Guiding New Graduates to Financial Success

New college graduates are on the loose and out building their new work wardrobes for their first job. Are you a proud parent and grandparent? In addition to celebrating with them over parties and gifts, now is the time to give them the gift of financial independence too. As they start their first jobs, you might ask yourself, “Is my child prepared for the financial responsibility that comes with a full-time job and living on their own?” Right from the start, you want them to develop savings priorities and healthy spending habits. Here are some tips to help you point them in the right direction:

Explain the importance of saving

As young adults start receiving a paycheck, they may find it tempting to spend their funds a lot more on “wants” rather than “needs.” You can help by reminding them of the difference between the two and sharing the importance of saving. Whether it’s saving for unexpected expenses and emergencies or to eventually buy a car or home, encourage your young adult to put a set amount aside from every paycheck. You may also tell them to check with their employer and see if they can direct the savings portion of their paycheck directly into a savings account with only the remainder going to their checking account for spending.

Emphasize retirement contributions

New graduates hardly think about retirement. They’ve just entered the workforce – why would they need to think about an event that will impact them 40+ years from now? With rent, bills and other responsibilities, your young adult may choose not to contribute to their retirement right out of school. We all know that this is a mistake! This is your chance to emphasize how a long retirement time horizon can benefit them financially. Educate them about compounding growth in savings and encourage them to speak to their employer about any professional guidance offered. Emphasize to them that they have one of the greatest assets working for them at this age: time.

Teach them to follow a budget

Budgeting allows young adults to create a spending plan with their money. It’s a great way for them to track their expenses and see if they have enough to spend on the things they really enjoy. Budgeting can keep your young adult focused on their money goals and avoid any unnecessary financial hassle. If they become overwhelmed, share how you learned to live within your paycheck and show them that there are apps and online tools today that they can use – here are just a few examples.

Show them how to pay bills on time

As an independent adult, your child will need to take on lots of responsibility quickly. Perhaps this includes regularly paying a variety of bills (rent, cell phone, etc.). Keeping track of when bills are due can become cumbersome for those just starting out. Show your child that it’s crucial to stay on top of bills and pay them on time. Late payments and fees – and any outstanding interest on balances – will deplete their disposable income, leaving them less money to spend on entertainment and fun. Many apps and computer programs exist to help set reminders and automatic payments. Help your young adult look at the options and share any systems you use to manage monthly payments.

Help them build credit

Many college grads have not yet had a chance to establish a credit history. Educate them about how a credit score can impact their future. A good credit score can influence their ability to get car loans and mortgages approved. Their credit score can also impact the interest rates on these loans: A good credit score may lead to lower interest rates. Some employers use a credit check in their hiring process. Some insurance companies also use credit scores as part of their underwriting process as a person’s credit can be a predictor of insurance claims. To help your young adult build their credit score, encourage them to pay bills on time, avoid acquiring too much debt on any open credit cards, limit the number of credit cards used, and keep their oldest credit card open.

Now that your graduate is officially launched, use some of your time together to pass on good financial habits. Whether it’s dedicating a portion of every paycheck to savings or using an app to track spending, these tips may help your young adult to stay on top of their finances and develop good money habits that can last a lifetime.

 

5 Benefits of Financial Technology

Financial technology (also referred to as FinTech) is the use of innovative technology to deliver a wide range of financial products and services. It is intended to facilitate the multi-channel, convenient and fast payment experience for the consumer. This type of technology is effective in many different business segments, such as mobile payments, investment management, money transfer, fund-raising and lending.

The rapid growth of financial technology has been very beneficial for consumers worldwide, such as the ability to serve customers that were not previously attended to, a reduction in costs, and an increase in competition.

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits related to financial technology:

Better payment systems – this type of technology can make a business more accurate and efficient at issuing invoices and collecting payment. Also, the more professional service will help to improve customer relations which can increase the likelihood of them returning as a repeat buyer.

