The Big Question: To Invest or Pay off Debt?

A common battle takes over the minds of millions of consumers who are near the beginning of their wealth building life. Debt, which comes at a cost, and investing, which has the potential to pay off significantly in the future, are two financial tools often at odds with one another, and not much direction is provided by the financial powers that be on which to tackle first. While both serve a purpose, it can be daunting to determine which is the right path for you and when. Fortunately, there are several questions to ask yourself that will help in making the best decision for your specific financial situation.

How Much is Debt Costing Me?

The first question you should ask yourself when it comes to paying down debt or investing is how much your debt is costing you. High-interest rate debt, like credit cards and some short-term loans, should be your focus before dipping your financial toes into investing waters. That’s because, over time, compounding interest on a debt costs you tremendously, especially when you’re only paying the minimum amounts due. While you could be earning a high return on your money in an investment account, more likely than not, it won’t be as high as the interest you are paying to a lender. Focus your energy on paying down that debt first.

Do I Have an Emergency Fund?

If you’re considering taking some funds away from your debt repayment plan to put toward investing, you should take a look at your rainy day fund first. Everyone needs an emergency savings account that can be easily accessed when a financial emergency or unexpected bill pops up. Counting on credit cards or loans to manage a big bill in a hurry isn’t always the best option, as it could cost you quite a bit over the long haul. Set aside some of your discretionary income to build your emergency savings to an acceptable level before you start investing.

How Well Do I Understand Risk?

Hands down, investments are the sexiest part of a financial plan. That’s because some investments boast high returns with little risk, along with access to your cash without any withdrawal penalties. However, all investments carry some degree of risk; without an understanding of how that affects your bottom line, you could be headed for financial trouble. Before you get seduced by investments, you have to ask yourself if you’re prepared to take on risk. Investments fluctuate in value (yes, even the safer ones), and if you can’t stomach volatility right now, it’s best to work on your debt first and then explore investment options when you have more discretionary cash.

Can I Do This Alone?

Just about any financial strategy can be implemented – and championed – on your own. Resolving your debt issues may take some time to calculate and fit into your budget, but it’s manageable without the help of a pro. Investing, on the other hand, can be a complex strategy to grow your money, and as such, getting expert help from a financial professional may be your best move. Figuring out the balance between paying down debt and investing for the long-term can be done easily by employing the help of someone who’s been there, done that, or an expert who is actively helping others accomplish the same thing.

Before rushing down one path or another, it is important to understand that everyone has unique financial circumstances that should be considered prior to making a significant financial move. Ask yourself these questions to get a better understanding of what your priorities are, and then develop a plan to get to the next level of your financial life in a balanced, logical way.

How to start investing with a small budget

With the economy taking a turn for the worse now and then, it’s wise not to store one’s eggs in one basket. This may be through relying solely on one’s paycheck. One has to find alternate ways to raise extra money on the side. A great way to do so is by investing in the hope that you will get huge returns in the future. However, this is not always the go-to option for most people. This is because most people have the illusion that investing is only exclusive to those with deep pockets. However, they couldn’t be further from the truth. It is actually possible to invest while on a small budget and here is how:

Start by saving

There is a thin line between saving and investing. In order to raise some money to invest, you’ll first need to save up a bit. If you are new to saving, here are some few pointers to saving. First, start off with stowing away a little at a time, say, $10 dollars per week. This may seem like a small amount, but over time it will grow up into a sizeable amount. Ways to starting saving include putting an amount of money in an envelope, a small safe, a shoe box or even in a cookie jar. There are also online savings options and apps that can assist one in saving. With saving also comes the need to spend less than one earns.

Direct Stock Purchase Plans

Once you have saved up a small amount, one of the best places to invest in is in direct stock purchase plans. This is where one buys stocks directly from companies with the absence of a brokerage account and middlemen. However, a drawback to this is that very few companies offer these plans so one is limited in options. However, you can’t dismiss the benefits of this plan where you don’t have to pay large sums of money as commission to a broker and you can even buy half shares.

Find fund companies that offer low minimums

In one’s search for fund companies, it is very easy to get turned off by well-known no-load fund companies that command large amounts of money as investment to the tune of several quid. However, be on the look for no-load fund companies that cater for new investors and don’t require one to raise high limits.

