What College Students Should Know About 401k

What College Students Should Know About 401k
Good habits and behavior compound over time to lead to positive outcomes. On the other hand, continual poor habits and behavioral choices will necessarily result in negative outcomes later on in one’s life. This principle applies across all areas of life, from achieving career objectives and success to building and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships. Everything must be continually maintained and nurtured on a daily basis to achieve constant growth and beneficial outcomes.

College Students: Uniquely Positioned to Establish Good Financial Habits
This framework of thinking is even more pronounced when it comes to achieving a financial stability and success in life. Individuals who embrace positive financial choices on a daily basis from a young age, such as spending less than they make and allocating savings to effective investment strategies, will be more financially successful later in life. As beneficial habits and positive choices compound over time, so does any money allocated to investment via 401(k) plans. College students, with their entire working lives in front of them, have a unique opportunity to establish positive financial habits from the beginning of their careers. They possess the unique advantage of not having to make up for a history poor financial habits that many older adults currently face.

College Students: Mentally and Financially Flexible
With this framework in mind, it is important to teach college students about 401(k) plans and the great advantages of saving and investing from a young age. Additionally, college students are generally more mentally receptive to embracing such teachings as they are young and have not commenced any type of career in which they have starting receiving a regular, sizable paycheck. Given this lack of disposable income, they are more accustomed to living a simpler life without the trappings of high cost items such as expensive hobbies or resort vacations. Individuals more accustomed to spending frivolously on such items may find it more challenging to cut back these expenses and make the often difficult mental shift to increasing savings for the future in place of high consumption now. Embracing change and new ideas may be difficult for some, but typically not for college students.

Financial Choices Can Be Overwhelming
While college students may be more mentally flexible, they are still somewhat ignorant regarding the range of different investment vehicles and retirement contribution plans offered in the marketplace. 401(k) plans, with extensive rules, can be especially complicated to understand. As many college students have never had a regular source of disposable income, they have not had to make choices regarding how to allocate this disposable income between current consumption and future investment. The wide swatch of different investment options with accompanying costs, contribution options, and withdrawal procedures can be overwhelming for those who have never faced such decisions.

Financial Education Leads to Better Choices
Educated, informed consumers generally make better choices than those consumers who are uneducated or misinformed. As such, it is important to educate college students with basic and useful information so they can make informed choices when they are confronted with 401(k) options in their first job. They will likely appreciate any insights or information you can provide related to this subject area.

Educated College Students Are Good for Society
College students sometimes get a bad reputation today, but ultimately they will serve as the future caretakers of our society and planet. As such, it is important we educate them on all types of financial planning, to include 401(k) options. Thinking back on difficult choices in your life, you likely came to appreciate any mentorship or guidance you received. Helping young adults make beneficial, responsible choices is ultimately a beneficial thing for all members of society.

Real Estate Reality: The Rise and Fall of the Housing Market

Real Estate Reality
Real estate reality is a bit like the physical truth of gravity. Real estate prices rise and fall according to a variety of factors, including sales supply or demand and access to mortgage loans. Within housing market context, supply indicates the total amount of properties available in the market at various price points. Demand is the total amount of would-be purchasers of these properties.

If demand for real estate increases and there are more buyers than sellers of property, prices will rise. If more sellers of real estate exist than there are purchasers of these properties, then prices fall. Fluctuation in these levels of housing supply and demand can result in a housing market boom or a housing market bust.

Housing Market Economics

According to economic theory, a large supply of anything implies that prices will decline. If there are more properties for sale than buyers with the money to buy them, sellers react by reducing prices to entice buyers.

Oversupply of properties indicates a buyer’s market. A buyer with cash in hand or a pre-approved mortgage loan will have his or her choice of properties. He or she might be able to negotiate a better purchase price with the seller in exchange for sale of the property.

In comparison, if there are fewer properties than there are buyers, then buyers must compete for this limited supply. In a hot seller’s market, buyers make quick decisions and frequently agree to the seller’s asking price. In some cases, bidding for a desirable property may cause some buyers to pay more than the asking price. In this environment, housing prices will rise.

Change of Supply

An ideal housing market is one in which buyer and seller demand is perfectly balanced. In such a housing market, prices are relatively stable and gradually rise over a period of time. Since the number of homes in the US is seldom constant, the available supply of residential real estate changes. Factors such as new construction, renovations, demolitions, disasters, or conversions affect available housing stock.

Planning policy and other regulatory factors affect housing inventory. Such regulation restricts building in some areas and encourages it in others. Regulatory fluctuations can affect supply of residential properties at local, regional, and national levels.

Change of Buyer Demand

Buyer demand is an important factor in rising or falling real estate prices. The neighborhood or town’s population can affect buyer demand. If the area population grows but housing supply does not keep pace, home prices rise. For instance, if a large employer builds a plant in the area, new jobs will increase the amount of money that home buyers have to spend. If new construction does not occur in tandem, buyers will be forced to compete for a dwindling supply and home prices will increase.

Of course, home purchase is affected by the home seeker’s buying power. If he or she does not have easy access to a mortgage loan, buying a new home will be challenging.

Access to mortgage money is an important factor in rising or falling housing prices. In a buoyant economy, home prices rise because many people have access to a reasonably priced mortgage. Conversely, high unemployment rates and declining salary levels in the community signal a troubled economy. In such an environment, bankers are likely to restrict the number of new mortgage loans they underwrite.

Inflation also affects home prices. In an inflationary environment—one in which inflation is increasing faster than buyers’ levels of disposable income—housing prices are likely to fall.

Housing Bubbles or Crashes

In a rising economy in which salary and wages are high and rising, new buyers become interested to the housing market. Housing supply levels dwindle as buyers purchase them. An under-supply of available homes boosts real estate prices.

Existing homeowners frequently decide to cash out when a housing boom causes prices to rise. The decision to sell their home may be prompted by the decision to retire in a less expensive market or downsize by purchasing a smaller home.

Of course, real estate developers will respond to the opportunity to make profits and build new construction in a rising housing market. Balance of supply and demand is important, because if new construction exceeds market appetite, an oversupply of homes will result. Residential prices will then start to fall.

Purchasing a home during a housing bubble can cause some buyers to overstretch available finances. Homes bought in a housing boom can cause these buyers big financial headaches. If home prices fall steeply over a short period in a housing crash, these buyers might find themselves holding underwater mortgages. That is, they are now committed to pay mortgage principal and interest that is higher than home value.

Real estate buyers must understand the property value cycles occur in cycles. According to Harvard University, property value cycles occur every 18 years or so.

Governmental Reaction

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank oversees the national economy. The Fed regulates money flows by controlling current interest rates. Since rising interest rates ultimately affect the buyer’s costs of owning a home, mortgage loan rates effectively stimulate or cool off the housing market.

Lower mortgage loan rates increase home buying demand and cause rising real estate prices. In a weak economy, the Fed plays a role in stimulating the housing market. When homeownership is affordable, buyers enter the market. Loan programs, such as USDA mortgages or FHA-insured loans, encourage new home buyers to shore up a weak housing market. This action in turn boosts the demand for homes and helps to stabilize or increase property values.

5 Tips for Christmas Decorating on a Budget

5 Tips for Christmas Decorating on a Budget
Christmas is a time for love and laughter, and nothing helps put you in the spirit of the holiday like some good old fashioned decorating. The issue with going all out with decorations is that it can prove to be a costly venture. Here are five tips to help keep your Christmas decorations this year within an acceptable budget.

1. DIY Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations do not need to be extravagant things that are bought from expensive stores during the holiday season. Turn decorating your home into a fun time spent with family and friends where you can create your own holiday decorations. Use potted plants and candles that you already have to create a winter feel in your home. Candles can be found on sale throughout the year, and pine or fresh baking scents are perfect for this time of year. Several websites offer Christmas themed printouts that you can use as decorations; in fact, you can add your own personal touch to them if you desire. Make your own garland as a decoration out of string and painted popcorn or even flower petals.

2. Repurpose Household Items

If you look around your home, I am sure you will come across a lot of vases, bowls, or jars that are not serving any purpose. Take those items and turn them into an elegant Christmas decoration. You can fill a bowl with red or green beads and place a candle in the middle to create a festive feel or you can fill a basket with globe shaped ornaments. You can also use cotton balls to create a snow covered landscape in the bottom of your repurposed item.

