Why You Should Start Your Day Off with the Morning Brew

Is there anything better than waking up and drinking your first cup of coffee? Waking up, drinking your morning brew, while reading The Morning Brew! 

I don’t typically stay subscribed to very many email newsletters. I’ll sign up, read a few of the daily emails, then unsubscribe because 1) they just don’t interest me, or 2) the amount of ads they try to sell me makes it all seem a bit inauthentic. The Morning Brew was different – it surprised me.

I stumbled upon the Morning Brew a few months ago and I can say for a fact that it has positively impacted my life. The free and short, 10-minute-read daily email, gives me much more than I ever expected: stock market recaps and highlights, up to date and unbiased business news from across the globe including who acquired who, current events, deals and lawsuits in the industry, and all related financial woes and wins. On top of all that, they use witty writing to keep it light. A major plus.

If you are/were a business or econ major, or if you are just interested in what’s going on in today’s business landscape (including all things media, auto, crypto, CBD, etc.), this is your one-stop-shop to know what’s happening now.

Sponsored: Morning Brew – Your 5-minute news update, with a sense of humor. Sign up by clicking the banner below!

 Pros: 

  • You won’t waste time researching articles to determine if they’re credible or not. If it’s in the Morning Brew, it’s been fact checked and is not fake news.
  • You’ll be able to hang with your dad and his friends when they talk about the stock market and IPOs. Maybe even start investing on your own.
  • You’ll be able to start conversations about current events, in turn looking like the most interesting person at the bar. 

I can’t think of any cons.

Give it a shot and sign up today. It’ll only take 30 seconds, I promise. Then check it out tomorrow morning while you sip your morning brew. Let us know what you think!

Top Accounting Software For Small Businesses

Numerous software solutions for accounting are available in the market, each with its unique features, and which cater to the specific needs of small and medium businesses. This has made the accounting software development industry a highly competitive one and any standard modules includes general invoicing, ledger management, as also payment processing.

This software is vital in America since America still has a tax system that is ludicrous and puts people in boxes and divides this country up. OK, let’s get back on track here….

These key features apart, the ones that claim top position in the market do so by virtue of their integration and compatibility; ease of use; and more importantly, security. For smaller businesses particularly, using a cloud-based software is more advisable.

These accounting software allow you to customize processes, integrate third-party apps and also scale pricing based on the business’s current needs. These accounting solutions are moreover, helpful to all small businesses during times of regulatory upheavals.

For example, when the FASB or Financial Accounting Standards Board and/or the IASB or International Accounting Standards Board finalize any new revenue standard from contracts with your customers, most accounting systems need updating to match such freshly set standards. With a cloud solution, the vendor takes care of the system upgrade. The following are the leading accounting software for small businesses:

Freshbooks: By far the most popular leader among small business accounting software solutions. Reasonably priced and comes with great customer support. Known for its scale depth, Freshbooks also comes with expense management and time tracking.

It has also cloud invoicing, payment processing and reporting among its features as also an extremely reliable API with add-ons for tax management. A highly responsive, clean interface mobile app makes it accessible to iPhones, Android and users of the mobile web. You also get the most advanced security tools like HTTPS and data backup for multiple locations. A free trial plan is also available.

QuickBooks Online: Yet another vastly popular accounting software for small businesses. Its intuitive interface along with multiple scalable functions makes end-to-end accounting operations much simpler and more than a few million users will vouch for that. The system is empowered to automatically sync the business’s total finance profile to a single dashboard. This enables multiple users to view in-depth accounts and reports of the company.

It also creates trading and profit & loss accounts and invoice and billing solutions that are completely mobile compatible as also print friendly. You get over forty reports that include the cash flow statement, profit & loss account statement, balance sheet, budgeting capabilities and inventory management. However, its only drawback is ample customer support and a QuickBooks-certified accountant may be required to optimize the software.

Xero: In terms of its virtues, Xero is somewhat similar to QuickBooks Online, particularly as far as the feel and interface are concerned. Xero’s greatest advantage is its ability to integrate with a Mac.

Unlike other accounting solutions that come only with a plugin, Xero comes with a Mac module for connecting natively with a Mac UI. Its other assorted features are an integrated payroll module, bank reconciliation, dashboard, expense claims, inventory, financial reporting, invoicing, and balance sheet. However, Xero doesn’t relate directly with US-based banks but offers a free trial nevertheless.

