Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodby ING Direct, Hello Perkstreet Financial

Image representing PerkStreet Financial as dep...Image via CrunchBaseLike a lot of ING Direct customers I am very disappointed in the decision to sell the company to Capital One. Capital One is acquiring one of the finest banking companies on the web. I believe that Capital One will not keep the fine customer service and great fee structure that ING Direct delivered for so many years. It may be premature to abandon ship at so early a time but am not going to wait around and see what happens.

Without ING what are my alternatives. I need a bank with free checking and a free ATM. The ATM card must also let me use it for making charges. It also has to have a reward program.

The only bank that suits all those requirements is PerkStreet Financial. I have been using PerkStreet  Financial for a while and have found that it lives up to its claims.

What I like about PerkStreet is they have a 2% unlimited cash rebate on purchases for your first 3 months (and longer, if you maintain more than a $5,000 balance). If you keep less than $5,000 on hand, they will still give you 1% cash back after the initial offering.

The rest of the year they offer 5% (with a $250 annual limit) on various categories and retailers. Not bad for a checking account.

I also use the Chase Amazon Card which gives me 1% back on purchases and 3% when used at Amazon. Now I use the PerkStreet Debit MasterCard for more and more bill payments so I can add to my reward total.

I don't have direct deposit, so I use my other bank to transfer the cash to PerkStreet, all at no charge. I like to pay my utilities and repeating monthly bills through PerkStreet to also add to my cash back total.

It's very easy to apply for an account online and you can fund your account through your current bank account. You can sign up for an account today with the details below.



Improve your financial life with the PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard®. Save money, have fun and stay on budget with the only unlimited 2% cash back debit card. Don't miss out. Sign up today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Backlash to Capital One's Acquisition of ING Still Raging

Amsterdam Zuidoost, ING BuildingImage via WikipediaMany people may have not heard that Capital One has purchased online bank ING Direct for $9 billion . 

Under the terms of the deal, Netherlands-based ING Groep will receive $6.2 billion in cash and $2.8 billion in the form of Capital One shares. That will make ING the largest single shareholder in Capital One after the deal closes.

ING will also have the right to be represented by a member of Capital One's board of directors.

Capital One is best known for its portfolio of credit cards. But the company also has about 1,000 branches, mostly in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.


Acquisitions like this happen all the time but the reaction because of it has rarely been seen. Many social media sites like Facebook have seen the backlash first hand of customer complaints of this sale. In chat rooms, forums, and blogs ING customers are venting their frustration. Their reactions are almost like they have lost heir best friend. The amount of emotion and dejection is almost unheard of in this type of news. It only goes to show of how a company can find the needs of it's customers and successfully fulfill them. Thus creating happy customers and a prosperous company.

The reason for the sale of the company is European regulators, as a condition of financial assistance given to ING's Dutch parent company during the bank crisis, demanded that they sell off the ING Direct division of the company. ING Direct, headquartered in Wilmington, Del., offers savings accounts, checking accounts, mortgages and brokerage services to 7.7 million customers.

The problem many people have with the sale is that they are worried that ING's reputation, low fees, low maintenance, and great customer service would be thrown to the wayside because of the new ownership.

ING is so popular because they offer a basic savings account with no minimum balance and great interest rates. Combined with no monthly fee, customers have flocked to the bank and made it one of the most popular online banks. It has become the gold standard of online banks.

Thus lies the problem people have. Capital One's dismal reputation proceeds it. Capital One has a reputation of a terrible fee structure and poor customer support. ING customers know this and are rightly upset. They have enjoyed a great banking experience and now are worried it will all disappear. How many ING customers will leave the online bank, will be determined as time goes by.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Financial Literacy Out of Reach For The Ordinary Person?

Many college students have just recently completed college and have graduated. They have gained a vast knowledge of their chosen realm of study and are about to start their first job. They will be making more money than they ever have before in their young lives. Yet, for the most part will be completely ignorant about financial matters. 

These new graduates will be starting at their new jobs confused which investments are good for their 401(k) or how they should be paying back their student loans. After all that education they will be lost in all thing financial. So much time and money is spent on their chosen subject of study but almost no time is put into educating them about financial subjects.

It matters so much more these days that you know what your doing financially. Having to juggle credit card debt, student loan debt, and participation in a 401(k) can make someones head spin. Statistics show that this lack of knowledge has made them wholly unprepared for the future retirement.

Are financial subjects to complicated for us to be knowledgeable about? Yes, it is complicated for beginners, but it's something that can be learned over time. It is your responsibility to educate yourself. There can be no excuse to not learn how money works. There are many professionals who can help walk you through your financial life. Or if you are a do-it-yourself type you can educate yourself with many online services, books, and knowledgeable websites.

To get started on the financial journey I can recommend financial guru Dave Ramsey. He has a daily radio show and has written many books on financial success. He has created a plan for the average person he calls the "Baby Steps". These baby steps walk you through the process on step at a time. If done in order and correctly you will enjoy a great financial life.


Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps
  • Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund: Before you even get started on the rest of the plan, you need to save up a little bit of cash just in case small emergencies happen.
  • Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball: You list your debts from smallest to largest. Pay the minimums on all of your debts. With any leftover money you may have you pay extra on your smallest debt until it is paid off. You then roll that amount over to the next smallest debt.
  • Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings: Save up 3-6 months of expenses in case of extreme misfortune like a job loss, illness or other long term problem.
  • Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement: Save for your retirement.
  • Step 5 - College funding for children: After saving for retirement you can save for your children’s education and college expenses.
  • Step 6 – Pay off home early: Make extra payments on the mortgage to pay it off early.
  • Step 7 – Build wealth and give! (Invest in mutual funds and real estate): Continue building wealth through mutual funds and real estate, and give, give give!