Rate of approval – many small business ventures are starting to use the alternative lenders like those involved in financial technology because it has the potential to increase accessibility and speed up the rate of approval for finance. In many situations the application process and time to receive the capital can be completed within a period of 24 hours.

Greater convenience – the companies involved in financial technology make full use of mobile connectivity. This can significantly increase the number of people who can access this type of service and also increase the efficiency and convenience of transactions. With consumers given the option to use smartphones and tablets to manage their finances, it is possible for a business to streamline its service and provide a better all-round customer experience.

Efficient advice – many of the latest systems rely on robo-advice to give people guidance on their finances. This can be a very quick and low-cost option to get useful information on investments, as well as to limit a person’s exposure to risk. However, this type of service won’t be able to give the most in-depth advice that would come from a professional adviser.

Advanced security – Using the latest security methods is necessary to ensure more people are confident in using this type of financial service. The need to harness the latest mobile technologies has resulted in a major investment in security to ensure customer data is kept safe. A few of the latest security options used by those in this sector include biometric data, tokenization and encryption.

 

Aiming for a Greener Financial System

In the year 2015, being a person who likes to stay abreast of the various political and economic activities, I was often confused with the term ‘Green Finance’. Moreover, the excessive use of this term in G20 pushed me to learn more about it and provide an understanding to you as well.

Green finance can be described as an umbrella term which refers to the changes in financial flows that are required to support projects that not only help the environment but also the society. Pollution, air quality, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energies are certain genres that are covered under green finance.

To meet the aspiring goal of the Paris treaty, it is important to align the green growth and financial sector. If we talk about green finance in the long-term, we should be happy to know that it has ample opportunities for profitable investments in developed and developing economies. Investing in green economy will set the course for carbon footprints. The only need at the minute is a step change in greening the financial system. There is a rising awareness in the financial system related to sustainability risks, commercial opportunities and changing customer preferences. The government has smoothened these developments through national roadmaps, sectoral guidelines and policy signaling. The economy is witnessing a competitive urge between financial centers and companies for green finance leadership.

An accepted green finance will always constitute a right proportion of policy action and market. Below are certain actions which can be helpful for an effective market action:

Connecting environmental risks analysis with core business activities
Feeding back into the policy process
Driving the environmental risk analysis
Anchoring sustainability, and
Controlling financial technology to strengthen retail demand.

The authorities should be able to shape effective policies to minimize market failures and create conditions which help in the growth of green finance. Apart from using policy packages with fiscal policy and environmental reforms, there should be an involvement to support the greening of financial markets with options such as:

Supporting data provisions and capacity building
Using the limited public means effectively, and
Creating a smart and well-organized incentive system.

After the government, multilateral development banks and international financial banks have also an important role to play, with options like:

Streamlining governance structures and portfolios according to the Paris agreement
Using methods to strengthen environmental guidelines, and
Promoting financial market development and filling project pipelines.

Since the Paris treaty, businesses have initiated that streak of competitiveness at various levels of the financial system. The global financial centers such as London, Shanghai, or Paris are preparing themselves as global green finance centers – this and many more to lure specialized companies. Designing smart market systems and policies, in order to maximize the positive effects in the long-term can be a strong approach towards scaling-up the green finance.

Developing countries encounter major investment gaps and receive a small share of the green financial flow. This is the case when these developing economies offer huge opportunities for long-term green investment in areas such as transport, agriculture, infrastructure and energy. There are a number of developing countries which are advertising green bond roadmaps, highlighting the potential for green finance. Though, the various effects of an updated version of environmental risk analysis need to be understood to manage possible development policy implications. The UN environment is developing a range of options to make the most of the combined activities of green finance and sustainable development.

 

Three Ideas for Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Your taxes have just been filed and now it’s time for spring cleaning – clearing out the dirt and clutter in your homes and work space to allow for a chore-free summer. Why not also use this opportunity to “clean” up your finances? With a little annual clean-up and our three ideas, you can keep your current financial situation well-organized, streamlined and up-to-date.

