Monday, September 15, 2014

6 Things to Budget for Now If You Plan to Retire

Did you know that over 46 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement? Not planning for the future is one of the easiest ways people fall in debt, and unless you plan to work well into your 80s, you should start taking a more active approach to your future today by planning for it. It doesn't matter whether you’re 15 or 50, saving for retirement today can help you live a better, less stressful tomorrow.

1. Long-term care costs

While most people plan on retiring in their mid-60s, people are living longer, which means that age-old retirement plans just aren't cutting it anymore. In fact, the average American now spends over 20 years in retirement.

Don't underestimate long-term healthcare costs, as studies show it can cost around $100,000 per year to live in an assisted living center. Insurance can sometimes help alleviate these costs, but not always. If you have a family history of debilitating illness or a chronic medical condition, make it a priority to budget for higher assisted care costs. 

2. Medical emergencies

It's hard to budget for unexpected medical costs, especially since you never know what's going to happen, but you should have some money reserved specifically for medical emergencies. At the very least, a good rule of thumb is to try to have enough saved to cover the cost of your highest deductible. 

3. Debt resolution.

If you're dealing with more debt than you can handle, you're not alone. In fact, the average American household is over $15,000 in credit card debt. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you may want to consider using a site like to help lower your outstanding rates and plan a budget you can stick to.

4. Day-to-day costs

In addition, budgeting for everyday costs, like buying food and paying the utilities, is important as well. It’s easy to forget about these things when you are pulling in a steady paycheck, but they can become very expensive when your fixed income is gone. Keeping track of regular, day-to-day expenses is one of the best ways you can plan for your retirement budget. Consider free sites like to help you prioritize and budget.

5. Property taxes

Though property taxes vary by location, it’s important to budget for these as well. The government will take a portion of the value of your land through property taxes. Make sure that you budget enough to pay for the average cost of these taxes, which can change based on property values. Since property value is often correlated with your local real estate climate, keep an eye on the housing market in your area to make sure your property tax budget will remain sufficient for years to come.

6. Insurance policies

There will probably be a number of insurance policies you'll want to retain during your retirement. These could include home insurance, car insurance, health insurance or life insurance plans. Unfortunately, the fees themselves aren't the only things you should budget for; extra expenses like vehicle maintenance and home improvements should also be factored in. It is important to prioritize your insurance expenses; if your budget is tight and there are a few policies you can live without, consider ending these and focusing on only the essential plans.

There are many expenses to plan for in your retirement budget, even excluding major costs like a mortgage or a car payment. That's why it's so important to plan ahead so that you are ready for the financial changes to come when you retire.

This article was co-authored by Maria Rivera, who has spent the last 13 years helping people overcome their financial hardships. She currently manages CreditGuard of America’s credit counselors and helps prepare individuals who are seeking their credit counseling certification. A resident of Boca Raton, Florida, Maria is always on the lookout for great new recipes and beauty tips. She's also a self-admitted pop culture junkie. You can follow the latest from Maria over on Google+.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Make Money with a Garage Sale

If you are looking for a great way to get rid of household clutter, a garage sale can be just the ticket to turn your junk into cash. Easy to plan and manage, garage sales are a great way to clear out all of your old belongings and regain your precious storage space. Also if you are planning to build a new garage, conducting a garage sale will help you get rid of the unnecessary items. To get started planning your garage sale, follow these simple steps:

1. Gather items to sell:

Go through the boxes in your attic, shed, closet, and garage to select items you wish to sell. Then, walk room to room through your home and identify items you no longer need or use. Many people have trouble parting with items even when they are not being used. If you belongings have not been used for over a year, chances are you will not miss them.

2. Inventory your belongings:

Many homeowners skip this step but it can be extremely helpful on the day of the garage sale in case price tags get lost. It can be hard to come up with a fair price on the spur of the moment under pressure but an inventory will help. 

3. Label each item or box of items:

Attach a brightly colored label with the price to each item. For similar items you can save time by putting them into a box together and labelling the box but be sure to include the boxes and their contents on your inventory sheet. 

4. Review your inventory and assign prices:

If you have items you simply wish to get rid of, price them accordingly. After all, you don’t want to end up backing them back into storage if you try to get too much money for them. For more valuable items, it is common to charge about ¼ of what you paid or less. You may wish to make exceptions to this rule for certain items that are practically new or any valuable antiques but keep in mind that garage sale shoppers are looking for a bargain. 

5. Obtain a permit if required:

Some city’s may place restrictions on things like the placement of signage, hours of operation, or frequency of garage sales so be sure to check local regulations. 

6. Set a date and advertise:

Two-day garage sales are often the most successful and summer weekends are the best time to have them. Advertise before you sale in the local paper, free weekly community papers, and online resources like Craigslist. Be sure to mention any big ticket items you have for sale. Make and hang signs around your neighborhood. Include times and location of the big sale. 

7. Tidy up:

Garage sale shoppers are more likely to buy if it looks like the merchandise is from a home with owners that take care of their belongings. They are also more likely to feel comfortable stopping to browse if the sale space is clean and attractive. So make sure that the sale is put up in a well organized and clean garage space.

Finally, before you set up for the day, go to the bank and get some rolls of change and smaller bills. Keep in mind that many people who wish to buy from you will probably have 20 dollar bills and will require a fair bit of change.

