Financial PlanningFor the majority of us, managing finances and the proper management of these finances for our future and our family’s future are a top priority. However, many of us aren’t sure where to start. In the back of our heads, we assume there will be more time or that we will begin in a few years, but the truth of the matter is, a few years may just be around the corner. It is crucial to be aware that when saving for your future the earlier you start, the better off you will be in setting and reaching realistic financial goals. It’s time we realize; there is more to planning than just saving money.

When we think financial planning, we think well of well-off individuals being able to hire someone to handle their bills. You may think, that is not for me, I do not have the kind of money to hire someone to manage my money. How can I trust them? However, hiring a certified financial advisor may be more affordable and credible than you think.

A good advisor can often provide you with the discipline we may lack when managing our finances and can be viewed as an impartial, unemotional third party who will apply steady fact-based advice and reassurance when the market may fluctuate. Typically, consumers using an advisor may see an estimated 3% increase in return when using strategies put forth by their financial investor. Additionally, hiring a planner may pay for itself over time with increased income for yourself and your future.

Advisors will also assist in increasing annual returns by using strategies for investments; such as asset allocation, minimizing taxes, rebalancing, and structuring timely withdrawals from your retirement. A good financial plan will typically include savings, investments, planning for retirement, education, emergencies, major purchases, financial goals, and insurance needs.

Do you have a plan in the event of an unforeseen emergency? Do you know where you would obtain funding? These are questions you may find you asking yourself when setting goals towards your future. An added benefit of making a financial plan is planning for life’s unexpected events; emergencies, large purchases, or insurance needs. Having a plan gives you the peace of mind you need when a troublesome situation may arise.

Whether you feel lost in your finances, or want a professional opinion, the judgment on hiring a financial planner can help secure your future and your future happiness. These professional planners can be extremely helpful in assisting you in making the best financial decisions, and ultimately seeing the best outcomes out of your money. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve while securing your future for you and your family.

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Your HomeBecoming a homeowner represents a major life milestone. But from a financial point of view, purchasing a home is not a one-time event; it is the foundation for a variety of strategies over the course of a lifetime.

Before settling on any mortgage strategy, it is important to think through what you want financing to accomplish. As with any major financial decision, your particular circumstances and goals should shape your choices. Are you most concerned with saving money overall? Minimizing your interest expense? Securing the lowest possible monthly payment? Some buyers may want to maximize their equity – the market value of the property less the remaining mortgage – while others may have the goal of becoming debt-free by a certain age or milestone. How you weight each of these objectives will shape how you approach a mortgage. Beyond your goals, think about your circumstances. Your stage in life, your family situation and the other assets available to you may all affect your decision.

Once you have answered these questions, you can consider a variety of mortgage strategies appropriate for your goals. While there is certainly no particular age limit, upper or lower, for any of the strategies I will discuss, some make more sense at certain life stages than others.

For first-time homebuyers, often in their late 20s to mid-30s, the main goal of a mortgage will generally be to secure the particular home they have in mind. Before deciding on a mortgage type, these buyers should seriously consider how much of a down payment they can afford and the size of the mortgage they plan to take.

A few years ago, securing a mortgage often required a down payment of 20 percent or more. These days, lenders have relaxed that standard. Even when it is not required, a substantial down payment certainly offers advantages, such as the potential for a lower monthly payment. But the current low-interest-rate environment and reasonable housing prices in many markets may make buyers hesitant to wait.

In this situation, there are some options. The Federal Housing Administration offers insured loans to buyers who can only afford very small down payments, potentially as little as 3.5 percent. Borrowers must also meet other FHA criteria to qualify and should expect more paperwork and a higher interest rate than those of a traditional mortgage.

