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Finances are one of the top reasons for stress in adults in the United States. Chances are good you are one of them. Financial issues can be overwhelming and confusing. We cut through it all and give you the information you need to make the right decision at the right time.

Auto Finance
Found the perfect car? Now is the time to get the perfect loan with our help.
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Cash Advance
Need more cash than you can get at your ATM? We can help you get it without paying huge fees.
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Home Finance
First time loan, refinance, second mortgage, reverse mortgage, etc. We have you covered.
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Prepaid Credit Card
Have a son or daughter going to college and you don’t quite trust them to have a credit card? These are great since once the money you put on it is gone, they can’t spend anymore.
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If you got a bad deal the first time around when you did your home loan, or you need money out for a remodeling project, redoing your home loan is a smart decision.
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Apply Credit Card
Choosing the credit cards that you want will come down to your needs. You should never apply for credit cards that you can’t actually use or that don’t meet your needs.
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Tips For A Better Financial Life

How To Be Richer a Year From Now

Winning the lottery or having access to some exotic investment plan aren’t the only ways to wealth. Believe it or not, the path to being richer is quite simple, just follow these ten steps.

1. Pay down your credit cards.
The rich do one thing very well; they are disciplined to never carry a balance on their credit cards. Instead, they use their credit cards as an “interest-free loan” for a month, but they are always paid off in full each month. That means they don’t live beyond their means and they understand what they can and cannot buy. If you have current balances on your credit cards, you have not learned that discipline yet.

The rich also use their credit cards to gain points for travel, upgrades, and also to avoid paying foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. They make the credit cards work for them instead of the other way around.

Most credit cards charge between 18-22% interest, and you are paying in after tax dollars, so paying off your credit cards is similar to finding a risk-free 30% investment. Another fact you may not be aware of is the interest on credit card debt is not tax deductable. Get those balances paid down!

2. Pay yourself first.
Sure, you have heard this over and over again it is often ignored. Here is a secret that the rich know and you do not. Do you ever wonder why you struggle to make ends meet, and then you get a nice raise at work, and you STILL struggle to make ends meet? This is because our brains are wired to use what we have and not save. Our mindsets shift, and even though we have more than we need, our minds say “we deserve this, we just got a raise, ” and the money is already spent. Wealthy people are not an exception. You may thing they are because they have more money than you do, but they go through the same processes, just on a larger scale. If you don’t get disciplined financially, if you do get a windfall of money, it will be spent quickly, and you will be right back struggling each month.

You have probably heard the stories of the lottery winners who won millions who were dead broke just a few years later. “What idiots,” you say. “That would never happen to me if I won.” Oh yes, it would have because you are still not disciplined. This is the main difference between you and the wealthy: discipline.

Here is what the rich realized: if they could live on their monthly salary, they could live on 95% of it. The other 5% was automatically withdrawn and put into either a savings account or an investment account. They fully understand the power of “what you don’t see, you will not spend.”

3. Increase your payroll withholding if you have a mortgage.
As you know, the interest you pay for your mortgage is tax-deductable. To off-set your expenses, which also include property taxes, you can increase your payroll withholdings, by one, even sometimes two, to reflect these costs, so you get more take home pay. Since you are financially disciplined, you will have more to invest and save as well.

4. Refinance your mortgage.
Chances are excellent that the interest rate you are currently paying on your mortgage is much higher than they are currently. Better yet, your local bank could be offering specials for long-time customers to refinance. Did you know that very few wealthy people own their homes outright? They all carry mortgages because they understand the power of leveraging dollars now for more dollars in the future for a very low-interest rate. If you are in an area that is a hot bed for real estate, you could see your home value increase by 8% or more per year, while locking in with an adjustable rate for less than half of that. This means that your asset is growing at twice the rate you are paying for it. The rich would say this is a smart investment.

Wise Move: If you have been in your home for ten years or more, you could refinance at a lower rate, but since you are doing the same 30-year mortgage, you could see your monthly payment cut by one-third or more. This gives you, even more, money for savings and investment.

Rule of Thumb with Refinancing: If you can get a new rate of two percentage points lower or more than your current rate you will be better off as long as you plan on staying in your home for at least two years.

What To Avoid: Do not fall into the trap of taking out a 15-year mortgage. “Financial Advisors” will tell you it is smart as you will own your home faster. While that might be true, when is the last time you stayed in a home for 15 years? Chances are you haven’t. It is a smarter choice to have the 30-year mortgage, and have extra “wiggle room” in your budget in case something bad happens, such as loss of employment or a serious medical issue. All the money you think you are saving with a 15-year mortgage can be eaten away in just a few short months of not paying off your credit cards each month. Be smart and conservative.

