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Category Archives: Finance

All about Rewards Card

Rewards cards come in three main varieties and one is a cash-back or fixed-value card. These have a straightforward and clearly defined benefit accrual. They’ll usually give one point and sometimes a bit more for every dollar you spend. In addition to travel related redemption’s, these cards offer a wide selection of merchandise purchases through companies such as ScoreCard Rewards. Plus, they can offer cash back paid directly to you on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Cash-back card values are about the same but you can use the money for anything. Remember, the ratio is the same. With a $1,000 in charges to the card, you can purchase $10 worth of merchandise. Both require frequent use to meet financial goals.

The second type is the co-branded credit card, and which aligns with hotel companies and airlines. The benefit here is that you earn points for their loyalty programs, and some of these programs are extremely lucrative. In addition to frequent flyer miles, these cards often have added benefit such as elite club membership, special hotel rates, special event packages, priority boarding, and free baggage check.

The third type is the card with a transferable points program. These give you the best of both worlds. You can redeem points for any flight, and you can also transfer points to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Most of these programs also allow you to redeem points for cash. For the flexibility of using points in a variety of ways, these cards often carry annual fees, some quite high.

While there are any number of reasons for using rewards cards, several basic considerations should be explored before a decision is made. The starting point for anyone should be to define the reason for wanting a rewards card. Ask yourself what you want it do that your traditional bank card doesn’t offer. Be specific as to what the card will offer you personally and how often you’ll use it.

Frequency of use is an important consideration in choosing a rewards card. If you’d like one to use for travel but you’re only an occasional traveler, a rewards card may not be for you. As example, for $1,000 charged to the card the rewards point value equals 1,000, and this equates to a $10 value. It takes a lot of purchases to build enough points for a hotel room, let alone an airline flight.

Another decision to make is knowing how many cards you want. Ask yourself whether you can handle keeping track of multiple credit cards at the same time. Consider whether you’ll need more than one co-branded card to match different airlines. Generally, only people who travel often or fly often gain worthwhile benefit from multiple cards, especially co-branded ones.

Starting with a single card buys time to develop a system for staying organized and tracking points, spending requirements, annual fees, and so on. List on paper the points and/or miles you really feel that you can build using a card on a regular basis. List specific perks that you may receive from the card, such as elite travel status, hotel comp’s, free luggage check, and other bonus programs. Then, simply ask yourself if these are important to you.

Rewards cards are both popular and used by millions of people. But, careful consideration should be given before choosing this path, as they often carry higher interest rates or annual fees. Monthly balances must be paid in full for the cards to make financial sense. For many people, cash-back cards, co-branded cards, or transferable point cards make good sense and pay personal benefits for the holder. Follow the guidelines suggested here and you may find a rewards card is a good fit in your financial life.

Handle Finances After Marriage

It is important that you make any significant financial decisions jointly as a couple to avoid creating financial frustration and aggravation in your marriage. The first thing you should do with your spouse is to establish a joint budget. To do this you will need to be completely honest with your spouse about your income, debts, assets, and credit history. The easiest way to create a joint budget is to itemize your monthly income and all your debts. This information should include all your monthly bills from your rent or mortgage, auto loans, student loans, installment loans, and credit card balances. Both of your individual financial plans have just become one joint plan, so it is important to know exactly what both you and your spouse spend your money on. Whether you decide to share in the bill paying responsibilities or to entrust one spouse, both parties should be aware and able to find out what the household income is being spent on. When creating your new joint budget, you will find that there are many areas that you will be able to save money. Most households can save quite a bit of money by combining insurance, utilities, consolidating debts, and eating at home more often. Your joint budget will help you cut down on your monthly expenses and allow you to save money. Once you’ve decided on your new budget, it would be in your best interest to put aside any savings that you have towards an emergency fund for future unforeseen events or possibly save the excess money towards the down payment on a house. You could also use any excess funds in your joint budget to pay down debt. The best place to start would be high interest credit cards, installment loans, or student loans. Paying off debt will improve your overall financial picture in the future.

Most financial advisors state married couples should have enough savings in an emergency fund to cover three and six months of expenses. Also, all the assets that each of you have should be discussed, these include: checking accounts, savings accounts, 401(k)s, stocks or bonds, or other valuable assets. It is important to discuss not only your current financial situation, but also your personal goals with your spouse, such as: homeownership, eliminating debt, vacations, and even retirement.