3. Utilize Nature

When you think of winter, the scent of pine comes to mind. Christmas decorations traditionally focus around pine trees and holiday wreaths. Purchasing a real tree is often a more budget conscious decision that getting an artificial one. Pine cones are a great addition to many decorations, and they also smell amazing. A project that is simple to complete using nature is to create a wreath. Intertwine pine branches in a circular shape, and then decorate it with berries, pine cones, garland, or anything else your imaginations can come up with.

4. Recycle

Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, but some years we receive a plethora of Christmas cards and have no idea of what to do with them after the holiday is over. One of my pet peeves is throwing away cards, especially when someone personalized it and put a lot of thought into creating it. This year, plan to recycle all of those festive cards for your decorations next year. Cut out the design on the front of the card and punch a hole through the top. This will allow you to string some yarn or ribbon through the hole and create tree ornaments or a unique string of garland that was created from the kind thoughts of your friends and family.

5. After Christmas Sales

Buying decorations before Christmas can be costly and aggravating. But consider this, all of those decorations that are not purchased before the holiday, are still in the store afterwards. These items will be on sale; sometimes at prices that are up to 75 percent off. This is a great time to go out and find decorations to use for the next year. Come up with a decoration scheme early, and as time goes by, those already low, after Christmas, prices may drop even more. If you do end up needing to purchase items before the holidays, make sure to check out the dollar stores and eBay for better deals.

Christmas can be a costly holiday, but there are ways to cut the expense without cutting the presents. Make your own decorations, recycle, and reuse items in your home to create beautiful, low cost decorations that you can share with your friends and family.

American Express Gold Card: Worth Your Time?

American Express Gold Card
According to American Express, they offer 21 different cards. There is the platinum card, the gold card, and the traditional green card, just to name a few. So what makes the gold card different from the other cards American Express offers as well as from all the other cards on the market? The following discusses the benefits and drawbacks of the American Express gold card.

There are several benefits of having an American Express gold card. A few of these benefits include complimentary roadside assistance anywhere in the United States and Canada as well as a purchase protection program in which stolen, lost, or accidentally damaged items purchased with the card can sometimes be repaired or replaced. There is also a baggage insurance plan, and a variety of online services are provided when you use this card.

The point system is often considered one of the biggest advantages of having an American Express gold card. Card members can earn points in several categories such as with the airlines, various supermarkets, and gas stations. If you spend $2,000 during your first three months of having the card, you’ll receive a sign up bonus of 25,000 points. This point system is considered one of the best point systems offered by any credit card. With a few exceptions, customers can earn 1 point for every dollar that is charged.

Besides these many benefits, users can also use the card for dining credits when staying at any eligible hotels. Travel protection services are also considered a good benefit of the gold card. While every American Express card includes insurance for rental cars, this particular card adds even more travel perks.

One of the first and most obvious disadvantages is the annual fee. For the first year the introductory fee is $0. After that, however, the fee is $160 annually. This fee may change from year to year, but is still one of the highest card fees on the market. Most of the other cards American Express offers either have no annual fees or the fees are much lower. There are also high foreign transaction fees when using the card.

It’s important to remember that the American Express Gold Card is a charge card, and not technically a credit card. This basic difference means that the balance must be paid in full each month. Failure to pay each month means the account will be considered delinquent and penalty rates will be applied. If a card user thinks he or she may even occasionally need to carry a balance it’s better to use a regular credit card.

Finally, any American Express card is not as widely accepted as most of the other well-known cards. If you carry this card you’ll almost certainly have to carry another in case you wouldn’t be able to use your gold card.

Is the Gold Card Right for You?
While having an American Express gold card is not as elite as it used to be, there are still several prominent benefits for users to enjoy. If you’re someone who needs or uses costumer assistance, this card may be for you. If you’re willing to put everything from gas and groceries to paying the cell phone bill on the card, and are able to easily pay off the balance at the end of each month, this card may be worth it because of all the points you’ll earn.

If you’re just going to carry it around for emergencies or only a limited amount of spending, paying the annual fee every year probably isn’t worth it. If you need a large line of credit each month, the gold card will work for this as well. This card would generally be worth it for those who would use it extensively and would have no problem paying the balance each month.

Choosing a Holiday Party Venue

Choosing a Holiday Party Venue
Each party planner must decide not only what sort of holiday party to have, but also where to hold the company party, dinner or event during the holiday season. When it comes to company holiday parties, treating your employee base definitely has short and long term benefits. A party grants immediate enjoyment and a sense of relaxation from work-related endeavors. Employees remember the generosity shown to them as a reward for their ongoing labor.

For a holiday party to be considered highly successful, party planners must take numerous factors into consideration. Group events often fail to include all of the planned participants, leaving some employees out of the fun. This is easily remedied by taking the time to choose a venue for your party or event that works well for everyone in the group.

Size is important

First and foremost, party planners must decide how many guests any venue needs to accommodate. Fitting a group of any size into the right venue is also dependent upon what type of party, dinner or gathering will be held. A group entertained with musical entertainment is going to need a large enough dance floor. Likewise, a formal luncheon or dinner must be held in a room that will comfortably fit a sufficient amount of tables and chairs.

Sit-down dinners, buffets, food stations and cocktail parties all have space requirements of their own. This makes sure guests do not feel overly crowded or confined. It also allows servers to quickly deliver food and drinks to their tables. If a party is to include entire families, then creating a play area for youngsters and teens could be a definite option to look into. Generally, most parents will approve.

Location, location, location

The anthem of real estate agents everywhere is just as noteworthy when selecting the best venue for your party. For some party planners, a choice of location comes first. From that point, they investigate local restaurants, hotels and catering halls which can properly accommodate the size of the group. Other planners find themselves exploring new and creative places to hold their gathering, while later taking into consideration the “convenience-factor” offered by these locales.

When looking into how convenient a venue is for your upcoming gathering, make sure it is easy to find on both an online and paper map. Your party guests will be more likely to attend if the venue is located near a major thoroughfare or highway. Where applicable, locations that are reachable by public transportation also strike a positive chord with employees who may not drive or have their own automobile.

Look into late-night lodgings

One thing that inexperienced party planners tend to forget, is when the party is scheduled in relation to where most of their employees live or work. When planning a party that can go late into the evening, holding it at or near a hotel is an excellent idea. This allows guests who are either too tired or intoxicated to drive home a safe place to stay. To make it additionally worthwhile, hotels often extend reduced rates to groups renting out their event rooms.

On-site services can be budget friendly

Overnight accommodations are just one of the many on-site services that a particular venue may offer. The more services available at your venue, the fewer outside vendors that you have to enlist. This is one way to keep party costs down, as on-site services do not have to travel to your locale and set up such things as catering services from scratch. Venues that have their own valet parking, media, lighting or entertainment may include such services into their contract as a “thank you” for choosing them over the competition.

To begin, make a list of what parties held in past years got “right” and got “wrong.” Continue to go with the positive aspects of prior parties, while making a plan to remedy and eliminate items that were not up to par. With simple advanced planning, your next holiday party venue will be the best one yet.

The Surprising Strengths of Low Credit Credit Cards

The Surprising Strengths of Low Credit Credit Cards
It’s difficult for people with low credit scores to get credit cards. Often, the only types available are secured credit cards, where you need to make a down payment that becomes the credit limit. Secured credit cards also tend to come with annual fees and high interest rates, so it’s easy to see why someone might not find them an attractive deal. However, there are some surprising benefits to having a credit card meant for those with poor credit. It’s worth checking out the options.

Anti-Fraud Protection
Probably the biggest advantage of having a credit card is the ability to make online purchases. While you can usually use a debit card to make those same purchases, if the debit card information gets stolen, it can take time to get your money back. That’s not as big of a concern when you use your credit card. Most cards offer anti-fraud protection, and they’ll quickly research the issue if your credit card information is stolen.

Low Limits
Most credit cards for those with bad credit have credit limits $500 or less. Many people see this as a big disadvantage. While it does mean that you are not likely to be able to use the card to purchase something like airline tickets, the low limit can also be beneficial. One of the easiest ways to find yourself into financial trouble is to charge purchases that you really can’t afford. Low limits stop you from spending well beyond your means. Even if you do spend more than you can reasonably afford, it’s a lot easier to pay off a $400 splurge than it is to pay off a $4,000 splurge.

Building Credit
When you have bad credit, you’re stuck in a bit of a cycle. Creditors don’t want to offer you money, which means that you aren’t able to show that you can be financially responsible. Getting a credit card means that you’re able to start building up your credit. It doesn’t matter whether the card is secured, whether it has a low limit or whether it has a high interest rate. If you use the card and make payments on time, you’ll start to increase your score. You should also be aware that you don’t have to carry a balance in order to improve your score. You can pay the balance off in full each month, which is the smart thing to do to avoid interest charges.

