Confessions of A Former Credit Addict

Confessions of A Former Credit Addict
I need to make a confession. My financial life is in ruins. I am badly in need of credit repair. Throughout the past few months, I have searched for ways to atone for my past money mistakes. Methods that will wipe away old debts and missed payments like squeegee water from a windshield car, idling at a stoplight in Manhattan.




My past misdeeds include filling up my first credit card with hundreds of dollars in bar tabs during freshman year of college. Walking through the quad one day, I came upon a folding table loaded with free t-shirts bearing the logo of a mid-Atlantic bank. I had to have one of those shirts. So I signed up for a credit card with a limit of $800, despite being a full-time student with no income. And promptly spent most of it at local pizza places and a T.G.I. Friday’s where my fraternity brothers bartended.

All that semi-astute financial decision making left me as unprepared fawn in the wilds of the real world during my 20s. I spent freely, saved little and cared less. Debts were left to collection agencies and leases were handled by my parents and girlfriends.

So I have made it a mission to find and call out the best credit repair companies throughout the land. Today I own a house and 2 cars, living a good school district. All thanks to taking advantage of the great credit repair services from places like Sky Blue Credit Repair.

Credit repair is a necessary service these days. The country is under duress, with household after household struggling under the weight of overleveraged houses and unsustainable credit card debt. That is a recipe for financial disaster.

With all that credit card debt, individuals and families end up victims of horrible, terrible, no-good credit. That means that, more than ever, credit repair is needed by many people. SkyBlue Credit Repair is particularly skilled at helping consumers decide what to dispute and when to do it. It has a very accelerated dispute process because it takes 15 items at once (5 from each of the 3 credit bureaus) and disputes them all at the same time. For those clients with numerous negative items, Sky Blue could be the answer to faster score improvements.

Sky Blue even goes as far as to offer a 90-day, risk-free guarantee, meaning that if you are not satisfied for any reason during that time period, just tell them why and you can get your money back. Their pricing is reasonable: $59 to set up and $59 a month after that.

For more information and reviews about skybluecreditrepair.com, you can feel free to visit their website.

How to Become a CFA

calculator-820330_640If you wish to seek an edge in the world of finance, you can increasingly consider this credential: the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification. This designation is consider a high standard in the investment management field and to those who do have the credentials are expected to have good knowledge of the investment industry.

It’s not an easy feat to obtain these qualifications – the self-study program takes a few years to complete and candidates should pass three exams, and abide a strict code of ethics and conduct.




There are steps you can do to become a CFA, as well as knowing the necessary steps to plan, study and pass the CFA exam on the first attempt. However, this will not show you how to enter the CFA program, rather it will be on why you want to and whether it’s worth it or not for you.

  1. Identify the benefits of the CFA program. When you enter the CFA program, you will need to be a member and pay annual fees. Ask these questions to yourself:

– What would I gain as a member?

– Would the CFA title help my personal and professional growth?

-Aside from gaining a ticket to the CFA exam, would it help me to network and develop my skills a a financial professional?

  1. Compare CFA designation with other qualifications. You will need to spend time researching on other relevant qualifications as well, to see if the CFA is the one you should go for. There are several options available that are close enough in terms of the industry coverage and recognition but keep in mind that there isn’t one that is an exact match to the CFA.
  1. Fulfill the requirements. The bar is set quite low – meaning that anyone who either studied or worked for four years after high school can take the exam. In order to take the first level exam, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent such as 4 years investment or even non-investment related experience. Part-time jobs cannot be included.
  1. Sign up for the CFA study program. If you still want to push through and continue on, then go ahead and register, plan and study for the exam. Be mindful of the deadlines. Choose the best study material suited for you. It is important that you plan ahead so that you will not run out of time to study or miss out on the deadlines.
  1. Create a study plan. You will need to go over the format and curriculum to have an effective and a good study plan. Topics are organized into study sessions, with assigned readings, learning outcome statements and problem sets that are broken down into 3 levels. These three levels of exams will test the knowledge you have gained from the study sessions.
  1. Prepare for the exams. There are several comprehensive reading materials readily available for you. Most candidates do get supplements to improve on their studying techniques or even focus on their weak areas. You just have to find out your niche.

Once you pass Level lll, you will need to get four years experience before you can obtain the charter. The exams is just the beginning of the CFA process but you can gain the experience you need before, during or after the exams. Upon completion of Level lll and the four years relevant experience, you will then be invited to be a CFA charter holder. To maintain the charter holder status, you are required to get a Continuing professional education (CPE). The process may sound complicated but once you take the first step, it is very much achievable with enough perseverance.

