Mortgage Broker or Mortgage Lender: Choosing the Best Option

Mortgage Broker or Mortgage Lender: Choosing the Best Option

Prospective homeowners are faced with the decision of whether to employ a mortgage broker or a mortgage lender when deciding on a home mortgage. But what is the better option? Because it is a huge financial investment, buyers need to make wise decisions every step of the way to ensure financial security. A mortgage lender provides the borrower with the funds at the closing table, whereas a mortgage broker does not actually lend money. Mortgage brokers are responsible for seeking out the most optimum loan packages from a variety of lenders and are able to lock in the best deals. Thus, the recommended course of action is to employ a mortgage broker over a lender when looking to buy or refinance a home mortgage.

Attempting to find a mortgage that fits one's specific needs, circumstances, and budget can be frustrating and demand an incredible amount of time. Searching for loan products without the help of broker can mean spending hours on the computer researching, going from lender to lender, completing new applications over and over, and trying to negotiate the best deals. A broker is able to sort through the wide variety of mortgage products offered by various lenders and find the best package based on the buyer's financial situation. This decreases the time it takes to find a great value and lock in the best home mortgage.

In addition, establish mortgage brokers have preexisting connections, contacts, and relationships with numerous lenders. This positions the broker to receive better deals than an individual will likely receive on their own. Also, the mortgage broker will know their client's specific financial situation and the mortgage lender that will best cater to that buyer's needs. Some lenders offer a wider variety of mortgage products for a specific target market. For example, certain lenders offer financing options specifically for those with poor credit ratings while others do not. By employing the help of a broker, prospective buyers avoid wasting time and energy talking with unsuitable lenders.

Brokers are able to advise buyers on any potential problems they may have in qualifying for a loan. They will carefully review credit history and the borrower's application to ensure that the buyer is in the best possible position to be approved for an appropriate mortgage loan. A reliable mortgage broker will manage all aspects of the loan, which includes collecting all information about the transaction, processing the credit report, verifying employment, and much more. Once the file has been fully processed it will then be transferred to the lender who funds the loan.

Employing a mortgage broker helps remove the uncertainty and headache of finding the perfect home mortgage for every financial budget. Having assistance from a professional broker provides unbeatable value and is an excellent way to ensure mortgage loans are tailored to meet financial goals. It is critical that prospective homeowners employ a broker who is well established, works with multiple mortgage lenders and is committed to providing superior financing options.

Eurozone Problems: European Banks Are Having Trouble Raising Money

Eurozone Problems: European Banks Are Having Trouble Raising Money

A survey of European banks gives you an idea about a sharp decrease in lending capacities of the banks. It's time to comprehend the reasons behind such trouble at raising money. Considering the crisis the Euro zone faced over the years, the policy makers need to reconsider some of the critical things threatening the economic growth. Economic output is contracting in 9 of the 17 nations that use the euro. European banks are weak and unable to finance the nations that require credit finance. This is the major reason behind failure to have proper economic recovery and fixation of financial problems.

Failure to repay and re-finance the government debt results into need of the third party into the picture. European sovereign debt and financial crisis make it difficult for some of the countries to repay the government debt alone. The debt problem remains one of the prime considerations, communicating the failure of the government to limit its expenditure. The rising debt levels around the world result into downgrading of government debt. The economic analysis presents clarified observations. The structure of the Euro zone is another factor, where we see monetary union without fiscal uniformity. It seems difficult to manage situation, when there is one common currency and differences exist on account of different taxation and regulatory framework. The banks own considerable amount of debt, threatening the solvency of the banking system. Increased fear of credit crisis makes it difficult for the banks to have appropriate financial decisions. When the stock market news indicates upcoming recession, the condition becomes graver. The future possibility of market decline can put constraints on the banks to control their financial decisions. Obviously, they put restrictions on the amount and to whom to lend the finance to, when they find trouble in raising additional finance. So, to avoid the risk of default, they have tightened their lending standards, resulting into strict control on the economic factors.

Some of the reasons of the European debt crisis can be listed as globalization of finance, easy credit conditions, risky lending and borrowing practices. Real estate bubble, international trade imbalances, and economic slowdown add to the present economy failures. It seems that only the fundamental changes in the banking system can help Europe recover from the constantly faced credit and debt crisis. Again, low confidence of the banks can be listed as another factor that affects on lending capacities of the banks. The European banks are valued by the stock market performance at present, which is normally less than the book value of the shares. Such valuation does not seem valid in the changing business scenario. The factors like political stability, economic issues, and currency valuation do have much to say about the European banks' trouble in raising money. Hence, it is difficult for the banks to raise money from usual commercial sources. Failure to which, there is considerable increase in the cost of liability. Bailing out the countries facing severe solvency problems make it worse.

4 Key Tips to Help Increase Your Chances of Getting Small Business

4 Key Tips to Help Increase Your Chances of Getting Small Business Financing

As a small business owner your ability to secure small business financing will in fact determine how successful you are. Unfortunately, few business owners know how to improve their chances of getting a business loan which is why when the time comes they are not able to secure the loan they need to keep their business running.

Tip no. 1: Familiarize yourself with the bankers in your community's financial institutions

Prior to applying for a loan you should find out exactly which institutions in your community issue loans to businesses like yours. Not every bank specializes in giving business loans and those that do may only lend money to businesses in certain industries. Some lenders only lend to businesses that are at a certain stage of their business cycle. This is why it is important that you only work with bankers who are familiar with your industry. One big reason why you should work with banks that know about your industry is because they can give you some solid business advice. This advice stems for their experience working with other businesses in your industry and so they have come to understand the problems they face.

Tip no. 2: You should be able to easily describe your business's "Value Proposition"

You need to able to clearly communicate what value proposition you have. You should work on drafting a business plan that outlines three main scenarios i.e. worst case, most likely, and best case. You will want the banker to clearly understand all three of these scenarios. You should also be ready to discuss in great detail the assumptions that you make in each of these scenarios.