Borrowers who cannot make substantial down payments might also consider “piggyback” mortgages to avoid private mortgage insurance, often abbreviated PMI. All borrowers will want to avoid PMI if possible since it will increase the monthly payment amount, though this is offset slightly by the fact that premiums can be deducted as interest if you itemize deductions on your federal tax return. If a homeowner’s down payment is under 20 percent, a lender typically requires PMI. Piggyback loans allow borrowers to take out second mortgages to cover some portion of the down payment. These arrangements avoid PMI, but typically involve higher interest rates than single mortgages do.

Lenders may offer a buyer the option of paying points on the mortgage at closing. The buyer pays set fees outright in exchange for a lower interest rate. While this may seem appealing because of a lower monthly payment, most homebuyers should avoid paying points. If you pay interest upfront, it becomes a sunk cost that you cannot recover if you sell your home before the end of the mortgage term.

Once a borrower decides on a down payment, the next decision is what type of financing to secure. Adjustable-rate mortgages offer relatively low interest rates for a fixed term, often five or 10 years, after which the rate becomes variable. These mortgages are especially attractive to buyers who know they plan to sell their homes before the variable rate takes effect.

While many borrowers can and do refinance when the fixed term is up, the rates are likely to be higher, possibly much higher, five to 10 years from now. In White Plains, New York, 30-year fixed mortgage rates for buyers with good credit hovered between 3.5 and 4 percent as of this writing; by historical standards, these rates are incredibly low. Buyers will not want to be hit with the inevitably higher rates down the line. However, if a buyer firmly plans to sell the property during the fixed term, the lower rates can be attractive. Buyers should always avoid adjustable-rate mortgages with very short terms.

For many people, if not most, a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage remains the best choice. If you are buying your “forever home,” where you plan to raise children or build your life for the long term, a 30-year fixed rate will almost always be the right way to go, since it locks in a reasonable rate virtually for life.

Even if you do not intend to stay in your home very long, life happens and many people’s plans change. Time moves quickly and only seems to go faster as we age. Not only might inertia keep you in place past your initial plan, but a financial setback could also mean an original moving timeline is no longer practical. Even if you grow into a larger home, you may wish to keep your starter property, especially if it is a condo or apartment. You could then rent it out, even once you have made your home elsewhere.

The major downside of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is that you will pay the most interest over the life of the loan because of the long-term and the rates that outpace the fixed portion of an adjustable-rate mortgage. For those interested in obtaining home equity more rapidly, a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage may be an attractive alternative. The downside is that a shorter term means significantly higher monthly mortgage payments. In addition, your overall financial picture will include less liquidity, since more of your assets will be tied up in home equity.

There are a few mortgage types that all borrowers should avoid outright. An interest-only mortgage is one in which the borrower pays only interest for a set period, often five or 10 years, while the principal remains unchanged. While some borrowers find them appealing because the early payments are substantially lower than later ones, these loans almost always involve taking on too much risk; the homeowner builds no equity at the beginning of the loan, so a decline in the property’s value can quickly become a disaster.

Borrowers should also avoid loans structured so that the borrower owes a large lump sum at the end of the mortgage, often called a “balloon payment.” Unlike a typical mortgage, the full value of the loan is not amortized over its term, which makes monthly payments lower. However, many homeowners concerned about securing a lower monthly payment will lack the cash to make a balloon payment, meaning that they will either need to sell their home – trusting that property values have not dropped so far that the sale will not cover the payment – or refinance at rates that are almost sure to be higher five to 10 years from now.

Different strategies become available to borrowers who have held their mortgages for some time. For instance, by the time homeowners reach their late 30s or 40s, it is likely that their earning power has increased. Many may find themselves in a position where they could pay their mortgages down faster than the standard amortized schedule because they have paid down other debts or reduced expenses. But just because borrowers can pay their mortgages faster does not necessarily make it a good idea.

First, borrowers should double-check to make sure their mortgages have no prepayment penalties. While you should never accept a mortgage that has such fees in the first place, if you failed to look for this provision, you certainly should not incur any penalties to pay faster.

