One of the biggest challenges facing black RELATIONSHIPS today are finances. Many people mistakenly feel that money does NOT matter. In fact, money matters the MOST! Why? Most people do not have a clue about their own financial destiny.
You know you want to own a home and save some money toward retirement but have you PLANNED what it is you are saving each month and how that money will assist you in the future. Do you have a PLAN to empower yourself financially by NOT depending on your JOB to pay your salary and that's your only source of income. Times have CHANGED. Jobs come and go(and so do SPOUSES). To protect yourself financially you need to be proactive and not depend on anyone else to solve your financial issues.
You can improve your finances RIGHT NOW if they are not in order. There are low costs alternatives to improve your credit score and increase your buying power. Power not to be wasted on designer shoes, clothes, and automobiles, but to be invested in REAL estate. An interesting term to be sure. REAL because it is the foundation of all REAL wealth in this country. Estate, because that is what you can leave your children and family if you handle your business correctly - RIGHT NOW. Money matters because in a relationship YOU should have your OWN MONEY! That is right- I said it! You should not count what someone ELSE brings to the table when all your money is tied up in petty and senseless bills. Talking about petty and senseless- let us discuss CARS! What would possess a person to lease an automobile? Other than as a BUSINESS expense (which also means TAX WRITE OFF) someone PLEASE Tell me WHY? I have heard of folks paying $500.00-$900.00 monthly on car payments. WHY? My car is paid for and I am proud of it. Yes, it is ten years old - BUT I don't work because I DON'T have to support my vehicle. If you are serious about getting more money in this lifetime, you will need to STOP SPENDING money RIGHT NOW on things that DEPRECIATE in VALUE such as CARS! Nuff said!
We all need just ONE major credit card and an American Express card. The other credit cards need to be in the trash. The reality is- if you CANNOT pay for something you purchased within 30 days, you CANNOT afford it! Brutal I know but I have been there and done that. When you have to spend real $$$ on what you purchase, it truly does slow your roll.
Contact me if you need to be pointed in the right direction. I will be happy to assist!
In a personal relationship many of your disagreements WILL stem from money issues. Not just who makes what, but how it is spent and how it is saved. It seems like such a small thing but when you are commingling finance and love you need to establish boundaries up front. PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THIS ADVICE! You should decide in advance if you want to keep your finances separate and have a joint household account.
The household account should be open to both parties (online access is great for this) and not used for personal spending in any way. The check card will let you market, pay bills etc. A joint savings account would also make saving for special purposes much easier. No matter how much you trust each other, the savings accounts should REQUIRE both parties to sign off on withdrawals. Just to keep everything clean and above board. The traditional (old fashioned) way is to have just one account for checking and one for saving. Even though our parents did this, most mothers (and fathers) always had personal money SOMEWHERE that was just theirs. So why not be upfront about your own personal money issues so they do not come back to haunt you down the road.
By Michelle Smith-Billups
Selasa, 01 Juli 2008
One of the biggest challenges facing black RELATIONSHIPS today are finances. Many people mistakenly feel that money does NOT matter. In fact, money matters the MOST! Why? Most people do not have a clue about their own financial destiny.
Identity theft is a serious crime that continues to grow. If you become a victim of identity theft, you may spend months, or years, trying to repair the damage. A compromised credit report can ruin your chances of getting a new job, a loan, insurance or even housing. It's true that it is possible that you could be arrested for a crime you didn't commit if someone else has used your identity to break a law.
Unfortunately, many of the methods that thieves use to steal identities are completely beyond your control. Although it's rare, some store clerks have been known to use their position to give or sell information to identity thieves. There are some measures you can take, however, that will make it harder for them to steal your identity.
Protect Your Credit Card Number When Making Purchases:
After you make a purchase and your credit or debit card has been swiped through a credit card terminal, check to make sure that the printed receipt hides all but the last four digits of your credit card account number (there will usually be an x in place of the first twelve digits).
Some credit card terminals do print receipts that show all sixteen digits of an account number, and may even include the expiration date! After your card is swiped, you're permitted by law to hide the first 12 digits of your account number on the copy of the receipt that the vendor keeps. Use a pen or marker to cross-out the other numbers completely.
When dining out, it's important to make sure that the first 12 digits of your credit card number are hidden on the receipt. You might be in the habit of signing it and then leaving the restaurant's copy on the table after your meal. An identity thief can steal the signed receipt before the waiter comes back to pick it up from the table.
Do You Really Need To Give Your Social Security Number?
Avoid giving out your social security number unless it's absolutely necessary. Although you need to share your social security number when you apply for credit or for a bank account, sometimes a store or an organization will want to use it as an ID number. This is a fairly common practice even though the law says that social security numbers aren't to be used as ID numbers. In these situations, use your judgment. There's usually an alternative if you ask.
