What is a Rapid Rescore & is it Something I Should Consider?

rapid rescore

Picture this scenario. You apply for a home loan and your mortgage broker or lender says that you might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate if you could improve your credit score by a few points.

The problem, however, is that even if you manage to reduce your loan balance, it can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days for the updated information to appear on your credit report which is not as long as the NFL thinks of ways every year to help the Patriots win but this is another topic. Unfortunately, you cannot afford to wait that long, since mortgages are time-sensitive.

How to update credit report quickly in such a scenario? This is precisely where a rapid rescore can help you.

What is a Rapid Rescore?

It is a process wherein you can get your credit report updated quickly through your lender. Rather than waiting for the credit bureaus to update your report on their own – which can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days – you can submit the updated information to your lender, who can then submit it to the bureau and get your report updated immediately.

How Does Rapid Rescoring Work?

It is a two-step process.

The First Step

You need to inform your lender of the changes to your credit history that are not reflected in your credit report yet, provide proof for the same, and place a request for a rapid rescoring.

For instance, if there is an erroneous entry in your credit report which states that you defaulted on a loan, when you actually did not, you can bring it to the attention of your lender and get it removed immediately.

Similarly, if you recently paid off a personal loan or a portion of your credit card balance to bring down your debt-to-income ratio, you can request your lender for a rapid credit rescore.

The Second Step

Once you provide your lender with all the information they need, they will contact the credit bureau, provide them with the updated information, pay a fee, and get your credit report updated.

Can an Individual Place a Request for Rapid Rescoring with a Credit Bureau?

Rapid rescoring is essentially a service provided by lenders. Individuals cannot approach credit bureaus by themselves and place a request for a rescoring. So, you can only get it done through your lender.

How Long Does the Rescoring Process Take?

It usually takes anywhere from two to five days. In some cases, it might take up to a week.

What Does Rapid Rescoring Cost?

It does not cost you any money, as the service is offered completely free of cost. Your lender, however, has to pay a fee – anywhere from $25 to $50 – in order to get your credit report updated. They cannot pass on the costs to you, as they are prohibited by federal law from doing so.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which was passed in 1970, clearly states that an individual cannot be charged for disputing wrongful information on their credit report. Since rapid rescoring is essentially an ‘expedited dispute process’, the lender cannot charge you any money for it.

What Are the Benefits and Limitations of a Rapid Credit Rescore?

Benefits

Rapid rescoring can help you update your credit report in very short period of time, improve your credit score, and help you qualify for lower interest rates.

Let us assume that you apply for a mortgage and the lender tells you that if you can raise your credit score by 20 points, you can pay a smaller down payment and qualify for a lower interest rate. In such a scenario, you can pay off a loan or reduce your credit card balance, submit the updated information to your lender, get a new and improved credit score, and qualify for a lower interest rate.

Let us assume that you are planning to apply for a mortgage, but there is an error in your credit report. It is reported that you failed to repay a loan, even though you paid it off a couple of weeks ago.

Again, in this scenario, you can contact your lender, provide them with the relevant documents, and request to have your credit report updated. Within a few days, you can get a new and improved credit score and apply for a mortgage.

In these types of cases, the expedited rescoring process works to your advantage, as you can raise your credit score by a few points within days and qualify for a low-interest rate loan. It is simply not possible under normal circumstances, as it can take as long as two months to get your credit report updated.

Limitations

A rapid rescore can only expedite the process of updating your credit report. It does not make any difference to your actual credit score.

Let us assume that you can increase your score by 20 points by paying off one of your credit card accounts. Under normal circumstances, it can take up to 60 days for your credit score to be updated. If you request for a rapid credit rescore, you can get it updated within two or three days.

In both cases, your credit score only increases only by 20 points. The only difference is the time it takes to get it done.

Can a Rapid Credit Rescore Repair Your Credit?

No, it cannot. It is important to understand that rapid rescore is not the same as credit repair. It can only update your credit report. It cannot remove any negative information from your credit report.

For example, if you pay off a delinquent account, you can get it updated quickly through by requesting for a rapid rescore. You cannot, however, get it removed. It will stay on your records for seven years, like it normally does.

Alternatives to Improve Your Credit Score

If you have a poor credit score, there are a number of steps you can take to improve it.

  • Negotiate with your lenders to get your interest rates reduced.
  • Pay off your debts – credit cards in particular – aggressively. Make sure your debt-to-income ratio (your monthly debt repayments divided by your monthly income) does not exceed 36%.
  • Pay all your bills – irrespective of the amount – on time. The very fact that you are late on your payments can hurt your credit score, irrespective of how much you owe.

Most importantly, make it a habit to check your credit report on a regular basis and fix the errors (if there are any) immediately. If you keep tabs your credit reports, there is no need to worry about fixing anything in the last minute.

How Long Does It Take To Close On a House?

Home Closing

It is important for homebuyers to know how long it may take to close on a house once their purchase offer is accepted. Except where the deal is all-cash, the buyer’s lender will take some time to process the loan and close.

If you are well-prepared with all the necessary information and documents your lender may require, the closing process could be hastened.