Wave:  By far the most popular basic accounting software for consultants, freelancers or any small business with a staff of nine or less. Wave is being widely used for recording daily office processes as also simpler financial reporting issues.

This includes preparation of the profit & loss account, balance sheet, receipts and invoices. It is also capable of managing direct deposits and payroll. It is however, somewhat handicapped to handle cash management because it lacks the ability to report cash flow or track payments and bills. It’s so basic by nature that complex transactions would need other accounting software to be tackled. Nevertheless, a salient freemium for businesses with really tight budgets.

Zoho Books: The popularity of Zoho Books is growing among micro-businesses because its app is well equipped with numerous basic accounting tools including customizable templates.

The most notable features of Zoho Books are: automatic payment notifications and bank feeds, facilities for online customer collaboration, reconciliation, invoice and time tracking, inventory management, API as also automated workflows. The Zoho business and productivity suite is an added advantage which natively integrates with more than 25 Zoho apps. Great customer support is also available by way of phone, knowledge base, online, and video tutorials. No free trials available.

It’s the commonality of their ease of use, android and iPhone compatibility, reasonable rates, sterling customer support, and security features that have singled out the above mentioned five accounting software solutions for small businesses in the current year.

What The Banks Don’t Want You To Know: Secret Financial Tricks Of Higher Finance

All of us are aware of the fact that banks and customers share a mutual relationship with one another. Just the way we need banks so does the bank need us.

But the problem is even if we think that our banks are looking out for us, they are not as transparent as we think them to be – we all remember those infamous words regarding the ACA health care law when we were told we could keep our doctor and we know how that turned out – that is not being transparent. Banks do not have a golden record here either.

In fact, there are numerous aspects of banking that is neither much known nor advertised and most customers are not aware of these banking secrets. Not even the NSA knows these secrets and they are supposedly everywhere right?

You will not always get the rate that is advertised

You might be feel that banks are offering a stellar rate but the truth is that not all customers get the rate that has been advertised. In fact, only a small percentage of customers are offered a low rate and the others are offered a higher rate of interest so that they can compensate for the low rate that was offered to certain other customers.

Banks make more money the more you swipe your card

Did you know every time you swipe your credit or debit card the bank is making money by charging the merchant some fees? There are promotional credit cards which will require you to spend a certain amount of money within a particular time frame so that you are eligible for a financial reward. You do not want to get a card like this. Why deal with it? Just stick with a debit card and watch the impulse buying.

Another aspect of using your credit card is that banks know for sure if the amount is around $1,000 or more you may not be able to pay off that purchase at that time. The result is that you will end up accruing some interest which in turn is a way for the bank to make more money.

This is another reason you want to pay in cash for most items. A car or a home is an exception (but if you buy a car with cash that is the way to go) but you certainly do not want to borrow money to pay for a flat screen, furniture, or some appliance unless it is an emergency. But this is not an ideal way to do things. You do not want to be paying more for items and you will be paying more if you do not pay in cash and buy the item you want outright.

If you cannot buy that item outright then wait until you can.

A closed checking account can be a salient and clever way for your bank to make some extra money

When you close a checking account you might feel that it is over. But that is not the case. It may so happen that you forget to switch over your auto-pay transactions. The result is that the closed account is charged anyway. The result is not at all pleasant because there are instances where customers end up paying heavy penalties, fees, and some of the cases are even turned over to collection agencies.

Banks have a tendency to make deposits last which many customers may not be aware of

For example, if you ever schedule a few payments (or one large payment) to go out on the same day you expect some money to come into your account to cover this expenditure your bank may do something that is slightly unethical. The bank will actually issue those payments before the money is deposited into your account. The result is you end up using the overdraft feature of the bank which in turn allows your bank to charge you overdraft fees.

Banks make money by selling insurance

When banks try to sell insurance to customers in lieu of some credit you take from them, it is actually a way to extract more money out of you. This is because if you go through the fine print of those insurance policies you will realize that it will not cover all the debt that you owe. Something you need to think about!

Lastly, we should consider what Bill Gates (who has had some positive discussions with Trump in 2017 but this is another subject) once said, “Banking is necessary; banks are not.”

What Do You Understand About Social Impact Investing?