Some Habits of Financial Health

Develop a long-term financial plan
If you do not know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. Your financial future is much more important than your next holiday. My work colleagues are always busy planning their holidays, if you do the same, channel some of that energy and focus on what your long term plans are. Write them down.

Stay Insured
A study done at Harvard University indicates that Medical Expenses are the biggest cause of bankruptcy, representing 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the States. A good health insurance can protect you. However, one of the interesting caveats of the study I just mentioned, shows that 78% of filers had some form of health insurance. My own take is that you need to select an insurance that is personalized to your needs. If you have dependents you would need a different insurance compared to your single friend.

Be prepared for the unexpected
One year ago I lost my job, my monthly salary went from five figures to zero within two weeks. With today’s mind, I can say that being laid off was probably one of the best events for my career. When that happened I was emotionally devastated. Before I started a new adventure in the special place I am right now, I spent few months without any income. I was able to sustain my previous lifestyle with few adjustments, thanks to the money I had saved. Most will call this “rainy fund”. I much rather call it “Opportunity fund”. Rainy fund brings the memory of scarcity, whether opportunity fund is something full of optimism. I had to use some of my funds during my unemployed days, and having a positive mindset helped me go through that difficult time.

Earn more
Your income matters. Saving 20% of 1,000 is different than saving 20% of 10,000. Everyone has the opportunity to tap into their free time and find something that could produce extra income. Baby-sitting, tuition, music lessons,… The only limit is your imagination. It may be awkward and difficult at first, but with time and persistence you can succeed in developing one or more sources of extra income

Collecting Rent Online

Controls management costs

Collecting rent online reduces property management expenses. This allows you to cut down on operation costs, and lets property management fees remain low, which is definitely an advantage for property owners.

Improves customer service

Instead of collecting and processing paper checks, your team can spend more time focusing on their marketing efforts and improving the relations with the residents.

Lessens past due accounts

Since there are different online payment options – such as PaypPal, eCheck and credit card – there will be a considerable reduction in late payments. In addition, mobile alerts that remind the residents that the rent is due, or when the due date is drawing near, usually prompts an immediate payment when your system is mobile device optimized.

Adds more security

Paying rent online gets rid of the risks involved with cash payments. Moreover, your insurance company is more likely to reduce your coverage when you do not maintain cash on-site.

Makes dispute resolutions easier and makes an audit track

Online rent payments generate a digital paper trail. If ever a resident claims that he/she paid online, you can check the system at once to confirm or refute the claim. With a fully incorporated property management software package, you can update owner statements, evaluate late fees and automatically trail split payments. The processing of rent payments and owner disbursements are more secure since sensitive personal info is never compromised. Your accounting group can just click to get a snapshot of those who have or have not paid to allow well-informed financial resolutions.

Tricks Clean Up Budget

Create a daily spending limit and stick to it. That’s right. Daily. Because sometimes, those of us who aren’t so good with budgeting, need serious boundaries. This way, we can really look at “What am I spending my money on? Is this a necessity, a treat, or should I//do I need to save my daily allowance for something in a few days?”

Commit to paying down debt. There are a few ways to do this effectively, but, as I’ve been reading, the simplest is to take it in small chunks and pay off the smallest one first. Then tackle the next smallest, and so on. This is a great way to see progress! (And I like to see progress sooner than later!) There is a school of thought–and a wise one at that–that says pay off the debt with the highest interest rate. This is a really good idea too.

Focus on needs instead of wants… for now. I think we have to look closely what we want to spend our money on… for me, I like getting my nails done. I also like buying clothes for myself and my family. But right now these things need to be put on hold. We have more than enough, and frankly–even though I loathe it–I can do my own nails for a little while. I don’t want to deprive anyone, but I think it is a valid exercise to simplify life a bit; get creative with what we have, use what we have, and then, after a period of two or three months, see where our financial priorities are.

Choose DIY over convenience. This sort of goes hand-in-hand with #5, but I think it’s worth mentioning on its own. It takes five more minutes each morning to make your own cup of coffee rather than shelling out $2.00 for it everyday. ($2.00 x 7 = $14.00 a week! That’s $56 a month!) It takes 10 minutes to pack a lunch at home. See where I’m going here? Time and money are definitely precious commodities, but again, if you’re on a budget, it’s time (no pun intended) to consider what is worth our time versus what is worth our hard-earned money. 10 minutes for a healthier lunch packed at home means more to me than ordering a quick lunch in the cafeteria and not really knowing where the food actually came from.

