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8 Important Tips To Prevent Identity Theft

Man in ski maskIdentity theft has become just about as common as sunshine. It’s almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch a news broadcast without learning about another theft. The most recent was the insurance company Anthem where hackers gained access to the company’s computer system and got the personal information of their current and former members such as their names, birthdays, street addresses, email addresses, medical IDs/social security numbers, and employment information, including even income data.

If you are or were a member of Anthem this is a reason to be very concerning. There’s no telling what those hackers will do with the information they were able to obtain but you know it won’t be anything good. If it turns out that the attackers decide to use your identity this could mess up your financial life for many years to come. For that matter the same thing would be true if you weren’t a member of Anthem but had your identity stolen.

You can prevent your identity from being stolen or at least minimize the chances it will happen by following these tips.

#1: Request a 90-day credit alert

You can contact each of the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and ask them for a 90-day credit alert. While each of these agencies is supposed to notify the other two, it’s probably better for you to contact all three yourself just to be on the safe side.

#2: Get your free credit reports

The law requires the credit bureaus to provide you with your credit reports free once a year. You could get each individually or all three together on the website www.annualcreditreport.com. Most experts feel it’s better to get your reports one at a time at four-month intervals. That way you’re basically monitoring your credit year round and at no cost.

When you get one of your credit reports be sure to review it very carefully. Doctors can make mistakes and so can credit bureaus. If you do find an error you will need to dispute it. The three credit bureaus have pages on their sites for this purpose. However, the experts say it’s much better to write a letter to the credit bureau disputing the item. When it receives your letter it is required to contact the company that provided the information and ask it to verify it. If the company cannot verify the information or fails to respond within 30 days the credit bureau must remove it from your credit file.

If you’d like to know how to write a letter disputing something on one of your credit reports, here’s a helpful video courtesy of National Debt Relief …

#3: Watch your credit card statements like a hawk

We know that when a credit card statement arrives in the mail the simplest thing is to just pay it and move on. However, you really need to review it very carefully looking for discrepancies or charges you don’t remember having made. What identity thieves often will do is add a bogus charge of less than a dollar to see what happens. If you find a charge such as that or a big charge you don’t remember having made, immediately contact the credit card company. Most credit cards limit your financial liability to $50 and some cases won’t require you to pay anything. But it’s critical that you report any suspicious activity immediately so that the credit card company can protect you from further damage.

#4: Keep copies of everything

If your identity has been stolen or you have any disputes with a credit bureau be sure to keep copies of all correspondence and all reports. It’s a good idea to use certified mail so that you will get delivery receipts and can prove that you actually sent the letter or letters. When you make a phone call, keep notes as to what was said and what you and the credit bureau or credit card issuer agreed to.

#5: Sign up for credit monitoring … if it’s free

The experts say that it’s probably not worth the money to pay for credit monitoring, especially since you can basically do it yourself (see #2). However, when a company has been hacked it may offer its customers free credit monitoring. If so, sign up for it, as it can’t hurt. The monitoring service can tell you if a new account has been opened in your name but can’t prevent this from happening and many of them fail to check for things such as fraudulent applications for government benefits, bogus cell phone accounts or claims for medical benefits. Some do have a trained staff that will work with you and your credit card companies and some offer a limited amount of insurance.

#6: After a data breach

If you belong to Anthem or some other company where there has been a data breach these scammers might try to use your data to trick you into giving them more of your personal information. They will then use this information to open a new credit card or steal money from one of your accounts. If you get an email asking for information and with links don’t click on them. And if you receive a letter saying that you should call a certain phone number, don’t do this. It’s a ploy.

#7: Consider asking for a full freeze

You can always ask the credit bureaus to put a freeze or fraud alert on your credit files. A freeze will keep anyone from checking your credit in order to open a new account, which is how identity thieves often operate. This will give you very good protection against ID theft but you need to weigh this against the bother of having to notify the credit bureaus to lift the freeze, which can be very time-consuming. Alternately, you could ask the bureaus to put a fraud alert on your accounts. Lenders could then access your credit reports only if they first verify your identity.

#8: Don’t respond

If you receive a call asking for any kind of personal information, just hang up. If you receive emails requesting that kind of information delete them. Reputable companies do not request personal information from you either via phone or email. If you receive any of these requests you can just about bet it’s coming from a scammer.

A sad fact

It’s a sad fact that we all live in an era where much of our information such as our names, addresses, phone numbers, places of employment and Social Security numbers are all out there somewhere in electronic form, which means this information can be stolen by identity thieves. This puts the burden on you to monitor your credit and keep an eye on your credit card statements. However, it’s a burden you need to accept – as it’s much better to be safe than sorry.

13 Things You Need To Know To Know All About Personal Finance

Two smiling girls have coffee timeWhen you hear the term personal finance does it cause you to roll your eyes? Or maybe it just puts you to sleep or causes a headache. We understand that the subject of personal finance is not an exciting one. But it is an important one. We’re sure you know the old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. Personal finance is a bit like that. If you’re having a problem with your finances it’s probably because you’re continuing to do the same things over and over but hoping for different outcomes.

The good news is that it’s easy to learn the important stuff about personal finances and here it is.

#1: Don’t buy lottery tickets

States don’t run lotteries unless they can make a profit. The way they win is by you losing. In many lotteries your odds of winning are one in several million. You would stand a better chance of walking outside and being hit by lightning. Plus, studies have shown that people who win those huge jackpot lotteries end up no happier than those that lost.

#2: Buy high-deductible car and home insurance

While you need to have insurance on your house and car, it can be very expensive. If you buy high-deductible insurance, you’ll save money over the long run but will still be protected against those big-ticket items like having to replace your roof.

#3: Keep it simple

Were sure you’ve heard the old acronym KISS as in Keep It Simple, Stupid. We’re sure you’re not stupid but you do need to keep it simple. When you try to follow complicated financial strategies it just makes things tougher and your life more stressful. All you really need to manage your personal finances successfully is a budget and a savings account. Creating that first budget doesn’t have to be that tough, either. The easiest way to do it is to get out your checking account statements and credit card bills for the past month and total them up. Then compare this to your total earnings for that month. Ideally you should be spending at least 10% less than you earn. If not, you’ll need to go back to those statements and make a list of your spending by categories such as food, dining out, entertainment, utilities and so forth. That will show you roughly where your money’s going. Once you do this you should be able to see where you can make cuts in your spending to get it down to that 10% less than your earnings.

