Credit Scores and Dating

Credit is important.  It’s as simple as that.  Credit can help determine your interest rate for a personal loan, a mortgage, a car loan, and can even determine your eligibility to rent an apartment.

Ultimately, your credit will control how much you will pay for loans.  The better your credit, the smaller your interest rates will be and the less money you will spend. The worse your credit, the more money you will spend.

But credit doesn’t just decide your interest rates; it also signifies how you use your money and how financially responsible you are.  It tells those who know your credit score whether you pay your bills on time, how responsible you are with your credit card, whether you make loan payments on time, etc.  This one number holds a lot of information.

It seems that this number is important to more people than just lenders and landlords.  The credit score is finding importance in the dating scene.

According to freecreditscore.com via CNN, many people won’t marry someone with bad credit.  Of the 1,000 people polled, it was found that 20% of men and 30% of women would follow suit and wouldn’t marry someone with bad credit.

Not only does having a spouse with bad credit make it more difficult and more expensive to do something like qualify for a mortgage to buy a home, it also shows the potential spouse’s money spending habits.

Money is one of the biggest reasons why couples fight, so naturally using a credit score, a number that in some ways illustrates how financially responsible someone is, as one of the criteria when choosing a mate will help curtain fights some about money.  After all, it doesn’t matter how much someone makes if they don’t know how to spend and save it well.

But remember that a credit score isn’t permanent.  With every financial move you make (or don’t make), your credit score changes.  So just because someone has made poor financial decisions in the past doesn’t mean that they will never be eligible for a low interest loan.

There are ways to build and improve your credit.  Always pay bills on time, pay off your credit card in full every month, make loan payments on time, and you will be able to raise your credit score.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

From online shopping to online banking, convenience is increasing with the help of the internet.  No longer do you need to go to a store to buy jeans to go to a bank to deposit a check.

But often more convenience can mean less information security which can lead to serious problems like identity theft and credit card fraud.

Identity theft is getting someone’s personal information unlawfully (meaning it was not given to you) and using it for personal gain, usually economic, like if someone pretends to be you to use their health insurance.  An example of credit card would be if you were to steal someone’s credit card information and use it to make purchases.

Because the internet is a relatively new invention and because it is so vast, it’s difficult to make it completely secure.  Although security holes are being closed regularly, there are still ways to steal information, both online and in person.

Without taking proper precautions it is extremely easy for identity thieves to steal your information and use it to their benefit.  But you don’t have to be a victim.  Here is what you can do to try to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Don’t think that the only thing you need to keep safe is your credit card number.  Don’t give away any important information to questionable inquirers including your social security number, birth date, address, Medicaid card, etc.  It can be used against you.
  2. Always shred credit card offers that you aren’t going to apply for.  People can apply as you, use them improperly, and ruin your credit score.
  3. Shred anything else you don’t need that has sensitive information on it.
  4. Don’t respond to any contests that you didn’t actually apply to.  They are often scams to get your personal information.  They can do this over text, by phone, or by mail.
  5. Don’t give out your kids’ information either.  Crooks can use those social security numbers for no good.
  6. Use your gut.  If you have the feeling that something seems off, don’t continue with it.
  7. Log out of your online bank account or any online store that save your credit card info and don’t let anyone else have those passwords.
  8. If you’re using someone else’s computer to do anything credit card or personal information related (buying something online, applying for something sensitive, etc.), clear the cookies when you are done so things like passwords don’t automatically save.
  9. Hide your pin number.  Whenever you type in your pin at the ATM or when paying for something, use your other hand to hide it.  It’s very easy for someone to peak over your shoulder and catch your pin.

Living on next to nothing

The prolonged recession has forced many of us to get creative when it comes to stretching a dollar.  I mean really creative.  I recently came across a great profile on money.usnews.com of a couple who did just that.  In the eighties they lived on $13,000 a year, with several children and a stay at home Mom.   They went on to write a book about the experience, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams.

I feel sure there are tips here to help all of us.  I know there are some to help me.