However, chances are that you may still face situations where you have to discuss or negotiate with the other party. Indecisiveness or inaction will only make the closing process longer in these situations.

Average Time Taken for Home Closing

For a new home purchase, according to Fannie Mae, the average closing time is 46 days, while for mortgage finance it is 49 days. A similar time period for closing is also involved in FHA loans.

The closing process is often expedited if the loan has been pre-approved (rather than pre-qualified). If the buyer’s bank statements, employment record, and credit report have already been verified, closing on the property will usually take place within one to two weeks.   

Estimated Timeline for Closing

  • Completing the official loan application – 1 day
  • Official loan disclosures (and loan estimate) – up to 3 days
  • Additional document requests and review – 4 to 7 days
  • Appraisal process – 7 to 14 days
  • Underwriting – 1 to 3 days
  • Conditional loan approval – 7 to 14 days
  • Cleared to close – 3 days
  • Closing and loan disbursement – 1 day

Factors that can Delay Home Closing

In many cases, delays in closing on a house occur at a stage when the file has been submitted to the underwriters. While an experienced loan officer would be well-versed with underwriting guidelines, it is difficult to predict how an underwriter would respond.

Delays are more frequent with institutional lenders than with mortgage brokers because their procedures may be longer and slower. Here are some of the key issues that could delay or even prevent closing on a home.

Credit Report Issues

If your credit report reveals questionable items, such as a sudden decline in credit score, new debts, errors, or a major late payment reported recently, it could cause a delay in closing.

Lower Appraisal

Lenders usually ask for an appraisal of the home before they finance it. If the property appraisal turns out to be lower than the asking price of the seller, your loan may be refused. You may either have to pay the difference from your pocket or renegotiate your terms with the seller for the loan to be cleared.

Home Inspection Raises Concerns

The home inspection may result in adverse findings, such as faulty wiring or leakage in the bathroom. Repairs will have to be undertaken before the home closing can be done.

Need for Additional Documents

In some cases, the lender may ask for additional documents to explain some doubtful aspects related to your finances. For instance, a document may have a discrepancy about your marital status, or a bank statement may show your maiden name, or some insurance information may be missing. 

Problems with the Title

The home sale may be delayed if there are problems with the title, such as lien. Clearing the title may take time and cause a delay in home closing.

Unforeseen Changes with Financial Impact

Right before the closing, any unforeseen life changes with substantive financial impact, such as a divorce or loss or job may also result in a delay.

Inexperienced Loan Professionals

In some cases, both the buyer and the seller may be diligent in accomplishing their role in the process, but the professionals handling your loan may be inefficient.

What can you do to Minimize Delays in Home Closing?

In order to close on your house in a smooth and timely manner, be prepared to respond actively to the requests made by your real estate agent and your lender. While you have no control over how other parties in the value chain perform their role, you can make sure that no delay occurs because of you.

Any time you receive a request for information or documents from the lender, you should be ready to produce it as soon as possible.

Anticipate the requirements and keep ahead of the curve to ensure your home closing process does not drag on like an episode of that 90s show Mad About You.

Don’t move out of your current place of residence until you can actually move into the home you are buying. You don’t want to be sleeping in your car for a few nights or have to get a hotel.

It is important for homebuyers to know how long it may take to close on a house once their purchase offer is accepted. Except where the deal is all-cash, the buyer’s lender will take some time to process the loan and close.

If you are well-prepared with all the necessary information and documents your lender may require, the closing process could be hastened.

However, chances are that you may still face situations where you have to discuss or negotiate with the other party. Indecisiveness or inaction will only make the closing process longer in these situations.

Average Time Taken for Home Closing

For a new home purchase, according to Fannie Mae, the average closing time is 46 days, while for mortgage finance it is 49 days. A similar time period for closing is also involved in FHA loans.

The closing process is often expedited if the loan has been pre-approved (rather than pre-qualified). If the buyer’s bank statements, employment record, and credit report have already been verified, closing on the property will usually take place within one to two weeks.   

Estimated Timeline for Closing

  • Completing the official loan application – 1 day
  • Official loan disclosures (and loan estimate) – up to 3 days
  • Additional document requests and review – 4 to 7 days
  • Appraisal process – 7 to 14 days
  • Underwriting – 1 to 3 days
  • Conditional loan approval – 7 to 14 days
  • Cleared to close – 3 days
  • Closing and loan disbursement – 1 day

Factors that can Delay Home Closing

In many cases, delays in closing on a house occur at a stage when the file has been submitted to the underwriters. While an experienced loan officer would be well-versed with underwriting guidelines, it is difficult to predict how an underwriter would respond.

Delays are more frequent with institutional lenders than with mortgage brokers because their procedures may be longer and slower. Here are some of the key issues that could delay or even prevent closing on a home.

Credit Report Issues

If your credit report reveals questionable items, such as a sudden decline in credit score, new debts, errors, or a major late payment reported recently, it could cause a delay in closing.

