I've made some really good stock calls in my day, through comprehensive stock analyses on picks I've considered for my portfolio, like the stock that topped my list back in '08 in my final year of business school, Allergan (AGN). It was a thoughtful investment idea that made a fortune on paper. Unfortunately, it amounted to no real gains because I never followed through. Instead, I took a professor's advice, and put ten grand into ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury (TBT), an ETF that double shorts the U.S. Treasury Bond Index. “Interest rates have to rise," my professor said. “They can't stay at these lows for an extended period of time." I didn't know then that this specific professor was a Lehman Brother's layoff, and high interest rates were the finance world, as he knew it to be back in his short-lived career on Wall Street.

Allergan allergan-web-cdn-static-prod.azureedge.net

Allergan

Allergan (AGN) was trading at $30 at the time, and its current 52-week high is well over $300. As we now know well, interest rates fell lower, and stayed at all-time lows for the next 8 years. TBT continued to drop, before reverse splitting 1 for 4 in 2012. I was left with $1k to show for my shares purchased for $10k, which had invested in Allergan at the time would have matured to $100,000. Of course, we can all go over ideas we failed to execute—scenarios that made us miss out on some serious cash. Yet even with all the worthy calls I've made since then, I'm still hesitant in my trading until I consult with someone I believe knows more. Knowing who to trust is important, and taking just anyone's stock advice was a mistake I'd never make again.

Recently, I mentioned one of my stock ideas to a close friend who made his millions at his hedge fund. He understood my reluctance to trade, as it's a common theme among all investors. He shared with me one of the resources he used to gain a competitive edge both as an individual investor, and in his professional endeavors to benefit his fund and its clients, Real Money, a membership-based website headlined by Jim Cramer.

Jim Cramer fm.cnbc.com

Cramer's Real Money

One of Cramer's biggest philosophies is that you have to pull the trigger, and Real Money would soon become my biggest ally as it provides me with the assurance I need to take the right course of action on great ideas. It's a place where you can consult with professionals on your ideas and theirs.

Real Money members are privy to specific actionable investment ideas and the insights of more than 30 site contributors, who are not just journalists; they're chartists, financial advisors, day traders, economists, and money managers who have clients of their own, and winning track records on Wall Street. All of the contributors are handpicked by Jim Cramer through his experience with them in the industry, and most of them are still professionally investing in the ideas they share with you in real-time.

The site features exclusive stock market information that individual investors would not be privy to otherwise. Take sell side technicians and chartists, for example, who have disappeared from investment banks because of the downward pressure on costs and commissions that drove Wall Street away from transactional business. They still power their hedge funds and mutual funds, but of course there's absolutely no visibility there. Real Money's in-house chartist, Bruce Kamich has a 40-year career with a number of bulge bracket firms. He's spotted some huge trends he shared with us and executed on, like the gold stocks, where he recommended NovaGold and Yamana Gold, both for some very big gains. His charts also showed aggressive accumulation in Joy Global ahead of a very large takeover bid. His writing is breezy, and palatable with visuals that make sense.

Make the most of your money s.thestreet.com

You can follow along in the Real Money Ideas section to see which contributors' ideas pan out, and decide who to follow. Members often weigh in with their opinions, or ask questions on the site, and the contributors reply to us inline. You can even contact any site contributor via email, including Jim Cramer. I haven't emailed Jim yet, but Roger Arnold always responds. (In case you haven't heard of Roger Arnold, he's an accomplished economist currently serving as chief economist for ALM Advisors, a money management firm specializing in income-generating portfolios.)

Now, I only take investment advice from professionals who know what they're doing, and exercise transparency in the returns they have to show for it. Not Lehman Brothers' layoffs or the ones responsible for the financial crisis of '08, but rather the money managers that prevailed even during times of hardship, who give us an inside look at what they're trading day in and day out with real money on the line.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.