5 Strategies Billionaires Use To Multiply Their Wealth

saving strategies

A lot of people seem to think that billionaires sit on mountains of money and just invent new ways of spending it. Which is obviously not true.

Billionaires actually don’t see money as something to spend on themselves. Money is simply there to invest and create. This mindset is what allows them to multiply their wealth day in and day out creating more jobs and businesses along the way which is why countries with billionaires are better off with countries without them.

Over the years, numerous researchers have studied dozens of self-made billionaires for several years and found that they have specific habits that help them build wealth. For starters, they focus on saving and bringing in multiple income streams.

They also tend to favor the long game and look for opportunities when others are panicking – all traits that help 10x their wealth building efforts.

The good news is, you can replicate what the 1% is already doing and increase your net worth fairly quickly. Here are some key strategies used by billionaires that you can also implement to have your money work for you.

Get into the investing game early

You may be sick of hearing this advice, but this is the reason why Warren Buffett is one of the richest people on this planet even despite his politics which have hurt so many people. The Oracle of Omaha bought his first stock when he was 11!

Buffett is unarguably one of the most successful investors on this planet today and he credits his success to his early investing habit. And many other billionaires attest to the same fact.

By starting to invest early, you can take advantage of the power of compounding to the maximum. Don’t wait for the “right time” – there is none. Save as much as you can, start small and then increase your investments gradually.

Be patient

Ask any mega successful investor about the fundamental principle of their investing strategies, and they will all say the same thing: have patience.

Let’s circle back to Mr. Buffett for a minute because there really is no better person to learn investing about. He first bought six shares of an oil service company (Cities Share) at $38 a share. He had identified the company as an undervalued stock and was confident of making a great profit.

Unfortunately, the stock lost nearly one-third of its value within a few weeks of Buffett buying it. Most people in his shoes would have sold the shares as fast as possible but he waited. Buffett held onto the stock until it rebounded to $40 a share and received $2/share profit.

But that stock didn’t stop rising. After Mr. Buffett had cashed in, he observed the stock rising to over $200 a share without him.

If you are a newbie investor, don’t sell at the first sign of trouble. Follow the buy-and-hold strategy that all billionaires swear by and you’ll substantially increase your odds of getting rich dividends in the long term.

Always keep in mind that the market has an inherent upward bias. Just look at the US stock market: it has survived two world wars and countless recessions and crashes, and still has always managed to bounce back stronger and it certainly will after the Wuhan virus stops spreading. This will happen after it warms up but this is another topic.  

Another benefit of holding onto your investments for longer is, their returns will be classified as capital gains. This means the amount of returns will be taxed at a lower rate compared to the tax rate charged at which your routine income. This is why almost every billionaire holds onto a significant amount of their assets in equity.

Put your money in real estate

There is a reason why pretty much every billionaire has invested in commercial and residential real estate. Investing in real estate has the potential to be profitable in the short-term as well as the long-term.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the value of real estate in America has appreciated by 6% each year since 1968.

Also, it can provide you with a nice steady stream of rental income every month like clockwork. Even if the real estate market crashes tomorrow and your property goes down in value, you’ll still have the monthly income to rely on.

Be strategic, don’t panic

When the market slows down, an ordinary investor starts panicking and looks for an exit. On the other hand, billionaires see it as an opportunity to make strategic investments that will pay off big time in the long run.

In the aftermath of the Greenspan/Frank 2008 recession, people called Warren Buffett crazy when he invested $5 billion in Bank of America. But he knew that even though the banking sector had experienced a crippling blow, it will bounce back. And it did. Buffett traded those shares for an incredible $16 billion in 2017 which is the same year America emerged out of the recession because of the 2017 tax cuts.

So, no matter how bad it looks at any point in time, don’t do what inexperienced investors do. Instead, do what billionaires do and look for growth and value stocks that can be bought at a steep discount.

Use tax saving strategies

Billionaires understand that using some smart tax strategies, it is possible to reduce their tax burden. Some of these strategies include setting up trusts to pass down their wealth to the future generations and holding most of their assets in equity.

