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IMG_1256You may be working hard, looking for your next employment opportunity, but your bank account isn’t reaping the benefits of your labor.  Job searching is a tough business, and until you finally secure employment, it’s a pretty thankless process- financially and otherwise.

Don’t let a desperate need for steady and certain income be the reason you accept a job offer.  Maintain your financial viability throughout the job search process so that you have the option to hold out for an opportunity that you’re actually excited about, rather than simply accepting the first thing that comes along.

Here are three essentials for staying financially fit during your next job hunt.

Utilize Free and Low Cost Resource.  Between purchasing professional attire, taking skill building classes, and traveling for interviews, the job search can prove to be a major financial drain.  Reduce your costs as much as possible by making the most of free and low cost resources.  Libraries, for example, often offer classes that teach basic professional skills like Excel.  Websites like http://www.trud.co.uk/birmingham/jobs/ aggregate employment information so that you can access job details without wasting time or money.  Alumni associations and college career service centers also have vast and varied resources for any job seeker.  Don’t get suckered into shelling out the big bucks for tips and tools you can get for free or cheap elsewhere.

Create a Financial Plan.  Never assume that your job search will be short and sweet.  Put a financial plan in place to maintain financial viability during your time of unemployment, however long it lasts.  Start by identifying all sources of cash flow- severance from your last job, unemployment, side income streams, etc.  Then calculate your monthly expenses.  Cut back as necessary to keep those expenses well within the parameters of your estimated cash flow.  You may need to dip into your savings reserves to maintain a minimum standard of living, but don’t raid your emergency fund just to subsidize an indulgent vacation or other superfluous expense.  Unemployment is as good a time as any to separate your wants from your needs and really assess your priorities.

Rebuild Your Reserve.  There’s nothing like a bout of unemployment to teach the importance of a good sized emergency fund.  Once you’ve completed your job search and started receiving regular paychecks again, prioritize payments to yourself first.  Consider maintaining your paired down unemployment budget for a few months as you work towards rebuilding your cash reserves for future emergencies- like job loss.  Experts recommend having anywhere from six months to a years worth of living expenses saved up in an accessible, liquid savings or money market account.  While retirement accounts should also be funded, tapping into those savings during an emergency can result in a loss of one-third to one-half of the withdrawal in taxes and penalties.  In other words, keep your emergency reserve money accessible so that you don’t lose a big chunk of it to fees, but not so accessible that you blow through it all the moment life starts returning to normal.

 

 

 

Every day, commercials warn us of the dangers of losing a good credit rating. We are told that our credit rating could be the most important number we have and that it should be monitored and protected at all costs. People typically do all that they can to keep their credit rating as high as possible, including making sure that all of their bills are paid on time and refraining from maxing out their credit accounts. However, many people do not know of one thing that could wreck their credit rating in a single action – closing a credit card account.

How Closing An Account Affects Your Credit Rating

Closing a credit card account seems like a harmless action. After all, if you are not using it, why leave it open for hackers to access and criminals to steal? Closing the account may seem like a no-brainer if it hasn’t been used for several years, yet the closing of the account could have a dramatic effect on your credit rating due to the way these ratings are calculated.

A portion of the credit rating calculation involves the ratio of the credit being used by the consumer versus the amount of credit currently available to the consumer. Consumers that use a low percentage of their available credit receive a higher credit rating than consumers that use a high percentage of their available credit. This ratio fluctuates all the time with purchases made and payments sent.

The problem with closing a credit card account arises when it reduces your available credit by a considerable amount. For example, if you have two credit card accounts with $5,000 limits and you have a balance of $2,000 on one of them, you are effectively using 20 percent of your available credit, a level that creditors like to see. However, if you close the credit card account you are not using, you are now using 40 percent of your available credit and your credit rating will reflect that with a lower rating.

The Solution

If you have a credit card account that you have held for a long time, but are not currently using, lock it away in a secure place instead of closing out the account. You can ensure that the account is not be used by criminals by checking your credit report regularly for unauthorized purchases and fraudulent account information. The only exception to this rule is when the credit card issuer is charging you maintenance fees for keeping the account open. If this is the case, try to open a new credit card with a similar limit and no additional fees, which should be no problem if you currently have a good credit rating.

The New Year means new chances to get your financial house in order. From increasing your savings to reevaluating your investments, the beginning of the year is a great time to make the money management moves that will increase your wealth or reduce your expenses. Here are some of the best money management moves to make in the New Year.

Set New Financial Goals

The beginning of the year is a good time to go over previously made financial goals and make new ones to meet your needs for the year and for the future. Setting financial goals and tracking your progress increases your chances of successfully meeting those objectives by a significant amount. Write down those goals and create an action plan for meeting them within a predetermined time period. You will find that it is much easier to follow your plan when it is written down and placed in an easily accessible location. A recent study by a prominent clinical psychologist found that people who wrote down their goals were 50 percent more likely to get what they wanted than those who set goals, but didn’t write them down.

