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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Be Well Equipped for Retirement Planning

By William Blake

When it comes to retirement, you can really never plan too much or too early. There are many different tools that are available that can help you in this planning process, one in particular being the federal retirement calculator. This federal retirement calculator can be used to give you a rough estimate of the federal annuity that you would be entitled to on the day of your retirement.

The federal retirement calculator can only approximate what will take place. There is no way to definitely foretell the future. However, this useful tool will give you a good guideline by which you can figure what your retirement will be.

This calculator is useful for employers who need to determine certain benefits for their workers such as benefits paid to family members upon the death of the employee or annuities in CSRS, FERS or CSRS-offset retirement.

The federal retirement calculator is not a tool that can be used to estimate all variables of retirement. For example, it would not be helpful in determining life insurance or health insurance during retirement or in calculating the annuity amounts for those who do not work full time. It is best to stay within the perimeters of what the calculator is designed to do.

Other Tools

Besides the federal retirement calculator there are other retirement planning tools that you can take advantage of as well, including the QuickAnswer retirement calculator which helps assess your progress towards retirement, the standard retirement calculator which tells you how much you should save for retirement, the RRSP accumulator which tells the power of compounded investment returns, post retirement calculator which estimates your retirement income, and the RRIP calculator which helps you to build a productive and successful withdrawal strategy.

A few others that estimate useful information that will help you develop a plan for your retirement are the life expectancy calculator and the annuity calculators.

Being well equipped and planning early is important when it comes to planning for your future. A retirement plan is not something you want to put off. You should start thinking about right now, no matter what your age is. Make good use of the tools available and start developing your retirement plan right away so that you will have the best retirement possible.

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How To Improve Credit Score

By John Cooper

Improving your credit score can seem like an impossible task. This is because there is so much contradictory information and the scoring model makes you feel as though you have no direct control over your credit score.

This is wrong. You can focus on a couple easy steps and develop a good credit score.

1. Dispute and remove negative items on your credit report. This can be done yourself or you can hire a service to do it on your behalf.

2. Pay off any verified bad credit item on your report. In exchange for your payment have the lender remove the item from your credit report.

3. Pay your bills on time. It is alleged that missing one monthly payment can cause your score to drop by up to 50 points.

4. Open a new line of credit. You will get the most benefit if this is a revolving line of credit. We recommend an unsecured credit card.

This will also help you build a positive payment history by paying your monthly bill. However if you can not qualify for an unsecured credit card then open a secured card, but make sure it reports to all 3 bureaus.

Your score will get a bump if you can keep your balance at approximately 10% of your credit limit. This shows that you do use your credit and that you use it responsibly.

5. Pay your large debts down. This is called your available credit to debt. The bureaus need to see that you are not in over you head and that you do have credit that is not being used.

These are the only factors you should focus on when improving your credit score. There is one last tip that is surrounded in controversy.

6. Piggyback credit, this is when you are added as an authorized user to a good credit card account. The benefit is this account is now reported on your credit report.

This tactic has been widely abused and the scoring model has adjusted its formula to discount authorized users. However there is a debate over if this change has occurred yet or not.

In sum by doing step one through five you will improve your score dramatically. With an improved credit score you will finally be able to have the quality of life you truly deserve.

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Getting To Know Debt Consolidation

By Darren Cason

You're not alone if you have accumulated more debt than you can repay. If you're in this situation, you're probably finding that the debt you have results in more debt from interest charges and penalties. It may seem impossible to pay this debt down, but there are ways to do it.

To break this cycle, many people try debt consolidation. Thousands of people have found their way out of debt using a debt consolidation program, but it isn't for everyone. There are pros and cons to debt consolidation programs, and you should consider these carefully before deciding if it is right for your circumstances.

Debt consolidation is, quite simply, the gathering of multiple sources of debt into one. Then, you'll make a single payment each month towards paying off this debt. While it seems simple on the surface, in fact there are many factors to consider when deciding if debt consolidation is right for you.

Remember that whether you pay $150, $50, and $25 per month in three separate bills, or $225 in one check to one debtor, you are still spending the same amount of money paying down your debt each month. With online bill paying, it doesn't even take any more time to pay three bills than one, so if the monthly payment stays the same, debt consolidation will not get you out of debt quickly.

In order for a debt consolidation program to work, either the monthly payment amount needs to decrease, the net amount of interest has to decrease, or the total amount of debt you owe needs to decrease. While it is possible for a debt consolidation program to accomplish at least one of these, you'll need to understand all the details of the consolidation plan to make sure it will actually help you get out of debt faster.

