401(k) Participants Turn to Pros For Help Managing Their Money

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You’re a computer engineer, or a nurse, or a graphic designer. Just keeping current in your own specialty is an effort. So what happens to your 401(k) retirement plan while you’re off doing what you do?

401(k) Participants Turn to Pros For Help Managing Their Money

You’re a computer engineer, or a nurse, or a graphic designer. Just keeping current in your own specialty is an effort. So what happens to your 401(k) retirement plan while you’re off doing what you do?

Does it just languish, forgotten, in some dusty corner of your mind? Are you, among millions of others, crossing your fingers and hoping your portfolio will provide?

Thanks to changes in the industry, investors now can get more help managing their 401(k) accounts. In the past, to prevent conflicts of interest, defined contribution plan providers could make only general asset class recommendations. But regulations now allow financial service companies to hire independent, third-party financial advisers like Ibbotson Associates to manage individual investors’ 401(k) accounts.

Those who choose professional help will find that the money in their portfolio will be allocated appropriately to funds in their existing plan, rebalanced regularly and adjusted over time to meet changing life circumstances. And these programs are catching on.

Ibbotson is the independent third-party advisor for 401(k) managed account programs run by AIG VALIC, Fidelity, Great-West Retirement Services, Merrill Lynch, the Principal Financial Group and TIAA-CREF. Although 401(k) managed accounts are only two years old, participation in such programs is increasing rapidly. Currently there is over $10 billion in 401(k) managed account programs, and that number is expected to reach $300 billion in 2010, according to industry research firm TowerGroup.

A major reason for the growth is that many employees don’t know how to manage their retirement plans. Human resources firm Hewitt Associates found that only 16 percent of 401(k) plan participants made any changes to their accounts in 2004. The study also found that, while some employees were not aggressive enough with their investments, others took on too much risk. For example, participants concentrated about 27 percent of their 401(k) assets in their company stock.

Consumers Bear Brunt Of Cold Winter

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Even though Americans are feeling some relief at the gas pump from last fall’s record prices, their checkbooks are still likely to take a hit this winter as natural gas and heating oil prices continue to soar.

Consumers Bear Brunt Of Cold Winter

Even though Americans are feeling some relief at the gas pump from last fall’s record prices, their checkbooks are still likely to take a hit this winter as natural gas and heating oil prices continue to soar.

In fact, the Energy Department predicts that those using natural gas to heat their homes can expect to see their monthly bills rise 48 percent from last year. If it’s an especially cold winter, the cost will be even greater.

This can be a difficult thing for consumers to contemplate – especially when most homeowners already average $4,100 per year for energy.

While it is not always easy to understand the geopolitics and economics of energy, rising prices always indicate that there is too much demand, and for years there has not been enough domestic supply. Consequently, America has had to rely on foreign sources for its natural gas, due in large part to the fact that prices are so much cheaper.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the price of natural gas is 75 cents per million Btu, and in Kuwait, it is $1.25 per million Btu. Compare this with the U.S. price of almost $13 per million Btu and it is easy to see why America opts to import its gas.

But companies like Mammoth Resource Partners Inc., a Kentucky-based oil and gas exploration company, are beginning to put a dent in skyrocketing natural gas prices by tapping into the gas-rich Appalachian Basin.

“The Appalachian Basin, in my opinion, is the largest opportunity in North America to reduce America’s dependence on foreign gas,” said Mammoth President Dr. Roger L. Cory, a frequent guest speaker on the topic of “peak oil.”

Much of the rise in heating oil and natural gas prices can be attributed to last fall’s hurricanes, which disabled refineries and terminals in the Gulf Coast. Until hurricane Katrina, many did not understand that gas from overseas is liquefied and shipped to the Gulf Coast for offloading and re-gasifying, whereas domestic supply, such as that explored by Mammoth Resource Partners, can safely pass through inland pipelines directly to domestic markets for use in America’s homes.