Maintain Financial Wealth

Give the IRS as little as possible

Utilize all tax saving techniques available. This is difficult, because most accountants are not familiar with unique tax saving strategies like cash balance plans, K plans, and dash plans, which substantially reduce income taxes while building money for the future.

Many frustrated taxpayers have expressed the opinion accountants are working for the IRS. Most accountants deny this and would argue they represent their clients and are not servants of the IRS.

However, the government has been relentlessly extending varied tax penalty provisions applicable to accountants and advisors to the point where advisors and accountants are caught in a dilemma.

Overly aggressive representation of clients can easily put an accountant or advisor into a position where they can be subject to varied penalties, which might even result in the loss of their license to practice law or accounting in addition to some significant financial penalties.

Invest

Develop and follow a sound long-term investment strategy. Too many people invest based on what they have read or who they have talked to recently.

They often sell out of the stock market after it has dropped. They purchase real estate after the market has gone up for years. They invest in the latest get-rich-quick strategy they saw on an infomercial.

Find ways to reduce taxes and insurance costs with health savings accounts and the insurance swapout process IM. Investigate senior settlements as a way to sell existing life insurance policies and make a substantial profit.

Once you have acquired wealth, pass it to the next generation with trust-owned premium-financed life insurance; A great way to pay for substantial amounts of life insurance at a huge discount.

Create a Financial Safe House

Large corporations have been hoarding unusually amount of cash since the Great Recession however their cache is far and beyond what would be considered a normal financial cushion. They have invested sparingly this overwhelming cash hoard into development and the creation of quality jobs, let alone maintaining jobs. Their financial restructuring has benefitted primarily the shareholders through the sale of operations and laying employees off to increase shareholder returns.

The nation’s financial structure has not been overhauled because these same large corporations’ powerful lobbying groups prevent the introduction and implementation of stronger financial supports. Any changes are aesthetic akin to the application of fresh paint on a wobbly building.

And because of their lack of transparency and heavy government control, no one, not even Chinese insiders, know the true values of these investments. This means that two economic superpowers which are dangerously highly dependent on each other, face enormous risks simultaneously. And finally the shadow market, a world in which billions of investments are conducted legally but are off-the-blocks with no oversight, compound the problem.

For this reason, it’s prudent to allocate considerably more into cash and any other investment instrument which can be converted quickly into cash such as short-term government bonds and money market accounts. When the next economic avalanche occurs most people will get buried under the rubble.

I certainly encourage consumers to continue to invest in those fields with stock purchases which they have researched so diligently and feel will provide solid returns. However for the purposes of greater financial security as an insurance buffer and overall peace of mind, consumers should boost their cash allocation or any quick-to-cash financial instruments such as government securities to be available during any future economic meltdown.

Consumer Spending Matters to Economy

Economists and market analysts often keep a close eye on trends related to consumer activity. If consumer spending is strong, it can be an indication that most Americans have a high level of confidence in the direction of the economy. The total amount of consumer spending isn’t the only measure people keep an eye on. The types of expenditures can help determine how high consumer confidence may be at any given time. For example, if sales of luxury goods (expensive cars, jewelry) are lagging and people are putting more money into necessities like food, shelter and clothing, it may not reflect a strong vote of confidence about consumer expectations.

The data on spending plays an important role in how businesses and government agencies plan for the future. If consumers show a high level of confidence, businesses are more likely to boost spending as well to try to capitalize on the opportunity for increased sales. By contrast, if consumers are cautious about spending, businesses may invest less and government policymakers have, at times, chosen to provide stimulus through tax cuts or increased spending to help give the economy a boost.

Consumer spending trends also have a big impact on monetary policy, which is directed by the Fed. If consumer spending is lagging, the Fed can decide to reduce interest rates and take other steps to help jump-start household and business spending. If consumers are spending too much too quickly, it might signal that inflation could become a threat. The Fed may take steps, such as raising interest rates, to try and control economic growth.

Information of Simple Money Matters

We live in times and society where the pressures to buy and to show off the things we have bought (materialism) is enormous. Our inability to afford these things or put money aside for them has pushed us to the direction of buying on credit (getting things now and paying for them over time thereafter). Credit can, if approached with caution and discipline, greatly improve the quality of our lives. It can afford us things that we need now that we do not have cash to buy, for example, we may not afford to buy houses cash but may take a mortgage bond and pay affordable instalments over time, or take out a hire purchase for a car personal or business use. Credit can however become addictive resulting in impulsive buying habits (buying things that you do not need because you can afford them through credit limit). The fact that you can afford something does not necessarily mean that you can have it. If credit is not applied responsibly, it can have tremendous destructive consequences.