Most debt consolidation programs do not accomplish all three of these. Most commonly, they lower your monthly payment. This will make it easier to pay the bill each month, so you won't add late charges onto your debt. It can also help if you're struggling to make payments each month, making it easier to make ends meet. However, if the payment is too low, you might over-spend because you consider the difference money to spare. If your goal is to become debt free, you'll have to reduce your spending even if your payments on existing debt are lowered.

Unfortunately, most debt consolidation plans are able to give you are lower monthly payment by extending the term of the loan. Over the long term, you'll end up paying more interest and when worst comes to worst you might as well decrease instead of increase your credit score. However, you may be able to negotiate a lower loan amount, because some companies are willing to settle for less to get you to repay the debts. Then, consistently make your payments on time every month to lower your debt.

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How to Get out of debt

By JR Rooney

Elimination of your debt requires three simple steps:

1. Stop acquiring new debt.

2. Establish an emergency fund.

3. Implement a debt snowball.

Here's how to approach each step.

Stop acquiring new debt (This step can be accomplished in an afternoon.)

This may seem self-evident, but the reason your debt is out of control is that you keep adding to it. Stop using credit. Don't finance anything. Cut up your credit cards.

That last one can be tough. Don't make excuses. I don't care that other personal finance sites say that you shouldn't cut them up. Destroy them. Stop rationalizing that you need credit cards.

* You don't need credit cards for a just in case. * You don't need credit cards for convenience. * You don't need credit cards for cash-back bonuses.

You really don't need credit cards at all. If you're in debt, credit cards are a trap. They only put you deeper in debt. Later, when your debts are gone and your finances are under control, maybe then you can get a credit card. (I don't carry a personal credit card. I don't miss having one.)

After you cut up your cards, stop all recurring payments. If you have a gym membership, cancel it. If you automatically renew your online video game account, cancel it. Cancel anything that automatically charges your credit card. Stop using credit.

Once you've done this, call every credit card company that you just killed. Do not cancel your credit cards (except for those with a zero balance). Instead, ask for a better deal. Find an offer online and use it as a bargaining wedge. Your bank may not agree to match competing offers, but it probably will. It never hurts to ask.

Establish an emergency fund (This step will probably take several months.)

For most, this is counter-intuitive. Why save before paying off debt? Because if you don't save first, you're not going to be able to cope with unexpected expenses. Do not tell yourself that you can keep a credit card for emergencies. Destroy your credit cards; save cash for emergencies.

How much should you save? Ideally, you'd save $1,000 to start. (College students may be able to get by with $500.) This money is for emergencies only. It is not for beer. It is not for shoes. It is not for a Xbox 360. It is to be used when your car dies, or when you break your arm using RIPSTICK.

Keep this money liquid, but not immediately accessible. Don't tie your emergency fund to a debit card. Don't sabotage your efforts by making it easy to spend the money on non-essentials. Consider opening a savings account at an online bank like ING or e-trade. When an emergency arises, you can easily transfer the money to your regular checking account. It'll be there when you need it, but you won't be able to spend it spontaneously.

Implement a debt snowball (This step may require several years.)

After you've finally stopped using credit, and after you've saved an emergency fund, then attack your existing debt. Attack it hard. Throw whatever you can at it.

Most people say to pay your highest interest debts first. There's no question that this makes the most sense mathematically. But if money were all about math, you wouldn't have debt in the first place. Money is as much about emotion and psychology as it is about math.

There are at least two approaches to debt elimination. Psychologically, using a debt snowball offers big payoffs, payoffs that can spur you to further debt reduction. Here's the short version:

1. Order your debts from lowest balance to highest balance. 2. Designate a certain amount of money to pay toward debts each month. 3. Pay the minimum payment on all debts except for the one with the lowest balance. 4. Throw every other penny at the debt with the lowest balance. 5. When that debt is gone, do not alter the monthly amount used to pay debts, but throw all you can at the debt with the next-lowest balance.

I'm a huge fan of the debt snowball. It still takes time to pay off your debts, but you can see results almost immediately.

Supplementary solutions

You can do other things to improve your money situation while you're working on these three steps.

First, focus on the fundamental personal finance equation: to pay off debt, or to save money, or to accumulate wealth, you must spend less than you earn.

