Credit Score Savvy

Credit Score Savvy

With the New Year, people often make resolutions to fix problem financial situations.  Part of cleaning an individual’s financial house includes taking a hard look at his or her credit.  Credit Score Savvy (2003) was one of my earlier articles that I wrote for a local magazine. At that time, I was a loan officer and found that many people were confused by FICO scores and credit issues.  In the article I explained factors that affected scores and the ability to finance a home.  Although the market has changed since then, a lot has remained the same in terms of confusion about credit issues.  A more recent article titled Polish up Your Credit includes some information about things people can do to improve his or her credit score now.  What may be most useful from this article are some of the statistics. The following chart provides answers to some of the most basic credit-related questions.

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Purchasers from Amazon Responsible for StateTaxes

 

Article first published as Purchasers from Amazon Responsible for StateTaxes on Technorati.

Amazon has enjoyed an advantage over their competition.  They have not had to add tax to the purchase amount in states where they don’t have a physical presence.  Slate reported, “According to Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, companies are only required to collect sales taxes from their customers when they have a presence in the state in which they reside.”

This has been a sore spot for many of Amazon’s competitors.  Many of them feel that if they should have to handle the taxes for customers, so should Amazon.  This advantage has made them undersell big competitors like the Apple Store and Best Buy.

Purchasers from the Amazon site may think they are getting a better deal. In reality, there may be taxes owed, but it won’t be by Amazon.  What many people in certain states like Arizona don’t know about their purchases on Amazon, is that it is going to be up to them to keep financial records of what taxes are due.  At the end of the year, when they file their tax returns, these taxes should be included in any amount owed to the government.

According to the Arizona Republic, “If you buy something online from a retailer who doesn’t have a physical presence in Arizona and they don’t charge state tax or the tax from the state where they’re located, then you’re probably liable for the use tax – the 6.6 percent tax. The safest thing to do is if you buy something online and you get a receipt, save it. It’ll probably show if there was any sales tax from the state where it was charged. If there’s not and there is no Arizona tax, then you should think about paying the use tax on that.”

What if you haven’t kept all of your Amazon receipts?  Go to your account page on Amazon and under Order History, click on Download Order Reports.  This tool allows you to put in the date range of purchases to request a report of purchased items.

According to Amazon’s site, “Items sold by Amazon.com LLC, or its subsidiaries, and shipped to destinations in the states of Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington are subject to tax.”  It is wise to check with your state to see what your tax obligation is.  For more information from Amazon regarding taxes, click here.

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Our Kids’ Financial Futures Are At Stake

The sky is falling. We hear about it every day. The stock market is plunging, the housing bubble has exploded, and the list of doom and gloom goes on and on. How did we get here? We consider ourselves a bright nation. Why then, didn’t we see this coming? Did we get too greedy? Did we lose our common sense? Perhaps it was a little of both. What is important is what we have learned from our mistakes and the knowledge we pass down to our children to help them avoid a similar fate.

Unfortunately our children may end up sinking in our same boat. Even if they go to college, the personal finance education they will receive will be slim to none. While in college, our children are finding themselves more in debt than any past generations. Think about some of the financial statistics for our youth:

  • 76% of undergraduate students have credit cards, while carrying a balance of over $2000, according to Nellie Mae. 28% percent of students roll over their debt each month.
  • College graduates are finding that they are over $20,000 in debt, according to Creditcards.com.
  • Charles Schwab reported in a 2007 survey that 45% of teens have credit cards but only 26% know how to understand how their fees and interest payments.

Whether we are looking at Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Millenials or any of the other names given to those born after 1982, it is important to understand that they have been raised to expect immediate gratification. Sixty Minutes did a recent feature discussing how companies are even bending over backwards to meet the demands of this high-expectation generation.

If everybody is bending over backward to meet their needs, what is going to happen when they have to be financially responsible for themselves? Why aren’t we bending over backwards to help them learn to be financially independent? We have seen that past generations (their parents) have been poorly educated and are apparently in no position to teach them. If it is not to be taught by parents who are uneducated themselves, where will they get this knowledge?

Currently many colleges and universities are rethinking their position in including personal finance education. Unfortunately these classes are mostly electives or only required by business majors. It costs upward of $6000/year average to pay for a child’s college tuition. What are they getting out of that to prepare them for their adult life?

What can be done?

  • Colleges can create more course offerings to include personal finance education. Within the courses, texts need to be appropriate for all majors. Many colleges offer texts for these courses that are math-intensive, which can turn off the student who is not a math genius.
  • As parents we can help our children by sharing our mistakes and explaining what we ourselves have learned in the process.
  • K-12 Guidelines can be updated to include more specifics as to amount of “time” devoted to the financial literacy information our schools are supposed to be teaching.
  • Personal finance books for younger students could be created in a story-telling format that would allow for them to relate the importance of what they are learning to their own lives.

