups or established corporations routinely earn $200,000-plus for overseeing company growth and profitability. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is generally needed in addition to a background in leadership and at least five years’ industry experience.

2. Ag lawyers: Because ag is so highly regulated, such professionals may handle issues related to water, land use, pesticides, seeds, the environment, labor/HR, immigration, commerce, intellectual property, mergers/acquisitions, etc. Salaries average out at $160,000. Required: a bachelor’s degree followed by a J.D. and completed state bar exam.

3. Ag sales managers: Those skilled in overseeing sales teams are earning an average $125,000-plus annually. Most hold bachelor’s degrees in agronomy, crop science, soil science, biology, agricultural business or a related field.

4. Ag scientists: Salaries average out at $120,000. A bachelor’s degree is usually sufficient, with in-demand specialties including bioinformatics, animal genetics or the regulatory environment (managing and strategizing a product through the regulatory process).

5. Ag engineers: Among specialties in demand are environmental, ethanol and mechanical engineers, with average salaries running upwards of $80,000 for those holding bachelor’s degrees.

Bottom line: The next generation of ag specialists will be crucial to helping solve the world’s most pressing issues.

Agricultural company Syngenta is supporting that cause by bestowing multiple college scholarships to ag students each year, and of course hiring many grads in various majors.

“This is an exciting time in agriculture because we have new tools to develop better seeds and crop protection products, as well as digital solutions to help farmers be more productive,” says Ian Jepson, head of trait research and developmental biology at Syngenta. “We encourage students to think about the wide range of challenging and rewarding careers in companies like ours to help develop and deliver what farmers need to feed the world.”

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Small businesses have struggled to find funding: Not anymore

(BPT) – In business, dreams are easy. Finding the money to make them happen, however, can be difficult.

Even established, successful businesses can get turned away for loans at banks. This was the case for Sole Bicycles, a popular maker of stylish, high-performance bikes based in Venice Beach, California.

With the busy summer season approaching, they sought a bank loan to expand inventory. The last thing they expected was to be rejected more than 20 times over the following two years.

“No bank was willing to work with us, and we missed opportunities as a result,” said Sole president Jimmy Standley.

His experience is all too common. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Small Business Credit Survey, nearly one in two small businesses say they struggle to get the funding they need.

Fortunately, over the past few years a new option has grown to fill that gap. Online lending platforms connect businesses looking to borrow with investors looking to lend. It’s a fundamentally different business model than banks, said Sam Hodges, co-founder of one such platform, Funding Circle.

He explained that the lending platforms use technology to connect credit supply directly with demand, making it easier and faster for businesses to get affordable loans. Funds come from a community of individual and institutional investors.

“It’s not uncommon for businesses to wait weeks to hear back from banks after applying for a loan — just to be denied,” Hodges said. “Once we have everything we need, we’re able to make a decision in as little as 24 hours.”

When borrowing online, buyer beware

When considering an online lending platform, it’s important to look carefully at what you’re being offered, Hodges said.

He warned that borrowers should beware of lenders who promise approval virtually instantly, without taking the time to learn about how much each applicant can really afford. Loans from these lenders can come with murky terms and upwards of 70 percent annual percentage rates (APRs). Additionally, these lenders may take payments directly out of your sales daily or weekly until the debt is repaid — which could drastically reduce your cash flow.

“Term loans are the better option for established businesses looking to borrow a set amount of money for a specific purpose and pay it back over time,” Hodges said. “These are ordinary Main Street businesses across America simply looking to open a new location, hire more staff, stock up on inventory or refinance debt.”

This includes Standley at Sole Bicycles, who ended up applying for a second Funding Circle loan as his company continued to grow.

Thinking about applying for a loan? There are five things business lenders typically care about. Read more at www.Made2DoMore.com.

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3 steps to help freelancers and gig economy workers avoid a tax blunder

(BPT) – More and more people are earning extra cash by freelancing in the sharing economy. That may mean writing on the side, playing music on the weekends, driving for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft or selling handmade jewelry on Etsy. No matter how the money flows in, gig economy earners must be aware of the related tax obligations and potential pitfalls.

“While it’s easier now than ever to earn extra cash, it’s important for freelancers and independent contractors to get smart about their tax responsibilities,” said Mark Jaeger, director of Tax Development for TaxAct, a leading provider of affordable do-it-yourself tax software. “Gig economy earners must remember they are responsible for paying federal and state income tax on any income earned. And, they’re also subject to self-employment tax, to cover Social Security and Medicare taxes.”

