How to Pay off Debt Faster – Part 1

May 30, 2014 | Posted in Debt, Finance, Money | By

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The Swirl Documentary Review

May 27, 2014 | Posted in Love & Money, Marriage, Romance and Relationships | By

I had the opportunity the watch a preview of the new Moguldom documentary The Swirl. This is one of a series of 60-minute documentaries produced by the multi-media company that owns and operates Bossip, MadameNoire, Styleblazer and several other media assets.

The Swirl is a documentary dealing with the societal and cultural issues relating to interracial dating and marriage. I was initially skeptical about doing a review on this documentary because of the preconceived thoughts I initially began thinking about. However, I did take time to watch the documentary and was impressed at the many angles the producers used to address the interracial dating topic.

I originally thought the documentary would be more of a negative assault focusing on the hatred spewed by many who believe those within the same race can only experience love. However, we are taken inside the minds of men and women who have the chance to really voice their views and perspectives.

I enjoyed seeing the interviews with the couples, which included a black man/white woman and black woman/white man combinations. They were pretty open and honest and gave insight into their challenges, struggles and celebrations. I was surprised at the views associated with interracial children by those inside the relationship versus those outside of the relationships. It helped to illuminate the struggles interracial children have with establishing their identity. The quick blurb with Tia and Tamera spoke both to their current societal challenges, but really highlighted something I believed they endured throughout the course of their lives.

One thing I was very pleased with was the balance of people included in the documentary. Often we focus solely on celebrities when trying to validate relationship points when in reality…they have minimal relatability to many in the regular world. They showed clips of Halle Berry, Kim Kardashian along with Kanye and other celebrities; but focused on conversations with real, everyday people.

Of course it wouldn’t have been a totally balanced documentary without featuring the African-American woman perspective who totally opposed interracial dating. Although the percentage of people embracing interracial dating is on the increase, there are still a number of people who vehemently oppose being able to find love outside of one’s race/culture.

It was fun watching the scene featuring the three professional young ladies discussing the need to be open when it comes to dating. They discussed being exposed to various cultures, openness to be treated well by anyone and expanding one’s horizons to experience happiness. Based on the discussions within my circles, I know many professional, African-American women are opening-up and availing themselves to dating outside of their race.

The Swirl is an entertaining and informative documentary that will open the door to many more conversations in the future. I found it to be a source to provoke intellectual conversations very much needed in our society.

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How to pay off $30,000 of student debt in 3 years (via Yahoo Finance)

May 6, 2014 | Posted in Debt, Finance, Student Loans | By

Piggy Banks

- By Hal Bundrick

If you are tired of having student loans hanging over your head, welcome to the crash course for debt elimination. Our syllabus is simple, the course objective has been plainly stated and grading will be based on a pass/fail basis. Let’s begin.

What’s the rush?

You may be wondering why we have defined such a short period of time to pay off a substantial debt. After all, The Institute for College Access & Success says the average student loan balance was $29,400, which is based on the latest data available for the class of 2012. With a supersized debt of that magnitude, you need a lot of time, right? Yes, but a lack of urgency can encourage complacency, and with time the debt will grow even larger.

This may light a fire: Calculate the amount of interest you will pay by only making minimum payments on your student loans. If you can’t put your hands on the statements for your loans, check the National Student Loan Data System to retrieve your loan information.

It’s quite likely you’ll be surprised by the big number you discover. You might even find you’ll be paying as much interest on your loans as the original principal amount.

Putting a short fuse on the debt bomb will inspire a significant financial turnaround. Once you retire the student loans, imagine the boost to your cash flow. You might even feel affluent for a change. With those monthly payments gone, you can focus on buying a home, saving for retirement, paying for a wedding and all the other good things in life. No student loan debt means you can kiss Sallie Mae goodbye. You’ll feel like a different person, with less stress and real financial freedom.

Debt limits options

While the task may seem insurmountable, consider the Harvard University alum who paid off $90,000 in graduate school debt — in seven months. Joe Mihalic is a supply chain manager in Austin, Texas now, but three years ago he was deep in debt and desperate to get out.