You can also shrink down your tax bill in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Claiming as many tax deductions as you can: mortgage interest, HAS contributions, 401(k) contributions, student loan interest deductions, medical expenses deductions, state and local taxes deductions, charitable contributions, and more.
  • Increasing the contributions to your retirement accounts to the maximum amount possible.
  • Holding your equity investment for at least 1 year to take advantage of capital gains taxes.

Final word

Despite what you may think, most self-made billionaires are not Ivy-League educated geniuses with advanced degree in finance. Heck, most of them never even went college! But there’s a big difference between getting a degree and getting an education.

If you want to invest like a billionaire, start thinking like one. Instead of thinking you’re not ready or getting fixated on short-term gains, learn how to take calculated risks. We are living in times of turmoil right now, and most people are selling quality companies at rock bottom prices due to fear.

This is the time to take advantage of that gloom in the market and score yourself a deal. This is the time to buy because America will rebound soon as already indicated and the rest of the world will rise with it (though not as much because most countries have leaders who are not cutting taxes and regulations but this is another topic too).

Strategies to Help You Pay Down Your Mortgage in 15 Years

Mortgage

Throughout the years, the fixed-rate 30-year mortgage has remained the most popular financing option for homes. This empowers Americans to own property pretty early in their lives, largely due to the affordability of the 30-year mortgage. With reasonable monthly payments, even young adults are able to easily afford living on their own property, while also enjoying the perks of an active social life.

And yet, what many Americans do not realize is that this seemingly helpful mortgage plan comes with its own share of pitfalls. This includes:

  • A long, drawn-out payment period, with the initial years contributing more to the interest amount, than to the actual principal amount of your home.
  • A high interest amount that is paid out over the 30-year plan.

In fact, many people find themselves making mortgage payments even years after their retirement, when they are more likely to feel its pinch.

For this reason, an increasing number of Americans have wizened up and found clever ways to reduce their mortgage period, while still keeping their interest rates and monthly payments at an affordable limit. Here are 5 simple tricks to help you make the switch.

Re-finance your current home loan

In the rush and excitement of owning your own property, chances are you took the first (or second/ third) 30-year bank loan you could afford, with minimal research. Now when you look deeper, you may be shocked to discover the high interest rate charged by this “affordable” loan. Fortunately, you can get out of this rut by re-financing your home loan after carefully considering all variables. This includes:

  • Timeframe of the loan: With long-term loans (above 15 years), you end up paying a significant amount of interest, collected over the entire duration. With short-term loans (below 15-20 years), your monthly payments may be higher, but the interest is collected within the first few years. Following this, a larger contribution goes towards the actual principal amount of your property.
  • Interest rate: You should consider re-financing of your mortgage, only when the lender is able to reduce your rate of interest by at least 1%. If not, the costs associated with re-financing may outweigh any benefits gained from it.
  • Cost of re-financing: Most mortgage plans will have a penalty clause, which outlines the amount you pay if you do not last through the 30-year period. You will need to pay this amount off when you re-finance your mortgage. In some cases, the lender may wave off this amount, but only if you re-finance the loan with the same lender. Check all variables before you consider this option.

Redirect all unexpected savings, windfalls, and tax refunds towards your mortgage

Homeowners (and there’s more of them now because of the amazing economy because of lower taxes) have the option of making “extra” payments – beyond the expected monthly payments – towards your mortgage. The advantage of this option is that it is typically directed towards the principal amount, and not towards the interest.

In turn, this can reduce your mortgage period, also reducing the total interest amount you pay on the loan. So, try to make as many such extra payments as possible on a yearly basis.

These could come from a bonus at work, an unexpected inheritance amount, or even a tax refund at the end of the year. The more “extra” payments you can make, the faster you can clear your mortgage. Ironically, you will also end up paying a lower amount on the total loan amount.

Save on a weekly basis for your monthly mortgage payments

Typically, the lender will expect you to make monthly payments through the year. That is 12 payments in total every year. But consider if you were to save for these payments, not on a monthly basis, but on a weekly basis.

So, if your monthly payment is $1,000, you save $250 every week. This is easily possible with a little bit of planning. (Many employers are also agreeable with fortnightly payments).

