Author Archives: Peter D

Personal Finance Goals For Every Stage Of Life

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Whether you are a teenager or about to retire, it is important that you are able to manage your money effectively. Although your financial goals may be different as you get older, it is never too early or too late to learn and master sound fiscal habits.

Let’s take a look at some common financial goals and how you can achieve them. Continue reading

Three Horrible Financial Decisions to Avoid This Summer

One of the most shocking pieces of information that most people eventually discover is that their spending habits can literally control their lives.

While most people want to believe that they have full power over what they spend, habits are what truly set the pace for what ends up being spent or saved. Realizing that habits have a dramatic impact on how much money we have is the first step in taking control, but after that, critical decisions must be made in order to create a life of wealth and freedom.

This summer, avoid making terrible financial decisions by understanding how to get rid of the worst of the offenders. The following three bad decisions are some of the worst that can be made, and anyone would be wise to eliminate them from their day-to-day habits. Continue reading

Financial Tips For Recent Grads

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Great financial advice is like a golden egg, you need to treasure it. For recent graduates, this concept rings even more true.

Many financial analysts point out that recent graduates tend to be extremely reckless with their finances after they graduate. Most find themselves the victims of lifestyle inflation, poor money habits, and burdensome debt.

Rather than suffocate yourself with the same financial woes as your peers, the advisable thing to do is to read excellent financial advice and to simply follow it. By taking the initiative, you’ll find yourself less stressed and ahead of the game.

Live Within Your Means

First and foremost, you should always live within your means.

Landing that $50,000 a year position does not mean that purchasing a new car, a condo, and new furniture is a sound financial decision.

To determine how much you should spend on your rent, your needs, your wants, and on your savings, financial professionals employ what is known as the 50-30-20 rule.

The rule indicates that you should regulate 50% of your take home pay to your needs, 30% to your wants, and 20% to your savings. Your “needs” is the category that includes rent, so you should take that factor into account.

Build an Emergency Fund

There is nothing wrong with living in an optimistic world, but it is also important to recognize that reality tends to come with unexpected surprises.

Your emergency fund will come in handy when you’re faced with a sudden car repair bill, a medical expense, or even that unanticipated job loss.

When building your emergency fund, your goal should be to save up at least a few thousand dollars and using your fund when you need it will prevent you from needing to rely on credit cards of financial assistance until you get back on your feet.

Credit Cards Aren’t Always the Answer

These days, the average American household has a credit card debt of nearly $16,000. This debt is the result of a financial philosophy that sets no limit upon spending.

The debt itself is also not fixed but is subject to hefty interest payments that only grow over time.

Instead of putting yourself in the unfortunate situation of credit card debt and growing interest payments, the best thing to do is to understand how credit cards work and to use your credit card to make purchases that you’ll be able to pay off.

At the end of the day, if you cannot afford something, it is best to not buy it.

Student Loan Debt is Secured Debt

Many graduates and seasoned graduates have the misconception that federal student loans are unsecured loans. An unsecured loan is a loan where there is no collateral put up, which means that if you default on your loan, there is no way for the financial institution to secure its loss.

The truth is that while you may not have put anything up as collateral for your federal student loans, the government can take steps to guarantee that it gets its money back.

If you do not pay your student loans off, you could find yourself subject to a lien on your possessions or even government deductions from your monthly paycheck.

Therefore, you should take steps to make steady and regular payments on your student loans so that you will be debt free before age 35.

Financial security is something that many Americans would trade anything for. As a recent graduate, you have the opportunity to truly start your finances on steady ground by taking the above steps.

In the long term, you’ll find that starting to work on your finances is one of the best steps you’ll ever make.

Photo: Mighty Travels / CC 2.0

Four Tips For Improving Your Credit Score

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Credit scores are an important part of life and can greatly influence the livelihood of people.

Credit scores are established through payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of credit in use, and new credit.

Due to loans taken out or having debt on credit cards, credit scores can often be low. Low credit scores make it hard to be able to apply for credit cards or get loans when money is needed.