Lower Appraisal

Lenders usually ask for an appraisal of the home before they finance it. If the property appraisal turns out to be lower than the asking price of the seller, your loan may be refused. You may either have to pay the difference from your pocket or renegotiate your terms with the seller for the loan to be cleared.

Home Inspection Raises Concerns

The home inspection may result in adverse findings, such as faulty wiring or leakage in the bathroom. Repairs will have to be undertaken before the home closing can be done.

Need for Additional Documents

In some cases, the lender may ask for additional documents to explain some doubtful aspects related to your finances. For instance, a document may have a discrepancy about your marital status, or a bank statement may show your maiden name, or some insurance information may be missing. 

Problems with the Title

The home sale may be delayed if there are problems with the title, such as lien. Clearing the title may take time and cause a delay in home closing.

Unforeseen Changes with Financial Impact

Right before the closing, any unforeseen life changes with substantive financial impact, such as a divorce or loss or job may also result in a delay.

Inexperienced Loan Professionals

In some cases, both the buyer and the seller may be diligent in accomplishing their role in the process, but the professionals handling your loan may be inefficient.

What can you do to Minimize Delays in Home Closing?

In order to close on your house in a smooth and timely manner, be prepared to respond actively to the requests made by your real estate agent and your lender. While you have no control over how other parties in the value chain perform their role, you can make sure that no delay occurs because of you.

Any time you receive a request for information or documents from the lender, you should be ready to produce it as soon as possible.

Anticipate the requirements and keep ahead of the curve to ensure your home closing process does not drag on like an episode of that 90s show Mad About You.

Don’t move out of your current place of residence until you can actually move into the home you are buying. You don’t want to be sleeping in your car for a few nights or have to get a hotel.

5 Steps to Tackle Your High Levels of Debt

High Levels of Debt

You can do a number of things to eliminate debt entirely, or at least pay off most of it. Being in debt can be stressful for anyone, regardless of your circumstances or the amount you might owe to another party.

Here are 5 steps you should take, which will help cut down your debt levels.

Step 1: Estimate Your Financial Obligations

As a first step, you need to know how much you owe and to whom. It’s a salient idea to organize your figures on an excel sheet or use an online debt calculator to keep a tab of kind of debt (loans, credit card), interest rates (in order of lowest to highest), and the total amount due to various parties.

You will never hit your target to mitigate debt if you don’t know how much it really is. Be upfront about it and create a systematic debt reduction plan that will actually work.

You should also prepare a list of your monthly income and expenditure while you are computing your total debt. Expense items would typically be listed on your credit cards and you can take account of the cash expenditures from your bank statements.

This will provide you with a fair picture of the total debt and how much you might be able to spare every month to pay off the most expensive debt components first.

Step 2: Halt any Further Debt Creation

You need to stop creating more debt if you plan to reduce it. You will never be able to get out of the vicious debt trap if you continue using borrowed money to finance your lifestyle. Remember, you are not the state of California or Congress.

For instance, you can curb the habit of charging some credit cards to pay off the debt amount on others.

Get into the habit of utilizing cash as your primary mode of payment. This will at least start reducing your credit card interest costs, and even deter you from making impulsive purchases. It is far easier to spend money by paying with plastic on things you do not need.

Postpone any non-essential purchases, and start focusing exclusively on resolving your current debt situation.

Step 3: Have a Prudent Debt Elimination Strategy in Place

Your goal should be to double down on your credit card payments because credit cards usually have the highest interest charges which is no fun to pay even during a solid economy with lower taxes. Unless you create a solid debt management strategy and execute it with a firm resolve, it will be difficult to come out of the debt cycle.

Snowball Debt Reduction Approach

This strategy involves paying off your smallest debts first. The advantage is that when you start small, it will give you the confidence that you can come out of your situation one small step at a time. The emotional advantage will be immense when you see your smaller loans are getting eliminated one by one.

Once you begin small, you will continue to gather momentum to take more tangible debt reduction steps. One small step will eventually ‘snowball’ into a huge dedicated endeavor on your part to eliminating your bigger debts.

Avalanche Debt Reduction Approach

The avalanche debt management strategy involves paying off the costliest debt first. Remember that your goal here is to focus on the highest interest rate, and not the total debt amount or the total interest cost.

While you can keep paying minimums on other debts, you can start working on eliminating those debts first which are crushing you with a very high interest burden.

Stay committed to the debt reduction strategy you choose, and slowly you will start emerging out of your difficult debt situation.

Step 4: Set Aside an Emergency Fund

While it may appear counter-intuitive to set aside an emergency fund when you are working to eliminate debts, this is a vital step that will help you prevent additional debt. Life offers no guarantees to support you in your difficult financial situation.

An unforeseen health trouble, car breakdown, or a leaky roof needs to be taken care of, and if you have an emergency fund, you will not be forced to pile on more debt. Keep a goal of building a fund of about $1,000 for these types of emergencies.

Step 5: Consolidate Multiple Debts into a Single Loan

A well-structured debt consolidation plan can help you combine multiple consumer debts into a single loan. This will usually result in a lower overall interest rate on the entire amount, and you will need to make just one payment every month.