If future generations are not taught to become financially responsible, who is going to bail them out? Are we going to have to just keep relying on the government to come to the rescue? It certainly isn’t going to be their parents, as they have lost their retirement nest eggs. In fact, their parents may be looking at this generation to take care of them.

Guest post by Diane Hamilton, who has a BS, MA and Ph.D. in Business Management. Her experience includes working in several industries including pharmaceuticals, banking and real estate. She has trained corporations in areas such as time management, emotional intelligence and Myers Briggs. She currently works as an online professor, working for 5 different universities. She teaches mostly business-related courses to bachelor, master and doctoral level students as well as mentors doctoral learners. She is in the process of writing a personal finance book for the young adult. Diane can be reached through www.drdianehamilton.com

FHA Calculator

 

It is easier than ever to know the loan amounts that FHA offers. If you are in the mortgage business, you can get the widget for your website showing loan limits for your state at: http://www.fha.com/fha_loan_limits_widgetcode.cfm.

The amounts shown in the picture above are the actual loan limits right now for FHA loans in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Ask Dr. Diane: Starting Over In Life – How to Catch Up Financially

Today’s Question Is:    I am pursuing my Masters. I am divorced, 49 and just starting over in my life.  I now have a 30 year mortgage on a home (I look at it as an investment).  I really am worried about my future and how well off I will be financially.  Starting over has cost me a fortune but personally I am extremely happy, until I think about my future, and then severe anxiety.  Not to mention paying student loans.  Anyway do you have any resources for women like me?  I feel happy that I am an RN and am actually working but I want to be better off financially.

Answer:  Thanks for the question.  Having a masters can only help you in the long run.  It opens doors for you in terms of work possibilities.  You said you like being an RN.  Are you interested in teaching as well?  I like the site http://higheredjobs.com. They list teaching jobs for people with a master or doctoral degree.  I think teaching online could be a good part time way to get extra money and also set you up for a possible full time job in the future should you want to stay home, not be in nursing any more and/or not be worried about your age being a factor in finding new career opportunities.  I am almost 48 … and realistically we are not at our most marketable age.  I write about this in my book How to Reinvent Your Career.  It will be available on Amazon in about a month or so.  You can find out more here on my website and on my blog at www.drdianehamilton.wordpress.com or on Facebook.
 
Be sure you are putting the maximum amount away in your 401k or your IRA if you don’t have a 401k. After you turn 50, you can put an additional $5500/year away in your 401k to catch up if you are behind. Many people are working past the retirement age of 65.  If you have your masters and have some online teaching experience that you could be developing now, you will be able to supplement income nicely and not have to work a full 8-hour day.  The extra income could also help you pay off those student loans. 
To hear more financial advice, listen to my recent interview with Dean Voelker by clicking here.

Dr. Diane Hamilton is Interviewed by Dean Voelker

Click the date link to hear the audio file. Please be patient for the file to load in your media player.

  • 07/31/2010 – Dr. Diane Hamilton (Current Show)
  •       click this link to hear the show

    Dr. Diane Hamilton

    Click on the above link and go about five minutes into the show to listen to Financial Talk Show Host and Author, Dean Voelker, interview Dr. Diane Hamilton about young adults, money, online learning, careers, and even Lady Gaga. . . Stay tuned until the end to hear more about Diane’s books: The Online Student’s User Manual, How to Reinvent Your Career and Ten Things The Young Adult Needs to Know to Be Financially Savvy.

    Dean Voelker Interviews Dr. Diane Hamilton

    WHME-FM Radio Show

    Listen to Dean on WHME 103.3 FM for Improving Your Financial Health “Improving Your Financial Health”
    Listen to this Radio Program
    with Dean Voelker, AAMS
    on WHME-FM in South Bend, IN
    Saturdays at 9:00am EST
    Click Here: 2010 Archived Shows

    Upcoming Show – “Improving Your Financial Health”

  • –>07/31/2010 – Dr. Diane Hamilton (Upcoming Show)
    My guest this week is Dr. Diane Hamilton – www.drdianehamilton.com. Diane has a Doctorate in Business Management and currently teaches business courses for six online universities. Along with her teaching experience, she has more than 25 years of business and management experience. Dr. Hamilton has also written several books and articles which focus on understanding online education, and personal finance for young adults. Her most recent book, Ten Things Young Adults Need to Know to be Financially Savvy is designed to teach young adults basic principles of personal finance. The unique and innovative style of the book engages young readers to learn about money management, home-buying and other areas of personal finance in an entertaining and personal way that is far from the typical dull text available on the subject. Please join me for a lively discussion with Dr. Diane Hamilton as we talk about how to keep young people better informed.
  • Dr. Diane Hamilton

    My interview with Dean will be on Saturday’s show and you can also check back on Dean’s site at www.helpmy401k.us for the actual interview file if you miss it.

