Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough

Anna’s email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.

“Farnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,” the 32-year-old wrote. “My issue is that I make too much of it.”

Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.

Here’s what I learned through our conversation:

The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Anna’s also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.

After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.

The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.

Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. It’s a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Anna’s initial 20% down payment).

So, what is the problem, exactly?

“My big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,” Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.

“When I see money in my bank account I rationalize that ‘yea, that vacation is doable. I don’t hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,’” she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.

Anna’s situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.

I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.

Here’s my advice.

Take a Deep Breath

No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Anna’s prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. That’s terrific.

Sometimes we just want to hear that we’re on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:

If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, you’re entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?

If you’ve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then don’t hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.

Ditch Your Money Managers

I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.

Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Anna’s balance of $800,000, that’s $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.

That doesn’t even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund that’s in her portfolio.

If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.

Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. It’s especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to “father figures.”

If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservative with my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, I’ve decided to manage my money more independently. I’m sure you can understand. I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”

Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.  Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!

Establish Short and Long Term Goals

Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.

For example, she shared that she’d like to get married, have a family and own two homes – one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.

So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.

Next time she’s planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially “doable” by the amount of money in her bank account. Now she’ll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.

Contribute to a Cause

Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If she’s seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that you’re passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will?

A will is notarized

A will is an important part of your financial plan. When you create a will and testament, you’re creating a legal document that determines how your assets will be distributed once you pass away. You can also use a will to name legal guardians for minor children. When making a will and testament, it’s important to follow the rules in your state to ensure the will is valid. One of those rules centers on the requirements for witnesses. For more guidance on the intricacies of wills and estate planning, consider enlisting the services of an expert financial advisor.

Why Wills Need to Be Witnessed

A will is a legal document but in order for it to be binding, there are certain requirements that need to be met. For instance, although state laws regarding wills vary, states generally require you to be of legal adult age to make a will. You must also have testamentary capacity, meaning you:

  • Must understand the extent and value of the property you’re including in the will
  • Are aware that you’re making a will to decide who will inherit your assets
  • Aren’t acting under duress in making the will

Having someone witness your will matters in case questions are raised over its validity later or there is a will contest. For example, if one of your heirs challenges the terms of your will a witness may be called upon in court to attest that they watched you sign the will and that you appeared to be of sound mind when you did so.

In other words, witnesses add another layer of validity to a will. If all the people who witnessed the signing of a will are in agreement about your intent and mental state when you made it, then it becomes harder for someone else to dispute its legality.

Who Can Witness a Will?

When drafting a will, it’s important to understand several requirements, including who can serve as a witness. Generally, anyone can witness a will as long as they meet two requirements:

  • They’re of legal adult age (i.e. 18 or 19 in certain states)
  • They don’t have a direct interest in the will

The kinds of people who could witness a will for you include:

  • Friends who are not set to receive anything from your estate
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Relatives who are not included in your will, such as cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.
  • Your doctor

If you’ve hired an attorney to help you draft your will, they could also act as a witness as long as they’re not named as a beneficiary. An attorney who’s also acting as the executor of the will, meaning the person who oversees the process of distributing your assets and paying off any outstanding debts owed by your estate, can witness a will.

Who Cannot Witness a Will?

Two minors looking out a windowStates generally prohibit you from choosing people who stand to benefit from your will as witnesses. So for example, if you’re drafting a will that leaves assets to your spouse, children, siblings or parents, none of them would be able to witness the will’s signing since they all have an interest in the will’s terms. Will-making rules can also exclude relatives or spouses of any of your beneficiaries. For instance, say you plan to leave money in your will to your sister and her husband with the sister being the executor. Your sister can’t be a witness to the will since she’s a direct beneficiary. And since her husband has an indirect interest in the terms of the will through her, he wouldn’t qualify as a witness either.

But married couples can witness a will together, as long as they don’t have an interest in it. So, you could ask the couple that lives next door to you or a couple you know at work to act as witnesses to your will.

You may also run into challenges if you’re asking someone who has a mental impairment or a visual impairment to witness your will. State will laws generally require that the persons witnessing a will be able to see the document clearly and have the mental capacity to understand what their responsibilities are as a witness.

Note that the witnesses don’t need to read the entire will document to sign it. But they do need to be able to verify that the document exists, that you’ve signed it in their presence and that they’ve signed it in front of you.

