May 18

The David (as I fondly call the entertainer Dave Ramsey) is known for his hyperbole. And his “my way or the highway” view on all things financial. One of his more memorable quotes is “No one ever says they got rich off of credit card points.” It seems to me that if I say so, and offer some supporting evidence, then he’s wrong. If he ever repeats himself, you can reply and tell him you know a guy that did. Let’s start here.

Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 3.28.43 PM

Above is a snapshot of my 529 account funded solely with the 2% cash back from my credit card. We use a credit card that offers 2% cash back on all purchases, and have had the card for nearly 16 years. It’s invested in an S&P index, so the number above includes the growth of the market. We have 2 years till my daughter goes off to college. Or 6 until her senior year. I’m hoping this account can grow to $40K and cover a full semester’s cost. That will make another topic for an article here.

In 2012, I wrote a guest post How I Made $4,000+ on a Cash Back Credit Card Offer. The exact number was $4550. That was a one time opportunity, for me, a way to take advantage of the institution we all hate, the bank that pays you .01% on you money, but charges you 5% on your mortgage, and a fee for every little thing. You can read all about it at the linked article.

Last, I’ve also had an Amex card that averaged over $500/yr in rebates for Costco and gas purchases, so another $10K on top of this. This all totals $40K, give or take.

There’s a site Global Rich List that puts wealth and income into perspective. I put in $40,000 and found

Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 3.44.56 PM

 

If instead of wealth, we look at income, how about I look at the $1600/yr I can withdraw from the $40,000, and add $2000/yr, the amount I’ve been getting back in rewards, so $3600/yr.

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I offer this a bit tongue in cheek, as I know that $40,000 isn’t really rich, nor is $3600/yr living the dream. But $40,000 is still a chunk of change. If you look at how much we’ve saved for retirement in the US –

retirement-savings-by-age-group

That $40,000 is more than 40% of those nearing retirement have saved. Did I really get rich on credit card points? We can debate that. But first, ask the 31% of 55 year olds who have less than $10,000 saved if an extra $40,000 would make them feel rich, and then decide.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Oct 31

Of all the potential problems life can serve up to us, money problems rank among the most stressful without a doubt. Ruminating about mounting debt, having trouble paying bills, knowing we are making bad choices can do quite a number on us mentally. If denial is no longer doing it for you, and you are ready to move towards a more ordered financial life, here are some helpful strategies to get you there.

Do a Mental Purge

One of the reasons we let our money troubles get so out of hand is our tendency to push our troubles out of our minds and go into denial mode. Obviously on some level, we are aware of the damage, but so long as we don’t fully face up, we can continue to divert our attention elsewhere.

Actually thinking about the situation for too long is unpleasant to say the least, but this refusal to think about it is just prolonging the suffering. One of the first steps in righting your money wrongs is doing a mental purge of all your worries and problems. Face them head on. This is very powerful.

So, bust out a pen and paper—this is more powerful than just typing it out—and write down all the stuff that has been floating around in your head. What money worries are you currently dealing with? What do you fear will happen now, or in the future because of these problems? Don’t hold back..just let it all out.

What Will Provide Immediate Relief?

You didn’t get into a financial mess overnight, and you can’t expect to clean it up this quickly either. But, don’t focus too much on the whole picture—it will just make you feel super-bummed, and your motivation will drain very quickly. Think about what you can do immediately to provide some relief.

Perhaps there are some inaccuracies with your credit report that need your attention. If they are bigger issues, or you don’t have the time to stay on top of the process, it might be a good idea to find a reputable credit repair company to assist you in correcting these errors. If you haven’t filed your taxes, do so, and once the bill comes, call the IRS to discuss a payment plan. If there are any expenses you can cut immediately that will put some extra money in your pocket, do it.

No matter how small the step, it is a good thing because it moves you out of a place of feeling powerless.

Visualize the Improved Situation

There is a lot of power in visualization when it comes to making positive change. It gives us something to focus on. When we get into a space where we can see and feel the more ideal circumstances of a particular aspect of our life, it motivates us to make this our reality.