Getting A Credit Card With Bad Or No Credit

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So you have decided that you want to get a credit card only you may have credit that is not so hot or even no credit history what so ever.

Getting A Credit Card With Bad Or No Credit

So you have decided that you want to get a credit card only you may have credit that is not so hot or even no credit history what so ever. Many consumers wonder how it is possible to build a credit history with no credit or credit that might not be so swell. Surprisingly enough it is very possible for consumers finding themselves in these two particular situations to begin building a solid credit history without having to have a traditional credit card.

A secured credit card would be quite simple for someone with no credit or less then perfect credit to be able to qualify for and receive. All you need to do is complete the application for the secured credit card and make the required security deposit. After those two steps are completed you are well on your way to building a solid credit history. Just keep in mind that you need to apply for a secured credit card that will report all of your credit activities to all three of the major credit reporting agencies.

Department Stores such as Sears and Macy’s will often take a chance on someone who may not have any credit and give them a credit card. So if your luck hasn’t been great in applying for traditional credit cards try your luck in applying for a department store card to use as a tool to start a solid credit history foundation.

Many gas stations will allow people with tarnished credit or no credit history to have a gas station credit card. If you are in either of these situations try applying for a card at your local gas station to begin building a credit history.

These are just a few suggestions of steps that you can take to start building a credit history if your credit record may not be so good (or non existent). With a little creative thought and research you will be well on the way to getting the credit and the credit cards that you deserve.

Forecasting the Future Value of Your IRA

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Curious about how much money you’ll accumulate in your individual retirement account (IRA)? Just use Microsoft Excel to calculate a pretty good estimate says author and CPA Stephen L. Nelson.

IRA, individual retirement account, retirement, investing

If you’ve got Microsoft Excel (or just about any other popular spreadsheet program) running on your computer, you can use its FV function to forecast the future value of your IRA account.

The FV function calculates the future value of an investment given its interest rate,
the number of payments, the payment, the present value of the investment, and,
optionally, the type-of-annuity switch. (More about the type-of-annuity switch a little later.)

The function uses the following syntax:

=FV(rate,nper,pmt,pv,type)

This little pretty complicated, I grant you. But suppose you want to calculate the future value of an IRA account that’s already got $10,000 in it and to which you’re contributing $200-a-month. Further suppose that you want to know the account balance-its future value-in 25 years and that you expect to earn 10% annual interest.

To calculate the future value of the IRA account in this case using the FV function, you enter the following into a worksheet cell:

=FV(10%/12,25*12,-200,-10000,0)

The function returns the value 385936.13-roughly $386,000 dollars.

A handful of things to note: To convert the 10% annual interest to a monthly interest rate, the formula divides the annual interest rate by 12. Similarly, to convert the 25-year term to a term in months, the formula multiplies 25 by 12.

Also, notice that the monthly payment and initial present values show as negative amounts because they represent cash outflows. And the function returns the future value amount as a positive value because it reflects a cash inflow the investor ultimately receives.

That 0 at the end of the function is the type-of-annuity switch. If you set the type-of-annuity switch to 1, Excel assumes payments occur at the beginning of the period (month in this case), following the annuity due convention. If you set the annuity switch to 0 or you omit the argument, Excel assumes payments occur at the end of the period following the ordinary annuity convention.

Debt Settlement — Why the Critics Are Wrong

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Explains why critics of debt settlement are wrong about this alternative to bankruptcy. Discusses the three main criticisms of debt settlement as well as the positives associated with this method of debt reduction.

bankruptcy alternatives, debt settlement, debt consolidation, credit score

A lot more people are becoming interested in debt settlement as an alternative to bankruptcy. That’s because a new bankruptcy law was enacted on October 17, 2005, which means a rude awakening for many consumers seeking a fresh start in bankruptcy court.

