How a Secured Credit Card Can Help Your Credit

One of the easiest ways to build credit and improve a credit score is to open a secured credit card. Whether you’re young and new to credit, or are looking to improve your credit score because of past financial problems, a secured credit card can help.Instead of providing a high credit limit like an unsecured credit card does, a secured card uses a deposit that you provide-such as $500-as your credit limit. The credit card issuer pulls money from the deposit if you don’t make a credit card payment.For people with no credit history or poor credit history, a secured credit card may be the only type of credit card they can get. Someone with no credit is likely to benefit the most from a secured credit card because there won’t be any negative information on their credit report.For those with bad credit, a secured credit card may help raise their score, but it may be a slower process because of the negative information that’s already on their credit report.To get the most out of it, use as little of the available credit as you can. This will leave you with a low credit utilization rate, which can improve your credit score. The best thing you can do is not miss any payments, since late or missed payments have the biggest impact on a credit score.The credit reporting agencies will look at a secured credit card with the same criteria as an unsecured card. These include when the card was opened, the credit limit, balance and payment history. The benefit is that a secured credit card should be easier to qualify for so that a consumer can build their credit.Just like unsecured credit cards, secured cards can have annual fees. Eventually, you should see your credit score improve enough so that you qualify for an unsecured credit card with a higher credit limit. You can then cancel your secured credit card and get your deposit back. And having your $500 or so back in your hands may feel just as good as having a higher credit score.

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How Credit Cards Differ From Debit Cards

A debit card is a smart way to shop if you want to avoid using a credit card that will charge you interest if you don’t pay the balance in full each month. But because a debit card is directly tied to your bank account, you can lose a lot of protections.Debit Card HasslesWhile a debit card can be seen as safer than carrying cash, it can be a costly mistake if a thief steals it or your personal information to empty your bank account.If your credit card is lost or stolen, or the information on it is stolen, you can’t lose more than $50 in unauthorized transactions, according to federal law. The same is true for an ATM or debit card if you report it within two business days, according to the Federal Trade Commission. You won’t be responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals if you report the card missing before someone uses it without your permission-that’s the good news. But it can get much worse with a debit or ATM card, the FTC says, if unauthorized use happens before you report it.If you report a debit card loss within 60 days after your statement is mailed to you, you could lose up to $500 in unauthorized transfers. If you don’t report it within 60 days, you risk unlimited loss. You could lose all of the money in that account and the unused portion of your maximum line of credit for overdrafts. The thieves could overdraft your account if you wait more than two months to report it.Once you report the loss or theft of your debit card to the issuer, you’re not responsible for additional unauthorized use.Credit Card ProtectionsIf your credit card or number is stolen, federal law offers a simple protection: You’re only liable for up to $50 in unauthorized transactions. That comes with one important caveat-you must report it to your credit card issuer.Some issuers won’t charge you the $50 and are vigilant, alerting customers when they see potential credit card fraud.The $50 limit after quickly reporting the loss of a credit or debit card is great if you do it within two days. But wait any longer than that and a debit card could be much costlier than a credit card if thieves get their hands on it.

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How Much to Spend on an Engagement Ring

Ask any jeweler how much money you should spend on an engagement ring and they’ll likely give you the jewelry industry’s long-standing rule of thumb-three month’s salary.The average person spends about half that amount, according to Census data.The jewelry industry isn’t recommending three months of pay after taxes, but three months of gross pay-which adds up to about $8,500 for the average man age 25-34, according to Census data. The average person spends about $4,000 on an engagement ring.A specific dollar amount or percentage of income shouldn’t be the determining factor in how much you spend on an engagement ring. The main factor should be how much you can comfortably afford.You can also consider your earning potential in the immediate future, as well as ways to ease the cost, such as using a family ring. Here are a few things to consider:Your financial situation Even if your income is high, your living expenses may be so high already that you can’t afford to save much for a ring. Being in debt can make the major expense of an engagement ring more difficult to handle.Financing a ring on a credit card can only worsen your finances if you don’t pay it off within a month and pay late fees or interest charges.If you don’t have an emergency fund, an engagement ring purchase could leave you vulnerable if you lose your job or suffer another financial emergency.Wedding expectationsIf your significant other wants to get married soon, then you won’t have much time to save up for an engagement ring, the wedding or anything else associated with it.This may require you to buy a simpler ring for now and add to it or replace it later.How to pay for the wedding ceremony, honeymoon and other things can be part of the discussion around the type of engagement ring that’s appropriate for your budget.Saving on an Engagement RingTo save money on an engagement ring, some thoughts are to use a family ring, or buy a synthetic diamond or cubic zirconium ring, shop for a vintage ring, or buy the best ring you can afford and update it later.Hope you enjoyed this tip. Contact me today for all your real estate questions!