1.    Eat in.  Go the grocery store less.  Cook with leftovers.  All make perfect sense.  Save for restaurant meals.  Don’t just charge because you think you deserve them.  You’re going to have to pay for that meal someday…and with interest.  The second item I personally have some trouble with.  I love the grocery store, but I go too often, thus spending more money than I should.  According to The Food Institute, the average family of three spends 13% of their budget on food.  Are you above or below that?  For the ultimate in savings try to spend less than 10%.

Don’t buy foods you’re hungry for, buy foods that are in season, and thus cheaper.  It will save you a ton of money.

Never overlook coupons for good savings. In the paper and online

Invest in effective food storage/freezing systems.  The column recommends Vacuum-sealed meats.  Keeps them fresher, longer.  This allows you to stock up when things go on sale.

Yes, you should buy things when they’re on sale, but I also want to caution you to not fall for every sale.  The big grocery store chains where I live, puts certain foods on sale every two to three weeks.  Let’s use boneless chicken breasts for example.  Almost like clockwork, they go on sale for $1.99 a pound every couple of weeks.  Don’t buy every time they go on sale.  Don’t treat a sale like it will never come again.  By avoiding some sales, you will avoid extra trips to the store.

2.    Not everything online is cheaper.  Second hand shops, yard sales (YES), even church rummage sales provide great opportunities to save money on clothing and housewares.

Garage Sales Rock!

3.    Reuse products that can be reused.  Not just recycled, but reused.  The authors of the book even reused the aluminum foil that they used to wrap their baked potatoes.  Very smart idea indeed.

4.    Turn in your recyclables for cash.  In many states you pay a container recycling fee for plastic or glass containers.  Rather than just sticking these in a recycling container, take them to a facility and keep the cash for yourself.

Don’t buy water.  A water filtration system that hooks to your faucet will save you hundreds of dollars a year.   Rather than buying a bottle of water every day, buy a thermos, fill it each day from home and re-use that.

5.    Cleaning.  Clean with reusable cloths.  Don’t pull off a new paper towel for every chore.  Use vinegar and water as a cleaner, baking soda and lemons are also good cleaners and deodorizers.

6.    Climate Control.  In the summer use your air conditioning sparingly.  Buy a fan and you’ll be surprised how much it helps and how much money you’ll save.  In the winter, wear a sweater and turn the thermostat down to 68.  Stay away from electric heaters as well.  Not only are they more expensive to operate, but they’re a safety hazard.

7.    Do you or the kids like jelly?  Make your own in strawberry jam when in season.  It’s much cheaper than buying from the store and it stays fresh for months in the refrigerator.

8.     What else?  Make your own clothing.  But don’t stop there, try tackling repairs you can do for yourself around the house rather than calling in a specialist.

One of the most effective things you can do to control your spending is to change your attitude.  You have got to tell yourself “no.”  And, you have to do it often.  Don’t just buy something or go to a quick dinner because it’s only $20 on the credit card.  You’re going to have to pay it back at some point.

And finally, don’t carry your credit card (s) with you.  The best way to keep from building your balances up, is to stop using them.

Savings are all around you; you just have to keep your eyes open.

The financial worries of Americans and what if YOU hit the lottery

We’re going to start with some not so great news, but end with a little “wouldn’t that be great” kind of news. 

Other than the very rich, or the 1% as they are sometimes referred, the rest of us have real financial concerns that the financial meltdown of six years ago has only made worse.  It’s not like Americans are known for saving in the first place, but this recession has really hurt the retirement goals of millions of Americans, primarily due to the decreased home values that many people now face.

Aaaah! Finances cause a lot of headaches.

So as Americans worry over their stagnant or decreased wages, falling home value and rising petroleum costs, there is one other major worry.  Let’s call it the white elephant in the room.  It’s the cost of health care.  No one seems exactly sure how the Affordable Care Act will affect them, except for apprehension that rates are going to go up.