How to Choose Witnesses for a Will

If you’re in the process of drafting a will, it’s important to give some thought to who you’ll ask to witness it. It may help to make two lists: one of the potential candidates who can witness a will and another of the people who cannot act as witnesses because they have an interest in the will.

You should have at least two people who are willing to witness your will signing. This is the minimum number of witnesses required by state will-making laws. Generally, the people you choose should be:

  • Responsible and trustworthy
  • Age 18 or older
  • Younger than you (to avoid challenges presented if a witness passes away)
  • Free of any interest in the will, either directly or indirectly
  • Willing to testify to the will’s validity if it’s ever challenged

When it’s time to sign the will, you’ll need to bring both of your witnesses together at the same time. You’ll need to sign, initial and date the will in ink, then have your witnesses do the same. You may also choose to attach a self-proving affidavit or have the will notarized in front of the witnesses.

A self-proving affidavit is a statement that attests to the validity of the will. If you include this statement, then you and your witnesses must sign and date it as well. Once the will is signed and deemed valid, store it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box. You may also want to make a copy for your attorney to keep in case the original will is damaged or destroyed.

The Bottom Line

A last will and testamentMaking a will can be a fairly simple task if you don’t have a complicated estate; it can even be done online in some situations. If you have significant assets to distribute to your beneficiaries or you need to make arrangements for the care of minor children, talking with an estate planning attorney can help you shape your will accordingly. Choosing witnesses to your will is the final piece of the puzzle in ensuring that it’s signed and legally valid.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about will-making, trusts and how to create a financial legacy for your loved ones. If you don’t have a financial advisor, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area in just a few minutes. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • A will is just one document you can include in your estate plan. You may also opt to establish a living trust to manage assets on behalf of your beneficiaries, set up a durable power of attorney and create an advance healthcare directive. A trust can help you avoid probate while potentially minimizing estate taxes.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/djedzura, ©iStock.com/SanyaSM, ©iStock.com/Spanic

The post Who Can and Cannot Witness a Will? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How to Request Debt Validation from Debt Collectors

Under the FDCPA, you have the right to “debt validation“. This means a consumer can demand that a creditor reporting information to the credit bureaus prove the account is really your responsibility and that the…

The post How to Request Debt Validation from Debt Collectors appeared first on Crediful.

Source: crediful.com

What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit?

If you have bad credit and need a car loan, there are some challenges when compared to obtaining a standard car loan. However, pick your head up because there are a handful of great lenders that specifically tailor their programs to people with bad credit. We researched the landscape of lenders that can help you get a car loan even if you have a below-average credit score.

Based on our study, OneMain Financial and LightStream are two of the top lenders offering bad credit card loans. This is due to factors including loan options, requirements to qualify, and interest rates offered. Of course, we offer in-depth reviews of all the top lenders who offer bad credit car loans further down in this piece.

Apply now with our top pick: OneMain Financial

In this guide we also help you understand the factors that go into selecting the right auto lender, and how to get the best rate you can.

Most Important Factors for Bad Credit Car Loans

If you’re in the market for a bad credit car loan, there are a plethora of factors to consider and compare. Here are the main loan details we looked at in our study, and the ones you should prioritize as you select the best car loan for your needs.

  • Check your credit score. And understand what is in your credit report.
  • FICO scores under 579 is considered ‘poor’. But you may need a bad credit loan with a score as high as 669.
  • Interest rates and fees matter. These can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month.
  • Compare loan terms. Consider your repayment timeline and compare lenders with this in mind.
  • Getting prequalified online can help. Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
  • Watch out for loan restrictions. Some lenders impose restrictions on what car you can purchase. Keep this in mind to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

The Best Bad Credit Car Loans of 2021

The best bad credit car loans make it easy for consumers to qualify for the financing they need. The following lenders made our list due to their superior loan offerings, excellent customer service, and reputation in this industry.

Car Loan Company Best For… Get Started
onemain financial bad credit car loan Best for Flexibility Apply Now
bad credit car loan upgrade Best Personal Loan Option Apply Now
autocreditexpress logo Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit Apply Now
myautoloan bad credit car loan logo Best Loan Comparison Site Apply Now
capitalone logo Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit Apply Now
lightstream logo Best for Fast Funding Apply Now

Why Some Lenders Didn’t Make the Cut

While the lenders we are profiling are the best of the best, there are plenty of bad credit car loans that didn’t quite make the cut. We didn’t include any lenders that only offer auto loan refinancing, for example, since we know many people need a car loan in order to purchase a new or used car or truck. We also stayed away from bad credit car loans that charge outrageous fees for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Bad Credit Auto Loan Reviews

We listed the top companies we selected in our study above, but we also aim to provide readers with more insights and details on each. The reviews below highlight the highlights of each lender that made our list, plus our take on who they might be best for.

