Jan 26

A guest post from Crystal -

Do you realize that much of our fun is purely dependent on our mental attitude at the time? I tend to be quite competitive at times. When I play sports, if I don’t check myself then I am often out there to win, not to merely have fun. And let’s be honest, I am not a professional athlete. I am not getting paid to play, so I may as well have some fun while I’m recreating! The same is true for gambling.

So often we can get caught up in gambling for a big jackpot return. For some, gambling is actually their retirement plan. Chances are, it’s not going to work out that way and it can make gambling incredibly unenjoyable. If you take your $20 to a casino and “put it all on red” and the ball lands on black, you may have just lost your hopes and dreams for that day. That can be an incredible let down! But, just like with sports activities, we need to learn to turn gambling into recreation, not as a necessity to win at life.

Budget For It

If I know that I am traveling for a vacation, and it will land me near a top notched casino, I will put an extra $50 into my budget for entertainment purposes. No doubt, this often turns into my casino money.

Just a tip for you (to keep it entertaining), when I leave my hotel and head out to the casino, I take only the amount of money that I have budgeted for myself that night. I know of a few people that divide their money in their wallet as “entertainment money” and “hands-off money”, but the fact is, if I am getting too involved in the gambling scene, it is just too easy to pull out that hands-off money. It’s best just to leave it at home (or in this case, in the hotel).

The purpose of the budget is to regulate yourself. If you did not put a definite number in your head before beginning to gamble, then chances are that you will spend more than you really wanted to in any given night.

Enjoy Yourself and Have Fun

There are many ways to gamble. You could wager some money at the craps table, at the track, or enjoy some sports gambling from your personal smart phone. Whatever is your choice in gambling, just remember to budget for this entertainment and have fun with your gambling.

written by Joe \\ tags:

Jan 04

A guest post on Structured Settlements, a topic I’ve not yet discussed - 

Structured settlements are basically a regular flow of compensation money that a person might be entitled to and receive after he wins a lawsuit, or after an accident or in any other forms of compensation. These bring in a steady flow of income monthly or annually over the lifetime of the benefactor with timely and guaranteed payments throughout life.

There are plenty of companies in the market right now that are interested in buying structured settlements. Especially after the fall of treasury bonds in the recent inflation, buying structured settlements is a very good investment option right now.

When can you consider selling your structured settlement?

Though such settlements provide a steady and regulated flow of income over a large span of time, sometimes there might raise circumstances where one is in immediate need of a large amount of money, instead of the smaller installments. In such cases a person might either consider taking out a loan. The other option available to him, provided he has a structured settlement to his account, is to sell it and get a lump sum of money instead of receiving controlled amounts in intervals.

Points to keep in mind while selling

  1. Discount Rates – Companies that buy structured settlements will keep a profit margin for themselves by asking for high discount rates. For example, suppose you have a settlement of total annuity of $ 100,000, with annual payments of $ 5,000 for next 20 years. If a company offers to buy it from you at a high discount rate of around 30%, then you would get paid $ 70,000, instead of the $ 88,000 that you would get if you went for a company that agrees to buy from you at a more reasonable discount rate of 12%. So it is very important to get quotes from multiple buyers before selling your annuity.

  2. Proper Legal Advice – The proceedings must take place under the supervision of a proper judge who will be able to assess the situation, while keeping in mind your financial status and your current need for the money. The selling has to be court approved. Also you need to get a good attorney to represent you, because otherwise, there are numerous fraudulent companies which might cheat you out of your settlement.

  3. Company Information – You must gather as much information as you can on the history and background of the company that you are considering and see whether it has ever gone bankrupt in the past. Also the payment should be made by its insurance company and not by the company itself, as in that way the company going bankrupt again will not affect your payment.

  4. Other factors – You should keep in mind that if the company is only providing you verbal offers and is being inflexible in its buying options, then in that case you need to forego that option. There should not be any situation where you feel coerced into making such a big decision like selling your structured settlement. Look around, judge the market and select the option that suits best your financial needs.

written by Joe \\ tags:

Nov 27

A Pre Black Friday Guest Post -

Black Friday and its adorable kid brother, Cyber Monday, are almost upon us. In just a few days, consumers across the country will be lining up to stampede into stores and grab the year’s best deals.