It used to be that 7 out of 10 people filing personal bankruptcy were granted Chapter 7 status, where the unsecured debts are totally wiped away. That has changed under the new rules. If your income is above the median for your state, or you can pay back at least $100 per month toward your debts, then you’ll be turned down for Chapter 7. Instead, you’ll be shifted into Chapter 13, where you pay back a portion of the debt over 3-5 years.

It gets worse. When the court calculates your allowable living expenses, it will use the approved IRS schedules, not your actual documented expenses. So even if you don’t think you can pay $100 a month or more, the judge will probably disagree. Instead of a fresh start, many people will be faced with the grim reality of a harsh 5-year plan, on a court-mandated budget that forces them to adopt a much lower standard of living. That’s where debt settlement starts to look pretty attractive.

Yes, I know debt settlement has its critics. I’ve criticized aspects of the industry myself. But what the critics don’t seem to understand is that this approach is for people who would otherwise go bankrupt! Let’s examine the three main complaints against debt settlement and see where the critics are missing the mark.

“Debt settlement has a negative impact on your credit score.”

Wow. Big deal! Pretend it’s two years from now. Would you rather have an A+ credit rating or be totally free of debt? Pick one please, because you can’t have both. All debt reduction programs have a negative impact on credit scores. That’s why only people who truly can’t keep up with their bills should go into one of these programs. But it’s pointless to worry about your credit while you’re being crushed with debt. That’s like worrying about how the yard looks after your house has burned down.

“You might have to pay taxes on the canceled portion of the debt.”

I’ve always been amazed at how frequently this lame criticism is repeated in article after article. Yes, it’s possible that you may need to pay taxes on forgiven debt balances, but the odds are against it. That’s because the IRS allows insolvent taxpayers to exclude canceled debts. So unless you have a positive net worth, you probably won’t need to pay taxes on your settlements. And even if you did, so what? You’d be paying taxes because you saved a bunch of money off your debts! And this is a problem?

“Collection activity will continue and you might get sued.”

Yes, if you fall behind on your bills, your creditors will most certainly continue attempts to collect what’s owed, and one or more of those creditors might sue you in civil court. But again, this criticism totally misses the mark. Collection activity is already a function of being in debt trouble. At least debt settlement allows the consumer to use the collection process to eliminate debt through negotiated compromises. Even lawsuits need not be cause for panic, since they can often be settled out of court. The only reason to allow a legal action to proceed to the point of wage garnishment, property lien, or bank levy is lack of financial resources with which to settle. And if that’s the case, the debtor should be talking to a bankruptcy attorney anyway.

In contrast, let’s look at some of the positives of debt settlement.

1. You can save $1,000s versus any other method of debt elimination (except for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is much more difficult to accomplish now that the new law is in effect).

2. You can get out of debt in 2-3 years, and much faster if there is some available home equity to work with. This is a lot better than 5 years in the financial boot camp of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or 5-9 years in a credit counseling program.

3. You keep control over the process more than with any other approach.

4. You maintain personal privacy. With bankruptcy, your case file becomes a matter of public record, easily located via Internet search by future employers, landlords, or creditors.

5. You retain your dignity while working through your financial problems. Bankruptcy still feels like failure to a lot of people. Debt settlement represents an honest and ethical alternative to that extreme solution.

6. You can adjust your monthly funding into the settlement program up or down depending on real-world conditions in your financial life. If your income fluctuates from one month to the next, or you get hit with an unexpected expense, it won’t torpedo the whole program. The built-in flexibility of debt settlement gives it a huge advantage over other options, all of which require a fixed monthly payment.

Once you’re made the determination that debt settlement makes sense for your situation, you’ll need to decide whether to go it alone or seek professional assistance. For people who aren’t easily intimidated, there’s no question that the do-it-yourself approach is the way to go. For others who can’t handle the least bit of pressure or just want to focus their time and energy elsewhere, hiring a professional settlement company may be the correct choice.

If you do decide to take the do-it-yourself approach, follow these tips:

* Use a privacy manager on your telephone service to screen creditor calls so that you only speak to creditors when you’re ready.