OneMain Financial: Best for Flexibility

OneMain Financial offers personal loans and auto loans with interest rates that range from 18.00% to 35.99%. You can repay your auto loan in 24, 36, 48, or 60 months, and you can use this lender to borrow up to $20,000 for a new or used car. You can apply for your auto loan online and from the comfort of your own home, and it’s possible to get approved within a matter of minutes.

While OneMain Financial doesn’t list a minimum credit score requirement, it’s believed they will approve consumers with scores as low as 600. You should also note that auto loans from OneMain Financial come with an origination fee of up to 5% of your loan amount.

Sign Up With OneMain Financial Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: OneMain Financial offers a lot of flexibility in terms of your loan terms, including the option to repay your auto loan over five years. OneMain Financial also has pretty decent reviews from users for a bad credit lender, and they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: OneMain Financial charges some pretty high rates for its bad credit loans, and don’t forget that you may need to pay an origination fee that is up to 5% of your loan amount. Their loans are also capped at $20,000, which means this lender won’t work for everyone.

Who It’s Best For: This lender is best for consumers with really poor credit who need auto financing but can’t get approved for a better loan.

Upgrade: Best Personal Loan Option

Upgrade is an online lender that offers personal loans with fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments, and a fixed repayment timeline. You can borrow up to $50,000 in an unsecured loan, which means you won’t actually use the car you purchase as collateral for the loan.

You can repay the money you borrow over 36 to 60 months, which makes it possible for you to tweak your loan offer to secure a monthly payment you can afford. Upgrade has a minimum credit score requirement of 620 to qualify, although they’ll consider additional factors such as your income and employment history.

Sign Up With Upgrade Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Upgrade lets you “check your rate” online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it easy to shop around and compare this loan offer to others without having to fill out a full loan application. Also note that Upgrade has an A+ rating with the BBB.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Upgrade charges APRs as high as 35.89% for consumers with the worst credit, and an origination fee of up to 6% of your loan amount might also apply.

Who It’s Best For: Upgrade is best for consumers with decent credit who need to borrow a larger loan amount. This loan is also best for anyone who wants an auto loan that isn’t secured by their vehicle.

AutoCreditExpress.com: Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit

AutoCreditExpress.com is an online platform that lets consumers with bad credit and even no credit get the financing they need. Once you fill out some basic loan information, you’ll be connected with a lender who can offer you financing as well as a dealership in your area. From there, you’ll head to the local dealership and pull the pieces of your auto loan together, including the purchase price of the car you want.

Sign Up With Autocreditexpress.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: AutoCreditExpress.com has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This platform also makes it possible for consumers with no credit at all to finance a car, which is a welcome relief for people who are building credit for the first time.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: This website is a loan platform but they don’t offer loans directly to consumers. This means you won’t have any idea on rates and terms until you fill out an application and get connected with a lender.

Who It’s Best For: This loan is best for consumers with no credit or minimal credit history who cannot get approved for a loan elsewhere.

MyAutoLoan.com: Best Loan Comparison Site

MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site that makes it easy to compare up to four auto loan offers in a matter of minutes. You can use this website to apply for a new auto loan, but you can also utilize it to consider refinancing offers for an auto loan you already have. You can also use funds from this platform to purchase a car from a dealer or from a private seller.

Sign Up With MyAutoLoan.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Comparing auto loans in terms of their terms, rates, and fees is the best way to save money and wind up with the best deal. Since MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site, they make it easy to shop around and compare competing offers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Loan comparison sites connect you with other lenders who have their own loan terms and minimum requirements for approval. Make sure you know and understand all the details of loans you’re considering before you sign on the dotted line.

Who It’s Best For: MyAutoLoan.com is best for consumers who want to do all their auto loan shopping with a single website.

Capital One: Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit

Capital One offers online auto loan financing in conjunction with a program called Auto Navigator®. This program lets you get prequalified for an auto loan online, then work with a participating dealer to coordinate a loan for the car you want. Capital One also lets you search available vehicles at participating dealerships before you apply for financing, making it easy to figure out how much you might need to borrow ahead of time.