#4: Create an emergency fund

If you’re wondering why it’s important to get your spending down to less than 10% of your earnings it’s so that you can use the difference to create an emergency fund. You must have an emergency fund. Let us repeat that. You must have an emergency fund to shield you from the unexpected. When you don’t have an emergency fund and you run into an unexpected occurrence your only option will be to borrow money, which means creating debt.

#5: Protect yourself from worst-case scenarios

Disasters happen. We’re not talking about needing to put a new transmission in your car or pay for a medical emergency. We’re talking about a real disaster such as losing your job or becoming disabled. You can buy disability insurance either directly or through your job. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to protect yourself. You should also buy term insurance to protect your loved ones in the event you suffer the worst-case scenario possible, which is to die. If you’re in, say, your mid-30s you should be able to buy $100,000 or more in term life insurance for practically pennies a month.

#6: Learn to be content with what you have

We all tend to be on what’s called the “hedonistic treadmill,” which is that no matter how much we earn we want more. Try not to pin your hopes on that next raise or a new high-paying job. The only path to true happiness is by getting off the treadmill and learning to be satisfied with what you have.

cutting a credit card#7: Pay off your credit cards

Credit cards come with the highest interest rates you’ll probably ever pay on a loan. In fact, we’d be surprised if you don’t have at least one credit card with an interest rate of 19% or even higher. When you rollover the balance on a credit card the interest will be compounded meaning that you’ll be paying interest on the interest you accrued the month before and so on and so on. There are essentially two ways to pay off credit card debts. The first is to order your debts from the one with the highest interest rate down to the one with the lowest and then do everything possible to pay off the card with the highest interest rate, as this will save you the most money. The second method is called snowballing your debt. It’s where you list your debts from the one with the lowest balance down to the one with the highest and then do everything possible to pay off the card with the lowest balance. Whichever of these methods you choose be sure to keep making the minimum payments on your other cards.

#8: Never buy a vacation home as an investment

Sharp sales people will tell you that a vacation home is a good investment because of the depreciation you’ll earn. What they won’t tell you is that the cost to finance and maintain that vacation home will outweigh the depreciation you’ll earn. It just makes much better sense financially to rent a vacation home two or three weeks a year rather than buying it.

#9: Don’t spend money trying to impress people

“Luxury” clothes labels and designer brands are designed to overcharge people that are seriously insecure. You’ll save money when you buy non-designer brand clothing and you won’t be seen as nouveau riche. Watch what old-money families do and you’ll see they generally keep it on the down low.

#10: Cut out the waste

Review your bills and you’re very likely to find ones where you’re spending too much. One of the best examples of this is your cell phone bill. You may also be spending too much money on your car or cars. And nothing busts the budget more than dining out regularly.

#11: When you invest put the majority of your money into equities (stocks)

Once you build up an emergency fund equal to three or six months of your living expenses you can begin investing. The best place to put your money into is equities or stocks. They might be the most volatile but they almost always generate the best returns long term of anywhere from 4% to 5% a year above inflation. And don’t panic when your stocks plummet. Hang on to them, as they will come back.

#12: Never gamble on individual stocks

Your Uncle Henry might tell you that you’ll double or triple your money by buying stock in Amalgamated Industries but don’t do it. You could make money this month but then see it all disappear next month. The safest way to invest money in stocks is by buying mutual funds or indexed funds.

#13: Plan to live a long life

The odds are that you will live one third of your life after you turn 65. This means the best strategies are to pay off your mortgage and then save at least 10 times your annual salary by the time you’re ready to retire. Also, avoid taking your Social Security benefits for as long as you can up to when you turn 70. This will maximize your monthly checks.

Could You Answer These 8 Important Questions About Personal Finance?

Video thumbnail for youtube video How To Be A Smart Credit Card UserThere’s the old saying that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For example, we certainly don’t know what we don’t know about astrophysics except that we don’t know very much. Of course, it’s not terribly important to know a lot about astrophysics unless you’re an astronomer or physicist. But when it comes to personal finance, it’s important to learn what you don’t know as this could have a very important effect on your life. As an example of this, if you have a mortgage do know your interest rate? The website Bankrate.com recently surveyed 1000 customers and found that 35% weren’t completely sure. And if you don’t know your interest rate, how would you know when or if to refinance? There’s a mortgage company where we live advertising 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages at a little above 4%. If your mortgage interest rate is 5% or higher you could save several hundred dollars a month by refinancing. But do you know your mortgage interest rate?

Here are eight other questions about personal finance. The more of them you can answer correctly the smarter the financial moves you can make.

#1: How are your possessions valued by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance?

There are two ways that insurance companies generally value possessions – either replacement value or cash value. If your policy covers your possessions at cash value it will cost you less but you will be reimbursed only for the item’s depreciated value. You might have paid $1000 for that dining room table and chair set when you purchased it 10 years ago but today the insurance company might value it at just $100. In comparison, if your policy included replacement value you would get whatever it costs you to replace it. As you can see it’s important to know how your policy values possessions and whether or not you might want to make a change.

#2: What are your the terms of your mortgage?

Is your mortgage fixed rate or variable rate? If it’s a variable-rate mortgage do you know when your interest rate will change? Will it change after three years or five years? When it changes do you know what it will be? If you have a variable-rate mortgage that’s likely to take a jump in the next year or two and you plan to stay in the house longer than this, you might want to refinance.

#3: What’s the interest rate are on your credit card(s)

The interest rate on a credit card isn’t important if you pay off your balance every month. If you don’t, it’s important to know the interest rate. Most credit cards have the highest interest rate you’ll pay on any debt. Your cards may also come with very high fees should you be late or miss a payment. If you do carry a balance on a credit card with an interest rate of 19% or higher it might be time to do some comparison shopping and try to find one with a lower interest rate. Or better yet, you might be able to move that debt to one of those 0% interest balance transfer cards.

#4: If you have an emergency fund when would it run out?

We hope you do have an emergency fund because that’s the best way to keep from piling on more debt in the event you lose your job or have some type of emergency. If you do have an emergency fund do you know when it would run out? Do you have enough socked away to cover three months of living expenses? It would be even better if you had enough to cover six months. But the critical thing is to know how much you have saved and how long it would last.

man jumping with a chart behind him#5: What’s your credit score?

