Bankruptcy is the New Old Thing

Bankruptcy has always been a way for consumers to dip out of their obligations with creditors. It used to be so that anyone could file for a Chapter 7 when way over their head in debt and be free of worry. When filing for a Chapter 7, your assets are dissolved and given to your creditors as compensation, then whatever other debts you have became null and void. So if you had a student loan, mortgage or credit card debt, they would easily disappear, giving you a new beginning. But since 2005, this has since changed thanks to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.

This means that the law has to work harder to ensure that consumers aren’t abusing their rights to file for bankruptcy, by making is very inconvenient. The goal is to prevent consumers from running up their debts and using bankruptcy as a shield from having to pay them. There are new requirements for consumers who’d wish to file for bankruptcy, such as mandatory credit counseling, audits, “means tests”, which make sure that you aren’t hiding wealth, high filing fees and a ban that prevents consumers from filing for bankruptcy again within 8 years. If these terms are met, then the consumer will have to file for a Chapter 13, which means you won’t get away squeaky clean from your debts. This will require you to set up a 5-year payment plan with your creditors .

Since these new rules have taken place, there has been a slight cut back in bankruptcy filings by consumers. To give you an idea, between 2001 and 2004, there was about 1.5 million people in the U.S. filing for bankruptcy annually. But since the economic disaster we’re facing, the numbers of filings have been increasing again. Here is a visual of how things were looking during 2010:

What Happens After Bankruptcy?

Once you have filed for bankruptcy, you will have to endure the long process of rebuilding your bad credit. You don’t really have many choices, except for secured credit cards, which is a good option after filing a Chapter  or 13. With the secured credit card, you will be required to put upfront collateral, usually around $300-1000, allowing you a credit line that is equal to your collateral. The card issuer holds on to your money until you’re ready to close your account with them. You are responsible for paying your bill monthly, or you’ll face interest rates like with a regular credit card (putting you back in debt).

If getting a secured credit card sounds good to you, we recommend that you consult with your local credit union or bank, since they are more likely to give you more affordable fees and rates than those you’ll find on the Web (take a look at our wall of shame for an idea of what to stay away from). Top banks like Wells Fargo and Citibank allow you to trade in your secured credit card for an unsecured credit card after 1-1.5 years of doing well. The popularity of prepaid debit cards have surged, but we don’t recommend them for your credit building. But if worse comes to worst, you can opt for them to help get you out of your bad credit pit.

If you’re trying to stay out of bankruptcy, it’s important to have good financial habits. This includes bargain shopping. You can find deals from Groupon to shop at places like American Eagle, JCPenney and Nordstrom.

An Introduction to Online Trading

Firstly, what is online trading?

Put simply, online trading is when a trader buys or sells financial assets using an online trading platform, rather than commissioning an individual or brokerage firm. Online trading has seen an increase in popularity among newbie traders as it allows freedom to trade without the assistance of a broker, as well as offering lower rates of commission and a smaller amount of capital to get started. Nearly all types of assets can be traded online, including bonds, stocks, currencies, futures and options, with minimal fuss and zero office overheads if trading from home. All that is required is connection to the internet and access to a computer. It is important though that those considering online trading have an in depth understanding of not only the process but also the risks involved before starting out to minimise chance of loss. While online trading can be extremely lucrative, there’s potential for loss if not approached wisely. Never bet more than you can afford to lose, and seek advice from an independant financial advisor or broker before starting, as this will enable you to gain understanding and make intelligent bets. A popular type of online trading is in binary options, which we’re going to look at in more detail.

‘Binary Options’

Binary options are derivative products, in that their value derives from the movement in value of a base or underlying asset of some kind. This base asset could be a stock, currency pair or indice, and the point of the trade is to correctly predict the outcome of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ scenario. Will the value of US/EUR currency pair be above a certain value by 4pm today? Yes or no? If a trader is successful with a ‘yes’ in their bid to buy at say $40, they will earn a fixed amount less the $40 bid price. Binary means there are only two options; yes or no. There are many factors that influence whether a base asset will rise or fall prior to a particular point in time, and these factors are known as ‘indicators’. Indicators include major economic announcements (such as unemployment rates, business news, investor interests, take-overs etc) and a variety of worldwide business/economic figures. Experienced traders use their up to date knowledge of specific markets to predict the outcome of a binary option. The ability to read economic signals and keep up to date with as much market news as possible is key to successful online trading.

