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This guest post comes from JR Diamond.

Your bill payment calendar will probably look quite a bit different after a divorce.

A 2012 study showed that over 45% of divorcees, both men and women, experience a substantial drop in income after a divorce. Forty years ago, the numbers were much different: nearly 70% of divorced women but only 30% of divorced men saw their incomes decline.

What’s more, this financial study found that only remarriage could reliably end the income tailspin. Divorced women, for example, are much more likely to be impoverished senior citizens than widowed women or women who never married. These figures may be one reason the divorce rate was flat between 2007 and 2009, the depths of the recent recession.

Short-term income

Many people are taken aback by the income loss because, quite frankly, they have failed to anticipate some key short-term financial divorce costs. Matthew Kremer, a divorce lawyer in San Diego, most often sees this failure of anticipation in his trauma-driven divorce cases. He explains that some couples divorce because of a sudden trauma in the marriage, such as an affair or a medical diagnosis. Such parties often rush to file divorce papers as an emotional reaction to that trauma.

  • The legal fees in a divorce can be enormous, even in cases with few contested issues. To avoid the complete dissipation of savings and over-reliance on credit, many divorcing couples turn to mediation. The average divorcing couple has less than $20,000 in assets, so mediation makes financial sense in many cases.
  • For other people, the financial surprise comes in the mail after their divorce decree is signed: the letter from their insurance carrier that their group health benefits have been terminated. For people who relied on their ex-spouses’ health benefits because they could not afford their own coverage or they had a preexisting condition, the loss of health benefits can be a very, very serious blow. Legal separation is available in some states, including California. Mr. Kremer sometimes recommends legal separation in these cases, because the spouse are technically still married but are divorced for all other practical purposes.

Long-term income

As noted earlier, the lost income after divorce is sometimes never made up. The financial ramifications of divorce continue even after a person receives a raise or promotion.

  • If you had counted on the full value of your retirement plan to give you an income stream in your golden years or to serve as an emergency cash reserve, think again. A retirement plan is community property and, like a house or car or any other physical property, the retirement plan is divided upon divorce. The technical term is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO, pronounced quad-ro). The precise rules vary according to the jurisdiction, the employer and the type of plan.
  • Take care that the tax burden is equitably shared to the greatest extent possible. A rent property is a common example. Spouse A may obtain a rent house in the divorce and look forward to the extra income, but fail to anticipate the property taxes.

You take a great deal of pride in the fact that your financial life is reasonably well-organized and that you are always in a position to meet your obligations. Don’t let divorce change that.

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Beware of Risky Investment Products

Risk is usually portrayed as an exciting experience that can either pay off big, or ruin a person financially. While risks can certainly take an investor to heights of wealth never seen before, or plunge them into complete financial oblivion, these are two extremes which are easily avoided.

Profilts, loss, risks
Image Source: themaltzgroup.com

For the average investor, moderate amounts of risk can be a rewarding way to increase wealth quickly. However, with the slew of investment products now available everywhere, it pays to be extra cautious. While a risky investment can be undertaken once the potential gains or losses are weighed carefully, investment products that don't reveal all the potential downsides of said product may end up being a much greater risk to your wealth than initially thought.

This article is a general guideline about exercising caution, and learning to recognize the warning signs when choosing risky investment products. A little bit of homework is necessary, if you’re going to keep your money safe, and growing healthily.

  • First of all, a standard practice is to identify your particular risk tolerance. The terms low risk, moderate risk and high risk may not have immediate use for individuals, as interpretations of these terms can be highly variable. Calculate a number that signifies the amount that you'd be able to lose, before you decide it's too much. A percentage of your investment works well too. This would be more useful than simply trying to align your investment choices with the terms that are slapped on investment products. While “moderate risk” may sound reasonable, you may find that it’s far more than you’d be able to handle losing. Find your number, and use that instead of more vague terms.
  • When shopping around for investment products, carefully peruse all the disclosed potential downsides and upsides of the product. The word disclosed was in italics there, because sometimes, there are downsides that aren’t disclosed immediately, in order to keep attract more potential investors. Get as much information as you can, and keep asking questions. That's just the beginning, because the more unscrupulous will attempt to hide or manipulate what you get to see.
  • Seek out an independent connection to other investors of said investment product, who are willing to discuss their own experiences with that particular type of investment product. This is good way to learn from someone else's experiences. Of course, educate yourself thoroughly before trusting in any one person's opinion. Online sources can provide a vast amount of data, which may be helpful, if trusted sources can be found. If not, an aggregate of reported experiences online might help you decide if that investment product is worth the plunge.
  • Always check the legality of an investment product. There are strict regulations in place, in financial markets. Sometimes, an investment product succeeds in luring investors with great marketing. There have been many scams that have taken in unwitting investors simply because they sold the dream. A trusted financial advisor with a strong understanding of the law can be the person to turn to in this situation. For the cautious, coming to grips with the applicable laws themselves will give them a rock solid foundation from which to determine the legitimacy of an investment product.
  • Ambiguous terms should be a warning sign. If everything else checks out, but the terms listed seem difficult to understand, stay away. There may be intended to confuse investors, and get away with vague terms that mean something other than what investors initially think. Be as thorough as you can possibly be, take a cue about process improvement from six sigma certification.
  • Do you fully understand what's happening to your money? Where it is, who has access to it, how much you could lose if things go wrong, and just how likely it is that you'll get a return? All too often, investors simply charge ahead without taking the time to get fully acquainted with where their money is going.
  • Read the fine print, look for clauses that work in your favor. A good sign in an investment is a money back clause. These can minimize risk. Sometimes not being aware of these clauses allows the unscrupulous to cause more losses than you might have had.
  • Learn, and then learn some more. In certain investment products, knowledge is power. In the stock market, for example. Knowing more than the majority of investors will allow you to stay ahead of the curve.It’s always best to learn as much as you can before going in, but once your money is in there, keep trying to gather more information.