Destroy Documents That Contain Sensitive Personal Information:
Buy an office paper shredder and use it to destroy documents you're discarding which contain personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers and birth dates. Do this both at home and at work.
Identity thieves frequently go through someone's trash to find personal information that can help them obtain credit in the victim's name.
If It Happens To You, Take The Following Steps Immediately:
1: Contact your credit card companies, close your accounts and ask to have new cards issued to you.
2: Place a fraud alert on your file with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-888-397-3742 & Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289).
3: File a report with your local police department. You may need it to show to creditors a copy of the report as proof of the crime.
4: File a complaint with the FTC: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/ - They maintain a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for their investigations.
By Mike Nalbone
When you received an energy (heating) bill last winter, were you afraid to open it? Granted that we have a home with a lot of really big windows, but we saw energy bills last winter in the hundreds of dollars. Your bill probably wasn't that bad but I'm guessing that it was a lot higher than you would have liked.
The good news is that there are some inexpensive things you can do to cut that cost. Here are 10 of them.
1. If you have a fireplace, be sure to keep the damper closed. You can lose up to 5 percent of your heat if your damper is open when the fireplace is not in use.
2. Keep your furnace filter clean. Replace it at least once a month during heating season. This alone can cut your heating costs by as much as 5 percent.
3. Be sure to keep inside doors open to improve heat circulation. This will help the efficiency of your heating system.
4. Lower the setting on your thermostat. If you can reduce your daytime indoor thermostat temperature from 72 to 68 degrees, you should save about 5 per- cent during the heating season.
5. If your hot water pipes and water heater are warm to the touch, insulate them. This will reduce heat loss and water heating costs.
6. Every minute you cut from your shower saves three gallons of water and the energy required to heat it.
7. Install compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Over the life of just one of these bulbs, you'll save about $15. Use just a handful of these around your home and you could notice a difference in your energy bill.
8. Motion detectors put light where you want it, when you want it, for brief periods of time. They provide safety and security for you and your property, but require much less energy since they are on only when you need them.
9.Be sure to check for cold air leaks at doors and windows. If you have a question as to whether or not they are leaking cold air, light a match and hold it at the bottom of the window or door. You should be able to see very quickly if there is a draft.
10. Apply weather stripping around any doors that are leaking air, and caulk around all your windows. Weather stripping can be purchased from just about any hardware store, as well as stores like Home Deport and Lowe's.
Debt levels are at an all time high in the UK. The younger generation tend to be feeling the pinch the most, but parents are increasingly being required to bail them out, often at great expense to their own limited mortgage or retirement savings.
It has become almost accepted as a fact of life that graduates will begin their careers with a considerable level of personal debt. The Association of Investment Trust Companies found that on average students expected to graduate with £7,208 of debt, while parents believed it would be nearer to £9,741, however the real average was found to be currently running at £13,501. Graduates then need to service credit cards, take out a mortgage, then cover the payments, repay university loans, not to mention the pressure to start saving earlier, and save more, for their retirement, whilst the basic state pension increasingly becomes inadequate. The government revealed in June that student debt for 2003-04 was seven times higher than they were in 1994-95 and the Student Loans Company has shown that debts owed to them has risen to more than £13bn.
It is not only students who face financial difficulties early in life. Consumer Credit Counselling Services - Scotland, has indicated that young adults in general, under the age of 25, now account for more than 10 per cent of the estimated 32,000 people who have fallen into severe arrears on non-mortgage debts of more than £1 billion.
Malcolm Hurlston, Chairman of the Consumer Credit Counselling Services (CCCS) said, "It is noticeable that young people are accounting for an increasing proportion and the number of them seeking assistance has risen by about 25 per cent over the past two years or so."
Analysts have been bracing themselves for news of a sharp increase in adverse debt levels from the major high street banks following report figures of a 21 per cent increase in bad debts levels at Lloyds TSB. City analysts expect HBOS and Royal Bank of Scotland to declare that bad debt charges have risen by around 20% in their personal banking businesses, and Barclays, HSBC and Alliance & Leicester are all expected to tell a similar tale of rising loan defaults. Citigroup analysts are expecting bad debt charges from its retail banking division to rise about 24% in the first half of this year to £230m, while last year HBOS's provisions for bad debt rose from £1bn to £1.2bn.
Keith Stevens, of the chartered accountants firm Wilkins Kennedy, said: "Creditors profit by lending money to people and collecting interest, and the longer they can keep that cycle going the better for them. Unless borrowers own property of significant value, it's often not in creditors' interest to call in their debts." He also continued that he believed some creditors were increasingly taking a hands-off approach, allowing debtors to pile up large amounts of debt, and then collecting interest and penalty charges for as long as borrowers were able to continue paying. This has lead to an increase in the number of borrowers filing for bankruptcy themselves when previously they would have been forced into it earlier by their lenders.