In this case, you will end up saving $250 x 52 weeks every year, which is equivalent to 13 monthly payments. With this, you would have saved up enough for at least one “extra” monthly payment for the year, and thus stand to gain all the benefits outlined in (2) above.

Become a landlord

Despite owning their own residential property, it is surprising that many people rarely consider becoming a landlord to make/save extra money, and redirect this towards extra mortgage payments.

Renting a part of your property – like the basement as an independent suite, or a room as a holiday accommodation option through Airbnb – is one of the most surefire ways to make more money using what you already have. You could also consider renting your garage to a local business for storage.

Avoid loan sharks and scamsters

In the bid to refinance your 30-year mortgage, ensure that you do not fall prey to greedy loan sharks or too-good-to-be-true fraudsters. Many so-called “mortgage accelerator programs” are intentionally designed to be unaffordable in the long term, and also come with heavy penalty clauses that are nowhere buyer-friendly.

It is better to be patient yet consistent with your home’s mortgage payments, even if it is drawn-out across 30 long years, than to lose your home altogether due to a dubious finance scheme (like social security). You should also get a second opinion from a trusted person before you consider making the switch

7 Personal Finance Tips to Boost Your Savings

personal finance

The US economy, by any yardstick, is the strongest it has ever been in a very long time and Americans are making more money than they did in the past couple of decades. Data from the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) shows that since December 2017, the disposable income of the average American household has increased by $5,205.

Which means if you have been planning to boost your savings so that you have something to fall back on for a rainy day, now would be a great time to do so.

Given here are seven easy-to-follow personal finance tips that can help you boost your savings.

1. Save First, Spend Later

One of the fundamental mistakes that people tend to make when it comes to saving money is that they pay all their bills first, and then try to save what is left in their account by the end of the month. In most cases, they do not have anything left in the account by the end of the month, so they do not save anything.

Instead, make it a habit to pay yourself first, before you pay your bills (but make sure you pay your bills and if you have to stop going out to eat as much then you should do that which will be emphasized more later). This way, your savings are assured to grow on a monthly basis, which can go a long way in building a financial safety net for you in the long run.

2. Follow the 24-Hour Rule

One of the most effective ways to reduce your expenditure is to follow the 24-hour rule. Nearly 85% of Americans say that they tend to make impulse purchases from time to time. Nearly 20% of Americans say that they have spent more than $1,000 on impulse purchases at least once.

In order to make sure that you only buy what you need, follow the 24-hour rule. Whenever you want to purchase something, do not rush to the store or go to amazon.com immediately. Instead, sleep over the decision for 24 hours. The next day, if you still think it is worth spending your money on, go ahead and buy it.

3. Automate Your Savings

Let’s face it – not everyone has the discipline to save money on a weekly or monthly basis. Some people are like the state of California and the city of Chicago and San Francisco! You have to break apart from these bad habits.

From time to time, we tend to spend more than we should, which leaves us with nothing to save. To avoid this from happening, you can automate the process of saving money. Set up a recurring transfer service so that a certain amount of money gets automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings account – month after month.

4. Cook Your Meals at Home

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American household spends more than $3,000 on eating out every year. It is a colossal waste of your hard-earned money, since you can cook your own meals at a fraction of the cost and watch a movie or a show at the same time or still the same converse happily with your family.

If you are too busy to cook every day, you can follow the ‘freezer cooking’ strategy. You can cook your meals whenever you have time, put them in the freezer, and reheat and eat it whenever you want. It does not, however, mean that you should stop eating out altogether. Just save it for the weekends and special occasions!

5. Goodbye Cable TV, Hello Online Streaming

The average American household spends as much as $100 on cable TV every month. Instead of wasting money on cable, you can subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, each of which will only cost you around $10 a month (and still watch Transformers and Sicario via Redbox!). Not only can you save a lot of money, but you also get to watch excellent shows like Narcos via those methods. You can watch Better Call Saul, Bosch, and Ray Donovan via the internet (it’s really difficult to live now without the internet).

