Less than $2,500 More than $2,500
Always Never Sometimes

You may just be coming of age, or you may have received a windfall of expendable income that you are looking to spend in the right way. If you have been following the news, then you have been hearing a great deal of positive things about the market in general. This may have piqued a desire in you to invest in some way. Before you make this complicated decision, you must answer a twofold question:

Is now the time to invest in the market?

Is now the time for me to invest?

Investing in the Market

The market as a whole is never something to invest in or not to invest in. People make money whether the market is going up or down. In order to determine if you should invest, you should first understand the angle from which you will attack the market.

The most successful investors of all time, people such as Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett, have been able to stay in the market and make money during the 90s Internet boom and the worst recessions in all of humanity. What is the secret? Although there is no such thing as a simple solution to making money in the marketplace, the closest thing to this solution might be encapsulated in this quote from Peter Lynch: “I don’t invest. I pick money up off of the sidewalk.”

What Peter Lynch was getting at was the way that most people think of investing versus the way that winners think of investing. There is no need to stay in the market putting money into places that are not profitable just to say that you are an investor to your friends. The only time that you need to be in the market is if you see a true opportunity to make money.

This does not mean that you are going into the market like an opportunistic day trader. Neither Lynch nor Buffett is a short term investor. The time window for an investment that you discern as a positive opportunity may be years, not hours or days. What is necessary is the discipline to discern these opportunities and act on them in a decisive manner.

Another thing to consider is that the two investors Lynch and Buffett are moving into and out of the market at different times. This means that there is no “good” or “bad” times for the market – there is only proper capitalization on opportunity.

How do you know what to invest in?

When you are looking to invest in the market, you should really be looking for the angle. You can only invest in one part of a market at a time, so it behooves you to know everything that you can about that piece of the market. If you have an intricate knowledge of one stock, you can play that stock for your entire life and make money, ignoring the rest of the market entirely.

The research that you do will determine when it is a proper time to invest in the market for you. If you have an interest in a certain stock or industry, then learn everything that you can about it. Follow the stock or the industry and paper trade it before you put real money on the line. Once you are able to discern the patterns of the stock/industry and how people respond to news in that stock/industry, then you have a much better chance of making money when you invest.

How do you know when it is a proper time to invest for you?

No matter how good your research abilities may be, there is still a risk of loss when it comes to investing in any part of the market. This risk of loss means that you must be able to withstand losing your entire investment without lowering your quality of life. In order to determine when it is a proper time to invest for you, you must determine how you manage your personal finances.

Your Personal Finances and Investing

There are a few rules about certain types of investments – you must have US $25,000 in an investment account in order to day trade. You must have at least US $100,000 of net worth before you can become involved in certain types of small, private business investments. Even though these rules stand, there are truly no barriers to entry if you are looking to begin investing in the market in some way. Even these rules can be completely flouted if you have the right connections.

This means that you must create your own internal barriers when it comes to investing in the market. The lack of rules also means that no one will care if you lose your entire investment. In some cases, you may even end up owing money to a creditor. There are ways to invest in the market that are more like a lottery, and if you fall for those investments and lose, you can create a great deal of financial trouble for yourself in a matter of minutes.

Your personal finances should be in order before you start investing in stocks, options or ETFs. Mutual funds and bonds are safer investments that may be a better solution for people who are looking to invest and not follow the investments on a daily basis. Here are a few of the rules that smart investors impose on themselves before they begin to invest in earnest.

First of all, all debts are paid.

For most investors, all debts are paid including the home mortgage. This is especially true if a person is day trading, which is a fast-paced and highly risky form of trading. Most day traders do not have credit cards, and they are able to pay their daily expenses from the interest off of capital that they have already set aside.

Secondly, their investment strategies are hard boiled.

You would be hard pressed to get a professional tech investor looking at the textiles market, and vice versa. Only amateur traders follow “hot tips” without a centered focus in an industry. Pro traders do not mind if they lose money if the investment that made money was outside of their wheelhouse. Warren Buffett did not invest at all in the huge 90s tech bubble that made Mark Cuban a billionaire – yet they stand side by side as rich men. Your investment strategy may be different from that of your neighbor, but that does not mean that you cannot both be rich. Sticking to your guns is the most important factor.