Even if no penalties stand in the way, the current low-rate environment means that many people would be better off investing their extra cash in diversified portfolios. If the expected rate of return is higher than the mortgage interest, allowing for the benefit of deducting that interest, an investor essentially creates leverage.

That said, a very conservative investor who is especially averse to debt may find paying off his or her mortgage is the right choice. If the borrower is considering sticking the money in a low-yield money market or savings account, the mortgage’s interest rate will still beat the rate of return on such vehicles, even allowing for its tax treatment.

For some homeowners, making extra mortgage payments offers the added bonus of imposing forced budgetary discipline. Some borrowers know that they will spend any cash that is available to them; by paying down the principal, these people will build their home equity by tying up their money in an illiquid form.

Homeowners in this life stage may also start to consider a second mortgage. While once relatively rare, home equity loans – another name for second mortgages – became nearly standard in the 1990s and early 2000s. In part, this is because mortgage interest is generally deductible on income taxes (up to certain limits), regardless of the loan’s purpose. While such loans can occasionally be useful, the housing crash demonstrated the real hazards of excessive borrowing using one’s home as collateral, including losing the home itself and marring one’s credit history through default. This strategy should be pursued very cautiously, if at all.

A home equity loan is different from a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, though both carry many of the same risks. Rather than taking out a loan for a fixed amount, a HELOC is set up as a line of credit using the home as collateral. The borrower can draw on the credit line much like a credit card, with the loaned amount subject to variable interest rates.

By the time you consider a second mortgage or a HELOC, you may be nearing the end of your original mortgage. Smart homeowners have refinanced their mortgages within the past seven years to take advantage of the current low rates; those who have not should do so as soon as possible before rates start to rise again.

Homeowners who have been in their houses for a few decades are likely to be in their prime earning years, with an eye toward retirement. Some of them may be financing their children’s college educations or considering big-ticket purchases, and may want to use their home equity. Beyond the options discussed above, borrowers may have the option to refinance a principal amount that is higher than their current principal balance. The lender will present the difference as cash. Some lenders, however, may be reluctant to allow such a strategy in today’s strict lending environment.

Furthermore, this technique can be dangerous. Effectively using a home as an ATM means that the homeowner will be paying a mortgage for longer than originally intended, face higher monthly payments or both. It can be tempting to view a home as a source of ready cash, but if the home’s value suddenly falls, the owner could end up in an uncomfortable situation. In fact, widespread use of this strategy was a major component of the 2008 financial crisis.

Retiree homeowners may have a problem opposite that of younger adults buying first homes. They may well own their homes outright, but could find their finances constrained by too-small retirement nest eggs or unexpected expenses. They may wish to consider reverse mortgages in order to turn some of their equity into cash. In a reverse mortgage, the lender does not require repayment until the borrower dies or sells the home. In theory, the loan is structured in a way that the loan amount will not exceed the home’s value over the loan’s term.

A home is a major financial asset and creates many opportunities over a homeowner’s lifetime. By carefully weighing your needs and realistically assessing your overall financial situation, you can wisely settle on the mortgage strategy that serves you best at any life stage.

Brought to you by Ezine Articles


InvestWould you like to invest your money but do not know where to start? We offer you a series of considerations that will help you to analyze which is the best option.

Investing is not a luxury of people, but a quality that feeds on patience, discipline, and diligence. Well, you can increase your financial resources if you propose clear goals, make a frequency to fuel investment, and choose the appropriate mechanisms for its conduct. The easiest way to start an investment is the snowball effect, which proposes saving small amounts to make them an important economic boost. Discover how!

What is an investment?
Investment is directly related to saving. An investment can be the purchase of a good considering its resale value or its productive value (the money you can generate thanks to what was bought). We also talked about investment when we put a sum of money in an economic activity in order to get a return, or profitable return, the benefits derived from such activity. The premise of thumb is that you should invest only extra money or small amounts that do not affect your daily economy. Financially, it is not advisable to risk more than you are willing to lose.