Your credit score is that little, three digit number that ranges from a low of 300 to a high of 850. As you might guess, the higher your score the better. Knowing your score is especially critical if you’re about to apply for a mortgage or buy a car. While you may not know your score you can bet that your lender does. If you have a very good score of 750 or higher you’ll not only get the loan you need it will have a very favorable interest rate. Conversely, if you have a low credit score you might not get approved for the loan or if you are it will have a high interest rate. For that matter, if you have a low credit score you’re probably paying more for your homeowner’s and auto insurance. If you don’t know your credit score you can get it free on sites such as CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com. Neither of these will be your true FICO score but will be close enough that you will know how potential lenders view you.

#6: What’s the reward rate on your credit cards?

If you use a credit card sensibly and pay off your balance every month do you know your rewards rates? If you don’t know this, you can’t know whether the amount of rewards you earn will offset the fees you pay to have the card. The rewards rate for most cards is one point or cent for every dollar you spend. This means if you have a card with an annual fee of $50 would need to charge $5000 just to break even.

#7: How much are bank fees costing you?

If you’re paying anything at all for your checking account you might want to make a change. The overwhelming majority of checking accounts are free these days. Banks usually charge fees for things like an overdraft, using an out-of-network ATM or maintenance. You can probably avoid having to pay any maintenance fees by having your paycheck direct deposited into your checking account or by making sure you keep a minimum amount in the account. You can avoid overdraft fees by instructing your bank to decline any debit card transaction that would overdraw your account. And finally, if your bank doesn’t have branches near where you work or your home and if it doesn’t reimburse you for using out-of-network ATMs, you might want to find another bank. These fees are just a silly way to spend your hard earned money.

#8: Are you being paid fairly?

Do you know how your salary stacks up in the job market? It’s important to know this. If you’re job hunting and know what other people at your skill level are being paid you will know what salary to request . It can also tell you when it’s time to ask for a raise at your current job. The answer to how your salary stacks up against other people with the same skill level might really surprise you.

The bottom line

If you don’t know the answers to some of these questions you at least now know what you don’t know. You should then get busy and learn the answers, as this would definitely profit you. In fact, in some cases it could even put several hundred dollars a month more in your pocket. And wouldn’t that be nice?

Can’t Keep Up? Here’s 5 Tips For Simplifying Your Financial Life

man balancing a checkbookFeeling overwhelmed by your finances? Staring vacantly at a pile of credit card bills, bank statements, department store bills, and mortgage statements and on and on? We all live busy lives these days and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to handle all the financial issues we face. This is especially true if you have a family with children and both you and your spouse work. By the time the work day’s over, the dishwasher’s loaded and the kids in bed, all you probably want to do is crash on the couch and watch a couple of hours of television before heading off to bed.

Take heart. You can simplify your financial life and in just 21 days. Here’s what you need to do.

Cut down on the number of your accounts

We don’t know whether or not you’re average but if you are you have at least four credit cards and maybe more. In fact, if you count up the number of credit cards held by both you and your spouse it could be as many as six or even seven. Then there are your debit cards, investment accounts and savings accounts. It wouldn’t be surprising if you have 15 or even 20 different accounts to deal with every month. When you have this many accounts it just adds complexity to your already complicated financial life. This can also open the door to fraud. There was a survey done in 2012 that found people have an average of 26 different online accounts but only five different passwords. That’s understandable as to how many people do you suppose can remember more than five? But if you mercilessly close accounts you don’t really need or use, you can simplify your life and reduce the odds that you’ll be scammed.

However, when it comes to closing credit cards keep in mind that 30% of your credit score is based on your credit history. When you close credit cards this shrinks your credit history and can have a negative effect on your credit score. You can keep this damage to the minimum by closing the accounts you opened most recently.

For those accounts you keep open, be sure to review your passwords. Research has found that the most popular password is the word password followed by things such as abc123 and 123456. If you have passwords like these you need to create strong new ones. There are sites where it’s easy to do just this. You will probably need to make a list of your new passwords and keep it handy until you have them memorized. But don’t put this list somewhere at work where it would be easy to find.

Cancel (or pretend to cancel) all of your services

Review year recurring expenses by going through all of your spending. Cancel any services you don’t really use. Then pretend you are going to cancel the others by calling up the lender or vendor and suggesting that you are about to cancel. You may be surprised at what they may be willing to do to keep you as a customer. Also, keep an eye out for little things such as that international calling plan you don’t really use. Find 10 tiny expenditures for things you don’t really need and you could save $50 a month or even more. Plus, you will also be simplifying your financial life.

Set aside four or five hours this weekend to rid yourself of everything you don’t really need

If you’re typical you’ve spent the past three, four or five years accumulating a bunch of paperwork you really don’t need. So start with it. Sort everything into two piles – important papers and unimportant papers. Shred the unimportant stuff. Then make two tax files – one for last year and a second for this year. That way when tax time rolls around next year you won’t have to go through a huge pile of documents again.

Be sure to keep everything that would be required to prove or substantiate to the IRS the income you received or any deductions you took. Unfortunately, this means seven years’ worth of tax returns and their supporting documents.

Documents that you could shred include any bank statements that are over a year old, any credit card offers, the convenience checks that you get with your credit card statements, old statements from your broker and your pay stubs — once you’ve double checked your W-2s and paid your taxes.

woman putting a coin in a piggy bankPlan for this year’s expenses

This may also take some time but you will eventually be glad you did it. What this means is sitting down and making a list of the expenses you’ll have this year so you can set aside funds to pay for them. You know that Christmas will roll around and there will be birthday gifts to purchase. Do you want to take a vacation? There will also be car and home repairs although it’s difficult to account for them because you can’t know how much they will be until they occur. However, you know they will crop up. The best way to handle these expenses is to create a new savings account just to cover them. Once you add up all these expenses you will know how much you’ll need to save. Then divide this by 12 or 24 so you can see how much you will have to put aside every month or out of every paycheck in order to cover them.

Automate everything possible

One of the things that bogs down many people is bill paying. It can be tough to remember the dates all your payments are due and how much is each. You can take a lot of the brain damage out of this by using automatic withdrawals to cover your recurring fixed payments. Your bank or credit union probably offers this service and if not your auto and life insurance companies, cell phone providers and credit card companies undoubtedly do. Sit down for a few minutes, go through all of your bills to identify your recurring, fixed expenses and then set up automatic withdrawals to pay them. Note: Be sure to review your automatic withdrawals at least quarterly to see it they are still correct.