Investigate Useful Money Management Apps

Many of us have smartphones that we keep by our sides for a majority of the day, making them useful money management tools when paired with the right apps. There are a number of apps made for Android and iOS operating systems that can help you with a wide variety of financial tasks. There are banking apps that allow you to access your bank accounts and deposit money. Other apps track your spending and help you budget. There are also apps that compare prices so you can get the best deal on the items you want. Take some time to investigate which money management apps could be helpful to you and install them on your phone.

Obtain New Quotes For Service Contracts

The New Year is a great time to reevaluate any service contracts that you are paying for regularly and get new quotes to see if you could save money by switching to another service. You may be able to find a better deal on cell phone service, cable television, car insurance, or homeowner/renter insurance. Some people find that they can save a large amount of money paying for a streaming service instead of cable. Others find that they can cut their cell phone bill in half by reducing the number of minutes allowed in their plan. Eliminating the costs of the services you no longer need and reducing what you pay for the rest will give you more money to spend on necessities or to save for the future.

If you have online access to your bank account, there is a good chance that you have access to automatic bill payment services as well. Many banks are now offering this service for the convenience of their customers. Automatic bill payment services allow the account holder to schedule certain types of bills to be paid automatically out of their checking account on a monthly basis. Here are some of the reasons why everyone should consider signing up for automatic bill payments through their bank.

Easy To Use

Signing up for automatic bill payments is very easy to do, often taking only a couple of minutes to set up. For the service to work properly, you must input the company to be paid, the amount to pay, and the date the payment should be made. Many of the most commonly paid companies with monthly payments will already be preloaded into the system, allowing you to just click on each company you want to add to the list. These companies and amounts can be changed at any time by simply signing into your account online and editing the information.

Payments Made On Time

Signing up for automatic bill payments is one of the best ways to ensure that all of your bills are paid on time every month. As long as the due date for the payment is on the same day of the month each month, you can easily schedule the payment occur a few days earlier to ensure that the company receives the payment on time. This is considerably more reliable than mailing a check that could get lost or diverted or even attempting to remember the due date so you can make the payment online or over the phone. When the payments are scheduled and paid electronically, the risk of incurring a late charge for an overdue payment is greatly reduced.

Things To Think About

There are several things that you should keep in mind when using automatic bill payment services. It is important to keep enough money in the account to cover the payments that are being made. If your paycheck is direct-deposited into your account, this should not be a problem. You will also want to make sure that the payments are scheduled at least several days before the bill is generally due. This way, you ensure that the payment arrives on time even if the due date changes due to a weekend or holiday, as many companies do not process payments on these days.

Over the past few years, a new kind of subprime lending has spread across the nation. These new loans, often called car title loans, offers cash-strapped consumers with poor or no credit a lump sum of money in a loan secured by the title of a car that they own. In many places, these loans have replaced the payday loans that used to serve customers with low incomes or poor credit, as payday loans have been subjected to stricter regulations in many states. While car title loans may seem like a good idea on the surface, there are numerous reasons why you should avoid them.

Many Borrowers Cannot Repay The Loans

Companies that write car title loans can generally be found where the population is less affluent. Many of the individuals seeking these loans have limited financial means and are already living paycheck to paycheck. The people often resort to the car title loans because they believe that there are no other lending options available to them. The borrower’s ability to repay is not taken into consideration because the amount of the loan is based solely on the resale value of the vehicle. A high number of individuals are unable to repay the original amount when due, which typically indicates a predatory financial product.

The Interest Charged For The Loan Is Very High

The interest rate that lenders charge for car title loans are astronomical when compared to other financial products. The annual interest rate for a typical bank loan is around 5 percent and for a credit card can be as high as 25 percent. In comparison, the interest rate charged for a car title loan averages between 80 percent and 500 percent when all of the fees are factored in. In one case recently reported in the news, a man that took out a $4,000 car title loan was required to pay more than $9,000 total before the loan was cleared and his car was no longer under threat of repossession.

Many Borrowers End Up In A Vicious Debt Cycle

Many of the individuals that use car title loans get trapped into an endless cycle of debt. Many of them are unable to afford to pay off the entire loan when the loan period is up. The only way that they can pay off the current loan is to reapply for another loan as soon as their time is up with the first loan. Each time they renew the loan, more fees are added. The average individual using a car title loan renews the loan more than 5 times before it is paid off or the car is repossessed by the lender. Many car title loan recipients find themselves paying a great deal of money in fees to the lender over a long period of time with no recourse or relief.

The cons of taking out a car title loan outweigh the pros for all but the absolutely most dire cases. If you need some extra money, here are some better ways to obtain it.

If you are considering buying a new home in 2015, you are in luck. There are a number of benefits that can be realized by buying a new home in 2015, but only if you know what you should be looking for. The many opinions in the media of what the housing market is going to do in the near future has only served to confuse matters as consumers struggle with the question of whether or not to purchase a home in upcoming months. Here is what you should know about the current housing market.