Tip no. 3: Weigh risks and benefits

If you want to get small business financing you need to start seeing things from the bank's perspective. Banks see things in terms of risk and benefit. You need to have a solid and viable plan which will mitigate the risks. Bankers do risk analysis regardless of if you do it or not but being prepared for it means that you stand a better chance of being considered.

Tip no. 4: Two ways to be able to repay the small business loan

Bankers always like small business borrowers who put forth a primary and secondary source of repayment. As a small business owner you are in the best position to determine all possible repayment alternatives. However, you should discuss the options with your banker. Secondary sources of repayment include the pledging of personal or business collateral. The more certain a banker is the higher your chances are of getting the loan.

Applying for and getting a small business loan can be a time consuming and tiresome chore. However, all business owners will have to apply for a business loan at least once during their time as businessmen. So, it is always a good idea to know what you're getting yourself into prior to applying for a loan.

Strategies For Investing In Physical Gold

Strategies For Investing In Physical Gold

Buying physical gold has become a popular investment amongst investors these days. People who want to see their investment secure elect to invest in physical gold rather than ETFs. The reason for wanting to acquire this precious metal is that it is easy to locate and easy to buy.

Gold can be bought in the form of coins, ingots and bullion, and it comes in different shapes. In the current economic climate, it is hardly profitable investing in stocks on the market. If you think that you will get a superior return by investing in ISAs, deposit accounts or high return savings accounts, then you need to rethink!

The price of gold has risen steadily since the Second World War and has continued to grow. When it has fallen, it has only dipped a little bit, and most gold investors get their money back. Or if they want they hold onto their purchase and save it for when the price goes back up again.

Three facts about buying physical gold

  • Firstly, Let us take gold jewellery; there are remarkably few people who don't own a gold item. This could be because they have not found something that they like. If physical gold is dressed up in some delicate jewellery is worn by some important personality, the price will increase extensively. If you want to sell your gold jewellery, you would get a return when the markets are thriving. Every woman always has several items of gold jewellery that they have bought over the years. Jewellery can go out of date, and any gold that you may have can be sold as scrap for a price.

  • Secondly, a more secure form of investing in gold is the ultimate gold bar. It is true; you cannot find it easily in some places. However, in the UK it is easy to find, and you can your ingots and have them sent through secure post. All you require is either go to your local high street jewellers, or the Yellow Pages, and these online. Browsing online will open many closed doors in this market, and you can choose your supplier. The biggest gain in owning a gold bar is that it's price will undoubtedly increase according to shifts in the economy. This is also influenced by the rise and demise of gold mines around the globe.

  • Thirdly, gold bullion is clearly a safe investment because it props up some of the other investments in the conventional markets. All governments always have some money tied up in gold, as a hedge against any financial mishaps. It will require extensive research to find and buy it but it is possible. However, compared to gold bars, you will have the assurance that it contains one hundred percent pure gold. The bullion is not adulterated by being fused with other metals such as copper. Gold bullion usually has the governmental stamp to convince you of it's purity. Therefore, if you are rethinking your strategy on investment, then gold is the future. At the very least, ten to thirty percent of your investment portfolio should be in this metal. It will help offset any shortcomings if the market crashes again. If you are a small investor, then buying a few gold bars every so often will not be difficult to keep either. You could put them somewhere safe in your home, and not forget where you put them. Look at this website that offers gold investment opportunities, it could be useful in the future

The Social Security Trade-Off Is Settling For Less Early Or More Later

The Social Security Trade-Off Is Settling For Less Early Or More Later

At what age should you begin your Social Security retirement benefits? That's the question. Since benefits increases the longer you wait, you should consider your present needs, your concern for a legacy to your children, and your longevity to help you decide the matter.

Your working income history determines your Social Security benefit if you start them upon reaching your full retirement age (FRA). That's age 66 for most soon-to-retire boomers. But you can start as early as age 62 with benefits decreased from your FRA benefits; they're decreased in direct relation to how much earlier you begin retirement before your FRA would begin.

On the other hand, if you wait to start beyond your FRA, your benefits increase in proportion to how much longer you wait, but there's no increase in benefits for waiting beyond age 70. Note that these benefit increases for waiting later are apart - in addition to - from any cost of living increases that may take place too.

The social security shows that whatever your FRA benefit is (i.e. what you'll receive as benefits at age 66 -your FRA), the amount you would get if you retired at the earliest age, i.e. 62, you'd receive approximately 75% of your FRA benefit. Likewise, if you waited to the latest age for increased benefits, i.e. age 70, you would gain about 32% more than your FRA benefit. I remind you that these benefit results are in addition to the continual cost of living increases that SS gives.

*Considerations to making your decision:

Whatever benefits you do receive, though, will stop when you die. And if you die before taking any benefits, all that money is lost to you or any of your heirs. That's how the government saves on payouts - and emphasizes that clear fact that the government considers your benefits, which you contributed to over the years, as its money and not yours!

Clearly there's a trade-off between taking a lower monthly benefit early versus a higher monthly benefit later. To determine which to do, you might consider what age you must live to so that the total amount of benefits you receive from an early start would match the total benefits from a later start. That's your break-even age. Living longer than this favors starting later if its 'total money collected from benefits' as the measure of advantage.

But the Social Security agency says, "If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, at full retirement age, or at age 70 or any age in between." So you see that the government has planned an approximate equal payout of benefits to you if you manage to live to your statistically projected age at death.

So your decision comes down to one of two considerations. The first is if you're so short of income that you simply need to begin collecting early, then you have no choice at all; you must start collecting - as many are doing now.

The second is if you have additional income and can afford to forego beginning your Social Security benefits early, then you should try to determine if your natural longevity will take you significantly beyond your remaining life expectancy or significantly less. If it's not significantly longer, then I'd take it at FRA or earlier. After all, when the benefit money gets into your hands, it then becomes your money so you can do with it - like leave it as a legacy - as you wish.

Applying for a Prepaid Credit Card? So, What Is a Prepaid Card Actually?

Applying for a Prepaid Credit Card? So, What Is a Prepaid Card Actually?

