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!

5 Reasons You Need a CPA for Accounting and Filing Taxes

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or a working professional, you may not realize that a lot of your time goes into managing your money. Keeping track of your income and expenses, filing taxes, recording tax returns, and other financial issues are a regular part of any job or business.

Various studies have found that most entrepreneurial enterprises and small business do not survive beyond five years and health care laws like the ACA do not help, ridiculous rules imposed by the thuggish EPA are terrible, high taxes, Dodd/Frank is another salient threat, and so on are certainly viable reasons why many business do not make it. While the reasons for closure can be many (and some strong reasons were just mentioned), a lack of suitable financial management happens to be one of the major reasons.

A certified personal accountant (CPA) is the solution to this aspect of having a business. A personal accountant makes sure your financial data is correct and updated at all times, helping you focus on your business, marketing, development, and/or jobs without worrying about managing your money.

Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why you need a CPA for your accounting and taxes.

Tax laws and compliance are not simple

Admit it or not, but comprehending taxes is no mean feat. America’s tax code is a disgrace but certain groups, want it to remain complicated so we have to depend on others to operate. The tax code should be simple and should be able to be completed with 5th grade math in about 15 minutes (most of that time involved in just organizing your paperwork – 2 minutes for the actual arithmetic if that).

Taxes are mindboggling, confusing, and they keep changing frequently. Trying to stay updated on taxes while understanding all of it will take up a significant portion of your time and eat into your work schedule or family time. If you’re confused when filing your taxes or tax returns, you could either end up paying more than you should or you could be penalized.

A CPA is there to help you understand your taxes, and take care of it on your behalf. You can rest assured that your taxes will be filed correctly and on time. Giving you time to watch that amazing Transformers, Star Trek, Sicario, Horrible Bosses movie and so on.

Finances come in various forms

Your earnings aren’t just your salary or monthly income from your business. There are stock options, mortgages, capital gains, loan repayments, and several other things that make your earnings more complicated. Managing your loan repayments, stock dividends, along with your monthly income from your business or job are just too burdensome to deal with on your own. You could even end up filing the wrong taxes and attracting a penalty by the massive bureaucracy known as the IRS which is part of the swamp but is another topic.

A CPA is able to prevent this and helps you keep track of all your taxes – this is their profession and they take this serious. Whether you’re buying a house or investing in stocks, a CPA is your best friend in getting your taxes figured out. They can offer you advice and they more than pay for themselves.

You like tax credits, but don’t understand them

How much did you spend this past week? Uh….you don’t seem to remember. Now, how much did you spend in the past year? Those Chalupas at Taco Bell are delicious but how many did you buy in the past 6 months, year? You probably cannot count that high! OK, this is going a little too far but Taco Bell is fantastic.

If you like deductions or tax credits, you first have to remember what counts as a deduction and going to your favorite fast food joint such as Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonalds, and so on, you know the business who hires people that understand what you are saying, may or may not be eligible to be counted as a tax credit or a deduction.

This is when working with a CPA is certainly beneficial. An accountant will keep track of your income and expenditures throughout the year, and help you avoid paying more than you should by recognizing the deductions you’re eligible for. With the help of financial accountant, you could file the best tax returns.

You have multiple jobs

Times are challenging, and working only one job is seldom enough if you have a family to feed. More and more people are turning to side-jobs, be it bartending, freelancing, or working part-time at a supermarket. When you have multiple jobs and more than one source of income, your taxes will become more difficult.

Managing multiple forms and calculating different taxes is time-consuming, and not to mention confusing. To avoid chances of erring, get a CPA to handle your finances and help you out. And if she looks like Kate Veatch in Dodgeball then good for you but if your paperwork is tossed in a closet like Peter La Fleur’s was from the same movie that is pretty pathetic.