Considerable Number Of Homes On The Market

The first thing you should know about buying a new home in 2015 is that there are a considerable number of homes on the market right now, which is good news for you. Having more homes on the market gives you a better chance of finding a home that is right for you at a price that you can afford. Sellers will be more likely to make concessions when there are plenty of homes on the market to choose from, so you may be able to get a better deal than you would have otherwise. If you are willing to carefully research your options before making a decision, you should be able to find a home that you like in a neighborhood that you desire for a reasonable price.

Interest Rates Are Beginning To Rise

While interest rates are still lower than they have been previously, they are beginning to rise again. Increases in the interest rate you must pay for a mortgage loan can cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, so it make sense to lock in the lowest rate that you can. If current trends in the housing market continue, the longer you wait for buying a new home in 2015, the more you will pay as a result of higher interest rate. Obtain quotes from several lenders to see which ones are willing to offer you the lowest rates before making your decision.

Lending Standards Are Loosening

After the financial crisis in the housing market that began in late 2008, many lenders tightened their lending standards to the point where it was very difficult for many people to purchase new homes. As the crisis has eases and home prices have begun to rise again, lenders are loosening their lending standards enough to where anyone with an adequate down payment and a good credit score stands a good chance of being approved for a loan. If your credit is less than perfect and you get turned down by one lender, try again by submitting your information to a different lender. Since each lender has its own criteria for approving mortgage loans, you may find that a different lender will be willing to extend a loan for buying a new home in 2015.

Buying a home may be the most expensive purchase that you make in your lifetime. The prices of homes are so high that few people are able to purchase the home that they want without securing some type of financing. To reduce the amount of money that you will ultimately pay to purchase your home, you will want to find the best mortgage rate you can get with your financial history. Here are some tips that you can use that will help you get the best mortgage rates available when buying a home.

Increase Your Credit Score Before Applying

Your credit score will be used to determine the interest rate that you are charged for the mortgage loan you are pursuing. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you will be charged, which could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. There are many ways to give your credit score a boost before buying a home. The best ways are paying down credit card balances, increasing your available credit, and removing any errors on your credit report that could be dragging your credit score down. You should also avoid applying for other credit products in the months before applying for a mortgage loan. Taking these steps could boost your credit score into the next highest category, reducing the interest rate you must pay considerably.

Obtain Several Quotes Before Choosing

Lenders have the power to set their own terms for the loans that they issue, so you may be able to find a better deal by shopping around. Before committing to buying a home, obtain quotes from several different lenders using basic information about your income and the home you would like to buy. This will allow you to compare the offerings of each lender side by side and see which ones are making the best offers. You may also be able to get prequalified for the amount that you would like to borrow, increasing your standing with realtors and sellers as a serious buyer.

Review Fees Carefully

It is very important to pay attention to the fees that are going to be charged for obtaining the loan as well as the fees you will pay when you buy the home. These fees can total thousands of dollars. With these fees, you typically have two choices. You can commit a large chunk of the money you were going to use to furnish the home to paying the fees or you can roll the fees into the principal of the loan to pay them off over time, but you will pay interest on the fees throughout the life of the loan. Make sure that you know what the fees will be and have a plan for paying them before signing any paperwork.

The act of saving money regularly can be difficult to turn into a habit, even though it is very important to your future financial security. There are so many products and services being advertised as necessary for the improvement of your life that it is very easy to spend every dollar you have and still not be satisfied. Fortunately, there is a saving method that you can use that ensures that you will save regularly and meet your savings goals. Here are the steps you can take to use this saving method effectively.

Establish An Affordable Amount For Regular Saving

The first step in reaching your saving goals is establishing an affordable amount that you can save from your paycheck each pay. This will be your baseline saving amount to get you started on your way to being a regular saver. It is recommended that you try to save at least 10 percent of your earnings, but if your budget is tight, start by saving $50 per pay. Over time, this small amount will snowball into a considerable sum that can be used for unexpected expenses and future needs. If you can, automate your saving and have the amount direct-deposited into your savings account each week.

Pledge To Save Half Of Any Lump Sum Payment

Once you have established your base saving amount, pledge to save at least half of any additional money you receive in the future. For example, if you receive a holiday bonus, an income tax refund, or other lump sum payment, put at least half of the amount into your savings account before you begin spending the rest. This allows you to increase the amount of your savings by a significant amount each time while still having part of the money available for your immediate needs.

Increase Base Amount When You Receive Salary Increases

In the future, you should increase the base amount you are saving from your salary every time you receive a salary increase. These increases usually come in the form of a pay raise or an adjustment from moving from one employment position to another one. If you are having a percentage of your income direct-deposited into your savings account, this adjustment is already being made for you. If you are transferring the money into your savings account yourself, you will need to calculate how much money the increase is adding to each check and then take half of that amount to add to your base amount each pay period. If you follow these three steps, you will find yourself saving a significant amount towards your saving goals without sacrificing your current quality of life.

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