Investing is a topic of interest for almost all of us. In some way or the other all of us are trying to find out the most suitable and lucrative investment options but we all know what happened with Peter La Fleur at the end of the hilarious comedy Dodgeball was ridiculous (he became rich that easily and quickly!) though this is another topic. For example and moreover, some of the most well-known options of investing your money include stocks, bonds, debentures, and real estate.

However, the decision to invest to a large extent depends on the amount of risk you are willing to take. You are not the federal government, you do not want to make an Obamacare or Solyndra type mistake! Those were both loser investments and the former continues to be – just see the national debt. It is true that investing helps you earn money which can be put to use at a later stage of your life. How about an investment which allows you to earn money while promoting a social good?

In fact, this is a new emerging trend in the world of investing and is known as impact investment.

What is social impact investing?

Social impact investing is an investment strategy that emphasizes on invoking a positive social impact along with suitable financial returns to an individual (unlike donating money to the Catholic Church or any church for that matter since that is just a straight donation with no return expected accept the return of knowing that donation is going to a righteous cause). However, this does not mean that social impact investment will mean giving money to a charity as just explained.

But at the same time it has strong philanthropic connections. The concept of social impact investment and socially responsible investment might have similar purposes but both these investment strategies are not the same thing. Social impact investment on the other hand is a kind of investment that has measurable impact either in social, economical, or environmental domains.

The term social impact investment had been coined in 2007 and it is not what Michael Moore or George Soros does since they promote anti American causes and interests which are the main reason inner city schools are in disarray, America is trillions in debt, ISIS exists, and so on but let’s get back on topic.

The two approaches to social impact investing

If you are interested in impact investment there are two options from which you can choose from. They are the following:

  • Impact first approach: With the impact first approach, the primary objective of an individual is to bring about some amount of social, economic, or environmental good. The ones who invest with the impact first approach are ever ready to sacrifice a considerable amount of their financial gains in order to satisfy the social cause first.
  • Finance first approach: A person who has invested with the approach of finance first focuses mainly on making considerable financial returns as they invest their money. The ones with this particular approach will tend to invest their money in companies, initiatives, or funds which in turn work towards augmenting positive social change, but their primary goal is to make money out of their investment.

Differences between social impact investment and socially responsible investment

Many a times you will hear that people are using terms like social impact investment and socially responsible investment interchangeably. But one needs to keep in mind that both these terms are not same. They might be similar.

The main difference between the two types of investment essentially lies in the approach of investment that is used. For example, the ones who make socially responsible investment screen companies based on certain positive and negative guidelines. To put it simply, socially responsible investing means putting your money in companies which are either known to be socially responsible or companies who do not do any irresponsible acts.

Social impact investing on the other hand does not categorize companies based on their positive or negative features. Rather, social impact investing tries to seek out investment avenues which renders a financial return along with measurable positive social, economic, or environmental benefits.

Another way of putting the difference between the two is that socially responsible investing emphasizes the philosophy of do no harm while social impact investing goes a step ahead. They aim at making a difference for the overall betterment of society.

The social impact investors are keener to measure the social or environmental impacts that their investment does compared to socially responsible investors. Social impact investors use IRIS metrics to measure the social, economic, or environmental impacts of the investment. The socially responsible investors on the other hand do not have any metrics to measure the positive impact that occurs because of their investments.

Areas of social impact investing

There are numerous sectors that might be targeted by social impact investors for making financial gains as well as a positive social impact. However, the most common are the following:

  • Education
  • Fair trade
  • Healthcare
  • Eco-friendly companies
  • Community development
  • Small business and micro-finance
  • Conservation and renewable energy
  • Sustainable products and agriculture

Last but not the least, it can be concluded saying that there is no reason to think that social impact investing does not offer high financial returns. This is because a considerable amount of data testifies to the fact that even social impact investing can be profitable.

How Much Do You Need to Retire Comfortably On?

In order to retire comfortably, the first thing you need to know is how much income your retirement funds are going to generate when you’re no longer going hard at it. That’s a moot point though. In fact, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to work this out.

The basic calculation

However, the general thumb rule is that about 80% of your income in the pre-retirement period will allow you to maintain a comfortable lifestyle after retiring. So, the first thing to do is to multiply your present income by 0.8 and make appropriate adjustments according to your preference to live frugally or lavishly after retirement. You can live moderately as well, of course!