Clear the document clutter

We are all human and sometimes accumulate piles of important documents and statements. Now is the time to look through your financial documents and consider which to keep and which to discard. Keep recurring documents, such as investment and bank statements, property and casualty insurance renewals or social security and retirement statements, for one year. You need only keep household bills and credit card statements until you have a record that the bill was paid (unless you need these statements as evidence for tax filing or proof of purchase). Shred all outdated and unnecessary statements.

Try organizing your saved documents into a folder with the newest date on top. This way, if you go looking for a specific document, you won’t shuffle through a year’s worth of back up. Maybe, you prefer storing everything digitally. If so, consider naming folders starting with the year, followed by the two-digit month and ending with the name of the institution or document. This keeps the files sorted in an easy, chronological order. Remember, all electronic files should be backed up regularly, whether stored locally or in the cloud. These days, there are plenty of that will sync your devices and securely back up your storage.

When you pare down and keep only what is necessary – for tax purposes and tracking financial records – you’ll have less clutter and a better understanding of what is in your possession.

Consolidate retirement accounts

How many retirement accounts have you accumulated? Throughout your career, you may have switched employers and acquired multiple retirement accounts. You’re not alone: Many people have aging 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement accounts of convenience. Talk about financial clutter! Now is a great time to consolidate these. IRAs, SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs can all be consolidated into a single IRA. (Roth IRAs can only combine with other Roth IRAs.) Old 401(k)s can also be rolled into your IRA. When distributing an old 401(k) into your IRA, be sure to review the investment options and expenses in the 401(k) as compared to what is available in your IRA. Combining multiple accounts, may save you fees and most certainly will save you paperwork. Most importantly, you and your advisor can more easily and strategically invest your retirement account for today and the future. When it comes time to take withdrawals, calculations and taxes will be much easier as well.

Update your critical information

Finally, as you begin to clear the financial clutter, you may have various accounts and people who have changed since the last time you organized. That’s why this is a great time to record all your critical information in one central location. We like to call this your critical records organizer. If you already have your information in one organizer, maybe your information is outdated or professionals have changed. Use this spring cleaning time to review the information and make updates. If you have never organized your important information, you should include all your current account numbers, access information and professional contacts. You might like to keep this information in hard copy or choose a mobile app (such as 1Password) or cloud-based document service (such as Dropbox). Creating a central location of this information is not only useful for you each year, it might become critical for your family. You might have account information and professionals in your life that you interact with, but the rest of your family may not know how to contact. Once you update and organize your critical information, remember to let the important people in your family know where they can find this information for the future.

Spring cleaning your finances doesn’t have to be an exhausting process. By keeping important account statements in one place, tossing recurring documents, and shredding unnecessary or outdated personal paperwork, you can clear the document clutter in your life. Consolidating multiple accounts that have lingered over time, will bring you fresh confidence and control over your nest egg, and updating your information in a central location keeps you protected for the future.

 

Six Steps to Raising Financially Responsible Teens

In today’s money-driven society, teens are constantly bombarded by magazines, television ads, and peer pressure which make them feel less than ideal if they do not wear the latest clothing style and drive a “cool” car. Briefly visit your local mall and you will observe multitudes of young people who shop as if credit cards have no maximum spending limit. With all this push for extravagance, is it even possible to raise your teens with money sense and save them from making serious financial mistakes?

Although I have yet to have teenagers of my own, I was blessed to be raised by parents who taught me from a young age to be a wise steward of money. Let me share some things my parents did to instill in me that money is a limited resource and must be spent with care.

1. Start Early

Just because your child is too young to have a real job, does not mean it is too early to start teaching basic financial principles. From the time we were little, we always received an “allowance” from our parents. We only received this money if we had done all of our daily/weekly chores. This taught us that money is not free; it is earned.