You could also set up automatic withdrawals from your checking account to your savings account or accounts. This can make saving virtually painless because it’s harder to miss money you’ve never seen then when you have to consciously move it from one account to another. If you have a standard IRA or Roth IRA you could automate your payments to it through automatic withdrawals.

Focus on that 21-day “sprint”

The secret to getting your finances under control and simplifying your financial life is to do it quickly. As noted above, focus your attention on a short-term, 21-day sprint. Block out these days on your calendar and use them to work through the tasks you’ve just read. You may find it hard to block out those 21 days but if you do you’ll find the other 306 (or so) days of the year will be much easier to handle – at least financially. As far as your job, your spouse and those kids – well, that’s a totally different matter.

Understanding The Pros And Cons Of The New MyRA program

Couple Using Laptop And Discussing Household Bills Sitting On Sofa At HomeA few months ago, Pres. Obama proposed a new save-for-retirement program called MyRA. It is designed for the millions of low- and middle-income workers that work for companies that don’t have retirement plans. The White House estimates that this is half of all workers and about 75% of part-time workers. The idea behind it is to give these people the opportunity to save money for retirement. On the face of it, MyRA seems like a good idea. If you choose this program you could use it to put away money for your retirement knowing it would be protected by the full faith and credit of our federal government. But before you ask your employer to implement this program, it’s important to know how MyRA works and its pros and cons – to make sure it would be good for you.

How it works

How this program works is very similar to traditional retirement programs. Assuming your employer signs up for it, all it has to do is make payroll withholdings according to your direction. If your company uses an outside payroll service, the cost to offer this program should be a negligible. If it has an in-house payroll department the costs to accommodate this program should be very modest. Your employer won’t administer your plan. However it can create and distribute information about MyRA to its staff. The money that is withheld from your paycheck will be sent to your account via direct deposit. Like a Roth IRA the money you invest will be after tax dollars and when you retire it will be tax-free. However, unlike a traditional Roth IRA your money will be invested in government savings bonds.

Who’s eligible?

While the MyRA program is targeted towards people who don’t have a conventional retirement program, anyone that has their paycheck direct deposited will be eligible. This means you could use the plan to supplement your existing 401(k) plan – assuming your household income is less than $191,000 a year.

The pros

We’ve already mentioned one of MyRA’s biggest pros, which is that your savings would be totally secure.

A second pro is that you would be able to take your MyRA account with you when you change jobs or if you have several part-time jobs and contribute to your account in each of them. You would also be allowed to withdraw your contributions at any time without paying a penalty. Of course, if you withdraw the interest you’ve earned before age 59 1/2, you will have to pay taxes and possibly get hit with a penalty just as is the case with a Roth IRA.

Third, unlike a traditional Roth IRA there won’t be a lot of expenses to administer it as the program won’t have any fees.

Another plus is that you can initially invest as little as $25 and then contribute just $5 out of each of your paychecks through an automatic payroll deduction. And like a Roth IRA, you could contribute as much as $5500 a year.

If you choose to put your money into a MyRA, this can help you learn to save for retirement. When you save through an automatic payroll deduction, this could start you in the habit of saving money.

This program offers some tax relief. When you contribute to a MyRA you may be eligible for the retirement savers credit so that the government is, in effect, paying part of the cost of your contribution.

The conswoman thinking

One of the disadvantages of a myRA is that when your account reaches a total of $15,000 or if you have had it for 30 years you will need to move to a regular Roth IRA. When you do this your money will continue to grow tax-free. Plus, you have the option of switching to a regular Roth IRA whenever you would like.

A second con is that all you can expect to earn on your money is an average of 2%. This means if you were contributing $100 a month, you would have around $6300 in savings after five years, which would include about $300 in interest. In other words, a myRA offers no risks but you’re never going to earn a lot of interest on your savings either.

Unlike a 401(k) where the money you save is pretax, this program does not offer this benefit. Plus, there is no employer contribution. As noted above, contributions to this program are made with money you’ve paid taxes on. You can’t exclude or deduct anything.

Since the cap on a MyRA is just $15,000 there is no way this program can provide you with a secure retirement. The sad fact is that there is no way that $15,000 can give you a meaningful amount of income when you retire.

This program offers the same interest rate as the government’s Thrift Savings Plan Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund) that it offers federal workers. It is so modest at 2% that it might not even beat inflation. For example, in 2012 the interest rate on G Accounts was 1.5% and inflation that year was 1.7%. The G Account interest rate in 2013 was 1.74%, which is just a bit more than the rate of inflation, which was 1.5%.

One of the bigger cons of a MyRA is that you can’t invest the money in stock mutual funds or bonds and earn a better return. The G Fund returned an average of just 1.89% over the past year. This means your savings will never grow the way it would if you were able to invest in a well-managed 401(k).

As written above the program has an income limit of $191,000 for families or $129,000 for individuals. If you’re making that much and not already putting away an adequate amount of money for retirement, you might need a tougher accountant or to have a long talk with yourself.

Finally, if you’re nearing retirement and you’re just now starting to think about putting money away, this program is not going to save you.

Would this make sense for you?

A MyRA account could be a good option if your employer agrees to participate in the program. The Obama administration has said that it will push employers hard to sign up for MyRA but that doesn’t mean all of them will. The program might also not make sense for you if you have a number of part-time jobs as not all of your employers may sign up for MyRA. However, if you’ve had a hard time saving money for retirement or haven’t been able to us save any money at all then a MyRA account could be a good option as it would not only help you save money but would also help you learn to save regularly. While you would not earn a lot of interest on your savings you would earn some and your money would be totally secure. Last but not least, if your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) or some other qualified savings program then a MyRA could literally be better than not

Tips For Managing Your Finances When Unemployed

frustrated looking womanWe know from personal experience that there are worse things in life than losing your job but not many. It’s usually not just a blow to your finances but also to your ego. No matter whether you’re told, “you’re fired,” “sorry but were downsizing,” or it’s not your fault, it’s just corporate restructuring,” it still represents a rejection almost as bad as when the person you loved more than anything else in the world told you to get lost.

Being unemployed means having to search for a new job, which can also be very stressful. You will need to market yourself against competing candidates and try your best to keep up with all those daily job search tasks. It’s enough to make even the most jaundiced professional squirm. Add to this the fact that you now have another stressor and that is your personal finances. Of course, you’ll be in relatively good shape if you have built an emergency fund over the years, especially if it’s the equivalent of six months worth of your living expenses. However, if you are not able to do this, sit down, take a deep breath and as Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently said,
“R E L A X”. There are things you can definitely do to keep your personal finances under control and even get them back on track.