Ontime Payments

One of the ways people can improve their credit scores is by making sure to pay their payments on time.  Payment history makes up a good chunk of the credit score itself.

One way to make sure payments are made on time is by writing down on a calendar when the bill is due. Also, a reminder can be put on the phone to make sure to pay a bill.

Also, some companies allow customers to opt into a text service, which will provide a text as a reminder to pay the bill. It is just as important to pay credit card bills as well as normal utility bills on time.

Open up new revolving accounts

Credit scores can be improved by opening up a new credit card and keeping it open.

As long as there is no annual fee involved when it comes to the credit card, there is no reason to cancel the card.  This will help with the length of the payment history component of the credit score.

It is just as important to make sure to be using the credit card once in a while because it might be closed due to non-usage.

Along with usage, it is just as important to make sure to be able to pay off the credit card purchases in a timely manner. It is very important to make sure not to open up too many credit cards because that is not helpful to improving the credit score.

Manage debt

Credit scores are greatly influenced by any debt that is accrued over time.

Everyone knows there are interest rates on loans and credit cards. These interest rates become steeper and make it hard to pay back the longer the balance goes unpaid.

When there is debt involved, people tend to try to pay off the debt by opening other credit cards or taking out more loans. This might seem like a great idea at the time, but often times the new loans end up being even harder to pay off later on.

The best thing to do is put aside certain money each month as part of the budget to pay off the debt. By doing this, the debt will slowly be paid off without adding on any more debt or loans, which will have to be repaid later.

It is important to plan out a budget of all the expenses and to make sure to include a portion of the money toward debts or loans involved. Also, people should pay off any loans or debt in small amounts without letting the balance continue to stay open.

Monitor credit reports for errors

Although credit scores are circulated every day, there can be errors in the calculation itself. It is important to double check to make sure no error were made when calculating the credit score.

There are many online sites, which could give the credit score and if any errors are present, they can be disputed. Sometimes due to these errors, credit scores can be affected without actually having any actual debts.

Credit card companies often put credit limits on credit cards based off the credit score. By continuing to make payments on time and leaving the credit card open, credit card companies will be willing to create a higher limit.

It is important to make sure customer’s spending habits don’t change as well even though the credit limits change.

Photo: Mighty Travels / CC 2.0

Five Reasons Everyone Should Know How To Balance A Checkbook

5506576467_b0892cf304_zEvery generation wants to believe that it is the last, greatest generation. It believes that technology has never been better.

But here are 5 reasons that you should continue to balance your checkbook, even with all of the technological gains.

Fees, Charges & Penalties

Have you ever read the terms and conditions on your bank account? Do you really understand what the financial jargon means?

Banks must notify you usually about 30 days before they add on new fees, charges or penalties.

You should balance your checkbook to ensure that you don’t receive a “non-sufficient funds” (NSF) charge; the bank might have been subtracting money from your account for new fees and you bounced a check because you didn’t know how much was available.

Human Cashiers Still Make Mistakes

Many banks go through numerous customer service representatives in a short amount of time. One mistyped “0” can mean a big difference in your account.

People are only human, we all make mistakes. Balancing your checkbook can find these errors before they become big.

There may be a statute of limitations on certain errors. You want to bring mistakes to your bank’s attention as soon as possible.

Computer Errors

Computers are programmed by humans. While it is extremely rare, there may be a computer glitch in dealing with fractions that could effect your bank account.

Remember that your interest is a percentage of the value of money in your account. If the computer does not properly handle these mathematical calculations, there could be an error.

Your credit score could be unduly damaged by human or computer errors.

Cyber Criminals Are Clever

Malware allows hackers to steal millions every day according to federal cyber crime police.

One of the negatives of mobile banking is that the security features are still not completely safe.

Balancing your checkbook can lead you to becoming aware of hacking attacks or identity theft before these dangers can completely ruin your life.