The next step involves subtracting your other assorted sources of retirement income. You can calculate your social security benefit amount by visiting www.ssa.gov to view your latest statement. Take into account any expected annuities and/or pensions also. The figure that you get from these is the income required from your savings.

Then there’s 4% rule that will help you estimate how much is required in terms of savings to generate this income sustainably. Multiply your need for savings income by 25.

But do bear in mind that this step gives you a retirement figure in today’s economic scenario. Keep inflation at the average rate of 3% per year in the back of your head too. To work out the inflation factor, take 1.03, raising it to the power of the number of years you have until you retire. If it’s 15 years, 1.03 raised to 15 (1.03 ^ 15) will give you 1.56 (yes, you will have to find that funny button or sequence using your smart phone to determine this). Multiply this factor of 1.56 by the figure achieved from the previous step that will give you an appropriate idea of what your target for retirement savings ought to be.

More art than science

Contrary to popular belief, figuring out your retirement corpus is more of an art than mathematics or science. Your corpus will depend largely on your plans after retirement as also certain unpredictable and uncontrollable factors like health issues and future performances of your investments. It’s vital to know that those with a definite goal for retirement savings retire more comfortably than those who don’t have a sound goal kind of like America which is only damaging itself as it continues to pile on debt year after year (the previous president doubled our debt for example).

Finding your multiplier

The average retiree needs to save about 11-12 times their current salary for retirement to be reasonably confident that sufficient funds are available at the time of retirement. However, the fundamental problem with this method is that you may not have an exact idea of what you’ll be earning at the time of retirement. Thus, multipliers may be used based on your present income and age.

This in other words means you should already have put aside 1.4 times your current annual income when you are 35 years of age (so if you make $50,000 a year you should have $70,000 saved by this point, for instance); 3.7 times the then annual income when you are 45; 7.1 times the annual income at the time when you are 55 years of age and 12 times the income when you are aged 65 years.

However, if you haven’t reached your target already, don’t despair. Enhancing your savings rate may help you make up for any lost ground. If you live on 70% of your annual salary or work for a few extra years, you can cut the required savings levels to reach by 10% to 25%.

Experts opine that 70% of your annual pre-retirement salary put aside will allow you to live comfortably, provided mortgages have been paid off and you are in good health when you call it a day. However, should you plan to build that dream home or even go globe-trotting, 100% of your last annual income or maybe even more could be required.

You do not want to waste money like those irresponsible people did in that 90s show Party of Five! Wow, how can a group of people be so clueless?

Superannuation sums

Thus, making realistic and objective estimates about your would be expenses during retirement is absolutely necessary. Review your current expenses category and then work on how they are likely to change. According to average calculations, a couple could expect to have a ‘comfortable’ retired life if they have a superannuation sum of $535,000 at least, based on an ROI (return on investment) of 5% annually along with a Part Age Pension.

Should the ROI be 7%, then a superannuation sum of $400,000 at least would be required along with Part Age Pension. If a couple decide to invest more conservatively, a superannuation sum of $720,000 at least would be required if the ROI is on an average 3% per annum.

For someone who’s single, a ‘comfortable’ life is most like assured under the following circumstances:

  • Superannuation sum of $490,000 at least, assuming that investment returns will be 5% annually along with Part Age Pension.
  • Superannuation sum of $370,000 at least at 7% annual returns along with Part Age Pension.
  • A lump sum of $650,000 at least at 3% annual returns from more conservative investments.

What Are The Top 6 Ways To Generate Passive Income?

All of us are after income generation. Along with our regular source of income we are quite interested to find out other avenues to generate some extra income. One such option is to earn passive income.

What is Passive Income?

Passive income involves regular earnings from a source other than an employer or a contractor. To be more precise, it can be said that passive income can come from just two sources. Some of the examples are rental income or income from a business in which an individual does not have an active participation. Earnings from book royalties or dividend paying stocks are also examples of passive income.

However, one might think that earning a passive income is a lot easier. You can do that as you sip your mojito on a beachside shack or watch another amazing Transformers movie or something incredible like Sicario. But that is the not the case.

In order to earn a passive income you need to do some homework and also know that a considerable amount of effort will have to be involved. It is true to have a secondary source of income apart from the regular source of income. Nothing is free in this world despite what the left always says such as that things can be free. Someone has to work and pay for it. In this case, it is you. But there are long term benefits.

