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.

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

Taking Charge of Your Financial Life

financial futureWith so much going on in our lives at any given point, it can feel like a burden to manage all of it. Not only do we lose track of the important things that we need to focus on because of it, we also let our lives run on auto mode, going with the flow and not taking the reins of our lives in our hands. You might have heard the saying that if you don’t change your methods, you’re going to get the same results over and over again. That is what seems to be happening to almost everyone around us. In the midst of all the noise surrounding our personal and professional lives, we forget to make sure to think about the future and do something to set us for success in the later years.

 
Although it hardly needs to be reminded that family, friends and professional success are indeed important aspects of our lives and we need to continue giving them time in order to have a balanced life. However in our to stay at the top of your game, you need to take things with a pinch of salt and look at the stark realities surrounding your life related to your finances. If you’ve been ignoring your finances for a while now thinking that they will automatically stay in order if you keep working hard at your job, it is a good time to revisit that thought and think about the loopholes in it. For one, even if you are a great worker and take home a sizeable income each month, it doesn’t really guarantee you a great financial fortune if you keep splurging most of it away on unimportant stuff and don’t make it a point to save at least 15-20% of your take home pay.

In order to be a success as far as your finances are concerned, you need to understand the concept of savings, and the least you could do to aim towards that goal is by consciously making it a point to budget and save as much as you can after you’ve spent it on your needs. This way, over a period of time these amounts will keep adding up and before you realize it, after a few months or years, you’re going to have a sizeable kitty in your account. However, though savings are important, it is only the first step, for the immediate next thing you need to do is have an investment strategy so that your money can work for you through the power of compound interest. If you need help regarding investments, there are dozens of great finance blogs on the internet that can help guide you. You just need to have the will to get started and it’ll all be easy in the times to come.

IRA and 401k Plans Explained

ira roth 401kThe time to start thinking about retirement is just before 30, maybe even earlier if you can manage it. When we’re young, we tend to believe that we are invincible. As we age, we realize how short life actually is. In the interest of helping you plan for a better retirement, we offer these explanations of common vehicles for saving and how they can benefit you.

IRA

An individual retirement account is exactly what it sounds like. IRAs are typically used by small business owners and freelancers, but some full-time employees use them too. They are most common in situations where you employer does not contribute to retirement. They allow you to stow money away for retirement that is tax-deferred up to a certain limit. This means that all money accumulated annually below this limit is money that was already taxed, and won’t be taxed later on withdrawal. This helps avoid the problem of paying twice to invest your money (once in payroll taxes and again in later life with capital gains).

401K

Many full-time workers rely on a 401k to help plan for their future. This is because it’s easy to use one. You can have your employer pay into your account each paycheck, so you don’t get a chance to spend the money elsewhere. These plans sometimes come with employer contributions as well, which means that the employer will match what the employee puts in.

Savings Goals

For most people, the magic retirement number is somewhere in the millions. Without making money work for you, and without paying into your retirement accounts, you won’t have a comfortable transition out of work.

This article was written by Phin Upham

About the Author:  Phin Upham an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing.  Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his LinkedIn page.

Top 3 Money Saving Tips for Young Adults

Being a young adult, we have a lot of luxury to mould our future and do things that only our age group can afford. You can not only decide to embark on whatever journey you want, but also manage to shape the direction of your efforts, unlike sometime in the later years when people start feeling they cannot afford to take the same risks because of the position in life they find themselves to be at.

However in order to make the most of these years, you should ensure that you not only live to your utmost potential but also save as much as you can, for the amount you save right now would turn out to be extremely handy in the years to follow. So here are some tips that you can implement right now to have a good time later on:

 1. Set up Automatic Savings

Whenever we tend to get a paycheck, we end up spending most part of it, knowing that another one will be on its way soon as a new month starts. This is exactly the thinking that turns out to be the biggest obstacle in the way of saving money, especially in the case of young adults as they are all too keen on having a good lifestyle, without worrying about saving money for the rainy day. So the best way to keep this in check is by setting up automatic savings that will ensure a certain part of your income automatically ends up being saved, while you can do whatever you want with the best (though I’ll advise you to be prudent about it)! Talking about paychecks, on a sidenote you can even order checks online in case you want to go for uniqueness and are looking for something customized.

2. Look for Discounts Online

A few years back I used to order stuff whenever I felt I needed it, without bothering to search for the best deals. However as time passed, I realized if I had not been that naive, I would have managed to save up a substantial amount over time, thanks to the dozens of offers available at different times on the same products. So I would recommend looking for the most lucrative offers online on whatever you intend buying, and also comparing the prices on different websites in order to find the lowest prices. Trust me, you’ll be able to find some really good discounts at times that can significantly lower your expenses on purchases.