Other ways of getting investment advice are through books by well-renowned entrepreneurs such as Jack Welch or Robert Kiyosaki. Taking the time to read and learn them by heart is a good start to saving which you can find in various stores near you, say Barnes & Noble. Look for coupons and promo codes available to save bucks. All in all, these tips will help start you off investing even on a small budget.

Today’s Top Personal Finance Apps: Manage Your Money No Matter Where You Go

Keeping track of your money can be a difficult proposition for people who either don’t take the time to make a budget, or just don’t understand how to create an effective one. This can create financial problems that you may not be able to solve simply.

Fortunately, in today’s ever-connected world, help is just a mobile device away. Application developers have created hundreds of different apps that can help you set a budget, track your investments and give you a general overall sense of your financial situation. Some of the apps are even free, so you don’t have to spend anything to get on the right financial track. Here are some of the better financial apps that are available on Android and iOS that can help you keep an eye on your money from anywhere.

Mint

The Mint Budgeting App is a great, all-in-one tool that can help anyone set a realistic, sound budget and stick to it month in and month out. It’s also a free app for all mobile devices, so there’s really no downside to giving it a try.

If you do try it, you won’t be disappointed. Mint is a very easy, hassle-free way to follow all of your saving and spending. The app syncs directly to your bank account, so many times you don’t even need to input any information yourself. The app will know when you make withdrawals or deposits and when you use your debit card for groceries, gas or other monthly expenses.

The app is very secure and will give you alerts when you approach your monthly spending limit or when there are unusual charges to your account. It can even give you your credit score, so you know where your overall financial health stands.

All of these features will help you save more and spend less, strengthening your financial position.

PocketGuard

PocketGuard is another budgeting app that tracks your financial situation from anywhere. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that Mint does, but it is free as well and boasts a simplified outlook to your finances.

PocketGuard connects directly to your bank account and, once you input some information like your take-home pay, will keep honest track of your money. From the home screen, you can see your overall financial situation, from the total amount in your account to deposits and withdrawals. The app will also analyze your spending and recognize recurring payments, such as utilities and credit card bills, so it can give you alerts a few days before those payments are due. This will help keep you ahead of your debts and on track to saving money.

Wallaby

Wallaby is a financial tracking app that works a little differently than the previous two. Rather than just linking your bank account, Wallaby links to all of your credit cards as well, making even more financial information available to you in one place.

By linking to your cards, the app keeps track of all of your credit spending and can notify you when you are spending too much. It also analyzes your credit cards and gives suggestions as to which card to use in which store, maximizing points and rewards that each card offers and taking each card’s interest rate into account.

While the app uses top-notch security, linking your cards to the app may concern you, but you don’t have to worry. Wallaby allows you to just tell it what type of card you use and the app can still analyze the cards for the best opportunities to use them.

Digit

This app is for people who have trouble saving money. Like the other apps, you link your bank account to Digit so it can analyze your saving and spending habits.

Unlike the other apps though, Digit will use that analysis and take a small amount of money based on your overall account balance and deposit it into a personalized savings account.  This makes saving money an automated procedure that you never have to think about. Of course, you can block the app from moving money and you can withdraw from the Digit savings account at anytime, so your money is never tied up and unavailable. If you use this app for several months, you will see savings results that may surprise you.

Joseph Birch could probably tell you to the dollar how much he has in his bank account. He’s a frugal guy helping people online to manage their finances better to become happier through his articles.

Creative Cunning: Tips for a Budget Friendly Vacation

Vacations and getting away from everyday life should relax people. The idea of being distanced from daily responsibilities and feeling free from everyday worries takes a lot of planning. However, for a lot of people, this desire to be out of the normal routine also comes with the added stress of being able to afford time away to recharge. While a staycation may seem like the answer, frugality does not mean just making the best of the situation. With a little creativity and cunning, a budget friendly vacation is just one planning session away.

Cheap Lodging

One of the best ways to save money on a vacation is to find affordable places to sleep. If you are an outdoor person, pitching a tent is one of the best choices since it is flexible and frugal. If you want a longer term investment, use an RV. Campground rentals are reasonably priced for anyone trying to find cheap lodging. Tenting is excellent for outdoor lovers. For those who trend more towards the city folk side of things, the RV rental can save on expenses and feel like a home away from home. If being budget conscious, keep in mind that you want to factor in gas prices so traveling cross country may not be in the cards, but staying still in one beautiful outdoor location would be perfect.