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3 Ways to Soothe Your Pet During Storms

When preparing to batten down the hatches during a storm, don’t forget to pay attention to your furry family members. Loud, unpredictable noises and an uptick of electrical currents in the air can make your pet seriously scared when the weather goes wild. Here are three ways to soothe your dog or cat during an electrical storm.Create a comfortable space. Many animals like small, tight spaces when the weather becomes unpredictable. (Some even jump in the bathtub!) Find a cozy spot for your pet (preferably in the same room you’re in) and bring in their favorite blanket, bed or toy.Turn on calming music. Animals have long been known to react to soothing music the same way people do. Play some classical tunes or lullabies to help put pets at ease.Distract them. Just like people, animals can be distracted in the face of fear. Play their favorite game or pull a special occasion treat out. Eventually, they may associate storms with treats and toys, instead of static electricity and thunder.

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How to Negotiate a Clean Credit Report

A late payment on a credit bill or other debt such as a mortgage can have a significant impact on your credit score. And the higher your credit score is to begin with, the more it can fall after a late payment.Paying your bills on time is the best way to avoid this. If you don’t make your payments and your account is turned over to a collections agency, you won’t be able to get that account current again. Late payments can stay on a credit report for seven years.Before it gets to that point, there are four ways to remove late payments from your credit report so that your score isn’t affected:Ask for a Goodwill AdjustmentCreditors can remove a late payment as a “goodwill adjustment” if you write a forgiveness letter explaining why you were late and asking that they forgive it and adjust your credit report.You’ll likely be successful if you have a good payment history with the creditor and haven’t asked for an adjustment previously.Sign Up for Automatic PaymentsSigning up for automatic payments with a creditor can be a way of negotiating the removal of a late payment entry. Automatic payments will help you and the creditor because your future payments will be made on time and you won’t have to worry about missing another payment. Just make sure there’s enough money in the account you’re pulling from each month.Dispute InaccuraciesIf a late payment is inaccurate, then you have the right to dispute it. The entry date or amount could be wrong, or it may not be your debt. Check your credit report regularly for inaccuracies-having proof for your dispute will help your case.Hire a ProIf these steps are not effective in your situation, you may want to consider hiring a professional credit repair service. These services can be faster than trying to fix your credit report on your own-though it can be an expensive option. Look at the company’s costs and make sure you’re not being charged a subscription plan for regular credit checks.Federal law allows consumers to check their credit reports for free every 12 months from each credit reporting agency. Start at AnnualCreditReport.com and immediately correct any inaccuracies you see in your credit reports.

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How Medical Credit Cards Work