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Are you in a relationship where one person makes more money than the other? In most households, this occurs more often than not. One person is usually the breadwinner of the family and the other either stays at home or provides a supplemental income. If this is true in your situation, do you ever feel resentful over the situation?

Bringing Home The Bacon

Usually, one person will be the person who does the providing for the family. Without this job, the family would struggle. The supplemental income, however, is also key in being able to be kept afloat, so the person making less money should be in no way felt to be inferior because of the amount of money they are bringing home. In a marriage or partnership, the amount of money should not constitute which person is more important. Both need to see the money as one lump sum to be distributed together to pay bills and save.

When One Feels Inferior

If you are the one bringing home less money, does it make you feel like you are inferior to your partner? Do you feel like your contribution is just trivial and not really a solid income? If so, you need to reassess the way you view your monetary income. Although your spouse is making more money than you are, it doesn’t mean they are any more important than you are. You are most likely taking one more at home if you aren’t working as many hours. You might be taking care of children while your partner is out making money, which is equally important when you look at the entire picture.

The way people perceive others contributes to the feelings you have about your income. If you are used to making more money, and there is a setback where your partner needs to carry you through, your self-esteem is likely to suffer. You might start becoming resentful, and take it out on the person who is helping keep you afloat.

Unfortunately, the person making more money may feel upset about the situation, as well. They most likely are not upset that you are making less than they are, at all. Instead they may feel guilty for making you feel inferior and may try to hide their success so you do not feel as ashamed or angry about the situation. These feelings by both parties can escalate if they are not addressed, and they could lead to fighting and bad feelings. It is best to get your feelings out into the open with each other in an attempt at being able to express yourself and make the other person empathize with each other’s situation.

Battle Of The Sexes

If you are male, and your female partner is making more money than you are at the moment, there are bound to be some hard feelings. Since society often tries to portray the male in a relationship to be the breadwinner, it can make both partners a little uneasy when the tables are turned. The times are different now, however, and more and more female workers are pushing themselves up the food chain, grabbing higher paying jobs as a result.

If this is happening in your relationship, you need to put things into perspective. No longer is the female thought of as the one to stay at home cooking and cleaning. Child-rearing is being done more than ever by males throughout the country, while the female counterpart brings home the funds needed to survive. The main thing to consider is that all family members are cared for monetarily and emotionally.

If you are having hard feelings about your partner making more than you do, you may want to sit down and discuss the issue with him or her so he or she is aware of your feelings. Your partner most likely feels bad about the situation as well, and feels like he or she may be stepping on your toes in taking away the prominent role of the household. The best way to hand the overall situation is through discussion. You may be able to think of a few ways to increase your own pay as a result. Instead of feeling resentment, try to feel proud of your partner for the success they have within their job.

Working Together

The best way to solve one person making more than the other in a relationship, is to get it all out on the line with each other so you can discuss how you feel about the situation. Trying to change the mindset about one person being the breadwinner and the other not being as successful can make a huge difference in how each person is perceived. For the person working less hours or making less money than the other, there can be other pluses in their contributions to the daily household chores. They can help by trying to save money when making purchasing decisions or by helping the person doing the most work stay comfortable and stress-free.

The person doing the higher-paying job should try to see the positives the other person contributes to the household. They need to make an effort to appreciate the help they give. They may be able to encourage their partner to find a better paying job or to go back to school. By working through the problem together, the partnership will remain in tact. It is always in the best interest of both parties to discuss this with their partners instead of holding it inside. Keeping secrets will just harbor bad feelings that can end up turning into a full-blown fight later on down the line. If you feel embarrassed to discuss the situation or if you end up fighting about money constantly whenever the subject is brought up, you may want to consider counseling together to try to sort through your feelings about the topic.

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Most people agree that saving money is an important part of a wise money management plan. However, they often disagree about how much to save or what to spend it on at some future point. A savings account of any type or amount is better than none at all. However, there are several saving mistakes to be avoided that may lead to more problems than benefits.

Saving too little

Starting a saving plan is an important step in the right direction for managing your money. When you set aside money from each paycheck to be used for a designated purpose like a household emergency or college tuition, you can rest assured that expenses like these, planned or otherwise, will be covered without dipping into the regular monthly budget. However, saving a small amount per month may hardly be worth the effort in the event a major expense should occur.