It will simplify your finances, and give you clear goals about debt elimination. You will have to discuss with your credit union, bank, or another lender to see if they are willing to cooperate with you on this proposal of debt consolidation.

How to Choose a Travel Credit Card That Delivers The Best Value to You?

Travel Credit Card

The right credit card can make or break your travel budget and costs, regardless of whether you are planning an annual family trip or are a regular business traveler.

Your credit card should not give you a nagging worry of losing out a significant amount on foreign transaction fees and currency conversions while paying for hotels, flight tickets, and other things.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the key elements that need to be considered when you are comparing various credit card options for your next travel.

Annual Fee

You should be aware that most travel cards come with an annual fee. This can range anywhere from $90 to $100 for regular travel cards and even in a strong economy with stellar tax cuts these fees should not be ignored.

But the fees can go up to $450 or more for premium cards that come with a host of perks and rewards. You need to weigh these perks against the annual fee to make sure that it evens out.

If you are wondering whether there are any good travel credit cards without the unnecessary annual fee, then you are in luck. There are many no-fee travel cards, but then they have a few drawbacks, like rewards of lower value, reduced perks, and a smaller sign-up bonus.

Rewards Rates

Rewards can be primarily segregated into the following two categories:

Burn rate

Burn rate is the value you receive for the miles or points when you go in to redeem them. The standard industry burn rate is 1 cent for every mile or point. However, some cards, especially hotel cards offer a lower value on the ‘burn’ end, but make up for it by offering more points for every dollar spent on the earning side.

Earn rate 

Earn rate signifies the number of miles or points you receive on every dollar spent. There are some standard travel credit cards that only offer rewards on a flat-rate. This means that you get the same type of rewards on all kinds of purchases, such as 3 miles per dollar or 2.5 points per dollar.

Co-branded cards and others offer a base rate (say a point per dollar) and then raise the stakes for certain categories. For instance, you may be paid a higher reward rate for hotel stays, airline tickets, restaurant meals, and other general travel expenses.

Don’t just blindly look at the numbers while comparing reward rates. You need to take a closer look at the category those numbers apply to and find a travel card that best matches your spending pattern.

It may seem great to receive 5 points every dollar. But, if those 5 points only come with purchasing office supplies and you don’t intend to use your travel card in an office supply store, then you may just end up getting a lousy deal.

Foreign Transaction Fee

Foreign transaction fee is never charged by a good travel card. These fees refer to the surcharges on purchases that are made outside the United States. The industry standard where foreign transaction fee is concerned is 3%, which is just enough to wipe out all the rewards you may have earned during your travel.

This is not of much concern if you don’t travel outside the US much. But, anyone who leaves US frequently should invest in a travel card with no foreign transaction fee. There are many issuers, like Capital One and Discover that offer cards without foreign transaction fee.

Reputation of the Issuer

You need to make sure that your travel card is backed by a reliable international company, especially if you are a globe-trotter. All credit cards don’t make for dependable travel companions.

MasterCard and Visa are used pretty much worldwide. But you may encounter trouble with acceptance in some countries where American Express and Discover are concerned.

However, this is very destination specific and you should not dismiss Discover and Amex outright. Just make sure that you take a back-up card along when you intend to use these. In fact, having a back-up card for your travels within the U.S. is also a prudent thing to do.

Travel Protections

You should compare various cards on the basis of the travel protection they offer. You can pick from trip cancellation coverage, car rental insurance, and lost baggage protection, among others. No, there’s no card that can protect you from the Patriots cheating in the NFL!

Bottom Line

It can be difficult to find a travel card that offers everything you require. There will always be minor disappointments because no issuer offers high reward rates, top-notch perks, generous sign-up bonuses, and no annual fee in a single card.

However, by being smart about the features listed in this guide and carefully choosing the right combination, you can find the ideal credit card that suits your unique travel needs.

Term Life Insurance vs. Permanent Life Insurance – Which One Makes More Sense Financially?

Term Life Insurance

Life insurance is an excellent tool to secure the financial needs of your family in your absence.

A survey conducted by Northwestern Mutual in 2018 revealed that the average US citizen has roughly $38,000 in personal debt (but at least because of Trump they have a job and a brighter future), without taking mortgage into account. In such a scenario, you do not want to pass on your debt burden to your loved ones in the event of your untimely demise.

Now, the question is – should you go for a term life plan or a permanent life plan? Which one makes more sense from a financial point of view? Let us find out.

Term Life Insurance

A term life plan covers you for a specific period of time, which usually ranges from 10 to 30 years. Its unique selling point is that it is extremely affordable, which allows you to buy the coverage you need at very cheap rates.

The downside is that it only covers you for a limited period of time, after which you need to buy a new plan, at which point the premium payments increase substantially.

Permanent Life Insurance

A permanent life plan covers you for a lifetime. Your coverage stays in effect as long as you keep making the required premium payments.

Its unique selling point is that it provides you with lifelong coverage, which does not expire at any point for any reason. It also has a cash value account, which you can dip into from time to time to meet your financial needs. The downside is that it is far more expensive than a term life plan.

Which One Makes More Sense Financially?