When it comes to paying an unexpected medical bill, there’s often no easy way to do it. Unless you have an emergency fund or have plenty of money on hand, paying a big medical bill can be difficult.Some dentists and other healthcare professionals, such as eye doctors, audiologists and even veterinarians, offer medical credit cards to help patients spread the cost of a procedure over time and make paying for it easier. The credit cards are used to pay for healthcare services that aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare, or to cover expenses a patient can’t afford.Doctors who provide medical credit cards aren’t providing loans themselves, but are working with third-party companies that offer the cards.Why Get a Medical Credit Card?Medical credit cards allow a medical bill to be paid back over the span of months or years without being charged interest on the loan. The interest is deferred, and if the bill isn’t paid off before the interest-free promotional period ends-such as 12 months-then the interest is added retroactively to when the purchase was first made. The interest rates are usually high. One medical credit card provider, CareCredit, has an interest rate of 26.99 percent for new accounts.Minimum monthly payments are required during the promotional period, though higher payments will likely be needed to pay the balance off during that time. Interest can also be charged if you’re more than 60 days late on a payment, warns the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).CareCredit gives an example on its website of a cardholder with a $1,200 medical charge with no interest charged if paid in full within six months. A $200 monthly payment for six months would pay off the $1,200 without any interest charged. But if only the minimum monthly payment of $39 is paid each month, then the $1,200 balance would only drop to $1,134 after six months. In this case it would take 96 months to pay off the loan at 26.99 percent interest. The $1,493 in interest paid over that time is more than the amount borrowed in the first place.Even without a medical credit card, you may be able to pay your bill without interest by asking your medical provider if you can work out a payment plan with them directly.

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Mind Games Are Preventing You from Saving Money

Saving money can be difficult, and sometimes your frame of mind can hold you back. Here are some negative thoughts to overcome:I Don’t Make Enough Money to SaveYou are more than likely wrong about this one. Sometimes it’s about writing down your numbers and determining what you can cut and save on.With the improving economy, it’s becoming even easier. Household incomes have been increasing and the unemployment rate has been falling the past few years, giving more people a chance to save. And many are doing it. The personal savings rate in the U.S. rose to 5.9 percent in March after rising steadily since 2013. But there’s room for improvement. The personal savings rate averaged 8.29 percent from 1959 until 2017.I’ll Start Saving When I Earn MoreHow many times have you told yourself that you’ll start saving when your income rises enough so you can afford it? Unfortunately, this kind of thinking won’t get you anywhere. Expenses often increase as pay does, so putting off saving for this reason doesn’t mean you’ll do it later. Start now instead of waiting.I’m Young. I’ve Got Decades to SaveTelling yourself that you’ll save later can affect your retirement planning. It’s a problem that can be dealt with later, the thinking goes, and it can be hard to imagine what will happen decades from now.The value of compounding and saving early in life are explained on the website interest.com. Waiting only five years, not decades, can require a higher savings rate to reach a retirement goal of $1 million by age 65.According to the site, if you save $405 per month by age 25 at an average annual return of 7 percent then you’ll have $1 million at age 65. But if you wait until you’re 30 to start saving then you’ll need to save $585 per month to reach that same goal.It’s Too DifficultSaving money isn’t easy, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. Some apps can help. Digit monitors your spending and moves money from your checking account into savings when you can afford it. Meanwhile, a finance app, Acorns, automatically invests your spare change.Some retirement plans take the work out of investing with target-date retirement funds. Workers select a fund closest to their retirement date and the portfolio changes automatically as they age-aggressive investing when they’re young and more conservative as they near retirement.Enrollment in a 401(k) retirement plan can be automatic when a worker joins a company, allowing them to opt out if they want to. Employee contributions can also be automatically increased over time.

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Small Reminders Can Reduce Credit Card Debt