2. Set An Example

You cannot expect your teens to wisely spend money if you do not set a good example for them. Do your children see you buying things on credit because you want them now and do not have the patience to wait until you are able to save up enough money? My dad was an excellent example in this area. Before making any large purchase (such as a car), he first decided what he could afford. Then, he began shopping around. Sometimes it would take him close to a year to find what he was looking for, for the price he wanted to pay. His patience always paid off and it left an indelible impression upon me.

3. Don’t Buy Everything For Them

It is easy for many parents to want to “help teens out” by buying most everything for them. But, is this truly “helping”? When your teenager enters the real world on their own, they are going to have some hard lessons to learn if you always bought everything they needed and wanted for them. As soon as we were able to begin earning money, my dad had us start paying for some of our own things such as clothes, gifts for other people, things we wanted, and so on. Because my parents did not buy everything for us, it taught me the value of hard work, to think before I spend, and to look for the best buy.

4. Teach Your Teens the Value of Hard Work

In a day when laziness is rampant, teach your teens instead the importance of being a hard worker. What you work for, you usually appreciate more. If your teenager has worked hard to buy themselves a car, it can be almost guaranteed that they will appreciate it more and take better care of it.

5. Train Your Teens to Think Before They Spend

This might seem like a no-brainer, but learning to think before I spend has literally saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. Teach your teens to ask themselves at least three questions before making any purchase:

1) Do I have the money on hand to pay for this?

2) Do I need this?

3) Can I buy this somewhere else for less?

Oftentimes, in asking these questions, I will talk myself out of making the purchase! I will realize I don’t really have the money to pay for it or I don’t need the item. Other times, I will think of a way I can purchase this item for less.

6. Encourage Your Teens to Get the Best Buy

In addition to asking these questions, also train your teens to look for the best deal. It is amazing what variation in prices you will find out there. For instance, the water pump burst on one of our vehicles recently. When we took it into auto shop for repair, they said that we would have to take it to a more specialized shop, since the engine would need to be taken out in order to replace the water pump. The first price we were quoted was $775. Knowing that was out of our current budget, my husband began calling around to different body shops. One place quoted him around $500 another quoted him a little over $300. By calling around to find the best deal, we are going to be saving hundreds of dollars on this repair job.

 

Choosing A Financial Planner

Choosing a financial planner is a very important decision. Who will you trust to handle your life savings and plan your financial future? The fact that someone claims to be a financial planner does not qualify him or her to handle your money. They must have the proper certification, experience and knowledge.

The Four Cs of choosing a financial planner

1. Credentials

·What certifications, college /university degrees and experience does he/she have?

·How many clients or how much money does he/she handle?

·Make sure the planner is registered with the Investment Dealers Association in your area or Certified by a Government body

2.Compensation

·How are you compensated? Flat fees, salary or commission? (Beware of those who earn big commissions for placing you in high risk funds)

·Are there any hidden underwriting fees with my investment fund?

·Will you explain all the cost involved with each investment?

·What is the cost of liquidating or canceling my account with your firm? (Good to know, if you decide to switch funds or investment companies)

3.Characteristics

·What is your investment philosophy?

·Do you focus on domestic markets, foreign market or both? (Answer should be both)

·What is your specialty? Your strongest area? (Global portfolio management, no load mutual funds, stocks, bonds etc)

·How do you view risk and how does your philosophy fit my risk tolerance?

4.Customer service

·What services does your firm offer?

·How accessible will you (the agent) be?

·Will you review the funds last 5 to 10year performance in the prospectus?

·What has been your year-to-year investment performance?

·What was you worst year? Best year? And why? (Look for defensiveness or humility after raising this question, it reveals personality type)

·Do you offer financial planning, money management or both?

In conclusion, a financial planner works for you, and should be compatible with your personality, risk tolerance and financial goals. Make sure that your hard earn money is in good hands. Interview potential planners, ask for references and call at least 3 of those references.