Even after intensive research on past and current events there is still no guarantee of success, as sometimes information that would have led to a correct prediction has been missed or misinterpreted. There are some useful tools that can help advise online traders when it comes to generating predictions, such as binary option robots, known as BOTS. Binary Options Bots are advanced pieces of software that automatically analyse large chunks of historical and current market data. They use a complex algorithm to number crunch masses of relevant information and churn out hundreds of predictions within seconds. They can significantly reduce the amount of research an individual trader has to carry out but should only be used to complement and advise, rather than as a fail safe measure for success.

Do I need qualifications to trade online?

You don’t need any specific qualifications to trade online, but a background or even interest in finance or investing, albeit not necessary, will increase your chances of success. While qualifications aren’t necessary, as discussed already an interest in current affairs, finance and the stock market is crucial, and as with any type of trading you will want to minimise costly errors by studying the industry as much as possible before attempting live trading. The markets are changing and reacting continuously so believing yourself to be an expert is dangerous – approach it as a continuous learning curve, continually keeping yourself up to date. Start with small trades that you can afford to lose until you’ve gained the knowledge, experience and confidence to bet higher – but never betting more than you can afford to lose. This is not advisable and can lead to financial losses.

Where do I start?

The best place to start online training is, of course, online! Do your research and find a well established online broker that offers up to date trading platforms, as well as advice to help you get started. Large firms such as CMC Markets and other reputable online broker provide training materials and demo accounts where novice traders can practise with virtual money until they feel confident to use their trading platforms. This is hugely beneficial, as research, while important, is no substitute for experience.

Lastly, tips to help you get started

Never invest more than you can afford to lose although We’ve already discussed this in detail, it is so important not to get carried away and bet more than you can afford to lose, as this can have disastrous consequences. Once you’ve made a profit, use this as a base to  then invest from, slowly building it up over time.

Start small Start by making small investments, increasing the amount after you have gained experience and feel confident to do so.

Ensure you have enough time to dedicate to research Online trading should be approached as a part time job, not as a hobby. It’s imperative that you keep yourself up to date with the latest political and financial news. If you don’t feel that you will have enough time to do this, seek help from a professional who can trade on behalf of you.

Be patient! Building profit from online trading isn’t instant – it requires patience and perseverance. Patience will not only allow you to make informed, rational bets, but you will require patience if you want to see your income rise, as everyone will experience losses. Ideally you will build profit and use this to trade, making educated bets and having made enough profit so that you can afford to stomach any losses. If you persevere, as your experience grows you are far more likely to succeed and find online trading to be a rewarding and profitable experience.

6 Tips to Have an Excellent Life after You Retire

This is a Guest Post by Tina from ProFinanceBlog.com

Life after retirement – lovely images pop in your mind when you think of it, images of peace and tranquillity, uninterrupted by the hustles of a busy work life. Problem is you couldn’t take the scary images out because they might turn out the reality.

The greying gentlemen have limited financial options. But someone in his mid-30s or early 40s has many such options. Remember, which fruit you reap in the present depends on which tree you’ve sowed in the past. Same way, how your retirement life would be like depends on how you are managing your finances now.

The pre-retirement phase

The phase begins in your early 50s and ends with your retirement. Let’s pin on 52 as the beginning of this phase. At this stage, your priorities are to estimate the possible earning from social security and pension, and making an assessment of how much the employer-sponsored pre-tax retirement saving plans (with and without limit) might yield. A correct (or even semi-correct) assessment would reveal how much you’d pull out every month after you retire.

Investment opportunities

Don’t be too optimistic, you never know when the inflation will start to hover around the higher digits. Not to mention, the deposit interest rate has been historically low in this country, which means stashing the money that you receive from the IRA and 401(K) and 403(K) in the savings account won’t get you a satisfying monthly amount.