So before we turn our dreams into reality, we need to have an idea of some of the ways to earn a passive income.

The top 6 ways to earn passive income are the following:

  1. Dividend stocks: As far as passive income is concerned, dividend stock is a tried and tested medium to earn a passive income. However, before you invest in dividend stocks you need to carry out careful research to find out about some fantastic companies where you can invest a significant amount of money. In fact, if you go on investing money in stellar stocks for years on end you can accrue a considerable amount of residual income.
  2. Peer to peer lending: This is typically a practice to lend money to borrowers who do not qualify for traditional loans. When you become a part of peer-to-peer lending you can actually spread your investment and mitigate the risk factors. The benefit of such lending is that you can choose the borrowers and charge a high amount of interest. In this form of lending you will be able to charge an interest rate higher than 10% or more which is considerably more than the conventional interest bearing investments. The most popular peer-to-peer lending platform is the Lending Club.
  3. Rental properties: If you have a property that is suitable enough to be rented then it can be a salient way to earn passive income. In fact, you can outsource the upkeep of the property to a management consultant and then it becomes a true source of passive income. The best way to get started with rental properties is crowd funding. The bright concept about doing this through a platform instead of doing it alone is that the income becomes even more passive.
  4. Invest with a robo-advisor: In this method you put money into an account and allow an algorithm to manage your investments. It is called a passive income because the algorithm does all the work for you. It is the algorithm that keeps your profile balanced. The pleasant aspect about these robo-advisors is that the fees of maintaining an account are much lesser than that of an account that is managed by a person. The two key players in the world of robo-advisors are Wealthfront and Betterment.
  5. Put money into high-yielding savings account: It is true that the conventional savings account could be quite boring to earn some passive income, but they are also the safest. Online banks are doing well in the field of savings account. They give a lot better interest rates to the clients than the conventional banks to which we are used to. It is now possible to obtain a decent savings rate without having to lock away your money for a long period of time.
  6. Affiliate marketing: This is another effective source of passive income. Affiliate marketing involves partnering with a company so that you can receive commission on their products. It seems a poignant method for folks who have blogs or websites since they may have a better understanding of the virtual world than others. However, as far as affiliate marketing is concerned it takes a long time before it actually becomes a passive income.

Last but not the least, research anything well before you make an investment to pursue these ends and to build a passive income portfolio or to develop another source of income.

Should You Pay-off Your Mortgage or Invest the Money?

You are faced with a Hobson’s choice: Whether to pay off your mortgage or invest that money instead. A double-edged sword that works both ways. However, it’s truly a tricky problem to handle and to make a decision quickly becomes difficult and perhaps treacherous.

Benefits of Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

When you start making regular payments on your mortgage, you stand to save money – probably to the tune of thousands of dollars by way of interest costs. You also buy mental peace as you get to be the real owner of your home without any further liabilities. You are now confident that there’s a secure place for you to live in and won’t have to hit the streets if you suddenly find yourself unemployed which happened a lot for years because of the Barney Frank and Alan Greenspan recession which was continued by Obamanomics.

Moreover, you also reduce your living costs because in many cases, mortgage payments are the largest monthly expense post deduction of taxes. Without the liability of a mortgage payment, you save more, can work less, or take up that dream job you couldn’t afford but always wanted because of the lower pay. You also bid adieu to PMI or private mortgage insurance by accelerating the process of paying off your principal amount.

Your home equity reaches a point where PMI is no longer required. This helps you save money long before you pay off your mortgage and enhances chances of accelerating the principal pay-down while you continue to make the same payment on a month to month basis.

Then there is the added advantage of asset protection also. Many states have their own laws protecting home equity should there be a lawsuit or any other legal procedure.

Homestead rules provide substantial protection to home equity. Retirees sometimes use their home equity as a strategy for estate planning to protect their assets for a surviving spouse should one member use up all resources available due to an illness or by way of prolonged nursing care. In sum, there are numerous situations where home equity represents a more secured asset having its own special legal privileges as compared with other investments.

A home with a clear and free title is greatly significant for those on the verge of retirement. When you retire with a fixed income from your pension, social security, and fixed annuity, it can truly work to your benefit if you pay off all outstanding debt rather than investing your money in investments that fluctuate.

This enables you to substantially reduce your financial variables and reliably match forecasted income to expenses.