 

Tips for Financial Planning

The following tips will help get you in gear to start your financial planning. Once you have made financial planning part of your routine, it won’t seem so difficult. But getting your financial planning started can be the most difficult thing. These tips will help motivate you to make financial planning one of your main goals.

Financial Planning Tip #1 Pay off Debt

One of the biggest factors fighting against financial planning is debt, especially credit card debt. If something starts off as a small debt it turns into a big one simply because you were not paying off the debt. Financial planning means you have a plan and paying off debt should be the first goal of your plan.

Financial Planning Tip #2 Invest

Another financial planning tip is to invest. Financial planning means you are saving for the future in many cases, so you will want to take money you earn today and invest in the stock market, in bonds, IRAs, 4019k) or a mixture of all of the above. Saving your money with the help of financial planning will help money grow all on its own.

Financial Planning Tip #3 Spend Less than You Earn

This is tough for people to understand and often times what they resist most when they begin financial planning. This is because Americans always want what is bigger and better. Regardless, financial planning is more important than consumerism. Make spending less than you earn part of your financial planning.

Financial Planning Tip #4 Budget

A great financial planning tip is budgeting. You won’t be able to save unless you know what you spend. Make budgeting part of your financial planning and you will realize saving is not so hard.

 

Men, Women and Their Finances

What do you worry about most when it comes to your finances and debt or your credit card repayments? It seems that men and women have different outlooks and think differently about their finances. A survey was carried out to see whether men and women thought differently or the same about their finances.

Women tend to look at their current levels of debt while men tend to look to the future and are more likely to plan ahead when it comes to their finances. Women worry more about how they are going to pay off all their current credit card bills, store cards and loans along with their mortgage, shopping and living expenses with three quarters of women doing so, meanwhile less than 50% of men worry about the same thing. Only 13% of men know what their current debt levels are.

While men are laid back about their current debt levels they are better prepared for the future. Men are better at investing their money with half of all men investing in an ISA while only 35% of women are doing the same. Only five out of ten of women have a savings account with men in the lead with six out of every ten. Three quarters of men are paying into a pension for when they retire while only half of women are preparing for their retirement.

The only things that were found to be very little difference in when it came to our finances was the fact that both men and women have little knowledge of credit reports and how they work, although we think we do. Three quarters of men and women said they new what affected credit scores and how companies make their decision but nearly all got at least one question wrong when asked about credit reports. Only 5% of men and women have inspected their credit report in the last year.

1 in 4 of people asked did not realize that late payments affected your score; just over 40% of people did not know that if you have asked for credit regularly then this can also affect your credit score. Three quarters of people wrongly thought that if you had unpaid household bills that this would affect a decision made by lenders. Unbelievably, 60% of men and 67% of women thought that credit reference agencies make the decisions about credit applications, whereas it is the credit card companies, banks and other lenders that make the decision.

Knowing your credit score and understanding how credit scoring works is the only way to fully know where you stand financially and help you make better decisions about how and when you apply for credit.

 

Financial Blunders to Avoid

If you have bad credit you may be very vulnerable to fall prey to these scams and blunders. They focus on the credit-needy and come at you at the worst time- when you are in a bind to rebuild credit or trying to get a loan. Before you sign documents out of desperation know a few key warning signs. While you may be thinking that you are a very sensible person that would never fall prey to such scams, you can be dead wrong. The credit scams are organized in such a way that even the most financial savvy person can fall into the traps of greed and urgency.

Credit Restoration companies:

These companies will promise to correct your credit for a fee. You think they can do things for you that are only known to the insiders of the industry. Not true. They are no more privy to credit secrets than you. Simply put, there are reputable sources and scammers.

Scammers will promise you a new identity and claims of perfect credit within 6 months. They claim to be able to remove bankruptcies, charge offs, collection accounts and more. The truth of it is, they can do nothing more than you could do given you had the right tools which is nothing more than the law and education. On the other hand reputable sources can be used as a credit tool. Reputable companies will not tote miracles.