“I simply felt an overwhelming feeling of being trapped,” Mihalic, author of “Destroy Student Debt: A Combat Guide to Freedom,” wrote in an email. “I felt that the debt was severely limiting my options, and I realized I would never be truly free unless I became debt-free.”

By committing to a frugal lifestyle and squeezing every bit out of his annual salary, which was less than the balance on the loans, Mihalic accomplished his goal of rapid debt reduction.

“I didn’t start feeling weighed down by my debt until my self-esteem finally reached a level where I didn’t need to constantly spend money to feel good about myself,” he writes. “At that point, the negative feelings associated with my debt were greater than the positive feelings associated with consumption. Only then did I seek out a life of frugality and living below my means.”

A cash budget is key

And consider Jackie Ritz, a Paleo diet aficionado from North Carolina who blogs at ThePaleoMama.com. She and her husband paid off $50,000 worth of debt in 10 months.

“We sat down one night and wrote down all of our debt, including our student loan debt, which was the most baggage,” she wrote in an email. “My husband had carried his student loan debt the past 15 years, and we wondered how long we were going to let that debt keep following along with us. So in order to have financial freedom we knew we were going to have to be more aggressive in paying the student loans down and turn our minimum payments into the maximum amount we could manage in our budget.”

Ritz adds that sticking to a cash budget was the key.

“During this time, we made a budget for all our expenses and used the ‘envelope system’,” she explains. “You place the week’s worth of money in your envelopes and when the cash is out, it’s out! This was probably the hardest part of it all since we were so used to swiping our debit or credit card without even thinking about a budget.”

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His perfect FICO score obsession (via bankrate.com)

April 29, 2014 | Posted in Credit, Finance | By

David-Howe

(photo from bankrate.com)

by Polyana da Costa

A good credit score is usually nothing more than a financial necessity for most people. For David Howe, good wasn’t good enough. He wanted a perfect credit score and obsessed over it for years.

“In the last six or seven years my score was into the 800s and I knew I was getting close,” he says.

Howe says that a few weeks ago, his dream came true: an 850 FICO score. FICO scores range from 300 to 850 and achieving the highest score is extremely rare. Many people in the financial industry say they have never seen one.

“For me this is an absolutely stunning accomplishment,” Howe says. “I worked on it for so long. I will continue to make sure my credit is very strong but will not obsess over it anymore. I have had a few sleepless nights because of this. It’s a sense of relief for me.”

Why the obsession?

Howe says the pursuit of the perfect credit score was a personal and professional goal. He is a credit manager at a company based in Massillon, Ohio, and founder of a consumer credit reporting agency that serves cable and telephone companies. But on a personal level, he has always been fascinated by the credit scoring system.

“FICO doesn’t discriminate,” he says, adding that income and age aren’t part of the calculations that determine your score. “You can be a janitor at Walmart and have exceptional credit or a CEO with bad credit.”

‘Howe’ did he do it?

Howe warns that he is not a FICO expert, but for those who want to improve their credit scores, here are his tips, based on his journey to achieving the perfect credit.

