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12 Feb


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There’s an App for That

February 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

Money management tools have never been more accessible than they are to current Smartphone users. With the help of these apps you not only have access to your bank accounts, but you’re able to pay your bills and track your credit cards all from the palm of your hand. Forget the pen and paper, you can literally see your personal financial overview on the same device you use to call your mom. Start with these three apps, and soon you will be on your way to a more organized financial place.

Name of App: Mint

Price: Free

Device: iPhone, Andriod & iPad

There’s no question why Mint made the Mac App Store’s Best of 2012 list. This sleek and user friendly app allows you to visualize your finances while also providing you with tools to create budgets and track your progress. What’s cool, too, is that when you are developing the budgets they are actually based on your spending and then are adjustable (no kidding yourself!). The cash versus credit extra also gives you a full picture of your credit card balances and compares it to the cash you have to pay them off.

Name of App: DailyCost

Price: $1.99

Device: Apple products only

If you want to focus more on your expenses, DailyCost is a great option. With a variety of categories, this app allows users to input all of their day-to-day expenses. Its cool features allow you to view graphs and statistics on your spending. You can also track your expenditures monthly and weekly by category, so you can see where your money is truly going.

Name of App: Check

Price: Free

Device: iPhone, Andriod & iPad

If you’re one of those who is late on their bill payments Check is the app for you. This app sets up reminders to let you know when it’s time to pay your bills and gives you the option to pay on the spot. By connecting with all of your bank accounts (don’t worry, the app is encrypted), this app allows you to schedule payments in advance right from your phone. It’s super convenient and a great way to keep your time and money management under control.

08 Feb


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Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

February 8, 2014 | By | No Comments

With recent headlines concerning data breaches at major retailers, it seems like not a day goes by that we aren’t hearing about Identity Theft.

While identity theft isn’t a new problem, the number of instances is continuing to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 11,571,900 people annually fall victim to identity fraud. However, many people still don’t understand the fundamentals of the crime, and most importantly how to protect themselves. In today’s technology-driven society personal information is easily accessible and identity theft is more common than ever. Here are just a few ways to keep yourself protected:

Check your Credit – Carefully look over your credit card and bank statements and keep an eye out for any suspicious charges. Track down even the smallest charges you don’t remember making, because there’s a chance your credit information was stolen.

Be Careful About Releasing Information – Don’t give your information out to just anyone. One way that criminals obtain your personal information is through fake WiFi connections and through website data. Only purchase items online from reliable and secure sources and refrain from posting personal information about yourself, like your address and date of birth. Also, NEVER send your social security number or financial information through an email. Identity thieves will send out fake emails that show they’re from your bank (sometimes called “phishing”).  If you’re not sure whether the email is real, call your financial institution.

Military Members Should Take Extra Precautions – Military veterans file more complaints about identity theft than any other group, according to an article in US News. Not only are veterans names most accessible through the internet, but according to the article, their conditioned training has left them more susceptible to identity theft. To help fight the issue, the Federal Trade Commission designated July 17 as Military Consumer Protection Day, to help better educate veterans on the level of danger associated with identity theft.

06 Feb


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What to Know About Retail Security Breaches

February 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

Neiman Marcus and Target Corp. were not the only United States retailers who were hit with security breaches during the holiday shopping season, according to a Huffington Post article published last week.

The article stated that approximately three other well-known smaller U.S. retailers experienced breaches as well, using the same techniques as the ones used against Target. An investigation discovered that approximately 110 million shoppers’ information was compromised during the Target breach and 70 million from Neiman Marcus. Information included addresses, phone numbers, names, telephone numbers, and email addresses.

As officials continue to investigate the string of breaches, shoppers are becoming more hesitant about using their credit cards. What many don’t realize, however, is that incidences of Identity Theft have been growing for years. In 2012 alone, one in every 14 Americans over the age of 16 fell victim to some form of identity theft, resulting in financial losses of $24.7 billion, according to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey.

While there is no way to completely shield yourself from retail security breaches (other than completely avoiding shopping), you should be aware of some things. For one, those affected in a security breach may not realize it right away. It could be years before you notice anything out of the ordinary on your credit report, which is just another reason why you should keep a close eye on your financials.

Secondly, don’t fall for any emails requesting your financial information. During the Target breach, many received empathetic emails requesting personal information, pretending to help victims recovering from the breach. These have been characterized as phishing scams — an email scam used to obtain information that could lead to an additional case of identity theft.

For those who were victims of the Target breach, the corporation has arranged for free credit monitoring and other help to assist you in overcoming this situation.

03 Feb


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How long will negative information stay on my credit report?

February 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Those reviewing their credit reports for the first might be taken aback by some of the negative information present.

The good news is that most times the information won’t last forever. The bad news: it can be a hassle for the time being.