How to start investing?

1. Analyze available resources
If you have enough money in your savings account cash to cover you for six months, then you can invest long-term and in larger-scale objectives. Instead, when you generate a lower savings it is necessary that you evaluate how willing are you to lose part of it. The goals will be less ambitious so as not to lose the stability of your savings.

2. Considers profitability and risk
The return or return is directly linked to the level of risk involved in an investment. If you aim to get a high return, then the risk will be higher than if you decide to start small. The choice will depend on the goal you want to achieve.

3. Define your goal
It’s different investing money to pay for your studies than it is to invest to afford a trip. As a result of your goal, you can take more or less risk. Make sure you narrow your target to see how much you might lose.

4. Investigate fees for money services
The investment involves an expense because it requires time. The banks and savings plans charge fees for the provision of services, like any other company. Should find out which costs the system implies that selected to invest, so you ensure that a flaw in the plan does not end with the return you were going to receive.

5. Select the system that best fits your financial objectives
Take advice about the different plans and your bank accounts offered to establish what fits your goals but mainly, your economic reality. Remember that the investment starts from extra money, not from a need. Usually an instant access cash account does not involve big changes in your economy and you can withdraw the money when you want it, so it is considered a safe investment if you have the perseverance necessary.

6. Ball of snowball effect
Study your salary in relation to your daily expenses to analyze if you are able to set aside a small sum each month. For example, analyzes whether to save 3% of your salary implies economic obstacles in your day to day. Being consequent you will get a snowball in a few months – small proportions that become a considerable sum – and perhaps you have managed a better administration that allows you to increase some percentage point of savings. Of course, the higher your income, the higher the percentage you can invest.

7. Stand firm.
Where investments give the expected results, even in small amounts, it is generated the temptation to withdraw money from the system in which it was placed to achieve profitability. Be firm with your decision and avoid using the invested money for other purposes, at least for a considerable time to not affect the growth we are experiencing.

8. Be patient and constant
The lack of immediate results frustrates first -time investors who want to see its evolution in the short term. The investments require a long time to achieve significant consequences and also a great deal of perseverance. So do not incursions into the world of financial profitability if you lack patience and perseverance.

9. Make a rhythm
It make contributions with a set frequency, it will help you achieve the consistency needed to accumulate money slowly. In addition, it is essential to follow the direction of your initial goals. Maintaining sound decisions instead of permanently changing your goals is the key to ensuring your resources increase as much as possible.

10. Avoid debt
Using money that you do not physically own to start your investment can generate the opposite effect. And the potential increase in your resources will become a debt. Any investment has an element of uncertainty, so study your resources and find out the available mechanisms.

11. Diversify your resources
Distributed among different products and asset classes money you want to invest. In this way, if an investment does not yield the expected results you will always have a plan B.

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Time WastersDo you ever feel like you can never get anything done at work? Are there time wasters at work that are killing your productivity that you might not realize?

Your days seem to whiz by in a flurry of activity. But how much are you really getting done? According to recent research, the answer is, not that much. With productivity down, American businesses are looking for the reasons why. What they have found is astounding.

Today’s worker is wasting more time than ever before – and that is cutting deeply into employers’ profits.

When surveyed, the average worker admitted to wasting about three hours of their workday on non-work-related tasks. That’s three times as much time as employers had suspected, costing businesses about $759 billion in wasted salaries every year. But, it gets worse.

According to a report issued by this year, about 4% of workers admit to wasting as much as half of their workday doing things that have nothing to do with their jobs. So what are people doing during work hours?

How We Spend Our Time

According to statistics, 64% of workers use the internet for personal use during the workday and 50% make personal phone calls or send texts during office hours. As many as 60% of workers admit to making online purchases when they are supposed to working, and many more play video games.