It’s best to avoid risks

Taxes are an area where it is best to be safe than sorry. You must have often heard that it does not take a genius to file taxes. While it may not take a genius, some help is definitely appreciated and beneficial when handling something this complex. One wrong move can result in penalty or additional fees, and the mess can take months to clean up.

Even if you consider yourself a risk-taker, it is best avoid taking these types of risks – even if you are an extreme athlete always looking for the next thrill or mighty challenge. A CPA ensures you’re safe and sound when it comes to understanding and filing your taxes, and also helps you save money.

Your financial health is crucial to your professional success. Hiring a CPA is an investment that leads to constant support and guidance so your finances are handled properly and you make the right moves based on the information and advice they offer you.

How And When Do You Start Retirement Planning?

There is no one particular time to start your retirement planning. You can do it from the day you start working or from a later age. It is your proclivity. But the sooner you start, the better. In your early years, it is easier to always think that retirement is far away.

However, time flies and one day we all realize that the time to hang up our boots and jackets has finally arrived. And those folks who chose not to plan well for retirement earlier on are most likely to find themselves in financial trouble and extremely stressed out because their best working days are behind them and they still have many more years left on this planet to live. So start planning early!

It is pretty hard to forget about but it is easier to ignore when you are younger. The thing is, the longer you put this off the more you are going to have to save later on which could be difficult for a number of reasons. The simple fact is, if you do not save for retirement you may not be able to. Not everyone can perform so terribly in their job like Lois Lerner and Barney Frank did and be able to retire comfortably. Though most people are more honest than those two but this is another topic.

And do not think you are going to end up with boat loads of cash like Louis Winthrope III and Billy Ray Valentine did the hilarious movie Trading Places. That is just illogical!

Now is the Right Time

As you work and pay off loans and bills you need to contemplate how much you should be saving for retirement. As life changes, your plans too can change. But staying on track is vital. Once your familial responsibilities set in (you will most likely have a family), you still need to continue saving.

How much is needed to retire?

The thumb rule is to put aside 10 to 15% (according to CNN Money and do not worry about this being fake news since this information by CNN is also supported by other sources) when you are in your 20s but you should save as much as you can. This harkens back to what was said before, if you do not start saving early you are going to have to make up for it later on in your life.

You also have to maintain favorable credit rating (unless you are one of those strange ducks like me who just pays for everything in cash and does not go out much but since most people are not like this, play the game and maintain your credit) and manage your debt burden if any, carefully. A poor credit score can prevent you from obtaining reasonable loan rates, leaving you with less amounts of money to save.

Planning Your Future Finances

If your current employer offers you a 401(k) plan, sign up for it and have contributions deducted automatically from your monthly paycheck. If your employer matches your contribution with the same amount, you only stand to gain in the long run. It pays off when you accept superannuation.

If you are changing jobs, consider rolling over your 401(k). You can transfer your employer-sponsored 401(k) funds into an IRA or Individual Retirement Account as you switch jobs. This will give you a clear picture of how much you have in reserve after working for so many years and what needs to be done to enhance it further.

For those in their 50s, retirement isn’t far off (though it could be which is the point here!). It’s time to take a look at your retirement savings and to evaluate whether you are on the right track or if you should begin to start tucking more away. If you need a qualified financial professional to advise you on reducing your tax burden so that you can save more for retirement then you should consider getting one. This financial advisor can also offer you salient advice on how much you should be investing and what you should be investing in.

You could even ask your employer to deduct more from your pay as your earnings go up, provided they are willing to match your contribution every month. Moreover, catch-up contributions are always useful for making up for any shortfalls you may have in your portfolio. Evaluating your monthly expenses is also critical. You do not want to be spending too much on a car or a home and so on. You also have to pay attention and consider any interest rates on loans that you are contemplating taking on via a house or car and you should never borrow to pay for furniture. That is a terrible move to make!

Clear thinking and clearer vision are the two main facets for successful retirement planning. And the sooner you start, the better. There’s no greater relief than knowing that you are well provided for as you put your feet up and relax knowing you made the right moves in life.