That’s a lot of financial concern, that’s for sure.  This apprehension was a catalyst for Harris to conduct some research into the current financial picture of Americans.

In the summer of 2012 Harris conducted a poll of more than 2,300 adults to find out how they were progressing financially.

Overall there are some big fears out there.  74% of those polled worry about having enough money to retire; 73% worry about affording healthcare in retirement; 71% worry about unexpected health care costs.  Additionally, only 40% of non-retired persons believe that social security will be there when they retire.

63% of those surveyed say that they are saving some money; of those 62% say that they are saving in the event of an emergency, but only 53% say they are saving for retirement.
Other reasons given for saving include college education and the purchase of a new car.
In addition to these basic questions there was one that clearly illustrates how financial concerns change as we age.  The question was,

“If you won the lottery or received an inheritance of $100,000 today, what would you be most likely to do with that money?”

18-35 year olds

36-47 year olds

48-66 year olds

Pay off debts   

55%

73%

60%
Save for a rainy day

36%

37%

45%
Save for retirement

20%

32%

46%

Go on vacation

19%

17%

19%

Buy a house

19%

17%

10%

Go back to school

15%

5%

2%

The largest difference in sheer numbers is the “save for retirement” response.  230% of 18-35 year olds would save for retirement, while 46% of 48-66 year olds would use the money for retirement.  This of course makes perfect sense.  As I get closer to retiring my conerns about whether or not I have enough for retirement becomes a much bigger concern.

What would you do with $100,000?

But by the largest percentage difference between what younger people would spend their money on vs. older is education.  This again makes perfect sense as education is an investment of sorts for younger people.  It is a luxury and far more like a hobby to those older than 50.

So what would you do with an extra $100,000?  Write back and tell us.

Today’s Cable Television

What is the state of cable television today?  To get a clear picture of that we need to look at the overall state of television today.

Television programming options have never greater

First, a definition.  Cable is a delivery system.  Channels are brought into your home via cable.  In addition to cable, another delivery system is broadcast (the old style of TV station delivery).  Broadcast describes the way in which a television signal is “broadcast” via the airwaves.  An antenna is required to receive the signals and only a few stations are available to be received.  Other delivery systems include satellite, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and other computer sources.

Here’s the dilemma cable now faces.  Remember when you had to have cable to have access to ESPN or USA programming or even HBO?  That’s all changed.  You can access this programming online or through Netflix or hulu or almost anywhere other than cable.  You don’t need cable anymore and millions of people are discovering that fact.

There’s more.  Consumers want to be able to access their program choices a la carte.  In other words, buy one episode at a time to view when it’s convenient for them.  The problem for cable companies?  They make WAY too much money force feeding consumers big bundles of channels, including a ton that you probably don’t ever tune into.

It’s possible that this will turn out positive for consumers.  I’ll be honest, I dropped my cable a year ago and couldn’t be happier to have that extra $100 a month in my pocket.  I miss it occasionally, but not enough to get it back.  I find that I get all I from Netflix and online on the network’s sites.

But this is only part of the cable industry.  These same cables are used to deliver high speed internet.  Here’s the second part of the cable story.

The industry seems to think that they’re data delivery speeds are just fine.  According to industry leaders they think there is no demand for increased speed.  The CTO of Time Warner has said her company has no plans to “build out a fiber network because there’s no evidence that American consumers actually want super-fast networks.”

Say what?  Imagine if the same thing was said about cellular coverage and speeds.

The audacity of cable companies is astounding.  She is readily admitting that upgrading and improving the consumer experience is not something they are interested in doing.  She’s not the only one.  According to BGR.com, the CEO of National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Michael Powell, said that “gigabyte speeds are an “irrelevant exercise in bragging rights.”

The history of the cable industry is the primary reason for the lack of competition.  Firms were granted geographic monopolies in exchange for hard-wiring these communities.   What has resulted is what we see above.  A blind eye to the wants and needs of the consumer.  Why should they upgrade when competition is so weak?

That’s why online competition and Netflix’s various delivery systems are so important for the consumer.  Competition for the cable companies has to start somewhere.