Prepaid credit cards are becoming more and more popular and the number of providers has risen in the past few years. This is not a niche the high street banks have ventured into and that is the reason there are quite a few different providers out there that you may never have heard of. However a prepaid credit card looks and works just like a debit or credit card. They are partnered with either Visa or MasterCard, which is a great advantage point for people using these cards, as you can use them to buy anything on the internet, the card is facilitated with purchase protection and you can use them for booking hotels etc.

They look like a credit card and work like a credit card. The difference with a prepaid credit card is that you don't have to pay interest or penalty fees and that is one of the main reasons the high street banks haven't ventured into this market as they make huge amounts of money with late fees and interest.

Prepaid credit cards come with many other great features, the best one is that they are 100% guaranteed / instant approval. There are certain terms and conditions to the 100% approval, obviously being the correct age and proving your address to get the full features that the different card providers facilitate. You don't need a bank account and there aren't any credit checks involved when applying for one of these cards. So the application can be completed in minutes and your card will be in the post shortly after.

So how does the card work if it isn't a credit card? You have to load money on to the card to use it. If there is no money on the card you can't use it. This is why there are no credit checks involved when applying for a card, you are never going to be in debt and owe anything back to the provider. However some prepaid card providers do now offer small loans and overdraft facilities where a flat fee, no interest is charged.

So why apply for a prepaid credit card? Prepaid cards are one of the best ways to carry cash around, they work like back accounts, you can even pay your wages onto them, they are accepted everywhere the Visa and MasterCard logo is visible, instant approval, great for people with bad credit as you can even build you credit score with these cards and you have enhanced security with your Chip & PIN technology. As they are partnered with Visa and MasterCard the same security and fraud protection is extended to your prepaid balance and if the card is lost or stolen, you are not held liable for any fraudulent transactions; your money is safe.

Opt for Credit and Marriage Counselling Before These Worries Defeat You!

Opt for Credit and Marriage Counselling Before These Worries Defeat You!

With each passing day, the world is becoming a smaller place. Opportunities are multiplying on one side and the population on the other. The rich-poor divide has widened. This leaves the financially downtrodden with less access to tackle their day-to-day issues.

The unforeseen circumstances like accident, illness, divorce or natural calamity further makes one spiral down to the lowest strata of the society. It leaves people devoid of the right advice at the right time and hence makes them vulnerable to financial downfall. Even a trivial issue like inability of managing credit card can lead to a serious crisis for a person or an enterprise. This has given rise to not-for-profit, registered charitable organizations that have earned a reputation of being a registered charitable organization offering credit counseling, debt consolidation, and marriage counseling to people facing debt and money-related issues.

Be it starting a small-scale industry, business or even buying home, it becomes imperative for one to apply for loans. These loans often lead to more needs and the family ends up in a vicious cycle of hefty interest rates. They finally succumb to financial crisis, without even realizing it. This can be avoided through proper guidance and counseling to manage money, by addressing issues like: when to borrow, how much to borrow, where to borrow, how to repay. These few decisions are of critical importance and need a clear vision and ability.

Furthermore, the increasing rate of divorce across the globe also leads to financial downfall for many. For instance, the alimony amount needs to be negotiated in a way that turns a win-win situation and not one being at the receiving end. The lawyers often end up making most of the opportunity and cashing on such opportunities. This can be prevented through a third-perspective guidance which helps the marriage to sustain and the relationship to thrive for a long time.

Organizations related to family & credit counseling services impart education on handling situations that may lead to either financial crisis or broken marriages. Through strategies and importance of saving for needs, wants and emergencies, the organization creates strategies for establishing and reaching your financial goals, managing money, creating budget that is realistic and possible, and delves into credit bureaus, credit files and credit ratings. It also enlightens people on what to compare when shopping for credit card, using credit card in a proper way, warning signs of financial crisis, and tips and tricks for saving money.

Through rich experience and expertise in the financial management strategies, such organizations offer family financial management and consumer debt strategies. The major focus is primarily on Credit Counseling, Debt Consolidation, and Marriage Counseling. Such organizations offer best solutions for everything you need.

Making Money From Home - AKA, Your Future!

Making Money From Home - AKA, Your Future!

Really, it doesn't matter what you do for a living - whether you are a corporate drone, a manual laborer, or something in between - there is a good chance you find yourself wishing at times that you could find a way to make a living from home, or at least find yourself running into people who express a desire to work from home; most people who talk about this desire, however, tend to do so in a wistful manner, as if this is something that no one is really able to do. And even though all of us have heard the success stories of those who have made huge incomes from home, we tend to think of this as something that only happens to a handful of people - when the truth is, lots of people make a great living online, and you can be one of these people if you just start learning some basic things!

One of the first things you need to realize - if you have a dream of making a living from home - is that it is, in fact, going to require work, which is something that many people do not grasp; people tend to assume that generating income from home is something that will enable you to just simply coast - working a couple hours a week and otherwise doing whatever you want - but while there will be a point where you will be able to coast and still make money, you will have to work hard early on, building your websites and your online presence, and getting to a point where your sites are making money on their own.

Another thing to realize is that generating income from home will take time; a lot of people get upset about the fact that "making a living online has not worked for them," when in fact they have only been putting in time in this area for a couple months, or even a couple weeks; as more and more people try to generate income in this manner, there is more and more competition - which means it will take some time before things start to click for you. If you are on the right track, however - teamed up with the right system - you are going to eventually break through and find success in this area!

And of course, managing to uncover the right system is a very big part of succeeding in this area, as the right system will be able to make all the difference in the world; in order to find the right system, then, you need to take the time to look at websites that detail a number of different systems that work for making a living from home, and need to then pick the one that feels right (or the ones that feel right!) to you.

Realize: everyone has the ability to work from the comfort of their own home and pile up a whole bunch of wealth doing so; all they need (all you need!) is to find the right system, and to put in the necessary work.

Maximize Your 2014 Retirement Plan Contributions If You're Still Working

Maximize Your 2014 Retirement Plan Contributions If You're Still Working

Perhaps you only have a few years left until you retire. Your income is high and you're trying to save more for retirement. Now is the time to maximize your retirement plan contributions. Here's why...

