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June 2019

Protect Yourself From Fraud

Secure Servers

The way most online identity thieves acquire your private information is by making fake wi-fi hotspots or creating dummy shopping sites. When you are online shopping, make sure that you know the site, know the server and make sure the site looks real. Is there comments, reviews, photos of the products? Do they have a secure log-in space with functions to weed out automated bots? Is there a “Contact Us” section? Are there other reviews of the site online that you could be looking through? These are a few of the things you can look out for before you enter in all your payment information. In addition, do not log-in to a wi-fi network that you don’t know. If you are at public place using their wi-fi, make sure your firewall is in place and do not go shopping or pay bills while on a public server.

Shredding Sensitive Documents

Another way frauds get a hold of your financial information is by going through your trash. Yes, all those bank statements and credit card bills that you throw away without a second thought, people can go through your garbage, collect these documents and construct new accounts under your name. With a simple credit card application and a change of address form, they can begin using your name to make big purchases without you ever knowing about it. And you’ll be none the wiser, until you go to buy your dream house and your credit is very bad. Instead, tear up or shred those documents so they cannot be reconstructed.

Look Closely at Statements

Most people just do a cursory glance at their bank statements and then throw them away. But if you look closer you may be able to see the fraud. If you notice charges that you don’t remember making or the purchase location cannot be determined, you could have a problem on your hands. As stated earlier, many thieves use untraceable servers to steal money, so be sure that you can remember making any and all purchases on your account. Often, they will make small purchases, less than $10. The charges are so small so you’ll just brush it off as a coffee stop or snack break that you forgot. But when it happens a few times a week for a year, those charges add up. Sign up for online banking apps so that you can see your accounts at any moment as well.

Online Payday Lender

Monthly budgets are meant to be monitored. It is important to know where your money is going and to be aware of the balance throughout the month. Too many overdraft charges eat away at income because an individual ‘though’ that they had enough money in the bank to cover the bill. These types of charges are often caused by the lack of financial awareness. Along with this charge, a merchant whose payment did not go through will also charge their own fee. Late fees and NSF fees only add to the cost of a money mistake. Anytime you can avoid these types of fees, the better off you will be. Avoid embarrassment with businesses and prevent future repercussions by maintaining enough money in your account to cover approved payments.

Some people use online direct payday lenders to keep fees out of their bank accounts. The simple transaction of getting extra money into the bank in order to cover scheduled or emergency costs is cost effective when the loan is paid quickly. The key to a short-term loan’s effectiveness relies on being able to pay back the lender on time. Look closely at the next paycheck and what demands are placed on it within your budget before you commit to using a portion of your payday to pay off the direct lender. The last thing you would want to do is to pay more than what is necessary.

There are many repeat short-term loan customers who appreciate the cost effective quick money option. They use them for emergencies when other options are no longer available. This often means that credit cards are no longer an option. The majority of Americans would normally use credit cards to pay for unexpected bills rather than turn to a payday lender online. Not all people continue to have credit as an option. The search for a best direct lender is often the next step in finance solutions.

These fast cash loans will not support all money problems. Most often these loans are processed for a few hundred dollars. The high interest is then limited by a small balance as well as a fast payoff. In order to insure that you keep the costs low, it makes perfect sense to pay the loan off as fast as possible. Some borrowers choose to spread the cost out over a few paychecks while paying the balance down each time. Lowering the balance with each payment keeps the extra cost of interest declining as well.

What can your budget afford? Make sure you understand the answer before you obtain any outside money. If the cost of the loan is a burden, then don’t do it. Talk to family or possibly a close friend who may be able to lend you money or at least point you in a direction you can afford. Getting help for a money emergency should set your budget back on track not knock it off completely.

Personal Financial Self-Improvement

  • List your income and expenses. List where the income and expenses come from, whether the expenses are fixed or variable, and what expenses you know will be coming up in the future. This will give you an overview of what you have to work with.
  • Create a Wants and Needs list. Please ensure you know what the differences between the two are because they can easily be mistaken when we really want something. For example, that cup of Starbucks coffee every morning is really a want… the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I gave up my Starbucks addiction because I realized I was spending nearly $100 (give or take a few days) a month there. That’s $100 that can be better spent on things I need, like new shoes for my kids, food for my animals, laundry soap, etc.
  • Get rid of the credit cards. They are evil, horrible things that try to rule our lives. If you can’t purchase something with cash, then save up for it, but please, please, please don’t put it on credit! Ask anyone who has credit cards… it’s a black hole that you continuously drop money into every month. For example, say you have a $2,500 credit card that you accidentally maxed out (we never really mean to max it out… we just found more stuff we need). Say your APR is around 18% (average); you’d be paying about $38 per month in interest. So, maybe you’re paying $50/month toward this credit card debt… you’re only paying $13 toward the actual debt, which would take you 334 months (27.8 YEARS) to pay off, and you’d have actually ended up paying $8,397 for the $2,500 worth of purchases. Again… a black hole that you drop your money into. Don’t do it!!
  • Create an emergency fund. No, I’m not talking about an emergency fund for things like a new pool table, or a new outfit (unless, of course, it’s a necessity). I’m talking about an emergency fund to live off of in the event of an actual financial emergency (i.e. your refrigerator goes out, your car needs new brakes, you need to pay your homeowners deductible to fix the AC in the middle of summer). Ideally, you’ll want to have three to six months of your monthly income put up. I know it’s hard to get there (I’m still working on it), but budget in a little money each month to get started.