Sign Up With Capital One Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Capital One offers the huge benefit of letting you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry to your credit report. Capital One is also a reputable bank with a long history, which should give borrowers some comfort. They have an A+ rating with the BBB and plenty of decent reviews from consumers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: You should be aware that Capital One auto loans only work at participating dealers, so you may be limited in terms of available cars to choose from.

Who It’s Best For: Capital One auto loans are best for consumers who find a car they want to buy at one of the participating lenders that works with this program.

LightStream: Best for Fast Funding

LightStream offers online loans for a variety of purposes, including auto financing. Their auto loans for consumers with excellent credit start at just 3.99% with autopay, and even their loans for consumers with lower credit scores only run as high as 16.79% with autopay.

You can apply for your LightStream loan online and get approved in a matter of minutes. This lender can also send your funds as soon as the same business day you apply.

A minimum credit score of 660 is required for loan approval, although other factors like your work history and income are considered.

Sign Up With LightStream Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: LightStream offers auto loans with exceptional terms, and that’s even true for consumers with less than perfect credit. You can also get your loan funded as soon as the same business day you apply, which is crucial if you need auto financing so you can get back on the road.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: With a minimum credit score requirement of 660, these loans won’t work for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Who It’s Best For: LightStream is best for people with decent credit who need to get auto loan financing as quickly as possible.

What You Need To Know When Applying For A Car Loan With Bad Credit

Interest rates and fees matter.

If you think your interest rate and loan fees won’t make a big difference in your monthly payment, think again. The reality is that rates and fees can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month. Consider this: A $10,000 loan with an APR of 35.89% will require you to pay $361 per month for five years. The same loan amount at 21.99% APR will only set you back $276 per month. At 9.99%, you would pay only $212 per month for five years. The bottom line: Make sure to compare auto loans for bad credit so you wind up with the lowest possible APR you can qualify for.

Take steps to improve your credit score before you apply.

It’s not always possible to wait to apply for a car loan, but you may be able to secure a lower interest rate and better loan terms if you can improve your credit score before you borrow money. The most important steps you can take to improve your score include paying all your bills early or on time, as well as paying down debt in order to decrease your credit utilization. You should also refrain from opening or closing too many credit card accounts in order to avoid new inquiries on your credit report and maintain the longest average length of your credit history possible.

Compare loan terms.

Some lenders let you borrow money for up to 84 months, while others let you repay your loan over 36 or 60 months at most. If you need to repay your loan over a longer timeline in order to secure an affordable monthly payment, make sure to compare lenders based on this factor. If you’re having trouble figuring out how much can you can afford, gauging affordability based on the monthly payments you can handle can also help in that effort.

Getting prequalified online can help.

Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it considerably easier to compare rates and shop around without formally applying for an auto loan. Getting prequalified with more than one lender can also help you determine which one might offer the lowest rate without having to fill out a full loan application.

Watch out for loan restrictions.

As you compare the lenders on this list, keep in mind that not all lenders extend loans for any car you want. Some only let you finance cars with participating lenders in their network, which can drastically limit your options and make it impossible to purchase a car from a private seller. If you hope to purchase a car from someone you know or a website like craigslist.org, you may want to consider reaching out to your personal bank or a credit union you have a relationship with.

Bad credit car loans don’t have to be forever.

Finally, you should know that a car loan for bad credit doesn’t have to last forever. You may need to borrow money for a car right now regardless of the interest rate and terms you can qualify for, but it may be possible to refinance your loan into a better loan product later on. This is especially true if you focus on improving your credit score right away, and if you use your auto loan as an opportunity to prove your creditworthiness.

How to Get the Best Rate

1. Check your credit score.

Your credit score is one of the most important defining factors that dictate loan costs. Before you apply for an auto loan, it can help you check your credit score to see where you stand. Your score may not be as bad as you realize, but it could also be worse than you ever imagined. Either way, it helps to know this important information before you start shopping for an auto loan.

2. Improve your credit over time.

If your credit score needs work, you’ll want to take steps to start improving it right away. The most important steps you can take to boost your credit score include paying all your bills early or on time and paying down debt to decrease your credit utilization. Also, make sure you’re not opening or closing too many credit accounts within a short amount of time.