Build an Emergency Fund with this 52 Week Money Challenge Printable Version

As the end of 2016 approaches and a new year is on the horizon, it is time for a new year of financial goals.  According to a recent USA Today article, nearly 70% of all Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. That means when someone has an unexpected expense they must turn to high interest pay day loans, or credit cards that can’t be paid off at the end of the month. The interest paid on these will cost way more than the original amount in the long run. Even something as simple as $1,000 in an emergency fund can help offset these costs. So if you’re interested in avoiding the pain of credit card borrowing, it pays to have some financial security.

What does financial security mean? It is different for every person.  It could mean paying down student loans if you are a recent college graduate.  It might be tackling credit card debt that has plagued you for months or even years.  Maybe it is saving for a home.  Each person’s financial goals are different. Today’s focus will be on building an emergency fund for you to have in case you encounter any unexpected expenses.  The best part about an emergency fund is it can be done with little effort on your part and in just one year’s time.

Now if building a $1,000 emergency fund sounds good, building a $1,378 emergency fund will sound even better.  The best part is that there is a simple and easy way for almost anyone with an income stream to accomplish this.

Beginning in 2017, set a goal to accomplish the 52 Week Money Challenge printable version.  The challenge takes minimal effort and the downloadable sheet allows you to easily track your progress.  January 1, 2016 falls on a Sunday, so for simplicity reasons we will begin the challenge on Friday, January 6, 2017.  On the first Friday in the new year, simply put one dollar into your savings account or in a piggy bank if that is easier.  On the second Friday of the new year, put two dollars into your account.  Each of the Friday’s that follow, you will increase the amount you deposit by only one dollar.  It would look something like this for the month of January.

52 Week Money Challenge Printable Version Example:

Date Deposit Amount Total Amount Saved
1/6/2017 $1 $1
1/13/2017 $2 $3
1/20/2017 $3 $6
1/27/2017 $4 $10

52 Week Money Challenge Printable Version

By the end of January, you will have already saved ten dollars into your account and will be well on your way to establishing an emergency fund. Pretty much you just do the same thing for the rest of the weeks in the year, just for each week add one dollar to your weekly savings total.

Can you live on one less dollar each week?  That is how you need to look at this challenge.  Each week you train yourself to live on one less dollar than the previous week.  In the final week you will live on $52 less than you did the first week of the new year.  The total amount you will have saved up in just one year will be $1,378, which is more than what 70% of Americans have currently in their savings accounts.

Challenge yourself, a friend or a family member.  Take on and print out the 52 Week Money Challenge printable version sheet and get your new year off to a great financial start.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Budgeting With Credit Card Debt

I recently spoke with an individual who was excited to begin his budget.  He downloaded the spreadsheet available on my site and asked me to look over it.  Everything looked good except for one thing I noted.  This individual had a category as follows:

Credit Card Payment (minimum)

Image result for credit card

This shocked me for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the minimum part that was included.  Secondly, paying off your credit cards is not an expense.  For example, if you go to the grocery store and spend $50.00 on groceries but apply the charge to your credit card, then your budget should reflect a $50.00 purchase on groceries.  The credit card is simply a means to pay for it.  Finally, I recognized that this individual had credit card debt, and he assumed paying off in minimum installments would eliminate it.  Yes, theoretically, as long as no further debt was incurred, but it would take a while.

This ultimately led me to the following conclusion.  This individual had a significant amount of money remaining in their budget every month.  I advised him that if I was in his situation I would do the following:

  1. Make sure I am able to cover all of my necessary expenses in the budget.  This would include rent, gas, food, student loans, etc.
  2. See where some expenses can be cut.  Bringing his lunch to work versus going out to eat might be the smartest financial decision until he gets his credit card debt under control.
  3. Use any extra money at the end of the month to pay off the remaining balance on the credit card.  Credit cards are notorious for having extremely high interest rates.  The quicker you tackle this type of debt, the more you save.
  4. Set a goal for paying off the credit card debt.  We agreed by the end of the calendar year.  Once the debt is paid off we could redo the budget and include categories for savings, retirement, and other financial goals.

Credit card debt can be a nasty thing, but a budgeting approach to handling it can make your financial life much better.  Use a budget to pay off your debt if you have any, then you will be able to create additional space to begin planning for your financial future more aggressively.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

New “Investing Wisely” Page

So the purpose of this blog is twofold:

Budget Smart, and Invest Wise.

In addition to the “Creating Your Monthly Budget” page, I have added a new page to the site, titled “Investing Wisely”.

 

There are many investment products out there and many places to turn to to do your investing.  How do you know which one is right for you?

Each person develops their own specific investment habits through a number of different avenues.  I prefer investing in a low-cost mutual fund.  However, others have a knack for picking the right stocks at the right time.  To each his own.  To help you decide which investment avenue is right for you, check out The Simple Dollar.  They weigh the pros and cons of various investment strategies along with the right investment company for each individual.