Develop Financial Discipline

Wealth management skills are learned not innate. By continually balancing your checkbook, you become aware of how much you have, how much you added and any discrepancies in your account. Y

our bank account information remains in the forefront of your mind. You also develop better financial discipline. This can help you when there is an unexpected downturn in your financial situation.

Banking technology is better, but nothing is foolproof. Children and adults should learn how to balance a checkbook in order to manage their money. Wealth management skills can be the difference between life success and failure.

Photo: jridgewayphotography / CC 2.0

Six Tips For Creating An Innovative Business Card

Are you a new graduate on the job hunt? Are you in an established career and you’re looking for a new challenge?

If you’re getting ready to venture into the world of job searching, you need a great business card that will be memorable, is clear and will get you noticed.

Don’t know where to start? Follow our guide of creative ideas for business cards and get started on making an impression with your future employers.

The key to remember in deciding on a business card is to avoid cards that are too gimmicky or cute that they leave an impression that you shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s a fine line to walk, but we’ll help you right now:

Increase the Weight of Your Card

There is something that happens in the psyche when you have a weightier card. It feels like more a library card or a credit card. It feels more serious.

Consider increasing the weight of your business card’s paper stock, and you’ll have an instant payoff in the minds of whomever is holding your card next.

Invest in Letter-pressing or Embossing

If you’ve got the budget for it, consider adding an element of letter-pressing or embossing to your card. It’s going to be a little pricey, as this is a craft, niche operation, but your card will look beautiful.

This is something for designers especially to consider. Your business card needs to match your profession or the field you hope to enter.

Try Out a Smaller Card

One trend in business cards today is to try an alternate shape from the traditional rectangle. A square card or even a smaller rectangle add interest and set your card apart from the pile of others.

Consider Wood

Are you going into a field involving sustainability or the environment? Are you a craft woodworker? Consider a wood business card.

These cards are made of layers of thin wood, but they are sturdy, creative and are much different than any other card your future employer may receive.

Die-Cut Cards

Add some creativity and professionalism to your card by adding a die-cut element to your business card. This could just be in the form of your business logo or the initial of your last name.

It may be a little pricey to get a die-cut because it is a custom design element. However, it will add some style and interest to your card and make it memorable to future employers.

Digital Cards

A new trend in business cards is to forego paper altogether and make your business card digital. You can do this by making a digital card on your iPad.

Take the iPad with you to visits with employers. The card needs to have a QR code on it so that the person can scan your card with his or her smart phone and record the information about you.

An alternative is to keep the traditional business card but to include a QR code directly on the card. You’ll not only make it easy for a future employer to keep up with you, but you’ll score major cool points for being tech savvy.

Are you inspired yet? Use our guide of handy tips for finding an innovative business card that is professional and memorable. You’re on your way to finding a great job — or least leaving a really great impression by investing in a great card. Good luck in your search!

Three Hurdles Every New Business Must Face

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90% of new businesses fail within the first five years. Contrary to what you may believe, most of the failures are not because of faulty products.

The reasons that many businesses fail have to do with a host of other issues, hurdles that every new business must face. Here are a few of those issues spelled out and how your company can face those challenges successfully.

Budgeting properly for the initial advertising campaigns

Your initial ad campaigns may not bring in the money to make your company solvent. This is not something to be afraid of; on Silicon Valley, this is par for the course.

It is expected that successful companies will require many rounds of funding in order to get into the black. Amazon has yet to turn a profit!

The initial ad campaigns are to raise awareness and create buzz for the brand. The challenge is to keep the business afloat while there is no money coming in. This requires a good relationship with your banker or other investors. It also requires proper budgeting that lowers your cost per conversion.

Keep budgets low, but let your financial partners know exactly what you need. Planning is more important than being cheap for no reason.

Finding the right partnerships

Unless you are doing all of your manufacturing, post-production, marketing and distribution in house, you will need other partnerships in order to make your business successful.

Finding the right partners can be just as challenging as coming up with the initial idea for your business. You may have to go through a few bad eggs before you find the people whom you can really trust.