Curb your spending. Re-learn frugal habits. (Frugality is something with which most college students are all too familiar.) You can find some great ideas on the internet. Also check Frugal for Life.

While you work on spending less, do what you can to increase your income. If possible, sell some of the stuff you bought when you got into debt. Get an extra job. (But don't neglect your studies for the sake of earning more. Your studies are most important.)

Finally, go to your local public library and borrow Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. Don't be put off by the title - this is a fantastic guide to getting out of debt and developing good money habits. I rave about it often, but that's because it has done so much to help my own personal finances. After you've finished, return it and borrow another book about money.

The most important thing is to start now. Don't start tomorrow. Don't start next week. Start tackling your debt now. Your older self will thank you.

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Building Credit with Credit Cards

By Larry Van-Doren

If you have bad credit, it is important to keep up with your spending to avoid poverty. If you are searching for a low interest credit card to repair your credit, remember most cards available have high initial fees and APR. Regardless if you have filed bankruptcy, have bad credit or do not have credit at all the lenders are opening the doors inviting all to join. Since, millions of people today have filed bankruptcies the lenders are considering option to help these people get back on their feet, while others are considering options to bring the debtors further to the ground.
We live in a rich man's world, with selfish, irresponsible, undignified individuals running the show. Therefore, if you are looking to build your credit with credit cards then there are things you should know.

Most lenders will shut the door in your face if you have filed bankruptcy when you apply for credit cards. They may refer you to debt consolidation balance transfer credit cards lenders to help you get your feet on the ground again. Be advised that many debt consolidation programs, are like few of the card lenders and their mission is to put your under.

Many of the debt consolidation programs, like most credit cards for bad credit consumers have high interest rates and the repayments with attached fees often make it difficult for the cardholder or debtor to pay the dues.
The best answer for building credit is to save your money, by cutting back expenses. After you weed down the debts, you can then apply for a credit card. Once you have reduced your debts and waited about six months you are likely to find a credit card with lower interest rates and lower fees. The card lenders may even offer you a card with no annual fees.

If you have difficulty managing your money, you may want to ask a responsible family member to help you out. You may even want to invest a small fee into software programs with managing tools. The programs often provide a budget structure to help you maintain you cash.

On the other hand, if you must have a credit card to build your credit, then make sure you ask your self-important questions before applying. The questions should include, why do I need a credit card? Am I responsible to make the payments on time and use the card to get out of debt? What is involved with owning a credit card? Am I at risk of loosing my card, or am I responsible to put my cards in safe places?

You will also need to take into consideration that cards have Terms & Conditions. Are you knowledgably about credit cards? Do you have enough information in your databank to avoid getting taking? Do you have the ability to research and compare cards to avoid loss? Do you understand what each card offers and how it can benefit you?

Even if you find a lender that will give you a credit card, and the card comes with initial fees and high APR, it might be wise to take the offer if you can afford to. This will help you build your credit if you use the card wisely and repay your debts on time. Also, once you have held the card for six months and paid faithfully you can contact the card lender and demand or request lower APR. Therefore, you must have negotiation skills, coupled with knowledge, understanding, and many other human necessities to handle a credit card to rebuild your credit.

If you feel that credit cards are threatening then you can take steps to repair your credit without applying for a credit card; One of the best solutions for repairing credit is to save, contact your creditors asking for extensions, etc.

Finally, credit cards are nice to have, and before it is over, we are all going to need a credit card to make a purchase. Therefore, build your credit now and get the credit card you deserve later!

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After the Chaos - What Types of Mortgages Remain

By Emily Winkle

The subprime mortgage meltdown had a chaotic effect on the US economy and world financial markets in 2008. After the subprime banks closed en masse, the Alt-A lenders were shut down, eliminating all aggressive financing options in the US mortgage market. This has led to a major credit crunch and has had a disastrous effect on the US mortgage industry and overall economy.

The past ten years have become a memory, with virtually every aggressive financing option no longer available. The only viable mortgage products remaining require full documentation of income, good credit, and stable employment. Wow....finally some common-sense in a mortgage world gone mad.

Post Mortgage Meltdown:

Before the mortgage meltodown, 100% loan financing was available for almost every borrower. If you could prove you were a citizen, you could get 100% financing regardless of past credit. Today in late 2008, there are no longer any options for 100% financing available outside of VA and USDA loans. If anyone tells you differently, they are leading you astray. These do not exist at this time. Investors have decided that they will not buy any mortgage loans where the borrower does not have a sizable down payment or existing equity in their loan.