After retiring, moreover, the mortgage payment may require shifting funds from accounts that have been tax deferred when those funds would have been better off if left to grow on their own. Finally, should your taxable income get reduced after retirement, it may reduce the benefit of the tax deduction on the mortgage interest and tilt the equation in favor of the payoff.

Since the stock and real estate markets fluctuate, it’s more secure to invest in your home, knowing with certainty what your ultimate ROI is likely to be. You stand to get the imputed rental value of a living space as also the instant return of interest expense that has been eliminated.

The sureness of this particular return is a salient benefit for investors who may be disappointed with the unreliable returns from the financial markets. Last but not least, when you pay off your mortgage, it is a serious confidence boost that you did things right.

The Cons

On the flip side of the coin, however, even though the mortgage interest that you pay is deductible from your tax return, there are certain “caveats” to such deductions: The rules guiding deductions are somewhat complicated and you may receive a lower deduction than you thought of getting; in certain cases, your payments of mortgage interest merely replace the standard deduction and don’t provide for any real savings; even when you get a deduction, you’re still having to pay $1 to get 35 cents worth of tax breaks, which isn’t very lucrative; and the deduction’s effective value diminishes over time with the loan maturing and you end up a paying a lesser amount of interest with every payment.

Final Thoughts

You can invest in the market and pay off your home simultaneously. You can do both. It is not a zero-sum game. So perhaps you can breathe a little easier now. You do not have to pick and choose.

If you understand the stock market or have a prudent financial advisor (if there is such a thing – almost all of them missed the call on the tech bubble during the turn of this century) then invest some of your money (check out dollar cost averaging). You can have the best of both worlds but continue to make your monthly mortgage payments.

Top 5 Steps To Get Approved For Student Loan Refinancing

You need to refinance your student loan because you know it makes a lot of financial sense. In fact, when refinancing your student loan, the managing of payments becomes easier. But the problem is that you are not sure of the ways to get it approved. Nevertheless, you should not get into refinancing of your student loan before you are aware of a few preliminary steps just like Meet the Parents II and III, Zoolander I and II, and Jurassic World should not have been made before some preliminary checks.

Oh, they already were! Oh well!

What is refinancing of a student loan?

Refinancing of student loan means consolidation of the existing private and federal loan so that it could be consolidated into a new single loan which has a lower interest rate. The benefit is that you have to make lower monthly payments which in turn frees up some money that could be either saved or invested elsewhere.

What are the ways to get your student loan refinancing approved?

Almost all of you are aware of the fact that the criteria to obtain private student loan are pretty strict. This is because private lenders lend money at their own risk. They give loans to students believing that they have the capacity to repay the amount.

However, the lending criteria of one lender vary from the other and also the circumstance of the borrowers is also different from one another. Hence, when you apply for a student loan refinancing, the loan might either get rejected or approved. If it gets rejected you feel disheartened. So have a fair idea about the top 5 ways that could make the approval process of student loan refinancing easier.

  1. Credit Score: The credit score of an individual is considered as a measurement of financial responsibility. When you apply for a student loan refinancing, most likely is that the lender will evaluate the credit score to understand whether you meet your financial obligations or not. Usually a credit score of more than 600 seems good to go but to be on the safe side you should aim at having a credit score of more than 700.
  2. Income: In case of student loan refinancing it is most likely that the lender will scrutinize your income. They want to ensure that they have a steady monthly income and regular cash flow to ensure that the borrower will be able to make the monthly payments. So before you apply for a student loan refinancing you should carefully examine your sources of income. You need also find out whether after making the monthly payments for the loan do you have enough for other necessary expenses. In case you do not have an adequate monthly income you can increase the chances of your approval with a qualified co-signer.
  3. Other Debt: In case you have other debts like credit card payments, auto loans, or mortgages it might influence the approval process of your student loan refinancing. This is because lenders will be apprehensive whether you will be able to make the monthly payments after you have had met all other financial obligations. Hence, a better approach is to repay as much as you can from your existing debts before you apply for a student loan refinancing.
  4. Debt-to-Income Ratio: While you have applied for a student loan refinancing, the lender will obviously have a look at the debt-to-income ratio. It is a ratio of one’s total monthly earnings when compared to your monthly debt obligations. For instance, if you have a monthly income of $10,000 and $4,000 per month debt expenses in that case the debt-to-income ratio is 40%. In case, you have a higher debt-to-income ratio the chances of getting approval for your student loan refinancing dwindles. Thus, it is recommended that before you apply for the student loan refinancing option, you should either increase your income or lower your debt or both.
  5. Employment Status: When you are applying for a student loan refinancing it is important that you are either employed or have a written job offer in hand. It makes the approval easier. However, there are many private lenders who may offer you loans even when you are in school or residency, while most of the lenders will seek for some kind of work experience. In case, you have still not obtained a job getting your student loan refinancing approved can be quite difficult but you might give try with a co-signer.

