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Archive for ◊ July, 2016 ◊

8 money moves you’ll regret
Monday, July 11th, 2016 | Author:

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) –

If youre like most Americans, youve probably used credit when cash was short, or splurged on a luxury instead of saving for a rainy day. Once in a while, this may not be a big deal. Yet if these bad money moves become habit, you could be in trouble.

Our grandparents put their gas and grocery money in envelopes and saved up for major purchases, said Mike Sullivan, spokesperson, Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. Today, easy access to credit has resulted in a culture of instant gratification, and money habits have taken a turn for the worse.

RELATED:76M Americans struggling financially

Could your financial habits use a makeover? Sullivan notes the following eight money moves to avoid:

  1. Not budgeting: This is an easy one, yet few people actually track their monthly income and expenditures, resulting in overspending or under-saving.
  2. Overusing credit: It makes sense to borrow money to buy a home it doesnt make sense to use credit for new shoes or a lavish vacation. It can take years for people to pay off earlier extravagances. Do not charge luxury items you cannot afford to pay off at months end.
  3. Paying the minimum: The interest and payoff time will rack up quickly if you only make the minimum payment on credit cards or other debt. Whenever possible, adjust your budget to ramp up these payments. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run. It may require some sacrifice, meaning you spend less on entertainment or use public transportation.
  4. Raiding your emergency fund: This fund is intended for true emergencies not vacations or home improvements. Youll regret tapping these funds if your air conditioning goes out or you lose your job unexpectedly.
  5. Putting off retirement planning: Many people delay saving for retirement until their 40s or 50s. While thats better than nothing, starting earlier will give you a huge advantage for a comfortable retirement.
  6. Falling for too good to be true schemes: The Federal Trade Commission reports Americans were scammed out of $765 million in 2015. Dont fall for get-rich-quick schemes or promises of cash prizes and never wire money or give your Social Security or credit card number to unknown sources.
  7. Buying a timeshare: Timeshares promise relaxing beach getaways or perfect skiing on powdery slopes, but many consumers buy in without understanding the financial obligation, including a sizeable deposit and annual maintenance fees. The real estate market is now flooded with people trying to unload timeshares.
  8. Borrowing from your 401(k): Its tempting to dip into your retirement to pay for your childs wedding or college, but youll be taxed exorbitantly, and it could threaten your financial security later in life.

If you need help developing a budget or managing credit, call (888) 822-9193 to speak with a certified creditor counselor, or schedule a free, confidential session online.

Source: Take Charge America

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Council approves new debt management policy
Sunday, July 10th, 2016 | Author:

It may not have been the most exciting issue on Canmore council’s agenda at the end of May, but an updated debt management policy was clearly an important one for the community’s elected officials.

During one of its regular business meetings in May, council approved unanimously an updated debt management policy as presented by manager of financial services Katherine Van Keimpema.

While first approved in 2013, Van Keimpema said she undertook a review of the policy and compared it with recommendations by the Government Finance Officers Association and best practices used by other municipalities.

“We have been doing work on our long term financial policies and one direction council provided to administration to undertake is to review our policies and bring them up to date,” she said. “As we have learned with the tax policy, it is very helpful for administration to have guidance from council in terms of policy.”

The 2013 policy, said Van Keimpema, did not include language around managing debt and that is important to include because managing the Town’s debt contributes to its financial sustainability and flexibility.

The best practices recommended for government budgets based on the GFOA recognizes that debt commits government revenues into the future and may limit the way in which a governing body can respond to changing priorities, revenue sources or circumstances. A debt policy, as recommended by the GFOA, helps ensure that debt is issued and managed prudently “in order to maintain a sound fiscal position and protect credit quality.”

The review of Canmore’s policy found it lacked several elements that Van Keimpema presented as part of the newly approved policy. Those elements include the purposes for which debt may be issued; matching the useful life of an asset with the maturity of the debt, limitations on outstanding debt and structural features like payment of debt servicing fees.

Van Keimpema said the new policy also separates debt into tax supported and self supporting debt – an important distinction for council to communicate and understand.

The Municipal Government Act sets out debt limits for a municipality and stipulates a community may not borrow beyond those limits without ministerial approval. The newly approved Canmore policy, meanwhile, sets out debt servicing considerations in addition to overall debt limits. It states Canmore shall not exceed 70 per cent of the total debt limit and shall not exceed a total debt servicing cost of 70 per cent of the Town’s debt servicing limit for tax supported debt.