If you've just a few years left before retiring, you're probably earning a lot more than what your retirement income will be. Most likely you've paid off your house, the kids have moved out, and you're in the best position to sock some of your earnings away.

So take advantage of Uncle Sam's regulated retirement plans - especially the ones with the deductible contributions. Let's list the maximum contributions you can make for each of the retirement plans in 2014.

Note that if you're 50 or older you often can make a higher contribution.

-2014 Contribution limits are:

* Traditional and Roth IRA: 5500, 6500 if 50 or older

* SEP IRA: 52,000

* SIMPLE IRA: 12,000, 14,500 if 50 or older

* 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans: 17,500, 23,000 if 50 or older

* Defined Contribution Pension: 51,000

* Defined Benefit Pension: 210,000

These plans sometimes allow you to make a profit without the investment even growing! As an example, some of your company plans - like a 401(k) or 403(b) - may offer a matching contribution to your plan at least to some percent of your income. So whatever you contribute - at least to the match limit- gives you a 100% profit on your contribution. You can't go wrong. Check if your company will match your contribution and be sure to contribute that much.

Another way you may benefit quickly over just a few years is because your highest tax bracket after retirement will most likely drop considerably. This change can give you a tax-based profit on what you actually contribute now. Here's how.

Your plan contributions which are tax-deductible reduce your taxable income off your highest tax bracket rate. So if you contribute a $1,000 deductible within your 28% tax bracket, you're out-of-pocket cost to you is $720 (72% of $1,000), yet you have the full $1,000 in the plan.

If you then retire with a considerably lower income, you may decide to withdraw that $1,000. But though it's taxable income, it may only be taxed at 15% - your new 'highest' tax bracket. That means you pocket $850 (85% of $1,000). So you can see that even without any investment growth you've converted a $720 investment into $850 - all because of a change in your tax bracket - clearly tax-based profit.

And remember, unless you have a very high income, your Social Security income won't be taxed. So you can have a respectable take-home income and still reap those tax-based profits by making judicious retirement plan withdrawals. Choose your withdrawal amounts consistent with keeping you in the lower tax brackets.

Gold Befuddles Bernanke As Central Banks' Lose $545 Billion on the
Precious Metal

Gold Befuddles Bernanke As Central Banks' Lose $545 Billion on the Precious Metal

Gold has been going down quite a bit this year with the precious metal trading in the mid 12 hundreds down from about $1.900 an ounce last year.

But investors aren't the only ones to be losing money. As a matter of fact, Central banks across the world own about 18% of all mined or above ground gold in the world, and collectively bought 535 tons of gold bullion in 2012... with Russia, the biggest buyer in 2012, expanding reserves by 20%. But at about $1,300, gold prices are down 31% from their $1,895 level in October 2011 and central banks have lost about $545 billion in book value on their gold investments.

By the way, I picked up some of this data from an article titled Gold Befuddles Bernanke as Central Banks' on

While central banks were busily adding gold to their vaults, investors were losing faith in gold... as a safe haven, as a hedge against inflation and as a store of value. As a result, 2013 became a rather dark year for gold with gold ETFs losing about $60 billion or about 43% in value, severely impacting many well known hedge funds. This year, we've seen the biggest drop in gold prices since 1981, of course after rallying for 12 successive years through 2012... so I guess something had to give.

The chairman of our central bank, Ben Bernanke, openly admits that he does not understand movements in the price of gold... this from a man who holds economics degrees from Harvard and MIT and has led the Federal Reserve Bank through its biggest financial disaster in recent years.

And Warren Buffett sees no utility in gold because it moves to vaults once it's mined and has no tangible producing power, unlike say steel.

Yet, our government holds about 8,100 tons of gold valued at about $344 billion with most of this gold stored at Fort Knox in Kentucky. And since 1973, America's gold holdings have only contracted by 5%... so despite Bernanke's befuddlement with gold price movements, we continue to hold large reserves of bullion... because it continues to hold value in human minds and the U.S. is better off holding this precious metal than having none at all. I guess it's also sort of a doomsday backup.

So what is it about gold that makes it such a favorite???

I believe it is gold's allure as a lasting store of value. While policymakers such as Fed Chairman Bernanke may not completely understand gold price volatility, they still find value in preemptively holding it to shield their economies from inflation and continue to buy it despite a history of buying high and selling low. For example, central bankers reduced their holdings when the bullion reached a 20-year low in 1999 but became net buyers just before prices peaked in 2011... but these guys aren't stupid... their gold buying and selling decisions are based less on price but more on gold's strategic value in helping them manage the economy - so their purchases ignore near-term price volatility and focus on significantly long-term holding horizons, and these spurts of buying by central banks significantly impact gold supply and prices in the near term.

For example, the U.S., Germany and Italy hold about 44% of all central bank gold and have only changed their reserves by less than 3% since 1999. So they are long-term holders of gold and near-term prices matter little to them.

Gold investors see it as a hedge against inflation. So gold rose 70% from December 2008 to June 2011... because the Federal Reserve went wild printing money for its various bailout and quantitative easing programs... and spooked investors who thought this excessive money printing would weaken the dollar, increase money supply and trigger runaway inflation... But, fortunately, that inflation never came and consumer prices rose only 1.7% annually from 2008 through 2013, well below historical inflation of about 4.3%. So when various gloom-and-doom scenarios did not play out as expected, gold started losing its allure and prices started to correct, with gold down 22% in 2013 alone.

But gold bulls fervently believe gold is still undervalued... partly because current gold price levels are almost half of what they were in 1980 when you adjust for inflation. Gold was at $850 in 1980 after the financial and political turmoil in the late 1970s... but adjusted for inflation, today's price is merely $464 in 1980 dollars according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Gold bulls argue that while gold is below its 1980 level after adjusting for inflation, it has still outperformed the U.S. dollar in purchasing power. For example, a dollar bought about 3 quarts of milk in 1970 while an ounce of gold bought 28 gallons. At the end of 2011, a dollar bought just about one quart while an ounce of gold bought 420 gallons. So on a purchasing parity basis gold has handily outperformed the dollar. And this is partly why many think that holding gold is a reasonable and prudent strategy.