First, take an honest look at your finances

If you’re not careful it’s easy to start rationalizing. You could be telling yourself, “I can get an odd job if necessary” or “I can always borrow money from my IRA or 401(k)” or “I can hit up the relatives for a short-term loan.” But this is a case where it’s much better that while you’re hoping for the best you’re also preparing for the worst. It’s critical that you be realistic and truthful about your finances and face them head-on.

Make a budgetbudget and scissors

Sadly enough if you’re typical you’ve don’t have a budget. It’s probably just one of those things that you always planned to do but never did. The good news here is that making a budget is pretty simple. All you need to do is write down all your revenue sources and all of your expenses. Then do a quick add and subtract and presto! You will know how big is the gap between the money you have coming in and going out. This will help you determine how and where to allocate your money each month.

File for unemployment

If you were let go by your employer, which is probably the case, and you weren’t fired due to misconduct then you should file for unemployment insurance. If you believe you would be eligible, don’t procrastinate. Contact an unemployment office in your state immediately. While unemployment programs vary from state to state you can generally count on getting benefits for at least 26 weeks. In some states your benefits can extend up to 73 weeks. Do understand that how much you receive weekly will depend on your income and how long you have been unemployed.

Decide what’s most important

For the next 30 days write down everything you spend money on excluding your regular monthly bills. This would include movies, eating out, drinks with friends, clothes, food – everything. If you just buy a paperback or magazine or a soda at your favorite fast food restaurant, write it down. Do this and you may be shocked at how much money you’re spending. Next, consider the items that you’ve enjoyed in the past but may not be necessary until you again have a job. Be realistic. Decide what you absolutely need and what you can do without. Then eliminate those things you could do without until you get a job. We’d be willing to bet that if you really put a sharp pencil to those expenses you’ll be able to slash them by 20% or even better, which would make it a lot easier for you to meet your fixed obligations such as your mortgage payment, auto loan(s), student loans (if appropriate) and utilities.

Get started right away

When you first start thinking about your job search plan set aside some time to review your personal finances. If you take control of them early on in your job search, you can put the issue aside and keep focused on what is important, which is finding a job. Plus, if your finances are healthy this will give you much greater control over your job situation – meaning that you won’t have to take the first job that’s offered because you’re so worried about money

Treat credit cards like Ebola

The simple fact of the matter is that credit card debt is very destructive debt. This is because of their interest rates. Some credit cards have interest rates as high as 20%. It may not seem like a very big deal if you’re buying necessary items on a credit card while job searching but beware! You need to pay the full balance at the end of every month and not just the minimum amount required. If you make just those minimum payments, you’re most likely headed for a downward spiral in your finances. The best tactic is to treat those credit cards as if they had Ebola – except in case of an absolute emergency.

man and woman shaking handsGet some professional financial advice

Again if you’re typical you don’t have a financial advisor. You probably feel you can handle your money yourself or you may be worried that the advisor won’t be looking out for your best interests. While these justifications might be valid, your bank or other financial institution has a vested interest in making sure you don’t default on your payments. Check with your bank or brokerage as it might have a financial advisor you could talk with — free or at very low cost. If so, do it. That person could help you put together a financial plan that would work with your current situation. And when it comes to financial planning never be afraid to get a second or even third opinion.

Don’t clean off your financial slate

If you are lucky enough to receive a severance package or if you have other assets available you may be tempted to use the money to pay off your credit cards, your car loan or other debts. However, this is a case where you might be much better off if you pay just the required or minimal monthly payments. This will help you stretch out your cash and meet your living expenses in case you are unable to find a new job within the first several months.

Harm not your retirement

If you have a 401(k), an IRA or some other employer-sponsored retirement plan you might be tempted to cash it out and use the money to help cover your living expenses. There’s one word for this– don’t. If you do this you’ll not only jeopardize your retirement you’ll probably be required to pay a lot in penalties and income taxes. If you have money in a 401(k) a better option is to roll it over into an IRA or just leave it in your previous employer’s plan. Don’t tap any of your retirement funds except as a very last resort.

10 Financial Resolutions You Should Make (And Keep) In 2015

This year resolutions conceptDid you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2015? The majority of us tend to make the same resolutions, which are to lose weight, get a new job, quit smoking or get closure on some issue that’s been bothering us. Unfortunately less than a third of all Americans are making financial resolutions for 2015. If you’re one of the two-thirds that have not yet made any financial resolutions here are 10 that should be easier to keep than quitting smoking or losing weight and that could make your life much less stressful.

#1. Make a budget, er playbook

We understand that the idea of creating a budget is not very appetizing. But it’s not all that difficult. All you really need to do is sit down and go through your checkbook and your statements to find areas where you could reduce your spending. You might also want to order your free credit report from one of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) or get all three simultaneously on the website www.annualcreditreport.com. That way you would be able to see if there are any accounts you should be paying off faster than others.

#2. Pay down your debts

While paying down debts certainly isn’t as much fun as, say, spending a night on the town it’s the best way to get your finances under control. Some experts advise you to pay down those accounts with the highest interest rate first as this will save you the most money. Others such as the financial guru Dave Ramsey suggest you pay off the debt with the lowest balance first. You should be able to do this fairly quickly so you would then have extra money available to begin paying off the debt with the second lowest balance and so on. This is called the snowball method because when you get one debt paid off you should gain momentum to pay off the next – like a snowball rolling downhill. Of course, regardless of which of these methods you choose be sure to continue making the minimum payments on your other debts.

#3. Create an emergency fund

Actually this is something you should do before you do anything else. Most financial experts say you should save the equivalent of three to six month’s salary but the more the better. The transmission falling out of your car or an unexpected trip to the emergency room could set you back thousands of dollars. And in this era of jobs insecurity, losing your job could be devastating. Be sure to sock the money you’re saving away someplace inconvenient like an online savings account so that you won’t be tempted to dip into it for a discretionary purchase.

#4. Increase your savingswoman putting a coin in a piggy bank

Don’t do this until you have an emergency fund and few debts. But when you do the best way is through a 401(k) – assuming your employer offers one. This is especially true if your employer matches your contributions. This is like free money. You might also talk with your bank or credit union to see if it offers any financial planning services or can recommend higher-yield places to put away your savings. If so, you should set up an automatic monthly deduction from your paycheck to that new account. And try to contribute the highest amount allowable to your IRA or any other tax-advantaged savings plan.

