Avoid These 5 Common Holiday Budget Pitfalls

Woman holding money and a red purse

According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, holiday shoppers are planning to spend an average of $805 on gifts this holiday season. The same survey found that shoppers plan to spend an average of $463 on family members. That’s the highest this figure has ever been.

To make sure that you don’t overspend this year — no matter your target number — be sure to create a holiday spending budget. That way, you’re far less likely to find an unpleasant surprise when that credit card bill shows up in January.

Here are five things you shouldn’t do when planning your holiday shopping budget.

1. Don’t Let Guilt Break Your Budget

Maybe your sister-in-law buys your kids three gifts each. This doesn’t mean that you have to do the same for hers. If your budget calls for just one gift for your in-laws’ kids, stick to it. It’s easy to let guilt lead you to overspending during the holidays. But don’t feel like a scrooge because you aren’t spending as much as your other relatives. If your budget is tight this year, don’t break it in a misguided attempt to keep up with

Working with Accountants Can Lead to Referrals

Most high-net-worth investors hire financial advisors to achieve their financial objectives and accountants to handle their tax matters, but too often the clients unintentionally put a wall between these two groups.

Although advisors and certified public accountants often view each other as competitors, separating the two roles is counterproductive. In fact, there is a universal financial benefit to playing nice in the sandbox, and it can benefit the advisor, the accountant and most importantly the client.

When advisors work together with a client’s tax team, it first and foremost helps identify potential tax savings opportunities for the client. It also reinforces a shared value proposition: We have both been hired to preserve and grow accumulated wealth, so how can we possibly do that in silos?

Beyond the primary charge, such collaboration is even a good way for advisors to develop relationships with accounting firms, which can turn into reliable new business referral sources.

That isn’t a pipe dream, either. It actually works, and in a perfect situation, the CPA might even become the client.

Here are some guideposts for that process:

1.Plan a partnership. Make asking clients about their other specialist relationships a standard practice. When advisors first engage a client, they

5 Finance Tips All Business Owners Should Follow

5 Finance Tips All Business Owners Should Follow

I don’t know about you, but finances aren’t really my strength. I’m an entrepreneur — a big picture guy. I like to tackle big problems and develop big visions. I don’t like to sit around staring at a financial spreadsheet while I spend hours upon hours entering expenses by hand.

But whether we like them or not, finances are a necessary part of running a small business. To get some insight on effective procedures that entrepreneurs can adopt to improve their own accounting practices, I sat down for a quick chat with LessAccounting founder Allan Branch.

Here’s what he had to say on this critically important subject:

1. Don’t procrastinate.

One of the biggest mistakes Branch sees new entrepreneurs make is that they put off their bookkeeping needs. If you aren’t financially-minded, programs such as Quickbooks can make small-business accounting seem completely unmanageable, especially if all you need to do is send out a few invoices and track a few expenses.

The problem is, of course, that if you put off your accounting work, it doesn’t go away. It just gets bigger, and eventually you’re going to be faced with an overwhelming

A Guide to Selecting a Tax Professional

Not many people pay attention to the need of a tax professional. In fact, a tax professional is important to financial management. Many experts in financial management will definitely advice you to engage with a tax professional. A tax professional is a person who can give consultation for any tax matters. The professional will give you right guidance to help you manage your tax matters and quit you from tax-related problems.

First things first, you must know the important of engaging with a tax professional. Tax is complicated and packed of ever changing regulations and laws. However, your tax situation may be simpler and need no complex details. If your tax need is simple, you may be able to take care of it yourself. But, if your tax matter is complicated and complex, managing it yourself can create problems in the audits. So, trusting a tax professional to guide you is an effective solution. The professional would be the person you are comfortable with in managing your tax. With their expertise and experience, the professional can give you the best action to manage your tax.

There are three types of tax professionals including CPA, EA, or

Struggling to Keep Our Heads Above It All

Money is a simple fact of life. For most people in the world it’s an unfortunate stress that weighs heavily on both the body and the mind. Some people find themselves never able to catch up; life can appear to trickle by with the moments counted only by their paychecks. I’m there. I’ve been there for years with no clear way of escaping this living of paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes this means I also have to look into quick loans in order to get ahead. It’s not a debt that I eagerly or even willingly take on but when you have bills that need to be paid or presents that need to be bought, you do what you have to do. People are always going to matter more than the money but money is the only way that an individual is able to sustain themselves. Continue reading “Struggling to Keep Our Heads Above It All”

5 Tips to Lower Your Sallie Mae Payments

The challenge for students seeking payment reductions through Sallie Mae involves dealing with a myriad of rules and requirements, especially if they hold any combination of federal and private loans. Since it was converted from a government agency to a for-profit company in 2004, Sallie Mae has focused primarily on private student loans, which are generally not eligible for government-mandated payment reduction programs such as income-based repayment (IBR) or pay-as-you-earn (PAYE). Students with private loans are left with the option of negotiating directly with Sallie Mae for payment reductions.