 3. Cut Down on Cellphone Expenses

As young adults, one of the biggest expense for us turns out to be our cellphones, with dataplans and call charges costing a decent amount every month. Since nearly all network providers have special deals that allow more minutes of talktime for a reduced sum, it’s wise to go for that as you’ll manage to save some decent money every month just because of that.

The Best Free Online Tools to Manage Your Finances

With all the technological advancements in the last few years, coupled with the rise in efficient online services in diverse sectors, users now have more choice than ever. As with many other domains, a host of impressive online tools are available for managing your finances. If you are not using them, you’re missing out on an excellent opportunity to better manage your financial life.

So here are some of the best free online tools that not only provide a great medium to keep track of your finances but are also free to use:

1. Mint.com

online money management tools

Perhaps the most popular and widely used tool for the amount of features it offers. And rightly so. Very few, if at all, other online tools come close to offering such a complete set of money management tools that not only help your keep track of your expenses but also let you plan goals and budget if you wish to do so.

Mint has recently come up with its own Android app as well, which means it is easier than ever to manage your finances right from your smartphone! Of course the best part is both the online service as well as the app are 100% free!

2. SmartyPig

Another one of my favorite online tools, SmartyPig is a simple yet effective service focused on helping users accomplish their specific saving goals. Essentially it is a free online piggy bank that lets users design their own financial goals, by way of saving up money for specific items and helps them reach that goal. Although it is not a complete money management tool per se, but it is extremely effective when it comes to creating and reaching your financial goals.

The best part about this tool however is that if you save up money in an online account with them, you can redeem it for cash for a gift card at specific stores that offer you great deals and discounts.

3. Buxfer

A lesser known, upcoming online money management tool that is nonetheless feature rich and easy to use. It comes with a nice user-friendly yet modern interface and offers effective features to help users manage expenses and group their finances. The tool uses Google Gears to store account login and credentials on your computer so if you’re one who doesn’t like to trust new companies with their credentials, this one might be perfect for you.

Apart from offering usual money management features like credit card and bank account linking options, the USP of this service is that it lets you manage your shared expenses with friends and divides up each person’s shares and alerts the other group members as well, something that some find awkward to do in person.

8 Potential Ways to Boost Your Income

Regardless of if you’re a college student with a full course load, a full-time employee or on the brink of retirement, you can use more money, right? Here are eight ways to boost your income without having to put in more hours at the office.

1. Have tons of extra time during the day? Think about what your neighbors may need. Do you live near elderly people who could use someone to shop for them? Does the mom down the block have three dogs that she has to find the time to walk? Young parents can always use an on-call babysitter, busy working men and women may benefit from someone who’ll run errands and pet owners will likely need a dog or cat sitter the next time they head out of town.

2. If you have a guest room that rarely gets used, rent it out to travelers or anyone who needs a temporary place to stay. This is especially helpful if you live in an area that gets a lot of tourists.

3. Clean out your closet and bring your duds and accessories to consignment shops.

4. Sign up for investment newsletters, which will be packed with helpful tips, advice and links. These will be especially helpful if you’re just now getting into the world of investing and need some guidance.

5. Car owners who aren’t in love with the exterior of their vehicle can make some money by selling ad space. Some people even earn up to $400 per month just for driving around with a businesses ad on their car!

6. What are your special, marketable skills? If you love – and have a knack for – gardening, drawing, refinishing furniture, etc., there’s likely somebody out there who needs what you offer. Market your skills for the things you love to do and get paid for engaging in an activity you enjoy.

7. Have you been making bracelets or trinkets for yourself or your close friends? Take photos of them and post them on Etsy! With a bit of marketing, you shouldn’t have a hard time selling quality products online. Plus, you don’t have to make the product until somebody buys it, which means no wasted money on supplies.

8. Love court shows on TV? I bet you didn’t know that you can sign up to be a mock juror. These websites let prosecutors walk through a pre-trial before actually standing in front of a real jury.

How to Create a Personal Budget You can Actually Stick to

One easy way you can manage your finances is by creating a budget. Budgets are effective because they directly underline your income versus expenses so that you can establish exactly how much money you are able to spend without over-spending. You are also much more likely to set aside money for saving, which can be extremely beneficial for many reasons. Money set aside in a savings account can not only accrue interest, but can help pay off future expenses such as large purchases like cars or houses, or unexpected life accidents or emergencies. While creating a budget can be helpful, this is only true if you actually stick to the budget. Straying from what you have already planned can have negative consequences on your finances and even cause you to fall into debt.

Budget

If you have decided to create a budget, you should:

Evaluate all of your finances— Before you can actually begin creating the budget, you must first have a complete understanding of all income as well as expenses. Your expense list should be as detailed as possible and include things like groceries, bills such as electric, water, and garbage, and any possible credit card, loan, or debt payments. It’s important to remember to tailor your expense list around your income and not the other way around. Make sure your income will be able to cover all of your bills and necessities before planning a budget that includes superfluities and indulgences.