#5. Create multiple income streams

We don’t mean by this that you should get involved in something like multilevel marketing. Assuming you have a regular job, you could parlay your hobby or your industry knowledge into freelance jobs or side gigs. You could also sell your unwanted stuff on eBay or your artsy or crafty creations on Etsy. Just make sure you don’t ignore your regular job while you’re pursuing these side ventures.

#6. Have “the talk”

One of the most uncomfortable conversations that couples can have is regarding finances. This can be more awkward than “the breakup talk” but everyone needs to know how things stand regarding spending, debts and savings. This is a financial resolution that’s especially important for engaged couples and newlyweds – to head off trouble in the future.

#7. Get your records in order

If you get your financial records for the year organized now you will be able to file your taxes early. There are great apps available such as Mint that can make keeping your finances organized drop-dead simple. Mint will track your spending and then organize it into logical categories such as food, clothing, entertainment, dining out, utilities and so forth. You could use Mint to create a budget based on those spending categories and if you overspend in any of them, Mint will send you an alert by email. It will even alert you if it finds a financial product better than one you’re currently using.

#8. Cut your spending

The idea of cutting your spending is a very popular resolution but one that’s too vague. If you haven’t done this already go back through your bank statements and checkbooks to see where you could realistically make cuts. Most people find the easiest categories to reduce spending are eating out, clothing and entertainment. You might also get an insurance audit as you could be overpaying on your auto or homeowner’s insurance. You might consider refinancing your mortgage. Interest rates are now basically at an all-time low so if you haven’t refinanced within the last 10 years the odds are that a refi could save you several hundreds of dollars a month. Depending on where you live you might also be able to get an energy audit, which could help bring down your utility bills. Here, courtesy of National Debt Relief are some more tips for cutting your spending and without sacrificing your life ..

#9. Invest in… you

One of the easiest and best resolutions to make is to invest in you in 2015. This could mean taking classes to get a better job or to merit a raise. One great thing about your education is that no one can take it away from you and it could even be tax-deductible. You might also want to sign up for an online class on stocks and bonds to become a better saver and investor.

#10. Make everything as easy as possible

One resolution that’s very easy to keep is to set up automatic withdrawals and automatic bill pay to help you achieve your financial goals. You could also buy and use a program such as Quicken to keep track of your finances. If your bank is typical you should be able to download all your checking and savings account information directly into Quicken so you wouldn’t even have to do much manually. Financial programs such as Mint and Quicken will not only make it much easier for you to manage your finances but will keep you continually on top of where you stand – in terms of the big picture.

14 Tricks And Tips For Turning Around Your Finances In 2015

Couple Using Laptop And Discussing Household Bills Sitting On Sofa At HomeThe end of 2014 is soon approaching and if you’re like most Americans there are a bunch of things you wish you had done differently especially in the area of personal finance. But if you’re coming to the end of the year and you feel your finances have become a jumbled mess, don’t despair. There are some very simple things you could do for turning around your finances next year. That way, when New Year’s Eve 2015 rolls around you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back and say about your finances, “job well done.”

1. Understand that you’re unemotional about your money

Whether we like to admit it or not we’re all pretty emotional about our money. As an example of this, if your desire is to pay off your mortgage so that you can live debt-free this might feel really good but it also might not be your best decision. The reason for this is that even with the tax break a 4% mortgage is really more like a 3% return on your investment. But if you were to put that $100,000 into an index fund with an 8% return you’d be way ahead of the game. The important thing is to understand that you have irrational feelings about your money and work to overcome them.

2. Don’t think bank balances. Think net worth

There are apps such Mint and Personal Capital where you can track your net worth. If it’s going up, things are great. If it’s going down, not so much. But by doing this instead of just checking your bank balances it will keep you accountable.

3. Create an emergency fund

It’s always best to have six months savings to get you through a period of unemployment, as this is the amount of time required to find a new job on the average. For that matter, you could suffer a disastrous medical emergency or the transmission could fall out of your car. In any event, if you have an emergency fund it will stave off having to borrow more money and keep you from going into debt.

Man counting money4. Try to negotiate everything

Don’t you just hate to haggle? Most of us do. But this is a big mistake. You should even try to negotiate all of your monthly bills and by this we mean all of them. There are states where you can choose which company generates your electricity, which could cut your bill dramatically. And, of course, be sure to haggle on your rent before you move in. If you can win a discount this will be multiplied across many months or years.

5. It isn’t savings until it’s in a savings account

Let’s say that you change to a new wireless plan and manage to cut your costs by $100 a month. Don’t think you’re really saving that money unless you put the $100 into a savings account every month. One good tip here is to open a separate account and then transfer the money each month. That way you can see your savings growing and growing.

6. Don’t be afraid to challenge everything

Sit yourself down on January first or second and go through your expenses line by line. Ask yourself in each case if you really need to spend the money on that item. For example, are you really using that gym membership? Or do you really need to spend $9.99 a month on Spotify. The important thing here is to challenge every one of your expenditures. Were willing to bet you will be able to find at least half a dozen that you could cut out and save money.

7. Sell your old stuff on Craigslist

The other side of the ledger to saving money is finding ways to earn extra cash. You should be able to earn that cash by selling all the junk you don’t use on Craigslist. We know of one person who sells just three items a month but has found that it definitely adds up. It’s also okay to sell stuff on eBay but with Craigslist you never have to worry about shipping the stuff.

8. Google the word “coupon” alongside whatever it is you’re planning to buycoupons and scissors

This is a great and simple trick especially when buying a big-ticket item. There are coupons available that will save you money on just about everything. Thinking about buying a bigger screen TV? Then try Googling “52 inch HDTV and coupon.” You might be amazed at what turns up.

9. Buy secondhand

There is no shame in buying stuff secondhand and it’s a great way to save money. If you’d rather not be seen shopping at Goodwill try one of the more upscale secondhand stores such as Plato’s Closet or Twice. For that matter you will also find really good deals on all kinds of things on Craigslist and eBay.

10. Buy everything with your credit cards to earn cash back

Try to put all of your purchases on credit cards to earn cash back. One of the best is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. If you put $3000 on that card within 30 days you can redeem the cash for a $400 statement credit or $500 in travel. This means it’s basically $400 in free money just by putting $3000 on the card. You could easily meet the sign-up requirements to earn your bonuses by using the card to buy gas, groceries, regular purchases and even health insurance.