* Make sure you have a solid game plan for building up money to settle with, and set the funds aside in a separate bank account.

* Do not send settlement funds until you have the deal in writing. No exceptions!

* After paying the settlement, follow up to obtain a zero balance letter from the creditor, so you don’t have bogus collection problems later on.

* Know your rights as a consumer by reading the free resource articles on debt, credit, and collections at the Federal Trade Commission website: www.ftc.gov

* Don’t be intimidated or pressured into accepting a settlement deal that you can’t handle.

Remember, thousands of people settle their own debts every year, without the need for lawyers or bankruptcy. You can do it too if you’re disciplined, determined, and prepared to ignore some of the crazy stuff that bill collectors say. When you’re finally debt-free, you’ll feel a lot better about having worked it out on your own. Good luck on your road to debt freedom!

10 Quick Tips To Save Money

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Money, according to a classical definition, is what money does. And truth, as they say, is like a rubber band. Stretch it and it can do wonders. So if we can really make money in order to do whatever we want, there is nothing like that.

save money

Money, according to a classical definition, is what money does. And truth, as they say, is like a rubber band. Stretch it and it can do wonders. So if we can really make money in order to do whatever we want, there is nothing like that.

To provide 10 quick tips to save money is almost like a first-aid approach to a very intricate problem perhaps faced by almost each of us. It is important to know how to manage money efficiently to ensure bulky savings. Whether to save some part of what we have to spend or whether to spend at all on a service or commodity should be the first question to be answered.

Firstly in case of large investments, the first step for a prospective buyer is to identify and correlate the valuable item or service with need or desire. It is better to test its utility first, for example, by borrowing it for a fixed time period. If you are satisfied and convinced about its necessity and think that you really need that, you may buy it. But to save money, you as a wise consumer must find the best seller in terms of comparative pricing, quality & market reputation.

For lower priced items, one has to shop for the lowest prices, also keeping an eye on the quality aspect. For example, if you take the instance of buying clothes, the best purchase is off-season discount sale, wherein you can get good clothes at cheap rates.

For financial investments, like the stock market, follow the golden rule of buying volatile stocks when the price of an item is down & sell it when it is at a high. The profit thus earned can be invested in the equity market for steady items.

Today’s Internet has provided the best opportunities to shop vigorously for the best price before you actually drop the money. Especially for insurance, loan facilities and financial management, one is spoilt for choices. Proper analysis of rates and amortization goes a long way in saving even hundreds of dollars in a year.

Change of plan in case of services like telephone, insurance, etc. can save you costly dollars provided you simply have the knowledge about the best existing plan.

Making a monthly budget for buying the essential items and regulating the number of luxury items can yield considerable savings.

Expensive weekends and extravagant outings should be replaced by reasonable excursion for wholesale entertainment.

Proper food planning and food habits result in better living, both financially and mentally. Stay healthy and you can save on medical bills. Having a proper food plan also prevents food from being wasted.

Paying the bills within due dates provides invaluable savings, because, in this case, as you have to pay, it is better to pay in time to avoid penalty.

If you are an employer, you should encourage flexible job responsibilities for your task force, making each one compatible with the work within a department. This will help in cutting down employees cost and help complete a task within time, even if someone is absent.

There are obviously several other ways to save money and lead a frugal life without tension. It is always told that money saved is money earned. Just keep it in mind and stay happy.

Don’t Trap Into A Credit Card Debt, It Too Costly!

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While swiping the credit card is a very effective way to pay without using any type of paper money, it has led many people into a debt trap. Read this article to find out how much your credit cards actually cost you.

credit card debt, credit card, debt, debt consolidation, pay off credit card, debt free, debt relief

While swiping the credit card is a very effective way to pay without using any type of paper money, it has led many people into a debt trap.

Majority of people simply look at whether or not they can afford their monthly repayment when using at their credit cards. Many of them don't even try to figure out how long it will take to pay them off and how much they are costing them over the long run.

