Apr 282015
 

Across the United States, tens of thousands of low income workers have lobbied to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr. This is one of the largest wage protest in American history, and it appears to be working. :) Seattle, WA is the first to begin a multi-year transition to $15/hr minimum wage starting this month. The people of San Francisco, CA have voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

15-04-minimum-wage-15-protest

In the state of Connecticut the government is trying something a little different to implement a higher wage standard. The current minimum wage there is $9.15/hr, but a new proposed bill seeks to fine large companies that underpay their employees. If the bill passes it would fine businesses $1/hr per employee who doesn’t earn the $15 minimum.

Some people believe this legislation would reduce income inequality and make low-wage workers better off. :) But others retort that this is just a tax grab for the government, dressed up to look like a bill that would help the lower class. The reality is that if a company is currently paying $10/hr to a worker, then simply coughing up an extra $1 to the government is more economical for itself than raising the wage of that worker by $5/hr. In fact, that worker may actually see his/her real wage and purchasing power reduced. The extra $1/hr is an expense for businesses making them more costly to run, which often trickles down to higher prices for consumers. It’s kind of ironic that a bill that’s designed to help the most vulnerable working class would actually make life harder for them. Employees who are already making over $15/hr would not be affected. So this new bill would only benefit workers who earn between $14/hr to $15/hr.

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Apr 272015
 

The following post is contributed by a staff writer.

There are two ways to save money: One is where we compile a stash of money for later use. The other is where we refrain from spending more of it than we have to. We think of both types as a form of delayed gratification. We have to find a way to change that narrative if we ever hope to do either.

One of the ways we can change the narrative is to stop thinking of saving money as a form of depriving ourselves of the things that really matter to us. It may be possible to deprive yourself of nothing that matters and still save significant amounts of money. The key is to discover, and stop the flow of wasted money that falls through the cracks of the best laid budgetary plans.

Here are some of those proverbial couch cushions under which you might just find gold:

TV Service

How many channels of television do you actually need for maximum enjoyment? How fast does your Internet connection have to be? There is a good chance you are spending a lot of money on excess that you will never appreciate. Time reports that regardless of the number of channels in your package, you are only taking advantage of just over 17 of them. Out of that 500 channel package, you are paying for 482 channels you never watch.

The same type of scenario happens with Internet speed. Not everyone needs fiber to the home. Facebook and Netflix do not require business-level connectivity. Paying for speed you don’t need does not enhance your surfing pleasure. Loyalty to your cable provider buys you nothing but a higher payment after the introductory period is over.

These satellite deals at satellitetv-deals.com provide an example of the type of savings you can expect by doing a little shopping around. This is just one way you can save a lot of money while losing nothing that matters.

Stop Heating and Cooling Empty Rooms

Heating and cooling your house accounts for more than half of your energy budget. It is the largest energy expense you have. But cooling a room that you’re not in does you no favors at all. Products like the Nest thermostat attempt to counter that wasteful behavior by automatically monitoring when you leave and enter rooms, as well as adjusting to your patterns of coming and going. It gives you climate control when and where you need it, saving you money in the process. When done right, you will never notice you are using your HVAC system any less.

Green-Light Your Savings Plan

Green (as in, environmentally friendly) lighting solutions abound. By far, the most energy inefficient light bulb is the traditional incandescent. Almost anything is better than that. Compact fluorescents are a much better choice. And LEDs are better still. While the better bulbs cost more, what you save in money and environmental footprint over the long term is more than worth it.

Stop Pouring Money down the Drain

The US Department of Energy suggests you can reduce your water bill by 25-60% just by switching to a low-flow shower head. Your shower output will be less than half of that of older shower heads. The best news is that even with the reduction of wasted water, you will still be just as clean.

You are losing money in your proverbial couch cushions every day. By changing a few wasteful habits, you can easily satisfy both definitions of saving money.

 

Apr 152015
 

The following post is contributed by a staff writer.