If you’re one of the 55 million Americans who chooses to freelance, it can be difficult to correctly calculate and report to the IRS how much tax you owe. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Enrolled Agents found that, “independent contractors participating in the gig economy were cited as among those most at risk of failing to accurately report all of their income.”

Taxpayers who miscalculate taxes owed are likely to get a form called a CP2000 from the IRS. According to the agency, that form means, “the income and/or payment information the IRS has on file doesn’t match the information on your tax return.” That could result in issues with your tax bill.

Jaeger said the best way for gig economy workers to avoid a tax misstep is to be diligent and plan ahead now. He provided the following tips to help freelancers get on track so they’re ready to tackle taxes head-on this tax season.

1. Get organized

Whether you work full time and earn a little extra cash from a side hustle or you’re a full-time contractor, meticulous record-keeping is a must. One option is to keep track of all business expenses and related receipts in one large folder. Jaeger recommends taking that one step further by categorizing receipts into specific folders — for example, one folder for mileage and maintenance records, a second for rent or dues if you lease a workspace, and a third for office equipment and business-related equipment. Once a quarter, as you determine what you’ll owe for quarterly tax payments, make note of which of those receipts are deductible.

2. Keep track of your income

When you’re freelancing, you’re your own accounting department. Not only are you responsible for generating invoices and collecting payment, you must also keep track of all income earned and accurately report it to the IRS. That can get complicated when multiple income streams are at play.

For example, gig economy workers who make money freelancing for multiple clients while also moonlighting as an Uber or Lyft driver should track all income and expenses separately. That means keeping accurate records of any money paid directly by clients and keeping track of income reported on documents such as Forms 1099-MISC and 1099-K. These forms are issued when self-employment income exceeds $600 (1099-MISC) and when a contractor is paid through credit- and debit-card payment processors (1099-K). Come tax time, fill out a Schedule C for every company or client who has paid you to report all of the income you earned.

3. Make estimated tax payments

The IRS requires independent contractors to file and pay taxes on a quarterly basis, even if you anticipate getting a refund at the end of the tax year. Use a tax calculator to help determine whether you should make estimated tax payments. You can also use Worksheet 2.1 in IRS Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure out whether you must pay estimated tax. Whatever method you choose, make sure you calculate adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions and credits.

As a rule of thumb, if you will owe at least $1,000 in taxes, you should plan to pay estimated taxes during the current tax year. Jaeger added, “If you owe estimated quarterly payments but don’t pay them in full, you could face an underpayment penalty by the IRS.”

Earning extra money from your freelance work or side gig may not make you feel like you’re self-employed, but in the eyes of the IRS, you are. By planning ahead, getting organized and doing your own taxes with an affordable online option such as TaxAct, you can avoid tax missteps and stay focused on what matters most: earning income on your own terms!

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Seeking a small business loan? What you should know

(BPT) – Small businesses still struggle to obtain credit; nearly half of those who applied for credit in 2016 didn’t get all the funding they sought, and 17 percent of those who didn’t apply for financing skipped it because they didn’t think they could get what they needed, according to the Federal Reserve Banks’ Small Business Credit Survey. However, a growing number of small businesses are turning to alternative sources of financing.

“The process for accessing and receiving funding can be slow and cumbersome and alternative forms of lending are greatly helping to improve the availability of financing for small business owners,” says Jacqueline Reses, head of Square Capital. “Ensuring that the financial system is more inclusive and addresses the needs of small business owners who may have been previously underserved by traditional lenders is paramount.”

The Federal Reserve study has shown steadily increasing numbers of small businesses, with annual revenues of less than $1 million, seeking financing through non-traditional sources such as online lenders. In 2014, just 18 percent applied to online lenders, while in 2016, 21 percent did.

As the alternative lending industry continues to grow, small business owners should keep five points in mind when evaluating loan offers, Reses says:

Total payback amount of a loan

Knowing how much a loan is going to cost isn’t always easy. For a small business owner, being able to see exactly how much you will need to repay and accounting for that in your budget is crucial, and you should always look for transparency. Total payback amount is the dollar value that represents all costs, so business owners know exactly what they will owe over the life of the loan. Businesses should look for this when they assess loan offers. Assessing offers solely on other metrics like APR may not always provide a fair or easy comparison.