For instance, $2,000 doesn't seem like a huge balance on a credit card. In that case at an 18% interest rate, your payment is only around $40 a month. Sounds pretty affordable at the moment, doesn't it?

Well, if you take a closer look at the number, approximately $30 of your payment goes towards interest. As a matter of fact only $10 is paid towards the $2,000 balance each month.

In case if you are only paying the minimum balance each month, it will take you over 30 years to pay off that $2000. Thirty years, that is too long. In addition you will have paid back $5,000 in interest in that time. Therefore your $2,000 credit card bill will really cost you $7,000 including interest in the long run.

The above payment does not include the extra payment incur in the case when you miss or delay your monthly repayment. In fact, many credit card companies are hoping you will miss your repayment so that they can charge you with extra interest and late payment fee and this would normally extend your payback period for the rest of your life.

There are many credit card debt calculators available on internet and you can use these calculators to calculate how long it will take you to pay off your current credit cards by using the minimum payment method. You will normally be shocked. And it is worth for you to put effort in finding ways to reduce and pay off your credit card debt.

If your credit card debts are reached to an unbearable stage; then, you may need to get service from a debt consolidation company to consolidate all your credit card debts. They are widely expert in dealing with creditors and help you to negotiate with your creditors for a better repayment plan. Follow the plan to pay off your credit card debts.

Credit cards have successfully minimized the use of paper money and become one of the most convenient ways to make payments for a shopping spree or while traveling. Though, if not used with restraint they may soon lead to a huge mountain of debt which leads you to a tizzy of financial woes. In simple terms credit cards are a really costly form of credit. If you must have one, paying off the balance in full each month so that you will not trap into a credit card debt.

Banks, Loans & How To Save Big Bucks

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When shopping around for a loan, whether it be auto, home or consolidation, most individuals turn toward banks for the money that they need. There are a number of factors that can determine how much, or how little, money you can save.

finance,bank,banks.credit,loan,loans,save,saving,financial

When shopping around for a loan, whether it be auto, home or consolidation, most individuals turn toward banks for the money that they need. There are a number of factors that can determine how much, or how little, money you can save.

Are you familiar with your credit report and FICO score? If not, you should be. Visit annualcreditreport.com to receive a free copy of your credit report, from each of the three credit reporting agencies, once every 12 months. Typically, these reports are $9.00 each but many consumers do not realize that they are entitled to a free copy every year. There are no catches, no gimmicks and no trial period in any type of paid service in order to gain access through this website. The information contained in your credit file is one of the top factors in determining your loan amount, interest rate and ultimately a decision as to approval or denying the loan request. Everyone should be familiar with their credit report, verify the accuracy of their contents and correct any mistakes that are present. The FICO score is a number that is calculated based on previous payment history, debt to balance ratio and length of credit history. The higher your FICO score, the lower your interest rates.

During the loan application process, banks will retrieve a copy of your credit report. They will also request certain other information, which only you can provide. Among the items that banks request when processing a loan application include current pay stubs, a copy of the previous two years of tax returns and possibly even bank statements and proof of employment. When applying for a large loan, patience is the key. Some banks respond within 24 hours while others may take up to a week. Even if one bank denies your request, don’t give up. Try other banks, who may be enticed to extend a loan in hopes of gaining you as a future customer.

These days, there are loan opportunities for practically everyone. No credit, bad credit, slow credit. You name it and there are banks out there who want your business, but there may be a catch. Depending on your credit history, you may end up spending more than twice as much in interest as someone with a spotless credit record.

Some banks do not specialize in large loans, such as home and auto, but rather extend smaller lines of credit to consumers. These lenders typically issue credit cards to those who are approved. While your credit history does play a large role in determining your interest rates with credit cards, it does not determine other miscellaneous fees. Certain fees, which are charged by banks issuing credit cards, are blanket fees issued to everyone who carries a line of credit. Late fees, overlimit fees and annual fees are among the miscellaneous fees charged by many credit card companies. Avoid banks that charge excessive fees upfront and reduce a large amount of your available credit with said fees. With credit cards, keep in mind that interest rates can skyrocket after only one missed payment. You will save a lot of money by paying on time, every time and by keeping your credit card debt to a minimum.