Building Wealth: Ignore the advice of a financial planner who says a 15-year mortgage will allow you to build wealth faster as your home equity increases at a faster rate. Instead, buy your home in the most desired part of the city. Those areas usually grow in worth by double, sometimes triple the rate of homes in less desirable places. That is a smarter way to increase your wealth, and when you want to sell, your home will sell in just days instead of close to a year or more in other areas. These are things the typical financial planner does not tell you. Follow our advice, and you will be better off for the short-term and the long-term.

5. Does your company offer a 401(k)?
Make the full contribution. Most companies will match your contribution, so it makes sense to maximize. This will instantly increase your net worth and your investment size. Because your company is matching, you should be aggressive with your investment choices. A poor choice would be to stick with conservative investments such as bonds. Instead, be aggressive as this is for long-term and you won’t need the money anytime soon. Even when the stock market is not doing well overall, there are funds than having more than a 20% annual return.

For example, if you started with $10,000 and invested $100 per week into your account, with an aggressive 20% return, and an inflation rate of 2.9&, you would have $210,251 in ten years. However, taking into account the same numbers, if you were conservative with just a 3% guaranteed return, you would have just $73,958 after ten years. Quite the difference isn’t it. But the real key is the amount you are contributing on a regular basis. If you just double it, the amount increases to $358,584. That is $148k more from an extra investment of $52,000. You are nearly tripling your return. That is advice that can seriously change your financial status for the better. You can check out your own investment time line with this financial calculator.

6. Don’t forget that wealth is not just measured by money.
The greatest assets you have in this life are your relationships with your family and friends. You should nurture them with the same care that you give your financial investments. The rich understand this, and they surround themselves with people whom they can fully trust and enjoy spending time with. True happiness comes from having people around you that you enjoy being with and sharing experiences with.

Easy Ways to Save Your Hard Earned Dollars

1. Look to make the switch from a bank to a credit union. Bank fees for just the usage of a checking account range from $250-$500 per year or more. Credit unions are set up as non-profit organizations, and you aren’t going to see monstrous salaries as you see from the big banks. Instead, the credit unions return any surplus funds to the members of the credit union in the form of low-cost loans and services. If the credit union is one of a right size, you could get free checking, low-interest credit cards, and even low-interest car loans. The biggest disadvantage with a credit union is the lack of branches. However, with an ATM card and online banking, you should be just fine with the limitations.

2. Review your insurance policies. Probably a few years have gone by since you first bought the policy and your life may have changed. Look for areas where you can increase your deductable to significantly reduce your monthly premiums. There might be coverage which you no longer need that you can eliminate. For example, if you are no longer of child bearing age, you should look at dropping the maternity coverage of your health insurance. A lot of car insurance policies include the car-rental reimbursement in case of accident or repairs. Most major credit cards offer this, so this is a double coverage. There also could be extra drivers on your policy who is no longer living with you. This is typical when kids go to college or get married and can affect you if you have gone through a divorce. Check your home owners policy and check for “riders” which is typically jewelry, antiques, etc. If you no longer own it, you can remove it. Also, if you have a had a health change, such as quitting smoking or losing a lot of weight, you could be eligible for a significant reduction in your life insurance and health insurance premiums.

When You Are Facing Possible Bankruptcy

If you are facing a possible bankruptcy, you might be looking at getting rid of all of your debt and starting all over, however, getting rid of all of your debt may not be the best idea. Try and pay off at least one of your major credit cards. You want to do this because a credit card balance that is paid off before you file for bankruptcy, that credit card does not have to be included in your bankruptcy.

Why is this important?

After your bankruptcy, your focus is to reestablish your credit, but if you have zero access to credit, you can find that reestablishing your credit near impossible. Because you kept one credit card, you can use it for just small purchases and pay off the balance in full each month which will show a consistent and positive payment pattern and your credit will begin to be reestablished.

The Time is Now to Take Control of Your Life

Financial security is something that nearly every person wants but rarely gets. This is all due to a lack of financial discipline. Achieving financial security is rather simple, as it means living within your means. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if you make $30,000 a year or $1,000,000 a year. You can’t have financial security unless you live within your means.

There are people who believe that saving money each month is an impossibility in today’s world. It is not only possible to do, but essential. And it isn’t as complicated as you think.

Here is a simple plan that will take you just 20 minutes per day for a week and you will have a better hold on your current and future finances. Ready? Let’s go!