What would a better financial life look like to you? Do you see yourself making regular deposits into your savings account? Do you see yourself truly enjoying nights out because you truly have the money to spend on a nice dinner or concert? What does this life feel like? It probably feels pretty good. Think about the lack of anxiety and fear that comes with having all bills paid on time, budgeting properly and managing debt responsibly. How much more peace would you feel if you had a nicely padded savings account, or the oft-talked about ‘emergency fund?’

Visualize yourself as being responsible with money and financially savvy—this may seem challenging from your current space. But, it is important to realize your situation now was not borne of some DNA defect that made you bad with money. It was borne of bad habits, lack of education and awareness and poor decisions. All of that is of the mind and can be changed.

Where you are now probably feels really uncomfortable. Facing up to our money troubles is scary, but this willingness sets a very powerful intention. So long as you commit to following through, and taking things a step at a time, you can turn things around.

 

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Dec 03

Today, A guest Post From Joy –

There are many things that can have an impact on your life. How much money you make and where you live are a couple of them. But there is one in particular that can affect your life no matter who you are or what you do for a living — your credit score. Having a good one is extremely important. It can influence many things in your life that you may not have ever realized.

Ducks in a Row (concept to put everything in order/ to complete

Value of a Good Credit Score

You may know it, but your credit score can influence several different areas in your life. By taking care of your credit score, you can improve everything from your job to your love life.

  • Employment.
    Many employers are now checking your credit score before agreeing to hire you for a new job. They want to be sure that you are taking care of your own personal finances. If you have a good credit score, they can usually expect that you are self-managing and pay attention to detail.
  • Insurance.
    Your insurance rates are directly tied to the health of your credit score. If you have a low credit score, you will be stuck paying higher premiums. A good credit score will help you qualify for better insurance programs that offer great rates and benefits.
  • Credit.
    This is perhaps an obvious one, but your credit score has an immediate relationship to your ability to get loans, incredibly low interest rates, and the best terms available. Having a good credit score is essential to getting a decent mortgage at an affordable rate.
  • Romance.
    It’s a reality — some potential dating partners may want to know about your credit score before agreeing to go on that first date. Maybe they will wait for the second date, but you shouldn’t be surprised if he or she pops the question early on in your relationship. Many consider a good credit score as just as important as appearance and personality.

How to Get a Credit Report

The best way to see what your credit looks like is by ordering a copy of your credit report and credit score. You can go to any number of sources to get this information. You can order credit reports from each of the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can also order a 3-in-1 credit report which allows you to view all three of your credit reports at the same time. It is a good idea to keep your credit reports monitored periodically throughout the year.

Once you’ve received your credit report, you need to review it to make sure the information it contains is accurate and up-to-date. Be sure that it gives the correct address and contact information. You should also look over each of loans or credit cards you have to make sure that they reflect your current payment status. Having inaccurate information about your credit history can be a real problem.

What Affects Your Credit Score

There are several factors that affect your credit score, but there are three in particular that weigh heavily when calculating your overall creditworthiness. Problems in any one of these three areas can have a significant negative impact on your credit score.

  • Payment history.
    Having problems regarding your payments and your record in making payments is critical. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is derived from your payment history. Failure to make timely payments can lower your credit score quickly. Missing payments will guarantee a lowered credit score.
  • Credit utilization.
    How much credit you have impacts your credit score. Lenders compare how much credit you have used with how much credit you have available. The higher the ratio, the greater your credit utilization is. Considering that credit utilization is worth 30 percent of your credit score, the lower you can keep it, the better off you will be. Most credit consultants suggest keeping your utilization ratio at less than 30 percent.
  • Length of history.
    How long you have had your credit accounts is also very important. It helps lenders see how you’ve done with your payments over a several years. If most of your credit is limited to recently opened accounts, your credit score will be lower. The length of your credit history can account for 15 percent of your overall credit score.

Your credit score is extremely important. Because it can affect so many areas in your life, you need to monitor it regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up to date. Adopting wise credit-management behaviors can help keep your credit score healthy. Failure to monitor these things can cause you to have a negative credit score, which can adversely affect many areas of your life.