On the flip side, analysts who have been relatively correct about predicting gold prices see a deepening bear market in gold and believe prices could drop to the $1,100 level in about 12 months, down from their current levels of around $1,300.

For all of gold's opponents, there are many who fiercely believe in its value. In fact, frustrated with the uncontrolled printing of dollars, many are pushing to get the U.S. back on the gold standard - and pegging dollars in circulation to a fixed % of the amount of gold we hold. Utah already recognizes precious metals as currency and lawmakers in six other states are looking at accepting bullion coins as legal tender.

But one of the challenges with tying our currency to gold is the volatility of gold on geopolitical events and global supply and demand - and this volatility could really bog down exports and imports with currency uncertainties. Other problems with the gold standard are that there just isn't enough gold available to meet expanding global economies and a dependence on gold would make it very difficult to use financial tools such as quantitative leasing to manage the economy. So the real question is why would we peg our incredibly dynamic economy to the amount of some metal that we sitting in our vaults, it just doesn't make sense. I said this to Congressman Rand Paul on this show a few years back. He said that if we couldn't print dollars, we wouldn't have the money to wage war. I responded by saying that it never stopped countries from waging war before and they would just go to war over the gold.

So for the foreseeable future, I don't see our dollar getting pegged to gold but I think central bankers will continue to add to their reserves as their own form of insurance, partly to also prevent gold from getting into the wrong hands, and will continue to hold it for the long run while investment and commercial supply and demand will continue to dictate near-term gold prices.

Cheap Car Insurance Coverage

Cheap Car Insurance Coverage

If you need cheap car insurance perusing the net is your best bet in finding affordable yet high quality coverage you can count on. You no longer have to feel pressured to pay sky high rates on car insurance. You can find minimum coverage or maximum coverage online for great rates that don't break your budget.

It can be overwhelming to find the best rates to suit your own personal budget online but it can be done with the right research. Preparing a head of time is always beneficial for any person who desires to find a reliable insurance provider that they can trust.

There are many options out there and it is easy to get pulled in by false advertising and fake promises, but if you do your homework you can find the best provider for your needs. It is easy to choose one that tries to talk you into purchasing coverage you don't need, so you will have to be careful in that respect.

It doesn't cost you a dime to change insurance companies and it can also save you tons of cash over time. If you can afford to replace your car then why buy insurance? But if you need money for gas, buy cheap insurance and drive farther. You can feel safe and protected yet still have extra cash in your wallet when you purchase cheap car insurance.

In many states it is a requirement to have car insurance so it will behoove you to be sure you have an affordable policy in place before getting out on the road. Getting caught without insurance can be very costly, so you will definitely want to find the best policy for your personal needs. You can do this on a variety of websites online. These insurance providers are very interested in gaining you as a policy holder and they will often times match or beat a competitor's rates.

Take some extra time today to see what is available to you when it comes to cheap car insurance rates. It is a guarantee that you will get many quotes back from a variety of providers. Once you do you can then make an informed decision as to which policy suits you best. Don't get caught out on the road unprotected. It will cost you time and money you can't afford. Purchase cheap car insurance today and have the peace of mind you have always wanted.

Home Mortgage Eligibility: Determining Qualification

Home Mortgage Eligibility: Determining Qualification

Knowing how much house one can afford is a critical question for prospective homeowners. Many interested buyers have no idea what size home mortgage they qualify for, so they end up trying to take out the largest loan a broker or lender will approve. This approach to acquiring a home mortgage is not necessarily the wisest option. A trusted mortgage company will go beyond the formula of simply determining someone's basic eligibility and actually take into consideration the security of the homeowner's financial future. It is important for prospective homeowners to employ a reliable and trustworthy mortgage broker that will explain how home mortgage eligibility is determined and lock in the best possible mortgage rates.

When assessing whether an individual qualifies for a home mortgage many things are taken into consideration. Typically, a monthly mortgage payment should remain under 45 percent of one's gross income. Some mortgage companies will approve loans ranging from 45 to 55 percent of the individual's gross income if they have a good credit history. However, it is critical that homeowners understand that they will actually be making their home mortgage payments out of their net income. Other expenses, such as taxes, car payments, credit cards and other loan payments must be considered when deciding what size home mortgage is truly affordable.

The debt-to-income ratio is another factor that is taken into consideration when determining eligibility. Brokers like to see that the debt-to-income ratio does not surpass 45% of gross income. A mortgage broker can help homeowners calculate where they stand financially in order to determine what is the most feasible loan option. Mortgage companies are just like any other business; they have to make money to survive. In order to make money they charge interest on the amount they lend. A reputable mortgage broker will provide fair and competitive interest rates and work to secure a home mortgage that positions their client toward financial stability and retirement.

Many individuals cringe at the thought of their credit score, and yes, a broker will look at an individuals credit history; whether the borrower has credit cards maxed out, bankruptcy, late payments, extreme monthly payments, or collections. Each of these factors is important when determining home mortgage eligibility, but there are many options available for those with a less than excellent credit history. Loan programs are available for individuals with a wide range of credit histories and financial situations.

Before even beginning to search for a new home, a vacation home, or an investment property, an honest mortgage company should be consulted. They can help buyers understand their financial situation and just how much house they can afford. By seeking the guidance and advice of a mortgage broker, a prospective buyer can secure a home mortgage that is tailored specifically to their financial situation. Purchasing a home is a large investment and the importance of locking in the right home mortgage from a trusted mortgage company cannot be overstated. Additionally, the house-hunting process should be exciting and enjoyable! Being well prepared, educated and working with the right mortgage broker will ensure the best investment is made.

Top Advantages Of Efficient Small Business Accounting

Top Advantages Of Efficient Small Business Accounting

Like it or not, efficient small business accounting only happens when it is done by a professional. This may seem very one-sided - leaning towards the side of accounting firms - but this statement is true. There are a number of benefits which spring from this action. The most famous of them will be itemized in this article.