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.

7 Tips For Cutting Credit Card Debt Quickly

Credit card debt is always a nagging burden, the long term consequences of which can be quite serious. Thus, it always pays to get rid of this burden as soon as possible and you can do it successfully, provided you work out the following strategy to reduce your debt.

  1. Take stock

You first need to see what is your total net debt on all credit cards before starting to reduce its accumulated debt. Brutal honesty with yourself is required here and writing down the debt amount along with the interest rate on every single card that you have will be a constant reminder of where you stand as a debtor.

Do not tell yourself something is right when it is not, your name is not Barney Frank or Barrack Obama (the housing market destroyer who devastated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac via giving home loans to irresponsible people and the health care system destroyer which the ACA law has laid waste too, respectively)

  1. Stop making minimum payments

Against a large outstanding amount, the minimum balance payable every month looks tiny and looks easy to pay off. However, if this amount is everything you pay towards this debt on a monthly basis, it will take you much longer to settle the debt.

Moreover, the interest charges on the remaining amount will continue to accrue and increase your debt burden further by compound interest. Remember, the more you pay, the lesser the interest amount becomes because this means you give less time for this interest to accumulate. Your credit card issuer should point this out to you on the monthly statement, for you to see how it’s applicable to your monthly bill.

  1. Tackle debt singularly

If you have multiple debts on numerous cards, make sure to pay the minimum payable on each card. Subsequently, focus on clearing the total unpaid balance on a single card at a time. Choosing the card to pay off first can be chosen by either checking your statement’s interest rates section to identify which credit card slaps the highest interest rates on to you, and then concentrating on paying off the outstanding amount on that card first. Or, you could settle the smallest debt first, graduating to the larger debts in succession.

That could help you psychologically just like when Rocky was fighting Ivan Drago in Rock 4 when he got that first hard punch in and he saw Drago bleed. Then he knew this was not a machine but a man. Now you know you can pay off these cards if you get that first one dealt with.

  1. Combine & win

Consolidation of your debt lets you combine numerous high-interest balances into a single one with a lower interest rate. This enables you to pay off your debt faster without increasing the payment amounts. You can consolidate debt by taking advantage of a transfer rate that is low- balance to remove debt off cards that charge a higher interest.

However, do note that fees for a balance transfer are often between 3 to 5 percent, but the savings accrued from a lower interest rate may be greater than the transfer fee. This should always be factored in when taking this option into consideration.

Having equity at home helps in paying down credit card debt. A home equity credit line may give you a lower rate than those chargeable by cards. However, here closing costs apply, but the benefit is that payments for home equity interest are usually tax-deductible. In addition, when consolidating, it’s absolutely imperative to remember that you have to control your overall spending so you do not accrue new debt in addition to the debt that you’ve recently consolidated.

  1. Reprioritizing budgets

In order to ensure that you don’t accrue any further debt because you are not the US government or California, categorize your monthly expenditures in terms of transportation, groceries, entertainment (don’t watch any more Zoolander or Jurassic World movies!), and housing. Next, identify those areas in which spending can be cut back drastically. Use the money saved from this exercise to pay off your debt.

  1. Try improving your rates

You can also lower your debt burden by negotiating lower interest rates with your credit card issuer. By shaving off a percentage point even, you could save hundreds of dollars over the next year or so, for instance, while paying off the debt. A polite request in this regard may work in your favor and help you become debt free in the long run.

  1. Start using cash

Put all your credit cards away until their debts are settled. Instead use cash. This will reduce your spending by at least 20 percent and the amount saved could be used to pay off your debt. Staying off plastic until the time you are debt free sure makes sense. 

Also while paying off your debt, track your progress. Keep detailed notes of how much still remains unpaid and how you can reach your target of being a debt-free person. This will keep you motivated to reach that ultimate and altruistic goal.