Image Source: www.cwfgroup.com

About the Author

Jenny Corteza is a writer, and designer with a love of infographics who is meticulous about her investments. Half of her income comes from her investments, and she intends to grow this to much greater than half. She firmly believes in the quote by Peter Drucker “What gets measured, gets managed.”She believes that a new investor just striking out should learn good habits early on.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_0992_142758_doc2.jpgThis guest post comes from JR Diamond.

Sarah, whose name has been changed in this article, recently divorced her husband after a brief marriage. Sarah’s husband was very controlling. He insisted on paying all the bills, claiming that Sarah was “too stupid” to do so herself. After her husband moved out following the divorce, Sarah was clueless as to how to pay anything; Sarah had to call her landlord and ask how much her rent was, because she did not know the amount.

Sarah’s story is not unusual, according to Austin, Texas divorce lawyer James Evans. “I do my best to prepare my clients for life after divorce, by speaking with them at length and giving them referrals to outside counselors,” he said. “But many times, my clients are still not ready to balance a checkbook and perform other normal day-to-day financial activities.”

Divorce Shock

Even if the spouses have been having problems for some time, divorce can still come as quite a shock. Divorce shock most commonly involves mild to moderate denial and depression.  Sometimes, the effects are much worse. Some divorcees are unable to read their divorce decrees for months or years due to the emotional trauma, and others are driven to deep depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Divorce shock may wreak havoc with a person’s finances. If the bills are unpaid for a month or so as the person recovers from divorce, the late fees and other adverse consequences can quickly pile up and be almost as bad as the divorce itself.

The financial disruption stemming from divorce shock is almost inevitable, as everyone has at least a brief period of mourning following a divorce. There are several ways you can minimize or eliminate the damage to your checkbook after a divorce:

  • Support payments: Do not account for spousal and child support payments when making your budget, because the fact is the money may or may not be there. Think of support payments as lifestyle equalization payments and not as money to pay bills. The utility company does not care if your spousal support check came in or not, but you might need an extra few restaurant nights this month.
  • Offers for aid: Swallow your pride. Never turn down any offer for financial assistance. If a relative offers to loan you money, accept it graciously. If a local charity gives your family a sack full of canned goods, eat them ravenously.
  • Budgeting and payments: Especially if you have minor children to care for, your life will be infinitely busier than it was before. Save as much mental and physical energy as possible and automatic bill payment is usually a very good place to start. Do not be afraid to spend a little money: even if there is a small convenience fee or other fee, the hours that you save are well worth a few cents.

Sarah’s story does have a happy ending, although it was a long and bumpy road to get there. With help from friends and family she was able to pick up the pieces. Sarah moved to a new town and began her own business as a wedding consultant. She and her current husband, who is an IT consultant, have been married for over fifteen years. They live happily with their daughter and two dogs.

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Debt explained with SoccerBudgeting is a skill that far too few people have mastered. Millions of people are now dealing with mountains of debt whether from student loans, car loans, credit cards or just money mismanagement. However, there are steps to getting a handle debt no matter what the amount. One way is simple budgeting everyday, from how much you spend on coffee to how much you spend on groceries. Practicing budgeting in your everyday activities can help you learn to budget when it comes to more major spending such as a car loan or student loan repayments.
 
 
This infographic by UK-based Consolidated Credit gives some great tips for combating debt and tackling it to help with your personal budget. Technology can also help you with keeping a budget such as using apps or programs like CalendarBudget that can help you keep track of your expenditures. Tackling debt can be overwhelming but with a little strategic planning and budgeting you’ll be able to wipe out your debt in no time.
 
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Car loan during bankruptcyYes! Yes, you can get a car loan during bankruptcy if you live in Canada and it's actually not as difficult as you might think. You might be thinking that creditors will run from your car loan application, but in fact, there are many lenders and creditors out there that want your business simply because your car loan would be a secured loan.

 

A secured car loan is a safer loan type for lenders when working with people with not so great credit. Going through the bankruptcy process is hard enough as it is for obvious reasons, but please don't feel like this is the end of the world for yourself and for your credit. You can still rebuild your credit after a bankruptcy and one way to do so is with a line of secured credit.

How to Acquire Credit for a Car Loan During the Bankruptcy Process in Canada

One way to acquire credit during the bankruptcy process in Canada is with a secured loan, as stated above. So, what exactly is a secured loan? A secured loan is a loan type in which a borrower uses an asset as collateral in the event that they have to default on their loan.

Collateral can be anything of value, and if you default on your secured loan, the creditor can then take possession of the asset that you pledged to satisfy your loan agreement.