Day 1: Like or not you have to get organized. The only way to figure out how to get out of the financial hole you are in is to understand how you got there, so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Usually, the biggest mistake is you just don’t know where all your money goes. The most common thing we hear is, “I make plenty of money, I just can’t understand why I am short every month.”

This is what you need to get:
– your most recent pay stub
– your most recent tax return
– your latest bank statement
– your checkbook
– your current credit card bills

This is what this information is going to tell you:

Your paycheck stub will tell you, of course, how much you bring home from your job. Your tax return will outline your income from your investments. Your bank statement, credit card statement, and checkbook will show you where your money is going.

Day 2: This is when you figure out where all your hard earned money goes. Make a list of all of your expenses, right down to even the coffee at Starbucks. Everything. If you take out a lot of cash from the ATM, you need to track this too as money can go quickly once it is in your pocket.

If you need to, get a journal to track your expenses for just a couple of days. It might be a pain, but you must know to find the leakage in your finances. And this process isn’t taking away the small, simple pleasures that you indulge in, for example, your morning latte. Chances are good you have indulges that aren’t pleasurable that you could cut back on.

Day 3: Categorize your expenses into one of the following three categories:

Monthly Payments: This is your mortgage, utilities, internet, etc.
Vital Expenses: Think food (grocery store/farmer’s market), clothing, transportation (car, bus, train).
Variable Expenses: Think dining at restaurants, lottery tickets, hobbies, etc.

Categories two and three will contain many items that have snuck up on you, and you don’t realize how much you have been spending. For example, if you eat out for lunch each day and spend $10, that’s $200 a month.

Day 4: Devise a functioning plan to live beneath your means by at least 5% so you can start saving and paying down extra debt. There are two ways to improve your situation; you can either cut expenses or increase your revenue. Taking on a second job can have health and relationship implications. Before taking that route, it is important for you to become financially disciplined. For example, if you see a trend that your credit card balance is increasing by an average of $300 per month, you need to cut $300 off your expenses immediately!

Of course, you can’t just stop there, you need to get your spending under control to the point where you aren’t just living paycheck-to-paycheck because that is the roller coast ride you want to get off of!

Day 5: Now that you have your strategy in place, and you have your spending under control, you will ask yourself what you are going to do with the extra money. Here is what you should do and they are in order:

– Pay off your debts. Before you start a savings account, you need to get the high-interest debt paid off, so start there first. This is usually your credit card bills. Set goals of when you are going to get these paid off and work hard to get there. Once you do, the accomplishment you will feel will be so overwhelmingly good. However, don’t set unrealistic goals as you could be setting yourself up for failure. Sit down and map out a realistic time frame, and then double it. Life happens, and extra expenses can occur, such as a health issue or a death in the family. You need to have a realistic of expectations, but always focus on keeping to your new spending plan and remember to stay disciplined!

Day 6: Establish your savings plan. As stated above, you want to get rid of your high-interest debt first before you start saving. Paying out 22% interest while earning 1% or less interest is not a wise move. Focus on getting back in control of your financial life and your savings plan can happen once the toxic debt in your life is gone.

Some financial planners will advise you to get a savings account anyway as it is a fall-back in case you get ill or lose your job. If that does happen, you can use your credit cards to live on until you bounce back, or get another loan. Your focus should be to clear toxicity out of your life, and this is what we are doing. Preparing for the worst can seem like a wise move, but hard work and discipline are the better roads to take.

Day 7: Start an automatic investment plan. It isn’t going to be enough to just have a savings account; you also want to invest in your future. Again, you are only going to start this when your credit cards are paid off. But think about it, look at the interest you are paying each month on the credit card. It might be a few hundred dollars a month. By not paying that and putting that in an investment account, your net worth will start to build rapidly.

After these seven days, you will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you finally have a plan that makes sense. You have a date when your high-interest debt will be paid off, and you will sleep better at night knowing you are living BELOW your means instead of stressing about how you are going to pay your bills. But the best thing of all, you won’t fall back into your old ways of spending your hard earned money on things that just don’t really matter in your life.

Figuring Out The Amount of Your Debt

We know this isn’t a fun thing, but it is key to your financial future and to help you sleep better at night. Most Americans have no idea how much debt they really have, and because of this, continue to make poor financial decisions. Make a list of all the debt you have that will take six months or more to pay off. However, don’t include your mortgage. In your list include the total amount of debt and monthly payment. Add up your monthly payments and divide that number by your monthly gross income. This is your debt-to-income ratio. If that term sounds familiar, it is how the loan officer of your mortgage figured out if the house you wanted was affordable for you.