 

Money Market Accounts

Interest

Money market accounts are usually subject to higher interest rates. This means that you get more for doing essentially the same thing as keeping your money in a classic savings account. This is because money market accounts are pooled in a different fund used by investors to produce higher profits. This more aggressive form of investing can potentially open up to loss of funds, but this is highly unlikely and has never actually occurred. With the risk being this low, the higher interest rates are widely accepted as a smart trade off.

Access to Funds

Another benefit is that you have more access to the money you deposit into it. Unlike a savings account where you may withdraw a maximum of three times per month, you are allowed to withdraw or transfer out six timers per billing statement. Additionally, most banks will allow you the option to write checks directly from it. Even better, many banks will also allow you to pair a debit card with the account for easier withdrawals and spending. This allows for greater flexibility than a standard savings account.

Security

As mentioned above, these accounts have never lost any money. This makes them a safer place to leave your money while still receiving a decent return. With the volatile nature of the stock market, this is certainly a better guarantee to maintain and build your funds.

Drawbacks

While a money market account is more appealing than traditional savings in terms of returns, it certainly does not compare to the returns of a mutual fund or other stock options. If your primary interest is to generate greater income, then this safer option might not be for you. To put it into comparison, a stock can return on average 8-10% while these bring closer to 2-4%. At best, you are looking at making half of the amount.

Discreet Millionaire

Figures from the Tax Policy Center say if your annual household income is $107,628, you are in the top 20% of income earners. If you exceed $148,687, you are in the top 10%. The top 5% earn over $208,810. And if your household income is over $521,411, congratulations. You are one of those “1% ers” and likely demonized by those who view hard work and risk-taking as a matter of luck or good genes. However, like a company, your personal balance sheet should be the determining factor. If you make $200,000 a year it does you no good if you’re spending $210,000.

You may in fact just appear rich instead of actually being rich.

Take for example the recent news about NBA legend Alan Iverson. Shockingly, a man who before age 35 had amassed a fortune more than the average person will see in a lifetime had blown it all. To quote from the article: “Iverson blew through his money at an alarming rate on gaudy jewelry, expensive cars, and other frivolous purchases. In 2012, a Georgia judge garnished his wages to satisfy a $859,896.46 debt to a jeweler.”

Huh? Almost a million dollars to a single jeweler! Here is a man who not only looked rich but actually was rich. But because the desire to look rich overwhelmed him, he is now begging for change on the street. He does stand to get $30 million from a trust, but not until age 55. It will be interesting to see if he learns his lesson, if he can survive until then. My guess is that $30 million will be gone before he reaches “official” retirement age.

This is why net worth is a far better gauge of true wealth than income. The Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances indicates a net worth of $415,700 puts you in the top 20% of households. You are in the top 10% if your net worth is $952,200. (Dr. Thomas J. Stanley – author of The Millionaire Next Door – says that one in eight American households has a net worth of $1 million or more. That’s close) If your net worth totals $1,863,800, you are in the top 5%. And if you have a household net worth of $6,816,200, ta daa- you are in the top 1%… and possibly frowned upon by redistributionists who resent folks that live beneath their means, save regularly and handle their financial affairs prudently.

Most millionaires are quite the opposite of being big spenders. They spend far less than they can afford on all commonly owned assets. The want to-be’s, on the other hand, (people with average or higher than average income but little net worth) are merely “aspirational.” They buy expensive clothes, top-shelf wines, luxury cars and often more house than they can comfortably afford.

It’s ironic the very same thing that makes them APPEAR rich prevents them from ever BEING rich.

How then do you become rich if you aren’t currently? The basic formula is pretty simple: Maximize your income (by upgrading your education or job skills). Minimize your liabilities (by living beneath your means). Save the difference in an IRA or 401K (I know easier said than done.) And follow proven investment principles.

Sure you must learn to be frugal. But eventually becoming financially free, to be able to do and go wherever you want, not have to depend on a bonehead of a boss or the federal government is what I consider rich. What a feeling.