Cheap Food

Eating on a vacation is the second cost deterrent to an affordable vacation. Assuming the need to eat out means assuming a larger cost than necessary. Finding local grocery stores and storing up on things you can make easily on the road is a good way to keep down costs. Whether camping, using an RV, or staying in an inexpensive hotel, food is a top priority. Treating yourself to a nice dinner out over the course of the trip can be a great way to relax. However, some meals simply aren’t worth the high cost. Instead of eating breakfast in a restaurant or eating fast food to keep it cheap, try buying boxes of cereal or breakfast bars.

Coupons

Frugality means deals. Deals come with coupons. With coupons abounding online and in local newspapers, it’s a good idea to do some research before you go. Going into the local grocery stores to get food means that you can probably also see what the coupons are for the week there. Take a look at apps for those big box stores that are in the places you’re traveling. If you download the apps for them, you can pick up necessities on the go for a lot less. Take a look at local libraries, also, to see if they have some options for rental of tickets with a valid library card.

Additional Income

Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. If you’ve always been a fan of the open road and have an RV you use for your own adventures, don’t let it languish in your driveway between trips. Rent it out to help pay for future trips.

The reality is that travel feels more expensive than it has to be. The ability to get a mental break from the daily grind doesn’t need to create the kind of stress that a vacation is meant to alleviate.

Fashion industry: Appreciate the latest trends for wedding dresses

The fashion industry is always keen to see what the latest trends will be for designer wedding dresses and reaction from some of the latest bridal shows will create a stir.

That’s because it appears that designers are willing to meet a growing demand from brides for wedding dresses that help them stand out from the crowd.

However, for many wedding industry watchers this will mean more brides ignoring the elegant classic gown which has stood the test of time and opt for something rather different instead.

Indeed, this may mean wearing a completely sheer wedding gown, wearing unusual veil hats or even – for those brides who really do want to cause a stir – have a wedding dress with a crotch-baring design. They certainly will not be a blushing bride!

It appears that designer wedding dresses in the near future will be aiming to reveal as much of the bride’s flesh as is possible with some designers unveiling daring looks including an ‘almost naked’ look.

These wedding dresses mean the bride will be revealing their pelvic bone in a gown that has been slashed from the waist to the floor though other designers are equally keen on brides flashing their cleavage as well.

However, it’s not all about designer wedding dresses taking centre stage to get all of the attention on a bride’s big day since some fashion designers are also creating unusual veils for their outfits as well; some of them look like hats with the veil falling down like a helmet.

Other creators of unusual wedding dresses have also revealed their delicate bridal gown designs that come complete with a sheer cleavage that leaves little to the imagination.

There’s also a trend for wedding dresses to use floral prints more in the fabrics of the gown to help the bride stand out.

The trend for future wedding dresses is not just about setting out to shock and it appears that bows will be popular as well, particularly bows located in unusual places, for instance on the back of dresses and tucked into skirts.

The latest designer wedding dresses were unveiled in New York where the watching fashion fans welcomed the ground breaking designs and there’s no doubt that brides who love fashion will be tempted to dare to bare on their wedding day in some of these more unusual offerings.

The Best Ways to Avoid Building up an Overwhelming Student Loan Debt

Many graduates today, acquire their degrees alongside high-debt burden from unsettled student loans which can be tens of thousands of pounds. However, with a strategic approach, consistency and commitment, you can pay off your student loans faster, lower your monthly payments or avoid surplus borrowing in the first place. To help you refinance it is important to compare student loan rates to make sure you get the best with your one opportunity. Below are definite ways to avoid a huge student debt profile.

Look for varsities that help you rely less on loans

Besides excellent teaching, research facilities and reputation, one critical factor that you should consider when looking for admission at colleges is the load of student debt encouraged- choosing one that does not overload their students with debts.

One way to do this is to check the statistics. Avoid schools with high default rates, which forces students to take up debts that they can’t afford. However, note that default rates may be an average stat and may not reflect the personalised financial package of individual colleges.

Make a budget

Having worked out your monthly repayment sum, the next step is to create a budget. Make sure to treat it strictly with the same commitment and discipline that you would treat other monthly bills like rent, utilities and insurance.