These steps are the culmination of Dave Ramsey's 20 years experience in financial counseling. He has written many books on this subject, I recommend you read them.






Monday, June 27, 2011

The TV is Broken Should I Repair or Replace?

Plasma FlatImage via WikipediaThe picture on our TV went out the other day. The sound is OK, but no picture. The repair man came over and said it was a bad X-Sustain board. It would be only $350 to fix it. We spent $1100 for the 42" plasma TV 5 years ago. The question in my head is should we repair or replace the TV.

A new TV the same size could be purchased for $500 today. With the $150 difference from repairing it, I have decided to buy a new one. This decision was pretty easy to make because of the age of the TV and the probability of other things breaking on the set in the years to come.

Sometimes the decision to repair or replace is not so clear. I did have to give this one a little thought and a trip to the store convinced me that the TV's today cost 50% less than when I purchased my TV and the high cost of repair was not encouraging.

A few years ago My roof was in question. Should I repair a 30 year old roof or replace? The repair cost was 25% of the new roof cost. Also the maintenance on the old roof was high compared to the new roof which is negligible.

So how do you decide?

I put together a check list of common things that could be repaired or replace around your home.

Your Roof: 

There is a time in every roof’s life when it needs to be replaced. But, do you really need that new roof now? It’s a difficult decision given that a new roof can be costly. Just because the roof is leaking a bit does not necessary mean it needs a full replacement.

Replace it if:
  • It is 20 years old or more. The average roof life is 15 years.
  • There 1/3 or more of the shingles are damage, missing, cracked or curling.
  • You see sagging roof boards or mold in your attic.
  • It was significantly damaged by a storm. Your insurance may cover this
Repair it if:
  • You see minimal water damage in your home. Most water leaks can be repaired.
  • You are only missing a few shingles. Repairing a few shingles may only cost $75 – $250.
Your TV: 

It’s a sad day when the tube stops working. It’s usually very high on the list of priorities, but a decision has to be made to fix or replace first

Replace it if:
  • There is a recall for a defective TV. Sony is replacing certain models of their TVs for a great discount because they have defective parts.
  • It’s old. New technology is better than ever and has become more affordable. You will likely get a better TV at a lower price than your previous one.
  • The repair will cost more than half the price of a new TV.
Repair it if:
  • You bought the extended warranty.
  • It’s a really big expensive TV. It will not be easy to afford to replace this and will be worth the cost of a repair.
Your Business Copier:

 An office copier can be an expensive investment. What do you do when you your copy machine isn’t working properly.

Replace it if:
  • The cost of repairs over the last six months adds up to more than fifty percent of the cost of the copier.
  • It’s not reliable and you are losing money on your business without it.
  • Leasing a copier is cheaper than your monthly repair bills.
Repair it if:
  • Your warranty has not expired.
  • You can purchase the broken part on the cheap and replace it yourself.
  • It doesn’t break down very often.
Your Gutter System:

 Gutters carry out an important function for your home: Carrying water away. It’s important that they are functioning properly, so action needs to be taken when you notice something is wrong.

Replace it if:
  • You notice that the system is rusting out or the nails are pulling away from your home.
  • Water is pouring over even when the gutters are clear of debris. The system may be too small for your home.
Repair it if:
  • They simply need to be cleaned. Some gutters leak because they are full of leaves. Gutter cleaning only costs $150 to $300 per day.
  • Less than 2 or 3 sections are damaged.
Your Hardwood Floors:

 A hardwood floor can hold up for more than 100 years! Refinishing your hardwood floors can make them look like new again in most cases, but there are a few exceptions when you will need to replace them.

Replace them if:
  • You want a different grain or much lighter color.
  • There isn’t enough material left to refinish it again. It has been sanded many times and the nail heads are showing at the seams.
  • Water damage has caused the floors to warp or buckle.
  • They have very deep holes or cracks.
Repair (or refinish) them if:
  • There are scratches or traffic wear, but plenty of material left to sand.
  • You found them underneath your old carpet or vinyl floor. Old hardwood is very valuable and a refinish will take off any material left from the carpet or vinyl.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Use an Online Bank Instead of a Brick and Mortar Bank

Lincoln memorial cent, with the S mintmark of ...Image via WikipediaThe main reason people don't use an online bank is that they are afraid of losing control of their money. This is simply wrong. An online bank will give you the same or added control of you money. If you have made a purchase online you have used the same process that online banks use. 


A credit transaction is basically a money transfer you are responsible for. You trust your credit card company to complete the transfer of money to the online store so you will receive your purchase through the mail. The online banking system uses the same transfers and safety protocols that the credit card companies use.

Everyday when I go to work I pass by my bank. The only time I stop by is to use the ATM. My income is directly deposited into the bank weekly. I never go in the bank. Over the last 15 years I have used this bank I have gone in 3 times. It's not necessary. All my transactions are done by computer. I check my balance, deposits, and my online billpay on my computer at home. If I need checks, I order them online and they are delivered by mail. There is no reason to go to the bank for anything but my ATM use.

Benefits to Online Banking.
Interest on your account balance. The bulk of brick and mortar banks give little or no interest. Online banks give over 1% interest and even more on their CD's. When you don't have a physical building to maintain and pay for you have more money to pay interest and give rewards on checking accounts.