Some people refuse to change, but the bottom line is clear: If you want to be rich, you have to stop appearing like it and actually start living like the many real millionaires you won’t see on TV.

Going Debt Free

Interest on auto loans is known to vary as much as 10 percent. Finance companies often charge much higher rates than banks and credit unions. Credit cards and department store accounts can be insidious ways of incurring additional debt. That is, unless you use them properly.

In regards to challenging your every belief, it is a fact of the modern financial system that loans generally incur higher interest rates. For example, let’s say Ford Motor Company goes to your bank. The company pays interest that is a fraction over the prime rate, which is the lowest rate banks charge their favorite customers. You, for sure, are paying several points over the prime.

You may not be able to change the fact the bank gives Ford a better interest rate than it gives you. But you can control, to some degree, the interest rate you pay based on the amount of money you borrow.

Look at the interest schedules on your credit card bills. You will see information that tells you something like this: On the balance up to $2,000, the finance charge is 18 percent annually, while on the balance over $2,000, you pay 12 percent. Remember, these numbers are generalized.

You may owe $2,000 or more in credit card bills, but if that debt is spread over several cards with low but lingering balances, you are paying the 18 percent on every penny. And if you pay the minimum amount due to each creditor every month, you will carry 18 percent until all balances go to zero.

Mastering a debt free plan can be achieved by strategically refinancing your debt. In fact, you can renegotiate and finance smaller loans as well as larger ones. However, be careful. Make sure you can benefit from the refinancing before you renegotiate.

Suppose you have an auto loan at 10 percent, and your bank is willing to lend you the money to pay it off at 7 percent. Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, maybe. If a big part of the loan has been paid off, refinancing may not be worthwhile because the new debt is usually paid off over a longer period of time and will ultimately cost more.

Money Transfer Threatens

Money laundering

Sometimes scams are initiated with an email or a phone call, or even an advertisement in the newspaper, offering commission for work with minimal risk. All that is required from the prospect is a laptop, an internet connection and a few hours every week. It might be pitched like an opportunity to work from home or flexible working.

You will be asked to either deposit money to receive initial working kit or receive a hefty payment into your bank account, then redistribute the money overseas (laundering). Whilst the fraudsters may convince you that money is being used for legitimate purposes such as trading shares abroad, or helping a charity distribute funds – you need to be vigilant. Or you could find yourself unwittingly funding criminals or converting someone’s black money into legitimate funds. Further, once you are lured into this by commission, scammers may also try to access your bank account, using the details you have given them.

Don’t respond to such advertisements or give your bank details to strangers. Ever.

Gift card/phishing

This scam usually happens during the holiday season. Consumers receive special promotion or gift card emails that look like it comes directly from an authorised retailer. Unfortunately, the links to the special promotion lead to a replica of the real website. The fake site swarms with malware, virus and phishing worms of all kinds that invade your gadgets to retrieve your financial credentials.

Look out for a small security lock icon at the bottom of your browser or next to the HTTPS in the browser bar when accessing any profiles, user accounts or online forms that ask you for financial information.

Online shopping

There are many fake companies online that sell drugs without legitimate prescriptions, or weight loss products. If an offer seems too cheap/good to be true, it will most definitely be a fraud. So no matter what the seller says, never share your credit card details for payment. Don’t take chances on your health and wealth by sending money to a stranger without proper validation and research.

Be vigilant, check reviews and avoid payments by any means. In fact COD might be better than giving your credit card details on their website.

Find A Good Bank

The neatest thing to do would be to locate the top banks that can be in your area. Call all of them up and request some information from them. Ask them what type of fees they’ve, if they’ve online banking, and what kind of interest levels they give out to those who might want to take out a loan with them.

The more information you possess the better you will be capable of make a choice on who you should be working with. When unsure you should also sit down and speak with friends and family on the bank they are utilizing. Get a thought of what type of transactions they have had and how easy it was to work with them.

You might need to look for a bank that is not going to charge you a lot of money in order for it to keep a savings account wide open with them. You also want to be sure that they have an abundance of ATMs across the city and they don’t charge an increased fee so as to use them. Most won’t charge anything when you are a member with them.

It just isn’t always easy to understand how to discover a secure bank – but it can be possible. Ensure the fees are reasonable. If you overdraft you don’t want to have to be anxious about paying them $50 to purchase it. $30 is probably the most reasonable I have heard – but a couple banks will provide you with a feature to prevent any fees should you should ever have this difficulty for whatever reason.

The type of interest fees can often catch us completely off guard. That is why you need to ask in advance or else try to work with a bank that will at times give you the best offer and chance when you might ever need a loan. Also make sure that they would work with someone for whatever loan you might need in the future.