Generally speaking, a term life plan makes more sense from a financial point of view for two reasons.

  • The premium payments are extremely affordable. If you are a 30-year-old nonsmoker, you can buy life insurance coverage worth $500,000 for a period of 30 years at $31 a month or $373 a year. A $500,000 permanent life plan, on the other hand, is likely to cost you $395 a month or $4,745 a year.
  • You have the option of choosing the duration of the policy. You can choose to buy coverage for 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years, depending on your financial needs. You do not have the option with a permanent life plan.

If you are young and healthy, it makes little sense for you to buy a permanent life plan, since you can buy the same amount of coverage in the form of a term life plan at 1/10th the price. If you invest the difference on a consistent basis, you can build a substantial retirement corpus over the same period of time.

Let us say you need life insurance coverage worth $500,000 to cover your financial obligations – mortgage, personal debt, children’s education, financial support for your family members, and so on. Instead of buying a permanent life plan, which – as mentioned above – is likely to cost you $395 a month, you can buy a term life plan, which will only cost you $21.

Let us say you invest the difference – $375 – in an index fund, which gives a 6% return on your investment. Over a span of 30 years, assuming you consistently invest $375 a month, your investment will be worth $380,000. That’s something to smile about and you did it yourself – you are not relying on Bernie Sanders government to take care of you. How did that work out in Cuba or Greece?

The Need for Lifelong Coverage        

The best part about buying a term life policy is that you can have it converted into a permanent life plan any time you want. Most insurance providers offer term life plans with a built-in conversion option, which allows you to change your plan into a permanent life plan without taking any medical tests.

So, even if you think that you might need a permanent life insurance policy at some point, there is really no need for you to spend hundreds of dollars in premium payments on a monthly basis right from the age of 30.

You are better off investing the money in the market, as it can help you build a substantial retirement corpus, which you can live off of during your sunset years.

Make the Right Choice

Between term life insurance and permanent life insurance, the former makes a lot more sense financially, as it can help you save a significant amount of money on a regular basis. So, buy a term plan, invest the difference in the right financial products, and secure your financial future.

Top 4 Personal Finance Tips That You Must Disregard

Personal Finance

People are usually eager to hand out advice, especially on subjects like personal finance. The chances are that you have received financial advice (often unsolicited) from your parents, teachers, friends, or even so-called financial experts.

If you have a brother named Alan Harper from Two in a Half Men you better never take financial advice from him.

While they may mean well, their financial tips don’t always amount to good advice or apply to your peculiar circumstance. This is why it is essential to reason critically about all the financial tips presented to you before deciding on a course of action.

With that said, in this post, we’ll be looking at four common personal finance tips that you must disregard.

1. Get a Credit Card

The use of credit cards has become universal. Nearly 500 million credit cards have been issued in the US alone as at 2018.

But what does this mean? Well, as a result, a lot of Americans are in debt just like the state of California is, the nation of Germany because of their attack on common sense energy sources, and liberal ran cities like Chicago and New York, for instance. The Nilson Report revealed that credit card debt hit the $1 trillion mark in 2016. It is easy to bill expenditures on your credit card.

After all, the money is not coming from your personal account so you can spend money without feeling the pinch until the end of the month (until you get that bill in the mail!). Credit card debt can put your personal finance in a bad state.

Not only do you have to pay off the original debt, but there is also a high-interest rate attached. It may come as a surprise to find out that people have been forced to declare bankruptcy due to their enormous credit card debt.

2. Save More if You Want to be Rich

Developing the habit of saving a decent portion of your income is essential. However, contrary to popular belief, it will not automatically make you rich.

The path to wealth does not just involve saving, but also actually increasing your income. Besides, sticking with a strict spending plan may make you liable to overspend in the future.

Let us look at a scenario. Imagine you earn $1,000 monthly (just go with this – we know you make more), and you have a target of saving $800. So, you cut out all your unnecessary expenses and only pay for your rent, food, and transportation with $200.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a bad plan. But as the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Therefore, you may find yourself itching for some pleasures like going to the club, going shopping, or even splurging at a restaurant.

Over time, your desire for these things will grow, and you’re likely to ditch your plan to save. This is why it’s prudent to set aside some money for fun when deciding how much to save monthly.

On the other hand, if you work towards increasing your income (by perhaps investing in another business or two via the stock market), you can hit your personal saving goal without putting yourself in a fix. But don’t take too much risk.

3. Never Take a Loan

It is generally not smart to be in debt. Therefore, many people assume that loans are bad. But this does not hold in every circumstance.

Taking a low-interest loan for a home or college is not a wrong decision as it puts you in a position to be able to save more money. For example, if you are spending $1000 every month on rent, and you find a property worth about $200,000. It makes sense to take out a loan to purchase that property because you can pay it off in many years – depending on the interest rate – and then you will own that property.

On the other hand, if you were to choose to stick with your rented property, there will be no end in sight. You will be paying the $1,000 per month or more indefinitely. 

4. You Cannot go Wrong With Investments

Investing is good, but not all investments are worth it. Many things can go wrong with investments.