Automation for your finances.
Automation of your finances means using the banks online billpay services. These free services allow you to pay your bills with a few clicks of your mouse. Billpay does all the work when paying your bills online. It's easy to set up. You can set up billpay to pay your bills for any day or any month way in advance. You can even set up billpay to pay your bills a year in advance if you wish.

Automation of your saving.
Just like setting up your bills to be paid online, you can set up your saving to be automatic. Set a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly transfer of money to your savings account. You can even set up transfers to your stock and mutual fund accounts.

How to find an Online bank.

Google has an online comparison site that shows the details on different banking an saving accounts. Got to Google Comparison Savings Accounts to see what's available.

An online bank I use is PerkStreet Financial. PerkStreet Financial is the only checking account that has rewards for using your debit card. Customers have the choice of cash back, music downloads, or a free coffee. PerkStreets claim to fame is that just by using your debit card on just your normal purchases, you can easily earn $600 cash back every year.

Improve your financial life with the PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard®. Save money, have fun and stay on budget with the only unlimited 2% cash back debit card. Don't miss out. Sign up today.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Ways To Fight Those Overspending Bad Habits

Blueberry Papaya Cucumber Juice and Chocolate ...Image by Food Thinkers via FlickrYou have made up your mind to get out of debt. All your spending and expenses are laid out in you new budget. You are going to be different from almost half of all Americans who don't even have a budget. You have a plan.

The problem is old habits are hard to break. You used to be unorganized and didn't even know where all your money went. The reason for that was you were a splurger. You saw something you liked and you bought it. You didn't care about a budget or saving, you wanted it and you wanted it now.

The budget process is a lot like being on a weight loss plan. You plan to eat less and work out at the gym but that chocolate cake sure looks good. The temptation is very strong and it takes a consistent effort to not eat the cake. The same is true for your budget. Old temptations to buy something you know is not on the budget is an old habit that is hard to break. It is possible that you may never be free from the old habits, so you need to understand how and when these temptations come up and form a plan to avoid them.

Human behavior is a hard thing to change, so we have to set up roadblocks to this bad behavior. If we were on a diet we would not have a chocolate cake on the kitchen table, so also we must remove items that cause us to spend to much.

1. When making a large purchase, talk it over.
Before you go out and spend money on something talk it over with someone you respect. After talking it over with someone you may realize that you don't need to buy the item you want. You may see another or cheaper alternative to your need. Plus this delaying of the purchase may just put you off to it altogether.

2. Put an item in your budget for these splurge purchases.
It's you emergency cushion for slip-ups in your spending. Planning on your future mistakes will allow the mistake to not mess up the rest of your budget. If you don't mess up use this money as a reward for getting through he month successfully.

3. Stash your savings in penalty rich accounts.
Penalty rich accounts are accounts like Ira's or 401(K)'s where withdrawing from them trips a penalty and income tax payable. When you think about the money you will be losing upon withdrawal you will think twice about using it.

4. In your mind pretend you already own the item.
When in the store shopping you may see something you want to splurge on. You know you shouldn't, but you are going to anyway. Trick yourself by holding the item as you walk around the store. Soon the need to purchase the item will pass and you will put the item down.

5. Leave your money and credit cards at home when you are shopping.
When shopping just bring the cash you need to get the job done. You have physical removed the most important thing from the purchasing equation, your money. No money, no splurging. It may seem childish, but you are in a financial mess and drastic steps need to be taken.

Learn from your mistakes.
More people than ever are filing bankruptcies, don't be a part of that statistic. Be creative about fighting your spending issues. It's hard, but in the end it will be worth it.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Best Place For You To Work May Just Be Under Your Own Roof

Vacation HomeImage by Let Ideas Compete via FlickrThe traditional job market is expected to have slow growth for many years to come. This has forced many people to find work in the most unlikely place, their own home. There are indications that business are hiring, but they are hiring workers on a contract basis.

Let's face it,our slow economy is going to be slow for quite a while longer. Businesses are not hiring because they just don't have the work or just don't have the money to hire full time employees. Their only option is to hire part time, contract based employees.

The benefits of part time or contract workers to the employer are many. They don't have to pay for the usual expenses like health care, social security, 401(K)'s, and actual office space. Hiring outside help, is a big savings for the company.

The facts.
The facts are online employment middleman Elance is showing tremendous growth. The increase is 50% higher than last year. They have had over 48,000 jobs posted in the last 30 days.

There has been a reboot of the way companies hire people to do their work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 68% of hiring in 2010 was in the form of contract based freelancers.

This kind of freelance work is the bread and butter of the younger generation just entering the workforce. The freedom of working from home for multiple employers is highly appreciated.

Many people have pounded the pavement, sent out resumes, and have gone interviews only to be disappointed. Many of them should have stayed home and started a freelance business.

Many online sources can get you the work you have been looking for. With the expansion of the information age and telecomputing, you will never have to leave your home to go to work, again.
There are many sites to find work, but the biggest is Elance.com. There you will find work consisting of programming, designing, writing, marketing, administration, consulting, and finance. There are othe websites so search around to find the perfect job for yourself.

Some key skills are needed to make working from home a good experience:
  • Enjoy your work. If you don't love it, it will show.
  • Sure working from home has a lot of perks. But make sure you like the work you are doing. Do the thing that you are most qualified for otherwise you may tend to lose interest. 
  • Make sure you are educated with home tech. Like computers, fax machines, and printers

To make working at home easier you must have a basic knowledge of your computer and it's peripherals. Getting online and being able to cure a sick computer or business machine is a must.

Are you a self starter?
You have to be a self motivated person to work at home. You won't have someone looking over your shoulder every day.