Hence, start exploring the investment opportunities from today. Just as I said in the beginning, people in their mid-30s or early-40s have some leverage. They can experiment and fail, only to pull their finances together and invest again, venture out from the frame of a safe investment, which is almost impossible for someone, who’s reaching 60. If you have the leverage, use it.

Life expectancy

Anticipate your life expectancy before you retire, or else you might face financial hardships in the late years of your life. Your retirement savings should be enough to give you financial support till the end. How much is enough? Depends on how long you live.

Most life expectancy calculators ask you to reveal your age and gender because they gauge the lifespan using geopolitical data. If you are 30 years old now, then your current life expectancy is more than 80 years. It’ll increase with time because of the advancements in the areas of medicine and therapeutic treatment, and the spread of health awareness.

Tax insinuations

Different areas making up your retirement income have different tax insinuations. Distribution methods are not uniform. For example, if you invest in equity now and get a handsome return when you retire (or freshly after that), it’d be completely tax-free.

On the other hand, the money you withdraw from the conventional IRA accounts and 401(K) come under tax. If you have securities in your taxable accounts, it’s wise to sell them out.

The best strategy is to hire a tax consultant or a financial advisor, so he explains various tax situations in your post-retirement life and you could decide your course of action.

Employ a tracking system

Do that today, and check your monthly budget a month down the line. If it looks like a balance sheet, then you are doing it right. A balance sheet has columns for losses and gains; that’s how the tracking system should make the budget look like. All the money that’s coming in, and all the money that’s flowing out should be tracked.

What’s the point of such a tracking system? It’ll stay activated even after you retire and keep a tab on all your earning and spending. Simply put, tracking all your retirement earning would be incredibly easy. Retired people may use money from fixed income sources such as pension and social security for leisure and entertainment purposes. A tracking system in which a stable income is mapped with paying for required utilities prevents them from doing that.

Understanding How Trading CFD At XTrade Works

Trading CFD is the term that experts at XTrade use to describe when people make a trade on the difference between the point where the trade is entered and exited (The Contract for Difference). The CFD is an instrument which reflects the movements of the asset being traded. It is what allows for a profit or loss to be realised when the asset moves in relation to the position that was undertaken. The underlying asset is not actually owned when someone is trading CFDs. All that happens is that a client makes an agreement with a broker.

The Popularity Of Trading CFD Rises

The idea of trading CFD has really taken off in the last few years – it has become one of the most popular forms of trading as people find that it is more convenient, and faster, than actually buying the asset itself – whether the asset is a share, a currency pair, or a commodity.

CFDs are popular in part because brokers like XTrade require much smaller margins for them than they do for traditional assets. A traditional broker may expect a 50% margin, which means that you need to put down a lot of money to get started with worthwhile trades. A CFD broker will allow people to trade for a margin of around one tenth that – which means a much, much smaller outlay.

Before you get too excited, though, note that when you enter into trading CFD, the position shows a loss that is equal to the size of the spread. Before you can even break even, the stock will need to appreciate by the size of the spread. That, essentially, is the commission that you are paying to the broker. So, at that point you are not making much of a profit.

Where things get appealing, though, is that if the stock continues to appreciate, then the gains will be bigger, in percentage terms, than they would be on the owned stock itself.

Benefits Of Trading At XTrade

CFDs offer the benefit of more flexibility, higher leverage, and, once that ‘commission’ is paid off actual gains (whereas there will be commissions and other fees to worry about with other trading methods). The lower margin requirements mean that traders at XTrade can enter the market more easily – however because the leverage is increased, this means that both gains and losses are amplified. You run the risk of making a massive loss if things go wrong with trading CFD – but the same could be said for heavily leveraged accounts with any other form of financial instrument.

Most CFD brokers, XTrade included, offer products all over the world, for all kinds of asset. This means that you can pick something that you are confident in trading, and likely enjoy better success than you would if you were limited to trading in more specific niches.

The CFD market does not usually have a short selling rule, so you can short the asset at any time, with no extra cost. This is something that is not common in other markets, and is a big benefit.

