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10 Reasons to Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt

10 Reasons to Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt

We live in a consumer society driven by unsecured debt in the form of expensive credit card balances. Interest rates are high, and always with some form of credit-usage fee in our account statement. Here are ten reasons to find the best way to consolidate your credit card debt.

  1. Avoid Annual fees. Many credit issuers ask members to pay an annual usage fee to use the credit card and those annual fees add up. There are also some who offer their credit card use without an annual membership fee. Keep in mind that if you switch your cards to consolidate annual fees, check that the issuer has not added other fees or higher interest to compensate. It is possible the overall cost to use the card will exceed the annual fee on your existing card. You still owe the balance, but have one less credit card.
  1. Avoid high Interest rates. As with annual fees, some credit issuers charge a high rate for privilege. Many cardholders will consolidate their outstanding debt into fewer credit cards because the interest rates on their existing credit cards are just too high. Again, you will have fewer credit cards but still owe your outstanding balance.
  1. Avoid heavy late charges. Minimize late fees and interest. Don’t be late or short on your payment. You are throwing free bonus money to the credit card company. And they may reduce your credit limit.
  1. Raise your credit rating. Late or missed payments reduce your credit score as does maxed out credit limits. On the other hand, timely payments and reduced balances yielding more available credit makes an attractive borrower. Optimal credit scores come with three to seven current credit accounts.
  1. Qualify for a mortgage loan. Your credit score is a major factor in approving mortgage loans and reducing outstanding debt is a home run. Paying off credit card debt can significantly improve your credit score.
  1. Save. With cash in the bank, you are prepared for a possible layoff or other unexpected emergencies. Pay yourself instead of the credit card companies.
  1. Pay cash. Don’t owe anything after the holiday season. Consolidate your debt and pay cash. Start next year debt-free. You have enough time. Feel great knowing you’re in control of your finances.
  1. Vacation. Enjoy life today. Consolidate your credit cards and build a bank balance for that purpose. Come back relaxed and debt-free.
  1. Reduce stress. Finding the money to pay monthly minimums to various credit card companies is stressful, especially where we may never pay off the balance. It can affect our health and can be a huge stress load to carry. How much easier life will be with the elimination of multiple accounts, bills, automatic drafts, all due on different dates.
  1. Contribute towards your retirement. With economic room in your budget, you can increase payments to your retirement account and ensure your later years.

Credit card debt is growing in our country. American families will waste thousands of dollars in interest over the next year making only minimum payments. This is the biggest reason to consolidate your debt on those cards.

When is Pet Insurance Necessary?

When is Pet Insurance Necessary?

If you have ever had a pet, you have no doubt heard of pet insurance. In general, it can help you to care for your dog or cat – possibly another type of pet as well – in the event that veterinary care that’s necessary is too expensive. In other words, pet insurance is similar to health insurance that covers you and your loved ones. However, when is pet insurance necessary? To answer that question, it’s important to know how the insurance works and what it entails.

How do Pet Insurance Plans Work?

Just like with insurance that covers people, there are policies for pet insurance that include co-payments, deductibles and premiums. With pet insurance, you typically have to pay your vet bills in full and then later wait to be reimbursed. However, one particular pet insurance company offers a service that allows you to bypass that because it disburses payments to the vet on the same day of service.

When it comes to cost of pet insurance, that largely depends on the type of breed of your pet. Generally speaking, purebred dogs and cats tend to cost more because they are more prone to hereditary conditions. Another factor that comes into play in determining the cost is your pet’s age; the older your pet, the more you will pay because there’s more likelihood that your pet will require more veterinary care. In addition, most pet insurance policies don’t cover preexisting conditions, which means you have to pay more when seeing a vet for that condition. The same can be said for conditions that are common for a certain breed.

However, one thing worthy of note is that some pet insurance policies are changing for the better and covering preexisting and breed-specific conditions. This is something to consider when you choose a provider.

What is Covered by Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance covers a wide range of issues, such as illness and accidents. Some insurance providers also offer routine wellness care like annual health exams, vaccinations and more. The majority of pet insurance policies are for illnesses and accidents for both dogs and cats. Very few pet owners acquire a policy to cover wellness or only accidents.