Alt-A loans, which used to offer aggressive loan financing products catering to borrowers with credit scores from 660 and up are also gone. While these lenders offered programs to borrowers with scores down to 620, the aggressive programs were typically not available to borrowers below a 660 middle score. Alt-A banks have driven the creation of innovative loan products over the last five years. Today, even these seemingly viable products have dried up. They were a victim of the mortgage chaos that ensued during the subprime meltdown. Anderson Lending Group does not offer these loans any longer. Alt-A lenders had relaxed debt-to-income ratios, reduced income documentations (stated income, no income / no asset, and no doc), and the ability to add interest-only to most products. Alt-A lenders were the ones that popularized the use of 80-10 and 80-15 loans for investors to avoid PMI.

Aurora, GreenPoint, SunTrust, First Horizon, and IndyMac were leading Alt-A lenders during the mortgage boom of the last decade. Besides these, there were literally hundreds of banks and lenders that delivered niche products to strong borrowers. Unfortunately, many of these lenders are now out of the mortgage business completely.

After the Subprime Chaos:

Over 300 banks and other mortgage lenders have closed down or exited the wholesale mortgage market. As they disappeared, so went the litany of aggressive financing options that sprouted up over the past 8 years. The mortgage world is back to basics -- FHA and Conventional loans only. The one difference now is that the credit crunch is making it even tougher for a "normal", employed borrower to obtain financing. Credit score requirements are now in the low 700's. A 720 is the new 680 is the mantra of the remaining mortgage loan officers. The problem is that the economic recession of 2008 is having a negative effect on the credit scores of American buyers. Cash-out loans have become extremely difficult to obtain. Lines of credit, or home equity lines, are being reduced by lenders who are facing liquidity issues. This is happening to qualified borrowers as well as more modest borrowers. Additionally, financing for non-owner occupied properties has become extremely hard to obtain -- no matter what the credit, income, and assets of the customer.

As we begin to plan for 2009, Freddie Mac and Fannie have created new strict rules and guidelines for lenders effective December 1st, 2008. These will continue to reduce options for customers seeking financing on purchase or refinance loans. Additional restrictions for borrowers who have had a past BK or foreclosure now push the dream of home ownership from 2 years after these blemishes to 4+ years.

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Make a list of everything in your home

By Rem

It may not be the most absorbing of topics but if you have a burglary or all the food in your freezer spoils, you will be glad you had the foresight to arrange a house insurance policy. This can also be bought as part of a joint buildings and contents policy but this is only worthwhile if you own your house.

It is always a good practice to make a list of everything in your house that has any value, doing this on a room by room basis and preferably before you actually take out the home insurance. While you are carrying out this inventory, why not make a camcorder recording of all your rooms, paying special attention to personal and costly things you own, or use a still camera if you do not own a camcorder.

This can be added to your inventory and will furnish a full record of your place and things you possess. Numerous individuals forget to keep there place insurance inventory current though and neglect adding new things you own to the list as well as taking pictures to attach to that list.

Many suppliers now offer their own unique policies online, so before settling on the one you would like to set up, be sure to obtain a few of quotes so that you can compare. The benefit of getting an immediate online quote is that insurance quotes from major providers are brought to your personal computer screen in a matter of a few seconds. In addition to giving you more choice, home insurance policies accepted online are usually less expensive as the overheads are smaller for the company. You should not just check the value of quotes, but also the reputation of the insurance company before you decide.

Your plan will come with a sum assured value which is the entire amount the insurance company will settle with you if there is a claim for total loss etc. The sum assured is often worked out by the insurance supplier for you based on figures for replacing the contents of an average home. Others nonetheless, will assess your house and offer protection based on their estimates or ask how much cover you would like and then calculate the premiums on your behalf. Having the correct insurance level is more essential than just a small premium and this way may better suit those house owners who have higher worth personal possessions and do not want to end up with a sum assured that does not meet the needs of replacing their house.

Although the contents of your home may all be important to you, do not forget your plan will not always cover all of your possessions. home workers for example should be aware that stock used to run that occupation from home is not always addressed as standard. Also, if the sum assured does not cover high value items, such as jewelry and electronic equipment, you may have to pay extra on your house insurance plan to insure them at the level you need. Nonetheless, finally it is your duty to check out which personal things are covered by the policies that you are looking at before you make a final decision.

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