By researching laws, arguing over inaccurate credit reports and negotiating with creditors, you can improve your credit legally and ethically. Reputable credit repair agencies are rare in deed. You will not find droves of really reputable credit restoration companies because the reputable ones don’t operate solely as credit restoration. Usually they consist of financial planners, mortgage brokers and credit officers who, over the course of years in the field, have mastered how to effectively improve credit.

It’s not that they have special access to any miracle cure, they are simply in the business and know how the industry operates and can help you achieve maximum results is rebuilding your credit. Credit rebuilding takes time. You will not wake up tomorrow with perfect credit. It will take months of disputations, negotiations and proper use of new and established credit to see real changes that are positive.

Credit Restoration software:

You see the ads and think it must be some special top-secret credit repair software that will magically wipe away all of your bad credit. The companies tote that it’s “Amazing”, “Never before seen” and you are “so lucky to have found it”. Wrong! credit restoration software is nothing more than an electronic book of tips and tricks. Some offer legal solutions while others offer to teach you how to obtain false identities or new credit files. The Internet is a breading ground for these scams, taking millions of consumers for huge amounts of money every day.

What you will find once you purchase the software is usually nothing more than a few pages explaining how to apply for new credit or so-called “Build your credit fast” scams all to coerce you into spending more. There are some really good resources but many are books written by attorneys or credit specialists who know what you need to do in realistic terms to properly increase your credit score and build good credit.

Divorce Decrees:

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer through a terrible divorce then don’t make it worse by thinking the spouse is liable to pay certain debts. Many people think a divorce decree overrules a written contract. It does not. A divorce decree is simply what the judge has found fair for both parties to pay. It does not cover default. If you default on your debts thinking you can get out of them because the judge awarded the other party liable, you are wrong. Should those debts go delinquent, all parties who signed them or lived in a joint property state will be liable for debts incurred during the marriage.

Cosigning loans:

How many times have you cosigned a loan for one of your children? Probably at least once, as many parents have. This is O.K. if you implicitly trust your child and have the money to pay it in case they can’t, but if you know little about your responsibilities as a cosigner then think before you sign. First off, your credit will be affected if the payments are late.

The credit history is reported on the cosigners credit reports and can be calculated into your debt ratio when you apply for a loan later. You could be denied if your debt ratio is high because of co signed loans that you really are not paying. It doesn’t matter if you pay it or not, the liability is there for payment so it is included in your debt ratio. Your kids or brother may have the best intentions for paying the loan back but just know what you are putting at risk by signing that loan document. Your Credit!

Advanced fee loans:

These can be very sneaky to reveal as scams because many appear to operate as lending institutions. Advance fee loans are pure and simple: Fees paid before the loan. That means the scam artist or so called broker will charge you in advance to find you loans. They soon disappear with your money. Always check these so called advanced fee loan brokers out through your local consumer agency before you pay a penny.

Payday loans:

Payday loans are another trap. Simply put: If you do not have the money now, what makes you think you can pay back an advanced loan with fees in a week or two out of your paycheck? This is a bad cycle to get into and the industry makes millions off of desperate consumers.

Credit Card Insurance:

This is one of the biggest wastes of money. The fact is only a small handful of people will use this “Insurance” but the fees you pay out for it can really add up. They promise to pay your credit card payments should you become disabled or unemployed. That may be fine if you think that is a real threat in your life but on the average, the industry cranks in millions and most consumers never use the insurance.

In addition they reap the fees and if you are disabled or unemployed the insurance simply pays off their investment–Your Debt! So who is the real winner here? The insurance company ad the creditors. The other bad part of this offer is that they add it onto your credit card bill usually monthly or quarterly. That can add up because you are already paying interest on your debt, now you will be adding interest to your credit card insurance. Doesn’t sound like such a great deal anymore does it?