Emergency Situations and Pet Insurance

If you are the type of person who says you would pay any amount to save your pet in a life threatening situation, pet insurance is definitely worth it. Unfortunately, too many pet owners don’t truly go out of their way to save their dog or cat in such a situation because they don’t want to spend too much money. In many cases, the pet is sadly euthanized and the owner gets a replacement pet. For that type of pet owner, the insurance would definitely be a waste of money.

However, if you acknowledge that your pet is a beloved member of your family, pet insurance can literally help to save your four-legged family member’s life. For example, if your dog or cat has suffered a serious injury that requires extensive surgery with a lengthy hospital stay, it will probably carry hefty bills. In many instances, such a situation would require your regular vet to refer your pet to a veterinary hospital for treatment. Pet insurance would cover a good portion of the costs.

Overall, it is important to consider all the details when it comes to pet insurance. You should also explore a few options so that you know which one is best for you and your pet.

10 Money Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s

10 Money Mistakes To Avoid In Your 20s

For most people, your 20’s are the first time in your life you will actually have your own money. While that first “real” paycheck may seem huge in comparison to what you had been previously making, it might not go as far as you think. Here are 10 money mistakes you can avoid if you are in your 20’s.

1. Taking On Too Much Student Debt

The average 2016 graduate had $37,172 in student debt, up 6% from 2015. It is far better to spend 6 or more years getting a degree and graduate debt free or with minimal debt than to try and cram your education into four years and graduate with up to $100,000 in debt.

2. Overpaying For Housing

After spending most of your life sharing space with other people, it is natural to want your own place. For the moment, however, it is far more fiscally wise to find an economical place to live with a roommate or two.

3. Buying A New Car

While you don’t necessarily have to drive a “beater” car, it’s probably best to leave the purchase of a new or luxury car until you are a bit more financially stable.

4. Racking Up Credit Card Debt

In 2010, credit card laws changed to protect underage borrowers, but that only protects college students until age 21. If you don’t have good disciplines around spending, it’s probably best to pass on the credit cards until you build the disciplines which will help you manage them wisely.

5. Spending Everything You Earn

Whether it’s putting money in an IRA, HSA, 401K or just a regular savings account, this is the time to get in the habit of saving a portion of your income.

6. Not Setting A Budget

Setting a budget – and sticking to it – is the best way to ensure that when the first of the month rolls around, you have cash in hand to pay the rent and aren’t scrambling to try and cover it at the last minute.

7. Not Paying Yourself First

Hand in hand with setting a budget is making sure you have some money out of every paycheck to do what you want with. If every dime of your paycheck is going to rent, car payments, loan payments and bills, it’s time to make some cuts somewhere so you have money for you.

8. Wedding Debt

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting a big, fancy wedding, you may end up sabotaging your marriage from the get-go by getting yourself in debt to pay for it. Better to stick with a small, simpler affair that you can pay for up front.

9. Failing To Set Financial Goals

Whether it is how much money from each paycheck you want to save, how much you want to cut your spending or what portion of your income you want to spend on housing, goal setting is an important part of fiscal responsibility.

10. Not Tracking Your Spending

You are now working hard for every dime you earn, so make sure you know where every dime you spend is going.

Top-Rated Side Jobs For Extra Cash

Top-Rated Side Jobs For Extra Cash

It seems that every year the cost of living seems to rise. However, many employers don’t seem to compensate for this increased cost of living with raises at the workplace. In order to offset this higher cost of living, there are many ways individuals can earn extra money on the side. There are more opportunities now than ever before when it comes to landing side jobs for extra cash. When you do your research, it will be easy to find the top-rated side jobs for extra cash.