The thing about getting better at personal finance is you wish you could have known what you do now when you were younger. If I had the skill and experience I have now, at 21, I could have set amazing decisions in motion, investments and practices that would have paid off many times over. Time is your best friend when it comes to money, and we tend to waste plenty of it when we’re young. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff, but I’ve gotten some emails asking me about this. So here goes: what I would do with my money if I was 21.

  • Make good decisions with limited resources. Most people don’t make a lot of money at age 21 but let’s say you can scrape together $2000 a month from a decent job. If you live with roommates, you can share the cost of housing so it’s cheaper than living alone. As you start to earn a higher income over time you can keep your spending the same. Let’s say you spend $300 a month sharing a house with 3 other people. You eat noodles, rice, and beans, with some veggies thrown in. This totals less than $200 a month. You limit your “fun money” to less than $200 a month, and pay about $200 a month for student loans. That’s a total of $900 of spending, which means you have $1500 each month for other purposes. Of course, this is painting a picture of a pretty spartan existence, but sticking to a budget while you’re young is a lot easier than changing your habits when you’re older. With the outlined budget you can save approximately $500 a month to first build up an emergency fund of $5000, and then starting investing for your retirement.
  • Start investing. Buying a home can be a high priority for many people. In some cities, especially in America, it’s possible to buy a house that gains value fast, for less than $100,000. You may decide to save for a down payment instead of only buying stocks or bonds. You can also research other investment types such as the Forex market, and CMC markets. Another popular strategy would be to learn about the world of P2P lending, and other similar investment options. However P2P lending is not available in all countries.

These are all steps that people who spend a lot of time with there personal finance will get to eventually. But it’s important to make these decisions and steps as soon as possible. By doing them at 20 or 21, rather than 30 or 31, you’ll have a lot more time to grow and will build up a lot more wealth and success.

 Posted by at 8:55 pm
Apr 022015
 

The following post is contributed by a staff writer.

4 Ways to Supercharge Your Retirement Savings Efforts

When you’re young and naive, the idea of saving for your retirement is something that you don’t consider. We often believe we have a surplus of years to save, and therefore make the assumption that saving now is not necessary. However, according to an article on Bankrate, 19% of the working population fears that they won’t have enough to retire. While a mere 33% state they will have enough to “just get by”. But why?

After having dedicated 30 plus years of your life to a career, don’t you want to enjoy the rest of your life? Don’t you deserve to live comfortably and enjoy retirement without the fear of going into debt, living check to check, or even worse…Having to work through your retirement years.

The Sooner You Plan The Better

From the very moment that you begin working (say 25 years of age) you should begin thinking about your retirement. Opening a 401K or other form of retirement savings account and making consistent contributions is the most basic step that should be considered. The younger you are when you start planning for retirement, the less stressful the entire process will be.

Be that as it may, it is never too late to start planning for your future. Below are a few options on how you can supercharge your retirement savings and begin securing your future.

  1. Increase Your Retirement Savings Contributions

Whether you have a pension account, 401K, or IRA, you should really consider increasing your contributions. If you’re currently contributing $100 per month, you should consider increasing that dollar amount by at least $50 or $100. If you have any of these accounts through your employer, see what percentage they match. Many employers will match your contributions thus making a periodic increase on your behalf worthwhile. By increasing the amount by $50, your employers will then do the same.

While I wouldn’t recommend increasing your contribution to the point that you can’t afford your monthly bills or necessities, making a few sacrifices (such as eliminating one day of eating out each month) can make a huge difference in the long run. In fact, CNN money states that while in your 20’s you should be investing about 10 to 20% of your income into retirement.

  1. Get Rid of Those Debts

I bet you’re wondering how in the world paying down your debt is going to help you save towards retirement, but it’s really quite simple. For every bill that you have to pay on the regular basis, that is less money that can be contributed to your retirement. Not to mention, debt can also become so overwhelming that you can’t even enjoy retirement. Therefore, if you begin chipping away at those credit card bills, loans, and other forms of debt, you can then take that money and put it right back into your retirement savings account.

