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Raise Your Credit Score

Raise Your Credit Score

Raise your credit score for better interest rates and easy lending from banks and financial institutions.
If you have never checked on your credit score, it is now easier than ever to see how you rate when lenders are looking at your financial record. Your credit score is based on your financial history in your credit record with all activity, both good and bad, influencing your score.

Three easy tips for maintaining or raising your credit score:

Pay off debt

Okay, I understand! That sounds much easier to say, but you can do it! I advise my clients to look at all of their credit card balances and pick the smallest debt. Changing your habits with small steps and small wins will increase your confidence and give you a chance to pat yourself on the back for a successful step toward financial health. Pay off the smallest debt and then tackle the next lowest bill. It is so gratifying to know one account has been paid off and with each paycheck, you whittle down more debt without intense emotional pain.

Keep low balances on bank-issued credit cards and revolving credit cards

According to Nerd Wallet, in 2016, the average U.S. household had nearly $17,000 in credit card debt. You are not alone. But you can reduce that debt. Pick one of your accounts and be sure to pay more than the minimum balance each month. Get one card down to a reasonable amount and then lower the balance on another card.
Not able to pay more than the minimum? It might be time to put those credit cards on ice. Literally! Take all but one of your credit cards, throw them in a container, fill it up with water and DEEP FREEZE those plastic cards. Now you can make payments on the cards each month and get that balance down.

Don’t open an excessive number of credit cards you don’t really need, in an attempt to increase your available credit.

If you have recently established credit, opening up four or five new accounts within two-three years could hurt your credit score, because you don’t have enough of a “track record” for the loan companies to make an educated decision as to your ability to manage your finances. In comparison, when a person has a few credit cards for eleven to fifteen years and later opens several new accounts, it may not have an adverse effect. What is more important than a lot of credit cards is the ability to make payments on time and demonstrate self-discipline in spending activity.

Don’t close several unused credit cards at the same time attempting to raise your credit score.

Positive credit scores are enhanced by a long credit history, so even if your account is not active, keeping an old card in your credit history gives you longevity and counts for about 15% of a FICO score.
A closed account will fall off your credit report sooner than an open one. In most cases, negative credit information will remain on your credit files for seven years from the time the debt first became delinquent. Here’s the good news: Positive credit information can stay on record indefinitely; however, closed accounts in good standing often drop off the credit report within ten years.
You can check your three credit reports for free once a year. 

Here’s a timely bonus that will raise your credit score this year.

Beginning September 15, 2017, the three credit reporting companies will phase in a host of changes that will lower the number of “mixed files,” which often had a negative impact on credit reports of people with similar names, and will update procedural changes aimed at improving the accuracy of these reports.
Find more tips for investing in you!

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Time Value of Money

Understanding The Time Value of Money

Today’s guest post is by Gary Forman, founder of the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and website. One of his clients asked Gary:

“Does anyone think that $20,000 will buy a new car forty years from today? Maybe it’s time for an article on the time value of money, accounting for inflation in long term investment plans, and related issues.” ~  Lester

Lester was referring to an article that I had written saying that when you buy something today, you’re agreeing not to buy something more expensive later. And, he’s right. You can’t simply take today’s prices and expect them to be valid for future purchases, especially if you’re looking more than a few years into the future.

The concept of rising prices is only one component of an economic theory called “the time value of money.”

Having money over a period of time is valuable. Money can earn more money. Suppose that you had $100 today and could earn 10% on it. A year from now you’d have $110. In two years $121. So having that $100 is valuable.

Also, I’d rather have $100 today than wait and get it tomorrow. I won’t earn much interest in one day, but it should be worth a little more tomorrow. It’s also safer getting it today. There’s always that possibility, however small, that you won’t get the money tomorrow. By getting it today, you’ve eliminated that risk.

Another area where the time value of money applies is in the area of retirement planning. Suppose that you expect to retire in 20 years. You know that prices will rise before then. But can you estimate by how much?

Rule of 72

A quick and easy way to answer that question is to use the rule of 72. The formula is easy. The number of years in the future times the interest rate you expect equals 72. That’s how long it will take for prices to double.