Take advantage of your writing skills

While in school, writing skills are essential to our success as a student. Years spent writing essays develops a skill that could result in extra money during your post-student life. There are plenty of writing opportunities available online today. Whether you want to start a blog, write for an online magazine, or help businesses with their copywriting, the opportunities are abundant. If you have expert knowledge in a certain area, you can sell your knowledge to publications that will pay top dollar for your in-depth articles. There are also many pay-per-article based sites online where writers can set their own hours and make as little or as much extra income per month based upon the hours they invest into their side writing business.

Monetize your car

With the advancement of smartphone technology, your car can now be your cash cow. Whether you want to work as a weekend chauffeur or rent out your car to travelers, there’s an app for that. Uber is a great example of a company that will let you earn money right from the driver’s seat of your car. By choosing your own hours, you will be able to drive customers to their chosen location after work or on the weekends. This is a great way to earn some extra cash while you are still maintaining focus at your job. Whether you want to rent your car by the day, month, or year, Turo and Get Around are two great apps that will help you find renters who would be interested in your car.

Run Errands

Apps like Door Dash are making running errands for people in your area easier and more lucrative than ever. By installing these errand running apps on your phone, you will be able to easily link with individuals who are willing to pay you to grab food, drop off mail, or run other errands quickly and effectively. It would also be pretty easy to find some of your friends and family that would be willing to pay you to run errands for them.

Work Catering

Catering companies are always the busiest on weekends. The hours you will work for a catering company will be grueling and will most likely take up most of your weekend. However, you will be able to make a substantial amount of extra money due to the fact that catering companies pay well. Temp agencies are experienced in matching part-time employees up with catering companies and will be able to help you find quality catering jobs.

Life Decisions That Secure Your Retirement

Life Decisions That Secure Your Retirement

You know that the decisions you make now can have positive effects on your ability to retire later. The same can be said of bad decisions. If you’re planning your retirement, you’re going to want to look at many of your decisions. Here are some of the most common decisions you’ll make that will influence how much you’re able to put away for retirement.

How You Spend Your Early Adult Years

According to Money Crashers, how you begin your work life has a long-term effect on your your retirement. For example, the earlier you start saving for retirement, the less you have to pay out each month. If you save $5,000 a year for 45 years, you’ll have $1,196,000 or so in your retirement account, (assuming that you made 6% interest on it.)

However, to have the same amount in retirement after only 25 years of saving, you’d need to put more than $25,000 a year away. If you start your adult years by saving money and you continue to do it, you can count on having an easier time saving for your retirement years.

Your Education

Investopedia points out that the bachelor’s degree of today is probably equal to the high school diploma of yesterday. Many decent jobs require advanced degrees, even Ph.D.’s. This, however, can be a double-edged sword. Not only does pursuing an advanced degree take you out of the workforce, it sometimes can leave you with loan debt you’ll have to pay off. Both of those factors can influence how much cash you have in your retirement savings by the time you’re ready to retire.

How You Spend Money

Your spending habits can negative or positively affect your retirement bottom line. Aside accumulating too much debt, you can also spend your way out of retirement. “Toys” like jet skis and extra cars can take a chunk out of the money you can put toward retirement. You’ll be able to offset this some by investing early, but too much of this kind of spending can seriously deplete a retirement account.

Your Family Decisions

According to the book “The Millionaire Next Door,” choosing a money-conscious, even frugal spouse benefits you when it comes to wealth accumulation. The more you and your spouse agree on your finances as well as the good financial habits you develop together will greatly influence your bottom line.

Additionally, the number of children that you choose to have also determines how much money you can save. The expenses related to having even one child add up, according to Money Crashers. A child can cost anywhere from $200,000 to $400,000 to support from the ages of zero to eighteen.

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, there are a number of decisions that you can make that greatly affect how much money you end up with at retirement. How early and how much you save impacts your ability to accumulate money. As well, you can expect decisions you make about your education, family, and spending also are determining factors in how much you have. A solid retirement requires you to methodically plan and budget in order to accomplish your financial goals.

30 Days to Better Finances

30 Days to Better Finances

Most people these don’t exactly have their finances in great shape. In fact, according to statistics from CNBC, millenials are saving money at an alarmingly low rate. It’s not surprising though–Americans have been steadily saving less money over the last 80 years or so.