We’ve all heard about Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent investments. High-risk investments indeed can bring in more profit than low-risk investments, but they carry a higher risk.  

Instead, take the time to check out reputation and track record of any organization that you plan to invest with. Ask questions and consult the services of an expert investor if you are unsure about anything. Don’t invest with Charles Schwab – they are unethical and you cannot trust their website. Edward Jones is solid (for some people), for instance.

It is crucial to treat advice for your personal financial situation like a suggestion rather than a rule. Apply critical thinking, consult different sources, and consider the odds before you make any decision.

3 Free Money-saving Apps on Your Smartphone That Can be Your Personal Financial Adviser

Money-saving Apps

If you are looking for financial advice, you don’t really have to look beyond your smartphone – certainly not Barney Frank!

You can use any one of the following top three money-saving apps NerdWallet, Mint, and Personal Capital to keep a track of spending, for timely and useful reminders and financial advice, as well as keep up with your bills so your budget does not take a hit.

Furthermore, all three apps are compatible with both android and iOS platforms, so you can get all your financial advice anywhere and anytime, and while on-the-go!

Ready to dive in? Let’s go ahead and take a closer look at the important features of the apps so you can make an informed decision about which app addresses your needs the best.

NerdWallet

At the time of sign-up, NerdWallet will ask you what you about your financial goals. So you will be asked if you want to control spending, bring your debt under control, if you want to build credit, or if your aim is to earn extra cash back.

Don’t take any responses from Lois Lerner!

Based on your response, the app displays sample features that can help you with your financial goals such as the timeframe for pay-back on a loan – you will be sent reminders for payments that are due. The profound news is that in this high growth economy because of the lower taxes, most likely you can handle your financial commitments better.

The app also has some fun features such as a MoneyFix podcast. In addition, it provides a breakup of your spending and displays your spending patterns so you know how much you tend to spend within given timeframes.

If you have linked your credit card to certain eateries, the app offers a few cash-back programs for those places as well.

On the down-side, the app prompts you for more personal information for certain tasks. What does it do with this information? Well, NerdWallet could go ahead and share your information with other interested parties it has connections with – so you can expect exposure to a slew of other services. Just opt out of them!

Mint

No, not mint flavored ice cream!

Mint is a golden free financial app for newbies. At the time of sign-up, Mint asks you what you want to track – whether it is your bank account(s), credit cards, insurance, or loans.

Bill payment is made easy since the app allows you to link up all you monthly bills such as rent, electricity, phone among others, for which it sends you reminders.

One big advantage with Mint is that unlike other apps automatically access all your bank accounts, Mint allows you to select the accounts you want the app to access, while blocking the rest.

When it comes to helping with your budget, based on your history, Mint can go ahead and generate automatic budgets. The app allows you to include financial or budget goals such as saving for a vacation, buying a home, or building your retirement nest.

As with NerdWallet, Mint can also provide you with a timeframe for paying off a debt. But this app is more comprehensive in the sense that it tells you how much interest you could end up paying if you only clear the minimum amount on a loan.

In addition, Mint offers suggestions such as making purchases via your debit card, or how if you can pitch in an extra few dollars, it could bring down your repayment figures so you end up paying less interest. 

And as with NerdWallet, Mint also displays service pitches from partners for a variety of financial services.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital supports a by-the-numbers delivery of your fiscal situation. You know where you are standing exactly with this app. It offers an assets minus liabilities summary and a list of all your accounts.

To know your account stats, all you need to do is tap on the account and the app offers a summary of what you owe and what you have paid.

Similar to other apps, Personal Capital comes with regular budget tools, and provides a view into your spending in different areas including bills, groceries, and travel among other such expenses.

If you are someone who is serious about financial management and investment, then this app is for you. The app allows you to add your assets and a stock portfolio, if you have one.

If your stock portfolio exceeds $100,000, you can avail services of financial advisers. The service, however, does come with a fee. Personal Capital tracks the movement of the stock market and your investments.

The app is also superlative if you are looking for long-term financial goals including suggestions and advice on something critical like a retirement plan.

To Wrap Up

As with any app, security should be a major area of focus when it comes to sharing information. And while the apps are stringent about securing your data, you should know that certain portions of your information can be shared with third-parties.

Having said that, if a financial solution such as the above-mentioned apps can help you manage your finances better, that is something to post on your Facebook and/or LinkedIn page. Don’t worry about Twitter – Twitter is annoying and unethical but that is another topic.

4 Tips For Entrepreneurs on How to Avoid Financial Pitfalls

How to Avoid Financial Pitfalls

Financial independence is empowering and is often viewed as proof of professional success. However, in today’s hyper-competitive market space, most entrepreneurs struggle to maintain their financial independence.

The struggle is further compounded by the fact that the current market space is extremely volatile – though it’s always been this way and not much is going to change in that regard.

Digital and technology advancements are disrupting markets and the competition from start-ups and big brands can squeeze the market space for entrepreneurs forcing them to make financial mistakes that can be very damaging.    