6. Rent It Out

If you own a house, you can earn some money on the side by renting out a portion of it. If you are not exactly thrilled with the idea of letting a complete stranger live in your home, you can rent out storage space for individuals and businesses. Either way, the money you earn can help you pay off your mortgage faster and save more in the long term.

7. Increase Your Contributions to Your Retirement Account

Many employers tend to match a certain percentage of their employees’ contributions to their retirement accounts. If your employer does the same, make sure you take full advantage of it by maximizing your contributions to the extent possible. The more you contribute, the more your employer will contribute – up to a certain extent. So, it is essentially free money which can boost your retirement savings considerably in the long run.

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.

Is an AARP Membership Worth It?

So you just turned 50, and all of a sudden you start seeing online ads for AARP, seeing the magazines everywhere you go, and getting the pamphlets in the mail. I know, you’re just trying to come to terms with the fact that you are now 50 years old, all you need is another reminder that your mid life crisis is sure to start any minute now. Well I’m here to tell you it’s time to embrace your new age with a new attitude. You now get to take advantage of senior citizen discounts all over town, so why not also take a peek at those AARP benefits? Is it worth it? I’ll lay everything out for you now.

How Much Does it Cost? 

An AARP membership costs $16 a year. But the more years you pay for in advance, the cheaper it is. See below for the discounted breakdown.

$63 for 5 years — $12.60 per year, with a 21 percent discount
$43 for 3 years — $14.34 per year, with a 10 percent discount
$12 for the first year if you choose to auto-renew — 25 percent discount

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What Discounts are Included?

Members get a variety of discounts at the following popular stores and restaurants.

Retail: Tanger Outlets, 1-800-Flowers.com, Harry & David
Restaurants: McCormick & Schmick’s, Saltgrass, Outback, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Denny’s and Rainforest Cafe
Entertainment: Ticketmaster, Regal Cinemas, Cirque du Soleil
Home & Technology: AT&T, UPS Store, Consumer Cellular

What are the Travel Deals? 

Rental cars: Members get a discount with several popular rental car companies, as well as a 30 percent discount on Zipcar memberships.
Hotels: Members get up to 20 percent off at several hotel chains, such as Days Inn and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, as well as up to 35 percent off from Endless Vacation Rentals.
Flights: You’ll get access to the AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia, which has members-only flight deals, plus you’re entitled to a discount at Park Ride Fly USA for off-airport parking.
Cruises: Members can get discounts on select cruises by Norwegian Cruise Line, Windstar and Grand European Travel.

What are the Health & Wellness Deals? 

Exams: Members get a free hearing test once a year, as well as special rates on eye exams and eyeglasses at participating eye doctors.
Insurance: Members get access to exclusive insurance plans through the AARP® Auto & Home Insurance Program from The Hartford.
Medication: Members have access to the AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by OptumRx program and save an average of 61 percent on all FDA-approved medications
Family: Add a spouse or partner to your plan for free so you can both enjoy the benefits
Dating: Members can sign up for the AARP dating site and meet other 50+ singles who are ready to mingle.

This is only a small portion of the discounts and benefits you can get from an AARP membership. You can read the full list of discounts by checking out the AARP Member Benefits Guide.

As you’re nearing retirement, I understand you want to be intentional with how you spend your money. I’ll let you do the math, but if dine out frequently, travel, and want access to health and financial resources to assist in your retirement transition, it might be worth trying AARP for one year to see if you like it. That $16 you spent on the membership will be saved in no time. 

15 Questions to Ask When Shopping for Health, Homeowners and Auto Insurance

There’s nothing more difficult and confusing than choosing the right insurance, whether it’s health, homeowners, or auto. There’s so much information that it’s sometimes hard to digest, so we’ve sifted through it and are here to help you make well-educated decisions about your future. In this article, we outline 15 questions that you should ask your agent when shopping for health, homeowners, and auto insurance.

Health Insurance

1. Is my current provider available in the plan?

If you have a current doctor that you are loyal to, it’s worth asking your health insurance agent if he or she is covered under the plan you’re considering. We all know the struggle of finding a doctor that we are comfortable with, on top of one that knows our health history. It’s worth noting, if you are considering a PPO, keeping your same doctor may cost you a bit more out-of-pocket, but could be worth the extra expense. Weigh and calculate your options.