Give your best effort.
You must always over deliver on your freelance work. Many times your work is given a score on free lance websites. A bad review may make you unhireable in the future.

The bad economy has caused a shifting in the standard job. The new norm is independent contractors and free lancers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top 10 Ways To Get Ready For Retirement

The seal of the United States Department of LaborImage via WikipediaAccording to the United States Department of Labor, less than half of all Americans have figured out how much they need to save for retirement. In 2009, 13 percent of private industry workers with access to a defined contribution plan (such as a 401(k) plan) did not participate. The average American spends 20 years in retirement.

1. Save early and often.
If your saving for retirement already, don't stop. If you haven't started yet, what are you waiting for, get going. The fundamental reason to start early is that it will have time to grow. Just putting money in an account isn't enough, the miracle of compounding will transform your weekly deposit into a large amount when it comes time to retire. It only works if you start early.

2. Know the amount you need to live on in retirement.
Retirement is not cheap. Experts say that you will need 70% of your pre-retirement income to maintain the same standard of living you enjoy now.

3. Participate in your retirement plan at work.
If your place of work has a matching 401(k), make sure you contribute all you can to it. The matching is free money in your pocket. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate.

4. Look into your employers pension plan at work.
If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit. Learn what benefits you may have from a previous employer. Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouse’s plan.

5. Educate yourself about basic investment knowledge.
Educate yourself about the different ways to save your money. Put your savings into different kinds of investments. Learn how diversification and why investing in different places helps your overall rate of savings. Learn about your plan’s investment options and ask questions. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

6. Do not touch your retirement savings.
If you withdraw from your savings early you will lose your principle, interest, and it's compounding power. You may even incur tax penalties for an early withdrawal.

7. Put money into an Individual Retirement Plan.
You can put up to $5000 per year into an IRA, when you are 50 or older you can put even more. When you open an IRA, you have two options – a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The tax treatment of your contributions and withdrawals will depend on which option you select. Also, the after-tax value of your withdrawal will depend on inflation and the type of IRA you choose. IRAs can provide an easy way to save. You can set it up so that an amount is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account and deposited in the IRA.

8. Find out about your future Social Security benefits.
Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You should receive a Social Security Statement each year that gives you an estimate of how much your benefit will be and when you can receive it. For more information, visit the Social Security Administration’s Web site or call 1.800.772.1213.

9. Ask lots of questions.
While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Talk to your employer, your bank, your union, or a financial adviser. Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers.

10. Check out these web sites for more information.

AARP
American Savings Education Council
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards
Consumer Federation of America
The Investor’s Clearinghouse
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

 


Monday, June 20, 2011

Do You Tip For A Job Well Done Or Out Of Guilt?

Terry's Coffee Shop in Brooklyn close to Marcy...Image via WikipediaWhen you leave a tip are you doing it for good service? Do you leave the same amount of tip even for bad service? I know I have. I have been told servers are paid a meager wage and the bulk of their income is depending on tips. I know it makes me feel a little guilty that I may be, short changing my server.

Even if I have gotten lousy service I can never work up the notion to stiff someone or leave a small tip. I guess some people are neurotic and need approval by leaving a decent tip. We don't want to be thought of as cheap. So out comes the cash.

Cornell professor Michael Lynn has found in 20 years of research, the main reason people tip is to avoid social disapproval.

What was a shocking fact was that the level of service has little to do with the amount of tip. He found out that the level of satisfaction was influencing only four percent on the decision of how much to tip. Also that our willingness to tip regardless of service was because of a sense that the customer is in a better position financially than the server and wishes to avoid the servers envy. Thus a tip is a payment to reduce that envy, says Professor Lynn. Also that the tip is a way to say, sorry that you have to serve me.

Tipping is a cost of being served

If you think about the pay structure of service people, you will see that tipping is sometimes their only payment for services. Tipping is expected. If restaurants paid the servers a living wage, then the restaurant owner would pass that expense down to you. You would be paying the tip in another form.

Tipping experts say that you should pay a server 15 percent for adequate service and 20 percent for very good service. For poor service you still pay ten percent. Remember that the servers have to pass on some of their tips to the busboys, bartenders, and hostess. Punishing the server, only punishes the others to.

You might think of the waitress, too. It's possible, just possible, the poor service you received was not really her fault. Maybe the kitchen was backed up or she was given too many tables to cover.

If you want to help cure bad service, rather than skip the tip, speak to the manager about the server's behavior or about what was wrong with your dinner.

What about the tip jar?

When you see a tip jar you can feel free not put anything in it. The tip jar is just a way to make you feel guilty by putting it in the open and everyone watch what you put in it. Starbucks, day care, convenience stores, and ice cream stands are not supposed to be tipped. It is optional, if you feel so motivated, put something in.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers Day Is About Family

Today Is the day we take the time to recognize the fathers in our lives. According to the U.S. Census, almost one out of every three children in our country grow up without their father. When dads are not around to support, families and children can be impacted as a result.

Being a father is about making a conscious decision to be a part of your child's life. Easier said than done.

How do you be a good father? The easiest way to answer that question for me is to look at my own father. He is my role model for a good father. He went to work everyday, he supported our financial needs, and he was there when we laughed and when we cryed. If you can do that, your a good father.

Today's fathers have a lot more to deal with concerning their children and todays issues. But the basics still hold true. Being in your child's life when the tough times come won't cure every woe, but your child needs someone to count and lean on when times are tough.