Other Ways to Get a Car Loan After Bankruptcy in Canada

Before attempting to apply for a car loan you'll want to follow these steps:

  • Get a copy of your credit report, so that you can begin cleaning up your credit. See if there's anything on there that shouldn't be there and if there is, then dispute it. As for any other debt that could damage your credit, then begin cleaning it up by paying those things off little-by-little. Even if you’re past due debt is not completely paid off, if you at least show an attempt at repaying the debt, this will look better for yourself and will improve your credit rating later.
  • Make sure to stay on top of your bills and pay your bills on time every month. Paying your bills on time will also look good for your credit.
  • When you're ready to look into finding an auto dealership that deals with bad credit, you'll be happy to know that there are some dealerships that have actual departments within their dealerships set aside to specifically cater to people with less than perfect credit. You'll want to search for those dealerships before applying for any car loan, because this will make the process much smoother for both you and the dealer. You don't want to waste your time if it turns out they do not work with people with bad credit.
  • Establish a good standing bank account and consider looking into a car loan within your own bank. You might be more likely to get a car loan that way, particularly if your paycheck is directly deposited into your bank account regularly. This shows the bank that the money is there to make timely payments.
  • Look into programs that help people rebuild their credit and get started right away.
  • Secured credit cards are another way to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy. With a secured credit card, your line of credit depends upon the amount of money that you put up front. If you put $300 on your card, then you have a $300 line of credit. You will then have to make payments every month on this card if and when you use your line of credit. You'll want to make timely payments or pay it off all at once to build your credit up faster.

So, as you can see, there are many ways to rebuild your credit after a bankruptcy to get that much needed car loan. Even if your credit has not been rebuilt yet, there are plenty of lenders out there that will be willing to work with you; you just have to find them.

This article was written by Cris Ravazzano from loanscanada.ca.

 
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Prepare to stopLife has a funny sense of humor. Life can be going great. You obtained that raise at work; you managed to find great deals at the supermarket; Life couldn’t be better. Then your company goes out of business, your body experiences a systematic break down, and the price of gas rises drastically. When life goes to hell, what do you rely on? With proper planning you can prepare to weather a possible financial hardship without major repercussions. Here are a few steps to secure your future.

 

Step 1: Start a Saving Account Now

You can prepare for inevitable financial strains by opening a saving account with your bank. You should figure out your monthly disposable income. Place a percentage of that disposable income in your savings account. I would suggest that you place at least 5 to 10% of your disposable income in your savings account each month.

Step 2: Figure out Where You Can Save Now

Depending on your current finances, you might now have a large disposable income. If that is the case, you should review your finances and decide where you can make some cuts. You can begin by identifying unneeded items or services that you pay for. Decide which ones you can’t live without, and which ones you can. Here are a few more ways to save money long term.  With a few life style changes you might be able to cut your monthly spending.

Step 3: Make Yourself Indispensable at Work

You can ensure financial stability by making yourself a vital part of your workplace. While making yourself indispensable to your employer will not save your job if the business you work for goes out of business, it will at least ensure that you will receive a solid reference as you seek other employment. You can ensure your position in a financially stable company by

  • Spending a few hours every week researching knowledge and building skills that can improve your efficiency at work.
  • Volunteering for leadership tasks and suggesting changes to the manager or boss that will improve the work environment.
  • Never engaging in unproductive tasks like games or Facebook while at work.

Step 4: Invest in Health Insurance

Seeking help for health problems can be extremely expensive. Seeking help for health problems without health insurance can be financially disastrous if you are unprepared to pay the high doctor or dental bill. Health insurance is an investment. You pay a monthly premium now, you receive financial support later. To find affordable health insurance for you and your family, you should check the prices and plans offered by multiple health insurance providers. You can find more about private health insurance here.

Step 5: Build Relationships

While you should never rely on others to provide for your day to day expenses when life is fruitful, you can turn to them for help when your finances become tight. That being said, you need to earn the right to expect financial help from family or friends. You can build relationships with family and friends by

  • Supporting family members emotionally, physically, and financially.
  • Corresponding or meeting with family and friends on a regular basis.
  • Proving that you are trustworthy by keeping promises.

Fruitful relationships with financially stable friends and family can be the thing that stops you from financial disaster. Better to borrow money from a relative or friend, than taking out a Payday loan or declaring bankruptcy. If one of your relatives is nice enough to borrow you money, you should set up a payment plan.  

You will never be able to tell when life will throw high expenses or lost job your way. You can ensure your financial health during those moments by planning for that moment now. By opening savings account, cutting your current expenses, making yourself a vital aspect of your work place, investing in health insurance, and building relationships, you will have taken the first step for preparing for a potential disaster.

 
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Teenage DriverMy father always had a very firm car policy. “You think you’re old enough to drive?” he would ask as each of my siblings brought up attending Driver’s Ed. No matter our own reaction, the end of the line was always the same. “If you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to work. You want a car, you’ll pay for it.” My father watched in satisfaction as all of my siblings decided that they didn’t particularly want to drive. By the time I was 17, I had my driver’s license, a car, and a job. Here are some tips, from a former teenage driver, on how to decrease the expense involved in funding your teenager’s driving adventure.