Direct Payday Loan Lenders

What can you do to make your life more successful despite money problems? First off, the last thing you want to do is ignore your debt. It is very important to at least make the minimum payments so you keep that part of your credit score on target. Find a way to reach a balance in your budget. Harmonize what you think say and do for your finances. Once you create goals and objectives to correct problems, it is important to focus your money management around them. You’ll see the balance come in small increments.

It takes courage to make hard decisions. Some folks find that the only way to balance the budget is to downsize their home or vehicle. Change is hard enough, but these are big ones. You have to take the challenge head on no matter how uncomfortable it makes your present life. Minimizing income output is your goal so do what it takes to make it happen.

During financial hardships of any size, relationships often get the brunt of frustrations and discouragement. If you are struggling to break bad spending habits or to get out of a reliance on direct payday lender help it’s best to work with your partner and/or family and make it a group effort. Everyone can help to encourage good changes while supporting each other during difficult moments. Be generous to your family at the end of the month in order to celebrate positive changes in your finances. It doesn’t have to cost money and frankly, according to your finances it shouldn’t. Time and love are priceless rewards. From a game night or a hike in the woods, your family will get the rewards they deserve.

Learn from your mistakes. The wisdom you get from correcting your wrongs will last a life time. Be open to hear your inner voice when you second guess a purchase, think twice about online payday lender applications or get disgruntled about the pile of debt you own. There is an inner voice letting you know it is time to wake up and make a change.

Keep all your financial documents organized and easily obtainable. The better you document expense sheets and track spending the easier it is to target an area that needs improvement. All your efforts to make changes and bring balance to your finances will show clearly on monthly budget reports. Pay attention to the ebb and flow of your money in order to predict potential problems. Make sure that one of your major goals is to save your own emergency fund so you are less apt to accrue additional credit card or fast payday loan debt. This money will be at your disposal free of charge. Money emergencies will no longer create stress or financial burdens. You got rid of that problem, learned from your mistake and no longer have to suffer.

When you get your finances back on track, it is a beautiful thing. You will be able to concentrate on saving money for your child’s education and your own retirement. Take one day at a time, but make it in the right direction. Your future finances depend on it.

Managing Household Debt

Many people are of the opinion that people who end up with insurmountable debt are irresponsible and only find themselves in that situation because they have made poor financial decisions in life. Although this may be true in some cases, there are many more cases where our spiraling debt is as a result of us being dealt a bad hand in life that we do not have much control over. Many hard working individuals with all of the right intentions sometimes just fall on hard times. The loss of a job, ones own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a loved one, student loans, ballooning mortgages, the death of a loved one, are among some of the main reasons where unforeseen circumstances lead us down the path to debt crises.

So what do you do when you have been dealt a bad hand? For many people we have to make a mental shift to move ourselves from where we are to where we need to be. I have spoken to so many people who know that they need to do something but feel so stuck that on their own, they see no way to get out of the vicious cycle that they have found themselves in. For those of us who have taken on our debt burdens and have made them more manageable, we tend to look at these people as irresponsible. Unfortunately, there are many people for whom debt management is not a priority.

They see it as a necessary evil. They go about spending on their credit card as if there were no end and are quite content to not make payments and dodge those debt collectors. On the other hand there are those who try to take a more responsible approach. Instead of dodging the debt collectors they religiously make only the minimum payments on their credit cards every month and still continue to spend as of there were no end. Credit card companies love those people who make minimum payments on their cards. Every time you make the minimum payment you pay the interest only on the card and you still owe the card company all that you have borrowed. What does that mean? It means that for as long as you keep on spending and making the minimum payment you keep the credit card companies in business. Something else to be mindful of is that there is a benefit to those who make minimum payments. It is called your credit scores. Yes, paying the minimum on your credit cards will keep you in good standing and your credit scores will improve. You will receive more offers from other credit card companies because you are not at risk of default and do you see what is happening? The cycle continues…

Now that you have all of this information and you are wiser about how you got there, how do we fix the situation? Below are a few simple things that you can do to change your situation. I know a lot of people who were serious about reducing their level of debt and have applied some of these techniques that actually work.

  1. Make a commitment to get rid of your debt and stick to it
  2. Identify all your debt. Make a list of everyone you owe whether individual or institution
  3. Write down the amount you owe and the interest rates on all your debts
  4. Take note of the minimum payment that you must make on all of your debts
  5. Decide on whether to pay off the debts with the smallest balances first or whether you want to pay off the highest interest rate debts first
  6. Put your plan in to action and stick to it
  7. Apply any extra income you have to paying off the first debt on your list
  8. When the first debt is paid off, add the funds you were paying on that debt to the next one on your list
  9. Keep repeating the process until all your debts are paid off
  10. Enjoy the financial freedom when all your debt is paid off from following these simple steps.