The factors mentioned above may be a guideline to make the approval process of student loan refinancing easier but it does not guarantee a confirm approval. The final approval depends to a large extent on the lender, the borrower, and a lot of other factors that may be beyond your control. What is not beyond our control is lowering taxes and being business friendly which creates jobs which is what Texas has done but not New York or California but this is another topic.

Good luck on paying off your school loans! Hopefully you did not spend too much money on acquiring a degree that does not lead to a high paying career such as English, Humanities, Psychology, and so forth.

How to Save Money on Auto Insurance

The amount you pay for your auto insurance premium varies by a few hundred dollars. This principally depends on the type of vehicle you own and who your insurer is. However, you can certainly increase you savings when paying your auto insurance in the following ways.

Before buying the car, study insurance costs:  Before you buy a used or new car, check out its insurance cost. The premium will be based on the vehicle’s price, costs of repair, its overall past safety record, and its likelihood of getting stolen. And if you live in San Francisco, that could be even higher since that city leads the country in property crimes and it seems the people there do not even care but this is another topic!

You may also get discounts from insurers for any special feature that the vehicle has to reduce the risk of injury or theft. Safety rankings for certain models may be checked using the rating tool for top safety picks of the IIHS or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Look before you leap: That in other words means shop around. Premiums vary from insurer to insurer, so make a comparative study, getting at least four price quotes. Searching online is the best way to do it as you get all the quotes on a single Excel sheet and making a choice becomes easier and faster. Or else, call insurers directly or even the insurance department of your state which may give you some comparative premiums payable to the major auto insurers.

Prices, however, shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. Consult relatives and friends and take their advice, too. Working with an insurance agent or professional dealing in auto insurance will also get you the answers to all your questions.

Older cars can do with lesser coverage: Make sure to thoroughly review the total coverage you receive during the insurance renewal time to ensure that your insurance is in perfect sync with your specific and total requirements. For instance, if your vehicle’s worth is less than ten times the payable premium, turning the ignition (pun intended) for such coverage is not a sensible thing to do. In such cases, simply do away with comprehensive and/or collision coverage. The value of your vehicle is easily calculable online through various free sites such as Kelley, NADA, and TrueCar.

They will not count those nice rims on your car or the new paint job so these numbers may not be the full truth.

Higher deductibles lead to lower premiums: You pay a deductible before the insurance policy becomes officially operational. When you choose an enhanced deductible, you stand to lower costs significantly. However, if you select a higher deductible, be sure to keep enough cash aside to pay it out should a claim arise.

Reliable credit history: Anyone with a decent credit history gets many benefits, and this includes reduced insurance costs. The bulk of insurers uses your credit information to price their auto insurance premiums. Research, in fact, reveals that those who manage their personal credit levels effectively, also make fewer claims. To ensure that you get the deserved good credit, check your personal credit record regularly to be absolutely sure that all information contained therein is accurate.

If you are that rare cash payer and do not play the credit game, then do not worry about this aspect on saving money on auto insurance.

Let there be one insurer for your home and car: You could obtain a discount on the premium when you combine your home and auto insurance together or get more than one car insured with the same insurer. This multi-policy offer comes from many insurers for loyal customers and shopping around for such deals makes sense. Even if you buy from different insurers, these discounts may be available. So look around by all means.

You do not need to look around to see a movie when a Transformers movie is out though, they are all awesome!

Group insurance: Certain major insurers also offer premiums at reduced rates to drivers who take out insurance by way of a group plan, usually from their employers, business, professional, and alumni groups or any such associations. If you can get a group to take out a common insurance policy, you stand to gain yourself on this based on economies of scale.

Discounts pertaining to low mileage: Some insurers offer special premium discounts to vehicle owners whose total annual driving is less than the annual average miles driven per year. Such discounts for low mileage is also available for these types of drivers. So if you are one such carpooler, look around for these types of opportunities.