Many financial experts recommend saving ten percent to twenty percent of the take-home paycheck, if possible. If that is not feasible at present, work toward that goal by saving whatever you can and increasing that amount when you get a pay raise, a bonus, or unexpected income.

Saving too much

Some savers become zealous in their quest to quickly save up thousands of dollars. Although their intentions are good, the logic may be faulty if they end up saving so much that it cuts into the monthly expenses to cause a shortfall. If that happens, the saver may end up borrowing money to cover living expenses in order to avoid reducing the savings account. It is best to establish a reasonable budget that includes a savings account that won’t take away from regular expenses.

Easy access to savings

Having savings funds readily available can be tempting. If someone runs short of regular income or finds that money is needed for a variety of needs, tapping the accessible savings account might be the response. Unless the withdrawn funds can be quickly replaced, it is likely the savings account will remain low and may continue to be drained sporadically rather than building up consistently. A better strategy might be to invest the savings funds in an account that cannot be immediately accessed without a penalty.

Unplanned spending

Consumers who are trying to avoid credit card debt while protecting the regular monthly budget may decide to use savings for any number of unplanned purchases. This might include when an item goes on sale, a special limited offer, a getaway weekend, holiday spending, and other expenses that are not automatically built into the monthly budget. Using the savings account for incidental costs may prevent it ever reaching an amount that will be truly helpful in an emergency or for a major expenditure, like a new furnace.

However, establishing a savings account just for incidentals can be helpful, unless it encourages people to buy more than they can truly afford and drain the savings while doing so.

Low-interest account

Additional saving mistakes are related to the type of savings account a person chooses. A no-interest or low-interest savings account is not putting the money to work while waiting to be used. If the savings are to be used for a long-term purpose like a new car in a few years, for example, a money market account that pays a low but reliable interest rate may be a safe, low-risk investment option. If funds are withdrawn early due to a specific need, the penalty may not be significant.

High-risk account

Investing personal savings in a high-risk investment account is questionable. The rule of thumb for investing is never to invest more than you can comfortably afford to lose. Putting a substantial amount of money over a period of months or years into a high-yield and high-risk account could result in a total or partial loss. It is probably best to use a more secure savings venue for funds that will be needed eventually than to place all available funds in a venture that may one day fail.

Long-term vs. short-term savings

Starting a savings account is a great way to prepare for the future. However, those funds should have a specific purpose that is part of the overall household budget. Because unexpected costs pop up frequently, some people decide to start two savings accounts, one for short-term unexpected costs and another for long-term planned purchases. These may be set up at different institutions or in varying accounts since the long-term savings may be able to generate interest while building up for a specific purpose.

Saving vs. paying bills on time

Although saving money on a regular basis can almost be addicting to some people, it should not come at the expense of paying regular bills. For example, if $100 per month is designated for saving with a routing heating bill of about $75 per month, what happens if during the winter the heating bill shoots up to $150? Rather than pay just $75 while putting $100 as planned into savings, it is better for your credit rating to pay $150 on the heating bill and put just $25 into savings.

Frugal living

Many families live on a tight budget while saving large amounts of money for the future. While this is commendable in many ways, generally it is not advisable to live on such a tight budget that everyone is miserable or there is a constant scramble to save money or do without as the savings account continues to build. Obviously, the frugality of a household budget depends on their comfort level and savings goals. But you don’t necessarily want to turn into Ebenezer Scrooge.

Collecting coins in a jar, opening a bank account, cutting household costs, or investing in long-range mutual funds are just some of the ways people can save money in a responsible way. It is a good idea to balance a savings plan with common sense and everyday comfort to enjoy a quality of life that can rapidly disappear if the savings plan dominates the monthly budget.

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Taking a journey around the world to experience different cultures and see new things is an aspiration for many. Whether the destination is Paris, Los Angeles, or Sydney, the first step is to create a budget for traveling. If plans include an extensive journey away from home, it is important to maintain a low cost budget while traveling around the world. What are some ways to turn a trip around the world into a frugal adventure that will preserve money for excursions and adventures rather than consume it all with hotel stays and airfare?

