Favorite The No B.S. Quick and Easy Financial Guide

Instead of fluffing all this up, I’m going to get straight to the point and quickly.

Do you have good credit?

Yes- Are you sure? Is your credit report and score spotless and impressive?

No- Do you want good credit?

Why is it important to have good credit?

Do you ever in your entire life want to get a home loan, car loan, personal loan or credit card? Some employers check your credit report as part of the hiring process, bad credit can negatively impact your chances of getting some jobs.

Get your credit report and scores for free. DON’T pay a cent for either of these. Some places offer a free trial, don’t do it. All you need is the free versions.

Free Credit Reports– You can go to annualcreditreport.com and get your credit reports for free once a year from each of the 3 credit reporting bureaus. You can get these all at once or spread them out over the year (such as 1 every 4 months). (est. time about 8-15 minutes) Print it out or save a copy to your computer.

Free Credit Score– You can get your credit score for free through Credit Sesame and Credit Karma and then check it as often as you wish. I usually check mine once a month and have never paid them a cent. My FICO score was amazing close to my credit score from credit sesame, so if you’re planning to get a loan this can save you from purchasing your FICO score.

Why should you check your credit report and score? Basically, it gives you a starting point to see your progress, makes sure all the information is accurate and gives you an overview of your financial standing.

Some of my posts to help you with credit:

 


 

Saving for retirement:

Are you getting older each day? Me too. Do you have ridiculous amounts of money saved up for retirement or can you guarantee that you are going to win the lottery one day? Me neither.

Overall, we’re all going to get old one day and we can’t work forever. So we need to have money set aside to live on when we’re older. It’s simple, but it can be hard for people to see the importance of saving for retirement especially when it’s a way in the future.

How to get started saving for retirement:

401k– Most companies offer 401k programs, where employees can contribute a percentage of their pretax income. If your company offers a match, that is free money and you should try to take advantage of as much of it as you can.

You can get started by just contributing 1% to your 401k, it’s not much but it’s a great starting point. Then later on after you have adjusted your finances, you can increase it in 1% increments.

Can you afford to contribute 1% to your 401k? How much is 1% of your pretax income?

$500 = $5.00 per paycheck before any taxes come out, so it’s not actually $5.00 less of your take home, it’s probably more around $3-4

$750 = $7.50
$1,000 = $10.00
$1,250 = $12.50
$1,500 = $15.00
$1,750 = $17.50
$2,000 = $20.00
$2,500 = $25.00
$3,000 = $30.00
$3,500 = $35.00
$4,000 = $40.00

I’m sure you get the point by now, 1 percent of your pretax paycheck isn’t much. It’s enough to get you started and won’t have much impact on your take-home pay.

What if you don’t know what to do with the money once it’s in the 401k? You have a few options here:

* You can put (or keep it) in cash reserve form

* You can randomly pick a few funds or stocks (whatever your plan offers) and hope for the best

* You can pick a target date fund close to your expected year of retirement. Or if you want to be more aggressive, pick one way later than you want to retire. Or for a more conservative strategy with less risk, pick a target date fund in the next 10 years.

* Ask somebody who knows about investing to take a look at the options and help you choose.

Getting started saving for retirement is really what is important, not so much what you’re choosing off the bat. You can always switch things later down the road.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are another great way to save for retirement. The money you contribute to these your aftertax dollars (take home pay).

Sharebuilder.com is where our Roth IRA is and I’ve been fairly happy with them so far. You can even get a bonus for opening your account which is helpful to get started. You even earn a little bit of interest on you money that just sits in the account, so you can take your time to figure out what you want to do with it.

Betterment.com: Betterment also offers Roth IRAs and the great thing about having your Roth IRA with Betterment is that they take care of everything for you. You don’t have to worry about what to invest your money in. You just choose your allocations, how much you want to go into stocks and how much you want to go to bonds and that’s it. I’ve been looking into Betterment and will be switching our Roth IRA over here soon, it’s good stuff.

Roth IRA savings accounts: Captial One 360 offers Roth IRA savings accounts where you just let your money sit and earn interest. I’m not sure that this is the best way to grow your money, but if you don’t want to worry about investing, it’s better than not saving at all. I started out with this and was able to easily transfer the money to our Sharebuilder investing account when I was ready to start investing it. There are many options out there, you just have to look.

Some of my posts to help you with retirement are:

 


 

Budgeting:

How sick are you of hearing “spend less than you make”? Probably a lot, but there is a reason why everybody and their dog continuously spews this most basic point.

So do it! Spend less money than make each and every paycheck and things will get better. If there is anything left the next time you get paid, save your leftovers.

If you’re currently spending more than you make, you have 3 options (none of which include lottery tickets).

Option 1: Reduce your expenses (cut out non-essentials and anything you can honestly live without, use coupons, take advantage of rebates, start a garden, cook more meals from scratch, reduce the amount of meat you use in your meals or go without it more often, make your own laundry soap and cleaning solutions, shop the sales, stretch every dollar as much as humanly possible).