 

Check out your multiple car discounts. Depending on your own personal stance on teenagers paying their own way car-wise, you should know that you will be able to benefit from a multiple car discount with your insurance agency on both cars when you add your teenagers car to your policy. Regardless of whether you plan on paying for all, part, or none of your child’s car expenses, you will both get up to a 20% discount when you are on the same Dallas auto insurance policy.

Find a solid used car. Used cars are the starter driver’s Holy Grail. What is so special about used cars? Insurance, car parts, and mechanic labor are all cheaper than if you help your teenager afford a new car. Before deciding on a used car, you need to be sure that it won’t require substantial repairs any time soon. For the best car deal, you might want to recruit a car savvy individual to vet any new car before you purchase it.

Limit the amount of time that your teenager will drive. There are occasions where driving is mandatory, but for casual trips around town, you might want to set a limit on how much they can drive a week. This will not only save gas money, but might also decrease the insurance premium.

Place a grade stipulation on their ability to drive. Insurance bills for teen drivers are expensive. Many insurance agencies will offset the high costs by offering a discount to teenage drivers who display academic excellence. Your student’s will need to earn a grade point average of a B to A range or a standardized test score that is in the upper 20%. Depending on the agency this can be a 5 to 10% discount.

Depending on your own personal values or financial situation, you may or may not be able to handle paying the insurance and gas costs for your teenager’s car. If you are unable to pay for any or all of your child’s car expenses comfortably, you should not be afraid to make your teen responsible for financing his car. Set your limit for the amount that you are willing to pay, and if your teenage driver wants to exceed any allotted driving time or gas usage, he or she can look for a job. 

 
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b2ap3_thumbnail_Money_Plus_Sunset.pngMicrosoft Money Discontinued But Still Popular

Microsoft discontinued development of MS Money in 2009. Despite the product being discontinued, and the free "Sunset" version being crippled, About.com reports that "MS Money" is still the most searched for term in their Personal Finance forums.

Other Better Tools Now Available

It's funny how we get used to something and would just rather stick with it rather than change - even if the change is a much better option. Think about how so many people took a long time before even trying a bank ATM and still waited in line for the teller at rediculous banking hours.

Similarly with personal finance software, since MS Money's sunset, many other personal finance tools have emerged with varying degrees of success, and many much easier to use and more functional. MS Money always cost money, but today, there are many free options available that devlier more functionality than MS Money ever could have.

Online Software Has Clear Advantages

MS Money is installed software; that is, you have to download the product and install in on your machine. Installed software has many downfalls including:

  • You have to install it
  • You have to install and mange upgrades
  • It takes up space on your computer
  • You have to be physically on the machine that you installed the software on in order to use it
  • It's not very secure (computer theft means your information is available to the thief) 

Online software overcomes all of these disadvantages by:

  • Running in your web browser of mobile device (nothing to install and upgrades happen automtacally)
  • Access from anywhere you have internet access (virtually everywhere)
  • Security is based on username and password with bank-level security online

Many online personal finance solutions have emerged that specialize in different things.

Forecasting Your Balance is Key To Successful Planning

The key to success in personal finance planning is the ability to see what your finances will look like if you do certain things, like buy a house, or go on an expensive vacation. Tools like CalendarBudget, which allow you to forecast your account balance based on your bills, expenses and spending plans are super valuable because they give you that important visiblity into your future finances. When choosing a personal finance tool, this forecasting tool is must-have.

Automatic Downloading Is Convenient, But Be Careful

MS Money used to automatically download your bank files to keep you up to date. This was a very desireable feature and there are some online substitutes which still do this, but be forewarned. Any software that automtaically logs into your bank account requires your bank username and password and thus is a potential security breach. Even if the software is "read-only", the fact that you give your bank username and password to a 3rd party violates (in many cases) your security agreemetn with your bank. If anything ever happened to your account resulting in lost funds, you would be without recourse since you'd have violated this policy. Notably, several banks in Canada have recently warned that you put yourself at risk using these type of services.

CalenarBudget does not automatically download your bank file, but you can export your transactions and then import them into CalendarBudget, which is the best way to mitigate this concern and still make it convenient to keep your plan up to date.

Move Forward With New Budgeting Software

Staying with dead software, even though it may be familiar, is just not wise in the long-run. Take advantage of new advances in user-interface and online software by selecting a suitable replacement. Not only will you immediately find yourself using better, more productive tools, you'll be in a position to take advantage of ongoing updates to software that is constantly being improved.

 
 
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For those who are starting a business for the first time, the excitement may play a large role in your actions. You may believe that spending money on certain aspects is required in order to be successful. You may even be faced with salesman who tries to convince you that you need to spend money on their product. Depending on how much your starting budget is, there are many things that you may want to buy that you don't need at this moment.

  1. Marketing Budget - You need to have a marketing budget that your business can comfortably commit. Spending too much money on advertising could take away from the needs of your overhead and possibly payroll. Salesman will push hard for you to spend more in order to promote your business, but reserve yourself to only staying within your budget plan. Unless the salesman is willing to give you a money-back guarantee that your business will increase if you use their services, don't spend money that other areas of your business needs.
     