For self supporting utility project debt, servicing costs shall not exceed 22 per cent of utility user fees and levies.

A copy of the policy and other financial policies approved by council is available at canmore.ca.

For its part, council was enthusiastically supportive of having strong financial policies based on industry best practices set out for administration to follow.

“I am thrilled with this policy,” said Councillor Sean Krausert. “It is comprehensive, it is smart, it is responsible and an excellent example of why our finances as characterized by our auditors are getting better year after year.”

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Payday lending is often portrayed as a manipulative industry only concerned with preying on naïve consumers. Thus, it is no surprise that Alabama policymakers are calling for restrictions against the industry.

Without an understanding of economics and finance, however, well-intended regulators could harm the very payday loan customers they are hoping to help.

It is important to recognize that payday lending meets an important need in the community. According to a survey by Federal Reserve economist Gregory Elliehausen, over 85 percent of payday lending customers reported that they took out a payday loan in order to meet an unexpected expense. While we all face unexpected expenses, the typical payday lending customer finds these circumstances especially difficult since traditional lenders and even close friends and family are often reluctant-or unable-to make unsecured loans to them given their poor credit histories.

While the need for short-term lending often isn’t disputed, reports of Annual Percentage Rates (APR) of several hundred percent often invoke anger and hostility, and provide the impetus for calls to restrict this rate to under 40 percent. But this is an inappropriate portrayal. The typical payday lending loan is under $400, lasts under four weeks (even including consecutive new loans and renewals), with an interest charge under $19 per $100.

Where does the high APR come from, then? For example, let’s assume you take out a $400 loan for two weeks with a total finance charge of $76. That amounts to a nearly 495 percent APR using a common calculation. Basically, the APR is calculated by projecting the interest rate for an entire year! Looking at the APR, however, is extremely misleading because the vast majority of these loans last only two to four weeks. Limiting the APR to 40 percent would mean that a payday lender could only charge $6.14 for a two-week loan of $400.

Would you be willing to lend an unsecured $400 out of your own pocket to a financially risky person for two weeks for only $6? Certainly not! Especially if you consider that, as a payday lender, you would have to pay rent on a building, pay your electricity bill, make payroll, and incur expected losses on unpaid loans.

Even without interest rate restrictions, payday lending isn’t a very lucrative business; a Fordham Journal of Corporate #038; Finance Law study finds that the typical payday lender makes only a 3.57 percent profit margin. That is fairly low when you consider that the average Starbucks makes a 9 percent profit margin and the average commercial lender makes a 13 percent profit. Interestingly enough, the average bank overdraft charge of $36-an alternative option for payday lending customers-could easily result in an APR of several thousand percent.

In a review of the research on payday lending in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, economist Michael Stegman recommends that policymakers resist implementing legislation restricting the interest rate charged by payday lenders and instead examine ways to help prevent the small number of customers who are caught in a cycle of payday lending debt. This is because the vast majority of payday lending customers pay off their debts and voluntarily agree to the interest rates charged. In fact, Gregory Elliehausen finds that over 88% of payday lending customers were satisfied with their most recent loan from a payday lender. Almost no payday loan customers reported that they felt they had insufficient or unclear information when taking out their loan.

Christy Bronson, a senior economics student at Troy University, conducted a survey to see if these national results held true here in Alabama. The results from her study on payday lending customers in the Wiregrass area corroborated these national results. A full 100 percent of respondents reported being satisfied with their most recent payday loan experience and 78 percent reported being satisfied with their payday loan experiences overall. If most payday lending customers were caught in a vicious debt cycle, you would expect customer satisfaction to be much lower. Survey participants in the Wiregrass area also overwhelmingly indicated that they were satisfied with their knowledge and understanding of the terms and conditions of payday lending. The survey also found that payday lending customers in the Wiregrass area used payday loans moderately and found that the overwhelming majority of payday lending customers do not consider themselves to be in financial difficulty as a result of using payday loans.

There is a logical explanation for these findings. Payday lenders don’t profit from customers who can’t repay their loans. Cycling debt only increases the risk that the payday lender will not get their interest or principal back and will lose out to secured creditors in a bankruptcy. This is why many payday lenders in Alabama came together to form Borrow Smart Alabama, an organization designed to better inform payday lenders and to set a code of ethics and accountability for payday lenders in Alabama.