There’s little question that the competition between Apple and Google (or iOS vs. Android in particular) has generated better products.  One can only hope that further competition for cable will change the way they do business; or at the very least, change their outlook to one that more driven to meet and surpass consumer expectations.

Far be it for us to tell you whether or not to remove your cable, but if you’re looking for ways to cut household expenses, take a look at your cable bill and decide if they are giving you what you want, and ask yourself, “is it worth it?”

Moving the Right Way

Moving is expensive.  It’s one of the things that people often take out payday loans for is moving expenses.

Moving is one of those things that you don’t really do that often, but when you do, it ends up somehow being very expensive, even if you don’t think that you have that much stuff.

From boxes and bubble wrap to trucks and moving men, those expenses really add up.  And if you have to take time off for work to wait for the moving men to finish, you are losing even more money that you might not be able to afford.

But it doesn’t have to be that expensive.  Sure you’ll spend some money, but you don’t have to spend as much as you would in the first place with our list of money saving tips and tricks.

1. Get a quote.  If you are using a moving company and you are paying people to help you move your furniture, find out initially how much they think the process will cost.  Remember that this is just an estimate.  It’s very possible that they will charge you more than what your estimate, but then your estimate becomes an excellent bargaining tool.

2. Do what you can.  Some furniture you can definitely take apart and move yourself.  It’s annoying and it might take some time, but the less stuff you have to have the movers move, the less you will end up having to pay than you would if they moved all of your stuff.  And if you can gather up a few strong friends, rent a truck, and do everything yourselves, that will save you even more money.  Just remember to be grateful and maybe spring for lunch or dinner for everything.  Show them that you care.

3. Treat movers well.  Offer them drinks and smile instead of scowl.  People generally don’t overcharge people that they like. Plus there is no reason to be rude.  These people are ultimately helping you, even if you are paying them, so treat them well.

4. Box.  Things in boxes are way easier to stack and move than things that are not in boxes.  It speeds up the process and things have less of a chance of breaking.  So definitely put in the extra effort and box.

5. Box for free.  Plenty of places will give you their old free boxes if you ask.  Costco, for example, has thousands of boxes that they encourage people to take, so go ahead and ask for a few.  It sure beats paying for boxes.

6. Forgo the bubble wrap.  Sure you want to protect your things, but the price of bubble wrap really adds up.  Instead, use clothes and towels.  They work just as well. Plus you kill two birds with one stone and save some money.

Moving is never pleasant, but with our tips it can be a little cheaper.

How to Plan Your Career

Now that you have some idea of what to do and a vague understanding of what employers are looking for in an employee, you can get started on the next step: planning your career.

Before you can do this, you need to settle on a field that you like.  It should be something that you are interested in, something that challenges you, and something that will be important or popular in the future.

Choosing a field that is shrinking instead of growing will mean choosing a new field later on which means reeducating yourself, and this is not an easy task.

The first step:

Know what you are good at.

The older you get, the more you learn about your strengths and your weaknesses.  This might not be all that easy when you are young and just beginning your working career, but as you get older, what you are naturally good at becomes more and more apparent.  So plan your career around that.  Working a job that you are not naturally suited for is just an uphill battle.

Next step:

Make site that the knowledge you have can be transferred. 

One of the scariest things that can happen is that you are pigeon -holed.  This means that you learn a specific skill that’s so specific that you won’t be able to find another position doing this.  Sure, no two jobs are the same, but you should be able to find something similar.  Take away skills that can be applied anywhere.

The step after that:

Learn to be charming.

If you aren’t already good at telling interesting anecdotes and successfully jumping into conversations, leaving them with friends, learn to do so immediately, and take these powers and use them for good (networking).

Networking may seem like a monotonous activity, but it can really help you find a job or get your foot in the door of a company or industry that you really want to work for.

The second to last step:

Find a handful of companies you want to work for.