  2. Location - Choosing a location could be paramount when starting your business. Depending on the kind of business you operate, your location can literally make or break you. When faced with a decision to decide where your business will stand, shop around for the perfect locale. If you're operating a retail store, areas that are heavily trafficked by the community could offer walk-in appeal as well as advertising of its own. Don't be tempted by helping your landlord by renting out his or her shop located in a very rural location because the rent is cheap. Your business could suffer greatly from the "opportunity."
     
  3. Dining Expenses - Although you may be able to spin coffee and lunches to be deducted from your taxes at the end of the year, it is still money that your business is missing during the here-and-now. The money spent on that luncheon for yourself and/or staff could be better utilized to develop methods to increase your revenue. Increasing your income is more important that a monthly business meeting at a Chinese restaurant for six.
     
  4. Commitment - Even if you are the only employee at your business, keeping regular hours provides solidarity for customers to know when they can visit. Taking time off to run errands or other mundane activities begins to show your community that the hours that are posted on your door cannot be trusted. You will slowly feel the impact of this as customers get their needs catered elsewhere.
     
  5. Loans - Be careful how you utilize any loan you get for your business. If your income is showing little signs of growth and you take out a loan to pay the rent or payroll, you could find yourself in a far worse situation. Without increased income, your business won't be able to sustain itself as well as having a monthly payment for the loan due. Use the money to improve your income whether it is through products buyers want or improved marketing methods that are proven to work.

As most businesses fail inside of 12 months, you need to be mindful of how you conduct yourself. Spending money frivolously or investing in "opportunities" that cannot guarantee an instant return may be extremely strenuous on your new establishment. Don't be drawn to glitter until you are able to afford it without other aspects of your business suffering.


This article is contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Credit-Score-Image.jpgIn today’s society, nearly every adult is affected by their credit score. Whether you are applying for a credit card, trying to hook up utilities at your home or hoping to purchase a new car, your credit score has a direct impact on your financial opportunities. For those without much credit history, building a positive credit profile is not that difficult. If you have had incidents in that past that have negatively affected your score, cleaning it up does not have to be hard either. By following three simple tips, building credit can be simple, even for individuals with a less-than-optimal financial history.

 

Check Your Credit Report for Errors and Omissions

It is not uncommon for errors to pop up on your credit report. These can be entries that were mistakenly put onto your report instead of someone else’s, or just payments overlooked by the lender. After scouting your report for erroneous entries, contact the credit bureau and offending companies to have your good name cleared.

It is also common for positive entries to be missing from your report. Some of the most likely to be missing are phone services and utility bills which should be adding to your positive credit rating. If you notice these entries are not on your report, contact the providers to ensure that they are reporting your on-time payments.

Pay Down Lines of Credit

One of the most important things that lenders and other companies check for on your credit profile is how well you are using the lines of credit that you already have. These could be credit cards, home equity loans or a number other revolving credit sources. In most situations, you only want to have about 10% - 20% of your available credit used up at any given time. If you have credit cards that are maxed out, focus on paying these down into an acceptable range. By freeing up available credit you will notice a big jump in your score and your likelihood of being approved for loans in the future will go up.

Diversify Your Sources of Credit

To build up your credit, it is important to have different types of credit sources on your report. This can include credit cards, personal loans, car loans, mortgages and utility bills. By carrying a number of different types of credit lines you are able to show potential future lenders that you are a responsible consumer able to make on-time payments to multiple different companies.

Budget Your Money Appropriately

Oftentimes, most people who have had financial trouble in the past fall back into the same trap unless they learn to efficiently budget their money. Developing a budget for your family that is realistic is the most important thing that you can do to keep your finances in line. By budgeting your money properly, you can not only pay down your old loans faster, but can help prevent missing or late payments in the future.

Building credit does not have to be a difficult process. When looking at your credit score, lenders and other companies just want to know if you’re responsible enough to pay back what you would owe to them if they approve your application. By following these few tips, even the worst credit score can be brought up with just a little effort and time on your part.

Hugh Tyzack works with loansforbad-credit.co.uk, where he is the founder and serves as Managing Director. His firm is a loan provider focused on helping people with bad credit. His website shares more details about what his company does to help bad-credit consumers. When not working, Hugh is an active music enthusiast and pianist. You can follow Hugh on Twitter @badcreditloans8 as well as on Google+.

 
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b2ap3_thumbnail_Student-Loan-Debt.jpgAccording to The Daily Cardinal, the national student loan debt was at $1 trillion dollars in 2012 (a number that is always on the rise) and has surpassed the national credit card debt. This is a shocking and disheartening number that has left people everywhere feeling hopeless, stressed, and frustrated. While the student loan debt keeps increasing, there are steps that individuals can take to get their funds assessed and work their way out of the hole, and if you’re one of the many who consistently ignore calls from collection agencies, here are a few small, easy-to-follow steps you can take to slowly start lowering your balance.

 

Find out How Much You Owe

It’ s surprising how many individuals don’t even know how much they owe on their student loans, and if you’re practicing the out of sight, out of mind approach, you’re only digging yourself a deeper hole. Interest rates add up fast, and you’re going to have a hard time working your way out of debt if you’re too afraid to face the number head on. If you’re not sure how to find out your current balance, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLS) can help you get the information you need.