Accountant

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An accountant is a person who manages financial issues, including the preparation of financial plans and budgets, as well as the management of accounts and staff welfare.

Accountant, Tax Accountant, Certified Public Accountant, Chartered Accountant

An accountant is a person who manages financial issues, including the preparation of financial plans and budgets, as well as the management of accounts and staff welfare.

In most countries, officially licensed accountants are recognized by titles. In the UK, they are termed as “chartered accountants.?In the U.S., accountants are commonly known as “certified public accountants,?whereas in Canada, they are either known as “certified management accountants?or “certified general accountants.?Although most of the accountants in Canada also function as chartered accountants, certified general accountants are also authorized to practice public accounting and auditing in the country.

The main responsibilities of accountants are to create financial reports and to undertake day-to-day bookkeeping for managers, regulators, and shareholders. Accountants manage a double-entry bookkeeping system wherein there are two entries for every transaction are made, one to a debit account and one to a corresponding credit account. As per accounting rules, the sum of the debit and credit figures should be equal and any discrepancy in the total means that there has been an error. An accountant also audits and inspects the financial records of individuals or businesses, along with preparing financial and tax reports.

In the United States, accountants can obtain specialized certificates in varied fields where they can hold titles like “certified public accountant,?”certified internal auditor,?”certified management accountant,?and “accredited business accountants.?In the U.S., the governmental accounting standard board prepares accounting rules for making financial statements for publicly traded companies and private companies. Further, some of the accounting organizations that influence developing standard rules for accountants in the U.S. are the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Some major firms recognized globally are PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. Most accountants perform different kinds of accounting like cost accounting, financial accountancy, and management accountancy. Accountants are skilled professionals and are an integral part of the modern economy.

5 Tips to Save Money–And the Earth

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You just can’t get that memo right, can you? You print out the first draft and find a misspelling. You print out the second draft and discover you missed some commas. You print out the third draft and later decide on a new title. Now the final draft is ready for printing. Before you throw away those wasted sheets of paper, stop and realize that you could be costing your business as well as the environment.

5 Tips to Save Money–And the Earth

You just can’t get that memo right, can you? You print out the first draft and find a misspelling. You print out the second draft and discover you missed some commas. You print out the third draft and later decide on a new title. Now the final draft is ready for printing. Before you throw away those wasted sheets of paper, stop and realize that you could be costing your business as well as the environment.

You probably know that by recycling you can save landfill space. But did you know that recycling also can produce a profit for your company? Follow these recycling tips and your workplace will be ready to save the world.

* Create a recycling program. Almost all types of office papers are recyclable. So is most plastic, aluminum and cardboard. If your office doesn’t already have a recycling program, contact your local recycling company to see how to start one.

* Use recycled products. If you recycle but don’t buy recycled products, you’re defeating the purpose, in a sense, by discouraging manufacturers of recycled products.

* Conserve paper. Find paperless ways to communicate, such as by e-mail. Also, save used paper for scrap, make double-sided copies and only print pages you actually need. By cutting back on paper consumption, your office will save money and natural resources.

* Recycle office equipment. Did you know that computers can be recycled, as well as cell phones, PDAs, pagers, chargers and rechargeable batteries? Many local recycling companies and retailers, including Staples, offer easy ways to recycle your equipment.

* Recycle empty inkjet and toner cartridges. The fewer drafts you print, the more money you’ll save on cartridge replacements. But when that inkjet or toner cartridge is empty, recycle it through mail-back programs or local retailers like Staples.

In fact, Staples offers a Recycle for Education program that gives $1 to local education charities for every empty inkjet or toner cartridge you recycle in their stores.