Fathers Day is the day we take the time to show appreciation and gratitude for our fathers. But as a father, inside my heart, I will be feeling appreciation and gratitude for my family. I am the lucky one.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

5 Reasons To Stay Put For Retirement


This is a guest post by Claes Bell who writes for Bankrate.com


It's an idea firmly enshrined in American culture: No retirement is complete without a move to a sunny local primarily inhabited by fellow retirees. After years of work, the thinking goes, retired folks deserve a permanent vacation in a glamorous, sunny locale, preferably near a beach or golf course.

According to a survey commissioned by Del Webb, a retirement community builder, 42 percent of those who turned 50 in 2010 planned on moving for retirement.

But as a Florida resident, I can say with some certainty that when it comes to retirement paradise, reality often comes up short. Years of reading newspaper articles about retired transplants being abused in crooked retirement homes, targeted by fraudsters and trapped in their condos for days on end after hurricanes have left me jaded on the idea of a retirement paradise.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I believe South Florida is a particularly bad place to retire. Every place presents its challenges for the elderly. What I find fault with is the idea of picking up and moving away for retirement in the first place. Here are five reasons why.

1. What's good for a 65-year-old isn't always great for an 80-year-old. A lot of the problem with the idea of an ideal retirement community comes down to the fact that retirement lasts a long time and so encompasses a lot of physical and financial changes. A place that's awesome for an active, fit 65-year-old who can mow the yard and drive can sometimes be terrible for a 75- or 80-year-old who finds themselves unable to do either.

2. Moving doesn't guarantee a better cost of living over time. It seems like for a lot of folks, the idea behind making the big move is to find a place with a lower cost of living to help stretch your retirement dollars. The problem is, you get enough retirees moving in to an area, and suddenly, the cost of living can rise sharply. Take South Florida, for instance. Between 2002 and 2010, the Consumer Price Index for the U.S. rose 21 percent; in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, it rose more than 27 percent.

3. Real estate is tricky. For many years, the general consensus was selling your home and buying a cheaper place in a retirement haven in the Sun Belt was a financially savvy move. Not only could you cash out the equity in your old place to fund your retirement, you could also buy a new property with a good chance of appreciating. But as we saw during the housing bubble, housing prices in retirement destinations can be especially volatile. Having my retirement plans hinge on selling my home and having cash to spare no longer seems like a great idea, but even worse is the prospect of buying a dream retirement home only to see the value tank and my net worth crumble.

4. Retirement is a terrible time to leave your support network. A change of scenery may sound appealing for a lot of people who've spent the last few decades living and working around the same old friends and family. But the physical limitations and medical issues that come with old age seem likely to make people more in need of support from able-bodied friends and family, not less. This fact was underscored for me recently, when my wife's grandmother suffered through some serious medical issues lately. The fact that she has a strong support network hasn't just made taking care of her home and getting to doctor's appointments easier, it's also probably saved her life on a couple of occasions.

5. "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." Just because I love visiting a place doesn't mean I'll get the same enjoyment out of it after five or 10 years. If I like a place, I'll consider making an annual vacation of it, rather than trying to live there permanently. That way, if I get sick of it, I can just stop going; no real estate agents, movers or mortgage brokers required.

Maybe by the time I'm up for retirement, I'll feel differently. But If I do end up moving, I'll try to target a small, easy-to-maintain condo in a city with really good public transportation, preferably well north of the Sun Belt. That way, being able to maintain a house or drive a car won't be preconditions for me to be able to live on my own. Sunshine may be sweet, but independent living for as long as possible is sweeter.


Claes Bell has covered banking, autos and a variety of personal finance topics for Bankrate.com since 2006. He blogs on autos, banking and CD rates. Contact Claes on twitter, his handle is @claesBell. 



Friday, June 17, 2011

PerkStreet Financial & Ally Bank: Who's Got The Better Checking Account

If you look on any personal finance website you will see ads for PerkStreet Financial and Ally Bank. Each have much to offer, each have free accounts, and each are easy to use. Let's see what each one has to offer.

PerkStreet Financial


PerkStreet Financial is the only checking account that has rewards for using your debit card. Customers have the choice of cash back, music downloads, or a free coffee.PerkStreets claim to fame is that just by using your debit card on just your normal purchases, you can easily earn $600 cash back every year.


How to make deposits with Perkstreet:
  • Regular mail: Using a postage-paid envelopes.
  • Free overnight delivery: Send your checks overnight for free from 3,400 UPS Stores and Mailboxes Etc. locations nationwide (get a tracking number to ensure delivery).
  • Direct deposit: Sign up for direct deposit with your employer and have all or a portion of your paycheck deposited into your account automatically.
  • Online transfers: Move money easily between your PerkStreet account and outside accounts.
  • MoneyGram® ExpressPayment: Deposit cash free at 18,000 locations nationwide, including Wal-Mart stores. You’ll need some specific information from Perkstreet to use this deposit method.
How to withdraw money

You can withdraw money without a charge at one of 37,000 ATMs within the STAR®surcharge-free network or at any merchant that offers cash back with purchases such as grocery stores or department stores like Walmart or Target. You may also use ATMs outside of the network but you’ll pay a $2 fee plus any fee the ATM owner may charge.

Another benefit of opening a PerkStreet Financial Checking account is that they don't do a credit check on you. If you ever have walked away from overdraft charges and your old bank, you know any other bank won't give you a checking account because they do a credit check.

Other exciting services are about to come out at PerkStreet.

  • Increasing the amount of cash back they can earn;
  • Connecting with an expanded community to share secrets for saving;
  • Accessing an expanded set of financial services from PerkStreet (To the thousands of customers who have asked for savings accounts — we hear you!);
  • Using a groundbreaking set of online tools to identify additional ways to save and reach financial goals faster.