True Cost of Owning a Car in the US

As a car owner, you are perhaps aware that the sticker price of your car doesn’t give out the accurate figure about its ownership cost. Buying a relatively less expensive car is likely to save you a penny initially but may burn a huge hole in your pocket later by way of expensive repairs.

On the slip side, buying an expensive SUV could make your gas bill spiral. That’s why you need to keep the sticker price in abeyance to identify a truly reasonable car.

Factors on which owning a car in the US and its cost depend

To begin with, you have a sticker price, which of course, is not the prime factor. However, it affects the overall ownership cost, particularly insurance rates and sales taxes (and all working Americans know that taxes are too high but this is another topic) which you need to pay. If the car is financed, you’ll have to work out the interest rate. This again will vary on your individual credit score.

For instance, new cars come with reduced interest rates and long-term loan will always have lower interest rates but do not let that fool you since this means it will take you longer to pay off that car so that means a $28,000 car will perhaps cost you $33,000 by paying it off over the years to the financing company. Something to think about!

Depreciation in cars happens at an average of 15%-20% per annum for the first 5 years. The more expensive vehicles, however, tend to depreciate faster as do sub-compacts.

In addition, while it’s almost impossible to predict how much you will be spending on repairs in the future, you can scour its reliability scores through consumer reports or locate common problems with the car to work out the repair costs.

With repair costs come insurance costs, which again can vary largely for competing models even. The insurance premium payable and the coverage that comes with it is fully dependent on your driving skills and habits, history, your own age, and personal credit score (it does not depend on whether or not you have seen Transformers 5 but you should since that movie is amazing with an incredible submarine scene to boot, but this is another topic!). Older cars usually attract lower premiums, while the newer models with state-of-the-art safety features could get you some hefty discounts which you should consider too.

Fuel costs matter and the less you drive, obviously the less you spend on fuel. That’s why taking your car’s MPG into account is essential when deciding which car to buy.

There are also characteristics that reduce car prices. For instance, while most cars come with 3-year warranties for 36,000 miles, carmakers like Kia and Hyundai offer 5-year warranties for 60,000 miles with other benefits such as roadside assistance. Some eco-friendly models also qualify for tax credits that offset higher purchase prices.

Calculating the cost

The calculation for owning your own car is simple. The operations cost of an average American vehicle is around $0.60 a mile. A new car in the US costs about $33,000 on average, making buying one an important financial exercise.

Another crucial aspect to consider and remember is not to go by the sticker price or monthly payment but take other costs in to account as well. This will give you a fairly accurate figure about the real cost involved in owning a vehicle; the components that in their totality go into the total ownership cost; and comparison costs with various models that also includes the standard five-year cost.

Going by published statistics, the average loan payment per month for a new car in 2014 was around $482. If you drive your vehicle over 15,000 miles per annum, the total ownership costs comes to about $8,698 per annum, according to the American Automobile Association’s study on driving costs in 2015. That works out to about $725 every month.

Further studies have revealed that operational costs also vary by vehicle types. Small sedans recorded an average cost of $6,729 a year or $561 on a monthly basis. An SUV four-wheel-drive, costs around $10,624 yearly ($885 monthly), making the cost spiral by almost 58%.

Since the real cost of owning and driving a car includes fuel, maintenance & repairs, tires, license & registration fees, taxes, depreciation, insurance premium & interest on financing, figures recorded by the American Automobile Association show that average fuel costs amount to $1,682 per annum depending on premium or regular gasoline used and the mileage achieved by the vehicle. Over a five-year period, the fuel costs for an SUV could be $18,000 as compared to $11,000 for a sedan.

Your new tires could cost you around $147 along with installation charges ranging from $60 to $100 or even more. Similarly, repairs and maintenance comprising of tire rotations, oil changes, testing and battery inspection cost about $767 per year. Your fees and taxes amount to $665 every year, says the AAA report.