If you’re the kind of person who tracks prices, it’s hard to deny that Black Friday deals are often mathematically advantageous. If you’re eyeing that shiny new MacBook Pro with the retina display, for example, Best Buy is chopping off $200 to sell it at $1,099.99. This year, electronics are essentially $200 off across the board, from expensive MacBook laptops to less expensive household speakers. (If you’re curious about specific electronic deals, check out CNet’s guide to Black Friday shopping.)

Taking $200 off, say, a Samsung 32-inch 720p LED television sounds like a great deal, the type of discount that’ll keep money in your pocket as you prepare for the new year and its associated financial New Year’s Resolutions. However, before you buy, you have to consider the entire cost of the product you’re purchasing.

First: let’s just set aside this assumption that Black Friday gifts are intended for other people. You know as well as I do that the majority of those MacBooks, speakers, tablets and 32-inch 720p LED televisions are going straight into the homes of the people who purchased them. (The gifts you give to other people are more along the lines of socks and scented candles.) So before you buy that giant TV “for your wife,” take a few minutes to figure out exactly how much it’s going to cost you.

Here’s a good starting point: those tablets, MacBooks and televisions all require Internet. Even many home stereo systems are networked these days. How’s your internet provider doing? If you think saving $200 on a television is a great deal, try saving on your Internet and cable bill every month. Luckily, most Internet and cable providers have Black Friday specials too. Look for deals on Internet availability; these types of presents don’t fit as well under the tree, but if you have the choice between saving $200 on a television and saving $30 every month on the cable and Internet required to run it, it should become absolutely clear which is the smarter financial choice.

Then consider the accessories. How are you going to carry that MacBook around? Are you going to sign up for AppleCare — and if not, what are you going to do when your new laptop suffers natural wear and tear? (Although I am resolutely against most warranty programs, AppleCare is one of the few good ones out there, and a must-have for nearly all Mac users.) Even if Best Buy’s MacBook price is $1,099.99, you’re going to spend probably $1,500 total on accessories and insurance — and that’s before taxes.

Yes, $1,500 on Black Friday is still better than the original retail price of ~$1,700, and it becomes even more attractive if you’re able to slice a few dollars of your internet bill. However, the real point of this conversation is to get you to understand the true cost of what you’re buying. A laptop on sale isn’t just a laptop. You also have to buy the case, the warranty, the software package that lets you run basic programs, and the internet you need to keep the thing online.

If you’re shopping on a budget — and you should be — the number you factor into your budget needs to reflect the true cost of the product, not the featured sale price they run in the Black Friday ads. Otherwise, you’re going to overspend this holiday season.

In short: should you take advantage of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Sure, why not — IF you’ve taken the time to figure out whether you can truly afford it. Happy holidays, and have fun shopping!

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Jul 02

A Guest Post from Ryan -

Being in college, the whole money-management and doing your own taxes thing can feel cumbersome. You may get the “final exam” feel while doing it, but the difference here is that this test involves money. However, with a bit of research and preparation from your end can make things easy and help you make the most out of this “test”. So how do you go about making this tax exam easier? Let’s find out:

#1: File

Don’t make much money? It still makes sense to file even if you don’t have to. Not having a lot money shouldn’t stop you from filing because if you have had cash withheld from past paychecks then you will see a refund coming your way. This might seem like a simple tip but it will work in your favor in the long run.

#2: Begin Early

Don’t worry if you haven’t got your W-2s yet. You’ll find the needed tax information (how much you earned and how much was withheld) with your final pay stub. If you feel like you need a helping hand then you may want to check with your college’s account department. There you should find students offering to help with taxes for free to gain practice in “real life” returns. Don’t wait too long for seeking on-campus help because the closer April 15th gets, the more difficult it is to find help.

#3: Take Your Time

It’s a good idea to give yourself a weekend to fill out your forms. Will it take that long? No, of course not. But the ample amount of time you have on weekend will give you the space to take breaks when and if needed and double or triple check everything before you mail your return. If you want to take a safer route, do your returns on a leisurely weekend, then seek outside help/ask any questions the following week and then finally send it the next weekend after checking your numbers one last time.

#4: Practice on Paper

If you choose to file taxes online, it is better to go through the paper forms, fill them out and get rid of any bugs before taking the final step. Your aim here is to ensure that the whole filing process goes smooth without any obvious mistakes that can be avoided with some practice. Remember, clarity is the key to getting things right the first time.

#5: Know About Your Family’s Financial Picture

Talking to your parents about money and finances is not easy for any college student. But then it’s important that you learn about their financial situation in order to plan who should be claiming as their dependent and using your education deduction or credit. Keep in mind that if your parents are taking care of fifty percent of your expenses, then you can be listed as a dependent on their taxes.