Extended Warranties:

This is another offer that literally bilks millions each year. Most of the major appliance stores and computer stores offer it with the tag line, of “Never pay for repairs” and again the odds of you using this out ways the justification of the fees. Extended warranties, promise for a fee to cover any mechanical failures should your regular warranty expire. How many times have you actually had a computer or refrigerator die the day the warranty expires? Rarely, most mechanical breakdowns will happen while the original warranty is valid. You are literally throwing your money away by signing up for these extended warranties. Unless the actual purchase is so grand that it warrants the additional coverage don’t do it.

Credit Card or fraud protection:

This is one of the biggest rip offs today. Companies will convince you that you need fraud insurance to protect you in case your credit card is ever lost or stolen. This way, you pay nothing for the charges. Hello! There’s a law that says you are not liable anyway unless you were actually involved in the fraud or did not act responsibly in preventing it. Even then you usually only pay the first $50.00 in damages as a deductible. No person can legally be held liable for credit card fraud. The Fair Billing Act, Truth In Lending Act and other various consumer protection laws protect you. This coverage is a HUGE waste of money.

Loan Agreement Extensions or Skip-a-pay plans:

Again, these are just well hidden ways to get you to pay more. Say you have an auto loan with your credit union or bank or even a credit card. The bank offers to do you a huge favor by letting you skip a payment during the holidays or if you are low on cash one month. What you are really getting is 30 to 60 days of unpaid interest added to your debt, which in the long run will add more to what you owe and take you longer to pay off. Solution? Don’t do it. You can come up with the money each month as you always have if you curb spending and pay your bills out of a well-defined budget. Living on borrowed money does nothing for you.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul:

This may not be a scam but it’s a very bad habit. If you can’t pay the debts you have right now what makes you think that taking out another credit card debt to payoff an existing credit card debt is any better? Many people do this or use the card for monthly living expenses. Very bad move. If you use the cards to pay living expenses then obviously you wont be able to pay back the loan much less your rent the next month along with your new credit card debt. Transfer balances only if doing so is going to reduce your interest rate or because you are going to consolidate two cards into one for a lower payment.

Getting Pre-approvals in the mail:

How many times have you filled out those little pre-approval cards that come in the mail and guarantee you a credit card? What you are really getting is a guaranteed offer to apply based on your credit. It does not mean you were approved it just means you pre-qualified for overall credit worthiness based on a prescreening that creditors do using the credit bureaus. Most of the time, you are denied after and stuck with yet another credit lowering inquiry. Don’t fill these out unless you really think you qualify and need it. No one needs 100 open accounts anyway. Use your head. If you have bad credit and get an American Express offer, do you really think you will get it?

Loan Sharks:

These so called agents or brokers offer you loans at exorbitant fees, which can be usury. They charge you enormous fees to lend you money when no one else will. Think before you do it or you could be paying up to 51% interest to some crook. Try other methods like family or friends with an interest rate acceptable to both of you.

Cross Collateral Clauses:

Again, while certainly not illegal, many people have no idea what they are really agreeing to by signing loan documents with a cross collateral clause. Credit Unions and Banks insert this little clause as a way to secure your signature loans or credit card debt to an existing auto or home loan. Why are these so bad? Because if you ever get to a point that you can no longer pay your debts and decide to file bankruptcy but keep your car or house, that little clause will give the creditor the right to consider that debt secured and refuse it to be discharged in your bankruptcy unless you return the car or house too!

Can you imagine having 2 or 3 credit card debts with your credit union for 15,000.00 and thinking you have freed yourself from them only to find after you have filed BK that the debts are not dischargeable! Not only do you now have a BK on your credit reports, you still owe a massive portion of debt that you thought was unsecured! Read before you sign! A cross collateral clause should be very obvious in your documents and many states require that you initial next to it to insure compliance.

PMI or forced auto insurance:

This is a real rip off but completely legal. If you have an automobile financed, do not skip on your insurance. The bank has every right to force on car insurance at extortion rates! The amount is added onto your car loan and you end up financing extremely expensive auto insurance plus interest from the loan. What this means is the loan you thought you had for 48 months has now gone to 58 months with a larger payment and all with interest too! The same insurance you may pay 53.00 a month for through a private broker is now 283.00 per month for less coverage! And it’s legal! Never EVER lapse on car insurance while a bank holds the title.