Tracking Credit
Some credit cards, such as the Capital One Secured Master Card, offer the ability to track your credit score and report online. This is a big advantage. Seeing your credit score go up month after month can be a big motivation to keep up the good behavior. It will also allow you to easily see if someone’s stolen your identity and opened up new accounts. Catching fraud early is the best way to minimize the damages it can cause.

Moving Up
Getting that first credit card and proving that you’re able to use it wisely is the first step toward getting better offers. With a better credit score, you’ll be able to apply for better offers. Some secured cards, such as the Wells Fargo Secured Visa, even periodically review your card and upgrade you to an unsecured status. Once you have better cards, you can choose to cancel your secured card and get back any of the money you put toward the deposit.

Credit cards for those with low credit scores are rarely ideal. You may even wonder whether it’s worth it to sign up. However, getting the card and using it responsibly starts to build your credit score and opens up the doors to other possibilities. If you apply for a card with this in mind, you’ll be a lot happier with your decision.

Why Squatters are Hurting the Real Estate Market

Why Squatters are Hurting the Real Estate Market
As if the 2008 to 2010 mortgage foreclosure crisis hadn’t been enough, a new kind of crisis has hit the real estate market which is almost unimaginable. Better said, it is the legal structure’s response to what is taking place still five years later that makes this crisis so extraordinary. What is it? Simply put, it’s how the real estate market is being assaulted even further by what are commonly known as “squatters.”

What Constitutes A Squatting Situation

A squatter basically is someone who is occupying a privately owned property, legally or illegally, without an owner’s consent. Our article below covers several different scenarios to better understand how serious this situation really is.

Due legal process must take place before physical or forced action can be taken. Neither can an owner, manager, bank or mortgage holder simply walk in and order the utilities to be cut, locks changed or put belongings on the curb.
A squatter basically is someone who is occupying a privately owned property, legally or illegally, without an owner’s consent.
If occupants were one’s guests who have overstayed their visit, nothing can be initiated until the law says so–even if the owner is living in his own house. Perhaps one of the most unpleasant scenarios is having a tenant evicted from a rented room. Not a good experience.

Various Squatter Scenarios

Who is affected? Just about anyone involved in some facet of the real estate market: rental property owners, career listing agents, banks, mortgage companies, innocent homeowners or renters and entire families.

That said, depending on the municipality and state of the occurrence, squatting is known by a variety of names. Typically known as “adverse possession,” this is the quasi-legal occupancy of a property, home or apartment simply by claiming ownership through possession–whether they own it or not.

In Colorado especially, adverse possession requires an 18–year vacancy to be declared legal. Should homeowners finally get back possession, there may not be property enough left to warrant a repossession of the property as squatters have by now typically gutted the property of any worth-while components or fixtures. Many times, the entire infrastructure is gone.

A real savvy squatter or “squatter broker” knows the law better than the property owner and may turn around and slap the owner with a bankruptcy filing to stall off an eviction.

In Detroit, an attempt is being made to stabilize the housing market as literally tens of thousands of abandoned, dilapidated houses occupied by squatters are preventing the bulldozing of homes. As of last year, more than 40,000 homes were in need of demolition–a health department’s nightmare.

Incredible but true: Miami now has more squatters than homeowner occupied houses. Moreover, the Miami-Dade police department has designated a division to investigate renters who have been sold a bill of goods by “squatter brokers” who many times pose as the legitimate home owner with a strange rental agreement.

Sometimes these “brokers” get a renter’s money and deposit in exchange for moving a legitimate renter into a property. The only trouble is that there is only a scam, illegitimate owner and the recently typed lease has been bought at any one of several local stationary stores in the area.

Possible Proactive Strategies

1- Many times, depending on the situation and locality, an “unlawful detainer” may have to be initiated before getting any police action.
2- If you let someone stay over for more than a few days, have a written lease agreement. Also, because it can take weeks to get the court eviction done, it’s best to act at the first sign of trouble.
3- Another viable and time-honored solution is to agree to pay toward the person’s moving expenses. While it goes against the grain, so to speak, it many times works well in getting rid of undesirable occupants. Definitely, it is less expensive than filing a lawsuit and waiting it out.
4- Real estate agents and managers need to keep an eye out for common squatter indicators such as empty beer cans, cigarette butts and permanently parked cars.
5- Neighbors also need due vigilance as the next house to be illegally occupied may be their own.

5 Ways Winterizing Your Car Saves You Money

5 Ways Winterizing Your Car Saves You Money
During the warm days of summer, most people have little to worry about with their cars. As long as the air conditioning is blowing out cool air while traveling down the highway, everything seems fine. However, inevitably warm days are replaced with the much colder temperatures of winter, and that can spell trouble for a car. To make sure a car is winterized properly, learn about these five ways to winterize that can save car owners plenty of money:

Get a Tune-Up
Before winter arrives, getting a tune-up for the car can save large amounts of money over the season. Not only will it help the engine run smoother and stronger, but it will also help keep the car’s belts and transmission in good working order. When the weather gets cold, the metal on the car’s body constantly expands and contracts. As a result of this, belts can start to squeak, gears can start sticking, and transmissions can start to lag when shifting from one gear to another. By making sure a car gets a tune-up before winter, chances are many of these problems can be avoided.

Change the Oil
Without a doubt the most important component to keeping an engine running smoothly, an oil change prior to winter can save potentially hundreds if not thousands of dollars. If the oil is not changed regularly, the engine will eventually burn out and need to be replaced, which can be one of the most expensive repairs a car may need. However, by making sure the right grade of oil is used to protect the engine against the cold temperatures, the life of the car can be extended for many more years.

Top Off the Fluids
Before winter arrives, it’s always a good idea to top off all of a vehicle’s fluids. These include the transmission fluid, power steering fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid, and windshield wiper fluid. This saves money in many ways, such as using de-icing windshield wiper fluid to keep windshields clear and save on wear and tear from wiper blades. In addition, using the right fluids can prevent damage to the brakes, transmission, radiator, and more.

Take Care of the Tires
Properly inflated tires not only save money on gas by helping cars run more efficiently, but they also make driving down the road much safer. The workload on the car’s suspension system will also be lessened, since it will have far less stress on its shocks and struts. In parts of the country where winter driving can be treacherous, many drivers also save money by investing in snow tires. These tires allow for safer driving, plus help the car drive more efficiently during inclement weather.

Fill Up at the Pump
One way a car will run better during winter weather is to have a full tank of gas as often as possible. If a gas tank is kept very low during the winter, water can eventually form and mix in with the gas, causing the fuel to not work as well due to it being diluted. Most experts recommend keeping a tank as close to full as possible over the winter, which helps to eliminate the chances of running out of gas and needing a tow truck. When this happens, drivers can almost always expect to pay $100 or more to have the car towed.

By following these five simple tips to keep their cars in good shape, drivers everywhere can have peace of mind when driving along snow-covered roads. Most of these tips cost very little to implement, and by doing so can lessen the chances of expensive repairs needing to be made unexpectedly. For more information on these and other tips, visit http://onecentatatime.com/8-winter-car-care-secrets. While today’s cars are made better than ever before, they still need regular maintenance prior to winter as a way to ensure vital parts such as engines and tires will be at their best.

Meeting the Visa Black Card Requirements

Meeting the Visa Black Card Requirements
Meeting the application requirements for the Visa Black credit card is not for the faint of credit. Barclays Bank has specifically set up this card to appeal to a certain elite group of card holders – the ones who think that a $495 annual fee is pocket change. Having said that, however, the Visa Black card comes with a stellar list of perks and benefits attached. In this post, learn about what it takes to meet the Visa Black card requirements and what you get if you qualify.

Be Among the One Percent
What is so intriguing about the Visa Black card is that, to date, Barclays Bank has been reluctant to share exactly what the approval requirements actually are. What they have said is that only approximately one percent of the population will be able to meet their approval qualifications.

But this is what has been gleaned from cardholder feedback:

– Excellent credit score. You must have excellent credit (at least 700+ for your credit score) to be considered.

– Excellent credit history. You must have an excellent credit history – especially when it comes to repaying balances and loans on time.

– Income history. Finally, you must have the income history to justify carrying a card only a reputed one percent of the nation can qualify for.