    Sign up today for one of the most rewarding checking accounts and get the 
    PerkStreet Financial Debit MasterCard® - the debit card that helps you get debt free. It gives you 5% cash back on certain categories and 2% on everything else.

    Ally Bank

    Instead of a rewards plan Ally Bank offers interest on your balance. The details of their checking account:

    • $0 monthly fee
    • $0 to open and no minimum balance – you can open it today and begin using it when you want
    • Free checks
    • No ATM fees at any ATM
    • Variable rate account where balances $15,000 or more get an even higher rate
    • Ally Bank has a nice feature for people who have trouble with overdrafts. If you set up an Ally Bank On-line Savings account and link it to your Interest Checking Account, every time you go into over draft Ally will transfer the funds to cover the overdraft all at no charge. The amount of money you will save on fees is tremendous. Other banks normally charge you for this service.
    How Do I Make Deposits?
    • Ally has something called eCheck Deposit, you simply scan your check and transmit it to Ally Bank. 
    • Send a check using special prepaid envelopes made avaiable by Ally Bank.
    • Move funds between accounts at other banks to your Ally Bank account.
    • Set up Direct Deposit for your payroll check.
    • Use a wire transfer at no charge.
    How Do I Withdraw Money From Ally Bank?

    You can use any ATM in the nation and you will not be charged. And if you are charged, ALLY will reimburse you. They have more than 400,000 ATM locations and when you use your debit card you can receive cash back.

    To open a ALLY Checking Account Click Here.



    What's The Verdict? ALLY or PerkStreet?

    If you don't want to bother with cashback go with ALLY. They give you interst ony your balance with no hassle. If you want cashback then PerkStreet Financial is the way to go. If you only have a small amount of money to use in these accounts, you results will not be great. But if you depositing at least $50,000 or more through your account then you will see some cashback money when using PerkStreet.



    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    What's Your Greatest Asset? - It's Not What You Think

    This is the internationally recognized symbol ...Image via WikipediaYour dreams of owning a house, sending your kids to college, and saving for retirement are based on you having a long and fruitful working life. Your income and your ability to produce income is critical to making your dreams come true. Then why is it when the nonprofit Life Foundation conducted a survey asking "What was your greatest asset?", only one in six working Americans (16%) said their paycheck was.

    Think about what would happen if tomorrow you became sick or injured and could not work. Your inability to work would be devastating to your life and your families.

    If a 25 year old worker that earned $50,000 a year, were hurt or disabled, that worker would lose $3.8 million in future earnings. Yet fewer than one in three workers in the private sector have long-term disability coverage through work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

    “Most people don’t realize that they have a three in 10 chance of suffering a disabling illness or injury that could keep them out of work for three months or more,” said Marvin H. Feldman, President and CEO of the LIFE Foundation.

    What we forget to insure is our greatest asset, our income. Disability Insurance makes sure that financial hardship doesn’t follow the physical and emotional toll that comes along with disability. When you think about it, your most valuable asset isn’t your home, car or jewelry. It’s what allows you to pay for all these things—it is your paycheck.

    How Much Does it Cost?

    • Expect to pay between 1 percent and 3 percent of your annual salary for a good disability plan, according to DisabilityQuotes.com. That works out to $600-$1,800 for someone earning $60,000 a year.
    • Disability insurance provides income to help pay your living expenses if you are unable to work for a significant length of time because of injury or illness. Generally benefit payments are 60 percent of your total salary.
    • Short-term disability polices have a waiting period of 0-14 days and pay benefits for no more than two years. Long-term disability policies usually have a waiting period of several weeks to several months and benefits could be paid a few years up to the rest of your life, depending on the policy terms.
    • States such as Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island requires employers to provide disability benefits for up to 26 weeks, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some employers provide short-term disability insurance, although often the employees have to pay the premiums.


    Discounts:
    • Premiums are lower for policies with a longer waiting period before benefits begin and/or a shorter benefit period.

    Shopping for disability insurance:
    • The Federal Citizen Information Center gives a detailed overview of long term disability insurance, listing common terms and tips for buying.
    • Insurance4USA.com provides online quotes.
    • Your state insurance department can give you a list of registered disability insurance companies in your area. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners gives links to these state offices and has a database to search for financial details and complaint histories for specific companies.

    Remember Disability Insurance will cost more than life insurance. Statistically you're more likely to file a claim for disability insurance than life insurance. Depending on the type of work you do, the rates will vary. The costs will vary greatly depending if you sit at a desk all day or work construction.


    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Medical Issues Can Ruin Good Credit

    This is a guest post by Ed O’Brien. This is his third time writing for 50PlusFinance and we always appreciate his insightful perspective.

    Many people mistakenly believe that paying doctor and hospital bills is not as important as paying other expenses. However, medical bills are typically reported to the credit bureaus just like any other debt. Unpaid medical debts can cause big problems in your financial life very quickly. Plus the stress of debt on top of poor health can be a dangerous combination.

    Medical Bills Matter
    Doctors and hospitals will report unpaid bills on your credit report which leaves black marks against your good credit. Unfortunately because medical bills will often pop up unexpectedly and can get quite expensive, debt can easily start spinning out of control. Add to the situation your inability to work and earn and income and a life-long struggle may be ahead to get back on financial track.

    Consider also that medical debts you are not paying may eventually go to a debt collector who will be more aggressive in collection efforts and also add black marks to your credit score. Even with insurance, medical costs are high these days and are projected to only go higher in the future.