Know What Type of Loans You Have

Many students have a combination of private and federal loans through Sallie Mae, which is why it can be so confusing. Federal loans may be eligible for income-based reduction programs; however, private loans are not. If you have several federal loans, consider a federal direct consolidation loan that could streamline and possibly reduce your payments.

Document Your Financial Hardship

If you have a private loan, you first need to demonstrate a financial hardship as the reason why you need your payments lowered. In addition to documenting your overall financial situation, you need to show that your current student loan payments are too high relative to your income and

How To Finance Your Studies Abroad

Overseas education gives students the opportunity to enhance traditional academic experiences while increasing cultural awareness and tolerance. Students who study abroad often develop a deeper understanding of the world, and learn skills that contribute to both personal growth and career marketability. Many employers seek diversified employees who can communicate well with others and who have cross-cultural competence. Cultural immersion through a study abroad program can be worth the expenses when it comes time to land a job: a person with international experience may be the stand-out candidate for a position.

ven though students can rationalize the expenses as investments in their futures, both personally and career-wise, finding the money to study abroad can still be a challenge. Fortunately, financial assistance is available for those students who wish to combine higher education with international and cultural exploration.

Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are called “free money” because these funds do not need to be paid back, making them the most attractive method of funding study abroad. Scholarship deadlines often fall between October and March of the year before the funds will be needed. The search for scholarships, therefore, should begin at least one year before the money will be needed. Certain scholarships,

5 Ways Sharing Finances Can Be Bad for Your Marriage

Just because you are married doesn’t mean all your money has to be joined by a matrimonial bond.

Most people combine their money, surveys show. Marriage therapist Beth Erickson says when couples pool their finances, “greater intimacy results.” Her view is shared by many Americans, and Merrill Lynch’s Affluent Insights Survey in February reported that 89 percent of married couples manage their money collaboratively.

But monetary union does not always translate to wedded bliss. The same Merrill Lynch survey reports that well over half of married couples (57 percent) have arguments over money. Too much sharing can cause problems, says Nick Scheumann, financial adviser at Hefty Wealth Partners in Auburn, Ind.

“It would be better if more people split it out,” he says. “When it comes to commingled assets, a lot of married people can’t handle it.” Indeed, says the Merrill survey, money disputes are cited as a significant contributor to almost 1 in 3 divorces.

With two-career marriages becoming the norm, so too are cooperative, combined finances. Here are few key ways to manage that aspect of your relationship:

1. There’s value in separate accounts. It’s fundamental personal finance not to put all of your nest egg in one basket. If each person has

How to Manage Your Finances

Personal financial management is a subject that is not taught in many schools, but is something that nearly everyone has to deal with in their lives later on. Here are some statistics: Some 58% of Americans do not have a retirement plan in place for how they’ll manage their finances when they get old. While people generally believe they’ll need about $300,000 to support themselves in retirement, the average American has only about $25,000 saved at the time of retirement. Average household credit card debt among Americans now stands at a distressing $15,204. If these facts are alarming to you, and you want to reverse the trend, read on for specific, targeted advice geared towards giving you a better future.


Make a Budget

1. For one month, keep track of all your expenses. You don’t have to limit yourself; just get an idea of what you spend money on during any given month. Save all your receipts, make note of how much cash you need versus how much you expense to credit cards, and figure out how much money you have left over when the calendar turns.
After the first month, take stock of what you spent.

4 Steps to Opening a Foreign Bank Account

Opening a foreign bank account may be something you are considering if you conduct a great deal of business overseas , travel frequently, or are interested in foreign investing. It is important that you understand the rules and regulations regarding foreign accounts, but the process of opening an account can be quite simple and can actually be done online or by going into the domestic branch of a bank that operates in the country that you are interested in.

Things You Will Need To Open Your Account

There are certain things you will have to provide in order to open a foreign account. If you want to open a foreign account from inside the United States, the items you need to open a account do not differ significantly from what you need to open a domestic account, but be aware that each country will have its own requirements.