3. Check your credit reports.

Use the website AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Once you have this information, check over your credit reports for errors. If you find false information that might be hurting your score, take the steps to have the incorrect information removed.

4. Compare loan offers from at least three lenders.

A crucial step to get the best rate involves shopping around and comparing loan offers from at least three different lenders. This is important since lenders with different criteria might offer a lower APR or better terms than others.

5. Be flexible with repayment terms.

Also consider a few different loan terms provided you can afford the monthly payment with each. Some auto lenders offer better rates for shorter terms, which can help you save money if you can afford to repay your loan over 24 or 36 months instead of 60+.

How We Chose the Best Auto Loans

The lenders on our list weren’t plucked out of thin air. In fact, the team behind this guide spent hours comparing auto lenders based on a wide range of criteria. Here’s everything we considered when comparing the best bad credit car loans of 2021:

Interest Rates and Loan Terms: Our team looked for loans that offer reasonable rates and terms for consumers with poor credit. While higher APRs are typically charged to consumers with a low credit score, we only considered lenders that offer sensible rates that don’t seem out of line for the auto loan market.

Ratings and Reviews: We gave preference to lenders who have decent reviews online, either through Consumer Affairs, Trustpilot, or another third party website. We also gave higher marks to lenders who have a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Online Availability: Lenders who offer full loan details online were definitely given top priority in our ranking, and lenders who let you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report were given the most points in this category. But since not everyone wants to apply for a loan online, we also included some lenders that let you apply over the phone.

Approval Requirements: Finally, we looked for lenders that extend credit to consumers with low credit scores in the first place. Not all lenders offer specific information on approval requirements, but we did our best to sort out lenders that only accept borrowers with good or excellent credit.

Summary: Best Bad Credit Card Loans of 2021

  • Best for Flexibility: OneMain Financial
  • Best Personal Loan Option: Upgrade
  • Best Loan for Bad Credit and No credit: AutoCreditExpress.com
  • Best Loan Comparison Site: MyAutoLoan.com
  • Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit: CapitalOne
  • Best for Fast Funding: LightStream

The post What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

What Is Austerity?

What Is Austerity?

Austerity policies are nothing new. But talk about them in the news has recently escalated. In response to its ongoing debt crisis, the Greek government is preparing to implement austerity measures aimed at helping the country regain its financial footing. If you didn’t major in economics or you have no clue what austerity means, read on to find out how this fiscal program works.

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Austerity: A Definition

Trust us, austerity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Austerity is a type of economic policy that governments use to deal with budget deficits. A country faces a deficit whenever it’s using more money than it’s earning from tax dollars.

By taking on an austerity package, a government hopes to reign in its spending, improve the status of its economy and avoid defaulting on its unpaid debt. Governments usually take on austerity measures in order to appease their creditors. In exchange, these lenders agree to bail out countries and allow them to borrow more money.

If you look up the word austere in the dictionary, you’ll see that it means severe, grave, hard, solemn and serious. Indeed, austerity is nothing to joke about.

Austerity Measures

What Is Austerity?

Austerity plans normally involve increases in different taxes, (property taxes, income taxes, etc.) budget cuts or a push to incorporate both. Government workers could lose their jobs or see their wages and benefits either decline or become stagnant. Hiking up interest rates, adding travel bans and keeping prices at a fixed level could be other strategies put in place to reduce spending.

Naturally, austerity measures typically aren’t viewed in the best light because they mean that there might be fewer government programs available to the public. Aid for veterans and low-income families, healthcare coverage and pensions are some of the benefits that normally take a hit when a country’s using an austerity package. Government services that aren’t eliminated might not be as comprehensive or as beneficial as they once were.

As you can see, in an austere environment, conditions are tighter overall. Historically, austerity has been implemented in the US during tough times including World War I, World War II and the Great Recession of 2008.

Greece’s new austerity package – which government lawmakers finally accepted in July 2015 – will feature less government funding, higher taxes and cuts to pension plans. As a result of this deal, the country was allowed to begin talks with its creditors about a third bailout.

Related Article: All About the Greek Debt Crisis

The Problems With Government Austerity 

Experts on the economy tend to go back and forth about how effective austerity can be. Some believe that instead of turning to austerity, the government should pump out more money and borrow as much as possible if an economy is on the rocks.

From a political standpoint, austerity is often controversial and results in riots and demonstrations. Anti-austerity protests erupted in Greece, where quite a few folks say that past austerity programs have only made social and economic conditions worse.