11. Or put those cards away

The financial guru Dave Ramsey advocates paying cash for everything. He recommends what’s called the envelopes strategy if you find you’re having a hard time keeping your spending in check. This is where you divide up your money every two weeks into envelopes representing your spending categories such as groceries, clothing, entertainment, dining out and so on. Then when one of those envelopes is empty that’s it. You can’t spend any more money in that category.

12. Determine your limits

There have to be areas where you could cut back on your spending. For example, how many times do you eat out a week? If the answer is more than four this is certainly an area where you could cut back. Another area where you should be able to trim your spending is on clothes. You don’t have to think about giving up everything. You just need to look at every one of your expenditures as a choice and not as a mandatory cost.

13. Google everything and we mean everything

If it’s something you’ll be spending money on be sure to Google it. We recently heard one story where a person saved $700 by searching for a part that she needed to replace on her car. You can find virtually everything online these days and there’s a very good chance that it will be cheaper than the “retail” price.

happy family14. Make realistic goals

You undoubtedly know the old adage “never bite off more than you can chew.” When it comes to turning around your finances its easy to create huge goals. Anything that’s worth saving for probably requires a large amount of money. When February rolls around and the euphoria of that New Year’s Eve resolution begins to wear off it’s easy to lose steam and just quit saving for that goal. A better answer is to break your big goals into smaller more realistic ones. That way, you can feel good about reaching each of your benchmarks. But even if you don’t reach a benchmark on time, you can keep saving, as you will be able to see that you are actually making progress.

Improve Your Mortgage IQ By Learning These 8 Important Facts

Street of residential housesIf you are thinking about buying a house, you’ll undoubtedly need a mortgage. Mortgages can be complicated and have a language of their own. There are some important facts you need to know about mortgages that could save you money and keep you from getting in financial trouble. Here are eight of them.

Choosing an ARM could make good sense

An ARM or Adjustable Rate Mortgage is different from a conventional mortgage because its interest rate will move up and down each month as market interests change. These mortgages generally have a fixed rate that can range from a month to 10 years during which time the interest rate doesn’t change. Then there’s a longer period during which it can change at predetermined intervals. The standard for ARMs has become a 5/1. This loan has an initial fixed interest rate period of five years with the rate then adjusting annually after this. This is usually called a hybrid mortgage. Other popular hybrids are 3/1, 7/1 and 10/1.

If you believe you’ll be in the house for seven years or fewer an ARM could make good sense, as its lower interest rate would translate into a lower monthly payment. But if you were to choose a 5/1 where the interest rate would reset after five years, there starts to be a change in the math. This is because your interest rate typically would go up two points every year after that.

If you’re applying for a conventional loan be prepared to pay for PMI

The three most popular types of mortgages are VA, FHA and conventional mortgages. Both VA and FHA mortgages are backed by the federal government. This reduces the risk to the lender. Unfortunately, conventional mortgages are not federally backed and, therefore, represent more of a risk to the lender. In this case, the lender will likely require you to buy PMI or private mortgage insurance. This protects lenders against a loss if you were to default on the loans. If your loan has a loan-to-value (LTV) percentage in excess of 80%, most lenders will require you to buy private mortgage insurance. The good news for you as a borrower is that this would allow you to make a down payment of 3% to 19.99% in comparison with the 20% you would be required to put down without PMI. You would pay on your PMI every month until you have enough equity in your home that the lender would no longer consider you to be a high risk.

It costs no more to use a mortgage broker

A mortgage broker is different from a mortgage banker. When you use a mortgage broker it serves as an intermediary between you and the lender. It will gather all the paperwork from you and then pass it along to the mortgage lender for underwriting and approval. The funds for the mortgage are lent in the name of the mortgage lender and not the mortgage broker. However, a mortgage broker will collect an origination fee or a yield spread premium from the lender as compensation for its services In other words, using a mortgage broker is really no more expensive than using a mortgage lender. Which you choose will be mostly a matter of your personal preferences. Some people are just more comfortable going through a broker instead of having to deal directly with the bank or lender. Plus, brokers can sometimes smooth out the transaction and make things simpler and easier for the borrower.

An FHA loan almost always has a lower interest rate

FHA or Federal Housing Administration loans generally have lower interest rates than conventional loans because the federal government backs them. This reduces the risk to the lender. One of these loans can be a good choice for a first-time buyer that doesn’t have much money to put down, as the down payment can be as low as 3.5%. This means you could buy a $200,000 house for just $7000 down. However, the downside of FHA loans is that you would be required to buy two forms of private mortgage insurance. The first is an upfront mortgage premium that would be 1.75% or $3500. However, this can be added to the loan so you would not be required to pay it out of pocket. But there is also an annual mortgage premium. In this case with a down payment of less than 5% you would pay 1.35% of the total loan balance. This works out to be $214 per month on a $200,000 mortgage. If you continue paying on that mortgage for five years you’ll have paid $15,708 just in mortgage insurance and over the life of the mortgage you would pay an incredible $49,479.

There are times when you might want to pay points up front

If you don’t know what a point is, it’s a fee equal to 1% of the amount of your loan. As an example of this a 30-year mortgage $150,000 might have a 7% interest rate but also a charge of one point or $1500. Lenders can charge one, two or more points. These are called origination points. The lender charges them to cover the cost of making the loan. In comparison a discount point is prepaid interest on your loan. If you want to lower the interest rate on your loan you should pay more points. You can generally pay from one to three or four points. This will depend on how much you want to lower your interest rate.

The decision of whether or not you should pay points and how man will depend on a number of different factors including how much money you have to put down at closing and how long you intend to stay in your house. If you intend to be there for a while, paying points is prepaid interest will reduce your interest rate which could be an advantage. However, if your goal is to get the lowest possible closing costs that you should choose the zero-point option on your loan program.

The good news of discount points is that they are tax deductible.

You can refinance that mortgage as often as you like

Despite what a mortgage banker or broker might tell you, it’s possible to refinance a mortgage whenever the mood strikes you. Of course, there are always transactional costs involved with refinancing a mortgage so its best to refinance only when this would reduce your interest rate to the point where you could recoup the costs while you are still in your home.

