Money topics can spark lively online conversations. Whether shared in social media posts or website comment sections, much of the information can leave you feeling more confused than when you started. Whether due to incomplete answers or a failure to consider an individual's financial status, learning about personal finance can be a challenge.

To help improve your financial literacy, we've gathered some of the most frequently asked questions (and the answers!) about credit, savings, making a major purchase, and retirement planning.

Q. Does checking my credit lower my credit score?

A. No. Checking your credit does not harm your credit score. When you request a copy of your report, it's considered a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit. Credit reporting bureaus (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) encourage consumers to regularly review their credit history reports for accuracy. The data in your reports are used to calculate credit scores.

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HawaiiUSA members with Digital Banking benefit from free credit monitoring and credit scores through My Credit Score.

Q. Is a 20% down payment required to buy a home?

A. While a 20% down payment reduces the amount you need to borrow, it's not required to purchase a home. Some mortgage lenders, like HawaiiUSA, offer special mortgage programs that only require a 3% down payment. Additionally, eligible U.S. military veterans or active duty service members can purchase homes with no money down with a Veterans Administration home loan. But there are many factors to consider when buying a home. Learn more about mortgages.

Q. Why do financial experts recommend developing automatic savings habits early in life?

A. A regular savings habit allows you to reap the financial benefits of compounding interest, which can help grow your savings faster — so the earlier you develop the habit, the better. Compound interest is the interest you earn on your initial deposit plus the accumulated interest in the account.

Q. When should I start saving for retirement?

A. The best time to start saving for retirement is as soon as you have an income. You don't need to wait until you've secured a full-time position or reached a certain earnings threshold or age. The longer you wait, the more you'll need to save since you'll have less time to achieve your financial goal.

For example, if you start investing for retirement at age 35 instead of 25, you'll need to make larger contributions. Plus, you'll miss out on compound interest earnings that would have occurred during that time. Learn more about how HawaiiUSA can help you plan for retirement.

Q. Is it better to lease or buy a vehicle?

A. There are as many good reasons to lease a vehicle as there are to buy one. The best decision is often based on your money situation and market conditions. Generally, it's better to lease a vehicle when you:

  • Have good credit
  • Require a low monthly payment
  • Plan to limit your mileage and wear-and-tear on the vehicle

Buying could provide you with greater flexibility allowing you to:

  • Modify or sell the vehicle whenever you wish
  • Trade it in for another vehicle before it's paid off
  • Drive it without worrying about mileage limits

Review your finances and long-term goals to determine which option meets your needs. Learn more about auto loans at HawaiiUSA

Q. Can I receive Social Security retirement benefits at age 65?

A. Yes, you can. However, when you start collecting benefits will affect how much you receive each month. Technically, you can receive benefits as early as age 62. But if you wait until your Full Retirement Age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later, you're likely to receive a larger benefit check. Wait until age 70, and you could more than double the benefit amount you would have received at age 62.

Learn more about how HawaiiUSA can help you plan for retirement.

Q. Where can I learn more about smart money management?

A. HawaiiUSA offers a variety of personal finance resources to help you achieve your goals. Financial calculators and educational articles are available to help you consider which financial moves are best for your situation.