2. What’s my deductible?

In other words – how much will you have to pay out-of-pocket on treatments and procedures before insurance kicks in and starts to cover costs? The cheaper your monthly premium, the higher the deductible. Do the math. If you see a doctor regularly, consider opting for a more expensive monthly premium but a lower deductible. And keep in mind – most preventative services are covered without use of the deductible – think shots, screening test, vaccines, etc.

3. What’s my co-payment?

This is a big one, as this is the amount you’ll be paying out of pocket every time you see a doctor. Should you expect a small flat fee around $10, or will it vary by provider and be upwards of $100? Generally speaking, your co-payments don’t count towards your deductible. So this is something you’ll want to factor into your budget as you’ll still need to meet your deductible on any treatments or procedures that you receive. 

4. Is there a pre-existing condition exclusion period?

It’s not uncommon for health insurance companies to place limits or exclude benefits for a period of time for a medical condition that you had prior to selecting and enrolling in the health plan. Make sure to ask your agent if they have an exclusion period, what they define as a pre-existing condition, and how long their exclusion period lasts. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in the middle of an expensive procedure with no help on payment.

5.What will my monthly premiums be?

Monthly health insurance premiums vary drastically from person to person depending on their monthly budget, desired deductible, any dependents you have, and if your place of work is covering a portion of it. We recommend checking out AffinityCoverage to get the best health insurance quotes in your area, for up to 30% off.

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Homeowners Insurance

1.What does my homeowners insurance plan cover?

You’re correct to assume that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover every disaster. It will cover the most common situations: fire, windstorm, hail, lightning, smoke, explosion, theft, vandalism, riot and vehicle collision. It likely will not cover earthquakes, flood, power failure, war, nuclear explosion, or neglect. Make sure you ask your agent and fully understand what it covers before signing on any dotted line.

2. Do you have any discounts available?

The safer your home is, the more discounts and special rates the home owners insurance company can offer you since there’s less of a chance for a catastrophic event. Some common discounts: bundling/multi-policy, having a monitored burglar and fire alarm system, having an impact resistant roof, installing new wiring, plumbing and A/C, living in a gated community, new home discounts, having an HOA, paying in full, and even being a first time customer and/or homeowner. Don’t skip this step. 

3. How much homeowners insurance do I need?

This will differ for everyone. You should base your estimate off how much it would cost to rebuild your home. If you live in an older home, have additional structures on your property such as a shed or garage, or if construction costs run high in your area, consider insuring over market price so you are fully covered. 

4. Are my personal belongings covered?

Most homeowners insurance policies offer a built-in personal coverage of 50% of the dwelling limit. For example, if you choose a $200,000 policy on your home, it’s standard to receive $100,000 in personal property coverage. If you have expensive furnishings and personal belongings, ask if that percentage can be increased. You’ll likely pay a bit more out of pocket, but the added coverage may be worth it.

5. So how much is this going to cost me?

Again, this is going to be different for everyone depending on how much coverage you need and the city/state that you live in. According to the Insurance Information Institute, a standard policy costs homeowners about $1,100 a year. We recommend checking out MyQualityCoverage to find and compare the best homeowners insurance companies before making a decision.

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Auto Insurance 

1. Will my policy cover other drivers of my vehicle?

What happens if a family member or friend borrows your vehicle and is involved in an accident? What about if you are driving someone else’s vehicle and are involved in the accident? How these situations are handled will all depend on your insurance company, if the person driving has insurance, and the laws in your state, so it can get a bit confusing. Generally, if a friend who has their own car insurance is borrowing your car and is at fault in a collision, chances are, they’re covered. But, which company will actually handle the claim and send payment for damages can vary based on the accident, damages, who is officially at fault, etc. Ask your agent how the plan you are considering handles these situations.

2. What type of parts will be used to repair my car after an accident?

Many auto Insurance companies are going to take the cheapest route in repairing your vehicle after an accident. On some discount plans, insurance companies will request the use of second-hand parts instead of brand new parts to complete the repair. You may pay less with the used parts, but is a slightly lower monthly premium worth having 10 year old parts on your 1 year old car? Make sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into here.