Know Who to Direct Your Payments To

Once you find out how much debt you’re dealing with, it’s important to find out where exactly you’re going to be directing your payments to. Even if you don’t have the funds to make any payments at the moment, knowing the details makes setting up a payment plan all the more tangible. Again, the NSLDS can help steer you in the right direction as far as who you can make payments to, and if you’re getting called by a debt collector, answer the phone; it might be intimidating, but they’re calling because you haven’t set up a payment plan yet.

Work out a Realistic Payment Plan

The best way to find out what repayment options are available for your specific situation is to contact your loan servicer or financial adviser directly, and you should always to this before you sign any agreement. The most important thing to keep in mind when setting up your plan is making sure you choose an option that will realistically fit into your budget; don’t get ahead of yourself and commit to paying more than you can afford, or you’ll risk defaulting on your payments. Different types of loans will require different forms of repayment, but it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the common options:

The standard repayment plan allows you to make payments for as low as $50 per month over a span of ten years. This generally allows you to pay off your loans faster than any other plan, so you’ll accrue less interest over time.

A graduated repayment plan is a good option for new graduates who aren’t making a very significant income at the time but plan to be earning a solid amount of money in the near future. This option allows you to start making payments that are low in the beginning but increase every two years.

If you’re in a poor financial state, an income-based repayment plan might be a good option to look into. This repayment plan allows you to lower your monthly payments to (generally) 10% or less of your earned income. The amount you pay is dependent on your family size and your monthly income.

If you’re getting hounded by debt collectors, a loan consolidation option could help you keep better track of what you owe. This choice allows you to group all of your loans together (although private and federal loans have to be consolidated separately), and in some cases, it can extend the time you have for repayment.

Commit to Your Payments

The final step to paying off you loans is simply committing to the repayment plan you signed up for, and making the necessary payments on time. Get out of the mindset that your student loan debt is an optional payment, and factor it in as a non-negotiable monthly expense as you do your rent and bills.

Knowing you’re stuck with an outstanding balance for your student loans is a discouraging feeling, but you’re far from alone. The good news is that you have the power to start reducing your debt, and by breaking down the process into a few easy steps, you’ll see that being debt free isn’t an impossible idea. It might take some time, but by fully making the commitment to rid yourself of the burden, you’ll escape the vicious cycle and learn to breathe easier every time you see the amount of money you owe decrease.

Arlene Chandler is a freelance writer who loves helping people sort through their financial struggles. She currently focuses on personal finances and Life Cover from Suncorp

 
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Frustrated manUnless you win the Power Ball or some other lottery, the odds of you retiring early without putting effort into it are slim to none. While it's not impossible, it's very unlikely that you will stumble across some money-making plan that will give you the necessary income to be done working for the rest of your life at an early age. There are multiple ways that you can ensure that you won't retire early and have to live off supplemental incomes.

1. Investing - That stock looks like a sure thing, so invest everything you have in order to buy as much stock as possible. You can't lose, right?

Wrong. Investing should be viewed like gambling. Only bet what you can afford to lose. It's OK to invest in stock or a local company in the hopes that it will do well. Just don't bet everything you have that it will. Too many times stocks decline or companies went out of business leaving the investors broke.

2. Instant Money Schemes - That website looks ultra-professional and the guy is well spoken in his video about how you can make money quickly. It has to be worth the $50 for the materials.

Unfortunately, he is getting richer from people like you who invest in materials that don't have any real information in them. In fact, many of them will sell you information that can easily be found in Google.

3. Instant eCommerce Stores - All you have to do is pay the hosting company $50 per month and you can have your own online store. There are thousands of products to choose from to make money.

Unless you market these websites well, you won't see much in the way of customers. This is aside from the fact that it's a vicious competition with the other several thousand people who have invested in this plan the same day you did.

4. Drop Shipping on eBay - You can sell tens of thousands of items on eBay without even having to buy them yourself. All you need to do is sell them on your account and the drop shipper will do the rest.

Unfortunately, this too is a flawed idea. Again, thousands of people are using the exact same drop shipper which will saturate the market with those same goods. This destroys the value of an item and you won't make enough money to pay for your fees let alone profit.

5. Blogging - With how many people are online making money while blogging, you could become an overnight sensation. Your bank accounts could be brimming with money, and soon.

While blogging can make you a reasonable amount of money, there are a lot of variables that will determine your success. Niche, content, marketing, and more are needed in order to successfully build a blog that will pay you more than a full-time job would.

The best way to succeed in any given task is to put forth an honest effort and become tenacious about your plans. You may have a variety of ideas that could be money-making, but not much will be seen from them if you put a low amount of effort into these ideas. You need to approach them with a positive outlook and read about every aspect of the idea that you can possibly get your eyes on. As in most things in life, the more effort you put into a project, the more you will receive.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

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Having your first child is as wondrous as it is chaotic.  That joy of finally starting your family might feel a little bittersweet with constant 3am feedings, although those are going to stop at some point.  What will continue to affect you are the changes to your financial situation.  Even for the prepared, the costs associated with having your first child can be surprising, and for the unprepared they can be incredibly alarming.

The secret to getting ready for that first child lies in these three simple words: planning, planning, and planning.  There’s always going to be something you didn’t plan for or something completely unexpected happening, but having a structured plan in place will help for everything else, and hopefully give you a formula to calmly follow when the unexpected does happen.