Let’s do an example. You want to know how long it will take prices to double if inflation is 6%. A little algebra tells us that you divide 72 by 6. Thus, prices will double in 12 years. So if you expect to retire in 20 years and inflation is 6%, prices will be nearly 4 times higher when you retire. ($1 x 2 = $2 in 12 years. That $2 x 2 = $4 the next 12 years. Or 4 times in 24 years)

Suppose that you had $100 today and could earn 10% on it. A year from now you’d have $110. In two years $121. So having that $100 now is valuable. Also, I’d rather have $100 today than wait and get it tomorrow. I won’t earn much interest in one day, but it should be worth a little more tomorrow. It’s also safer getting it today. There’s always that possibility, however small, that you won’t get the money tomorrow. By getting it today, you’ve eliminated that risk.

If you play with the formula, you’ll find that the rate of interest you choose makes a big difference in the results. For instance, 3% inflation would mean that prices would double every 24 years. Quite a difference compared to our first example – going up 4 times in the same amount of time.

You can also use the same formula to calculate how long it will take your money to double in an investment account. For instance, if you’re earning 9% on your investments, it will take 8 years to double. (9 x 8 = 72).

You may want to get more precise than our little formula will allow. For that, you’ll need something called a financial function calculator. It will do a lot more than the time value of money formula, but it’s easy enough to learn how to use it for time value questions. And, they’re not expensive.

Some people will subtract the inflation rate from their investment return to get a “real” rate of return on their retirement savings. For instance, if you earned 8% on the money and inflation was 3%, you’ve really gained 5% in buying power.

Another application for time value of money is when you’re trying to decide which payment plan you’d prefer. What happens if you were told that you could buy a car for $20,000 cash today. Or you could make $400 payments for 60 months. Or you could put $4,000 down and make $375 payments for 48 months.

You could add up all the payments you would make, and that would be a good rough estimate. But you’d get a more precise answer by using a calculator to bring everything back to today’s dollars so that you’d have a fairer comparison.