But, the personal use of time isn’t the only workday waster impacting businesses. Here are some in-office time wasters that employees report:

Gossip (42%)
Social interaction with C-Workers (32%)
Snacks and Breaks (27%)
Meetings (23%)
In-Office Noise Distractions (24%)

How Much Our Time Wasters Cost

None of us have to waste much time to have a real impact on a company’s profits. It makes sense that wasting hours each day is going to cost your employer big bucks. But, what about those small time wasters we rarely think about?

One report estimates that if every employee in the United States wastes a mere 36 seconds per day, the cost is an astronomical $120,484,000 every year! Now, multiply those few seconds by the minutes and hours most of us waste in a single day and you can see how much productivity is being lost in America’s workforce.

How To Break The Distraction Habit

No matter how conscientious you are, we all need to look at the tasks that strip us of the time necessary to get real work done. Here are a few of the most common culprits, along with some simple solutions:

1. Office Gossip

It’s hard not to fall into this trap, but statistics show that gossiping eats away as much as an hour a day in some offices. The easiest solution is to walk away when the gossip starts.

2. Socialization

Limit friendly banter to breaks and lunchtime.

3. Distractions By Noisy Co-Workers

If a noisy co-worker keeps you from being productive, wear noise-cancelling earphones, or ask to have your cubicle moved to another part of the office.

4. The Internet

Unless you need it to get the job done stay off the internet altogether while at work.

5. Email

Sifting through dozens of emails every day can be a real time waster. Instead of reading and responding to every message when it comes in, set aside a time each day to handle non-emergent correspondence. Here’s another tip: only read the most important messages. Skip over the rest.

6. Meetings

If meetings are eating away at your productivity, do your best to eliminate unnecessary ones. If you really aren’t required to be present, skip it. And when you are required to be in the room, do your best not to sidetrack the discussion. Keeping everyone on task can save hours of table time every week.

Snacks And Breaks

Everyone needs a break from time to time, but do your best to limit them to only a few minutes once or twice each day.

It may seem impossible to get through your to-do list in a mere eight-hour workday, but if you are diligent to eliminate these common time eaters, you may discover that your day goes much smoother, and you get a lot more accomplished!

Brought to you by Brian Tracy


Frozen PipesWinter is officially upon us and that means many homeowners will be paying a hefty price for not protecting their property against frozen pipes.

According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage and freezing is the second most common home insurance claim filed, with the average claim totaling $8,861. In fact, frozen pipes are a significant contributor to the more than $10 billion in annual insurance claims paid out due to plumbing leaks.

Water’s power in both liquid and solid states can wreak havoc on the unprepared home, says Chuck DeSmet, founder of FloLogic, a plumbing leak detection auto water shutoff device.

“Water can unleash a double whammy where freezing causes a breakage and thawing causes destructive flood,” DeSmet says.

“Water damage from frozen pipes not only destroys irreplaceable property, it can uproot families from their homes and cost them for years to come in higher insurance premiums.”

But frozen pipes and water leak damage are completely avoidable when homeowners follow some practical guidance, and with the help of technology designed to detect and arrest leaks automatically.

Here’s a practical guide for avoiding frozen pipe damage this season:

* Turn up the heat. Whether home or not, keep thermostats in the 55-60-degree range, or higher, to ensure pipes in basements and crawl spaces don’t freeze up. For extreme cold protection, opening sink cabinets is advised to expose pipes to additional warmth.

* Insulate. Pipe insulation wraps will increase resistance to freezing ambient temperatures, while insulating structure cracks and openings will help keep the environment surrounding your pipes at a safe temperature. To avoid exposure to deep freezes, a UL-listed heat tape or cable wrapped around pipes will electronically generate warmth to prevent freezing.

* Inspect and update. Be sure outdoor hoses are removed from spigots. Periodically replace supply hoses to washers and toilets – a primary cause of water leaks beyond frozen pipes.