Acquisition of total understanding of business finance - Most people who jump in to the pool of small business have one thing common. They all believe that they are good at doing something and if they take the risk to put up their own firms they can get the chance to earn more. While this has been the introduction of many success stories of entrepreneurs, this is not true for every one and in general. This is because passion and talent are not the sole things which make businesses run smoothly. It is efficient small business accounting that can make any company stand the test of time and financial trials.

Hiring an accountant can be a big help on your strategic planning and the financial structure evaluation. Both are key in ensuring smooth business operations on a daily basis. With an accountant's assistance, you can reach the maximum results from the routines performed in your business daily. More so, your eyes will be opened to cost-effective means of providing the best product or service to your clients. Yes, that is gaining profits without foregoing quality.

Access to useful tools - The advancements in technology continue to provide quicker and more efficient means in dealing with all aspects of our lives. When it comes to running small-scale businesses, different types of accounting software for small business have sprouted in the market to aid entrepreneurs with all the bookkeeping, computations, product inventory and correct budget allocation they need. Moreover, these applications are also helpful in managing employees with their work schedules and tasks, having a dependable payroll system and payment for rent and utility bills. The last two items are true for businesses with physical stores.

Excellent bookkeeping - There is no doubt about the importance of bookkeeping the sales and purchases, every day expenses, bank balance and other financial activities happening inside your businesses. An incomplete record of your expenses and income can cause your financial doom. Why is that? This is because wrong data equates wrong allocation of budget. Provided that you have a copy of all your receipts and other financial documents, you can expect a hired accountant to take care of everything.

Money and time well spent - As a small business accounting professional will be the one to take care of your financial concerns, you can divert all your efforts to doing things that are worthwhile. Examples of this includes searching for new clients, making appropriate investments and spending time with your family without being insane thinking negatively of your finances while you are away. Hiring a reliable accountant involves a certain cost and so be ready for it.

Planning For a Baby - What You Need To Know

Planning For a Baby - What You Need To Know

As part of my live well series, I wanted to address the financial implications of having children, or more specifically, having your first child. While becoming a parent is very exciting and fulfilling, it's also significantly life changing in many ways... but here, let me focus on the financial aspects of becoming a parent.

Income Reduction

Well, if you're a two-income couple, one of the first changes you might face is a straight reduction in your wife's income should she go on short-term or extended maternity leave. This, of course, also depends on her employment status and the pregnancy-related benefits she receives... but for the most part, young expecting couples are faced with a sudden loss of income of the mother. So make sure, as soon as you find out you're going to become parents, you use the remaining seven or eight months before the baby's birth to set your finances in order and rejig your lifestyle to accommodate a new person in your household and a drop in take-home pay. In instances where the mother is not working, adjust your lifestyle for the added expenses of a new born.

And, ideally, plan ahead as soon as you are married or in a relationship where the two of you would want children.

Also speak with your employer to see if you're covered by short-term disability insurance that could pay up to 70% of your gross income for about six weeks typically; also check with HR on your maternity benefits and make full use of them on things like your insurance co-pays... treat a pregnancy like any other medical condition and plan ahead for necessary out-of-pocket expenses.

Baby Expenses

In addition to loss of income, a baby comes with multiple expenses such as an added healthcare deduction from your salary, out-of-pocket hospital expenses for the mother and child, temporary periods of absence for the father that could also result in reduced pay close to the time of delivery and, of course, money for the baby's clothes, toys, crib, formula, diapers, car seat and more. You're sort of hit by a mini tsunami of expenses when a baby is born so it's best that you be prepared.

Now, I don't want to be Debbie Downer here, a new baby is magnificent experience but I do want to help you avoid some common mistakes. A lot of excited parents tend to get carried away and buy expensive cribs, expensive clothes and so on... driven by a noble thought where they want to give their child the best that they can afford... but, frankly, the child knows no better - a $1 toy from the Dollar Store is often as exciting and challenging as a $50 gift from your favorite baby store... and a fancy crib made of solid wood can easily be substituted by something that's way less expensive... just focus on the basics and then some; give your child a comfortable mattress and a warm blanket and you'll be fine.

This is also a good time to look for used items - you can get excellent quality children's items that other kids have simply outgrown and are going for a song.

Baby Shower

Likewise, use events such as the Baby Shower to ask for practical gifts so you get two or three really useful things that you know the baby is really indifferent to... and in so doing, reduce your expenses by getting necessary and basic items. Of course, we all want our kids to look cute and all, so go ahead and buy a few pretty clothes, but stick to thriftier stores if you can - they too have plenty good options that will not reduce your baby's cute quotient!

Instead, invest in things that matter - such as good quality diapers, good quality and healthy baby food and formula, a good car seat. You get the picture.

College Savings

As soon as you have a baby, you can also start socking away for baby's education - with tax free contributions to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (Coverdell ESA) and 529 Plans that let you invest today so the money grows tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free provided funds are used for qualified educational expenses such as tuition, educational supplies, computers and Internet access, room and board, etc. Of course by the time your baby in 18, we'll all be flying around in our own personal clouds wearing clothes that are internet connected. But seriously, as I have repeatedly said, use the power of compounding, start with small but regular contributions, invest this money in higher yielding securities such as stocks at first, then gradually shift the allocation to bonds or CDs as your child reaches an age where funds need to be withdrawn. You'll be amazed at how effective these plans are in reducing future education-related expenses.

Don't Ignore Your Own Retirement

And Finally, Don't Ignore Your Own Retirement. And through it all, make sure you don't ignore contributions to your own retirement savings. If circumstances or financial constraints make money tight, reduce your contributions down to $100 or even $50 a month but keep the continuity and the discipline, and actively streamline your lifestyle preferences to your new circumstances, to the point where you still manage to save enough for your retirement. See, if your household income drops from $100K to $50K suddenly, it may seem like there's no way you can save but I've come across enough individuals who make less than $50K a year, have children and yet manage to steadily build their financial nest eggs... it may seem hard at first but if you have the will to save, you will find a way.

Steve Pomeranz is a Managing Director for United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC, "United Capital", and owner of On The Money. On The Money is not affiliated with United Capital.