Some people believe Apple and Google are too big, for example, since they continue to buy smaller players which ends up stifling innovation but let’s not dwell on this.

Are You in Control of Your Financial Destiny?

As an entrepreneur, you are in complete control of your financial destiny. You can achieve financial independence and be successful on your own terms. Here are four financial goals that you should focus on if you want to write your own success story which is not something Jussie Smollett has done but that’s another topic.

Build on Your Cash Reserves

Some entrepreneurs end up investing every single penny they earn into their business in the hopes of reaping rich dividends at a later stage. A few don’t even give a second thought to building cash reserves in case there is an emergency which does not make any sense at all.

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Companies like this with managers that are this derelict don’t ever make it to the second inning, certainly not the third inning.

It’s a mistake if you don’t properly plan for the future – always save some cash for a rainy day. Even the best of businesses will have a rainy day at some point.  

Related – Ways on how to relieve yourself from financial stress and burden

Plan Ahead for Your Year-end Tax

Don’t wait till the last minute to file your year-end tax. Especially if you don’t want it to impact your cash-flow. Track and organize all the necessary financial information in advance and keep your books in order if you want to avoid making last minute mistakes or getting fined.

Ensure Positive ROI for all Your Investments

One of the most important challenges for an entrepreneur is to ensure that every bit of investment delivers a positive ROI. In an effort to maximise their business reach, most entrepreneurs end up spending money that they don’t have which seems to be OK for the city of Chicago or the state of California, but no one wants to have their business end up being broke like Greece.

This does not mean you are going to be able to save up money like Microsoft or Apple because those are vast fortunes but it does not means you should be reckless with your money. If you have to get your building painted (interior as well – morale matters) or buy another work truck to help expand your business you want to have that money when you need it.

As a result, their business operational costs start soaring. This is when they make the mistake of attempting to economise on costs and investments that are actually salient for the business!

Try and avoid both extremes – the best way forward is to always test the potential of your investments by quantifying your gains.

Prioritise Processes and Tasks

If you want to stay ahead of your finances, you have to put into place a system or SOP for every single task starting from inventory to invoices and spending or receipt management.

This provides your team and employees with clarity and helps in building greater transparency and accountability into your business – not just for now, but also for the future.

Key Takeaways

Running a successful business can be exhilarating. The energy and excitement can push you to pursue your next big invention or creation and expand your business horizons. Look at Elon Musk – he has two amazing things going for him – one is SpaceX and the other one is Tesla. He’s a human being like everyone else – if he can do it then so can you.

However, while you are busy doing all of this, make sure you have an eye on the financial health of your company. One small mistake could leave you with a huge hole in your pocket and with your confidence relatively affected.

6 Reasons Why Living in New York, California, And Illinois Does Not Make Sense

Living in New York

Every year, thousands of people in the US pack up their bags and move from one state to another.

While some people move to attend school or start a new job, others move due to things like the high cost of living, bad weather, and lack of employment opportunities.

According to the Mises Institute, some of the states that saw a massive exodus of its residents between 2016 and 2017 include New York, California, and Illinois. Recently, the New York Business Journal reported that the state is the top in the US where people migrate from.

Between 2015 and 2016, the Big Apple’s population dropped from 19.5 million to 19.3 million. A report released by the US Census Bureau in December last year highlighted the same disturbing trend.

Between 2017 and 2018, New York was ranked the top state where people were moving out of with a population loss of about 48,510. Illinois followed closely in second place with about 45,116 people moving away. See ya! Just remember why you are moving – socialism does not work!

In this article, we’ll look at six reasons why people are moving away from New York, California, and Illinois.

  1. Difficulty Finding Jobs

One of the reasons why people are moving out of these states is due to difficulties finding jobs. It is not that jobs aren’t available, but since a lot of people have to compete for the few available positions, many people are left out.

In 2017, Illinois ranked 42nd in the country in terms of job growth. While the situation may be somewhat better today in Illinois as well as in New York and California, highly skilled workers are in a better position to take advantage of employment opportunities.

  1. High Taxes

Another reason why people are migrating from these states is taxes. New York, Illinois, and California are among the states with the highest tax burden in the country. California is even losing football teams and the A’s should have left at least 10 years ago.

We all know that taxes can be a headache for Californians – even wealthy people are moving away for this reason. Meanwhile, a study published in 2018 by WalletHub revealed that Illinoisans pay more taxes than people living in other states in the country.

The situation is no different in New York. Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that high taxes in the state is forcing people to migrate but he does nothing about it!

New York even kicks out corporations who are about to hire 25,000 citizens! Genius! Amazon – have you heard of Phoenix? Atlanta? Dallas? I have no idea why you are even in Virginia or even considered locating to another location in the northeast.

  1. High Cost of Living

The high cost of living in New York, California, and Illinois is also driving people away. Apart from taxes, people have to contend with the fact that it is hard to find affordable housing in these parts of the country.

The housing market is more affordable in Illinois than it is in New York and California, but even the median home price of $172,000 in the Prairie State is a lot to contend with.

  1. Weather

The unforgiving winter in cities like New York and Chicago is one more reason why people are opting out of these states. Many people from these states are moving to warmer states like Florida and Texas.