What You Get if You Win
If you are approved for the Visa Black credit card, after you pay your $495 annual fee (and an additional $195 for each additional user you authorize to carry a card linked to your account), you do get quite a menu of personalized services as well as some cash back perks.

Here is a basic overview:

– A carbon-based card. The Visa Black card is visually stunning – and it is literally made out of carbon, not plastic, so it has a certain heft in your hand that other cards cannot compete with. The card’s black patterned face is very distinctive looking as well.

– 24/7 personal concierge service. If you need (or just want) help with making travel arrangements, shopping, business services and more, you can call on Visa Black to handle it for you.

– Access to 350+ private airport lounges nationwide. If you like to wait out your layovers in a private members-only airport lounge, this card will get you in.

– Cash back rewards points. This is another grey area, but what cardholders report is earning 1 point per $1 spent – so about one percent cash back on purchases.

– Extra insurance. Travel delay or interruption insurance, lost baggage insurance, purchase security and other insurance against the things no one can control – all of these come along with the Visa Black card.

– Balance transfer promotions. If you want to transfer in balances when you activate your Visa Black card, you can do so at a zero percent APY for the first 15 months of card use.

Decisions, Decisions
Deciding which credit card to apply for can be a challenge in itself. There are a number of cards that can compete on the same level with the Visa Black credit card, and deciding which one of them is the best fit for you will simply come down to comparing the fees versus the perks against your lifestyle.

For example, the Visa Black card is great for cardholders who travel frequently – lots of the perks are geared towards making travel safer and more comfortable. So if you travel frequently you will definitely appreciate both the comforts and the assurances – there is never a time when a delayed flight or lost luggage is not a pain to deal with, and this is one card that is happy to take on those chores for you.

5 Unusual Gift Ideas for the Person Who Has Everything

5 Unusual Gift Ideas for the Person Who Has Everything
Everyone has somebody on their list during the holidays who is hard to shop for, because they seem to already have everything! For people like this, you need to think outside the box a bit when choosing their gifts. With a little bit of creativity, you can really wow them this holiday season with a gift they will not soon forget.

Does the person on your list seem to have every earthly possession? Then try looking in space! There are a whole bunch of websites online that allow you to purchase and name a star for a lucky recipient. Generally, your purchase comes with certificates and documentation that show that the star is yours, along with a star chart that will allow you to easily find your star in the sky. This is a fun and unique gift for kids and adults alike. Getting their very own star will be a memory that is sure to stand out when they think back on the holidays.

If a person seems to have everything, then a great gift to give is not something material – but an experience. This could be anything from concert tickets to wine tastings, kayaking excursions to cooking classes. The possibilities are almost endless, and instead of having another thing they don’t need, they will have a fond memory or a new skill. What better thing to give somebody who doesn’t seem to need anything than that?

If your gift recipient is a person who enjoys having a box to open, there are plenty of companies that provide subscription services for people with a wide variety of interests. For a monthly fee, the person on your list could get a box delivered to their house filled with a selection of make-up, pet supplies, health and wellness items, unique and interesting food… this will provide your recipient with a bunch of exciting experiences each month, as opposed to one (potentially disappointing) gift all at once.

A creative gift that will stand out this holiday season is something monogrammed! You can get a huge variety of items online monogrammed with the recipient’s initials. There are plenty of websites that will engrave anything and everything, including necklaces, bathrobes, and even metal lighters. While the customer might have the item itself, they probably won’t have a monogrammed version that they can call their very own.

Sometimes the best gifts for a person who seems to have everything are the most practical ones. Your recipient might have the latest gadgets and luxuries, but try to think a little more basic. Might they like a brand new pair of house slippers or a soft blanket, or maybe a new set of dishes? While these household items may seem like obvious choices, you would be surprised at how often they get ignored by gift givers trying to “wow” the recipient with a new electronic or gizmo that they probably already have. Your basic gift will be thoughtful in contrast, and will definitely be appreciated.

Is the person on your list a philanthropist? Sometimes the most thoughtful gift to give someone is a gift for someone else. There are plenty of charities that allow you to make a gift donation on the recipient’s behalf. Not only will this be appreciated, it will make the recipient feel great and fulfilled in a way that a material purchase might not.

While the person with everything might seem hard to shop for at first, you really just have to think a little bit creatively. With a little bit of thought about the person’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests, your gift is sure to be remembered for holidays to come.

Title Loans: Financial Help or Hindrance?

Loans: Financial Help or Hindrance
Title loans are offered by financial institutions or finance companies to consumers in exchange for vehicle titles as collateral. These loans are short term and demand payment within 14 to 31 days. Lenders may have different agreements and terms, including application processes, fees, interest rates and due dates. Although the loans are helpful during events of emergencies or the need for extra cash, it can become a hindrance if not repaid by the due date. There are advantages and disadvantages of obtaining short term loans.

Reasons Consumers may Request a Title Loan

Consumers request for title loans for many reasons, including emergency, vacationing, pay off debt, and college tuition. The consumer may be having hardship financially and needs the extra cash to cover other expenses.

Lender Requirements for Obtaining Title Loans

Lenders typically have similar requirements for consumers to receive title loans. The loan process begins with the consumer completing an application online or in-store. The requirements are minimum, which includes proof of employment, valid state driver’s license or state issued ID, and vehicle ownership title. To prove employment status, the consumer is required to supply a recent paycheck stub to the lender. After the application is approved and requirements are met, the lender requests an inspection of the collateral to see if there are any damages.

Title Loan Application Process

The application process for a title loan includes providing information, such as name, date of birth, address, social security number, place of employment, references, and loan amount request. Most companies and financial institutions offering title loans are required to provide information to consumers regarding the terms in writing. The term agreement must provide information concerning applicable fees, interest rates, and late fees. Additional information includes the default of title loans.

How Loan Amount is Determined?

Lenders determine the loan amount based on the value of a vehicle. Loans may range from $100 up to $40,000, based on the blue book value. Lenders request to ensure the vehicle used for collateral is operable and to see if there are damages in the exterior and interior.

Advantages of Title Loans

There are benefits of title loans if the borrower is financially capable of repayment by the due date. Most consumers live on a set budget according their financial means and income. To make the loan advantageous, consumers must consider the timeline for repayment and budget appropriately to ensure the obligation of repayment is fulfilled by the terms of agreement.

Title loans are fast to process and consumers may have access to cash within 10 to 15 minutes. There is no credit checks imposed on consumers to qualify for loans, which is prevalent among title loan lenders. Collateral replaces the no credit check, and the consumer is allowed full access to the collateral after the loan is issued.

Disadvantages of Title Loans

Consumers are advised by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to seek other alternatives to receive loans. Title loans can be costly if consumers do not repay by the due date. The fees and interest rates may double each due date period the loan is defaulted. For an example, if a consumer receives a loan for $100 and the fee and interest rate is $25, the total amount due at the end of 14 days is $125.

Now, if the borrower is unable to repay and has to renew the loan, another $25 is added to the loan. The total amount the borrower is obligate to pay is $150. The fees are doubled and is half the principle amount original borrowed from the lender. The additional fees may cause financial distress and result in repossession of vehicle collateral. If the auto is repossessed, the borrower is given a timeline to pay off the loan, plus fees and interest.

Title loans have their benefits, but have serious disadvantages if not paid by the due date. Consumers are advised to repay the loans by the term agreement to avoid financial burdens.


Most American citizens are knowledgeable about the different taxes deducted from their paychecks. Those taxes include federal withholding, social security and Medicare. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act, also known as FICA, requires businesses to withhold social security and Medicare from wages earned by their employees. The federal law also requires employers to match the employees’ deductions withheld from earnings. Social Security is another name for OASDI or Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance.

According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 96 percent of employees are covered under the OASDI program in the United States. The social security program is designed to provide benefits to retirees and workers with long term disabilities. The workers and retirees are referred to as beneficiaries, and receive monthly supplemental income during retirement or disabilities. If a beneficiary dies, the spouse and surviving children may receive benefits if certain requirements are met.

How are Social Security Collected and Funds Managed?

When an employer deducts social security from an employee’s paycheck, the money is deposited into trust funds, OASDI and Federal Disability Insurance. Social security and Medicare taxes are remitted to the proper reporting agency and deposited into the funds. It is the responsibility of the employer to deduct, report, and remit taxes. Benefit recipients receives payment from the trust funds each month.

Who are Social Security Benefit Recipients?