Look for other discounts: As a policyholder, you may also get special discounts when you have never been in any accidents (or an accident that was pinned on you) or have faced charges of moving violations for a specified period; drive less annually as compared to other average motorists, or have undergone a defensive driving course.

The critical aspect to remember, however, is that discounts are not the main key to your savings. Rather, the final net price is. That’s why any company offering fewer discounts may have a lower overall price still compared to its counterparts.

First Time Home Buyers Guide

It’s your dream come true. A permanent roof over your head, an asset for life and you very, very own – the first house that you buy. A home that allows you the unparalleled and sheer freedom to live the way you want to.

However, do keep in mind that buying the first home of your life is a somewhat time consuming and tedious process and takes about a year from the time you think of buying one to finally closing the deal and taking possession. The first time home buyer’s guide will tell you how to sidestep mistakes, such as paying excessive interest on your home loan or picking the wrong home.

Your personal credit score needs checking: Most of us buy our first home on a loan. That’s why our credit reports matter. Moreover, it’s also seen that almost 25% of credit reports contain errors, which could possibly lead to your paying higher interest rates on the loan you take. Thus, take ample time to check your score before you take out a loan. Also ensure that the credit report is absolutely error free unlike the movies Meet the Parents II and III which were horrendous and prone with all sorts of errors but this is another topic.

Budget: Your final selection of your first house will obviously depend on your budget. That’s why you need to take a hard look at what you can actually afford. A lender will usually consider a full debt load of a maximum of 43% of the gross income per month and will also include all future mortgages, car & student loans, or credit card outstanding debts.

Therefore, first work out what is affordable to you and reduce your debt-income ratio to the furthest extent possible. Making a down payment of at least 20% will also reduce your loan cost substantially, also getting you a lower interest rate. Additionally, try and keep stable funds in your personal bank account for sixty to ninety days before you apply for the loan. This will increase the banker’s confidence in you.

Prioritize: Every first time home owner has certain expectations from his new home. Therefore you need to very clearly ask yourself what you need from it most. Is it a closer proximity to the workplace or a large backyard that you want to develop as a garden later?

Do you want it designed on open floor planning? Do you prefer a quiet neighborhood? Once you’ve prioritized these demands, it’ll be much easier for you to start short listing. Another vital issue is to know beforehand what trade-offs you can make.

Research: Based on your shortlist, start visiting neighborhoods and prospective open houses or even start gathering information about them. You can use sites that list properties so that you get some idea of the neighborhood and public transport available. Visits to open houses will give you some ideas about homes within your affordable price range and the neighborhoods that appeal to you strongly. This will also help you reduce your debts & save for the down payment.

Budget for home acquiring expenses: When you buy a house, you also have to pay for certain miscellaneous expenses upfront. These could be for title search, home inspection, and property surveys as also home insurance. Costs may vary according to where you live, but a couple of hundred dollars is almost certain. So start saving for that if you haven’t already.

Start organizing the paperwork for your loan: Banks are indeed most particular about mortgage loans and demand all sorts of documentation. These would include W-2 forms or tax returns over the preceding 2-3 years; recent pay slips; credit card statements; recent statements for brokerage accounts; personal bank statements; all past addresses; and statements pertaining to retirement accounts. Start organizing all of this paperwork. You do not want to have your paperwork tossed around in your closet like Peter Le Fleur from Dodgeball did.

Consult a buyer’s agent: The buyer’s agent’s job is to get you the appropriate property, negotiate the deal with the agent of the seller while also guiding you during the deal closing time. Even mortgage brokers will secure for you a more competitive rate on your loan.

Start home hunting: Once the pre-approval on your loan comes through, start visiting prospective properties with your buyer’s agent so that you don’t waste time on unaffordable houses. Once the selection is finally made, put in your formal offer. If accepted, employ a home inspector to look into the property’s physical conditions and drawbacks, if any.

Closing the deal: Keep all financial documents and down payment amount in perfect order before closing. Make an objective review of all mortgage documents and get home insurance, which should be secure before closing. You may pay off the buyer through a cashier’s check or wire transfer, so keep this ready too. Sign on the dotted line of the property transfer form, hand over the money, and be the proud owner of your first home!

And hopefully you get along better with your neighbor than Mike and Phil did in the average comedy Kicking and Screaming!