Characteristics To Look For In A Small Business Accountant

Characteristics To Look For In A Small Business Accountant

A small business accountant plays a vital role in the operations of all types of small industries out there. Finding a competent one is quite challenging these days as many people are claiming to be such even though they are short on skills and work experience. Needless to say, you must not give up in searching for the suitable person for your company. Take a quick look at the following thoughts that will help you understand what this professional must have. As we all know, landing at a wrong choice is your door to expensive mistakes.

1) Knowledge of the basics - Generally professionals providing accounting services must have finished relevant college degree in this field and enough years of work experience. In addition to the knowledge and observance of the general accounting principles, your hired accounting professional must know the ins and outs of the tax laws governing small businesses.

2) Honest and trustworthy - This professional will work closely with you. He or she will have access to all your bank accounts, petty cash, investments and all your financial records. Therefore, this professional must keep in mind your interest as the client. He or she must not engage into something fraudulent that can expose your financial records to unwanted dangers. More so, he or she is expected to be honest with you regarding the real state of your finances whether it is positive or negative.

3) Capacity to pay attention to details - A small business accountant has to deal with many tasks and a bunch of figures. Inability on his or her part to see errors and differences in the computations can cause troubles to all your financial records. In truth, he or she can only do this if he or she first of all meets the first characteristic stated above.

4) Communicative skills - Not all great accountants are great communicators. It is important that your hired professional knows how to do math and knows how to explain with you everything he does in your financial records at a level that is not complicated. This means he can use simple terms to make clients understand the real deal happening in their respective businesses.

5) Entrepreneurial spirit - Why hire a professional who obviously would want to handle wealthy clients than owners of small businesses like you? He or she might do all the best measures in inspecting and polishing your financial records but lack the interest to help you to make improvements in your business operations so as to cut expenses and have increased profits.

6) Credentials - Apart from knowledge of the basics, it is best that a small business accountant has a license and is a member of the top organizations in the country. This is a great assurance in your part that this professional can represent you in an audit. Moreover, you can expect that this professional has updated knowledge of the changes in tax laws and so you will be free from violations related to them.

Merchant Processing - A Primer

Merchant Processing - A Primer

Merchant service providers (or payment processors) facilitate the processing of consumer electronic payments. It generally involves the use of credit cards but can also apply to debit cards and direct debits to a payer's bank account.

Merchant service providers process transactions where the card is physically present or on line. The differences between the two occur in the beginning of the sales transactions. The back end processes for physical and on-line credit card sales are the same.

The merchant service process involves several steps and transaction parties. It begins when a consumer presents a card for payment.

Brick and Mortar Stores

  • The purchaser presents the physical card to the merchant;

  • The card is swiped at the register;

  • If a debit card is used, a purchaser inputs the pin number;

  • If a credit card is used, the purchaser signs the receipt;

  • Data from the magnetic strip on the card (along with the pin number, if applicable) are transmitted to a merchant service provider for validation.

On-line Stores

  • The purchaser inputs the required verification information into an on-line shopping cart and then through to a gateway;

  • Because no card is present, the purchaser needs to input the data found on the magnetic strip (account number, name, address, etc.);

  • The gateway transmits the data to a merchant service provider's validation system.

Merchant Services Provider

  • The merchant services provider verifies that the card is not on a lost, stolen or cancelled list; and that the amount of the transaction does not put the card over the credit limit.

  • Merchant service providers maintain extensive databases of fraudulent cards.

  • They also maintain an intricate system for identifying risky transactions.

  • Merchant service providers first "authorize" a transaction and then "settle" the transaction. The authorization process determines that the card is valid and has enough credit available. The settlement process actually charges the card holder's account.

Approval Process

For a credit or debit card, validation data is included in the magnetic strip. This includes card number, country code, name, and telephone number and expiration date. The address may be included on the strip as well.

For on-line or phone transactions, the merchant uses a gateway to process the transactions. The gateway allows consumers to input enough data to validate card ownership, i.e. it effectively takes the place of the magnetic strip and card reader. In both types of transactions, the payment processor needs to check that the purchaser has a right to use the card.

"Chargebacks" is the industry term for reversing a prior payment if there is evidence that the card was used fraudulently or if the merchant failed to deliver the agreed-upon goods or services. There are certain validation rules that prevent merchants from accepting fraudulent cards; and merchants may choose to enhance security and further limit fraudulent activity.

Once the card is approved by the payment processor, the transaction is approved.

Merchant Acquiring Bank

A merchant service provider works with a merchant acquiring bank to facilitate the transfer of funds to and from the various issuing banks. The acquiring bank will collect charges from all of their merchants and send those charges to the issuing banks. Funds collected from issuing banks are sent back to the merchant's banks. This exchange of funds happens daily.

Processing Fees and Deposits

Determining fees can be complex. Fees are assessed by the merchant service providers, the merchant acquiring banks and the banks that issue cards. Fees include a fixed amount per transaction; plus a discount %; plus a monthly fixed amount for gateway and statement charges. Fees can increase based on other factors, such as risk inherent in certain types of cards (e.g., corporate cards); or if the card is part of a points program. Fees generally run between 2 ½% and 3 ½%.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover receipts are usually deposited together. Fees are normally collected and billed to a merchant once a month. Fees may also be deducted before the transaction amount is deposited into the merchant's bank account, but this is less common.

Deposits are made to a merchant's bank account 1 to business 3 days following the transaction. Merchant acquiring banks may also hold back a reserve from the deposit to the merchant's bank account. If a merchant is paid in advance and goes out of business before providing a service; or if they go out of business and cannot make good on a return, the bank is liable to the consumer. The reserve protects the bank from this possibility.

American Express

With respect to American Express, they operate are their own closed system. American Express functions as issuing bank, payment processor and merchant acquiring bank. American Express has had the reputation of providing the best service and protection to users and merchants; but they also charge the highest fees.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover all use the same clearing process run by third party banks and service providers.

Direct Debits

Payment processors can also process "direct debits" charging the purchaser's bank account and depositing the funds into the seller's bank account. This transaction method is less common. Direct debits are used primarily for subscription based services; and are usually done when the purchaser is unlikely to cancel the service, e.g., a utility bill. Fees to the merchant are usually lower, often running at 1% or less.