Identification.  Most foreign banks will require at least two forms of identification.  A valid driver’s license is typically accepted, as are passports. Most banks will require at least one form of ID to include a photo.  If you do not have a passport, expect the process to take 8 – 12 weeks and cost approximately

10 Home Renovations that Will Pay You Back

When it’s time to remodel, many homeowners want to choose the projects that offer the greatest potential to recoup their financial outlay. It’s understandable: The average bathroom remodel costs more than $16,000, a garage addition can cost more than $50,000 and adding a master suite or second floor can easily cost six figures, according to Remodeling’s “2015 Cost vs. Value” report.

From small to large, there are home renovations that can enhance the quality of your experience in your home, as well as the overall intrinsic value of your property. Here are several home renovations that could help make your home more enjoyable while you occupy it, and offer the biggest bang for your buck for when it comes time to sell, according to home improvement and real estate professionals.

1. Remodel the Kitchen

“If it’s more than 15 years old, upgrading the kitchen floor, cabinetry and appliances to modern standards will net you more money during (the) time of sale,” said Joe Polyak, real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Burlingame, Calif.

For many, a kitchen is the center of the home. A minor kitchen renovation can increase value — the Remodeling report showed a 79 percent national recoup average. It can also

Ten Helpful Tips for Paying Your Taxes

Are you making a payment with your federal tax return this year? If so, here are 10 important things the IRS wants you to know about correctly paying your federal income taxes.

  1. Never send cash.
  2. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step with an electronic funds withdrawal. If you e-file by yourself you can use your tax preparation software to make the withdrawal. If you use a tax preparer to e-file, you can ask the preparer to make your tax payment electronically.
  3. Whether you file a paper return or e-file your return, you can pay by phone or online with a credit or debit card. The company that processes your payment will charge a processing fee.
  4. If you file Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, you may be able to deduct the credit or debit card processing fee on next year’s return. This is a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2 percent limit.
  5. Electronic payment options provide another way to pay taxes by check or money order. You can make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit IRS.gov and click on the ‘Payments’ tab near the top left of the home page for more details.
  6. If you

10 financial tips for young people

If I could go back in time, I would do certain things differently. I’m not saying I have a lot of regrets. But when I was younger, I tended to have myopic vision. For instance, it was hard to imagine that one day I would be older. Even today, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, who the hell is that?

I wish that, when I was younger, someone had sat me down and told me a few things. Or else I wish that I’d listened when someone attempted to do this.

If you’re young, take a seat and listen up. These gems will help you on your quest for financial success.

1. Go to college. You may want to do something that doesn’t require a college degree. For instance, you may dream of playing professional golf or running a barn and training horses. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it’s a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, make it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a four-year university after

The Ins And Outs Of Bank Fees

Banks love to provide services that make our lives easier. Perhaps, the only thing they love more is charging us all sorts of fees for these services. Want to put money into your account from an ATM? The bank will charge you. Take it out? The bank will charge you. Send money to a relative’s account? Oh, you better believe the bank will charge you.

Banks do provide an important service, but it’s crucial to remember they don’t do it for free. Many of us don’t notice what our banks charge for their services, but if we’re not careful these fees can add up. To that end, below is a list detailing some of the more common fees levied by domestic banks.

Overdraft Protection Fees
Many people assume that when they hand a bank teller a check along with a deposit slip, the money they are depositing will be available immediately. Often they are wrong. It’s common for out-of-state or out-of-country checks to take seven days or more to “clear”. That is, for the money to officially be placed in the account, and therefore ready for your use.

This leads to a huge problem when you then try to write a check from

Four Safer Ways to Pay Online

Who has your private info? Who knows, given how common security breaches have become. And credit card information is one of the most common types of personal datawe volunteer online. So what can you do to minimize credit card fraud? Well, you can’t stop the break-ins, but here are four ways to keep your funds out of the hands of the bad guys.

Disposable credit card numbers: Why share your 16-digit number with online merchants, particularly those you’ve never heard of? Many major banks let you create a unique, temporary card number for each online purchase.

For instance, ShopSafe is a free service for Bank of America Visa and MasterCard holders who bank online with the financial giant. When you want to make a purchase online, you open a new browser window and sign in to your Bank of America account. Next, you follow the ShopSafe instructions to create a 16-digit credit card number, which you use on the vendor’s site in lieu of your regular number. (The vendor won’t know the difference.) The temporary number has its own expiration date and security code, and is valid at only one online vendor. You may reuse the number when you buy from that

9 Ways to Make the Payment Process Easy for Online Customers

Making it as easy as possible for your customers to pay is essential for increasing conversions and sales.