Identify what it is you like about these companies?  Are the known for being highly creative and innovative?  Do they do really good work?  Can you stand out there?   Figure out what it is you like in a company and set goals for yourself.

Figure out a plan to work for one of your ideal companies.  Develop skills that they find important, constantly apply for jobs at these companies, and write personal cover letters.  You’ll get there eventually.

The last step:

ABL (Always Be Learning)

Never stop growing and learning.  The moment you stop growing, you stop being attractive to employers.  You start being old.  Technology continues to develop, so why should you stop?

Younger competitors are keeping up with what’s changing, and you should too, not just for employment purposes but for your own personal development.

What Employers Really Want

The key to financial stability and independence, or at least one of the keys, is a secure and stable income that’s big enough to sustain your lifestyle.  But it’s way easier to want that than to actually find a job that pays well.

There are many tricks to finding the right job, but we have discovered a few really good ones for keeping one.

Many companies would much rather promote from within than to hire someone from outside.  That way their new management is already familiar with company culture and this drastically cuts down on training.  Additionally, knowing an employee before giving them a management job gives you much better idea whether or not they will work in that position.

Moving up in a company is good for you as an employee.  Much less stressful that finding a new, better paying job, working your way up comes with many other advantages for you, namely a much smaller learning curve.  It’s simply easier to do a job when you are familiar with the company and know your coworkers, and that’s exactly what working your way up helps you do.

But to get promoted, you have to impress your boss and show him or her that you can do the job you are after.  Here is what bosses want to see:

Leadership Skills

They say there’s no “I” in “team” blah blah blah.  Sure, that old expression has been used to death, but it’s still true…in some way.  Bosses like to see that you can work with your coworkers, but they want to see someone who stands out too.

Bosses want to see that you can take control of a situation and plan a project, complete with breaking it up and delegating tasks.  Remember that leadership isn’t easy.

Commitment

Hiring and rehiring someone for a particular position is both stressful and expensive.  The hiring process can be long, and going long periods of time without having a position filled can really take a toll on a company.

This is why employers want to know that you won’t quit the moment things get a little hard or you find something better.  And the longer someone works for a company, the more they know and the more valuable they become.  The last thing an employer wants to do is invest time and money into an employee just to have them quit.  It isn’t a financially viable process, and it’s just exhausting and disappointing.

Critical Thinking Skills

Problems arise, and employers know that.  A perfectly run operation or business just doesn’t exist.  So employers want to know that you can solve a problem on your own.  And often that means being creative and finding different ways to fix things.

Whether it be a problem with the product or service or planning the future of the company, having an employee that can understand and solve actual and possible problems is a huge asset that any company would want.

Conclusion

The more valuable you are to a company, the higher up you will be in the company and the more you will be paid (hopefully).  So develop these skills in yourself and impress your boss.

The Right Job for Your Personality

Finding a career is difficult at any time or age.  Picking just one thing that you are interested in and starting from the beginning or close to the beginning, hoping you will be good at it, is just about the scariest thing you can do, especially as an adult.

Some people are lucky and have always known what they want to be or are simply good at one specific thing and turn that into a career.

The rest of us, unfortunately, aren’t that lucky.  It takes us real soul searching and a whole lot of time before we can narrow in on what we want to spend the rest of our lives doing.

But now there’s that can help you make your decision. Continue reading

Ways to save money year round

1.    Get in the habit of looking for deals.  Keep an eye out for super sale prices on products that you use on a regular basis.

2.    Create and maintain a savings account.  It will take a while, but even if you begin with $10 a week, over time, you’ll be impressed with how much you will save.  It also does your psyche some good, to see you setting goals and reaching them.

Ways to save money

3.    Pay off your highest interest credit card first.  There is some debate as to whether you pay the high interest rate card or the card with the lowest balance first.  For this article I’m saying high interest card first.  Start with $10 extra per month if that’s all you can afford, but put something extra against the balance.  Two things will happen.  Yes, the balance will go down quicker, but you will also see your minimum due go down as well.  This will enable you pay the same amount while paying the balance off faster. Continue reading