You will need to do a great deal of research into the backgrounds of businesses that you need. You also need to ignore the solicitations of businesses that you do not need.

As soon as word hits the street that you have a line of credit with a reputable financial institution, there will be a line of businesses who will be trying to take that money from you. Say no three times as much as you say yes – this is the general rule of creating partnerships for yourself.

Creating the proper infrastructure

Perhaps the most important aspect of your business in its initial stages is finding the right team. You will need a management team that sticks through the tough times.

You will need a technical team that can handle being overloaded with work. You will need an administrative team that can organize files and financial records. For most small business startups, these three aspects of business will all fall on the same heads.

In short, you need people who are willing to give up outside activities and lots of sleep in order to handle all of the monotonous aspects of a new business. These people will also need to work incredibly well together, as they will be spending a great deal of time in the same room if the business is to work.

There will need to be decisions made on financing, taxes, hardware, health insurance, marketing, promotion and everything else that a business needs in order to operate.

Three Small Changes That Can Make A Big Difference For Your Business

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If you are running a small business, then you are always looking for ways to save a bit of money. There are many small habits that can help you to create more leverage for your business if you look hard enough.

Here are some small business spending habits that you can take advantage of to save money for your company.

Any spending that is in the short term is potentially harmful.

If you are not investing in the long term aspects of your business, then you are harming your bottom line. There are many different ways that you can take advantage of the notion of investing to give yourself a leg up in the marketplace.

Start by investing in the niceties of your office. You can save yourself and your employees thousands of dollars per year as well as plenty of manhours if you simply buy a espresso machine.

This will keep your employees in the office during break time, creating more inter-office bonds and raising productivity – no one has to go anywhere for their next cup of coffee. They can stay, continue to discuss business strategy, and keep their ideas coming in continuance.

Make sure that your interior design is conducive to productive team based thinking and synergy.

As the business owner, you have the ability and the responsibility to create an environment that is geared towards group thought and camaraderie.

One of the easiest ways that you can do this is to arrange the furniture so that people can easily find and speak to each other about ideas that they have come up with. You can also create a group room that will allow ideas to grow as they are created by individuals that are in your company.

If you are not the boss, then you should ask for an environment like this. The best companies in the world create environments like this for their employees. Tell your bosses to look up companies such as Google and Apple to see the things that they do for their employees that are done in literally no other companies around the entire world.

These changes are not expensive; they simply require remodeling for the benefit of the employees. They can also save the average business a great deal of money in solutions that do not work when it comes to bringing people together inside the company.

Consider virtual solutions rather than hardware solutions in order to save money.

Many of the most competitive companies around the globe have based their cost curve on having a virtual office rather than an office that is full of hardware that breaks down and is always in need of protection. The virtual office spreads the responsibility of security and maintenance around to larger companies who are much better equipped to handle the burden.

Putting your information in the cloud is a good start. Instead of having to rely on hardware options that can break down at any time, you gain the cutting edge solutions of the cloud that will give you more leverage to invest in true research and development rather than in safety and maintenance of your ideas.

Photo: Mick Baker / CC 2.0

Four Tips For Saving For That Summer Road Trip

15114724336_189eb3e636_zSaint Augustine, theologian and philosopher once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” In the common world road trips create an escape from the daily routine.

In order to have a successful trip you need to be fully prepared, and financially able to handle any unforeseen circumstances while on your trip. However, the first thing you need to figure out is how to start saving.

There are several tricks that can be utilized to help save money gradually over a period of time, most of them take an extremely minimal amount of effort and actually make saving easy.

Keep a jar of change

This is one of the oldest methods to holding on to money; in day-to-day life change often just gets thrown in a cup holder and forgotten. That change does build up, and it will build up faster than you realize.

Consider putting the jar in your laundry room, every time you find money in the laundry put it in the jar as well.

Pick a number

Every bill, of any value has a serial number, with 2 letters followed by a series of numbers.

Pick a number from 1 to 10, every time you get a bill that has that number at the end of its serial code put it away and save it.