Option 2: Increase your income (try to get some overtime, sell off stuff you no longer use, get a 2nd job, get a paper route, mow lawns, earn money online, whatever you can do).

Option 3: Reduce expense & Increase your income (really drive it home in the budget department)

If you get paid bi-weekly, you can use this to your advantage (see my post: Paying Your Bills With Bi-weekly Paychecks).

Some of my posts to help you out with budgeting are:

 


 

Spending:

If you don’t have the money for it, then you can’t afford it. If you have some available credit on your credit card, that does NOT count as having the money for it.

Spend your money on things that are necessary and things that are truly important to you.

Put off purchases for a set amount of time, 1 week or even a month to make sure you truly want the item as much as you think. Oftentimes, the desire fades or something new and better takes it’s place. Don’t give into instant gratification and your finances will be much healthier in the long run.

You work very hard for your money, so don’t waste it.

When you do decide to spend your money on something, look around for the best deal. Is there a cheaper price at a different store? Any rebates for the item? Can you earn gas rewards at your grocery store if you purchase a gift card to pay for your purchase? Can you earn money back on your purchase by using Cash-back shopping online?

Whatever you do though, do NOT completely deprive yourself or you will have a very hard time. Sometimes it’s best to start with baby steps.

Some of my posts to help you with your spending:

 


 

Saving Money:

Saving money doesn’t have to be difficult, but there will always be times that are worse than others. Most times, the hardest part is not touching the money you have saved.

The easiest way to not touch your saved money is to keep to your budget and pretend you don’t have any money saved. This works best if you have an online savings/checking account that is separate from your everyday accounts.

Personally, I use CapitalOne360 (formerly ING Direct) and have been since 2007 and our everyday banking is with a local physical bank. The ability to transfer small amounts (yes, even under a dollar) was what got me started with all this finance stuff in the first place.

Starting out to save money doesn’t have to be painful. Do you have a buck? Then you can start now. Don’t wait, just do what you can, when you can. I promise, in the end it all adds up and the sooner you get started, the easier it will be.

A few of my posts to help get you saving:

 


 

Obviously, I can’t shove every morsel of my financial knowledge into one post, but this should be enough to get you started and point you in the right direction.

If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it via social media or email. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Saving!

The 3 Most-Traded Forex Currencies

haven-asset-trading-for-mastertheartofsavingThe world of forex is vast and full of potential. However, this can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to it. That’s why we’ve put together the three most-traded currencies on all of FX. Start learning about and trading these and, in no time, you’ll be able to spread your wings and experiment with other options.

The U.S. Dollar

Easily the most traded of all forex currencies on the planet is the U.S. dollar. It can be found paired with every other major world currency on just about every single platform (at least any worth trading on). The dollar is also used as an intermediary in triangular transactions with other forex currencies.

Will this change any time soon? No, probably not. As long as the U.S. dollar continues to be used as an unofficial reserve currency for the rest of the world, you can expect that this will always top the list of most-traded currencies. It would take a huge global upheaval on the part of every major central bank and institutional investment firm before the U.S. dollar will relinquish the number one spot.

The USD is also used as the standard currency for the majority of commodities like precious metals and oil which holds huge influence.

Furthermore, there’s dollarization, where certain countries have actually adopted the USD as their own currency. There are also plenty of nations where local businesses will accept it without issue.

Lastly, many nations peg their currencies’ values to the dollar. This includes China. Doing so stabilizes the exchange rates for these countries as opposed to letting the foreign exchange market affect it.

The Euro

Second on our list of most-traded currencies is the euro. Though it lacks the history of the U.S. dollar, it has quickly made up for lost time. For one thing, it is the second largest reserve currency in the world and the official currency of most countries in the Eurozone.

These nations and many in Africa peg their currencies to this one for much the same reason as we mentioned with the U.S. dollar; it helps to stabilize exchange rates.

On forex, the big advantage with the euro is the liquidity it immediately brings to any currency it is paired with. Speculators love the euro because of how it reacts to the general wellbeing of the Eurozone. Should there ever be any disturbance amongst member nations, the flux that follows can mean huge profits. For this reason, the euro isn’t just one of the most-traded currencies, it’s probably the most politicized of them all.

The Japanese Yen

The yen and the euro have a lot in common. They are both the most-traded currencies of their respective continents. Like the euro, the yen is used as a barometer for the welfare of the Pan-Pacific region of the world.

Japan’s yen is also taken as an indicator of the strength of the country’s famed manufacturing-export sector. As Japan’s economy grows or shrinks, so too does its currency’s value on the foreign exchange market.

In the world of FX, the yen is known for its function in the carry trade. To put it simply, the currency was basically subject to zero interest for much of the 1990s and 2000s. Traders acted on this by borrowing the yen – again, with zero interest – at almost no additional cost and then invested that money in higher-yielding currency from all over the globe. Doing so gave them a nice sum of money to pocket as the difference.

