Should You Ever Cosign a Loan? Probably Not

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One of the absolutely most risky financial decisions you can make is to cosign a loan for someone.

The FTC has even done research to show consumers exactly how atrocious of a decision cosigning a loan is.  It can be really hard to turn down the need to cosign a loan; usually the person asking you is a relative or very close friend.  They are promising that it won’t be a big deal and they’ll be able to pay on time.

But is that true?

Should you ever cosign a loan?

For anyone?

Ever?

The Risks of Cosigning a Loan

Here are three risks of accepting the offer to cosign a loan.

The Person Asking is a Credit Risk

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When Does It Make Sense to Automate Your Finances?

Automating your finances is one way of simplifying your financial life.

When your automate your finances you use your bank, credit card, or service provider’s website to set up automatic transactions on your behalf.  You can automate paying your utility bills, paying your credit card, investing your retirement funds, and many other tasks.

Finance automation is often touted as one of the top ten things you should do to improve your finances.

While having your bills paid on time does help you save time and avoid late fees, completely automating your finances is foolish and nearly impossible to do.

How Automating Your Finances Improves Your Finances

Late fees.  Overdraft fees.  High interest rate penalties.  Missed payments.

All of these items are the result of mismanaging your finances.  Missing one payment can result in your interest rate on your credit card going sky high.  Missing the payment due date on any bill will automatically reward you with a late fee on top of what you already owed.

In short, mismanaged finances end up costing you thousands of dollars with all the fees and higher interest rates you pay.
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Bitcoin Bonanza and Links

The alternative, virtual, and unregulated currency Bitcoin experienced quite the bonanza over the last few weeks. 

The price skyrocketed to over $200 per coin, then plummeted 50%, then rebounded a bit.  The fledgling new online currency has made millionaires from early adopters but is still struggling to go mainstream.

I honestly don’t know what to think of Bitcoin.

There are only a certain number of coins that can ever exist, you have to run complex equations on a computer to “mine” a coin (or purchase them from an exchange), and the coins are stored on your computer.  However, real people are using them for real transactions instead of US dollars.

As great as it would be to buy a bunch of coins at $3 per coin in the early stages and watch it skyrocket to $200… I can’t imagine a sustainable currency fluctuating that much.  Merchants can accept Bitcoins for payment, but how can you calculate how many coins to charge if the price is constantly changing?  That $200 transaction for one coin just became a $120 transaction when the price plummets.

Instead of worrying about alternative currencies to get rich, here are some more traditional methods:

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What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?

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Filing taxes can either be very simple or overly complex.

There are so many exclusions, credits, loopholes, and deductions to know about that it can be easy to miss out on credits that you qualify for simply because the tax system is so complex.  One of those tax credits worth knowing about, especially if you are in a low income bracket, is the EITC or Earned Income Tax Credit.

What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?

Tax credits are great because they are a direct reduction in the amount of tax that you owe.  Tax deductions are good, too, but they simply reduce your income that will then be taxed.

A tax credit like the EITC is much more valuable.  It’s important to find out if you qualify for the EITC, especially if you know that you don’t have significant investment returns or income for the tax year.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is meant for people who are working and have low to moderate income.  The credit is designed to provide incentive to keep working rather than relying on government subsidies.  Part of the goal of the EITC is to offset social security taxes that you pay as you earn an income.  As with many government tax credits and deductions there is some controversy around the support the Earned Income Tax Credit provides for individuals or couples with children. Continue Reading

Selection Sunday and Links

Today is Selection Sunday and college basketball teams around the country are anxiously waiting to learn their fates.

Will it be that coveted last spot in the NCAA tournament?  Or relegated to the NIT?  (Sure, playing in any tournament is nice, but the NIT pales in comparison to the real deal.)

If you are like me and your team is sitting in the first four out list (as of time of this writing) you see a lot of similarity to financial issues.  My team, the University of Tennessee, is on the outside looking in.  They lost in their conference tournament when a win would have likely locked up a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Instead they lost, but even with a loss they aren’t completely out of the running.  They are just reliant on a bunch of other teams losing in order to propel them into one of those last few spots in the tournament.

Don’t we often run our finances this way?

We miss doing things right and do just enough.  We cut corners, and suddenly find ourselves reliant on someone or something else to save us.  That might be a relative lending us money or just hoping that our employer continues to employ us.

Don’t live your financial life like a NCAA basketball bubble team. Take control of your finances with some of these great reads:

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What Are Dividend Aristocrats and What You Need to Know About Them

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If you have been looking at dividend investing as an income generating option you have probably run across the term “dividend aristocrat“.

The stocks carry a unique title, but often it is not explained as to what exactly a dividend aristocrat is.

Should this be a type of stock that a dividend investor should target? Or do you want to avoid Dividend Aristocrats?

What is a Dividend Aristocrat Stock?

What are dividend aristocrat stocks?

A dividend aristocrat stock is a stock that has raised its dividend to shareholders for a minimum of 25 years straight.  There are a limited number of stocks that make this achievement over a long period of time.

To consistently raise your dividend to investors every year for decades is a solid commitment to returning value to your shareholders.

Why Invest in Dividend Aristocrats?

It is great to get higher dividends as an investor, but is that the only reason to invest in these special stocks?
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Michigan Takes Over Detroit and Links

File this under things I’ve never heard of.

The state of Michigan has announced it plans to take over the city of Detroit due to massive cash flow and financial issues for the city.  The city government has 10 days to appeal (which I am assuming they will do), but the state seems pressed to take over operations.  In the event the state takes over they will put an emergency manager in place who has the authority to make drastic changes for the city to include voiding contracts with unions.

While the takeover isn’t official, it underlines the point that we all need to manage our finances.

Despite a comeback in the auto industry after the Great Recession the financial situation within Detroit has not improved.  The city has issued new debt to cover its obligations, and we all know how swiping our credit card to pay for things we can’t afford works out.

Avoid spending more than you earn — like Detroit did — with some of these tips:

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