The other bad part of not keeping the loan insured is that the bank reserves the right to repossess the car for what is called inadequate protection. Just avoid this at all costs. Additionally, if your asset exceeds the cost of loan then you can refuse to insure the vehicle. Example: Car is worth 34,000,00 and you are only borrowing 10,000.00. You should not have to insure the car-based on the value.

Signing “At Will” Employment Applications:

If you interview for a job and sign the employment application, be sure to read the language in the contract. If it states “At Will”, as many do then you may have waived your rights to secure your position. At will means the company can fire you on the spot without reason. There is little you can do about it if you signed the original employment application that warned you about “At Will”. If you see that in your contract, ask questions and try to get a waiver. If the company thinks you are worth it or has been bidding for you then chances are they will waive it.

Mail order:

This one is so obvious to many but others fall victim every day. Ordering by mail by using a select offer from the mail order company. They offer you a credit line of $1,000.00 to buy anything you want and you think it’s either a credit card that you can use anywhere or you think it’s a credit builder. It is usually nothing more than a high interest rate to buy poorly made products through a catalog. You end up paying 180.00 for a 29.00 comforter. Not a good deal at all. Avoid these unless you shop from your favorite catalog using your own preferred credit card.

Prepayment penalties:

While not illegal this is a costly mistake. Before you sign on the dotted line for your new mortgage, read the terms carefully! Many companies in an effort to lock you in will have a huge prepayment penalty of up to 5,000.00 if you refinance the loan early. A very well known bank does this as part of their standard business so that clients can’t refinance a year later when the rates go down. Also be very careful with ARM (Adjustable Rate mortgages) You may get in with a 5.9% credit builder rate but may try to get out at 11%. Read the contracts.

Right of privacy:

Have you ever received all those offers in the mail and keep wondering how the heck you got on the advertisement list? Well, the credit bureaus can sell your information to potential lenders as a form of marketing. Unless you specifically ask to “opt out” then you can literally be placed on thousands of lists. How do you avoid this? First off, when you buy products. Make sure you check the box that says you do NOT want your information sold.

Secondly, look at the company’s privacy polices. Finally, contact the credit bureaus and ask to be removed from future offers. If a telemarketer calls you after you have told them not to, they can be fined 200.00 per incident. Learn more about Opt-Out procedures and the benefits.

Collection fees:

Before you sign for a loan, read the contract for the collection fees. Many states will have a stipulation in the contract that they can charge you extra for future collection expenses or for retaining an attorney. Argue this before you sign, as collection fees are a cost of doing business and you should not sign a contract that states otherwise. In addition some states don’t allow the collection fees unless the debt has gone to judgment, then the collection fees are justified. If you don’t catch it, who will? Certainly not the lender.

Credit card late fees & over limit fees:

Every year the credit card industry collects millions in late fees. While this may be perfectly justifiable in most cases it is not justifiable when the following applies. Say your credit card company reduces your line of credit down because you became delinquent. However they reduced it below what your balance is. Now every month, you are being charged late fees and over limit fees for a limit that is not actually your original limit, so in essence the credit card company has gone over the limit not you.

Quickly dispute this if it has happened to you. If the credit card company is so worried about your delinquency then simply have them block the card from future use or request that you return the card. Demand that the late fees and over limit fees be reversed. Millions of Americans have paid unjustifiable late fees and over limit fees.

Assigning a power of attorney:

Many people will assign a power of attorney to a financial planner or relative without fully understanding what it means. If you do sign a power of attorney then be sure to have a good attorney review the language. You may just be signing over your entire fortune to a scammer. Some brokers convince clients to sign a power of attorney and then Willy Nelly them right out of their savings. Be cautious and careful when assigning power of attorneys.