But, you don’t need to be a part of this downward financial trend. Here are some tips that can help your monetary situation, even within a month’s time.

Weeks 1-2: First Steps

Most people have some kind of debt; if this describes you, you need to take action. If you’ve been dodging calls from collection agencies, it’s time to negotiate affordable monthly payments.

To determine what kind of payment you can afford, you need to figure out a budget that you can stick to while still paying rent, bills, and any other expenses you might have. This will probably mean cutting out some extras, such as your entertainment or dining budget.

No matter how little extra money you might have, you should also get into the habit of saving some of it. A “rainy day fund” is an absolute necessity if you want to weather life’s many storms. While it’s not going to happen right away, you should ultimately aim to always have at least $1,000 in savings–it can be used when you need it, but you should always focus on replacing it.

Weeks 3-4: More Advanced Steps

Even though you should mostly use cash or debit cards to avoid spending more money than you need to, you can’t get around the necessity of credit. Credit, when used properly, can be a useful part of your financial toolbox. On the other hand, bad credit can complicate purchasing houses, cars, and unfortunately even your ability to find employment.

If your credit score is on the low end of “fair” or even “bad” (below 600), you may want to consider getting a secured credit card. You need to make an initial deposit of $50 or more, which becomes your line of credit. Depending on the card you apply for, the company should frequently make reports to all three major credit reporting agencies, which can raise your credit significantly in a relatively short amount of time.

Moving Further

No serious financial author would promise you that you can “solve” your finances in 30 days, but by implementing a few simple changes, you can start yourself down the right path.

We wish you the best of luck on your financial journey; if you have any questions, comments, or progress stories to share, let us know by commenting, messaging us, or sending us an email.

Secured vs Unsecured Personal Loans

Secured vs Unsecured Personal Loans

The top priority for a lender is to make sure their loan is paid back. There are several ways to encourage a borrower to pay back funds they have borrowed. One of the most common and useful is called collateral.

A loan with security, or one that is securitized by collateral is called a secured loan. It is a loan that can be automatically paid back by seizing the collateral. Almost all mortgages are secured by the houses purchased with the borrowed funds.

A loan without security, in which a borrower only pledges repayment with their word, is the opposite, or an unsecured loan.

Collateral

When a borrower takes out a loan, one of the ways they can demonstrate financial responsibility and persuade a lender they will be able to make their payments is to pledge property or security equal to or greater than the value of the money borrowed. Although there are personal loans for bad credit that don’t require a credit check.

The best example is a mortgage. Borrowed funds are used to buy a house. The borrower makes payments against the borrowed funds, and the lender accepts title to the house itself as collateral for repayment of the loan. If the mortgage is not paid, the lender seizes the house to cover the value of the borrowed funds.

It is often much easier to take out a personal loan if funds can be secured with some kind of valuable property, such as a certificate of deposit, jewelry or securities like stocks or bonds.

Signature

Personal loans are very often taken out on a borrower’s signature alone. Most revolving credit accounts fall into this category of personal loans. A credit card customer opens an account and makes purchases up to the limit of their credit line. These funds are not secured by collateral. They are simply pledged to be repaid on the word of the borrower.

It is for this reason most credit cards have very low limits. This reduces the risk faced by the lender. Because they have no collateral and no “secured” option if the borrower does not pay, the only way they can limit their risk is to reduce the amount available to borrow. If the loan goes bad, they face only a small loss.

Qualifying

Getting an unsecured personal loan is often more a question of relationship than it is financial calculus. Banks and financial institutions are interested in a borrower’s credit, but very often a long-standing customer will have more credibility when it comes to taking out an unsecured loan than someone the bank’s management doesn’t know very well.

Most of the time it doesn’t hurt to simply ask. The worst a lender can do is say “no.” Often times they will explain their reasoning, which will give you a roadmap for how to get approved next time.

Borrowing and understanding loans is a skill, like anything else. The more experience and knowledge you have to apply for a personal loan, the easier it gets.