  1. Consider Investing in the Stock Market

There are plenty of options for investing in the stock market. Whether you’re looking for long term investment options or you’re interested in immediate returns from day trading, you can begin to build upon your portfolio and invest this money right back into your future. Not sure how to invest in the stock market? Trust me, I was a bit confused before I got started, but once I did a bit of research I realized how simplistic it can be.

Not to mention technology has led us to many resources and tools to make things easier. There are resourceful tools such as day trading software online, which makes it easier to manage your portfolio and decide on more informed decisions. There are also apps, beginner’s accounts, and other tutorials out there to help increase your knowledge of the stock market to make the best decisions on investing.

  1. Earn Extra Income

In times past, earning more money essentially meant you had to search for local companies hiring, fill out an application, and hopefully be hired for the job. Today however, you can create your own job and generate as much income as you’d like all on your own. There are plenty of ways you could earn some extra income. For instance, starting a blog, being an at home customer service rep, or even turning a hobby into a part time career. The skies are most certainly the limits in this case, and all that extra money can go towards either paying down your debts or right into your retirement savings account.

Dreaming of the future is something we should all be doing from the moment we begin generating income. By being more financially aware and planning for what lies ahead, we can have a better chance at living out our retirement years as we’d imagined. Sipping a Mai Tai, traveling the world, or even simply creating precious memories with those we love the most. If you haven’t started saving towards your retirement at this point, remember, it’s never too late the start. The sooner you do, the more secure your financial future will be.

 

Feb 242015
 

The following is a guest post.

If you have been injured in an accident and have filed a civil lawsuit, you might consider pre-settlement funding. People who have been injured in an accident often cannot work but still have living expenses. A pre-settlement company provides the victim of an accident with money prior to the resolution of a civil lawsuit. The median length of a civil lawsuit is nine months, which has remained constant in recent years, according to a Princeton University study. But many cases take longer, because insurance companies want to drag out the process. According to the study, on 1.8% of cases went to trial. That was down from 11% in 1962.

“Pre-settlement funding is beneficial to people who are injured, especially those who cannot work,” said Sara Murphy, administrator at Cash in Your Case, a pre-settlement funding company in New York.

Here are the answers to several questions you might have about using a pre-settlement funding company:

What types of pre-settlement funding are there?

In general, pre-settlement takes two different approaches. The first is a lawsuit loan. The other is pre-settlement financing. While they sound similar, they are very different. A loan lawsuit, like the name implies, is a loan. A company loans you a certain amount of money based on the expected outcome of a lawsuit. You are required to pay the money back. On the other hand, pre-settlement financing is an advance. You pay the money back once the lawsuit is resolved. If you lose the case, you’re not required to pay the money back. Both a lawsuit loan and pre-settlement financing will charge you interest for the money, so make sure you read the contract before signing.

How does the process work?

If you are considering pre-settlement funding, you start with an application. That means you provide the particulars of your case and a little about your background. You will also give the pre-settlement company your attorney’s name. The pre-settlement company will research the lawsuit and evaluate the potential for a financial resolution in the case. Based on that information, you will be presented with terms for pre-settlement funding. You must decide if you want to accept the terms. It’s usually best to talk with your attorney. He or she has a good understanding of your case and the chances of winning a significant sum in a lawsuit. The process can take as little as 24 to 48 hours.

What can I use the money for?

You’re allowed to use the money for anything. It’s your money. Most people will pay a mortgage or living expenses. Others pay off medical expenses or outstanding credit card bills.  You should talk with your family and decide the best avenue to spend the money.

Conclusion

There are several companies that offer either pre-settlement financing or lawsuit loans. Most have a websites. Some of the larger companies are reviewed and rated online. Also, ask questions.