  • Watch your score like a hawk: Howe spent thousands of dollars over the years buying credit reports and monitoring his score. “I have my scores going back at least seven years,” he says. “In the most recent three of four years I have watched every single detail.”
  • Manipulate the balance and payment date on credit cards: “I know exactly when my statement is going to cross,” he says. Credit card companies usually report your balance to the credit bureaus on the day of or a few days after the statement date, which is different than your due date. So even if you are paying off your credit card every month on the due date, but maintaining a high balance through the month, this can impact your score negatively, he says.
  • Avoid unnecessary inquiries: Hard inquiries can make small dents on your credit score and they appear to affect your score for up to a year, Howe says. While it’s impossible to avoid inquiries when you have to apply for an auto loan, a mortgage or even a new cellphone account, don’t go wild opening new credit cards, because doing so may affect your score. “I have not opened a revolving credit card account in almost a decade,” he says.
  • Have a decent amount of credit: Avoiding too many credit inquiries doesn’t mean don’t ever open a credit card account. You’ve got to start somewhere but you have to know when to stop. Howe says he has 11 credit cards but uses only about four of them. On a day-to-day basis, he uses one.
  • Keep a small balance but not a zero balance: Paying off all of your credit cards won’t get you a perfect credit score, Howe warns. But an extremely low balance will help. Howe says he made sure to keep a small balance on one of his credit cards. How small? He says he kept it under 7 percent of the available credit. “I always pay before my due date but I would leave, say, $30 on there,” he says.
  • Pay down the mortgage: Howe says paying down his mortgage was a key factor to achieving a perfect credit score. He has paid down more than half of his 1-year-old mortgage.
“Just a month ago I was getting 845,” he says. “I paid down another $6,000 on the mortgage and that additional $6,000 was the magic threshold.”You don’t need a perfect score to get the best rates as a consumer. To lenders, as far as rates, there’s really no difference between a 780 score and an 850. But if you are pursuing an excellent score, Howe’s tips might help you.

His score wasn’t always great

About 10 or 15 years ago, Howe says, his credit score was as low as 630.

“I’ve had some missteps,” he says.

He says even if your credit history is tainted by collections, foreclosure or bankruptcy there’s still ways to fix your credit if you are patient and persistent.

“If you have a bankruptcy or a foreclosure let time heal that,” he says. “I’ve had some serious issues in the past and here I am.”

Follow him on Twitter @Polyanad.

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Help! I Owe $150K in Student Loans and Make $36K a Year (via yahoo finance)

April 29, 2014 | Posted in Debt, Finance | By

money

By Gerri Detweiler

Money problems can be distressing and depressing. We recently heard from a college graduate who feels overwhelmed by debt:

What can I do about student loans? I owe about $150,000 and only make $36,000. I’m also looking for a new job that hopefully pays more. I feel stuck and miserable. I went to college to better myself but instead of feeling improved, I have this huge burden on my shoulders. All I do is work and pay bills, work and pay bills, work and pay bills. Help me, please!

We asked finance expert and writer (and contributor for Credit.com) Mitchell Weiss about our reader’s plight. Unfortunately the news wasn’t encouraging.

The writer may be entitled to some government-backed repayment plans, such as income-based repayment (IBR) or Pay As You Earn (PAYE) programs. But, Weiss cautioned, those are available only for federal loans; they are not available for private loans. If he works in the public domain, our reader might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

“As far as his/her private loans are concerned, it’ll be case by case with the lenders,” Weiss said in an email. “Just know that any accommodation will come at a price — unpaid interest will be added to the loan balance (this is known as ‘negative amortization’), which will only make matters worse.”

 

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5 Sneaky Ways to Build Your Savings

April 22, 2014 | Posted in Debt, Finance, Savings | By

Dollar Sign

Heather Sokol via babble.com

One of the most important things to financial peace is having a savings account with funds available for emergencies. But, there are bills to pay and unexpected expenses and kids who eat you out of house and home.
It’s so hard to break the cycle and get to the point of having money to put away. Most experts will tell you to “pay yourself first,” meaning add to your savings before you even pay bills or spend any money.

That sounds like a great idea, in theory. But if money is already tight every month, it is just not going to be realistic. Instead, try to find simple ways to save just a little bit every week.

Here are 5 sneaky ways to save money you’ll barely miss:

1. The Round-Up: For each purchase you make, round up to the nearest dollar in your check register. You may only be saving pennies at a time, but it gives the checkbook easier math and adds up over time. At the end of each day, week, or month, you can transfer the money to your savings account. Some banks even have special checking accounts that will do this for you automatically.

Related: 7 steps to a better budget this year

2. The Impulse Savings Plan:
Whenever you make an impulse purchase, transfer the same amount to your savings account. This impulse savings plan can help your budget in two ways. Not only are you adding to your savings account with each impulse purchase, but you may find yourself spending less money if your impulse buy isn’t actually worth double. Another idea would be to put the money into savings every time you stop yourself from making an unplanned purchase.

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