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Personal Finance Picks of the Week

Submitted by strandslucia on Fri, 09/04/2009 - 10:59
Money Management //

Happy Friday everyone. While you are waiting out the remaining hours to kick off your holiday weekend, I wanted to share with you some interesting personal finance articles we’ve read this week. Enjoy!

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Tips from Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Submitted by strandslucia on Tue, 08/25/2009 - 15:54
Money Management //

Last night I attended an event at the Commonwealth Club of California featuring Ramit Sethi, Author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Ramit was interviewed by certified financial planner, Cathy Curtis, and talked about his book and some of his philosophies on personal finance management.

I recorded the interview and wanted to share a few snippets from the discussion about his “Bulletproof Personal-Finance System”. Watch the video and share in the comments your thoughts about his system. Have you tried it? Do you think it works? If not, why?

Enjoy!

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Managing your personal finances online with tools like moneystrands is a great way to track your spending, set up budgets and help save you money, but there are lots of other ways you can save online.

Several discount websites are offering really great deals, and more and more are rising out of the woodwork, as businesses struggle in the down economy. Businesses are also turning to sites like Twitter and Facebook to help promote special deals and attract more “followers” and “fans” to their brand.

As a rule of thumb, I always check bargain sites before I make any online or offline purchases, particularly when it comes to electronics, clothing, travel (flights, lodging, sightseeing attractions, etc.), tickets (concerts, sporting events, etc.) and dining out.

One important thing to note is that while these sites are great for saving extra cash, you want to be careful not to purchase things out of your means, just because “it's a great deal”. If you're on a budget, use sites like these to search for specific things you need to purchase, not the things you think you should purchase just because its such a deal (I’ll admit, I’m a victim to this)

Without further adieu, here is a list of 10+ great discount sites to visit, starting with my top 5 personal favorites. If the option is there, be sure to sign up for email newsletters from these sites, so the deals will come straight to your inbox!

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A few days ago the New York Times posted an interesting article about how American’s are using credit cards as a “safey net”. The article looked at a study, conducted by Demos, a New York-based nonprofit research and advocacy group that concluded people with low- and- middle incomes are using credit cards to cover basic living expenses like rent or mortgage payments, groceries and utilities. Even more surprising about this is that households earning $50,000 a year or less were already using their cards as a safety net even before the worst part of the recession hit.

Taking this type of mentality is a sure fire way to get dig yourself into debt, if you’re not already there. The same survey pointed out that the average credit card debt for low- and middle-income households is $9,827. This does not include mortgages or other types of loans.

Like with weight loss, its easier to gain debt than it is to lose it. If you’ve found yourself in debt, try not to panic, there are things you can do to help get your finances under control. Just remember, the worst thing you can do is to ignore it. Here are 8 steps to follow that will help you manage your debt:

1. Assess your situation

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MS Money Bids Adieu, Personal Finance Goes Online

Submitted by strandslucia on Fri, 06/19/2009 - 11:06
Money Management //

The news about the discontinuation of MS Money spread fast last week and continued to make waves this week. Frankly, the news didn’t surprise me. We live in an era where the Internet has become a necessity and web-based services and mobile applications have become a way of life for Gen X and Gen Y. It makes sense that more people are gravitating to web-based services and steering away from desktop applications.

Media outlets that covered the news outlined several alternative tools for MS Money users, many of them online services. For those accustom to desktop software, making the switch to an online service may be challenging, however, while desktop software does have its advantages, online tools like moneyStrands can offer much more.

If you’re one of the people who are on the fence about moving your finances online, here is a list of some of the benefits of using online tools:

Pricing

  • FREE: Most web-based financial tools, including moneyStrands, are free of charge. In some cases, a company may offer a “premium” version (in addition to the free version), which offers more functionality in exchange for a subscription price.

Easy set up

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A Lesson in Financial Planning from Disney’s Up

Submitted by strandslucia on Fri, 06/12/2009 - 12:57
Money Management //

Last weekend I went and saw the new Disney movie Up. (a fantastic movie if you’ve haven’t see it yet!). As someone who works in the personal finance space, I couldn’t help but draw some financial lessons learned from the movie’s beginning plot.

The story begins with a young boy named Carl who idolizes Charles Muntz, an explorer always looking for his next adventure. Carl meets a spirited girl named Ellie who shares his passion for adventure. The two become best friends and together dream of one day visiting the lost land of Paradise Falls just like their idol, Charles Muntz had done.

Eventually Carl and Ellie marry and begin a life together. During their marriage they try to save money so they can achieve this dream of going to Paradise Falls, but each time they begin to save, something unexpected happens (a flat tire, a leak in the roof, etc.) They end up having to tap into their savings and never being able to afford their trip. Its not until they reach an elderly age that Carl can afford the tickets and by that time Ellie became sick and could not go.

While this Disney movie is a fictional story, the situation these characters experienced is all too common in real life. We often dream about things like going on our fantasy vacation, paying off student loans or buying a brand new car, yet unexpected expenses and mishaps in life always seem to get in the way.

So what can we do to better prepare ourselves financially so that we have an “emergency fund” but can still save for a vacation? Create a financial plan!

moneyStrands Language Setting

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How to improve your credit score

Submitted by StrandsAtakan on Thu, 05/21/2009 - 20:31
Money Management //

Consumers are worn out by widespread layoffs, loss of home equity and even foreclosure. Missed payments can cripple your credit rating and be the difference between qualifying for that new car loan at a good rate or not at all. However, the good news is that your credit can be fixed. Results will not be instant, but it is something an average person can tackle.

5 Key Credit Score Factors

Let’s first understand what a credit(FICO) score is and what factors determine it. Credit score, is a number based on the information in your credit file that shows how likely you are to pay a loan back on time. It’s a number that summarizes your credit risk, based on the snapshot of your credit report at a particular time. The higher your score, the less of a credit risk you represent. The most widely used credit scores are FICO scores, the credit scores created by Fair Isaac Corporation. Fair Isaac develops FICO scores based solely on information in consumer credit reports maintained at the credit reporting agencies.

FICO scores give lenders a fast, objective estimate of your credit risk. Before the use of scoring, the credit granting process was slow, inconsistent and unfairly biased. Credit scores have enabled big improvements in the credit issuing process.

FICO scores range between 300 and 850 - the higher the better. A FICO score of 700 or higher means 'Excellent' or 'Very Good' credit. Certain lenders offer better rates and/or discounts if you are over 720, 740, etc. FICO scores from 680 to 699 mean 'Good'. You can pretty much get a normal loan. FICO scores from 620 to 679 are 'OK'. You won't likely be denied, but the terms are not going to be too generous.

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We have just launched a cool new version of the moneyStrands iPhone app with significant improvements over the first one. Below are some of our latest and greatest additions.

moneyStrands iPhone App

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Easy and fun money management – while at college

Submitted by StrandsRyan on Fri, 04/17/2009 - 11:22
Money Management //

Most college students are notoriously bad at personal finance and are not prepared for the life after graduation. Financial responsibility is not taught at school and sometimes parents also fail to teach financial basics to their kids. In the sheltered college environment, the farthest goal in the future is getting a job and rent your own place in a few years, so anything beyond this is pretty blurry.

So how can the art of money management ever reach out to college students? The only way that personal finance management works in the life of an average college student is if it’s easy and does not look like a complete chore!

Online money management is the new way to stay on top of your money and tackle any financial planning crisis.

Here are some pointers while choosing money management tools.

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