What About a Gift-Less Christmas?

It’s quite possible, even though we are well into December, that you have not started your Holiday gift shopping.

You are probably wondering who should be getting a gift, what budgets you are expected to spend, and who should get what exactly.

What about the notion of not buying anything for anyone?

I’m sure the word ‘Scrooge’ comes to mind but bear with me here.

Christmas and the whole holiday season has become the season to consume, over-consumption is absolutely rampant and your nephews request for a new Wii controller may make you his worst aunt or uncle — but standing up to it all and bucking the system may well be the most refreshing move you ever make.

The symbols of celebratory holidays shouldn’t be $10 board game deals at Walmart or Target’s Christmas Eve sale.  The emphasis should be on the people we are supported and surrounded by and how much we appreciate each other.

Each year, and especially in this economic climate, families are guilt-tripped into loading up their credit cards and depleting savings to keep up with what the holiday season expects of them.
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Why Invest in Mutual Funds and What They Are

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The majority of investment activities is carried out by institutional investors, including mutual funds.

They buy and sell large quantities of shares and get preferential treatment on trade commissions.  Although everyone can try investing for him or herself, investment is a profession and requires professional knowledge and expertise, as well as resources.

With a certain degree of share concentration, some mutual funds may even seek board seats of their portfolio companies and try to exert a more active role in corporate governance.  As a result, funds can have more control over their investments and that often leads to better investment performance.
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How and Why We Rationalize Spending

Millions of Americans find themselves in credit card debt, and many of them complain that they don’t know how the debt got so unmanageable.

While there may be reasons for accruing debt such as a medical ailment or job loss, often it is just the result of poor judgement and overspending.

Yet many people rationalize their spending and do not see themselves as the problem.

How We Rationalize Spending

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What Are Consumer Driven Health Plans and How do They Work for You?

Consumer Driven Health Plans have become popular as a way to contain health care costs.

But what are consumer driven health plans and how do they work for you?

While a consumer driven health plan can substantially lower health costs to an employer, they can also result in substantial savings — and other benefits — to employees.

The plans center on health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), and pay for up front health care costs not generally covered by regular health insurance plans.

They are typically (but not always) used in conjunction with high deductible health insurance plans that protect the beneficiary only from very large medical expenses.

The difference is then covered through either the HSA or HRA account.  This enables the employee to pay lower health insurance premiums but to budget for the higher out of pocket costs through regular contributions to HAS/HRA accounts by either the employee or employer.

The combination is named “consumer driven health care” because up-front health care costs are paid using a consumer-controlled account versus a single payer, giving the beneficiary greater control over his own health coverage. Continue Reading

Could Changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) Benefit You?

In 2009, the government rolled out the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). The program is meant to help those who are underwater on their mortgages refinance into a more affordable monthly payment.

Unfortunately, some of the requirements for participation in the program limited its effectiveness.

In order to expand the program so that it reaches more homeowners, some changes have recently been made to HARP.

Main Changes to HARP

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Get Your Credit Score…For Free

You know you need to have a great credit score.  But how can you get your credit score for free?

Having a good credit score will open all sorts of financial doors for you.  It’s fairly well-known that your credit score means a lot when you are applying for loans.  If you want to get approved for a loan, you need a good score.  If you want the best interest rates, you need a great score.

Having a good credit score will save you a ton in interest charges.

You can save hundreds, or even thousands, over the life of your loan.  Whether you are applying for a mortgage, an auto loan, or a credit card, good credit is essential if you want to be approved on the best terms.

You should also realize that your credit score can be used for other purposes as well.
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Consider Working at a University to Help Pay College Expenses

My aunt and uncle, both high school graduates with no college education, had nine kids and helped the ones who wanted to go to college pay for their education.

Many of the nine children now hold professional positions such as financial planner and nursing supervisor.  They are all successful adults, and some make very good salaries.

My aunt and uncle were able to help pay a portion of their children’s college costs despite the fact that my uncle worked in a factory for a number of years while my aunt was a homemaker.

How were they able to do it?

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