Be realistic— It’s critical to keep a realistic and achievable budget in mind. If you’re sick a lot and spend a significant amount of money on prescriptions and doctor’s visits, be sure to plan for this, even if it forces you to give up or cut back on luxuries you have grown accustomed to. Gym and club memberships, vacations, as well as eating and going out are all examples of things that can be cut back on so that the money can be put to good use elsewhere.

Keep it routine and unchanging— After finding a budget that works for you, stick to it as much as possible and try not to adjust it unless it is required due to a change in your income or expenses. This way, you are better enabled to remember your budget, won’t have to refer back to any documents or records, and will therefore be more likely to stick to what you planned.

Have incentives— While paying off financial obligations and saving your money are both important to keep in mind, rewarding yourself for sticking to your planned budget is also important. When making your monthly budget, set aside some money for fun or relaxing activities like going to the movies. This will motivate you to keep abiding by your predetermined budget and keep you satisfied. For long periods of good financial behavior, reward yourself with even bigger incentives like a road trip or vacation.

Agree and discuss the budget with your partner, or any other individuals involved— One key factor to your budget’s success is making sure everyone who has access to your finances understands the guidelines of the budget, and is able and willing to follow these guidelines. It would be counterintuitive to have one person working to maintain a budget that another person disregards. Working together to make the budget is ideal, but at the very least, be sure to talk things over and reach an understanding.

Utilize personal budget software— Formatting your own budget and keeping track of your bank accounts and expenses can be a difficult task. That is why it’s extremely convenient and easy to install a program like Quicken on your computer and let it do all the hard work for you. You will be relieved of the important chore and guaranteed an error free budget. Look for a program that can link directly to your bank account and offers a mobile app that is compatible with your device of choice.

Seek out professional help— If you still cannot seem to manage a budget and keep your spending under control, you can always seek out professional help, or even research online forums that are dedicated to helping people with budgets and their finances. You’d be surprised with all the great tips and advice you can easily find on your computer at home.

Although the task of budget making may seem daunting at first, it is extremely effective when it comes to managing your finances. After finding a budget that works for you, with a little work and effort, you will be able to stick with it in no time.

Does More Money Equal More Happiness? [Infographic]

Over the last few months, I’ve been ranting about the importance of saving as much as you can and going full throttle as far as maximizing your earning potential is concerned. But today I would like to discuss the decades old question – does more money equal to more happiness?

While scientists have been conducting more and more surveys recently to find the perfect answer to this question, the real answer in fact is a subjective one and depends on the opinion of the individual. Sure money eradicates most of the problems that we would be otherwise facing and while we tend to get more satisfaction as we see the money rolling into our bank accounts, but after a certain point, it all starts to seem too commonplace, for we would have gotten accustomed to seeing ourselves earn money day after day.

But it’s really naive to say that money isn’t important, since it plays a big role in our everyday lives, and our friends who are not that lucky to be living a wealthy life would be knowing it so much better than us. We’ve got a great infographic to share with our readers that encompasses all that we’ve discussed today in much more detail. Enjoy!

Money Happiness Infographic

How to Sell Your Unwanted Stuff For Cash

With people being made to believe that buying stuff is good, almost everyone these days wants to get hold of the latest things in the market, be it the newest cellphone, the trendiest clothes, or the swanky new gadget that just hit the stores. Even though people get a high after buying things, it only stays for a few days and most of the stuff we end up buying impulsively tends to remain unused most of the time, due to which later we repent why we took the decision of buying it in the first place.

However not all is gloom and doom – especially if you’re one who has started realizing the need for smart spending and becoming financially independent. If you’ve made a vow not to repeat the financial mistakes that you’ve made in the past, you can take the reign of your life in your own hands and start controlling your decisions instead of being lured by things and getting swayed easily.

The best way to go about it would be to determine what things that you own are you not currently using or would only be using very rarely in the near future. Since they are not of much use to you anyway, you should immediately try to sell them off before their value goes down in the years to come. Since most of us are entertainment freaks, you would most probably be owning dozens of movies, games or music DVD’s. Clothing & misc. gadgets would also probably be on top of the list. If you’re thinking that it’s going to be a big hassle to sell all this stuff, you should stop worrying about it as now you can sell most of your online, without having to search for buyers by running an auction outside your house. For example, if you’re looking to sell DVDs online, then you can find several sites that make it a breeze for you to sell them off.

Similarly, you can also sell other items such as clothes, electronics, games, furniture etc. online and declutter your life, while getting some extra cash in exchange, which you could use to further improve your financial situation. Although it entirely depends on your what you want to sell, I would advise you to think with a clear head and get rid of anything that you haven’t used for a decent period of time. Though it would probably be hard to do that since most of us feel uneasy in letting go of things, just go for it since ultimately you would be the one who will benefit from it.