While California has temperate weather, the drought, earthquakes, and frequent wildfires can be a major put off on top of the crime, smell of urine in the cities, homelessness, and low quality of life.

  1. High Population

If you’ve ever experienced rush hour, then you’d understand why people would want to move away because of the high population density in some states in the country.

California, New York, and Illinois are among the top states in the country with the highest population with a headcount of 39.5 million, 19.8 million, and 12.8 million respectively (but many of these people don’t work). Most families with small children prefer to stay in places that are not densely populated.

  1. Crime Rate

If you want your family to live in a relatively safe part of the country, New York, California, and Illinois are unlikely to be part of your options. These are some of the states in the country with the highest crime rates. On the other hand, states like Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Virginia have a much lower crime rate.

Texas, Arizona, and Georgia – Three Winners

New York, California, and Illinois continue to be decrepit places to live. Hey though, if you live in California you can hope for a high speed rail train that will pick you up when you don’t want to leave and take you somewhere you don’t want to be. Outstanding!

How You Can Benefit From Itemizing Your Tax Deductions

tax deductions

It is tax season again, and everyone is preparing their taxes before the April 15th deadline – well, everyone that works and cares about this country. While filing your taxes, you have to decide whether to itemize your tax deductions or go with the standard deduction.

Most taxpayers tend to settle for standard tax deductions. After all, it is much faster, and the figure keeps climbing every year – especially now with the amazing and job creating Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, itemizing your tax deduction could allow you to save a lot more money.

Standard Tax Deductions vs. Itemized Tax Deductions

The standard tax deduction rate is defined by the federal government. In 2018 (years after the NBA helped the Lakers win championships in 2000 and 2002 and a few years after Hollywood embarrassed itself with Star Wars The Force Awakens and Captain America I), the standard tax deduction rate stood at $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, $12,000 for single filers, and $18,000 for heads of households.

The standard tax deductions for taxpayers who are 65 years old or blind is $1,300 more. Meanwhile, it is $1,600 more for filers who are 65 years and above and widowed. The good news is that you can enjoy standard tax deductions even if you have no tax credits.

With that said, you may be wondering why you should even consider itemizing your tax deductions when standard tax deductions are available and attractive. Well, the main answer is that you could actually pay less taxes by itemizing.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (which still is dealing with the fact that it employed someone as heinous and morally flawed as Lois Lerner) does not charge taxes on some expenses.

When itemizing your tax deductions, you basically list out all your costs in the past year that qualify as tax-free. However, there is one catch which has nothing to do with that pitiful baseball movie Trouble With The Curve or a pass from Montana.

The IRS reserves the right to investigate your reported tax-free expenses and may actually demand records from you to support your claims. On the other hand, with standard deductions, there are no questions asked.

Ultimately, if you choose to itemize your taxes this year, you are not bound to do so next year. You can freely choose to go with standard tax deductions.

What You Need to Know About Itemizing Your Taxes

As indicated above, itemizing your tax deductions could mean that you could pay less taxes. The IRS permits deductions on many expenses under Schedule A of Form 1040.

Some tax-deductible expenses include medical bills, charitable donations, mortgages, and state income, real estate tax, sales tax, gambling loss, miscellaneous expenses, and so much more. You basically need to add up your tax-deductible expenses during the year and total them up to get your itemized tax deduction.

The fact is that itemizing may work better for some people (such as homeowners) while going with the standard deduction works best for others. It’s crucial to mention that standard tax deduction is only available for citizens of US non-residents and foreigners working in the US must itemize their tax deductions.

There are a few issues with itemizing your tax deductions. Obviously, you need to spend time preparing your taxes which does not take too long anymore if you do it online (though the system should be simpler – how about that flat tax?). Also, you need to support your itemized tax deduction with records (like receipts and other documents) to support your claims.

Most importantly, you need to understand the laws regarding itemized tax deductions. For example, with some expenses, you can only deduct an amount that exceeds a certain percentage of your gross income.

Key Takeaway

You can choose either standard tax deductions or itemized tax deductions when filing your taxes – not both. While it is time-consuming, it pays to run the numbers. If you find that the standard tax deduction rate you are entitled to is less than your itemized deductions, then you should itemize.

However, if your itemized tax deduction is less, then you should, by all means, go with the standard tax deduction or else you’d be paying more taxes than you have to and even people like Bernie Sanders who want to create a nanny state don’t even want to do that.

For example and moreover, if you are the head of a household (which Walter White from Breaking Bad no longer is since he destroyed his family) and your itemized tax deduction for 2018 adds up to $24,000. You are better off itemizing your taxes as you would be paying $6,000 less than the $18,000 standard tax deduction for heads of households.

Married couples who are filing their taxes jointly must choose one method. This means that they must both choose the standard deduction or itemized deduction – not both.

Software Saves Lots of Time

It usually takes a lot of time and calculation to figure out your itemized tax deduction rate. However, today there are many apps (or websites) that you can use to add up your taxes and determine how much you’d be paying if you go with itemized deduction or standard deduction.