Personal Finance

Personal Finance

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Scorpions and Centaurs
via Creative Commons Flickr user Scorpions and Centaurs

It’s an election year, albeit a midterm one. But with the presidential race looming in 2016, and campaigns starting earlier than ever, it is imperative that you start thinking about how to get the most political bang for your buck. You don’t want to be one of those chumps blindly donating to your preferred candidate with no assurance that anything will come from it, do you? Of course not. You want to make sure your actual “change” translates into political “change”! (Feel free to use that around the water cooler. That’s where I heard it.) So let’s jump in. I’ll take you through the various ways in which you can insert your money into the political process, and determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each choice.

1. Donate to someone running for office. This is a direct way to put your money into the coffers of your preferred candidate. You might think that would be a good thing, but it isn’t. According to federal law, individuals can only donate a paltry $2,600 to a candidate’s campaign. That contribution isn’t going to amount to much in a presidential election when television ad buys cost millions of dollars. Not to mention the fact that such campaign war chests are so huge, the influence your $2,600 is going to be extremely minimal. For this reason, if you do insist on taking this route, it’s best to donate to campaigns closer to home. Forgo presidential and even senate campaigns for a congressional race. Or magnify your donation further by only donating to state, county or municipal candidates. Your local dog catcher may not be able to make pot legal, but you’ll at least have one politician in your pocket.

Personal Finance

How much money should you save in 2014?

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How much money should you sock away in savings in 2014?

It’s the ultimate question, right? If only the answer were that simple. Of course how much you save throughout the year will depend on a lot of variables like where you live, what debt you’re paying down, your salary, etc.

Different experts will probably suggest different things when it comes to saving. I myself have always liked to follow something called the 50/20/30 rule (a term coined by the personal finance site, Learnvest). It’s simple to follow, and you can make it work on any salary.

Personal Finance

The 7 biggest financial mistakes to avoid in the New Year

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The beginning of a new year offers the perfect opportunity to reflect back on the choices we’ve made in the previous one, and to make any necessary adjustments for better returns in the months ahead.

This is perhaps the most true when it comes to our financial decisions. Many of the systems you put in place for 2013 might not suit you in 2014. Perhaps you’ve received a large holiday bonus, or maybe even a raise? Maybe you’ve moved into a new house, had kids or became a stay-at-home parent. Whatever your circumstances, take the time to check in with your personal finance situation … and to avoid making these big mistakes in the new year.

Personal Finance

Exploring the most popular college funding options: 529 Plans

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Saving for a child’s college expenses can seem like a daunting task. However, it is a lot simpler than many people think. When it comes to paying for a child’s education, parents tend to have a million and one questions. All of which are completely understandable. Some of the more frequently asked questions are:

  • How do you get started saving?
  • How much do you save for college?
  • Where do you invest the money?

The answer to the first question, “How do you get started saving?” can be answered by referencing the article, “Three Steps to Start Saving for Your Child’s College.” As for how much to save for college, there is a bounty of online calculators available to determine just how much of a contribution is required to meet savings goals. These calculators work by looking at a variety of factors including a child’s specific circumstance, public or private education, and the level of funding.

Personal Finance

Top 10 companies offering full-time benefits to part-timers

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When it comes to working in today’s world, many people prefer flexible schedules that fit with their busy lifestyles. In fact, according to a recent survey from CareerBuilder, 59% of employees said they value a flexible schedule over a title, and a third would rather telecommute.

Still, whether you’re working part-time, a few hours a week or full-time, it’s often also important for employees to have the option of some kind of health insurance package. Luckily, PT Money put together an updated list of the 20 best part-time jobs with benefits for 2013. The following are their top 10 companies. Check out the link for the full list of 20.

Aerotek
Aerotek, the national temp agency, offers medical benefits to workers putting in 20+ hours a week. Benefits include dental and vision, as well as eligibility for spouses and dependent children.
Check out their full benefits package here.

Personal Finance

Insurance 411

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When it comes to insurance, it can be hard to tell which kinds are actually important to get, and which are supplementary at best.

For example, what exactly is Multiple Birth Insurance (also known as twin insurance), and do you need it if you’re pregnant? Or what about pet insurance for Fido and Fluffy? (We’ve actually covered that topic already. You can read all about it right here.)

While some types of insurances will be purchased purely on preference, others should not be left for debate. Below are four types of insurance that every person should have. Stick with those basics, and you should be pretty much covered in any type of emergency.

Personal Finance

Three steps to start saving for your child’s college

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One year your back to school checklist has crayons and safety scissors and the next it has dorm decor and college tuition. If you haven’t been saving all along, those college items will have you seeing stars (or should I say dollar signs?). Trust me, saving all along is the way to go. Sure, it may be difficult to make saving for college a priority (especially when it seems so far away), but if you’re like me and your little one is still in diapers that is precisely the time you should begin.

If you’re child is older and you haven’t started saving yet, do not be concerned. Just reading this article indicates you’re taking your child’s future seriously; it is the first step in the right direction.

