delete

Web 2.0 Personal Finance

Today’s post is by Nick Barber who works for UK discounting site VoucherCodes.co.uk

Personal finance has moved on and people are now roughly separated into two groups; those that are savvy online and those that are not.  There is a myriad of tips of tricks beyond the usual blanket “buy online” advice that can slash your usual monthly spend painlessly by about 20%.  These personal finance tips however can be leveraged in the worlds of investing and of small business too so you offset the hefty start-up costs that are often incumbent on the budding entrepreneur.

Before you know where you are going to make savings however, you need to know exactly how your finances are shaping up. In recent years there has been a proliferation of online software packages that will help you keep your bookkeeping in order. Mint is a great example. Once you sign up and enter your details, it will automatically pull in your balances from different accounts, updating in real time, so you can always keep on top of how much you are laying out each month. This information can then be used in conjunction with their budgeting software and there is even functionality to check how your investments are doing.  What is more – it’s completely free!

The second tip for knowing where you stand financially is to check your credit report. Your credit report is, put simply, a record of all the debts you have taken out in the last 6 years, right down to cell phone contracts, as well as a record of how well you have managed to repay them. Experian offer a free credit report when you register with them. It is essential to check for mistakes – which happen more regularly than you think. Even the smallest error can reflect badly on you which is especially important with banks having access to your records. If it seems you have missed just a few payments, this can result in a much higher rate of interest on your mortgage and other borrowings. Correcting mistakes can result in savings of hundreds of dollars a month; as well as opening up more finance to you.

Now you know where you stand; it’s time to make savings. (more…)

delete

How to Choose a Savings Account

Photo Credit: WWarby

Today’s post is a guest post by Fred Schebesta who writes for Savings Account Finder where he helps people to choose the best savings account and term deposits.

While it is easy to spend all the money which comes in from your wages, and then some, today is the day you will start a savings plan and start using your money more wisely, for two reasons – firstly you’ll see how important it is to have a savings plan, and secondly you’ll see how easy it is to open a dedicated high interest saving account which practically manages and runs your savings plan for you.

Who Needs a Savings Account?

Not everyone needs a savings account, for example if you have a mortgage you should be directing your extra funds to pay off your debt before you start trying to earn interest on a savings account. Similarly if you are nearing retirement then an approved Retirement Savings Account will offer you better tax benefits and more attractive fee structures than a typical high interest savings account could offer in your situation. Instead, a savings account can benefit:

  • · Children learning to save. Opening a savings account for your child can be the best gift you will ever give them as you are starting them on the road to financial knowledge and stability. Learning to save is an important skill and the earlier you teach your children about making regular deposits and how compounding interest is calculated, the sooner they will be in control of their money, rather than having it control them in the form of credit card and uncontrollable debt.
  • · Young people saving for a house. A new home is a big investment and usually requires a big deposit too. Therefore, opening a high interest savings account can help you achieve the goal of a house deposit a lot sooner, as you can set up automatic transfers from your transaction account when your wages arrive so you are paying yourself first and allowing your house fund to regularly increase. You’ll also be earning a high rate of interest which is calculated daily and paid monthly so the more regular deposits you make, the more interest you will be able to earn on top of your own contributions.
  • Families looking for more fun. When you are managing the family funds it can seem like there is never enough to go around. Unfortunately this could mean missing out on family holidays, trips to the movies or new bikes for Christmas. Whatever your family’s goals are, a dedicated high interest savings account can help make them a reality because your savings account safely guards your funds, adds interest to them and makes for a simple place for your family to save together and achieve their goals.
  • · You there, with your dream purchase. If you have a dream purchase in mind, big or small, a high interest savings account can help make it a reality. By separating your savings from your everyday funds you are less tempted to spend the money you have so carefully saved, and you can instead watch it grow, contribute or reinvest it all online.

Features of the Best Savings Account
(more…)

delete

Four Ways To Focus Your Finances Tomorrow

For so many of us, the problems in our life can be attributed to insufficient attention. One of the most important things we can do to solve a problem is to stop ignoring it. Financial problems are no exception. In fact, getting focused on your finances can often be the difference between success and frustration.

The key is to get started immediately. Don’t wait. Start tomorrow. Here are four things you can do tomorrow to start focusing your attention on your finances and start getting them in order:

1.) Have a family meeting
Get everyone on the same page. You can’t do anything until you’ve discussed how financial issues affect your family. Your family can tell you what they think is going wrong and you can also share your thoughts with them. This consensus and making sure the whole family understands, and is on board with, the financial goals can be the tipping point for success.
(more…)

delete

The Problem with Uncertainty

Photo by: whatmegsaid

When it comes to government policy it is rarely acceptable for politicians to do nothing.  Even if it’s only to give the appearance of doing something and instilling confidence, the government actually does have a role to play.   While there is certainly a case for stimulus and crisis management, too much government intervention can completely upset the whole purpose of free markets.  Even worse, the fear of government intervention can inject the same uncertainty in the market that it is supposed to help assuage.

The 2008 Crisis

In retrospect there is a lot of criticism about the TARP-the Troubled Asset Relief Program.[1] Some politicians complain that the prices paid for the equities were too high.  This criticism is somewhat problematic, since the whole purpose of the TARP was to pay more than the market was willing to pay for distressed banks.[2] Others claim that it was unnecessary, and that the market would have sorted things out itself.  These criticisms conveniently forget the abject panic that had beset the markets when the idea was put forth.  There was a tremendous amount of uncertainty as to whether the banking system was going to completely collapse and how the world would react.

With all its flaws the TARP may very well have injected some confidence into the market.  The same can be said of Obama’s sweeping stimulus.  Investors and businessmen knew that a large dose of spending was coming and had broad ideas about what it would include.  Economists may argue, but a case can be made for all these changes, particularly when they’re done quickly and in a sweeping fashion.

The Problem

The problem arises when the government becomes a first resort instead of a last resort.  When people expect the government, instead of natural forces, to correct all the ills of the market, uncertainty is sure to follow.  The government can’t do everything, so the economy becomes a guessing game of trying to determine which programs the government will implement.  Even worse it can become a hotbed of cronyism, where the supporters of those in power get bailouts and the rest watch despairingly.

(more…)

  1. Wall Street Journal - Panel Steps Up Criticism of Treasury Over TARP []
  2. The Economist – Carping about the TARP []
delete

Is the Financial Sector a Utility?

Photo by:  futureatlas.com

I am a fervent believer in free markets.  More specifically I believe that they, much like Democracy, are flawed but vastly superior to any alternative.  As various elements in the world decry the current financial crisis as an indictment of the flaws of capitalism, I wait patiently for them to suggest the proven alternative.  Despite this, I am left wondering if the financial sector is an exception to the wisdom of free markets.

Does Regulation Even Work?

If I’m defending free financial markets, my first piece of evidence is the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.   This organization was 225 people as of 2006, tasked solely with regulating and overseeing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.[1] With both of those organizations now being operated by the government after becoming tremendously over-leveraged, the efficacy of regulation is certainly in doubt.  If an organization of 225 people cannot regulate a large financial entity, what good does adding more regulation to the system do? (more…)

  1. OFHEO 2006 Performance and Accountability Report []