As mentioned earlier, direct debits are not very common in the U.S. These types of transactions, i.e. direct deductions from a purchasers bank account, are more commonly done with debit cards or recurring ACH payments. This somewhat obviates the need for a direct debit process.


As mentioned earlier, the bank issuing the card will reverse a prior charge if there is evidence that the card was used fraudulently or if the merchant failed to deliver the agreed-upon goods or services. The chargeback will be sent to the merchant acquiring bank and then to the merchant. The merchant will have a certain amount of time to challenge the chargeback by proving that the purchaser did, in fact, order and receive the goods or services. The merchant acquiring bank will determine if the merchant has proven their case.

The chargeback rate that is considered acceptable is less than 1%. Over 1% and the merchant will risk a reserve holdback by the merchant acquiring bank and / or cancellation by MasterCard or Visa.

How to Find Experts to Help Your Business

How to Find Experts to Help Your Business

Wouldn't it be nice if you could open your own business and automatically know everything you needed to know to make it successful? While some people seem to have this kind of business green thumb, what they actually do is find experts to help them along the way. The key to being a successful business owner isn't knowing everything; it is accepting that there is no way you can know everything. Once you accept that you can go looking for other professionals who can help you maximize your business's potential.

However, it is also possible to go over board and end up spending way too much money on people to give you advice when you could have done just as well on your own. The first step in hiring experts to help with your business is to recognize when you need one. For complex parts of your business that you don't know anything about it is best to hire a professional. However, if it is something that you can easily learn then it may be something that you can do yourself. A good solution when you aren't sure is to hire an expert to give you advice on an hourly basis. That way you can get someone to help you out as you try to figure things out and if you get overwhelmed they can step in and take over.

After you determine that you need to hire an expert the best way to go about finding one it through referrals. Ask family, friends and other business owners. Nothing beats a personal recommendation when you are trying to hire an expert. If you can't find someone that you know who has experience with the type of expert you need, search online to find some potential candidates and look at their customer reviews. This can be an excellent way to tell if they are the right expert for your business.

You want to establish a business relationship that is fair to the expert while giving you flexibility to terminate the arrangement if the advice and help is no longer working for you.

Overall, hiring an expert to give you advice about an aspect of your business is the same as hiring anyone to work for or with you. You have to be your own advocate to be sure that you find the best solution for your business.

As you navigate the process of working with professionals to maximize your business be sure to learn as much as you can from the expert. The more you know about what they are doing to help your business the easier it will be to help yourself if problems arise in the future. Also, keep a file on each expert that you hire and make notes about your experience with them so that you can refer to it for future needs.

Plan Your Retirement to Maximize Social Security Benefits

Plan Your Retirement to Maximize Social Security Benefits

Understanding how to plan and what to do is essential when the time comes to retire. If you take the steps needed before the retirement age, you should have already nailed down a plan and be following it. A lot more people are now planning for retirement at a younger age to ensure that they are ready when it comes time to walk away from their careers. Even if you're not extremely successful, you should still find out ways to maximize your social security benefits in order to live comfortably without having to work. Consider some of these options and tips when figuring out how you can maximize your own social security and learning how to save for retirement.

What is Social Security in Retirement?

Social security benefits in retirement are what Americans get once they leave their career after many years. After you reach the retirement age bracket, you're able to collect what you've put away each month in order to supplement additional income from pensions, savings and retirement funds. This money can be any sum and is based on the money that you earned while working at your job. The Social Security office will do a calculation based on your pay schedule and pay amounts to get a number that is able to provide you with monthly checks. In order to stay away from having to pick up extra work during your retirement, check into ways that you can maximize your social security benefits while also being able to plan accordingly to add additional sources of income to your retirement pool.

Tips for Boosting Your Benefits

There are numerous tips out there on how to boost your benefits and maximize the social security that you obtain. Following these tips, while saving and having a retirement plan can help you ensure that you make the most out of your retirement when it comes.

• Delay claiming your benefits- They start at age 62, but they increase every year that you do not claim them, up to age 70. The longer you wait, the more you will receive.
• Utilize the spousal bonus checks- The benefits from your spouse's check will also pay you. This happens when the spouses check is 50 percent or higher than the check the other spouse receives.
• Try not to earn too much- A lot of the money that you make will then be withheld, so keeping it at the minimum might be the best way to go.
• Minimize your taxes- By claiming up to 85 percent of what you get after you take out all of the other factors you can minimize your taxes - If you're unsure on how to do this - speak with a tax professional.
• Get direct deposit- Since fees are associated with the other options that they are giving out. Paper checks are no longer an option, which means direct deposit is the only fee free way to go.
• Include your child if they are under the age of 18 or have a disability- You're able to receive more in social security benefits for them as well.
• If you're a widow or widower, you are entitled to a higher payout- This is true if the spouse's income was higher than yours when your spouse was alive.
• Perform a credit report check- This allows you to know how your credit score is to find out if you will qualify for loans in the near future or if you have any negative accounts that should be resolved.

Planning Your Retirement

Planning for your retirement ahead of time is essential in order to know that you have a security net to fall back on. By going through this list of "to-do's" you're able to create a working plan on what you're going to do for retirement. Do not forget to use the tips above to maximize your social security benefits.

• Start early and save as much money as you possibly can towards retirement.
• Open up a 401k plan since this is the easiest, most used and best savings plan that you can use for retirement purposes.
• Set more realistic goals for your retirement plan in order to meet them.
• Stocks are great to invest in for long term growth in order to get a decent payout during retirement.
• Working part-time while in retirement is able to give you extra spending cash, while also giving you something to do.
• Take money out of taxable accounts first and leave those accounts that are non-taxable alone for the time being.

Understanding all that goes along with social security retirement benefits can be beneficial to not only you, but those around you affected by your retirement. You should plan for a better future through planning and preparation. You shouldn't have to work after your retirement age unless you would like to for fun, you should be able to sit back and enjoy the rest of your life without the stress that might come with having a job by planning accordingly.

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