In order to own a cost effective vehicle, you need to work all of this out. Moreover, you also need to look at a higher resale value. So it’s essential that you look beyond the sticker price and also at the EMI or equated monthly installment. Your research on the ongoing costs of operating and maintaining a particular model will give you a true picture of its affordability.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck and Start Saving

Are aware that around 38 million American households live paycheck to paycheck? And no, these are not low-income families. Families even with salaries above $100K per year are caught in this vicious lifecycle. The moment the paycheck arrives, most of it goes in settling the bills and couple of days of respite followed by a zero bank balance.

This is not impressive and it does help that electrical prices rose higher in the years from 2009 to 2016 which is another reason household income growth did not rise at all in those same years as well. Hopefully that changes in the next couple of years. This will mean less people will be living paycheck to paycheck.

So why even are wealthy people failing to save money or take control of their finances? Irrespective of the income bracket that you are in, there is always a way to save some portion of your income for investment and savings, you just need to start somewhere.

Prepare a Budget

The first and most vital aspect that needs to be done to improve your finances is to understand how you are spending your money. Start whenever you want, but religiously track every penny you spend for a month. Ideally, it should be the start of the month when all your bills are due.

This will help you in covering the entire month and track your expenses accurately. If you do not have time to do expense tracking at the micro level, smartphone apps can make this job easier. Remember, the first thing to do is to understand the root cause of the problem, which in this case are unchecked expenditures.

Find Expenses that You can Cut

Tracking your expenses will enable you to identify the expenses that you can do away with. For example, the expensive cable plan you have subscribed to can be trimmed down to a bare minimum (do you really Direct TV for instance?). Switch to online streaming service providers. Scourge the Internet for discount coupons while buying anything, you may be surprised how much money you can save this way.

Check your credit card bill for subscriptions and memberships you no longer use or do without (how often do you attend that gym; can you not exercise in your home or run around the block a few times?). There is no need to walk into Starbucks every day for that caffeine dose either. Stop or cut down going to fancy restaurants or restaurants at all. You can buy TGI Friday’s frozen food at supermarkets, for example. You would be surprised how making these small changes to your spending habits can help you save money.

Do you really need life insurance? You know that is one of the biggest scams in America. Well, unless you are afraid of dying broke and we here are trying to get you in a better financial place so that does not happen.

Moreover, the savings then can be channelized towards investments or savings. That is making those spending decisions compound for you. If you are a smoker, cut down on those cancer sticks (that is what they are!). Not only you will be healthier, but also save hundreds of dollars a year.

Do Side Gigs

The Internet has made it easier to find side gigs that pay well or pay something. There are numerous dedicated platforms out there which you can use to find gigs such a web design, online accounting work, virtual assisting, consulting, research work, and so on. If you are not proficient in any of these, try something simpler like dog walking. Your home is full of things you don’t need or do not use any longer. Sell these on Craigslist or eBay. Extra cash you earn this way can be utilized in a productive way.

Consolidate Debt

If your debts are unmanageable and that is one of the primary reasons you live paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to think about debt consolidation.

In debt consolidation, all your debts are paid off by a debt consolidation firm. Then you have a single payment to make towards your debt that is optimized based on your financial profile. Though it may be an extreme measure, nevertheless it’s a percipient and prudent strategy to get out of debt trap and start fresh.

Create an Emergency Fund 

Life is full of uncertainties and you should be prepared for anything that life throws yours way. Research indicates that you need at least six months of expenditures saved up just in case the you know what hits the fan. The emergency fund should be sufficient enough cover all your bills for six months should you be out of work or in bed due to an accident or an illness.

The emergency fund should be impenetrable so do not dip your hands into it (have more discipline than most politicians!). If your emergency fund is piled up high, simply channelize it towards other purposes that are vital, such as a nice mutual fund. And no, going out to Pizza Hut is not wise. Do not sink back into bad habits!