$1 today is more valuable

Don’t be intimidated by the concept. Just remember that having $1 today is more valuable that having one a year from now. And the same holds true if you’re paying. A dollar that you pay today is more valuable than one that you’ll pay next year.
With an understanding of the time value of money and the ability to use the rule of 72, you can help yourself in a variety of common money situations.

~~~~~~~

Thanks Gary! This article by Gary Foreman originally appeared in The Dollar Stretcher.com.

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He’s been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

Time Value of Money Image via weakonomics.com

 

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Ready To Invest: Start Today

Ready to Invest- The Money Nerve

Ready to Invest: Start Today

Before you start diving into investments,

let’s look a few ways to be smart with your money.

What is investing? Investing is actually pretty simple; you are essentially putting your money to work for you so that you don’t have to take a second job or work overtime hours to increase your earning potential. There are many different ways to make an investment, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds or real estate, and they don’t always require a large sum of money to start.

Learn the terminology of investing

Many of the larger investment companies provide a wealth of content to teach beginners the language of investing and share information about the multiple businesses you can invest in, and the various methods to build your nest egg. TIME=MONEY Therefore, the earlier you begin saving and investing, the higher returns you will see compared investing the same amount of money 20 years later. Money creates money and your lump sum will increase exponentially – if you nurture it and let it grow over time. It is tempting to skim the profit off the initial investment, but you will significantly reduce your total gains with that choice.

I was given some sound advice when I was younger, “Don’t invest money that you can’t afford to lose.” Anytime you put your money where outside influences can create an environment where massive gains can be made; you must also be aware that it can result in substantial losses. More volatility can create huge wins, and that “lucky break syndrome” is addictive to many of us. Hence the warning: this is “extra money” that you want to grow without putting your current lifestyle in jeopardy. If a stock loss means you can’t pay your bills, you need to adjust your investment strategy!

Be smart, do some homework. I like to advise people ready to invest in the stock market to select high-value blue-chip companies that pay dividends. Invest in value and don’t treat it as a quick sale. It is a stable place to park your money, and over time the value will continue to grow, building your wealth.

Many Paths to Reach Your Goal

Another option for entering the stock market is to purchase Exchange Traded Funds, also called EFTs. Investing in EFTs is similar to buying stocks, but you are placing your money into funds that track indexes like the NASDAQ-100 Index, S&P 500, Dow Jones, etc. By purchasing a fund that has many stocks in a particular index, you are not trying to “beat the market” you are taking advantage of being “in the market” with a broader range of stocks being traded for a more consistent result. One of the benefits of ETFs is having the broad array of a diversified portfolio with the ease of buying and selling a single stock. You don’t have to wait for the market to close to make changes. As you get more savvy in following the market or electing to make bolder choices, you can purchase ETF shares on margin, short sell shares, or hold for the long term. You can make trades in the stock market as an individual or you can use a stockbroker; each has advantages and disadvantages; just explore your options.

If the stock market is too much of a gamble or too virtual for your budget, then real estate is another option for investing. It is a fact that the world’s population continues to increase, but there will never be more land. You can begin by investing in land or property. If you live in an area that is having significant growth, look for some land nearby that will grow in value as the area expands.

Building Your Tangible Assets

A rental house might be a solid choice; many people do not have the money to buy a home and need to rent. For this reason, owning property can be another option for investing in a tangible asset. If you have saved a substantial amount of money, pay cash for the house, and the monthly rent will pay for the real estate over time. Or when you are ready to invest, place a down payment on a small home and collect a rent that is higher than the mortgage.

Owning smaller property builds your equity without sizable risk because you own the property, make a small amount of profit each month, and can sell this asset if needed. Be sure to open a savings account to cover any expenses such as new appliances or repairs. It is best to keep the cash flow from real estate separate from your personal cash flow. Separate accounts make it easier to track the money flow and calculate the real return (ROI) on your money. As the the property is paid off, you can continue to receive residual income or purchase another piece of property.

Begin With A Simple Plan

There are so many options to build your wealth and these are just a few choices to ponder, once you decide you are ready to invest. Think about your ultimate goal, what you want the money to provide for you and when you might need to use your money, as you grow older. Seek out the good advice of successful financiers. One of my favorites, a brilliant investor is Warren Buffet, and he famously shares his motto, “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.”

Explore. Experience. Achieve.

*This post was also published on http://www.mystrategicdollar.com/. It is always a pleasure to work with people who want to help others gain more traction in their journey to create financial freedom. If you are looking for ways to manage your money more effectively, check out my “tools” page and be sure to read Lance’s blogposts at the link above.

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Finding Personal Success

Finding Personal Success

Finding Personal Success

Thirty years ago, success was defined as working at one company for a lifetime and being a loyal worker. Today, finding personal success can be found in many ways. Increase your personal viability by searching for opportunities that give you the power to grow. Build your success within an existing organization or seeking new ventures beyond a routine 9-5 job. Additionally, increasing  your skill level often results in an exciting job in an emerging field. Don’t sell yourself short.