Beyond slowing down the economy, an austerity bill can cause a country to remain in its debt crisis, particularly if it’s in the midst of a recession. As fiscal austerity decreases spending, GDP can go down while unemployment goes up. Consumers can get nervous and stop spending and investing their own money.

In short, austerity policies can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. That’s why governments tend to turn to them as a last resort if other strategies aren’t working.

Why Austerity Might Not Be So Bad

What Is Austerity?

Notable European creditors have argued that austerity can be beneficial to a country’s long-term economic state. For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously reported that austerity has done more damage than anticipated. But the European Central Bank released a paper saying that austerity has been helpful, at least for some of the weaker eurozone countries.

In fact, austerity has helped strengthen the economies in European countries like Latvia and Iceland. Although Spain’s unemployment remains high, its economy is in better shape overall. Ireland has made considerable progress as well toward rebuilding its economy.

Proponents of austerity policies say that they can make investors feel more optimistic when a country is being run more responsibly. Austerity has the potential to bring a shrinking economy back to life as everyday citizens invest in the private sector instead of relying on support from the federal government.

Try out our free investment calculator. 

The US used austerity measures between 2010 and 2014. Not only were our policies harsher than those employed by the governments in the UK and other European nations, but our economy fared better than theirs.

The Takeaway

The point of austerity is to tighten the government’s belt, bring a country’s debt back down to a more manageable level and stimulate an economy that has stopped growing. Countries generally try to meet these goals by cutting spending and raising taxes.

The debate over whether austerity works continues but one common theme has emerged. Timing matters. Some critics suggest that cutting too much too quickly during a recession can be painful. When introduced more slowly, however, (or when the economy is doing very well,) austerity measures can turn things around.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eltoddo, ©iStock.com/DNY59, ©iStock.com/Peter Booth

The post What Is Austerity? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

This is the Best App to Play Solitaire for Real Money

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Chances are, you’ve played your fair share of Solitaire. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great time-killer, it’s fun and it’s a nice little mental challenge. The only thing that could make it better? Winning money for it.

The Solitaire Cube app lets you do just that. This free app lets you play the classic card game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick — just two to five minutes each, and you can play them anywhere.

How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Solitaire on Your Phone

You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: It’s really not. One Solitaire Cube player, Amanda, even won about $6,000 and was able to use her winnings to recarpet her house.

“When I actually started winning money and earning prizes, I was blown away,” she says.

Interested? Here’s how it works: Download the free Solitaire Cube app and create an account. Then you can play some free practice matches to get the hang of things. If you don’t already know how to play, it’s easy to learn. Then, when you’re ready, Solitaire Cube will match you with players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. Yep, you won’t get outplayed by some Solitaire grandmaster — you’ll both have the same deck, so winning is all about skill.

The app itself is free to download, but if you want to play for money, you’ll need to deposit some money first. You can deposit as little as $2 to start, using PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay. It’s super easy. Then you can play head-to-head, in large pools and live tournaments — some of these tournaments have paid out prizes as big as $350,000. When it’s time to cash out, there’s no waiting period, like with some other apps. You can get your money almost instantly.

Solitaire Cube has an App Store rating of 4.6 out of 5 from more than 70,000 users’ rankings.

As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.

Win or lose, you always receive “ticketz” that you can redeem in Skillz’ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV — even a BMW or a Porsche. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.

For Solitaire players, here’s the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic Solitaire experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He loves him some Solitaire.

Unfortunately, you can’t play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the game’s virtual currency.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

By: Angela Evans

I just received an advertisement letter from lawyers stating a recent lawsuit was filed against me. I went to that counties magistrate record search and saw there was a continuing wage garnishment for a daycare debt from 2001. I never knew of this debt or judgement until now and it is not on my credit report. I never received any notice about the debt verbally or in writing. The status of limitations in my state is 7 years. Is this even possible? What should I do?

Source: credit.com

How Your Credit Score Impacts Your Financial Future

Your credit score is a numerical reflection of your credit history. The score is given as a 3-digit number between 300 to 850 and is an indication of how creditworthy you are. You can get both your credit report and credit score from Annual Credit Report.Com. Generally, a higher credit score increases your credibility to […]

The post How Your Credit Score Impacts Your Financial Future appeared first on Credit Absolute.

Source: creditabsolute.com