Another Way To Make Money In The Stock Market

One of the most well known ways that people are aware of for making money in the stock market is by simply investing. While this is correct, it is not the only way that it can be done. Another way is to become a trader. When you are a trader, you not only get to take part in the fun of the stock market, but you also get to make a commission. Another advantage is that you do not put your own money on the line and you still make a return. However, it is not something that can happen over night. You must become a certified trader before you can do anything.

Finding A School For Your Certification

First, you must decide what you want your role to be. If you want to be a trader, you must think of this as your business. In a business, you must learn the trade. To do that, the best way is to learn as much as you can from a class, either online or in a classroom, that can give you the basics and help you succeed. Determining if an online class or a classroom setting is right for you depends on your learning style. If you think you can get the information through an online course and want the flexibility, then an online class is more for you. If you like deadlines and a more structured program, then a classroom setting is better for you. This important to determine prior to enrolling for a program. If you know what works for you then you can search for that criteria.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can start your search. You will want to ensure that you will be attending an accredited school so look for that information on their website. If you are unsure, then call them to verify and ask for proof. The last thing you want to do is waste your money on a program that will teach you a lot but not actually count for anything in the real world.

One place you can find both online classes and classroom structured classes is the Online Trading Academy. They offer both for your convenience and many of their students are happy with the results. You can find more out about it by watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qokW32jk-8w

Planning For Your Retirement The Smart Way

Everyone knows that they need to plan for their future. That includes your retirement. Retirement can be very expensive and you need to make sure that you have enough money saved up to live off of for a generous amount of time. No one wants to go back to work after retirement but that is the reality for people who have not readily prepared for their retirement. You can avoid this by preparing for your retirement the right way and planning out the spending of your money throughout retirement.

How to Plan for Retirement

When you are looking at how much you need to save up for your retirement, you will need to examine your expenses. This will help you determine who much you will need. You will also need to make sure you have enough money to last you throughout your entire retirement. No one knows how long they will live, but you will want to prepare for many years.

Once you have determined your expenses, you will also want to account for the things you will want to do with all of your free time. You do not want to be pinching pennies and not enjoying your retirement years. This is the time to enjoy all of your time off and your family. You will need to account for these types of expenses. One way to travel on a budget is to search for retirement deals on various websites such as Retirement Living.

When you come up with a number that you are comfortable with, you will need to start developing a plan to obtain all of the retirement funds. Many people have a 401K that they put money into. While this is very common, it is not the only option and you should consider other ways to obtain retirement money. You can consider investments throughout your working career. You can invest in things such as stocks and bonds or you can choose bigger investments such as real estate or new business ventures. Something you should take into account with investments is that there is always a risk with an investment. You will want to ensure that you will at least get your investment back even if you do not make anything off of it.

These are the best days of your life as well as the most relaxing. Take some time to prepare for your expenses as well as your fun. These days will be even better if you have accurately prepared for them financially.

Getting Started With a New Business Idea

If you’re thinking about starting a business like the Cold Stone Franchise, there are a few tips to keep in mind. These tips can help you get on the way to a successful business whether it’s selling ice cream or clothes and accessories.

First, you need to develop a business plan. This is something that you will need if you want to apply for financing. The finance company will want to see how you plan to pay back the loan and if you will include the investors as shareholders. Try to give as much information as possible so that the comoany will see that you are serious about your endeavor.

Find a location that is appropriate for your business. If you plan to sell ice cream, then you want to find a place where people can walk up to the counter and get something instead of sitting inside each time they order. You need to look at the cost of starting the business. Will you need to do upgrades to the building before you open the store? Another thing to keep in mind is how much inventory you will need to open the store. Determine a budget so that you know how much money you will have to work with when you purchase inventory as well as how much money you will have for advertising and hiring employees. Find a name for your business, and register the name online, creating a website so that customers can buy items online as well as in the store.

What’s Stopping You From Getting a Breakdown Cover?

With the euphoria of the recovering economy and rising home and stock prices, it is not a surprise to see some people forgetting the importance of small nuances associated with ensuring safety in and around one’s life, such as a breakdown cover for their vehicles. Although millions of people all over the country have registered themselves with companies offering such valuable breakdown covers and roadside assistance, there are plenty others who still haven’t realized just how important these covers are.