Running payday lenders out of business with severe interest rate restrictions or costly regulation won’t keep customers in urgent need of cash from borrowing money. We know from experience that banning goods or services that people want doesn’t prevent a black market from emerging. Just look at examples of alcohol, drug, and gun prohibition. Payday lending customers, lacking the credit worthiness required for traditional lines of credit, will only be forced to use less desirable-and more expensive-credit options such as loan sharks, online lending, or overdrawing their bank account or credit card.

Daniel J. Smith is the associate director of the Johnson Center at Troy University. Follow him on Twitter: @smithdanj1. Christy Bronson is a senior economics major at Troy University.

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Endo Int’l (ENDP) Stock Up, BMO Initiates Coverage
Saturday, July 09th, 2016 | Author:

We rate ENDO INTERNATIONAL PLC as a Sell with a ratings score of D. This is driven by several weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The companys weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and feeble growth in its earnings per share.

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Contracts to purchase previously owned US homes fell more than projected in May, a sign demand cooled after a robust start to the busiest selling season of the year, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed Wednesday in Washington.

Key Points

  • Index of pending home resales fell 3.7 percent (forecast was 1.1 percent drop), the most in six years, after a revised 3.9 percent increase in April
  • Measure rose 2.4 percent from May 2015 on an unadjusted basis (forecast was gain of 4.6 percent)
  • Pending sales declined in all four regions, including a 4.2 percent drop in the Midwest index to the lowest level since January
  • Sales gauge declined to 110.8 on a seasonally adjusted basis, with 100 indicating “historically healthy” buying activity, according to NAR

Big Picture

Home price appreciation and a limited supply of available properties are bridling sales, while first-time buyers or Americans with lower incomes and poor credit are finding it difficult to qualify for financing. A potential loss of momentum in housing would trigger concern at a time when growth is restrained by weak business investment and US exports.

Economist Takeaways

“There are simply not enough homes coming onto the market to catch up with demand and to keep prices more in line with inflation and wage growth,” NAR chief economistLawrence Yun said in a statement. “With demand holding firm this spring and homes selling even faster than a year ago, the notable increase in closings in recent months took a dent out of what was available for sale in May and ultimately dragged down contract activity.”

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We conducted a small study where we took a sample 30-year-old male driver, and obtained auto insurance quotes for him based on excellent, good, fair, bad and poor credit scores. We considered drivers in both New York City and Salt Lake City. What we found was quite staggering. In Salt Lake City, a premium was nearly twice as expensive for someone with poor credit (below 500) than someone with excellent credit (above 720). The quotes from New York followed the same pattern. Based on these findings, having a bad credit score affected our driver more than having a DUI on his record.

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Can Your Credit History Just Disappear?
Thursday, July 07th, 2016 | Author:

What do expatriates, prison inmates and people whove never had a credit card or loan have in common? While this question sounds like a joke setup, its not. These people all are at risk of seeing their credit records vanish into thin air, along with their credit scores.

Most negative credit information remains on your credit file for seven years, while positive accounts are reported for 10 years. But if you haven’t had any active credit accounts for that period of time, you may find your credit history has all but disappeared.

While it might not seem like that big a deal, there are ways that not having a credit score can hurt you.

Fortunately, if youre worried about maintaining your credit records, theres plenty you can do to avoid the hassle trying to re-establish credit.

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Your first step will be to find out whether your credit reports are still active. To do that, you can request your free annual credit reports. You can also see credit scores using a service such as Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. If you are told that no credit reports or scores are available, then you’ll know you are going to have to build credit as if you were just starting out. (You can read more about how to build credit here.)

If your reports and scores are still available, here are some simple steps you can take to ensure they dont disappear.

Living Abroad

If youve been living in a foreign country for several years and closed out all of your US-based credit cards and loans, your credit history could be steadily fading. That’s because your credit reports only report US-based credit. Different reporting systems and privacy laws specific to each country don’t permit an American’s credit history to follow them to other countries.

Thats why, if you plan to return to the United States, its a good idea to maintain an active American credit card account that you use for a couple of routine purchases each month. Choose a card without foreign transaction fees and pay balances in full to build credit without acquiring debt.