Repayment Method

The ease of repayment is also important to consider and there are some unique options available to small businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to repayment. With Square Capital for example, a fixed repayment amount is automatically deducted from the business’s daily card sales processed through Square until the loan is repaid, enabling the business to pay more when things are busy and less if things slow down. Businesses also have the opportunity to repay early and without penalty at any time before the end of the loan term.

Speed

Traditional small business loans can take weeks to process from the time you collect all the paperwork to apply, to the time you actually get approved, to when you see the money in your account. Yet, according to the Fed’s survey, the majority of small businesses that applied for credit in 2016 did so in situations where time was a factor; 64 percent wanted to expand their business or take advantage of a new opportunity, and 45 percent needed the money to cover operating expenses.

While some funding sources have a reputation for being faster to approve, getting the money can still take time small business owners don’t have. Others have been able to tackle both of those challenges. For example, Square Capital can see the health of a small business based on its sales and transaction data, allowing it to evaluate the business’s stability and actual ability to repay over time. With this unique insight, it can assess eligibility for a loan and deliver offers right to the small business owner. From there, an application takes as little as a few clicks to complete and once approved, funds are deposited as quickly as the next business day.

Affordability

Business owners may know how much they need, but be less aware of what size loan they can afford. It’s important to accept a loan offer that your business can repay within a reasonable time period while also helping it grow.

Square Capital’s ability to use unique data to assess the eligibility of a business for a loan also enables it to provide access to loan offers tailored to a business’s cash flow, reducing the risk of businesses borrowing more than they can afford to repay. Loans are sized based on a reasonable projected payback period so that a small business can use its funds to grow and not be stuck in debt for extended time periods.

Trust

Before applying for credit from any lender, it’s important to do your research. Know how they present their offers, look for transparency and flexibility that puts the borrower first and understand customer satisfaction and lender dependability. Working with a trusted brand is important to many small business owners and should be to you as well.

While online lenders are opening up access to the financing small businesses need to run and grow, it’s important to do your homework and carefully determine which financial partner best meets the needs of your business. To learn more about small business loans through Square Capital, visit www.squareup.com/capital.

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Finding success in direct sales

(BPT) – What’s better than being your own boss, setting your own hours, determining your own salary and having an office wherever you happen to be? It’s a Utopian idea that is reality for tens of thousands of people working independently in direct sales worldwide. But getting there isn’t easy. It takes grit to abandon the familiar grind and build a business — especially in direct sales.

Just ask Wayne Nugent, founder and chief visionary officer of WorldVentures(TM), the leading direct seller of travel and leisure club memberships. He got his start as a direct salesman and, after more than two decades in the business, he has seen it all. In that time, the industry has faced many challenges largely due to a minority of companies recruiting representatives, charging them large upfront fees and persuading them to purchase large volumes of nonreturnable inventory with little or no tangible value. Though many reputable companies exist today, mere mention of direct sales, multilevel marketing or network marketing can stir memories of the pyramid schemes and shattered dreams that made headlines in the past.

Nugent contends you can’t paint all network marketing companies with the same broad stroke. He created his company in 2005 to help people find fun, freedom and fulfillment through affordable travel with family and friends. The company’s success is based on the principle of work-life balance, a philosophy Nugent is spreading through a growing network of representatives who — in his words — Make a living … Living!(TM)

“I have a creation goal,” says Nugent, who also serves on the board of WorldVentures Foundation(TM), a nonprofit that supports sustainable programs for children in need worldwide. “If we get somebody making a little extra money per month, it gives them some financial breathing room. If they’ll pursue that with some consistency, and it’s fun, we can get them making more. At that point, they’re feeling abundant. So now, guess what they do? They give back. Network marketing makes this possible.”

On the move

According to the latest figures from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, global direct sales grew 7.7 percent in 2015, reaching a record $183.7 billion. The industry’s potential is particularly appealing to millennials now entering the workforce. These individuals born between 1977 and 2000 have witnessed their parents lose jobs despite devotion to their employers, then struggle to find work regardless of their education and experience. As a result, millennials embrace entrepreneurship as an alternate path to financial freedom.