Pay off the loan upfront

Always pay off your minimum balance and avoid excessive default or late fee penalties. It’s a good thing that student loans don’t count on credit ratings and so don’t impact a person’s capacity to borrow in the future after graduation. However, lenders factor them in when considering a mortgage application.

Reduce your principal

Some of us might be lucky enough to find that we have some money lying around. Rather than put it towards the repayment of your student loan; pay it as part of your initial debt capital and lower the original amount. Make sure you notify your lender of this approach so that they know how to credit the extra payment.

Reduce your rate

If you have a consistent job with a fair income that is considerably higher than your total monthly repayment rate, you can refinance the high-interest student loan into a lower one and help you to pay off your debt more quickly.

Automate your payments

In addition to the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your debt profile dwindles further at the end of every month, some lenders offer extra incentives for people who want to put their repayment plans on automatic deductions from their bank accounts.

Get a job that pays your loans

You can as well look for a job that offers help in cancelling student loans. Many of the professions that have the highest loans like law, medicine and veterinary also provide students with opportunities to pay off their debts by working certain jobs.

Opportunities also exist in other fields and professions as well, like law enforcement, qualified charity organisations, social work and education. Even if it is not strictly a loan forgiveness plan, some employers offer student workers debt repayment as one of the incentives in their employment package.

 

Day Trading Myths vs. Reality

stocktrading_1Most people want to find a way to work from home these days. And pretty much everybody with an interest in personal financial management has at least some interest in the stock market. Naturally, many of people find a solution that perfectly combines the two. That’s trying to turn day trading into an occupation!

In theory, this can be a pretty good gig. You get to work from home, you’re in full control of your investment portfolio, and there’s lucrative earning potential. But like a lot of other occupations, you don’t quite fully understand day trading until you’ve given it a shot. If this is something you want to consider, take a moment to read through some of these debunked myths about the supposed glories of the job.

1.) It’s A Six-and-a-Half Hour Work Day!

The people who tell you this aren’t wrong. You can check the trading hours. It’s true. But we’re also not in fantasy land. There’s no such thing as a six-and-a-half hour work day unless you’ve already made your millions or you’re in a very high-paying profession with a level of seniority that allows you to be complacent. If you try to day trade as a day job and stick only to open market hours, you’re either going to get lucky and succeed anyway, or crash and burn mightily—and it’s probably the latter. Between pre-market news and analysis, chart studies, after hours trading, and general preparation, there’s a lot that goes into day trading on either side of the official hours. I know, I know – this makes me a little sad too.

2.) You Can Work From Your Laptop

Except not really. Well, you can kind of work from a laptop. But if you’re really going to dive into day trading, you’re going to need a whole lot more to do it responsibly. Traders need lots of equipment and that includes powerful, reliable computers, multiplier monitors, high-end trading software, and the best possible WiFi routers for starters. You’ll also probably want note-taking materials, a television, and whatever else you need to make a cozy office environment. It’s not really that much given that you’re looking to make this your job—but you do need more than your everyday computer.

3.) It’s Basically Gambling

If I hear one more person say this, I’m going to punch a hole in the wall. Actually, I won’t, but it sounds like this guy will. He wrote up a list of 50 day trading myths, and this one is fairly positive. His argument is that the common assertion that day trading is akin to gambling couldn’t be further than the truth. This is because responsible day traders do enough preparation and analysis to give themselves better odds at success than one has gambling. That means it’s more of a profession than a game, but it also means it requires real work—and talent.  It isn’t like gambling using a ladbrokes bonus code.

4.) There’s A Holy Grail

Nothing to see here, folks. The idea is that when newcomers to the profession and pursue different strategies they begin to learn certain things that work and certain things that don’t. This leads them to believe (even if only subconsciously) that there’s some kind of “perfect” method out there. The good news is that you don’t actually need a holy grail to succeed in day trading. The bad news is that there was never one to begin with.

5.) You Have To Dive In Blind

There seems to be another popular myth that there’s no way to learn day trading besides diving in head first. In a way that’s true. But these days there are actually a lot of really helpful apps and programs that essentially allow you to trade fake money in a simulation of the real stock market. If you don’t use one of these tools to practice before trying your hand at day trading, you’re doing it wrong.