Social Security benefit recipients are retired workers, disabled employees, children, and deceased worker’s survivors. Nearly all jobs held by citizens and legal immigrants in the United States are covered under the 1935 Social Security Act. OASDI also covers employees working outside the U.S. and legal immigrants who are employed by American businesses. There are certain workers who are exempt from paying social security and Medicare taxes. For an example, workers from other countries who are given permission to work in America or teach are tax exempt.

What are the Eligibility Requirements to Receive Retirement and Disability Benefits?

Social Security Administration has required criteria recipients must meet to be eligible for retirement and disability benefits. The beneficiary must pass yearly earnings tests and be fully insured for retirement benefits. If the beneficiary is disabled, it is the individual’s responsibility to prove disability by providing necessary documents from licensed medical physicians. The beneficiary must be unable to perform job duties as the result of work related injuries or illnesses. The disability must result in death or be long term, one year or longer, to receive benefits.

What is the Type of Social Security Benefits?

The type of social security benefits in the U.S. are retirement, disability, spouse of deceased workers, and surviving children of deceased workers. Workers the age of 62 and older may receive monthly retirement benefits. The spouse and children of workers may also receive retired benefits as well. The child may be biological, adopted, stepchild, and some cases, grandchild or step grandchild. All benefit recipients are required by SSA to meet a list of requirements.

Disability benefits are for workers who are injured while working on the premises of employers. The disabilities must be long term and the recipient must wait five months before payments are issued. If the worker recovers from work related injury or disease and returns to work, the benefits are immediately suspended.

Another type of social security benefit is the survivors of deceased worker. The surviving spouse or widow may receive full benefit at the age 65. If the spouse receives benefits before the age 65, the benefit amount is reduced. The last type of social security benefit is surviving children benefits. Surviving children of deceased beneficiaries are eligible for social security benefits if they are under the age 18. Children are also eligible if they are disabled before the age 22.

Are Social Security Benefits Taxable?

Social security benefits are taxable up to 85 percent. Benefit recipients are required to include disability and retirement benefits as taxable income when filing federal income taxes. The taxes are based on the amount of income and filing status, such as head of household, single, or joint.

Now that you know more about FICA and OASDI, it’s easier to understand why they are taken out of your paycheck and how they are taxed if you happen to be a beneficiary.

4 Benefits of a Mellon Bank HSA (Health Savings Account)

4 Benefits of a Mellon Bank HSA
Health insurance is a hard thing to come by in this country. The extremely poor or disabled American citizens can often use such programs as Medicaid to pay for their medical expenses. The rich and upper middle class can often purchase an expensive plan or pay for most of their costs out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, though, the middle class often have difficulty obtaining health insurance. Sometimes they can get it through their occupation as long as they pay a high deductible, but that deductible can sometimes be difficult to meet. Because of this, a health savings account opened through the Mellon Bank can be a useful way for Mellon Bank employees to pay for their medical expenses. Here is some more information on the Health Savings Accounts (HSA) that are offered through the Mellon Bank:

1. The Mellon Bank will contribute to your account.

One advantage to having a health savings account with the Mellon Bank is that they will contribute to your account in January of each calendar year in order to help you pay for any qualifying health-related expenses. For example, BNY Mellon will contribute $700 each year for an employee on the $30,000 plan or $1400 for an employee and their family. One important thing to note is that the contribution by Mellon will go down with each higher level of coverage. In the $30,000-$39,999 range Mellon’s contribution will be $600, and in the $40,000-$49,999 range the contribution will be $500. In other words, for each subsequent $10,000 increase in coverage the contribution by the Mellon Bank will go down another $100. The lowest amount that Mellon Bank would contribute would be under the $80,000 plan, and would be in the amount of $200 each January.

2. Employees are allowed to contribute.

Another great feature of the health savings accounts offered by the Mellon Bank is that the employee is also allowed to contribute to the fund. For example, the maximum annual contribution that an employee can contribute on the $30,000 plan would be $2,600 annually. That allowance will nearly double to $5,150 if the employee wishes to include their family. The annual contribution allowed will go up in $100 increments for each bracket for the employee’s own health care and in $200 increments for family coverage plans.

3. The employee does not pay federal taxes.

Another good feature to this HSA would be that the employee will not be required to pay any federal taxes on the money put into the account or taken out of the account. Certain states will also allow an employee to forego state income tax requirements from the deposits and withdrawals into an HSA as well.

4. An HSA often has a free roll-over designation.

The Health Savings Accounts offered through Mellon and many other plans offer you a free roll-over designation if you still have money left over for the current calendar year. Moreover, there are a number of ways to contribute to the HSA within the year. Some elect to do a “lump-sum” contribution while others decide to contribute to the plan through an extra payroll deduction.

Pros and Cons

Like everything else in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to utilizing this strategy for health insurance. An HSA will only work if the employee is enrolled in that account only. If you are enrolled in a health savings account that is in your spouse or domestic partner’s name you are not allowed to have one of your own (IRS rule). If you transition to a long-term disability status and become enrolled in Medicare you will no longer be able to contribute to the account. Finally, remember that your Health Savings Account is considered an asset and can be transferred to your beneficiaries or your estate if you pass away.

Understanding Credit Pulls

Understanding Credit Pulls
One of the most misunderstood elements of an individual’s FICO score is the impact that credit pulls, more commonly referred to as credit inquiries, will have on the score itself. While most inquiries will not negatively impact your credit score, it can have a negative impact on how potential creditors view your report, subsequently resulting in a denial of credit or higher interest rates.

There are certain types of inquiries in which creditors will expect there to be multiple inquiry records, such as inquiries from mortgage lenders or automobile lenders, which simply indicate that the person is shopping for the most affordable loan. As a general rule, multiple inquiries from these types of lenders are treated as a single inquiry — carrying no penalty among most lenders.

What is an Inquiry? Understanding the Basics

When you apply with for credit for any of a number of reasons, it is likely that the potential lender will pull your credit report; this is referred to as a credit inquiry. There are two primary types of inquiries. There are those in which you are applying for credit and you authorize the lender to check your credit, and then there are credit checks that are run by third party businesses that you have not authorized to run your credit. This can be done by a bank that might be considering purchasing an existing loan of yours from the original lender, or a number of other different reasons. Only those inquiries that you authorize for the purpose of obtaining credit will be a part of the calculation of your FICO score.

Does an Inquiry or Credit Pull Affect Your Credit Score?

The simple answer to this question is yes, it can; however, as a general rule, if an inquiry does impact your credit score, the impact will only be a couple of points or more. Actually, your credit score is more likely to be negatively affected by opening multiple credit accounts in a relatively shorter period of time than through any logged credit inquiries. Where inquiries can carry more gravity is if the pattern in which inquiries exists are indicative of attempting to open multiple credit accounts at once, as opposed to shopping for the best rate.

The significance in which a credit inquiry can impact credit scores varies on a person to person basis, depending on credit histories, income-to-debt ratios and more. While there is no universal measurement that can be applied to a point deduction off of credit scores, your credit score should not fall more than five points based on one additional inquiry. Where inquiries have a greater impact is when there are fewer credit accounts on the report, or there is a short credit history to work with. The longer and more extensive the history, the more stabilized the credit score will be, and the less impact something as trivial as an inquiry will have.

The Formula Varies Based on the Type of Inquiry

As previously stated, inquiries that are indicative of rate shopping are given very little gravity on the impact scale, and the system will generally ignore them if they were posted within the previous 30 days prior to the scoring. What this means that the person who is rate shopping for a loan will not be negatively impacted at all if they find a loan within a 30 day window.

The best way to ensure that rate shopping does not have a negative impact on your FICO score is to concentrate your rate shopping within a specific timeframe, preferably 30 days. The focused rate shopping along with prompt payment of all debt should ensure that your credit score improves, even while you are shopping for a loan.

Another way to help increase your credit score, even when you may be shopping for a loan, is to keep all balances as low as possible.

5 Best Mobile Coupon Apps for Holiday Deals

5 Best Mobile Coupon Apps for Holiday Deals
Clipping coupons can save shoppers a lot of money over the holidays. But the nature of couponing has changed: Some retailers still issue paper coupons to their customers, but many others have ventured into the mobile age. Shoppers with a smartphone can take advantage of at least five mobile coupon apps for holiday deals this year.

Multiple discount sources can help shoppers to stack their savings, but deciding on how to save the greatest amount of money this season can require spending some time with a calculator. If a big box retailer offers deeper discounts for a purchase of three units, it is up to the shopper to decide if he or she actually needs more than one. Some mobile apps calculate the cost per unit to make buying an efficient and enjoyable process.