How do you rank?

15% or less – you’re doing great!
16-20% – you need to make changes to keep debt from climbing and pay off some debt to get it to 15% or less.
20-35% – you are in a risky area and should cut back your spending habits
36%+ – you are in deep financial trouble and should seek out assistance.

Tip: People who are 50% or more in debt are on the path to bankruptcy, and that is not a road you want to travel down.

Seven Things Most Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know

Credit cards are big business, make no doubt about it. You can’t buy clothes or fly an airplane without being hit up for an offer on a “branded” credit card. The offers are nearly impossible to keep up with, and the amount of fine print that comes with the card is getting smaller and lengthier.

It used to be that you just checked two things: annual fees and percentage rates on outstanding balances. Not anymore. You need to arm yourself with the knowledge to make sure the credit card in your wallet is worth having and not a detriment.

Here are seven issues you need to know which are not going to show up in a credit card ad anytime soon.

1 Fraud happens, even with chip cards. While the amount of fraudulent charges has taken a nose dive since the release of the “chip” cards, they still happen. Check your monthly statements carefully, as if you do not report the fraudulent charge within 60 days of your posted statement, you could be liable for the entire charge.

2 Most credit cards offer a 25-day grace period, and in this time, any charges you make, as long as you pay off the balance, do not accrue interest charges. Most credit cards that have the most benefits with points for free travel or merchandise come with a higher interest rate. Credit cards with lower interest rates usually have little to no benefits.

Smart Strategy: Carry two credit cards. The one with the most benefits you will pay off each month, and the one with the lower interest rate you can use for larger purchases that you cannot pay in full.

3 Never pay just the minimum payment. Credit card companies are sneaky as the minimum amount they ask from you often barely covers the interest charged for the last month. This means it will not just take years, but possibly decades to pay off an outstanding balance with just paying the minimum payment. Also, since online banking is the way the majority of people handle their finances, you can make payments throughout the month on a card that you are carrying a balance on. This will lower the amount of interest you pay at the end of the cycle since the interest charges are based on the average daily balance of your account.

4 How are interest charges calculated? Not all cards are the same. The majority use the average daily balance method, but some card companies use the two-cycle method, which takes the average daily balance for the LAST TWO statements, which can be very costly if you are trying to pay down the balance, as the average over two statements will be much higher than the current statement.

5 Beware of “convenience checks” and cash advances. Credit card companies use terms like “convenience” to make it seem simple and harmless when the reality is that there is no grace period for these uses and interest starts immediately. There could be, in some cases, fees that are charged on top of the interest for using the “convenience.” Another reason you shouldn’t use the checks is often the purchase you make is not covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act. This means you do not have the same purchase protection had you used your actual credit card, and your options for disputing the purchase may either be different, or non-existent.

Smart Tip: If you receive convenience checks from your credit card issuer, immediately shred them and call them to state you do not wish to receive any more in the future. Do not just throw them away as if someone finds them (yes, there are people who go through the trash) they can forge your name and use them.

6 Late Payments Reported to Credit Bureaus. Most people incorrectly assume that if you are even a day late, your credit card company will report you to the credit bureaus. The reality is that most credit card companies offer a 30-day grace period before they report you. So even if you miss a payment by the deadline, you still need to send it in as that will keep your late payment from being reported. Yes, you will still incur the late fees, but at least your credit score won’t be affected.

7 Credit card interest rates are flexible. While this is true, it is only true if you are a good customer. You may feel that you are a good customer because you pay your bill on time and your balance in full each month. Sadly, this does not make you a good customer.

If a credit card company had the choice between a customer who had a balance of $10,000 or a customer who charged $10,000 per month, but paid off the balance in full each month, the credit card company would choose the customer who charged $10,000 per month. This might confuse you as the credit card company is not making any money in interest charges from this customer.

Well, that is not how credit card companies make the bulk of their money. Most credit card companies charge 1.5-2.5% to the retailer who accepts the card for the purchase. This is where their revenue comes from, and since this customer is consistently charging a lot on their card and paying it off in full, they are a low risk of filing for bankruptcy. The credit card company is making consistent money with little risk. However, on the other example, there is a heavy risk as the customer is paying just the minimum payment each month. Look at this from a business perspective. Why would a credit card company offer you a lower interest rate when you charge very little on the card and have a high balance.

However, it pays to at least make the phone call. If the credit card company is unwilling to reduce your interest rate, see if they are willing to waive or reduce the annual fee. As long as you are continuing to charge on the card, they want to keep you as a customer.

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