And if you bank with a multinational bank, you may be able to transfer your credit card accounts to the banks US division, which would be reported in a US credit history, according to Kristine Snyder, an Experian spokesperson.

Being In Prison

Being incarcerated doesnt necessarily remove you from the credit reporting system, but maintaining your credit while you are in prison can be difficult. If you have a joint account with a spouse or relative, and they continue to use the card and pay the bills, then those credit references will continue to be reported on your credit reports and help you maintain credit.

According to a study titled “Collateral Costs” by the Pew Charitable Trusts, “more than two-thirds of male inmates were employed and more than half were the primary source of financial support for their children” before they were jailed. That means many inmates and their families suffer financial hardships that may not make maintaining good credit possible.

And prisoners can be at a higher risk of identity theft as well, which is why its a good idea for inmates to check their credit reports. Any prisoners who want to review their credit reports while they are in jail will need to get a letter signed by prison administration verifying they are a resident of that facility.

Only Using Cash

If you once had credit, but because of a debt management program or other reason you decided to cut up all your credit cards and just use cash for the last several years, you mightve lost your credit records.

Fortunately, one of the easiest ways for folks with cash on hand to establish credit and get a credit card without credit is to start with a secured credit card.

Re-Establishing Credit

Something else they may want to consider is asking someone with a strong credit history to cosign for them, Snyder said. If a person cosigns on their behalf, he or she is accepting equal responsibility for the loan or credit line. 

Once you’ve established a long enough history of on-time payments on your secured card, you can “graduate” to a credit card that can help you build credit — check with your issuer for guidelines.

Using credit again is the first step. But you will need the following to have a credit score, according to FICO:

  • At least one account that has been open for six months or longer
  • At least one undisputed account that has been reported to a credit reporting agency in the past six months

(Not sure where your credit stands? You can get a free copy of your credit reports once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month.)

More on Credit Reports amp; Credit Scores:

  • The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

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Separately, Tesla Motors has a sell rating and a letter grade of D+ at TheStreet because of the companys deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, weak operating cash flow and generally disappointing stock performance.

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Can I Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit?
Thursday, July 07th, 2016 | Author:

Prospective homebuyers may be surprised to hear that bad credit wont necessarily shut them out of the market completely. It is possible to get a mortgage with a subpar credit score — but your options are going to be limited and youre most likely going to pay in fees and/or interest.

What Score Do I Need?

General consensus among mortgage experts is that you need a score of 620 or higher to successfully obtain a conventional mortgage (think Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed loans). And, in fact, according to a report released by Equifax earlier this year, first mortgage originations for subprime borrowers (defined by the bureau as consumers with an Equifax Risk Score of 620 or below) showed steady growth from January to October 2015, with more than 312,000 new mortgages originated, totaling $50.7 billion.

Applying for a Mortgage? Call 844-346-3296
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Now, there is a chance you can get a mortgage with credit thats a bit worse. Mortgage experts told Credit.com back in February that most FHA-backed loans generally require a score of 600, though some lenders will do loans for as low as 580.

Those scores may not be the worst of the worst — most credit scoring models follow scales of 300 to 850, though Equifaxs risk score utilizes a range of 280 to 850 — but they certainly arent good.

Bad credit scores are generally considered any number under 600, whereas poor credit scores fall between 600 and 649; fair credit scores fall between 650 and 699; good credit scores are between 700 and 749 and excellent credit scores are 750-plus.

Remember the Caveats

Of course, just because you can potentially secure a mortgage with a subpar credit score, doesnt mean you should. A bad credit score is pretty much going to saddle you with a high interest rate, upping the cost of your mortgage.

Credit scores, for instance, play a major role in determining Fannie Mae and Freddie Macs loan-level price adjustments — risk-based fees paid out on conventional loans. (The other major factor is your loan-to-value ratio, the amount of the mortgage you are applying for in relationship to the appraised value of the home you are looking to buy.) Loan level price adjustments go up or down in 20 point intervals with the most favorable one for mortgages capped at 740.

Even with that cap, it can be seriously worthwhile for someone with a bad score to fix their credit before they apply for a home loan. You can generally improve your credit scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and avoiding new credit inquiries while your score rebounds. To see where your credit currently stands, you can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.