This has made it very difficult to appreciate the yen and is one of the reasons it will most likely never beat the euro in popularity – at least not any time soon. While it still does extremely well and is traded with the same fundamentals that would be used for any other currency, its relation to international interest rates is a detriment, to say the least.

There you have it: the U.S. dollar, the euro and the Japanese yen. Make these the focus of your FX game plan and you’ll experience success for years to come.

 

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Financial Literacy – the three questions to ask yourself.

financial literacyFinancial literacy is something we should all have but unfortunately not all of us do. Getting our heads round all the financial terms can often be a headache but it is important that we are all aware of our finances and any problems that should arise.

Debt is one such problem that can spiral out of control if not financially literate. Survey results have shown that plenty of people don’t understand the difference between good and bad debt and sometimes can potentially make the wrong choice. Would you be able to differentiate between good debt and bad debt? In fact, do you have debt and you aren’t sure of which yours is?

A recent survey conducted by Wonga SA found that when over 18,000 of their South Africans were polled, 83.7% of people would take out credit to buy a house and 58.6% would do the same for university education. These are considered good debts as they are for advances in your life – broadening your education or starting a family. However, 5% would borrow for a holiday and 4.5% for things such as gadgets and fashion. These are considered bad debts – these are items or things that people spend money on that aren’t for the long term but for short term pleasure generally.

When it comes to financial literacy, there are three important things to ask yourself before making a purchase:

  • What’s it for? Is it for the long term or for short term pleasure?
  • Can you afford it? Have you got savings or available cash you can use or will you need to use credit? Can you afford the credit repayments?
  • What will it cost you? If using credit, what interest rates are you likely to incur?

 

Is it for a good debt, something that will benefit you and/or your family and friends in the long term – or is it for something short term, such as a holiday or the latest smartphone until the next new model comes along and you want to have that one instead? If taking out credit, can you afford to repay said credit once you have borrowed it or is this something you would struggle with? Have you considered the overall costs of taking out credit – how much interest are you paying on it, what amount does that mean you need to pay overall? These are all major questions that everyone should ask before making a big purchase and these are important to stop yourself from getting into dire financial situations.

We’ve all heard stories about people finding themselves in massive amounts of debt and not being able to see a way out. By being financially literate, knowing your worth and what you can realistically afford to spend and maybe even taking control of the situation by making major changes to your lifestyle and/or spending habits, you can save yourself from getting into sticky situations that you may find harder to get out of than just days before.

Top Five Tips on Fees for Not Having Medical Insurance

Everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with access to an affordable health care coverage plan. Ironically the medical industry agrees as it turns out that not having medical insurance is officially against the law and now results in heavy fees. While affordable health care coverage does exist, understanding how much money you could stand to be charged might just be the motivation you need to start finding a plan. As of January 2016, you are now required to pay a variable amount of fees on your 2016 federal incomes tax filing as part of the penalty of not being covered. Here is a list of the most common fees you stand to bear if you don’t have medical insurance.

Circumstantial fees – If you fail to get yourself covered, fees can be calculated differently depending on your living situation. This can be calculated as a percentage of either your household annual income or a pre-determined amount for each individual in your household that is not covered with insurance. Thus, lower income families with few children will not be hit as hard as their wealthier counter parts. As you file your income taxes, you’ll be required to pay a fee if you went over 3 months despite having the funds. Visit “HealthCare.gov” to estimate your particular fee.

The Fee has risen – The fee for 2016 has risen by over 100% since 2015, from 325$ per person to 695$ per person. For families with a low income, this difference could be highly significant, so it is worth it to make sure you avoid this unnecessary cost. However, if 2.5% of your income exceeds 695$, you’ll end up paying that amount instead. Thus, your income is what will decide your fee above all else.

Time counts – Fees are calculated on a month by month basis. Thus, the more months you go without health coverage of any form, the more you can expect to pay with respect to the maximum amount. It is important that you make sure each member of your family is covered as there are no exceptions to the law unless you have mitigating circumstances.

Exemptions are available for some – Those with especially low incomes or other mitigating circumstances can be eligible for exemptions. However, it is never worth it to assume that you qualify without doing the due diligence. Check with “HealthCare.gov” to find out whether you truly do qualify to not pay the fee, and to be sure you may want to speak with a representative over the phone.

Sign up ASAP – The new law has been in effect since January 31st of 2016. So if you haven’t signed up for a coverage plan yet, you best begin now before you start accruing even higher fees. Before heading to “Healthcare.gov” however, you may want to shop around for the best dental insurance plans. Combining overall health insurance and dental insurance is one fast growing method of saving big. Some private coverage plans include dental insurance as part of an all-inclusive plan. If you have children, this can be a hugely important financial move.