Make a budget

Figure out all your expenses every month, and find out how much extra spending money you have after your bills are covered.

Once you have determined the amount extra you have, decide on a percentage and then take that amount out of your account each month and place it in a savings account.

Say no

Be aware of what you are spending money on, this is something to keep in mind while you are on your trip as well. Choose not to spend money on unnecessary purchases, if you buy a cup of coffee every morning of the week, go at least one day a week without buying your coffee.

So now you know how to save for a trip, but how can you prepare and plan out your expenses for the actual trip. Creating a budget specifically for your trip can allow you to maintain your spending and stay within your budget.

If you are able to plan your budget in a way that overestimates your spending, then you will end up with extra money to help cover for accidents or unforeseen issues.

Figure out your gas cost, and make an allowance for the fluctuations in gas price. Be aware that the cost of gas is different depending on what state you are in, find out which states you will be driving through and their gas prices.

Always be familiar with the distance in miles, and then make sure you have enough in cash to cover the cost of gas home with a little bit extra to help cover food. You do not want to get stuck at your location because you lost your debit or credit card. It is ideal for the cash to be kept in the car or in your suitcase, out of your wallet.

Being aware of your potential cost and budget will help you know how much to save, and extending that awareness throughout your trip will help you have a successful and enjoyable trip.

Photo: Richard PJ Lambert / CC 2.0

Four Tips For Saving Some Money On Your Next Vacation

7956463764_ee8a14ac1b_zVacations don’t have to break the bank, and with a little planning and organization you can enjoy yourself while saving money.

The extra money you save on your vacation might even allow you to extend your stay a few extra days or buy extra gifts for friends and family for when you return.

Most people lose money on a vacation through a lack of planning. The most expensive aspects of a vacation are transportation, booking hotels, tours and food. If you can employ some basic tips to cut costs on these areas, you’ll have more money to spend on sightseeing activities.

Transportation

If you’re driving your own car, you can save a substantial amount of money on the cost of a taxi or other forms of transportation. Unfortunately, driving a car in a big city also means high parking fees and the hassle of trying to find parking in busy tourist areas.

One way to cut fees is to use your car to get you to the destination and visit remote attractions only. Once you arrive, go to the train or bus station and inquire about an all-day pass to get you easily around town during your stay.

Avoid taking taxis as much as possible and you can save enough money for an extra meal each day.

Booking Hotels and Tours

The real secret to booking a hotel is to simply book early enough. Hotels fill up the closer you get to the reservation data.

While most people know that you can save money by booking in advance, if you purchase all of your airfare, tour packages and hotels in one package, you stand to save a significant amount of money.

For example, mid-April is a prime time to visit Kyoto in Japan. If you try to book a hotel for those dates, you’re going to end up spending a hefty sum of money if you can find accommodations.

The Shinkansen is a bullet train that travels at super-high speeds across Japan. If you book a package through a tour company that sells Shinkansen tickets, you can often get your transportation costs, a one- or multi-day sightseeing package and a hotel for less than what you would pay for the hotel by itself.

Envelope System

Before you leave for your vacation, create envelopes for all your money. It may sound silly, but create an envelope that has the money for your lodging, transportation, souvenirs and any attractions you wish to see.

Create separate envelopes for your food and miscellaneous budgets, and make sure to create one for each day. On each day of the trip, pull out the money from your food and miscellaneous budget and put it in your wallet or purse.

If there is left over money at the end of the day, you can put it aside or add it to the next day’s funds. This will help you stay on budget and control your spending.

Never Take the First Offer

When you visit an attraction, or a sight-seeing event there are often booths and other stores lined up waiting to take your money. If someone offers you a discount on their product, the chances are good it’s because they know further on down the road is another store that sells their product for less.

Don’t take the first offer on anything you see, and you’ll likely save money. Remember that most people lose money on souvenirs and purchases simply because they don’t know what’s available.

If you take the time to look around and don’t get pressured into buying anything, you can make the right decision about how to spend your funds.

Photo: Kevin Dooley / CC 2.0