House repossessions have also significantly increased over the past year, with the Council of Mortgage Lenders announcing 4,640 home repossessions during the first half of 2005, compared with 3,070 for the last half of 2004. Government figures show that there has also been an increase in the number of homeowners being taken to court for mortgage arrears.
Some of the major banks and financial service providers have taken the initiative and started to help police the growing adverse debt problems with HSBC announcing that it will share their full credit record, of both positive and negative information, on its personal customers with other regulated financial services companies through the Experian, Equifax and CallCredit credit reference agencies, in efforts to keep tabs on its consumers' debt.
Michael Geoghegan, Chief Executive of HSBC said: "It is no more in the interests of a customer to borrow more money than they can afford than it is for a bank to lend them the money." The move has been widely heralded by analysts, as Michael Geoghegan added, "It is the only way to ensure that lenders properly understand the full financial exposure of customers before they let them sign up to debt that some simply can't afford."
This all comes amidst media pressure for financial firms to become more responsible. One case widely featured in the news concerns a couple who took out the £5,740 loan at 34.9% APR for house improvements, but they were already in arrears on two prior mortgages, and became unable to keep up the loan repayments. Over the course of the 15 year loan term the amount repayable had escalated to £384,000. Attempts by the loan company to still enforce the huge debt, eventually had to be fought off by the couple through the law courts.
The couple urged others considering taking out a loan to seek advice and to, "obviously read the small print and ask the questions that perhaps you don't think about at the time, and just make sure you know exactly what the consequences are should anything go wrong".
There are currently many sources of information to help consumers make decisions regarding their finances and debt levels. Financial comparison sites like Moneynet can provide impartial information on loans, mortgages, adverse credit, etc, to find the best product for individual circumstances. Consumer help sites like the National Debtline provide free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems, and the Citizens Advice Bureau are there with trained volunteers to help with legal, monetary and other problems, through a free, independent and confidential advice service.
The more help and information that is available to consumers and the more responsible the lending agencies become, the safer finance will be for the most vulnerable who are looking to borrow money, to prevent them getting into un-repayable levels of debt, however these services can only be of help if people actually use them.
Malcolm Hurlston of CCCS said, "We are advising about 4,000 people in Scotland and I would estimate that our figures represent only about one in eight of those who need help".
Financial education is something needs to be provided at an early stage to make people realise the importance of taking on the accountability for their own finances, as well as highlighting where to access help for when it is required. Budgeting is a subject many school leavers have little practical knowledge of, but one which they desperately need to be made aware of before they start to control their own finances.
Where there is existing advice or help, this must be made available and known to all in order to prevent more people getting too deeply into debt, or falling prey to loan sharks like the recent case of Mark Washington Johnson who has been jailed in Birmingham for nearly four years. Mr Johnson was found guilty of charging up to 8,000 per cent interest on loans, taking Social Security benefit books or National Insurance numbers as "security" for the unauthorised loans and then piling on default charges for missed payments. If we are to prevent this sort of abuse occurring to the weakest members of society then public awareness needs to be raised and the most vulnerable people given the assistance best suited to understand and control their own money.
In this age of information, keeping track of your finances does not mean an archaic jumble of ledgers, calculators, and papers filled with calculations in chicken scratch. Now everything can be taken care of on your computer through personal finance software.
Personal Finance Software: Organize Your Finances
Your finances are complicated. You have money coming in and money going out. You have bills and investments as well as multiple bank accounts. Personal finance software will keep everything organized for you.
Depending on the software you use, it may be able to separate portions of your finances into various categories for you. For example, Quicken 2005 separates your checking accounts from your savings accounts and allows you to track your investments all at the same time.
Organization saves time. Taking a few minutes to input your purchases and paychecks eliminates those hassles associated with staying on top of your finances. Rather than rifling though bank statements and bills for hours, everything is right here in the program. As long as you put each purchase and paycheck into the software, your checkbook will automatically be balanced. Some programs also feature functions that will create a budget for you; yet another time saver.
Personal Finance Software Knows Where Your Money Is
In order to keep more of the money you make, you must know where it is. Personal finance software gives you the power to know where each penny is at a glance. Some will even create reports for you that detail where your money goes each month. This feature will help you locate the leaks in your budget and reduce your expenses every month.
The overview personal finance software gives you is one of its main benefits. It allows you to take off the blinders and truly assess your financial situation. With this new-found view of your finances, you will be able to effect changes like never before. The old adage applies; you have to know where you are before you can get to where you want to be.