    Improve Your Karma With Microlending

    If you haven’t heard of microlending yet, you are not alone. Although it is primarily something that has been found in third world countries, the U.S. is also in the microlending market. What makes microlending unusual is that it can be done by just about anyone and the amounts that you lend can be quite small. Some of the proponents of microlending even suggest that these loans could help to end poverty.

     

    What Is It?
    Microlending occurs when loans are made are small and/or are unconventionally secured, if at all. They are a means for people who could normally not receive credit to be able to obtain a loan. The idea is to spur entrepreneurship. Many people, often times women, in traditionally poor areas may come up with an idea for a business but may be unable to obtain financing. Originally starting in developing countries about 30 years ago, these loans were intended to build wealth and, with hope, end poverty. (Learn more about emerging markets in Evaluating Country Risk For International Investing.)There are two types of microlenders: For-profit and not-for-profit. eBay’s subsidiary, Microplace, is an example of a for-profit dealer. Those wanting to donate to an individual borrower can use their Paypal accounts to transfer money. Kiva, a well-known not-for-profit lending organization, doesn’t receive any interest on its loans, but the field partners through which loans are managed do charge borrowers interest. Kiva has some interesting statistics regarding its loans:

    Total value of all loans made through Kiva: $105,084,510
    Number of Kiva Lenders: 601,646
    Number of countries represented by Kiva Lenders: 188
    Number of entrepreneurs that have received a loan through Kiva: 261,312
    Number of loans that have been funded through Kiva: 149,794
    Percentage of Kiva loans which have been made to women entrepreneurs: 82.55%
    Number of Kiva Field Partners (microfinance institutions Kiva partners with): 106
    Number of countries Kiva Field Partners are located in: 49
    Current repayment rate (all partners): 98.04%
    Average loan size (This is the average amount loaned to an individual Kiva Entrepreneur. Some loans – group loans – are divided between a group of borrowers.): $402.88
    Average total amount loaned per Kiva Lender (includes reloaned funds): $174.98
    Average number of loans per Kiva Lender: 5.03
    Data as of 11/27/2009 from Kiva.org

    Kiva and other organizations advertise the appeal of lending being a safe investment and a socially conscious thing to do. Developing countries have many people who are in great need of assistance, and the hope is that by donating to these people, the economies of their countries will benefit.

    These loans are not only being made available overseas. U.S. entrepreneurs can also take advantage of this financing. In fact, small and private businesses make up more than 87% of all businesses in the United States – accounting for 900,000 newly-created jobs every year. And funding for these companies often comes from lending firms.

    Criticism
    It has been suggested that excessive interest rates have been charged in the microlending game. This is because there are no legal limits – and little government involvement – in this field.

    Researchers at MIT recently have worked on two papers that suggested microlending may not be as impactful as originally hoped. The research found that many microcredit clients actually use the monies they receive through lending on household items – debt, car payments and luxury items – rather than the businesses for which it was designated.

    Becoming a Microlender
    One of the first decisions you must make is whether to donate interest-free or not. In addition to lending through third party organizations, you can also become a lender on your own. If you do so, it is important to confirm that your client is reputable and has the intention of abiding by timelines, late payment policies and interest rates, as it relates to repayment of the loan.

    Conclusion
    Microloans can become a valuable part of your charitable gift giving. Although these loans have no guarantee that they will be repaid – as is the case with any loan – you may be helping those in need as well as helping a depressed economy. Financial interest returns may be small or non-existent, but the money invested may be a charitable way to help out those in need.
    For related reading, check out Microfinance Has Major Impact and Using Social Finance To Produce A Better World.

    by Diane Hamilton, Ph.D (Contact Author | Biography)

    Diane Hamilton’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Arts and a Doctorate degree in Business Management. She has an Arizona real estate license as well as certifications in the areas of medical representative, Myers-Briggs and emotional intelligence. With more than 25 years of business and management-related experience, her background includes working in many industries, including computers, software, pharmaceuticals, corporate training, mortgage/lending and real estate. She currently teaches business-related subjects for six online universities and is in the process of writing a book on personal finance for young adults. She can be reached through www.drdianehamilton.com.

    Need a Loan? Find Out What The Loan Officer is Thinking

    Lending From A Loan Officer’s Perspective

    by Diane Hamilton, Ph.D

    It is awfully nice of lenders to be offering free loans. At least, that’s what it sounds like they’re doing. Think of all of the radio and television ads you have heard where the lender claims to be offering loans with no out-of-pocket costs. Have you ever wondered how they can do this? If they are not charging you, the money has to come from somewhere. It helps to clear things up when you understand how a loan officer makes their money. 