Every college student knows the importance of money, and so should you. But what’s more important than that is understanding how to manage your finances and get them in order so that you can study with peace of mind.

written by Joe

Jun 03

Today’s guest post is from Noreen Ruth -

Warning signs are everywhere with some so downright hilarious that the seriousness of the issue is lost in the hilarity. For example, “Not intended for human consumption” was a warning on a bottle of bubble bath. Or this one found on the packaging for a set of earplugs, “These ear plugs are nontoxic but may interfere with breathing, if caught in windpipe.” Or this warning on a hairdryer, “Warning: Do not use while taking a shower.” Well, duh!

While we may get a little chuckle from these seemingly silly warnings, their intent to protect is serious business. Consider the consequences of simply ignoring any of these warnings. In the same way, signs that point to poorly managed finances have dire consequences, if you don’t take them seriously.

Ignoring the Wisdom of Others
One reason some people are surprised to find themselves in financial trouble is that they were indifferent to the clues that were clearly on display. Inexperience and arrogance often go hand-in-hand when troubles are left unresolved. Wise advice is considered irrelevant or out-dated for the situation. Those who step up to point out clues to trouble ahead might include family and friends who have more experience to draw from. They offer their help so that you might avoid pitfalls that they may have gone through – perhaps because they ignored the signs.

The right attitude about money is vital to establishing and maintaining excellent financial management skills. If you still rely on parents or friends to support your way of living, you need to resolve your dependency or miss wonderful opportunities for growth and personal success. Money is a means to an end and should be thought of as a tool to be used to build and live a sustainable life.

To write about all of the warning signs of a poorly managed financial lifestyle would fill a book. For our purposes and with word count restraints in place, the most common warning signs are included in this checklist.

  • Has Little or No Savings: The target to shoot for is a minimum of six months worth of savings to cover any unexpected job loss or emergency. Without this safety net, you’ll be inviting disaster. A recent survey shows that nearly half of Americans have less than $500 in the bank.
  • Doesn’t follow a Budget: Anything well managed incorporates a plan to reach their goals; and so it goes with finances. Without one there’s no direction and will be easy to get off track.
  • Insufficient Income/Poor Job Performance/Outdated Job Skills: These issues are interrelated with one impacting the other two and vise versa. Begin by learning a new skill and being more responsible on the job and the income will resolve over time with a new job or a pay raise.
  • Uses Payday Loans: Using one of these is an act of self-imposed desperation. Not only are you borrowing on your own future income, you’ll be paying interest to someone else to borrow your own money.
  • 5+ Year Car Loan: Pushing an auto loan beyond 60 months is a warning sign that the loan is too much to handle in your current situation.
  • Denied a Loan or a Credit Card: If lenders consider you too high risk to approve additional credit, this is a warning sign that you already have too much debt in relation to your income.
  • Uncontrolled Credit Card Spending: Credit cards should never be used as supplementary income. Never use one to purchase everyday necessities – do without until cash is available. Eventually it all needs to be paid back to the lenders, a bumpy road for sure when you’re overwhelmed by credit card debt on multiple accounts.
  • Agreeing to Debt Consolidation while Continuing to Use Credit: This strategy will backfire, as you will basically be standing still while incorporating a plan that would normally help lower debt. Consolidating all your debt into one account can be a great way to dig your way out of debt, but not if you keep using your available credit.

Personal reasons unrelated to finance that may be triggers to future financial problems, include a lack of or insufficient insurance coverage on your health, car and home. Disputes and disagreements between couples about money are the most common relationship problem. Sometimes one partner lies or hides the truth about how they’re spending the couple’s money. Issues like these need to be addressed and worked on until a joint agreement has been reached.

By keeping alert to the warning signs of poor financial management and correcting your course when one crops up will free up funds to invest in college for the kids or to pad your investments set aside to secure a carefree financial future for your retirement years.

Identifying the warning signs is the first step; the second is equally important. You need to take action to resolve the issues to protect your financial integrity and future in the best interest of yourself and your loved ones.

About The Author: Noreen Ruth is a staff writer for www.asapcreditcard.com, a site that provides credit tips, news, credit card comparisons and reviews. She is interested in educating consumers about using credit responsibly and taking actions that will affect their ability to borrow the money they may need in the future.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,