By Jon Martin
Are you having problems with debt? Are you afraid to answer the phone because it may be an angry creditor calling? Do you have problems getting from one paycheck to the next? The simple answer is that you need to budget. But for that budget to work, both you and your spouse need to be in total agreement.
If one of you loves to shop and doesn't worry much about credit card debt while the other hates spending money like death, you have a problem. You can create budgets till Honolulu freezes over, but it won't work and chances, are, you and your significant other will end up fighting constantly.
Even before you start to create a budget, the two of you must sit down and discuss your life objectives. Get out a piece of paper. Make a list of long-term objectives the two of you can agree on. One might be to get out of debt. Another might be to make monthly contributions to a college fund for the kids. A third could be to begin a retirement fund. Or you might decide it's important that one of your get some specialized training that would lead to a higher salary.
Once you agree on your objectives, the two of you can start work on a budget. Step one will be to decide how much you will need to save (or spend) monthly to meet your objectives. You should subtract this first from your monthly income so you can see how much you have left over to work with.
Next, subtract your "secured" debt. Typically, this would be your mortgage payment, car payments, and any other loan payments where an asset such as a boat or RV secures the loan. Then, take a hard look at your other expenses and debt - for example, your rent, food, membership dues, clothing or credit card debt -- as these are the only areas where you can hope to make cuts.
It is important that you both agree as to where those cuts can be made. No matter how strongly you feel about drastically cutting a budget category such as clothing, if your spouse doesn't agree, you're going to have problems. A better solution is to find a compromise - a number that gets you closer to where you think the spending should be but one that your spouse agrees is at least fair. Then, look for another category where you can make cuts to get your final budget number down to where it needs to be.
You should then sit down with your spouse twice a month to review where you are vs. your budgetary goals. You will most likely find that you're under in some categories and over in others. Don't worry about making adjustments at this time. Just make notes as to where you've over and where you're under.
After the first two months, you should know where you've been spending more than you budgeted and where you've spent less. The two of you can then discuss what adjustments you need to make. There should not be a lot of arguing because you have goals you've agreed on and a budget you created by working together.
The important thing is to keep the discussion from becoming accusatory. If one of you has been the "budget breaker," it's better to ask "it looks like we've got a problem here, what to you think we can we do to fix it?" then to say, "you really screwed up this time."
What can you do if you or your spouse just can't control his or her spending and keeps busting the budget, month after month?
Unfortunately that's an issue that probably needs the work of a good marriage counselor.
If you've been thinking about filing for bankruptcy, your best bet might be to file now.
A new bankruptcy law takes effect in November that will make it harder and more expensive for most families to file for bankruptcy and discharge their debts.
The major result of the new law is that fewer people will be able to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and will be forced to file for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, instead.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is basically a reorganization bankruptcy. Under Chapter 13, you must file a plan with the court showing how you will pay off your debts over a period of three to five years. Once both you and your creditors agree on the repayment plan and the bankruptcy court approves it, both you and your creditors are bound by it.
Beginning in November, if you want to file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, there will be a qualifying test. Under this two-part test, you will first be required to apply a formula that exempts certain expenses such as food, rent, etc., to see if you can afford to pay 25 percent of your "non-priority unsecured debt" (credit cards, medical bills and the like). Second, your income will be compared to your state's median income.
If your income is above your state's median income, and if you can afford to pay 25 percent of your unsecured debt, you will not be allowed to file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
You may be able to file for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy if your income falls below your state's median income but you can pay 25 percent of your unsecured debt. However, if the court believes you would be abusing the system by filing a Chapter 7, you can be required to file for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, instead.
If you file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy today, the court will determine what you can afford to pay based on what you and the court determines are reasonable and necessary living expenses.
Under the new law, the court is required to apply living standards that are derived by the Internal Revenue Service to determine what is reasonable to pay for rent, food, etc., and how much you should then have left over to pay your debts. The IRS regulations are more stringent and if you want to contest them, you will need to ask for a hearing in front of the bankruptcy judge. This can easily mean more time and expense.
When you declare bankruptcy today, your state may allow you to keep all or much of the equity you have in your home. However, the new law places tougher restrictions on this exemption. So before you file, be sure to discuss this with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney so that you will know exactly how much of your home's equity you can expect to protect.
Here's another tough restriction. Under the new bankruptcy law, you must meet with a credit counselor in the six months before you apply for bankruptcy. You must also attend money management courses - at your expense - before your debts are discharged.
Understand that it takes a couple of weeks to file for bankruptcy. This means that if you want to take advantage of the current law, you should plan on filing at least by the beginning of September of this year.