This is why your checkout page is critical. It’s the final stop for people shopping on your website. It’s the place where they hand over their credit card information and finally part with their hard-earned cash.

Your checkout page is where window shoppers become paying customers.

It’s easy to slap PayPal on your site and call it a day – but if you’re serious about making it easier for your customers to pay and increasing sales for your business, you will want to have full control over the entire checkout process.

Following, are 9 tips that will help you do this:

1. Provide a Number of Payment Methods

It sounds obvious, but there are websites that offer only one payment method. However, data highlighted in an infographic from Milo shows that 56% of respondents expect a variety of payment options on the checkout page.

While it’s not necessary – nor practical for that matter – to offer every conceivable payment method available, you’ll want to take a look at your target audience to see which payment methods they use.

Then, you’ll be able to capture the majority of people visiting

Top tips for sending money overseas

It seems simple enough. You need to move your money from one country to another. You will need to change your money into another currency and transfer it to a bank account in a foreign country.

Surprisingly for something so simple, this is where the complications can begin.

You can find yourself bogged down by unfavourable exchange rates and expensive transfer fees from your bank or get stung by fluctuating market rates.

With this handy guide you’ll see it’s easy to save hundreds, even thousands, on your international money transfer and foreign exchange needs.

1 – Get the best possible exchange rate

Using a typical high street bank to make your international money transfers means that you may not get the best exchange rate. This is because typical banks do not specialise in foreign exchange or international money transfers; they do lots of different things, think mortgages, personal banking and credit card services.

You wouldn’t use a barber to remove your appendix, or get a doctor to cut your hair – you know that using a specialist is always best and it’s the same when sending money overseas.

If you use a foreign exchange specialist like the Mirror Money Transfer Service – provided by exchange experts Moneycorp,

3 Bluntly Simple Personal Finance Advice That Work Miracles

I have never earned a lot, but I always had the money — both for essential things and some random spending on things I like. Travels, for instance. Pursuing a location independent lifestyle, hobbies and a lifestyle business, rather than a soul-crushing corporate career.

Now before I move to practicalities, I’d like to make an important disclaimer. This post is targeted at people with mid-income, struggling with optimizing their saving and spending habits, rather than those crumbled under the weight of student loans orcrippling credit card debt. I’m sorry, I have never been in your shoes, so I can’t give you proper advice.

Right. Now back to the money matters for those who are doing pretty fine, but would love to do it even better!

1. Cut Down On Things You Hate To Pay, Rather Than Those You Like

Among the most common personal finance tips you often see is stop spending money on “guilty pleasures” like Lattes from Starbucks, fancy car washes, or regular manicures. You constantly get nagged for spending money on those, which eventually makes you feel bad and question your savings willpower and give up before you have even started.

The truth is that you don’t need to cut down

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Financial Professional

If you’ve decided to seek help from a financial professional, you may not know where to start or be overwhelmed by all of the options. While you may be tempted to give up and go to your friends and family for advice, your best bet is to get help from someone with experience, especially when it comes to saving for educational costs or retirement planning. The right advice can help you reach your financial goals and improve your financial health. We spoke with Cathy McCabe, senior managing director for TIAA-CREF’s institutional business division, for advice on choosing a financial professional. Here are five of her tips.

1. Use your employer as a resource

Check to see if your employer offers assistance with finding a financial professional. Your human resources department may be able to point you in the right direction.

“Increasingly, this is a benefit offered by companies in conjunction with their fiduciary responsibilities as a retirement plan sponsor. Also look for a financial adviser who is FINRA licensed. TIAA-CREF’s advisers are required to have Series 7 and 63 licenses. Life, heath and/or variable annuity licenses are a bonus. FINRA ensures they are regulated, and you also want them to be able to look at your

5 Insider Tips for Choosing a Financial Advisor

Not everyone is a do-it-yourself investor. Some people do not have time to manage their assets; others do not want to, or feel they are not equipped with enough information to do it properly. A financial advisor or investment management service is often a natural next step.

Finding one, however, can be a daunting task. This person – or service, if you are considering a robo-advisor – will take charge of your investments and play a lead role in your financial future. How do you find the right fit for your needs?

Terry Banet is the chief investment officer at SigFig, an investment management firm in San Francisco. Her job includes making investment decisions for clients on a daily basis. How an investment professional goes about choosing the person or service to manage their own investments could serve as a useful guide for investors who are just starting out. Even if you feel you are not a beginner when it comes to investing, following the steps below might prove useful in figuring out your needs – and help you find the professional or service that would best address them.

1. Understand your actual needs. First things first: What kind of advice do you