Budgeting is only the first part of building lifelong wealth, the second part, investing wisely, is ultimately what will help build and maintain that wealth.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Budgeting for that Summer Trip

Image result for palm tree

 

With today being the first official day of summer, we are now officially into the warmer months of the year.  While some prefer a ski trip during the winter season, many use these summer months as an opportunity for a beach getaway, or a family vacation.  No matter what your financial situation is, planning a summer trip might be just the reward you need to reset and relax.

Step 1: Set a limit to how much you will spend on your trip.  Plan for food, entertainment, lodging and transportation.  Stick to the limit.  It is best to estimate on the high side of costs.

Step 2: Research the best places to stay and the best way to get there.  I recently traveled to a place where a hotel room would have cost me more than twice what a condo I found on Airbnb ended up costing me.  I still got my own room and split the cost of the condo with friends I was travelling with.  Also if you have to fly, sometimes a drive to another airport can mean a lower flight cost to your destination.  The point is, explore your options.

Step 3: Find out how you are going to fund the vacation.  Did you just receive an unexpected bonus?  Have you been putting aside a few hundred dollars a month for the past year?  Vacationing is much less stressful when you know how exactly the trip is being paid for.

So whether you’ve already enjoyed your vacation, it’s right around the corner, or you are trying to find the best way to plan for your next one, budgeting for your travel is simply the best way to travel.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

Compound Interest

Some have called compound interest the unofficial 8th wonder of the world.  It is definitely a wonder when it is applied to your financial life.  The best part about compound interest is that it allows for exponential growth of a portfolio.  The concept is simple.  When you earn interest/dividends/capital gains, you reinvest them into your portfolio instead of withdrawing the funds.  The video shows just how powerful compound interest can be in increasing your wealth over time.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

Book Review: The Surprise Millionaires

SupMilBookCover

I recently finished ready The Surprise Millionaires by Keith McDowell.  A great read indeed.  It is packed with amazing stories of ordinary people who passed along extraordinary wealth.  Keith did a wonderful job of including stories from all over the country that date back to the beginning of the 20th century.  You can purchase the Kindle version of the book for just 99 cents!  You can also follow his blog here: https://thesurprisemillionaires.com/

Here are my 3 main takeaways from his book:

  1. No matter your income level, everyone and I repeat everyone has the opportunity to create wealth over $1,000,000.
  2. Most if not all of these individuals valued relationships over possessions and money.  It was who they could impact with their wealth that was much more important than the amount of earthly items they could collect.
  3. Every single one of the stories ends with a person(s) creating a lasting legacy in their community.  When your time on earth is finished what do you want to be remembered for?  I’m sure the people in these stories asked themselves this question, and the legacies they created was beyond comprehension.

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

One Easy Way to Slash Taxes

Image result for lower taxes

Reduce your taxes and increase your savings.  Sounds almost a little too good to be true right?

It’s possible, it’s easy, and I just did it and so can you.

Today is the final day for you to file your taxes for this year.  Did you pay more in taxes than you would have liked?  Do you want to lower your tax bill for next year?  If so, then here is how to do it:

Increase your 401k contribution to your company’s plan.  What percentage of your salary are you contributing to your 401k currently?  Bump it up.  By increasing your pre-tax 401k contribution to your plan you are in effect reducing the amount of income you take home, thus reducing your tax burden.

I recently increased my pre-tax contribution percentage by 8%, and found that I will save roughly $1700 this year on my taxes.  It’s that simple.  Increase your savings, reduce your tax burden.  This offers 3 key benefits.

Benefit 1:

You lower the amount of taxes you will be paying for the year.

Benefit 2:

You increase the amount of savings you will have at retirement.  The more you save now, the more you will have later.

Benefit 3:

Because you don’t see the additional money you put into your 401k plan on your paycheck, you won’t spend it, and most likely you won’t miss it.

 

Budget Smart, Invest Wise

 

Buffett’s 7 Investment Tips

Most of us are familiar with famed investor Warren Buffett.  He has amassed a fortune of over $60 billion in his lifetime.  He is known for picking great investments and sticking with them for the long run.  In a world where it is easier than ever to buy and sell stocks in the blink of an eye, day-trading has become more and more popular.  However, Buffett has always been outspoken about the negative effects of buying and selling equities over the short period.

So what does Warren think people should do to create wealth for themselves?  The link below tells you just that.  While creating a net worth equal to that of Buffett’s is highly unlikely, it is very easy to take just a few steps in the right direction to follow Buffett’s advice.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/warren-buffett-best-investing-advice-201019702.html