    Pay Now or Pay Later
    Loan officers get paid in a way that they call “on the front” and/or “on the back.” If a loan officer makes money on the front, that means they are charging for things that you can see. This money is either out-of-pocket or is incorporated into the loan when you sign the papers. These are things like processing fees and other miscellaneous charges that are charged for processing your loan. If a loan officer makes money on the back, that means money is being received from the bank as a sort of commission for filing the loan. This is the money you do not see. (To learn more about loan expenses, read our related article How To Read Loan And Credit Card Agreements.)

    When lenders claim to be giving you a “no out-of-pocket” or “no-fee” loan, they are still making money, but they are charging it on “the back.” Although the bank is paying the loan officer this money now, it is really coming from you the borrower in the form of a higher interest rate. Lenders that are not charging fees on the front can be charging a higher rate to make up for lost fees. In fact, the bank could be making a lot more money this way as they are getting a higher rate of interest for possibly 30 years or more. (Learn how interest rates affect change in the housing market, and how you can keep up, in How Will Your Mortgage Rate?)Comparing Loans
    How do you compare loans to be sure which deal is the best for you? You need to understand something called the annual percentage rate (APR). When you apply for a loan, the loan officer must give you a good faith estimate. On that estimate, you can find the APR. The APR shows the entire cost of the loan to you on a yearly basis. It factors in what the fees cost as well as the interest rate. By comparing good faith estimates and their APRs, you can get a better idea of what they are charging you.

    So is that loan really free? As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You might not be paying money out-of-pocket right now, but either you pay now or your pay later. Many times it is a better deal to pay the fees now to get a lower rate instead of paying a higher rate over 30 years.

    What the Loan Officer is Thinking
    Remember, loan officers are sales people; they get paid by selling you something. In this case, they are selling you the loan. If they are telling you it is a good time to refinance, you need to figure out how much that loan is going to cost you. To do this, you must consider how many out-of-pocket fees you will be paying, if the loan interest rate is less and if you’ll be in the loan long enough to recoup these expenses. If you are getting a lower interest rate and not paying fees, it could be a better deal than what you have now. In that case, the no-fee loan could be a good idea. (Read The True Economics Of Refinancing A Mortgage to learn more about this concept.)

    Be careful of the loan officer who wants to keep selling you adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) after ARM after ARM for the same property. ARMs are a good loan choice for certain people, especially those who know they won’t be in their home or loan for very long. If you are planning to stay in your home a long time, an ARM may not be a very good choice. Loan officers receive money for every loan they make. Therefore, it behooves them to make as many loans as possible. One way to do this is to get people into ARMs that need to be refinanced often. (To learn more about the dangers of adjustable rate mortgages, read This ARM Has Teeth.)

    Broker or Bank?
    Not everyone agrees on this. Having worked for both, I can tell you that there are good and bad brokers, and bankers. The advantage of using a broker is that they can shop around at the different banks for the lowest rates. The advantage of using a bank directly is that they don’t have to pay the broker. If the broker can find a lower rate, charge the broker fee, and still offer the lowest total rate, then that may be your best choice. You will have to do your homework and compare good faith estimates to be sure. Remember, the loan officer decides how much money they want to make to some extent; they may have some negotiating room. Don’t always expect that brokers are giving you the best rate that they can. They may not be telling you the lowest rate they can offer because by offering the rate they quoted, they may be getting more commission on the back. (Read Score A Cheap Mortgage to learn more about getting the best rate.)

    Do Your Homework
    Though many loans given by loan officers/banks during the subprime meltdown of 2007/08 ended in foreclosure, you don’t need to be that concerned, not if you do your homework. One of the biggest problems came with letting the lending requirements get too lax. Banks were granting loans to people that they used to deny. Something called the stated loan became more common. People were able to “state” how much money they made instead of having to prove it. Many people stated more than they actually made. Also, underwriters were under pressure to approve loans that may not have made sense because they were in competition with other banks that were approving these loans. Remember, it is all sales in the end.

    Conclusion
    How do you protect yourself? Do your homework. Shop around. Do not accept the first good faith estimate. Get several estimates. Compare the APR on each one. Go to both brokers and bankers to see what they offer. Be wary of the loan officer that doesn’t ask you how long you will be living in your home. If they don’t ask you questions, they don’t know which loan fits you the best. If you are planning to only be in your home a short time, you might consider an ARM. If you are going to be there for a long time, consider a 30-year loan. Even better, if the day comes and you can afford it, pay extra each month on your 30-year loan and pay it off in 15 years!

    by Diane Hamilton, Ph.D