No one wants to be reminded by their bank that using a credit card too much is a bad idea. It’s a rule of thumb that everyone knows, but often avoids because a credit card is a major convenience. After all, who wants to always carry cash for everyday purchases?However, it turns out that “revolvers”-people who carry a balance on their credit card each month with revolving credit-can save some money by being reminded every once in a while by their bank about the downsides of using credit cards.Researchers at the Urban Institute found that email reminders from your bank or a banner ad on its website can become big enough annoyances to get credit card users to cut spending by 2 percent.One message reminded credit card holders to use cash for a purchase of less than $20. A second message highlighted the fact that credit cards add 20 percent to the cost of something with revolving credit.The first message led to an average savings of $104, and up to $173 for revolvers under age 40. The second message had less of an impact, saving people under 40 an average of $160.There are other small ways consumers can remind themselves to use their credit card less. Budgeting apps or reminders set up on your phone can help you automate savings, for example, by automatically moving money into a savings or retirement account.Your banks app or website may also allow you to set text or email alerts when your account balance is low. Your credit card may be able to do the same thing, sending you an email when you’ve spent over a certain amount on a purchase, or letting you know when you’re near your credit limit.The America Saves program sends periodic text messages to participants with savings tips and words of encouragement. Apps such as Hiatus and Trim help consumers stop automatic renewals on their credit cards that they may have forgotten about.If you carry a revolving balance on your credit card, you’re not alone.Data from TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency, shows that about 133 million people have at least one credit card with a balance. The average credit card debt rose to $5,247 in the second quarter of this year, up from $5,197 in the first quarter.To start lowering your credit card debt, make more than the minimum payment each month. Until you start using only cash for purchases of $20 or less, that’s one of the best ways to tackle credit card debt.

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How to Prepare Your Home for Flooding

While no one ever wants to imagine their home filling with water, for many areas of the country, flooding is a scary reality for many homeowners. Whether a natural disaster is on the way or you simply want to be aware of how to protect your home when flash flood warnings sound, we have five steps to preparing your home for flooding.Clear gutters. If flooding is predicted in your area, help your home out by clearing all gutters, downspouts and drains so your home can battle the rising water.Elevate outdoor electric units.Outdoor generators, fuel tanks and air-conditioning units should not be left on ground level outdoors. Elevate them as best you can and securely anchor them so they don’t float away if flooding occurs.Power down. Shut off your electricity via your breaker panel to stay safe.Move items upstairs. When flooding is likely, take charge by moving items upstairs and further from the flood zone. Furniture, rugs, electronics and important paperwork should all be moved to the highest ground possible. Make copies of important paperwork and store them digitally so you don’t lose them.Raise appliances. While you likely can’t lug your refrigerator upstairs, you can elevate your appliances on concrete blocks to minimize damage if only a few inches of water floods in.

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Making Your Money Last Long Into Retirement

The average length of retirement in the United States is 18 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.How do retirees pay for those 18 years? Retirement plans vary, though most people eventually collect Social Security and Medicare benefits. Here are some strategies for making the most of your money that’s set aside for retirement:Maximize Social SecurityTo get the maximum in Social Security benefits, anyone who is 62 in 2017 would need to wait until they’re 66-67 years old to receive full retirement age, or FRA, benefits. Medicare benefits begin at age 65.You can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but it will be at a lesser amount than if you waited until FRA up to age 67, depending on the year you were born. The Social Security Administration has an online retirement calculator to determine your full retirement age.By waiting until age 70, you’ll get more than the 100 percent of benefits of the FRA at age 67. Every 12 months that you delay benefits after FRA, until age 70, adds an additional 8 percent.Keep WorkingEarning an income, even a part-time one, can help people in their early 60s cover their living expenses while waiting to claim Social Security.Delaying retirement and working longer also gives them less time to use money from their 401(k) and other retirement funds, and can give them more time to save money.Without the extra years of work, there’s a high chance that many people might not have enough money to last them in retirement.A financial planner told the New York Times, for instance, that a hypothetical couple with $1 million in retirement accounts with annual expenses of $70,000 for essentials had a 47 percent chance that their retirement plan would fail during their lifetime-assuming they retired at age 65 and collected Social Security benefits then.Waiting until age 70 to collect Social Security dropped the risk of failure to 38 percent, the planner found.Buy an AnnuityA way to drop that retirement failure rate to zero is to buy an annuity, the financial planner advised.Spending $298,000 on a single-premium immediate annuity would pay that hypothetical couple $12,000 annually for the rest of their lives. Such an annuity allows immediate payments in return for a lump sum that’s paid upfront.It can be a lot of money to pay at once, but as part of a balanced retirement portfolio, an annuity can give retirees peace of mind that they’ll have money to pay their bills.I hope you found this helpful. Contact me for more insights and info.

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