Joy Mali is a staff writer on The Washington Times and Examiner. Her work is also published on Lifehack, DailyFinance and other mainstream sites. She likes to share interesting tips to help people manage their personal finances & credit.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Jul 31

My friends at Credit Karma enlisted the help of Harris Interactive (the famous “Harris Poll” people) to take a look at how people prioritize their financial health and their physical health. The results were a surprise to me. With money at the top of the list of things keeping people up at night, I’d have thought being debt free would rank pretty high. Check out this infographic, and click on it to be taken to the full article at Credit Karma.

Physical_vs_Financial_Health_Credit_Karma

Why not leave a comment? Tell me, what’s more important to you right now, your weight, or your debt? No cheating, you can’t say, “both!”

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

May 06

A guest post today from Annie Harrington –

Back in 2003 under a study conducted by the American Bankers Associates, some alarming data was presented. According to the study, check fraud was becoming an epidemic. Information found through the study suggested that more than 1.2 million fraudulent checks were being circulated throughout the United States. These numbers were not over the course of a year, a month or even a week, but instead in one day. Even in 2003 when the advent of the debit card was beginning to take off and check usage began to see its initial decline, fraud was still on the rise. What was worse, it was expected to grow steadily each year by about 2.5%. But now, let’s flash-forward to 2012, last year. For the first time ever that 2.5% was finally culled and instead of growing, it dropped 7.5%.

But, under the tried and true theory of checks and balances (no pun intended), when one thing falls, another must rise and rise it has. As check fraud began to die down, the United States began to notice an upswing in other kinds of fraud, mainly that related to debit and credit card. In another study conducted by the Consumer Sentinel Network (funded by the US Department of Justice) research showed that 17% of Americans have been the subject of either credit or debit card fraud. While the quickly becoming antiquated check fraud was largely tied to the writing of fraudulent checks, debit and credit card fraud has several different pitfalls to which a consumer or business can fall victim to. Here are the top five for 2012.

Counterfeit credit cards 37%
Lost or stolen cards 23%
Account information compromised (dubious telemarketers, key-loggers etc..) 10%
Stolen cards through mailing fraud 7%
Identity theft fraud 4%

While the initial 2003 study from AMA was true to a point, check fraud crime made its peak in 2008. In the years leading up to 2012 there was an incremental decline but nothing as large as the 7.5 drop, which marked the biggest turn in the right direction for some time. But, what can we take from these numbers? Can we take the data and make an overarching statement about fraudulent crime as it relates to card and checks?? Have increased security measures and more sophisticated technology deterred would be thieves from taking advantage of check crime or have they simply put their efforts into card related crime? It’s difficult to say.

The use of personal checks has been declining each year. More and more people are opting to pay their bills online, use a card to pay for their groceries, gas and other items. But this isn’t new, shocking news. Debit and credit cards have been being used for quite some time. Since 2012 was the first year where such a noticeable decline in check fraud was noted, most experts are waiting for the 2013 statistics to see if this will be a trend or an anomaly in fraudulent behavior.

Let’s take a look at total amounts lost across both platforms. Even at its highest peak in 2008, check fraud was nowhere near the estimated amount lost through debit and credit cards during last year’s reporting. In 2008, check fraud accounted for a little over 1.02 billion dollars in lost funds. This number is by no means a small amount, but when put up next to the amount of money lost through debit or credit card fraud, an ample $190 billion, it almost seems like chump change.

So to answer the question posed earlier, are the days of accounts being compromised and malicious financial behavior behind us? Sadly, they are not. So, for the consumer who is looking for an immediate answer with the data on their sides, it appears that checks, while quickly becoming a thing of the past, or still the more secure method of payment.

In order to combat these escalating figures card companies have teamed up to make what is referred to as the EMV initiative Cards using this technology will incorporate a small chip that will step up authentication measures, hopefully ensuring that the right person is using the right card for the right reasons. While there has been a bit of backlash among some on account of these chips violating personal freedoms the EMV movement is instead focusing on the immediate benefit that would see that 190 billion dollar black hole become just a bit smaller.

In order to entice companies over the system, the EMV initiative will cover and financial losses for the companies when a card is put into the wrong hands, a deal that is becoming very attractive to the likes of Visa and Mastercard. This protection from losses officially goes into effect in October of 2015.

Annie Harrington is a small business owner and freelance writer. She is also keenly interested in all aspects of design and the design process.

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,