3. Does the policy include 24/7 towing and roadside assistance?

Some auto insurance companies offer 24/7 towing and roadside assistance built into their plans as a perk. You never know when you’ll get a flat tire, lock your keys in your car, or need to have your battery jumped. Having this extra layer of protection puts your mind and wallet at ease. 

4. Do you offer any discounts?

Auto insurance companies have the ability to offer discounts on your premium in certain situations. The most  common is if you pay on an annual or bi-annual basis instead of quarterly or monthly. Some other common discounts that they can offer are: accident-free, safe driver, parking in a garage at home and work, new car, anti-theft, anti-lock brakes, low usage and mileage, and military and senior citizen discounts. Asking this question is the easiest way to shave money off your premium. 

5. How much does Auto Insurance cost?

This rate is going to vary drastically depending on the type of coverage you select (full or liability), your city/state, the type and cost of your car, and any past violations. For example, a driver who has an older vehicle in Little Rock, Arkansas, selects liability only, with no past violations will likely pay $30/month. Another driver who has a brand new Tesla in San Francisco, California with two past violations may pay upwards $200/month. To find the best rates in your area for the coverage you are looking for, check out Get-Auto-Quote. 

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Legitimate Ways to Save Money if You’re Living Payslip to Payslip

According to a recent study, about 25 percent of British adults have no savings. No matter what your reason is, have hope that there are ways to get out of debt and give yourself access to extra cash. Every cent earned is one less cent worth of debt, and even the smallest measures can make a big difference if you live payslip to payslip.

Here are some examples of things people across the UK are doing to get more cash in their hands without ever leaving their flat.   

Step #1 – Switch banks to take advantage of significant bonuses.

Many banks try to attract new customers by offering switching bonuses for opening new accounts. They tend to even double those offers if you have your payslip direct deposited. With that bonus, consider opening a savings account that earns interest. An initial £150 deposit can double over time if you simply leave it alone.

Step #2 – Search the web using InboxPounds.

Next time you need to search for something online, skip Google and instead use InboxPounds. It’s powered by Yahoo, and you can earn up to £0.70 per day doing something you would normally do anyway. That’s £21 in one month, so it adds up quickly. All you have to do is use their search engine. Plus, you get a £1 bonus simply for trying InboxPounds.

Step #3 – High credit card balances? Shop around for lower interest rates.

If you’re only paying the minimum balance when your credit card payment is due, it can take quite a long time to get out of debt. Interest continues to build on the balance, making it difficult to put a dent in high balances. Try shopping around for a card with a lower interest rate, and transfer your balance to that card. Some cards even offer promotional rates where you pay no interest for a specific period. So if you have £10,000 in credit card debt and are paying a 16% annual percentage rate, you could save $133 per month during the promotional period.

Step #4 – Play games on InboxPounds.

Besides paying you to use them as a search engine, they also pay you to play games. If you pay for online games anyway, do it through InboxPounds to get as much as a £15 credit. Examples include Gala Bingo, Ladbrokes games, Betfair Sports and LottoGo.  

Step #5 – Charged a late fee? Ask for a one-time courtesy refund.

Nobody is perfect, and late fees can easily happen. However, you may be surprised at how simple it is to get a fee reversed if you simply ask. Realize that your credit card company will probably only do this once or twice a year, so don’t assume you’ll get your fee reversed every time. Also, If you’re habitually late only because you forgot to pay, consider setting automatic payments so you it doesn’t happen again.

Step #6 – Take surveys on InboxPounds.

Get something for nothing by taking a survey on InboxPounds and simply sharing your opinion. It’s a simple three-step process:

  1. Select a survey from the list of available surveys to complete.
  2. Qualify for the survey by answering the screening questions honestly.
  3. Complete the survey, and earn cash.

Be sure to check back regularly to see if there are more surveys available.

None of these tips require too much work, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to see if you can make a few quid or even a couple hundred. Remember that when it comes to money, every little bit counts. A few extra pounds in your hand can help you stop living payslip to payslip and erase unnecessary financial stress in your life.