Author Bio:

Anne Flemings loves interior designing and is always in pursuit of the latest changes and trends in home improvement. Her other interests lies in cooking, painting and blogging. She is an enthusiast homemaker who lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids. You can follow her on twitter @AnneFlemings

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Bankruptcy Can Help You Survive Financially

There's a bankruptcy myth floating around that says most Americans who file for bankruptcy do so because they lived a lavish lifestyle and spent beyond their means. However, according to a 2013 CNBC report, more than half of all bankruptcies are initiated due to medical bills. The stereotype of people filing for bankruptcy because they spent too much and got in over their heads with credit cards no longer applies in today's economy. Here are some of the ways bankruptcy can help those who face debts they're unable to pay:

Debt discharge

The most evident advantage of filing for bankruptcy is that it forgives many forms of debt, including credit cards and medical bills. This means you're no longer responsible for paying them, giving you a clean slate. Giving yourself a clean slate will allow you to get your personal finances in order and under control. This should help you reduce any stress you have over your money as well as any family stress that might be present. Then finally the day that you make it out of debt, you may find yourself with an overwhelming sense of freedom.

Debt reorganization

There are several types of bankruptcy, and not all of them wipe away debt. If you file for Chapter 13, your debts can be reorganized and consolidated into a more manageable solution for repayment. Though this may not be as good as getting your debt completely forgiven, it will still allow you to get your finances in order in order to pay off your remaining debts. Think of it as a long-term strategy to getting yourself to be debt free and out of bankruptcy within a certain period of time. 

End collection harassment

Creditors are probably the worst part of being in debt. However, if you have to file for bankruptcy, one of the most immediate advantages of bankruptcy is that the court will issue an 'automatic stay,' which legally blocks menacing creditor and collection agency phone calls and letters that rob you of peace of mind. Being in bankruptcy and massive amounts of debt is horrible and you feel horrible. It creates tremendous stress on you and anyone that might be around you. Peace of mind is important while you are trying to recover financially. The last thing you will need is harassment from those mangy creditors even if it is their job to come after for the debts you owe.

Stop foreclosure and repossessions

A common misconception is that you will lose all of your property when filing for bankruptcy. However, there are federal and state bankruptcy exemptions that allow you to retain your house and even personal property such as jewelry. Bankruptcy consulting firms are a rich resource regarding bankruptcy laws. Consulting firm like Exelby & Partners Ltd. can assist you with the bankruptcy process and help you retain as much personal property as possible.

Stop wage garnishments

Some forms of bankruptcy can even put an end to wage garnishments. Again, a bankruptcy firm will know how to legally stop such a garnishment.

Financial advisor Suze Orman gives the following advice about filing for bankruptcy: "When somebody really doesn't have money to pay their bills then they should claim bankruptcy and face it right on and start all over again." In fact, in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Orman concluded, "You just need to know that your credit will eventually recover, and it's not that big a deal." The various bankruptcy options available are an effective means of assisting those who struggle with debt and often are unable just to meet everyday expenses.

How Bankruptcy Affects Your Credit Score

If you are facing bankruptcy, you’ve probably already realized that your credit score is going to take some damage. You now want to know the hit your credit score will take, how long it will take to recover from bankruptcy, and how to find someone to help you through the process. How far your credit will plunge is entirely dependent on where your credit score is at when you file. After bankruptcy, most credit scores end up in the 520-540 range regardless of where your credit began, so your score will fall much farther if you start with a score of 720 than it would if you’re starting at 600. 

Not All Bankruptcies Are Created Equal

When it’s time to file for bankruptcy, you need to decide if you will file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, sometimes referred to as a “straight bankruptcy,” offers a clean slate and a fresh start. But it comes at a high cost—your assets are liquidated and used to pay off as much of your debt as possible, and it stays on your credit report for ten years. If you have a large number of personal assets, this may not be your best option. 

According to a financial advisor specializing in bankruptcy in Utah, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for those who have property they wish to keep. It reorganizes your debt and helps you create a plan to pay off your debt over a period of three to five years. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your assets and property will be left alone, for the most part, making this option more popular with homeowners than Chapter 7. At the end of a period of time determined by the terms of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the remaining debts are forgiven. 

Seeking Help from a Professional

Filing for bankruptcy isn’t the sort of thing you should try to do alone, and it may not be the right decision at all for you. The most important first step you can take is to schedule a financial consultation with a good bankruptcy lawyer, whose job it is to educate you and help you make the best decisions possible regarding your financial future. A bankruptcy lawyer can assist you in understanding the consequences of bankruptcy, assessing your alternatives and reaching an informed conclusion as to how to manage your financial situation from there on out. 

Your financial situation now could very well influence the rest of your life, so it’s of the utmost importance to gain as much education as possible on how bankruptcy will change that situation before moving forward. Our government has laws in place to protect those who file for bankruptcy, but trying to navigate them on your own can be nearly impossible. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can help you make sense of the legal and financial jargon, getting you the best deal possible when it comes to the terms of your bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy lawyer may also be able to coach you through preserving some of your credit during the course of your filing and subsequent bankruptcy period. These professionals often have experience with money management techniques and debt relief strategies—use this experience to your benefit by inquiring about strategies you can use to quickly rebuild your credit after declaring bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy can be a scary, but necessary, decision you have to make to ensure a better financial future for yourself. Your damaged credit will not last forever, and in time you will be able to rebuild your score. You are taking a fresh step to a brighter financial future.

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