Smartphone Mobile App Coupon Savings
Shopping with coupons is smart but finding paper coupons in a store checkout line can be a chore. Many shoppers know that their smartphone is a tremendous tool for savings. For example, many money-saving mobile apps work after purchasing an item at the store. It is possible to use them to capture savings from a comfortable arm chair at home. Use these mobile apps this year:

Ibotta, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, allows the shopper to incorporate coupons from various local stores. The app makes it easy for shoppers to find coupons they want to use at the stores they shop. To identify available deals, complete the purchase, scan the item barcode, and capture a copy of the receipt. Shoppers receive savings after submission and approval.

Cartwheel, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, helps shoppers save money at Target. There is no need to use paper coupons to save money at Target with this app. The shopper begins by browsing items he or she is interested in, then clicks on an add button. At checkout, the Target cashier scans a custom barcode that includes all items added during the shopping trip. The Cartwheel mobile app greatly simplifies shopping for toys, sporting goods, housewares, and clothing purchased at Target.

Favado, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, is an aggregating tool. It identifies and collects all of the sales available within the shopper’s location. Poring through Sunday paper ads is unnecessary. The shopper can select his or her favorite stores, such as CVS or Trader Joe’s, then Favado lists the items for sale at each store.

Berrycart, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, is similar to Ibotta. The shopper uses his or her phone to scan and capture an image of the receipt to save money. Shoppers purchasing healthy natural foods over the holiday season will appreciate Berrycart. Get cash back on specialty food items that are not frequently discounted with Berrycart.

Snap, available for Android and iOS mobile devices, is a Groupon invention. The app allows shoppers to access deals on a wide variety of items, from over the counter cold medicines to spaghetti sauce. Some deals, like ‘any type of fresh (insert type) fish’ or ‘any apples’ can help shoppers save money on fresh, wholesome foods. Start by scanning the shopping receipt. The shopper is not limited to specific stores when using the Snap mobile app.

Couponing and cash back from favorite retail stores has never been easier. Don’t forget to use a referral site to get cash back or rebates on every order. For instance, the ebates mobile app makes it easy to shop at favorite online e-tail sites. Each quarter, the shopper can elect to receive a physical check, a PayPal deposit, or an Amazon gift card.

The decision to try new mobile apps can save shoppers money this holiday season and throughout the year. Try a grocery store coupon app to save money on food purchases without clipping coupons. Remember to notify the retailer if a coupon does not work. Shoppers are likely to receive extra savings by providing valuable feedback.

Gift Giving on a Budget

Gift Giving on a Budget
We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than to receive. Although that may be true, if you’re not careful, gift giving can spiral out of control and leave us with a debt hangover. Without a plan or a budget, it’s easy to overspend. Remember, gift giving doesn’t have to be expensive.

With a little planning, gift giving can be stress free. Make a list of gift recipients. Take some time to think about each person that you are planning to give a gift to. What are their interests or passions? What do they need? Do they have a hobby? You get the idea. Once you’ve come up with a list of recipients, make a budget. Decide how much you’re going to spend on each person and stick to it. Don’t forget to include wrapping and shipping when making your gift budget.

Here are some ways to help you stay within your budget:

Shop All Year
Christmas shopping for the following year begins the day after Christmas. That’s the time to stock up on wrapping paper, gift tags, and boxes. Many times inexpensive tableware such as paper plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloths can be purchased after Christmas. You can purchase inexpensive stocking stuffers like crayons, markers, and pencils at Back-to-School sales. One of the best times to shop is after a holiday, like Valentine’s Day or Halloween. Children usually don’t care if their candy is wrapped in red or yellow. You can find some great gifts in gift shops while on vacation or in thrift stores. Many of the items in thrift stores are new or in like-new condition and you can pick them up for a fraction of the cost.

Gift Closet
This goes along with shopping for gifts all year long. When you find a really great deal on something, go ahead and purchase it. Find a place in your home to store these items; then, when you need a gift, you already have something on hand. Candles, baby items, and toiletry items bought on sale are great items to keep in your gift closet.

Make it Yourself
Some of the best gifts in the world are homemade. There are tons of do-it-yourself gift ideas on Pinterest. What about home baked goodies? Who doesn’t like homemade cookies, breads, or candies? You can make these in large batches and give them to several different family members.

Buy in Bulk
Just like you can bake in bulk, you can also buy in bulk. If you find a really great deal on an item, buy more than one. There’s no rule that says you can’t give the same gift to different friends or family members. You can also purchase gift sets and break them up,

We’ve all received a gift that we won’t use. Why let it go to waste? Set it aside and give it to someone else. Just remember not to re-gift it to the person who gave it to you!

Give of Yourself
How about offering to babysit? Prepare a home cooked meal. Do yard work. There are lots of different ways that you can gift your time.

At Christmas, Lose the Stocking
In some families, stockings are a tradition, but they can also take a big bite out of your gift giving budget. If you’re low on funds, skip the stockings except for the little ones. If your family can’t imagine Christmas without a stocking, be creative. You can stuff your stockings with free samples, after holiday clearance items, or use coupons to get items for free or nearly free. There are some great Facebook Groups or coupon websites, such as www.southernsavers.com, where you can learn how to coupon and save money.

Remember, gift giving doesn’t have to be painful, stressful, or expensive. With a little preparation, you can give awesome gifts and not blow the budget.

Bad Home Loans: How to Spot Them

Bad Home Loans: How to Spot Them
Getting a home loan is a major decision with serious consequences to life and financial health. In fact, a bad home loan can result in bankruptcy and loss of housing. Therefore, following these four tips will help prospective homeowners avoid bad loans.

Inaccurate Numbers
Some lenders will claim that is it acceptable to bend the numerical truth when it comes to income in order to get a bigger loan. While it may sound appealing, this is technically mortgage fraud. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 was signed into law in response to the financial and subprime mortgage crisis of 2007. As a result, certain unscrupulous lenders must now use advanced fraud techniques to get around the new legislation. For example, some lenders perform a bait-and-switch with their clients. This means that they will change the loan’s price, terms or interest rate. They target vulnerable clients who may be overwhelmed my mountains of documentation. This means that they will verbally promise certain conditions and then rush the client into signing a confusing amount of loan paperwork.

Failure to Disclose Documents
Home loan applicants should be wary of lenders who instruct their clients to skip over the details and ignore important documents. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), there are required loan disclosures that must be shared with the homeowner. For example, new homeowners should receive the following federally-mandated documents before their loan closes: the loan estimate, the closing disclosure, the notice of the right to rescind and the initial escrow statement. The loan estimate is typically sent a few days after the lender receives the initial application. The closing disclosure is a key document that clearly explains all final loan terms and costs. There are also contractual documents such as promissory notes, mortgage instruments and state government documents.

High Pressure Tactics
Fraudulent lenders tend to engage in certain high pressure tactics. For instance, lenders may pressure their clients to agree to an expensive loan program that actually benefits themselves. They may also pressure clients to borrow more money than is actually needed. As a result, the new homeowner will end up paying more interest than what would be earned in interest if the money was properly invested. Lenders also pressure prospective homeowners with low incomes to agree to difficult financial terms. However, loan shoppers should clearly understand their current financial state. If necessary, they should consult with an experience accountant. Certain unscrupulous lenders may pressure their clients to sign or ignore blank forms. This is cause to worry because lenders could write in a clause that surrenders the home to them upon approval. Any blank signature spots should be crossed out and initialed. Finally, be sure to obtain copies of the completed paperwork.

Predatory Mortgage Lending
When shopping for a home loan, applicants should be aware of predatory mortgage lending tactics. First, lender’s fees should never go above three percent of less of the loan amount. Second, prepayment penalties that charge money for refinancing are a warning sign. These penalty periods can last a few years and cost thousands of dollars. Third, lenders try to make more money through increasing the interest rate above the actual charge. Therefore, be sure to ask the lender if the loan involves a yield-spread premium payment. Fourth, loan shoppers should carefully analyze ads or commercials for predatory targeting techniques. For example, ads that claim that bad credit doesn’t matter are suspicious and should be avoided. Fifth, be sure to clearly understand the range of adjustable-rate mortgages to avoid having to refinance a future unaffordable loan. Six, lenders who promise future loan refinancing should be shunned.

In review, there are standard techniques that crooked lenders engage in to defraud potential homeowners, such as inaccurate numbers, withholding documents, high pressure tactics and predatory lending techniques. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers step-by-step advice for buying a home here.