* Let it trickle. When temperatures are especially frigid on homes with exposure, leave faucets open to a steady drip or trickle. The constant flow will help prevent freezing, but also wastes water.

* Install leak control technology. Leak detecting smart water valves will flag a broken pipe leak anywhere in a plumbing supply and automatically shut off the water before the ice dam completely melts.

* Shut it down. If you don’t have a leak detection auto shutoff device, the most prudent protection when you’re away is shutting off the water supply and draining pipes. Even a small two drips-per-second leak from a cracked pipe will produce 77 gallons in a week – enough to cause costly damage.

With greater knowledge and adoption of leak control technologies, reduced damage from frozen and broken pipes stands to benefit everyone, according to DeSmet.

“When insurance companies pay to repair leak damage, it indirectly costs every policyholder,” DeSmet says. “Simple preventive measures and leak control technologies will help spare us all.”

Brought to you by NewsUSA


Productive People Are HappierIs it true that the most productive people are happier and more successful? Productivity and happiness may be more related than you think. If life is getting you down, you may need to get busy.

All-too-often people think that busyness is the cause of their stress, when in reality, being more productive may be the answer you’re looking for.

There are a lot of reasons why being more productive will boost your mood. The more you accomplish, the better you will feel about yourself.

Here are 6 ways being productive will make you a happier person.

1. Checking Off Tasks On Your To-Do-List Makes You Happy

There is a real freedom in checking off tasks on a to-do list. It makes you feel like you are accomplishing something in life – and you are!

Whether the tasks you set are big or small doesn’t matter. The key is finishing what you set out to do.

Biologically, scratching something off of a to-do list sends a signal to your brain to release a certain amount of dopamine, a natural mood enhancer, into your system.

2. Working Towards Your Goals Makes You Happy

Second, having goals – and working toward them – can give your self-esteem a real boost.

Plus, it gives you something to look forward to.

When you have a purpose, you have a reason to jump out of bed in the morning. When you have something to strive for, you will feel more energized and ready to tackle what the day holds.

This will make you feel more centered and ready to meet the challenges of life.

3. Cleaning Up Makes You Happy

Next, clutter can make you miserable. The typical American home holds 300,000 items.

We simply don’t need most of that stuff, and it is driving us crazy. From cleaning, sorting and maneuvering around all those belongings, the stuff in your home and office can make you feel trapped.

And that can make you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and downright unhappy.

So why does a cluttered home or office make you feel so bad?

Here is what scientists have discovered about unneeded clutter.

Clutter overstimulates your nervous system. This causes all of your senses to work overtime; which can be taxing.

Clutter refocuses our attention on things that don’t matter, clutter creates feelings of guilt and embarrassment, clutter is frustrating and it makes relaxing impossible. Strip away the stuff and you can strip away those negative feelings.

4. Exercising Makes You Happy

Exercise gives you more energy and when you use that energy to accomplish your goals, you will feel better about your life.

Taking just 20 minutes every day to exercise can strengthen your body; clear your head, and boost your immune system.

Plus, exercise releases mood-enhancing hormones into the body.

But, exercising your body isn’t all you can do to improve your mood. Keep your mind busy too! When you are busy working on a project, you have less time to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings. Staying busy helps you concentrate on what is good.

5. Always Having Something To Do Makes You Happy

The more productive your day, the more motivated you will be to get things done.

Remember, you don’t have to accomplish great things. Simply having something to do is enough.

6. Having A Purpose Makes You Happy

Sixth, always have a purpose. Productivity is vital when it comes being happy.

But, don’t confuse being productive with being busy. Simply adding more to do to your daily task list can create more stress and frustration in your life, making you miserable.

Being busy means doing more and more things while being productive means doing something with purpose.

Always strive for accomplishing something rather than simply doing more.

True happiness can only be attained when you discover your passions and work toward attaining your goals. What is it you really want out of life? Once you figure that out, you will have the energy you need to make your dreams a reality.

Brought to you by Brian Tracy