    Staying Above Water with Medical Costs
    In order to avoid major debts heading into your retirement years, it is better to prepare for the unexpected as soon as possible. The more you prioritize your plans for what may happen in the future, the more you are able to safely navigate the financial waters when your health makes a turn for the worse.

    Here are some ways to get yourself in order before something should go wrong:

    Understand Insurance Coverage
    Most people will chose insurance coverage based more on price than benefits. Others who receive affordable insurance through their employers often have no clue what they even have. It is important for you to understand what kind of benefits you are paying for long before something happens. You will likely make wrong decisions concerning your health and treatment when you remain unsure about the financial side of things. Review your policy information and contact the insurance company for explanations on anything you don’t understand.

    Contribute to an Emergency Fund

    Financial experts urge consumers to sock away between 6-12 months worth of living expenses in a good interest-earning account. This money should be allowed to earn interest and should only be used during times of true emergencies, including health concerns. If you can’t work due to a work injury or medical illness, an emergency account may be your only viable resource. Contribute to the account monthly. You may even consider setting up automated deposits from your payroll department. What you do actually see will likely not be missed. It will allow you to build a significant stash of cash for when you need it.

    Live a Better Life
    Many health conditions that break us are actually of the preventable variety. Eating better and getting regular exercise is important. Sedentary lifestyles can trigger all kinds of expensive medical conditions including unhealthy weight, high blood pressure, depression, and heart problems among many other things.

    Organize Your Life
    If medical treatment requires you to be treated in a hospital for a period of time, other people will be relied on to get your important documents the hospital might need. Always keep relevant health information, including updated health insurance policy information in an accessible and clearly marked folder for easy retrieval.

    Ask for Assistance
    If you anticipate having issues paying your medical bills even if you have insurance, it is wise to contact your medical provider’s office right away and keep them informed of what is going on with your situation. Many will work with you on new payment arrangements that will keep you out of collections until the debt is satisfied. If you do not communicate, your bill will likely be expedited to the collection agency.

    If you don’t have insurance or have a co-pay you can’t afford, speak with the medical provider’s office on the day of your visit and explain the situation. Many times doctors will allow for discounts or will waive service fees for their loyal patients. The worst that can happen is they turn you down with a ‘no’. At least you tried all available resources to save money.

    Ed O’Brien is a seasoned writer in personal finance, specializing in credit repair. You can find more of his articles located at CreditRepair.org.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Push the Easy Button For Brokerage Account Shopping

    Image representing Bankrate as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBaseToday we have a lot of choices where we invest. Whether it's at work with a 401(K), local brokerage, IRA'S or online brokers. Even if you do it yourself and your happy with your broker it always is smart to see what the competition is offering, you may get a better deal and save money.

    Bankrate.com just made it easier for you to compare brokerage deals.

    You can now compare trading brokerage accounts for free at Bankrate, pitting one companies’ costs and features against another. At a glance, you can see each broker’s:

    · Commissions, whether online, phone assisted or broker assisted.
    · Initial deposit requirements.
    · Maintenance fees.
    · Balance to avoid.
    · Services and features description.

    With big name brokers like ING Direct, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, Merrill Edge and Zecco holdings, you’re just a few clicks away from trading online.



    Click here to go to Bankrate.com and check out the Brokerage Account Shopping.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Google Wallet - A Credit Card In Your Phone

    Different customer loyality cards (airlines, c...Image via WikipediaGoogle, Inc. has debuted an new application called "Google Wallet". This application allows consumers to use their phones to pay for products and services. It would eliminate the use of credit or debit cards. Google Wallet is set to launch this summer and allow the company to join in on the lucrative business of digital credit cards.

    All the major cell phone manufacturers are rolling out new handsets that will include the electronics to allow you to pay for groceries, movie tickets, and restaurants by a simple wave of your phone over a digital sensor.

    Google is jumping in on this technology with both feet because the profits from handling credit transaction will be a big profit center for the company. Add to that the growing world of local offers and coupons. Services like Groupon and local coupon companies will have a better way to link their products to consumers. Businesses will be well poised to link purchases, digital coupons, and location based advertising to everyone with a smart-phone.

    Google said by 2014, it expects purchases made on smart-phones to quadruple to $630 billion dollars. Don't feel bad for Visa and MasterCard, they still will process about $6 trillion worth of credit card transactions annually. But I wouldn't be surprised that they are looking over their shoulder to see an approaching competitor where there wasn't one before.

    The way the phone works is that they have something called near-field communication (NFC). This is a radio technology that allows phones to talk to credit card terminals. Using built-in microchips, the phones can conduct digital conversations with credit card reading devices. The phones will allow consumers to use coupons or loyalty cards, pay for goods and receive a digital receipt all within a few seconds.

    Thanks to this new service Google will streamline the whole consumer point-of-sale process. The process should benefit the consumer. What's the positives and negatives to this new product.

    Positives

    • This system carried out further would just about eliminate your purse or wallet completely. No need to carry anything but your phone to go shopping. Why not digitally store your drivers license, AAA card, and health insurance card all in your phone.
    • Your coupons and loyalty cards could all be in your phone, eliminating the need to carry those things around.

    Negatives

    • Google will have your shopping information. Along with your location where you shop. Plus the frequency and time. They will know all your purchases no matter where or when they occur. Whatever you purchase, they will know.
    • What if your phone is lost or stolen. You can't do your shopping, you will have to have a credit card or cash as a backup.
    • If your battery dies your stranded with no way to pay.

    This new technology will take a while to catch on. It seems like just a more difficult way to perform a simple task. Credit cards are just a piece of plastic with a magnetic strip on the back, real simple. It reminds me of the same battle 3-D TV still has, finding  a way to be as easy to watch as regular TV. Sometimes new tech just makes things more complicated.