As you review any negative inner dialogue, toss away outdated opinions or self defeating ideas that no longer work for you. This helps you redefine up your concept of success. Now it’s time to plan the next steps you need to fulfill your goals. Be positive in order to set yourself up as a winner.  Map out your strategic plan with small bite-sized goals that are fairly easy to achieve. The first thing to remember in your quest to find personal success is to be prepared – there will probably be bumps along the way, along with some frustrating moments. However, you can move past these challenges by being prepared, flexible and learning to maneuver more effectively.

Take a moment to assess your talents, time and budget.

If you are unsure, you can turn around feelings of insecurity:

• Evaluate your social circle
• Surround yourself with like-minded people who support you
• Budget truthfully to know your current financial position

An honest assessment regarding your current situation results in a more successful result.

Every past decision brought you exactly where you are today.

This is where you wanted to be! Every decision you have made led you to this place. Do you like where you are? Does it fulfill the “dream life” you envisioned? If this place in life shocks you, don’t despair, because today is the opportunity to make a change. As a matter of fact, now is the best time to formulate a fresh plan.

This is my favorite part of the equation because this is where you make some Money Magic appear. How do you make this happen? It is totally up to you. YOU control the numbers. YOU define how and where you want to spend your money. YOU set intentions and YOU take action. Therefore, don’t let the media, advertisers, family or friends tell you what YOU want. Take a stand and invest in YOU! I would like to point out that stating what is most important in your life results in a personal and financial roadmap that delivers a genuine outcome.

Reaffirm strategic goals

“I am passionate about ________ and my goal is to someday _________!”

As a result of stating what is meaningful, consistent actions every day result in completing many small goals. Finding your personal success is enhanced by achieving goals consistently. Winning begets winning, and this mental strength becomes a tool for you to build a meaningful, prosperous life – even when detours pop up along the way!

Charting Your Course

Now you are charting your own course with thoughtful intention. As you know, budgets ebb and flow, but continue to invest in your long-term plans. The benefit of planting seeds of intentional, conscious choice are evident when you finally purchase your first home or take that coveted “over the top” European vacation. Living an abundant life becomes a way of life, not just a one-time destination. In fact, now is the time to harvest the rewards!

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Give the Gift of Time

3x3-christmas-starsThis year, Give the Gift of Time!

Choosing to make conscious choices for your money and life may have implications for many aspects of your life. Consider giving the gift of time this year. Create a mental space to listen to your thoughts. Decide how to spend the last ten days of your holiday season, using your goals to give you focus.

Visualize your “perfect” holiday. Maybe it includes parties with friends, spending time with family, or taking the time to express your gratitude. December is such a hectic time of year. Many people feel overwhelmed by obligations presented by school, work, family, and friends. Invest your time in activities that bring you the most value.

Choose which activities you will spend your time on and know that you may miss some parties or invites. Setting boundaries for a successful holiday helps you maintain your sanity, increase your sense of gratefulness and keep your “spirits bright!”

Take that one step further and give the gift of time with those closest to you this month. Listen to your spouse, best friend or family members and notice what is important to them. Investing time with people who are special in your life strengthens your bond with them, creating more meaningful relationships.

When shopping, purchase one item and plan an experience to accompany the gift – instead of buying multiple gifts for everyone. Purchasing a new sweater? Plan a date night to enjoy the new outfit. Have a friend who loves to cook? Wrap up a kitchen gadget and sign up for a cooking class together. Give a gift of time to complete the gift in a box! Many people find that spending time with others reaps greater benefits in the journey of life.

Share some of the activities that your family or circle of friends love to do — and make the holidays extra special every year.

Happy Holiday!

Bob

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SELF-MOTIVATION: find it!

3x3-self-motivation

Self-Motivation? What is it? Embrace it.

The dictionary states:
Self-motivation (noun): Initiative to undertake or continue a task or activity without another’s prodding or supervision.

What’s another word for initiative?  Ambition, Get-Up-and-Go, Enthusiasm, Resourcefulness, and Moxie!

Have you tried to make a change before and didn’t quite succeed? Every time you try again — you will get closer to your goal. Have you ever heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? It is a statement. No blame, no criticism – just a fact. Sometimes, big projects take more time than we think it will. There will be challenges. How can you stay self-motivated over time? Here are a few thoughts to help you find the best path.

Applying that same concept of “building” to yourself means no self-blame and no self-criticism when you begin a project and only make it 75% of the way. Each day presents the opportunity to start again with a fresh action or to use a more innovative way to hit your goals.

When faced with difficult or challenging decisions to make “things” better, most people freeze, become apathetic or just quit. The key to forging ahead is focusing on your key dreams, goals, and sense of what the future holds for you! Use “Baby Steps” to build your world.

When you don’t get what you want the first time; appeal to your inner self to try again.

Want to purchase a new home? Save for retirement? Plan an expensive vacation? What is your next step? Take time to think empowering, expansive thoughts, and make a list. Write it down. Use this personal checklist to knock out the smaller steps that lead to finishing what you started. Fake it until you become it and last: Make a deal with yourself and after you achieve 5 or 10 steps, reward yourself for sticking to it!

You can build that city of dreams into a reality – brick by brick with self-motivation.

My advice: Start Today!

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YOUR MONEY: Real or an Illusion?

Your MoneyYour Money: Real or an Illusion?
Financial assumptions often lead to a “make-believe” sense of money, creating unexpected results. Take a quick self-examination of your income and expenditures at the halfway point of the year. This quick peek can lead to a leaner, more organized plan for all those pesky dollars bills lined up and ready to skydive out of your wallet!