The rising costs of college can be intimidating. In fact, it can seem down right insurmountable. However, don’t be deterred. You may be asking yourself, “Where is this extra money supposed to come from?” In order to help answer that question, I have compiled three steps to help you start saving for your child’s college education.

Personal Finance

Amp up your ‘It’ factor: 5 steps for landing a job interview

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If you decided to take the summer months “off” in terms of keeping up with your professional life (let’s be honest, it’s been way too hot to do much of anything … so who could blame you?), it’s probably time to start kicking it back into gear.

As summer vacations start to wind down at the end of August and into September, it’s the perfect time to spruce up your professional appearance if you’re in the market for a new job. (And even if you’re not, you never know when that dream job might become available, so it never hurts to have all of your ducks in a row, ready to go at a moment’s notice.)

Start with these five suggestions to give your professional life a spruce. Who knows — ticking these off your list might even inspire you to get back out there on the job hunt.

Personal Finance

Three easy ways to save for travel

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Wanderlust.

I have it. My friends have it. Several of the people on my Facebook feed have it. When the temperatures start to soar, it seems everyone sets their sites on travel. Whether it’s the beach, camping or some exotic international local, just looking at everyone else’s vacation photos has me desperately searching for last-minute travel deals.

Of course traveling on a budget can be difficult, especially if kids are involved, or if you’d like to do it for any sort of extended period of time. For example, my husband and I recently decided that we’d like to take a three-month trip around South America next year. We do realize that reaching this financial goal will take some stamina on our part, so I sat down and tried to come up with a couple of different ways to help us get there.

Personal Finance

Your mid-year financial check list

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It’s almost the middle of June … do you know where your money is?

We are now officially (almost) halfway through 2013. Crazy, we know. About halfway through a new year is a good time to take a second to take stock of what’s happening with your finances. Are you on track to meet all of those money goals you set for yourself back when 2013 was fresh and exciting?

The following five benchmarks should give you a good idea of where you stand, financially, right now. Consider putting these on your check-in list today:

Personal Finance

What you should know about your partner’s finances before you get married

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When it comes to getting married, most people have the basics covered. Where they’ll live. Whether or not they’ll have kids. What color dinner plates they’ll register for.

The one thing that many don’t discuss before walking down the aisle is their finances. In fact, studies have shown that nearly one in five couples don’t talk about their financial situation until after marriage, and a full 15% don’t even discuss it after they get married. “Before walking down the aisle and saying ‘I do,’ there is a long list of wedding to-dos for brides and grooms,” says ING retirement coach Barbara Taylor. “Often left off the wedding checklist are financial to-dos like getting on the same page about debt, retirement savings or money values, and mapping out the finances of your life and retirement dreams.”

Having these important discussions ahead of time will help you build a strong foundation with your partner, says Taylor. So what exactly should you be discussing? Taylor shares her top six discussions to have here.

Personal Finance

5 things to Spring clean your finances that will take 5 minutes or less

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(photo credit: Newton Free Library)

If you’re anything like us, the arrival of spring conjures up images of open windows, sun-filled days and, of course, spring cleaning our finances.

Even if that last one’s not on your list of ‘Top 10 Reasons to Celebrate Spring’, it should be. That’s because the arrival of a new season is a great excuse to do some tidying up—both in your house and with your finances.

Spring cleaning your finances doesn’t have to take a long time, either. In fact, here are five things you can do right now to help your finances, each of which would take five minutes or less to accomplish.

Personal Finance

The 5 biggest tax mistakes people make

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Did you know taxes are due right around the corner?

Of course you did, and you’re probably almost done preparing everything as well. However, before you file them away and checkmark that box off your to-do list, ask yourself one question — are you totally prepared to file?

We spoke with Thomas D. Fisher, CPA, LLC and asked: What are the top five tax mistakes people make every year?

Check out what he told us, and be sure to get your own ducks in a row before signing those magical slips of paper.

Personal Finance

4 steps to help you save for a down payment

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One of the hardest parts of buying a house is saving for the down payment. Most down payments are anywhere from 10 to 20% of the total house price, and the more money you can put down for a down payment, the less interest you’ll pay over the course of your mortgage.

Saving that much money can be hard, of course, but not impossible. Here is a step-by-step guide to get you off on the right foot.

Personal Finance

Homeownership vs. Renting: What’s better for you?

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Let me start off by saying, I am a new homeowner. After years of renting, my husband and I were able to finally save enough money to put a down payment on our new home.  The question we consistently asked ourselves throughout renting was if we were making the best decision for our future (financial future).

We wanted to feel like we were investing in something versus throwing our hard earned money away.  However, the constant lingering question in the back of our heads were the responsibility of owning something and if we would be able to handle it financially. We would be responsible for property taxes, all utilities, gardener, maintenance and any breakdowns in the home, and the list went on.

When we finally bought our home, within the first month, we ended up spending over $12,000 of our savings to replace the back roof, adding a vent to our tankless water heater inside our garage, getting rid of the shrubs in our backyard, pest control and taking care of a backup in our plumbing. Yes, this happened all at once, prompting my husband to want to put our home on the market.

After experiencing renting and owning, I’ve come up with the pros and cons of both:

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