We live in a consumer society where people are judged by what they have, rather than who they are. This has developed a culture in which community members compete against each other regarding material possessions. This consumerism behaviour drives people to wear expensive label materials, expensive cars, and expensive houses with top of the notch furniture and equipment leaving them with very little or nothing to save. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acquiring these things if you can afford them. There is definitely everything wrong in acquiring these things at the expense of the provision for your children’s education and your retirement savings. While we may need credit and debt at some point in our lives, it should not be a way of life.

Live within your means

We need to plan now for the things we’ll need in the future. The starting point will be to understand the difference between needs and wants. Needs may be things that you may not live without or things that you must have or do, for example, provision for your children’s education, owning a house, life insurance, food, clothing, provision for your retirement, and transport for your business. Wants may be things that you desire to have and can live without, for example, label clothes, expensive furniture, expensive cell phones, luxury houses, etc. You need to take care of your needs first before looking at wants. Depending on credit is living on borrowed money which is a very expensive option. Try to save money for the things you may need that are not needed urgently or buy them on laybye. When you buy something on credit, you are actually borrowing someone else’s money. Borrowing money costs money. Do not overspend your income and do not over commit yourself with credit purchases. Whenever you are thinking about borrowing money, or buying something on credit, ask them to tell you how much you will be paying in total – including all the interest, administration charges, fees and any assurance premiums. Find ways of reducing your hire purchase debt by for example, paying a bigger deposit than required by the credit lender. The most effective helpful way is to look for ways of making extra money. This should be something that will not require much of your time and should not cost you an arm and a leg.

Financial institutions and credit providers make most of their profits from the interest they charge on the money they lend, for example, if the repo rate (the interest rate at which the Reserve/Federal Bank lends money to the financial institutions) is 5.5% and the prime rate (the interest rate at which banks lend money to customers) is 9% and the bank or furniture store charges you 17% interest, that institution is making 11.5% (3.5% + 8%) profit from you. This excludes the mark-up that the furniture/clothing store has already factored in the selling price of the merchandise. So, you are paying even more. This is not about paying less or more, it is about whether you can afford to repay without sacrificing your immediate needs.

Finding a balance between savings for the future and committing to debt has a lot to do with our need for security and harmony. No one likes to feel exposed and at risk, so we must make sure that we have some money saved for emergencies and irregular expenses. Committing to debt is spending our future income (money we have not earned as yet) now and this puts us in a disadvantaged position. Some people have committed themselves to so much debt that all their monthly income is spent as soon as they receive it. The only way to prevent this from happening is by using a budget and strictly following it.

Overview Online Bill Payment

What is the best reason to choose online bill payments? First of all, you can save time and money when paying late fees and postage. It is also actually safer than paying through mail. Personal information is at risk of falling into the wrong hands when it is printed on paper and goes through the whole postal system. Besides, you can manage your finances more easily when paying bills using your credit card. Furthermore, you can even save cash rewards and airline travel miles whenever you use it.

When you pay your bills online, you will save on the use of paper, doing your share in preserving Mother Earth.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of using online bill payments is getting rid of all the paper sent to your billing address. There will be less mail and envelopes to open and discard. Now, you can receive all your billing statements and reminders in your email inbox. Your service providers and banks will ask if you would like them to email your bills and reminders. They will gladly send your bill through electronic mail. This means less trash in your home and less paper in the landfills. With fewer paper bills, less fuel and energy will be spent on processing, printing, mailing and transporting. When it comes to environmental benefits, online bill payment is a sure winner because of the practical solutions it presents.

Another reason to go for online bill payment is to save money. Since you will no longer mail your checks, you will not spend on stamps. On the other hand, companies also save a lot on online transactions since less money will be spent on processing, printing, mailing, then transporting. This system works more to their advantage and they get more savings, which they would gladly share to their clients, in terms of lower fees.

Paying your bills online allows you to manage your finances and counter in one take. Online bill payment may be a daunting task to some individuals who are not organized or fond of high-tech gadgets. They would rather pay in check or get their paper bills inside the mailbox. However, there is nothing simpler than paying bills on the Internet. Certainly, it may take some time to set up, but afterwards, they are done. Once they get the hang of it, they will no longer go back to the old habit and get worried about late fees or losing their mail in their large pile of trash.