How Registering for Lowe’s Moving Program Saves You Money

How Registering for Lowe’s Moving Program Saves You Money
Whether you are moving to a new home across town or you have bigger plans to move to another state, you may be feeling the financial pinch associated with relocating. Everything from paying for security deposits on your new home to real estate agent fees can add up, and you may be looking for a great way to save money on your moving plans while also simplifying your efforts. Through the Lowe’s moving program, you may be able to save money on many of the expenses associated with moving.

How to Sign Up For the Lowe’s Moving Program
The Lowe’s moving program is easy to sign up for. You simply have to visit the registration page online, and complete the form to be registered. This will enable you to begin receiving special coupons and money-saving offers immediately, and you may continue to receive them until your moving day. You can also sign up for the program by visiting your local Lowe’s home improvement store. There is no cost to sign up for the Lowe’s moving program, and it only takes a few minutes to do. Your contact information will be kept confidential. As you can see, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by enrolling in this money-saving program.

What to Expect From the Program
Through Lowe’s, you will have access to a wide range of moving supplies and packing materials, and this includes everything from moving boxes and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items to furniture dollies, hand trucks, box kits, storage containers and more. You will also find packing tape, stretch wrap, moving blankets and even tie downs through the store. When you enroll in the moving program, you will benefit from savings and special offers on the supplies carried in the store, and these may include both in-store and online purchases.

You can also receive savings and discounts on some services through affiliated moving partners. These include Pack Rat, Advantage Inspection, Allied, Nationwide Insurance and North American Moving Services. These affiliated service providers all provide additional services that you may need access to when you move, so the savings available to you through the Lowe’s moving program can be considerable.

Other Ways to Save Money on Your Moving Supplies
If you are looking for additional ways to save money on your moving supplies, packing materials and other related equipment, you may consider applying for a Lowe’s credit card. If you qualify for the Lowe’s credit card, you will receive five percent off of your purchases you make with the card every day, and this can save you a small bundle as you relocate as well as when making repairs to your new home. The credit card also comes with the alternative offer of special financing options for six months, and both of these make it more affordable for you to purchase many of the items you may need when relocating to a new home.

Other Resources Available Through Lowe’s
Lowe’s truly strives to be your reliable and trusted partner with all aspects of moving as well as home improvement. There are a number of wonderful resources available to you through the Lowe’s website that can further facilitate your efforts. For example, there are checklists online for Before You Sell, First Month To-Do, Home Inspection and Open House. There are also moving tips, new house checklists and resources to help you find local professionals who may help you with various projects related to moving.

Whether you have just started getting your current home ready to list on the market for sale or you are actively preparing to move within the next few weeks, there is no better time than now to start saving money through the Lowe’s moving program. You can sign up today through your home computer in a matter of minutes, and you can immediately start to learn about special savings offers available.

Save With an American Express High Yield Savings Account

Save With an American Express High Yield Savings Account
With the many options for savings accounts online, it pays (literally) to shop around. With most banks offering historically low interest rates, you want to find the highest yield available for a savings account, with the security of FDIC insurance, and the confidence that only comes with a blue chip and historically stable financial institution. Let’s take a look at the high yield savings account offered by American Express, and see if it covers all the criteria a savvy saver seeks in a savings account:

Pros: A High Yield Account with FDIC Insurance, and Easy, No Hassle Setup

High Yield: The main positive of this account is the high, competitive interest rate. While big banks are offering their depositors annual yields as low as 0.10%, the American Express Savings Account offers rates as high as 0.90%. With an interest rates nearly 9 times the national average, you can say it is truly “high yield”!

Easy, Quick Signup: Another positive of the American Express’s savings accounts. In just a few minutes, you can sign up, deposit, and start earning that fat yield on your hard earned money.

Fees (as in None): Bank fees are the bane of the saver’s existence. With the American Express savings account, there are no fees! That 0.90% you earn you get to keep, with no pesky details like minimum deposit to avoid fees, because:

Minimum Balance=0

There are no minimum balance requirements! (unless you consider $1 to be a minimum deposit, I guess we all have to start somewhere). Not only that, if you need to dip into your account, there is no minimum to maintain your account. As long as you keep in that dollar, you still can keep the account.

FDIC Insured Institution: American Express Bank is fully FDIC insured, meaning your money is guaranteed for up to $250,000.

Easy, Automatic Electronic Transfers: If you want to put more money into account each pay period/month, you can do it automatically, letting you save more money without having to remember to save!

Customer Service: With 24/7 customer support, if you have any issues/concerns with your savings account, you can be confident the issue can be resolved anytime, anywhere.

Cons: Limits and Delays

While the account offers a plethora of positives, there are of course a few negatives. These include:

Limits on Withdraws/Transfers: Per billing cycle, you can only transfer/withdraw six times. In addition, if you want to withdraw, and you want them to cut you a check, you have to call (only option online is external account transfer)).

Hold Time for Funds: For most savings account, the hold time (time lag between making the deposit and the money entering the account) is one to two business days. With American Express, sadly, the delay can be as long as six business days. Of course, if you are looking to save money, this should not be a big deal breaker.

How to Set up an Account

If you have read the above pros and cons, and decided the good outweighs the bad, here’s how to open your account:

Enter your Personal Information: Name, Social Security Number, home address, email address, date of birth, as well as account information for the bank account you will use to fund the savings account.

Submit Application: American Express Offers You the Option of Opening the Account Online are at their toll free 24/7 number: 1-800-46-6307.

Confirmation: In order to confirm your identity, American Express will ask several personal questions (such as the year of the car you own, along with previous addresses). One answered, you will be approved, receiving a confirmation email.

Funding the Account: Now that you are confirmed/approved, you will be able to fund your savings account (remember, the minimum deposit is $1).

If you are looking for an easy to use, high yield savings account, with the safety and dependability of an FDIC insured, renowned financial institution, look no further than American Express.

3 Ways to Save With AMEX Car Rental Insurance

3 Ways to Save With AMEX Car Rental Insurance
If you rent cars for business or pleasure, then you should consider signing up for Amex Car rental insurance. Anyone with an American Express card can enroll in the insurance program even if they do not currently have a rental they would like to insure. With this car rental insurance, drivers have the added reassurance of knowing that they have flat rate car rental insurance coverage in place should they need to rent a car in the future.

Unlike Other Auto Insurance Coverage For Car Rentals
The Amex Car Rental Insurance program is definitely a step above the insurance that is often provided with select American Express credit cards. It is also a lot cheaper than car rental insurance provided by most of the car insurance companies. One significant benefit of this insurance coverage is that drivers who do not have an automobile or personal auto policy can sign up for an auto rental policy from AMEX that they can use to cover a car rental for up to 42 days in most states.

One Low Flat Rate That Covers Your Entire Car Rental
To use the insurance, drivers simply have to pay one low flat fee each time they rent a vehicle. The fee is under $30 USD per car rental not per day. Although it is an excellent choice for drivers who rent cars, drivers still need to take the time to review the coverage to make certain that their AMEX car rental insurance policy provides all the coverage that they need.

What is unique about car rental insurance from AMEX, is that drivers do not pay for car rental insurance on a daily basis. In most states, drivers can have their rental covered by Amex for up to 42 days and only pay once for car insurance. However, there may be other exceptions and drivers in Washington are only covered for up to 30 days at a time.

With one low flat rate, drivers stand to save a significant amount of money over time. Most car rental companies offer comparable insurance to renters at or below the same price on a daily basis. Drivers often wind up paying hundreds to thousands of dollars each time they rent a car.

No Deposits, Daily, Weekly or Monthly Insurance Premiums
When signing up to secure a policy, renters do not have to generate a quote or pay a premium. Instead, renters are asked to pay one low flat fee that applies to everyone. Flat rates are under $30 USD. In addition, drivers can choose from two available options. Once the driver pays for the coverage, the driver does not have to use the coverage right away. The actual coverage does not go into effect until the driver actually rents a vehicle. Then the coverage is effective for the entire car rental period for up to 42 days in most states. Drivers should read the terms and conditions of the policy for a clear understanding of any restrictions.

No Deductibles or Out-of-Pocket Expenses For Drivers
In addition to all the other ways to save, the Amex car rental insurance policy does not have any deductibles, so renters who have to file a claim never have to worry about making any out-of-pocket payments. By signing up for car rental insurance from Amex, drivers will have the added reassurance that if something does happen they will not lose money should they ever have to file a claim. This is the third way that Amex car rental insurance can help drivers save money.