How to Repair Your Credit Report to Improve Credit Score

How to Repair Your Credit Report to Improve Credit Score

Credit scores are seemingly only relevant when you need to apply for a new loan or credit card. It is true that your credit rating can impact your interest rates, loan amount or credit limit and your ability to get approved for the financing you seek. However, credit scores are also reviewed when you apply for new insurance, apply for a new job and in other important scenarios that impact your financial well-being. Many people are alerted that they have bad credit scores when they apply for financing, but others simply believe that they have a lower credit rating. Because of how important your scores are to various aspects of your life, it may be time to work on improving your scores by following a few easy steps.

Review your Free Credit Report

The first step in the process is to obtain a free copy of your credit report. You are entitled to one free copy of your report from each of the three primary credit bureaus every 12 months. You may need to contact each of these three bureaus directly to obtain your free copies rather than to rely on a third party service provider. Keep in mind that each bureau may be reporting different things about your financial profile and credit history, so it is important to review each report rather than to assume that they are all reporting the same information.

Correct False Information

Some people are dismayed to learn that the information showing on their credit reports is incorrect. False information often works against your credit rating, so you understandably want to correct false information. To correct false information, gather together supporting documentation showing that the information is false, if possible. For example, if the credit report shows that you made a late payment on April 2015, use bank statements to verify that the payments for March, April and May 2015 were made on time. You should send this information to the lender or credit as well as to the reporting credit bureau in writing along with a letter of explanation. It may take several weeks to complete this process, but you may notice an immediate increase in your rating after negative information has been corrected.

Improve Your Rating Over Time With Smart Debt Management

Some people find that their credit rating is lower because of their own mismanagement of debt. You may have late payments, collections accounts and more on your credit report. First, bring all outstanding debts current, such as by paying late balances or by paying off collection accounts. Then, make an effort to pay all future payments on time. If necessary, set up automated payments to ensure that the payments are made in a timely manner. Over time, you will see your scores increase.

Your credit rating is a critical aspect in various areas of your life, so you should always be aware of what your rating is by reviewing it annually. If you are aware that your scores are lower, take necessary steps to improve the situation. You may even have to do a search for the best credit repair companies to get professional help. By doing so, you can enjoy tremendous financial benefit in the years to come.

Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Don’t you just love that feeling of wearing something new? How a different outfit has the potential to change your style, your image and maybe even your life? And so with this lofty goal in mind, you shop. You shop for the new, the current and the unique, always looking out for the next great piece for your wardrobe. But all this shopping can put a strain on your finances. So here are a few tips to help you stay in your budget while still getting something new and fabulous to wear.

Shop your own closet. Go through every piece of clothing you own and find those things you rarely or never wear. Ask yourself why? If something doesn’t quite fit, is too long, too big, too whatever, think about having it altered. There is a tailor or seamstress near you that would love your business. You can have your clothes tailored to fit better and just possibly create something new out of what you already own.

Organize a Swap party. Gather together your friends/family/co-workers and have a clothing swap party. Lay some general ground rules i.e. only things in good shape, bring only twenty or less items and agree to swap with no monies involved. Serve refreshments, put on some music, laugh and have fun and just maybe get something fabulous to wear.

Shop at garage sales. Garage sales are probably the all-time best place to get deals on used clothing. So get out there on a Saturday morning and hopefully around the next corner you’ll make a lucky find.

Support thrift stores. Thrift stores used to be a secret but now they are big business. It has made it a little harder to find amazing deals but it’s still possible to score something cool.

Go online at Ebay. People have gotten savvy to the idea of selling their used clothing online. Ebay is like a worldwide garage sale you don’t have to drive around to find. You can search by brand, style, color and size and you may get lucky and find just what you’re looking for.

Shop the sales racks. Department stores and smaller shops know they are competing with all of the above for your clothing dollars. Sales are pretty much year round events. On any given day you can walk into a clothing store and head straight to the sales racks where the prices are slashed from what they were charging just a few weeks before.

Shopping wisely while staying in your budget is a great exercise in healthy spending and creative living. But always remember, the most beautiful thing you can wear is a smile and those are free.