Create a new budget

BabyUnderstanding your current financial situation is the key to planning for the future.  In your familial unit, are both husband and wife working, how much are you spending each month on the necessities such as food and clothing, and how much is being spent on the nonessentials?  When the baby comes what is the plan for home care?  Will the mom stay at home, the dad, or will you hire a home care provider like an au pair?

There are plenty of costs that will be associated with your new family member; groceries, clothing and supplies like bedding and diapers, medical costs, child care, and education (from day care to saving for college), are all costs associated with having a child.  If you plan out your new budget and work towards living by it before your child arrives you’ll be in that much better of a position after the birth.

Insurance, education, and retirement

You will also need to look at what your needs in regards to what your insurance provides.  Some insurers require people to pay out of pocket expenses for deliveries and for hospital stays.  You need to know if your health insurance will adequately cover your needs and if you are planning on adding your new child to your policy, how that will affect your costs.  You may even consider looking for a new policy that may more closely match your needs.

How much money will you be putting away towards your child’s future?  Are you planning on saving for their first car?  Are you planning on buying them a life insurance policy?  And how much are you saving for your own future?

That’s right, your future.  People have a tendency to focus on the short term at the expense of forsaking long term goals.  While your child should certainly come first, do not neglect yourself in the process.  As you save for your child’s future in college make sure that you are budgeting for your own long term plans such as retirement.

Creating a safety net

Part of any financial planning also involves risk planning.  Having a plan in place in the event that a problem arises will help mitigate any costs or other negative fallout.  On a financial level, this means putting money towards a savings that can be used in the event of an emergency such as an unexpected surgery. 

On a more personal level, this means having a plan in place in case the worst should happen to one or both parents.  It is a grim topic to think about, but if a tragic situation happens then you want to be sure that steps have been taken to ensure continued care for your child. 

Enjoy your family!

Don’t look at all of this through a negative lens.  All of the planning that goes in to having a child can seem excessive and overwhelming at times, but remember that too much planning is always better than not enough.  When you get all of that out of the way, then you can hopefully relax and enjoy the fact that you have finally started a family.

At least for a few years, before they learn how to drive and subsequently destroy your car.  But that’s years from now!

Dennis Aimes is a husband and father, as well as a writer with the health insurance specialists at HBF.   

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Cheapest-Car-Insurance-in-Toronto.jpgFirst off, the good news about getting into college and insuring your car to take it with you, well actually I lied, there isn’t any.

Any person under the age of 25 and heading to college might as well hang a sign around their neck saying easy target. It feels like the insurance companies are out to get you and if you happen to be the male of the species, then you can end feeling about as welcome as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan at a Baltimore Ravens fans convention.

No escape

It’s great to get away and enjoy some new found freedom as you settle into college life but despite the promised party atmosphere there are few dull things you have to get out of the way first and there is no escape, you need insurance for your car. Boring and expensive yes but worth the risk of going without it? A resounding no on that count. Without insurance, even a minor fender bender can get you in some pretty hot water by costing you some hard cash, ruining your driving record and worst of all, might even result in a brief spell in the slammer, so don’t even think about it.

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Saving money doesn't have to feel like a big deal when you know easy methods that don't require much effort. Try these old but proven tips to lower your expenses and reap the benefits.

Tip #1: Adjust Your Thermostat

Heating and cooling a home can cost a lot of money. Adjusting your thermostat could offer considerable savings. The company EnergyHub found that households in Michigan knock five percent off of their winter heating bills by turning the thermostat down just one degree.

Your specific savings will vary depending on where you live and what kind of home you have. The average person in the Michigan study saved $10 a month by turning their thermostats from 70 to 69 degrees.

You could also invest in a smart thermostat that makes your home more energy-efficient. That could help you save even more over several months.

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Open for businessStarting a business can be an extremely daunting task, especially if it is your first attempt. The chances are that you have probably already come across all the gruesome statistics about the number of businesses that fail within the first year. Unfortunately a lot of startups do fail shortly after starting and they do so for a number of different reasons. Maybe the initial idea wasn’t all that good or a business relationship didn’t quite work out - the list goes on. However, one of the biggest reasons startups fail is because they don’t keep a track on their outgoings and subsequently end up in the minus figures. By reading this article you will learn 7 valuable ways you can save money when starting a business. All of these ideas will help you to keep the costs down reducing the chances of finding yourself in the negative figures.

Always Negotiate

Negotiating is extremely important when starting a business. At no point should you ever accept the first price you a quoted on anything. It could be some paint, a logo design or an office space; regardless you should always negotiate. 90% of the time you will find that you can reach a bargain helping you to save a great deal of money that can be used elsewhere or saved for when it is really needed. It is surprising when you realize how many businesses don’t negotiate enough and pay full price for almost everything. Be sensible and ALWAYS negotiate.

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Laughing familySo, you have been thinking about the future of your family, but you are not sure where you will start? There are a lot of factors that affect your decision, but the most basic, and what comes to mind first is financial. Money influences almost all that is needed for you to secure your family's future and well-being.

Now, it’s obvious that a good financial goal will be good for you family’s future, but it’s easier said than done. It can be difficult to discuss money matters with your spouse, and you should probably accept the situation, bite the bullet and do it sooner rather than do it another time. You will notice that being in control of your family's budget will ease the pressure of staying on top of the day-to-day finances, and will be extremely helpful in planning for the long term, in an even more effective manner.