You could buy a house as soon as three years after  bankruptcy

There is a common myth that if you file for bankruptcy you can’t buy another house for anywhere from 7 to 10 years. The truth is that if you’re a veteran you might be able to qualify for a VA loan in as soon as two years. If you’re not a veteran you might qualify for an FHA-insured loan after just three years or even fewer if you can prove extenuating circumstances such as a medical emergency. However, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac generally will not insure loans to people until after seven years if they had lost their homes to foreclosure.

It might take more than 10 years before you’re really paying down the principle on a conventional mortgage.

If you had a conventional mortgage and 3.5%, the first $.35 of every dollar of your mortgage payment goes towards reducing the balance of your mortgage and the amount slowly goes up from there. It’s not until you’ve made 123 payments that half of your payment goes towards paying off your principal. And of course the higher interest rate, the longer it will be before your paying off half of your principal.

Mortgage mistakes

There are mistakes that can be made in choosing a mortgage and it’s important not to make them as this will probably be your biggest expenditure ever.  Here’s a short video about these mistakes and  how to avoid  making them.

10 Little Marriage Secrets Your Friends Won’t Tell You

Couple Using Laptop And Discussing Household Bills Sitting On Sofa At HomeAre you and your significant other starting to use the “M” word? Are you asking questions like should we get married? Do you want to get married? When should we get married? Or what would your parents think if we got married?

There’s no question about the fact that marriage can be a wonderful thing. Your husband or wife can be your best friend, your partner, your confidant and, of course, your lover. These are the things your friends will emphasize if you’ve discussed marriage with them. “Oh, yes, marriage is great.” “Marriage is just the best thing we’ve ever done.” Or “you really should get married – it’s wonderful.”

But while your friends are telling you how great marriage is, there are things they’re just not telling you and if they did, you might give the idea of marriage a second or even third thought. Here are 10 of these nasty, little marriage secrets.

Marriage is going the way of the dodo bird

According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of American adults that have never been married has reached a new high. Two years ago, about 20% of American adults aged 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married. This compares with the 10% of those of that same age in 1960. There are several reasons for this. For one thing Americans are staying in school longer. They are also focusing more on their careers after they graduate and then getting married later in life. In fact, the median age for women getting married is now 27 and 29 for men, which is an increase from age 20 for women and 33 for man in 1960. But as you might guess there is one group of people where marriage is on the rise – same-sex couples. This has increased more than 50% to about 130,000 in 2012.

We’re into infidelity

Two years ago a research company affiliated with the University of Chicago found that some 12.3% of all married women and 19% of married men admitted that they’ve had extramarital affairs. While most Americans seem to favor monogamy, many of them would cheat if they thought they could get away with it. An interesting contradiction is that a survey done by the USA Network found that 82% of those that responded said they had “zero tolerance” for cheating but 81%, said they would cheat if they believed they wouldn’t get caught.

We planned our divorce before we planned our wedding

If you’re contemplating marriage have you thought about a prenuptial agreement? A recent survey done by the American Academy of Matrimonial lawyers found that about 63% of the attorneys queried said they have seen an increase in the number of people requesting prenuptial agreements. The major reason for this is probably the fact that so many people are marrying later in life and have amassed a significant amount of assets by the time they get married. This makes the idea of a prenup more attractive.

The more money spent on the wedding, the shorter the marriage

Another interesting fact is that the more money that is spent on a wedding the shorter will be the marriage – at least according to a study done recently by economics professors at Emory University. What they found in surveying 3000 couples is that those who spent $20,000 or more on their weddings were 46% more likely to get divorced than the average couple. In comparison, couples that spent between $1000 and $5000 were 18% less likely to split up.

Social media can kill a marriage

In the survey done recently by the USA Network, 86% of those that responded said that it’s much easier to cheat thanks to social networking and almost 33% said they had had an emotional or romantic relationship online. How can you prevent this? One thing you might try is setting time limits and boundaries on social media usage. For example, you might agree that each of you will spend no more than one hour an evening on Facebook, Twitter or whatever. But don’t start spying on your spouse’s use of social networking. This not only signals a lack of trust in your partner but if you’re caught could actually get you kicked out of the house.

Money keeps us together

According to the Emory study quoted above, the more money you make the more likely it is that you will stay together. Couples making more than $125,000 a year are 51% less likely to divorce than those that earn less than $25,000 a year. Of course, there is a strong correlation between earnings and education and people with better educations appear to be more likely to stay married. People with a high school diploma have a divorce rate of 42.8% by the time they reach middle age while only 26.5% of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher split the blanket.

You can’t be too old to get a divorce

While you might think that by the time married couples reach their 50s they would’ve gotten past the idea of divorce but this is not necessarily true. Adults that are 50 or older accounted for more than 25% of divorces in 2010, which is up from less than 10% in 1990. The good news is that the national divorce and annulment rate fell from four per 1000 people in 2000 to 3.6 per 1000 people in 2011. So more people are staying together and for longer.

The cost of our wedding left us broke

Do you know the average cost of a wedding? In 2014 it was $29,858 according to a survey that was done by TheKnot.com of 20,000 brides. This includes an average of nearly $13,000 for a venue (including the necessary food), more than $5500 for the engagement ring and $2400 for a photographer – and this excludes the cost of a honeymoon. Why is this? Couples that marry later are more likely to be spending their own money. This means they no longer have to stick to a budget set by mom and dad.

It was her idea to split up

Women initiate two thirds of divorces according to the Marriage Project. This is because, for one thing, divorce laws tend to favor women with regards to child custody. A less kind hearted explanation is that women are more likely to have unfaithful husbands than husbands are to have unfaithful wives. In addition, women have become stronger and more independent over the past 30 years, and are more confident that they can stand on their own. Many of them have well paying jobs so that the idea of being on their own doesn’t seem as frightening as it might have 30 years ago.

We sort of screwed our guests

Finally, as our economy has improved there has been an increase in destination weddings that have more lavish ceremonies. This means that the poor folks on the guest lists are spending more money accordingly. In fact, this year guests were projected to spend about $592 per couple on the average per wedding. Plus, they were dropping another $109 on gifts per wedding. One of the results of this is about 43% of us say that we have declined attending a wedding for financial reasons. This is based on a poll done by the nonprofit organization American Consumer Credit Counseling.

Love conquers all?

There is the old saying that love conquers all but this may not necessarily be true. What conquers all in marriage is usually a combination of hard work and compatibility.  But then as Jenna McCarthy points out in the following video, for women the secret to staying married might be as simple as making sure you’re always thinner than your husband …

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