I know some people get tired of me promoting the importance of credit, credit ratings and smart money. However, living with bad credit costs people thousands of dollars along with potential opportunities. Potential opportunities you ask? YES…potential JOB opportunities. If getting better interest rates isn’t enough to move you to improve your credit, missing out on potential job opportunities should.
Imagine spending time building your resume with solid work experience only to have your dreams dashed because you’re living with bad credit. Don’t believe this can happen to you? See this article posted on CNN Money’s website -> http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/12/pf/bad-credit/. I also have clients who have personally experienced this, which brings an element of reality to the table. More and more employers are reviewing personal credit reports to see how potential employees are managing their personal affairs. Imagine going through the hiring process for your dream job only to be eliminated because your credit scores are lower than another candidates. No bueno (good)!
A large number of people are under the impression that improving credit requires a lot of work and in some instances it might. However, working smarter is most likely the solution to your credit problems.
Here are four quick things to do in order to improve your credit scores:
1. Start paying your bills on time TODAY!
2. Resolve past credit issues by paying-off, settling or validating the accuracy of accounts. Each account is different so you may need to consult a professional for assistance.
3. Pay your account balances down. The rule of thumb is to keep your utilization ratio around 30%. This means if you have a credit card limit of $1,000, you want to keep your balance for that account at or below $300.
4. Don’t close your old accounts. Aged, active accounts actually assist with increasing your credit scores. You lose that history when you close older accounts.
As always, feel free to share your stories with me…I enjoy hearing from you.
Over the past couple of months I’ve learned far more about engagement rings than I ever wanted to learn. Being the financially conservative (frugal) person I am, I took the engagement ring purchase process way deeper than others would. However, my experience will serve as an educational tool for a lot of you guys out there going through the same thing.
Let me get this out of the way before I proceed, SIZE IS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS WHEN CHOOSING AN ENGAGEMENT RING!
I’ve previously written about this topic for BlackEnterprise.com (http://www.blackenterprise.com/money/the-engagement-ring-a-gift-from-the-heart-or-jewel-for-the-ego/), but have a new-found respect for the process now that I’ve immersed myself in the details.
Most people refer to engagement ring decisions as the 4C’s, but I’ve added two to the list. Here is a brief summary of each C, along with how it impacts your overall decision…
1. Cut – A diamond’s cut is the measure of a diamond’s light performance, better known as sparkle. No other characteristic has a greater impact on a diamond’s appearance. If you want a diamond that blings, please don’t take for granted the importance of a diamond’s cut. Try to avoid anything less than a good cut, but opt preferably for very good or excellent if your budget permits. You can buy a huge diamond, but if it doesn’t shine, its value is diminished.
2. Clarity – Measure of the number and size of tiny inclusions (imperfections) that exist in almost all diamonds. These are also referred to as flaws. Most inclusions aren’t visible to the naked eye. However, magnifying glasses will allow you to view the size and number of inclusions within a diamond. Since many of the inclusions are microscopic, they generally don’t affect a diamond’s value. However, if you can visibly see the inclusions, you should avoid purchasing that diamond.
Here is a breakdown of the categories:
- FL (Flawless): Very rare diamond with no flaws.
- VVS1, VVS2 (Very, Very Slightly Included): Very difficult to see the inclusions even when magnified. An excellent quality diamond.
- VS1, VS2 (Very Slightly Included):Imperfections are not typically visible to the naked eye. Less costly than VVS1 and VVS2 diamonds.
- SI1, SI2 (Slightly Included): Usually requires magnification to see inclusions. This grade level provides good diamond value.
- I1, I2, I3 (Included/Imperfect):This grade of diamonds will have minor inclusions that may be visible to the naked eye.
3. Color – Refers to a diamond’s lack of color, grading the whiteness of a diamond. The range is from D (highest possible grade) to Z (lowest possible grade). After cut, color is typically considered the second most important characteristic when selecting a diamond. What this means to you…most eyes identify the sparkle first, and color second.
4. Carat – Probably the most overemphasized component of a diamond. Now don’t get me wrong, carat weight has a place in the process of purchasing a diamond. However, it’s very challenging to see the difference between a 2 carat ring versus a 1.75 carat ring. Not to mention, you’ll see a noticeable price increase every .5 carat or so. If given the choice for value, I recommend dropping just below the .5 carat limit to avoid the price bump. (examples, buy a 2.49 carat diamond instead of a 2.5 carat diamond, buy a 1.9 carat diamond instead of a 2.0 carat diamond, buy a 1.4 carat diamond instead of a 1.5 carat diamond).
5. Certification – I won’t spend too much time focusing on this area, but be aware of the certification types. The two major certification systems are GIA and EGL. I’ll refer you to google and other diamond education sites in order to assess which system(s) they use. Just be aware that you want to purchase a diamond that’s certified because it protects a buyer from unscrupulous jewelers who may not have the buyer’s best interest in mind.
6. Cost – Let us not forget that money is a major factor in trying to determine what kind of ring to purchase. There are two aspects to consider, the diamond itself along with the setting to mount the diamond. Please be careful on how you allocate your budget. There are a number of different settings to select from. I’ll be honest…this is where I truly became overwhelmed during the process. A setting can significantly impact your budget if you’re not careful. My advice is to set your budget, spend the core on the diamond and complete the purchase with a setting that keeps you within your budget.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to purchase a ring solely based on carats.You could find yourself with a huge, unattractive diamond. Focus on cut and color first, then turn your attention to carat and clarity. I also recommend seeking out a diamond jeweler who provides the best value. I scoured the internet doing research and found there are a number of options to consider.
1. Online Jeweler – BlueNile.com is the online source I recommend because they specialize in providing high-quality diamonds without the overhead that many traditional retailers have.
2. Retail Jeweler – Solomon Brothers and Luxor Jewelers provided me with a great experience when shopping at their showrooms. All of their sales people were very knowledgeable and were able to answer ALL of my questions. Having an opportunity to see the diamonds in-person is an added benefit that online sources can’t offer.
3. Private Jeweler – Some people opt to use private jewelers. They typically specialize in diamonds and can offer you wholesale prices. You have to be careful though, because you could be taken advantage of if you aren’t careful. Be willing to have the diamond appraised prior to finalizing the purchase.
There is so much more I could write about this process. However, at the end of the day, don’t get too intimidated by the 6C’s of the ring process. Set a budget, focus on a quality diamond, select a setting and prepare to present it to your future bride.
Remember…the ring is the external symbol of the inner commitment you’re making to your future bride. You can buy the most expensive ring in the store, if the commitment isn’t present…the marriage will eventually fail!
You can watch part 1 of this video series here -> Click Here for Part #1
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– 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.”