Most negative information, such as late payments, will remain on your credit report for seven years, but other items will stay for longer. Foreclosures typically remain for seven years, as do collections, although it depends on the age of the debt collected.

If you have an unpaid judgment or lawsuit against you, the information will stay on your report for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out — whichever is longer. There are exceptions, such as unpaid tax liens, which could stay on your credit report indefinitely.

For those who have gone through bankruptcy, the amount if time it remains on your credit report depends on the type. For completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies it generally will show up for seven years, whereas Chapter 7 bankruptcies may remain for up to 10 years. For those with a criminal conviction, it may remain on your credit report indefinitely.

The good news is that positive information, such as the car loan payments you made on time, will stay on your credit history forever. Keep in mind that having more positive than negative information will help strengthen your credit history and should increase your credit score.

01 Feb


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Building an Emergency Fund

February 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

You can’t always predict when an emergency will occur, but you can take steps to prepare yourself.

The first step is building an emergency fund. According to a 2011 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 64 percent of Americans don’t have enough cash to handle a $1,000 emergency. Regardless of your financial standing, there are many ways and reasons for building an emergency fund.

To put it simply, having an emergency fund will provide you both financial and mental security through unexpected events. Examples include: automobile trouble, unexpected medical bills, legal matters, and even unanticipated bills. It’s not something typically used for a vacation or to buy groceries, but more as a security blanket for unanticipated situations.

Because an emergency fund is typically separate from your day-to-day spending accounts, you won’t even realize the money is there. If a disaster were to occur, you can access the money and alleviate any feelings of worry or stress that you may have had.

The reason why many people fail to build an emergency fund is because they don’t believe their monthly income is big enough to split up. The beauty of an emergency fund is that it isn’t something that appears right away — you must build it. Depositing small amounts out of your paycheck each month is one way to build an emergency fund that doesn’t require a huge financial sacrifice. If you continue to add to it, the account will grow larger than you would expect. Plus, you’re not inconveniencing yourself every month, either.

While there are no guidelines as to what you can and cannot spend your emergency fund on, we suggest that you use it wisely. Consider whether your financial situation is truly an emergency, and whether there are other options.

30 Jan


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Debt May Be Harmful To Your Health

January 30, 2014 | By | No Comments

Debt is something that we may all have to deal with at some point, and it will never be pleasant. What many don’t know, however is that debt impacts more than your pocket book, it can actually put a huge strain on your mental and physical health.

While researchers have long connected the link between debt and stress, new studies have shown new links between debt and other psychological conditions. Researchers from the University of Southhampton found that conditions like neurosis and depression were significantly more common among those with debt compared to those without. The review of 65 studies, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, indicated that those who are in debt are three times more likely to face mental health problems, compared to those who aren’t.

The health effects of debt don’t stop there.

A recent study by Northwestern Medicine found that high financial debt is associated with higher blood pressure and poorer self-reported general health. The study was the first to focus on both mental and physical health, focusing on 8,400 young adults, aged 24 to 32.

The study found that young adults with higher debt had a 1.3 percent increase in diastolic blood pressure, which is extremely significant. For example, a 2 percent increase would lead to a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension and a 15 percent higher risk of stroke.

In addition to the effects mentioned, debt is also known to increase levels of anxiety and contribute to outbursts of anger. Many people with debt have reported feelings of worry and stress in other areas of their lives. Debt can put strain on your relationships with others, and most importantly yourself.

Understand that there are many stressors that come along with debt, but the most important thing is how we deal with it.

27 Jan


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If a debt collector calls me at work, are they violating the FDCPA?

January 27, 2014 | By | No Comments

The answer to this question isn’t simple and varies depending on your situation.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from contacting consumers at an inconvenient place. Some workplaces are considered inconvenient by nature, which could include places such as hospitals (if the debtor is a nurse or a doctor), restaurants, retail stores, and schools.  If you’re not comfortable or it’s inconvenient for the debt collector to contact you at work, you must tell them.

According to the FDCPA, debt collectors are also prohibited from calling you at work if they already know your employer forbids this type of communication. Often times employers enact policies which forbid employees from taking calls for personal business. A policy such as this would prohibit an employee from taking a collection call.

For many occupations, the should already know that an employer won’t allow collection calls. An example could be if you are a police officer, a collector should know that you aren’t allowed to take a collection car while you’re at work. In these situations, it’s up to the debt collector to make the right call and avoid contacting you at work.

The FDCPA is a federal law that governs the behavior of debt collectors focused on consumer debts. Despite the regulations listed above, a debt collector may contact you at work if there is a court order allowing such communications or if you’ve given consent.

25 Jan


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Understanding Bankruptcy

January 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

If you’ve ever been shoulder-deep in debt you may have pondered the thought of filing bankruptcy. Sure, the idea of being debt-free sounds marvelous, but in reality filing bankruptcy isn’t a bed of roses. Before you actually consider making the move, take the time to learn what filing bankruptcy entails and whether it’s the right option for you.