It is only when they come across some unavoidable circumstance like their cars breaking down in the middle of the highway while taking their family on a vacation or on their way to the airport to catch a flight, that they repent not having taken a roadside assistance cover which could have saved them all the trouble that they would go through. People only appreciate such things in life when they’re sitting on the side of a busy road, staring at the passing traffic, with not a clue of how to get someone to help them in their hour of need.

Apart from the obvious benefit, a breakdown cover gives you piece of mind while traveling by your car that no matter what problem your car faces, help will be at hand soon enough and you’ll be on your way to your destination without having to worry about the potential consequences of leaving your car behind. Since cars are essentially machines, there’s always a chance of something or the other causing your car to stop functioning, which is where a breakdown cover saves you the hassles and offers you a sense of security while out on the road.

While there are dozens of options available to you in terms of the company from which you would like to buy the breakdown cover, only a handful stand out among those such as the AA, Greenflag, Auto Aid, RAC, Assist etc. If you’re living in the UK, it makes sense to go for a Breakdown cover from the AA since it is one of the oldest and the most reputed brands in Britain, and offers a variety of benefits that make it the most preferred breakdown cover provider.

Once you have decided a company to go with, you need to choose the level of breakdown cover you would require such as a basic roadside assistance or other premium services like national recovery and at home service which provided additional benefits but at an added cost.

Three Little Known Facts About Credit Cards

Think you know your way around a credit card? Then these three little-known facts might just surprise you:

Why are credit cards all the same size?

No matter which bank or institution issues your credit card, they will always be exactly 3.375 x 2.125 inches wide and around 0.02 inches thick.

This size is standardised by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO Standard 7810).

Among many other things, the ISO regulate the size of credit cards to make sure that no matter where you are in the world, you can use yours to pay for anything, from hotel accommodation to a Big Mac to making a cash withdrawal to pay for ice-cream on the beach.

What does the stripe on the back of a credit card do?

Much like card size, the stripe on the back of a credit card is magnetic and regulated by ISO Standard 7811 and it contains various bits of information about you and the bank that issued your card.

The magnetic stripe is made up of three tracks of encrypted data which is read electronically. A reader, like those inside an ATM, can tell which bank or institution your account belongs to, what the card number is, when the card expires and what your spending limit is.

However new ‘chip and pin’ technology is being built into credit cards to make them even more secure.

The chip, which looks like a small silver microchip, should appear on the front of your card and if not, it might be time to contact your issuer or shop around for a new one to make sure you have the best credit card you can get in terms of security.

Is the long number on a credit card unique?

It is, but it’s not random or meaningless. Each number, or sequence of them in that long string reveals something about you and your credit provider.

The very first digit is known as the Major Industry Identifier (MII) and it tells a vendor which creditor issued your card. All Visa cards, for example, begin with a ‘4’ while all MasterCard’s begin with a ‘5’.

The first six numbers are known as the Issuer Identification Numbers (IIN) and they tell a vendor what country your card was issued in, by which specific bank and the credit type that it’s valid for. You can try it yourself by entering your card details at binlist.net.

Those are just three facts about credit cards that make them absolutely universal yet totally unique, but if you’re thinking about applying for a first, or additional credit card then it’s always wise to shop around.

Although cards look and work in the same ways, the terms that a credit provider can offer you vary from one bank to another so to get the best credit card, take some time to investigate the terms and conditions, interest rates, repayment expectations and any freebies on offer before signing up for credit.

The Benefits of Emerging Market Balanced Funds

Excel Funds interest in emerging markets has never been greater, with billions of dollars in profit being generated globally per annum. Emerging markets continue to be an important component of well-diversified portfolios. Investment in emerging markets enhances the economic gains of diversified portfolios, while it does not seem to reduce portfolio return variability and minimum loss.

emergng mkts

Emerging Market Balanced Funds offer a way to enter investments that are less volatile than emerging market stocks with the bond component. The balanced funds combine different asset classes – balanced funds will never be the best performing funds, nor will they be the worst performing either. If losses occur, they’ll tend to be relatively modest and the funds are likely to regain any lost ground over a full market cycle.