Although there are some restrictions and Amex car rental insurance does not offer liability, uninsured motorist or disability insurance, it still pays to sign for car insurance from this company to cover damage and theft. The company’s low flat rate coverage can help drivers save a significant amount of money on car rental insurance in three different ways over time. In addition to the company’s low flat rates, drivers who have this car insurance never have to pay a deductible should they need to file a claim and there are no monthly premiums that need to be paid as well.

How to Avoid First Time Credit Card Mistakes

How to Avoid First Time Credit Card Mistakes
If you are applying for a credit card for the first time, be sure to avoid making some of the same mistakes that other first-time credit applicants make. In addition to not reading the fine print, not take the time to evaluate the offer, applying for too many credit cards and applying for credit cards they will not qualify for, there is a long list of common mistakes that new applicants make when applying for a credit card on or offline.

Mistake #1 – Not Reading The Fine Print
Even the most experienced credit card holders have trouble making sense of credit card rewards offers. As such, new applicants with little to no experience managing credit cards need to be very careful when evaluating an offer. Whether a credit card offer sounds to good to be true or not, it is important to take the time to read all the fine print.

After carefully reading all the details, you may discover that the offer is too good to be true or you may learn something about applying for the card that you would not have known otherwise. It is always important to read any fine print below, above, on the back or second page of any application whether applying online, in person or via the mail.

Mistake #2 – Applying For The Wrong Credit Card
One of the most common errors that first-time applicants make is applying for the wrong credit card — basically ensuring that the card you get does not live up to your expectations. Although everyone seems to have one or more reward cards in their wallet, first-time credit card applicants are extremely vulnerable. This is because many newbie applicants do not take the time to learn more about the offer and what they will receive in exchange.

As many applicants go on to discover, rewards are based on a small percentage of their spending. At the end, rewards are only a small percentage of qualified purchases. In addition, many of the reward cards are limited to a certain dollar amount, so credit card holders will never receive too much. addition to these limitations, there are usually many other restrictions that applicants need to consider as well.

Mistake #3 – Not Considering The Annual Fee and Interest Rates
In addition to having false expectations about the credit card offer, many first-time applicants fail to consider the annual fees and interest rates before submitting their application. Evaluating the fees and interest rates are important because credit card holders need to make certain that the rewards they receive will surpass what they can expect to pay in fees and interest when they sign up. If the fees exceed the expected rewards, then the applicant may want to reconsider applying for another rewards offer.

Mistake #4 – Applying For Credit Cards With Strict Requirements
In addition to not taking the time to read all the fine print, many first time applicants get rejected by credit card companies because they do not have an excellent credit score or a solid credit history. Although getting rejected by a credit card company is not the worst thing that can happen, each time a credit card company receives an application they usually check an applicant’s credit report. Multiple inquiries by different credit card companies can lower a credit score over time.

By taking the time to learn more about the common mistakes first-time applicants make, you will be on your way to applying for the best rewards card based on your personal circumstances. Before signing on the dotted line, it is important to read the fine print, take a look at the interest rates, annual fees and consider whether the credit card offer will really live up to your expectations.

How to Calculate How Much to Pay a Babysitter

How to Calculate How Much to Pay a Babysitter
Like every other pricing index, babysitter pricing is definitely geographically based. The west coast and east coast lead the nation in the highest average rate per hour for a babysitter. Just to confuse the issue, in addition to babysitters there are nannies, which are a whole different issue and come with a different pay scale. Nannies typically work full time at a set hourly rate and have a whole set of duties that come with the position. A baby sitter is someone who comes into the home as needed to watch the children for a set period of time.

Care.com says that the average rate per hour in the United States for 2014 is $13.44 for a baby sitter. However, there are many other variables that affect how you calculate a babysitter’s rate.

Some people have a base rate and then tip based on the factors below. So they may say that $12 is the base rate and then pay more for a really late night or chores they request. About half the parents say that they tip the babysitter. Others use the factors below to determine the babysitter’s base rate by adding amounts into a determined rate.

Geography – As mentioned before, location definitely affects rate. In your local area, rates are higher in areas where wealthier people live. You can save money by importing a sitter from another area.

Experience and age of the sitter – If your baby sitter is on the younger side or less experienced, you may choose to pay them a slightly lower rate. You wouldn’t pay an 11 year old who is watching your child for an hour while you go to the grocery the same as you would pay a 16 year old who has been watching your children for several years.

The number and age of your children – Typically each additional child would add a dollar or two to the hourly rate. The younger the children, the higher the rate. If your baby sitter is watching an infant, you may want to add a dollar or two to the hourly rate as infants require a great deal more care.

Chores – Definitely pay more if you ask the baby sitter to prepare a meal, do the dishes, clean up, or do laundry. It’s okay to ask for help, but make sure you consider that in the pay rate.

Involvement with the children – Most parents want to pay a baby sitter more when they who engage with the children and come up with games, activities and art projects to entertain the children. Definitely pay less if the baby sitter watches television with the children.

Special Occasions – Baby sitting rates will be higher on New Year’s Eve and other holidays where the baby sitter may want to celebrate with their families. You may add a dollar or two an hour.

Convenience – You may pay additional money if you call the baby sitter at the last minute. You will also need to recalculate if you return really later than you expected or ask the sitter to spend the entire night.

Baby sitter training – You will probably pay more for a baby sitter who has first aid and CPR training or who has taken the Red Cross baby sitting class.

Transportation – You may pay a little less if you provide transportation for the baby sitter. You will pay more if the sitter has their own transportation, especially if you ask them to pick up or transport your children.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into setting a rate to pay your babysitter. What matters most is that you and the sitter agree on a number and that you’re happy with their experience and dependability.

Grocery Saving 101: How to Extreme Coupon

How to Extreme Coupon
Each year, individuals and families spend thousands of dollars at the supermarket on groceries and other essentials each year. With the cost of food and other essentials on the rise, many families have taken Grocery Saving 101: How to Extreme Coupon to learn how to save a significant amount of money at the supermarket.

Learning how to extreme coupon is not difficult to do, but the process itself takes time, patience and dedication. In addition, you will also need additional storage place where you can store items you purchase in bulk and will use over time. As you start to discover how much money you can save on groceries, you will start to enjoy the process.

Start Clipping and Organizing Your Coupons
The first thing you will need to start saving money on groceries are many different coupons in all the different categories. The more coupons you have on hand at any given time the more money you will save over time. Most people who clip coupons have several coupons clipped for the same item. Then they go out and find a sale for that item and purchase it in bulk for extra savings.

There are many different places to begin your search for coupons to use at the supermarket. The most common place that people look for coupons are newspapers pullouts and coupon websites online that allow you to print out as many coupons as you like free of charge. You also want to check supermarket circulars for additional coupons that can be used in combination with other coupons you have clipped as well.

Make a List of All The Things You Need
Before heading out to the store to save money, you really need to think about what you need to stock up on and what you do not need. However, as many shoppers can confirm extreme couponing involves grabbing a good deal when you find one. This is one of the many reasons why shoppers who use extreme coupons wind up stocking up on things that they think they need, but can do without.

Planning Your Trip to The Supermarket
The next step in the process is to learn more about your local supermarkets and find out when sales start and end. Every supermarket chain does things a little bit different, so shoppers need to take the time to learn how to use their coupons at the various supermarkets in their neighborhood for further savings. In addition to double coupons or buy one get one free offers, you should take the time to discover other programs that supermarkets offer that help shopper stretch their dollars.

Set Your Budget Before You Start Spending
Once you have a handle on what coupons will be accepted and which ones will not, then it is time to start planning your trips to various local supermarkets throughout the week. Before heading out, come up with a plan on how much you are willing to spend and how much you want to save. By doing all the math ahead of time, you will have a good idea of just how much you stand to save at the supermarket. In addition, by getting organized before you head out you will know exactly how much you should pay for every item you intend to purchase in bulk.

Time to Start Shopping
Once you know when all the sales start and where to go, it is time to get all of your coupons ready and head out the door. In addition to collecting coupons, extreme couponers also take the time to collect all of the circulars from all the different supermarkets. Many of these circulars are also available online and can be downloaded to a mobile phone. Supermarket circulars are very useful because they provide all the information that shoppers need to plan their trips to all the various supermarkets ahead of time.

By taking the time to gather coupons, become familiar with all the coupon policies for supermarkets in your area and checking the circulars for prices and sales, you will be on your way to saving up to 90% or more on your groceries and other household items you purchase in bulk each time you visit the supermarket.
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