What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy laws are a system of federal laws that relieves indebted people or entities of the debt they are unable to pay back. The idea is to give these bodies a fresh financial start, without pressure from creditors or debt collectors trying to collect prior debts.

What are the types of bankruptcies for people?

Often times bankruptcy can be split into two categories — reorganization and liquidation.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which falls into the liquidation category, requires the bankruptcy trustee to obtain and sell all of your non-exempt property to pay off creditors.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is under the reorganization category, adjusts your debt using a monthly payment plan. This option allows you to hold on to your assets, but requires you to make monthly payments toward your debt, with the goal of paying it off in 3-5 years.

What are the benefits of filing bankruptcy?

The initial perks of filing bankruptcy are that it’s an immediate relief from debt collectors. Once you file, you’re on “automatic stay” which notifies your creditors of your status and prohibits them from contacting you. It also prohibits lawsuits from being filed against you and stops other court-sanctioned forms of collection, such as wage garnishment.

What are the negatives of filing bankruptcy?

Don’t be fooled by the dream of living a debt-free life, bankruptcy also has serious disadvantages. Bankruptcy doesn’t usually discharge debts from student loans, taxes, mortgages, child support, or alimony. In addition, there is a possibility that even your non-exempt assets could be liquidated.

Proclaiming bankruptcy can also wreck whatever credit score you have. Once you file bankruptcy it is shown on your credit report for up to 10 years. Regardless of whether you ever go into debt again, having bankruptcy on your credit report can affect more than your ability to take out a loan, it can lead to higher insurance rates, increased security deposits and — in the worst case scenario — destroy your chances of getting a good job.  Even if someone does loan you money with the knowledge that you have filed for bankruptcy, it is likely the loan will be at a very high interest rate.

Bankruptcy laws are very specialized and unique.  There are many issues which can affect whether filing for bankruptcy protection is the best option for you, or whether you even qualify.  It is impossible to discuss all of those variations here.  As always, you should consult with an experienced attorney before making such an important decision.

23 Jan


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Reasons to order your credit report

January 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

In today’s society, credit has too much clout not to know what your credit score is. A credit report contains information on where you live, what payment methods you use and whether you’ve been sued or filed for bankruptcy. All of this information together has a direct impact on whether you will be approved for a loan or even credit cards. If you’ve never ordered a credit report, there could be outstanding payments or incorrect information affecting your credit that you’re completely unaware of. Here are just a few reasons why you shouldn’t waste time when ordering your credit report:

Check for Mistakes: Make sure the information is correct, thorough and up-to-date. Even if you don’t plan on applying for a loan soon, it’s always good to double-check so you can deal with errors in advance.

Check for Identity Theft: Many don’t realize that there are plenty of ways to fall victim to identity theft. Identity theft is when another person uses your information, such as your social security number or credit card information, to commit fraud. Many times identity thieves use your information to open credit cards, and when they don’t pay the bills the delinquent account is reported to your credit report. Review your credit report carefully and pin point any irregularities– bad information could jeopardize your ability to get credit, insurance, and even a job.

Check for forgotten accounts: Remember that time you opened an account at a major department store to save 15% on the purchase? You never used the card again and eventually forgot, however the payment could still be out there. This is common and can greatly affect your credit score.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles all consumers to one free copy of their credit report per year.  In order to comply with this requirement, the three major credit reporting bureaus set up a web site:  Visit this site to find out how to get your free credit report.

21 Jan


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How do I seek correction of errors in my credit report?

January 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

If you are one of those who has found inaccurate information in your credit report, it’s important to understand that it may not be not your fault. Thanks to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit reporting company and the information provider are responsible for fixing inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. Your responsibility, however, is to reach out and work with these entities to ensure that your report is an accurate representation of your financial situation.

The first step in trying to correct errors in your credit report is to write a letter to the credit reporting company detailing the information you believe to be inaccurate. Clearly describe each item in the report you’re disputing, include the facts and details of why you’re disputing the information. Be sure to include copies of the documents that support your statements.

It’s a good idea to send your letter by certified mail, return receipt, so you can prove they received the letter. Also, make sure to keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures for your own records. Keep in mind that credit-reporting companies are required to investigate items in question within 30 days and they must forward all relevant data to the party that provided them the information. Once the provider receives notice of the dispute, it must investigate the claim and send its findings back to the credit reporting company.

If it is found that the disputed information is incorrect, the information provider must inform all three nationwide credit bureaus, so they are able to fix the information in your file. Once the investigation is finished, the credit reporting company is required to provide you with a written copy of the results and a complimentary copy of your credit report, which should reflect the changes made. It is also mandatory for the company to forward you written document that includes the name and contact information of the information provider.