Pencil in thirty minutes to review your 2016 plans. Compare your projected results with reality. The key to success is setting expectations, reviewing the results and being flexible enough to make adjustments. You may not be exactly where you projected yourself. Now you have the opportunity to make targeted changes with your money. Realign your initial plan to keep the focus on your primary goals.

Another strategy to get ahead financially and help you maintain your course: always lower your income numbers and raise your estimate of expenses. This “money-method” gives you a cushion for the realities of your incoming and outgoing cash.

Most people make the assumption that reviewing a budget means cutting away all of the fun stuff in their life. Not necessarily! It is just as important to come up with additional streams of revenue or find a way to increase your current paycheck. Be open to the possibility that you can create new pathways for increasing the money you bring in! You will be surprised at how much these smaller dollar streams can add up over time!

That said, July is the perfect month to review your budget, create an IRA for your future or increase your contributions into your retirement fund. An IRA can be a tax-deferred account where the money goes directly into the IRA before taxes; resulting in a lower income reported and lowering your taxes. Another option is the Roth IRA where the money is deposited after paying taxes on it, making this a tax-free resource in later years. By setting up either one of these accounts, you are now saving with every paycheck you receive. If you employer has a matching funds program; take advantage of it!

Here are a few links to begin Investing in You!

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-ira-accounts/

Best Roth IRA Accounts: 2016 Top Picks

https://www.fidelity.com/retirement-ira/rollover-faq

IRA terms & details: http://news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=757631

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INVESTING IN VALUE = Long Term Success

3x3 Invest in Value

When you have something of value: family, friends, possessions – you want to take care of them, and maintain your investment. Many people are financial quick-fixers with a duct tape mentality, and contrary to popular belief, duct tape doesn’t fix everything. They may get immediate results, but are not actually dealing with the cause of their problem. This can result in complicated or frustrating long-term results.

If you are overdrawn in your bank account, you might think you are doing right by using your credit card to bring your account back into balance. That is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The reality is that you are creating more debt for yourself and adding interest payments to what you owe already.

I joke that I wish I could “un-know” what I know. It is a lot more work when you start to take responsibility for your life. Imagine going to a seminar and hearing that there are eight steps you have to take in order to become a millionaire. Many people in the seminar will stop at four steps and say, “I’ve finished four steps, why don’t I have 500,000 dollars?”

We live in a volatile world. Instead of being a financial quick-fixer, take a longer view into the future, make value-based choices and begin to create a healthy and abundant lifestyle over time.

  • Figure out where you are: Take a look at your spending habits and write down every purchase in a month. Will you be happy with that choice in five years?
  • Identify your priorities: How can you reallocate funds to support your priorities and provide additional value in your life? What really matters to you?
  • Create a financial support system: Actively seek support utilizing professional advice, friends, financial tools, software and applications to set your self up for success.

Once you learn to work with your list of financial goals and stop operating out of fear regarding money, you will see your efforts transfer to other aspects of your life. You may feel more financially confident once you have a clear vision of where you are and where you want to be.

Empowering yourself financially allows you to toss out old reactions and habits. You choose your actions! As you tap into your own power, you no longer wait for luck to happen or hope that you win the lottery—you actively take charge of your life. I call this positive lifestyle where the riches of life are inherent in your soul—proactive abundance!

Have a great week,

Bob

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Focus on Your Future

the money nerve

Have you ever heard Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant?

The grasshopper loved hopping about and singing during the warm summer. One day he saw an ant working hard to move an ear of corn and cried out, “Why in the world are you collecting food on this bright and beautiful day? Stay and play with me!” The ant shook his head and said, “I am saving this for the cold winter, and you should do the same.” The grasshopper laughed and went off to play but perished during cold weather. The moral of the story: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

The story seems harsh, and many people wish for a fairy tale ending where others solve all of our financial dreams (i.e., winning the lottery, getting an inheritance, marrying a rich spouse). In 1934, Disney created the delightful film short “The Grasshopper and the Ants” where the Ant Queen and her colony felt pity for the grasshopper and took him in during the winter. Have you ever seen the video? Check it out below.

Sometimes a project or goal seems so far away that it is easy to procrastinate. There is so much time left and we get bogged down in our busy-ness, that daily decisions feel more urgent and important than long-term investments in life.

Reality check: It’s your life; it’s your money! How are your plans for retirement going? Do you have savings for a rainy day? Life happens – when you least expect it.

Saving and spending are part of living a life of abundance. Let’s change the words being used from short-term desires like “I need those shoes” to some long-term goals such as, “I am making better choices with my money, to maintain my lifestyle when I get older.” As you discover the best balance between living for today like the grasshopper and stashing some wealth like the ant, you will come to realize that both are investments in yourself.

Ignoring regular maintenance on your car because you don’t want to spend the money can result in major car expenses down the line. In the same way, poor spending or saving habits may also result in a later retirement and fewer choices down the road. What should you do?

Here are three easy ways to get started:
1. Take the quarterly plan you created last week and imagine retirement is a “big purchase” like a house.
2. Determine the price of this long-term goal (the amount of money needed) with this calculator.
3. Tweak your quarterly plan (budget) to begin investing toward your targeted “quality of life” in your later years. You will be glad you decided to invest in yourself!