The direct-to-consumer model has been leveraged successfully to sell goods and services in the cosmetics, household wares, nutrition, travel and technology industries for more than half a century. Growth and longevity aside, there are several reasons to consider a career in direct sales, including:

  1. Entrepreneurial freedom: You can be your own boss — with virtually no overhead costs. It’s recommended that you keep your day job at first and work your business part time. If you finesse it just right, you can ultimately be on your own full time.
  2. Unlimited earnings potential: Unlike in the corporate world, where your rise in rank may hinge on anything from your talent and tenure to your temperament, direct selling allows you to determine your worth. No salary caps here. Set a financial goal, then go for it.
  3. Personal development: Direct-sales companies are big on helping you become your best self. This ensures you become a more effective entrepreneur, and promotes continued company growth. From books and videos to conferences and one-on-one coaching, you’ll have the tools you need to tap your full potential.
  4. Continuous training: You are your own boss without being on your own. Much like personal development coaching, career training is always accessible. No more filling out a training request and waiting for your boss to approve it based on budget. Everything you need to know to be successful in your business is at your fingertips. Ongoing support is available through sales, product and marketing tools such as websites, back offices, print collateral and more.
  5. Camaraderie: There’s nothing like connecting with people who share your vision. As the saying goes, “Iron sharpens iron.” By joining a direct-sales organization, you will align yourself with like-minded people who can identify with your struggles and support your success.

After you’ve taken the leap and joined a direct-selling organization, what’s next? You’ve probably heard it so much that it sounds cliché, but staying around the campfire is key. Partnering with others and plugging into the trainings can mean the difference between mediocrity and meteoric success.

Whether you want to earn supplemental income or replace your current salary, Nugent says, “If you lean in and give 100 percent, this industry has the power to support all aspects of your well-being — financial, physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual.”

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Self-employed? Tips to help you navigate the mortgage process

(BPT) – Sponsored ad content by Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

When you’re self-employed, you often work harder than anyone else you know. That’s what it takes to be your own boss. While rewarding, it comes with a lot of added responsibility. This is especially true when applying for a mortgage.

“Self-employment can complicate the mortgage process for one very simple but critically important reason,” says Eric Hamilton, president of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. “Lenders need to know you will have the income to afford a loan payment. This sometimes requires people who are self-employed to provide more detailed information and paperwork than those who are traditionally employed.”

Proof of income

It’s not only good business sense for lenders to know a borrower can afford a mortgage before they make a loan, federal law also requires they do so. The evaluation process typically requires fewer steps for people who aren’t self-employed — those who get a salary for working for another person or company. The lender will review the applicant’s total income, existing debt, credit history and score, as well as other factors, and base the decision on that information.

However, when you’re self-employed, proving your income can be more complex. About 10 percent of people working in America are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you’re among those 15 million people, it can be more difficult for you to document your income and prove you can afford to pay back the amount you’re asking to borrow.

“Lenders may ask self-employed applicants to complete a 4506T form, which allows the lender to look at the applicant’s tax documents, including recent income filings,” Hamilton says. “They will also likely request a professionally prepared profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet for the business to show you have steady income throughout the year between tax-filing times.”

Improving your chances of approval

Fortunately, if you’re self-employed, you can take steps to be better prepared when beginning the mortgage application process. Hamilton and the team at Vanderbilt, which specializes in financing mortgages for manufactured homes, offer some tips:

* Before you apply for a loan, pay off as much debt as possible. Mortgage lenders will consider your debt-to-income ratio, which compares your total income to the total amount you owe.

* Save up a substantial down payment.

* Work to improve your credit score by paying all bills on time and reducing your debt. Payment history and credit-utilization ratio (the total credit you have available compared to the amount you’re actually using) are important factors in determining your credit scores.

“Being prepared before you start a mortgage application and getting your finances in order can help make the mortgage process go much smoother,” Hamilton says. “The mortgage application process is just one step on your journey to home ownership, but it’s an important one.”

To learn more about mortgages for manufactured homes, visit www.VMF.com.

All loans subject to credit approval.

Sponsored ad content by Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc.

NMLS Disclosure

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc., 500 Alcoa Trail, Maryville, TN 37804, 865-380-3000, NMLS #1561, (http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/), AZ Lic. #BK-0902616, Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license, GA Residential Mortgage (Lic. #6911), Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee, Licensed by the NH Banking Department, MT Lic. #1561, Licensed by PA Dept. of Banking.

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