[Offer: Denied from a loan? It may be because of a low credit score due to errors on your report. Lexington Law can help you navigate the credit repair process so you can get back on track. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Mortgages amp; Homebuying:

  • How to Find amp; Choose a Mortgage Lender
  • How to Refinance Your Home Loan With Bad Credit
  • How to Get a Loan Fully Approved

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Smart money moves | Rossi
Wednesday, July 06th, 2016 | Author:

Life is a journey filled with financial choices that ultimately shape your future. While money may be important to many, it is simply a tool to help people focus on the things that mean most to them. Spending time with family and friends, pursuing goals and hobbies, developing yourself and having the time and financial resources to help others may all be benefits that come from making the right money moves at the right time in life. Like the seasons, there are specific things to consider implementing at different times and other pitfalls to avoid. This is the first of a two-part series on the financial moves that should be considered at various pivotal points in your life.

20s

Moves to make: Believe it or not, one of the most powerful financial moves that can be made in your twenties is to start saving for retirement. From taking full advantage of a 401(k) match at a first job after college to socking away money in a versatile Roth IRA (up to $10,000 may also be used for a first time home purchase), developing a save for the future mentality at this age is critical.

Moves to avoid: It is not a good idea to develop a pay in the future mentality during this period. The 20s can be a time when poor spending and credit habits are developed, often leading to sizable credit card and student loan debt. Yes, developing credit is important but the key is to do it in a responsible way. Utilizing secured credit cards that require you to have a balance in the bank that is equal to your spending limit is a great way to put a lid on out of control spending.

Bottom line: Rather than allowing the 20s to be a time when you start out by digging yourself in a hole, use it as a time to jump-start your future.

30s

Moves to make: The 30s are often a time when new families begin. Marriages, children and major home purchases often occur during this time and represent significant financial responsibilities. With financial responsibility also comes risk, making life insurance an important consideration during these years. Since life insurance is cheaper the younger and healthier you are, the 30s are often a fantastic time to establish coverage outside of an employer. Remember, statistics show that most of us will jump between jobs and you cant depend on each new employer to offer coverage. Locking up coverage with a 30 year term policy can be a great way to protect your family in a way that is independent of your job. Assets and responsibility also necessitate the need to contact your attorney to discuss wills, guardianship for children, powers of attorney and living wills.

Moves to avoid: Purchasing more home than you can afford is often a major issue during the 30s as it may compromise your ability to increase retirement savings, establish education funds for children and can also lead to ballooning credit card debt.

Bottom line: Rather than allowing the new financial responsibilities of the 30s to overwhelm you, begin by taking a systematic approach to addressing all of the new goals on the table.

40s

Moves to make: The 40s are often a time when career momentum builds and the financial rewards begin to increase. Career development may begin to pay off with higher salaries and benefits. The 40s are also a time when it is important to realize you may only be twenty years off from retirement, making this an important time to capture that higher income and double down on retirement savings. Financial trickery may help – Consider pretending that your raise never happened and dump the extra income right back into your retirement account. Remember, saving the maximum amount in a retirement plan does not mean that you will be on track for your goals. Instead, consider developing your own plan, tailored to meet your personal needs.

Moves to avoid: If you have children, college expenses can be a cause for concern during this phase. Too often, parents choose to make unrealistic commitments to paying college costs that ultimately end up pushing retirement dates back by decades. It is important to remember that children have many years of earning potential ahead of them while the parent does not. Do not allow college funding to compromise retirement and try to avoid refinancing your home to pay for it.

Bottom line: Making poor financial choices in your 40s often leads to trying to play catch up in your 50s. Maxing out retirement savings with increased levels of income while limiting the education costs to what you can truly afford may help you build momentum as you move into your 50s.

As you can see, your life is more than just numbers. In the next installment we will discuss the 50s and beyond. True Financial Life Planning is a process designed to advise you at the intersection of your money and your life, helping you to pursue your unique goals during different phases of your life. Consider speaking to someone who specializes in this unique process as it may help you bring financial clarity to your life. Since everyones situation is unique, consider speaking to your financial advisor to determine the most appropriate approach for you.

Kurt J. Rossi, MBA is a Certified Financial Planner Practitioner amp; Wealth Advisor. He can be reached for questions at 732-280-7550,kurt.rossi@Independentwm.com,www.Independentwm.com,andwww.bringyourfinancestolife.com- LPL Financial Member FINRA/SIPC.

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