    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - What Does It Do? Will It Work?

    Spec Assistant to the President, Elizabeth WarrenImage by mdfriendofhillary via FlickrThis week the White House hosted a summit of financial writers and editors at the White House. This event gave 2 dozen financial journalists access to top Obama administration officials. The President even stopped by to give his views on his personal finance beliefs and a brief Q&A.

    The meeting centered on the debt ceiling, the housing crisis and the job market. One of the focuses of the current administration is financial education. The recession has brought to the forefront the need for public education and protection from potentially damaging investment products.

    President Obama, early in his term, assigned Elizabeth Warren as head of a new federal agency called the "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau"(CFPB). The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act) established the consumer bureau. Since then, from scratch, she has been trying to lay out how the agency will function and what it will try to accomplish.

    She described the CFPB's key principles as ensuring that when using financial products:
    • Prices are clear.
    • Risks are clear.
    • The ability to compare like products is relatively easy.
    If the agency can achieve that, then consumers can ask two key questions:
    • Can I afford this product?
    • Is it the best deal I can get?
    The result of all this, Warren says, is a competitive marketplace -- which should be good for both consumers and businesses. She compares the CFPB with the FDA. Just as the FDA doesn't allow inferior medical products to be sold to the public, the CFPB will see to it that consumers are able to differentiate between good, safe loans and deceptive loans that charge lower prices by burying risk in the fine print. The agency aims to work with consumers and lenders to ensure that financial contracts are understandable, so that markets can work better.

    The CFPB has it's own website at www.consumerfinance.gov. There they state the central Mission of the CFPB:
    "The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products."

    The 3 goals of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are:

    Educate.

    An informed consumer is the first line of defense against abusive practices. The CFPB will work to promote financial education.

    Enforce.

    Like a neighborhood cop on the beat, the CFPB will supervise banks, credit unions, and financial companies, and it will enforce Federal consumer financial laws.

    Study.

    The consumer bureau will gather and analyze available information to better understand consumers, financial services providers, and consumer financial markets. 

    This new agency will take over all the functions from government agencies that used to perform this function before. The agency that did most of these functions before was the Federal Trade Commission(FTC). Their work in financial consumer protection will shut down and move to the CFPB.

    Others include:

    Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
    Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS)
    National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
    US Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD)
    Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
    The Federal Reserve System

    When it's all said and done the CFPB will be a a regulatory agency with unprecedented powers with a broad reach across industries. We will have to wait and see how it will affect consumers and business. But we can be sure that the CFPB will do 3 things:

    1. Consumers will be able to finally read the financial disclosure documents on their financial products. Whether it be credit card or mortgages, the terms and conditions will be in clear, easy-to-understand terms that allow consumers to compare offers.
    2. The CFPB will examine consumer financial products, not the industries themselves. Previously, regulatory industry's were structured by individual industrys, now they will all be under one roof and the industry the product comes from will not be scrutinized, just the product.
    3. Create a transparency on how credit scores affect the terms and conditions of the financial product like mortgages and credit cards. Lenders are required to disclose a score they used in all risk-based pricing notices and adverse action notices beginning July 21, 2011.

    The future role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will something to keep an eye on. 

    Here's a video about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:


    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Fraud Alert - A Few Things to Watch Out For When Refinancing your Mortgage

    With the recent economic meltdown, millions of people become victims of financial instability across the globe. People have been literally forced into debts and their financial lives have got stuck in the debt mire. Mortgage refinancing can save you from this danger. However, people who are carrying outstanding debt balance, their thought process often get paralyzed and desperation overrides good judgment. As a result, mortgage refinancing scams often take advantage of their desperate situation and put them into further debts. You must have heard the question "mortgage how much can I borrow", well, it is the most crucial question in the current scenario and you should be ready with the answer of this question in order to prevent yourself from mortgage refinancing scams. As, most mortgage refinancing scams are linked with home equity if you don’t pay enough attention to the refinancing procedure of mortgage you might run the risk of loosing your home in future. Read on to know about the most common mortgage refinancing scams and stay away from them in future.

    Loan Application

    • Mortgage refinancing scammers usually target consumers who have low incomes or bad credit rating or who rushes into signing the mortgage deal without being aware of its consequences. The most common mortgage refinancing scam comes through the application form you send in to a mortgage company. Sometimes, you are encouraged by the refinancing company to write down higher incomes than what you actually make, in order to get the loan amount sanctioned. Such unethical practice can lead you to loose your home because you won’t able to afford the high monthly charges on a month to month basis. As you have declared a higher income amount, you might have to pay different loan amount and rates based on what you declared. Remember, if you put on paper something that you do not really have, it is you who will end up paying for it as the application form does not count. 

    Balloon Payment
    • Another notorious mortgage refinancing scam is associated with the balloon payment. These Loans are used when an individual is no longer able to pay a mortgage. When you face a mortgage foreclosure you no longer think prudently and a scam lender take advantage of this to make his way to profits. He pretend to be compassionate individual offering mortgage refinancing and lower monthly payments to save you from foreclosure but the actual story is quite different. All you repay each month is the interest fee only and the principal amount is in store which you remain obligated to pay at the end of the loan term. It is referred to as a balloon payment and such refinancing scam is pretty hard to spot. If you fail to pay this amount within a stipulated period of time, you end up losing your home.

    Many individuals are there who have been hit by mortgage refinancing scams. Stay alert, go through the mortgage deal thoroughly before signing it and evade falling into such scam traps in future.

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