If you want to cope with the ever-incrementing financial needs of a young family, a good place to start is drawing up a family budget of monthly costs and expenditures.  The following tips will lighten your burden.

8 Tips for developing a Family Budget

Set clear goals

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Adaptu Closes it's DoorsIt's always sad to see a company close its doors.

We know Adaptu users have put a ton of effort into setting up their budget and money plans and don't want that to go to waste by having to start over again... so, we at CalendarBudget spent the day writing a special import script for Adaptu data export files.

See the article here on About.com to learn how to export your Adaptu data. Once you have your export file, go to CalendarBudget, sign up for your free account, then import your file when the Account Setup Wizard opens.

Migrate from Adaptu to CalendarBudget

It's that easy. Here's a short video showing how: http://youtu.be/SqmSIa-yFTc.

Adaptu users will like the familiar calendar experience. In fact, at CalendarBudget - budgeting on a calendar is our specialty. The experience is smooth and user-friendly.

While you're checking CalendarBudget out, be sure to take a look at out 21-Day Budgeting Habit Installer, to learn how to make the most of using CalendarBudget to plan your cash flow.
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If you're like most people, you spent a little more than you had planned over the holidays.

Holiday SpendingAfter spending your budget, there is always another must have item demanding to be bought. That leaves you with unplanned debt on top of your already larger-than-should-be debt. What to do?

The fastest and easiest thing to do is to take a look at your cash management. Yep, that means revisiting your old pal - the budget :) It's time to hunker down and face your finances. Find out what your current account balances are, how much you owe and an update on how much you are bringing in. Now take a look at where you can tighten the purse string strings just a little to make up for the over-spending.

For me, I gravitate directly to the grocery spending category. Why Groceries? Well, not only did I spend more on food over the holidays, I also put on a few extra pounds that I didn't want to! So, I cut down right away on junk food and snacks. Also reduce or eliminate eating out until you're back on track. To be specific, I use Visalus, the meal replacement shake, which is not only healthier than regular food, it's cheaper and helps me lose the weight I put on :) Cutting down on grocery spending also helps you keep that New Years' Resolution to release that excess weight back into the wild.

Aside from groceries, you can cut down on entertainment since (hopefully) you can be entertained from gifts received over the holidays. Since entertainment is usually pretty expensive, this alone can help immensely. Do you go out to the movies a lot? Try borrowing a book or movie from the library! Free is good, and they often have a great selection!

What other New Years' goals have you set that you may be able to work on with a budget? Maybe your goal is to spend more time with your family. That mean less time out where you are spending money. Maybe your goal is to exercise more. RESIST the temptation to run out and buy a membership at a gym, that you will inevitably stop using but be left in a contract. Instead, exercise at home. You don't need a universal machine to work out. Just some small free-weights (or books) and a video you can borrow from your local public library.

Another quick thing to check -- go to PayPal.com and your credit card statement and check to see if there are any online services that you really don't use or could eliminate. Maybe a service you use, such as CalendarBudget has converted from pay to free! Don't just consume the savings - use it to pay down your holiday debt.

Once your holiday debt is close to being eliminated - you should consider sticking with your new plan; especially if it's helping you reach your New Years' goals. That extra money you found can be put directly towards your outstanding debt and get you to a better place financially. Maybe it's time to build up that depleted (or non-existent) emergency fund or start saving for a vacation that you can pay for in full in advance! Imagine that!

 
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CalendarBudget is FREEMany of you have asked why free? We'd love to share our plans with you!

Since the beginning we've wanted CalendarBudget to be free - we knew that many people have been spoiled by free tools on the Internet and any fee-based service - as awesome as it may be - will be overlooked by most people.
As you know, we are passionate about helping people with their personal finances and want to make CalendarBudget available to a wider audience... and going free was the best way to do that.

This is where we need your help! We need help spreading the word about CalendarBudget. Whether it's telling your friends and family, talking about it in your social media/blog, or simply voting CalendarBudget up on some review sites... all of that will make a HUGE difference.

We've put together a page with some sample Facebook posts/Tweets/emails you might use to help spread the word: http://calendarbudget.com/jv/. We'd be honored if you'd endorse CalendarBudget with a personal recommendation.

Also, would you spend a few minutes and "Like" CalendarBudget at Alternative.to? We'd love to get to the top of the list!

We have introduced an unobtrusive ad below the category sidebar which will hold only the best products and services that we have personally created or vetted that will help you achieve your goals.

Part of our recent updates also included a way for people to grant permission to their financial coach to have access to their CalendarBudget account, allowing the coach an unprecedented way to help with cash management, which is key to an individuals financial success. This can really help companies providing financial coaching change lives. We'll be charging for co-branding and use of this feature and are already working with some debt coaches in Canada to deliver this feature.

Although CalendarBudget is now free, several have emailed desiring to continue to pay for CalendarBudget. Well, thanks, we love you too! We've put together a page here to enable you to do just that (at no obligation).

CalendarBudget is better and stronger than ever and we plan to continue improving it and delivering it to a wider audience. We thank you in advance for your help in making that happen!

Sincerely,
The CalendarBudget Team

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