Purchase an Around the World Airline Ticket

Any journey that is designed with the intent of getting on and off of an airplane to get to more than one destination is going to cost a bit of money. Booking an around the world ticket with an Airline Alliance will make visiting multiple locations around the world a cheaper option than buying a separate ticket to each location along the beaten path. This option allows for the itineraries to connect in a way that will allow travel to any of the seven continents at a fraction of the price. The trip must either go from east to west or west to east, and the journey must include at least 3 different locations. The starting location must also be the last destination of the journey. All dates and times for travel are flexible, but the entire experience must be completed within one year.

Give up Traditional Hotel Stays

Everyone knows that during any vacation, the bulk of the money is spent on hotel stay, so why not cut this out altogether? Staying in a hostel is a great way to save a few dollars, but there is another way that is even more frugal. A workaway program gives people who are visiting certain locations around the world the option to work for small businesses and families in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat. Staying with a host family will extend the cultural experiences available and allow close interaction with the locals, who open their home to those willing to lend a hand in their quaint bed and breakfast or rustic vineyard.

Pack Durable Clothing

Anyone traveling for a long period of time should consider the clothing that will be worn along the way. Make sure to pack clothing that is appropriate for the season and the location being visited, and that the material will be durable enough to withstand rugged mountain hikes and other activities. Instead of staying in the hotel because another pair of ten dollar jeans just got a hole in them, pack a durable wardrobe to assure that an exciting day trip will not be missed. Make sure money is not being spent on replacing clothing or buying extra outfits, because rain or cold weather were not considered.

Have a Simplistic Phone Plan

Cell phones and technology are a huge part of the modern world, but it is possible to have a simple prepaid or monthly talk plan that will cost less than the unlimited data plans that are so popular today. Any destination will have Wi-Fi, it is just a matter of finding a location that is convenient to use. Airports, hotels, cafes, and shopping malls are all common locations where Wi-Fi hotspots can be found. If there is not a Wi-Fi connection nearby, then explore and discover the natural beauty of that corner of the world.

Avoid Taxis

Regardless of the city being visited, a typical trip from an airport to a city will cost at least $40. In some areas of the world, this simple trip can take almost $100 before even arriving at the hotel. Getting around by metro, subway, train, or bus is a convenient way to reach the same destination for a fraction of the cost. Public transportation often offers an experience that shows how local people in that area of the world get to work every day. If time permits, try walking the city street. Walking is truly the cheapest way of going from place to place, and it is a great way to take in the sites. Being enclosed can create an atmosphere inside the vehicle, where small pleasures like a beautiful climbing rose bush may be missed.

Make Credit Purchases

Using a debit card at an ATM in a foreign country will end up costing a ton of extra money in fees. In some areas of the world, money may need to be exchanged for the common currency in that area. Credit cards often avoid these fees and many of them offer double the rewards for using them during times of travel, so paying for any hotel stays, airplane tickets, and train and bus trips paid for with a credit card will eliminate those fees as well as earn you extra reward points.

Eat From Street Vendors

Street meat is a great way to sample local cuisine. This simple method of purchasing food is often a much cheaper option than buying a meal in a local restaurant. It will allow association with locals of the area as well as give a taste into authentic foods that are offered in an area. Sometimes the best food can be found at street vendors or farmer’s markets. This food is not only the cheaper option; it is often the best tasting one as well.

Control Coffee Addictions

Coffee is a simple pleasure that can be enjoyed daily at home, but while on a trip around the world it will do nothing but cost extra money every day. A cup of coffee or tea may only cost $5 a day, but think about how much that is in a year. Is it wise to spend $1825 a year on coffee while traveling? That money can be put to a much better use, such as exploring a mystical cave near the Mediterranean Sea or touring a museum while in Paris. Make sure to keep track of small purchases like this, or they will be the cause of a low bank account.

Having a budget while traveling is often a cause for stress on a big trip, but there are ways to make it less of a concern, which allows for more to spend on exploration and excursions. Make sure to consider these frugal tips before making an unforgettable journey on any of the seven continents.

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Chain stores often attract customers with lower prices and bigger selections. They also gain a competitive advantage because they can afford to stay open longer hours and spend far more money on marketing. Nonetheless, many locally owned shops, restaurants and service providers continue to thrive in business. And they might be right for you. Find out why shopping local might be better for you.

1. The owner and family members of a small business possess greater decision-making power than employees of large companies. They also have more incentive to make their establishments succeed. As a result, they focus on satisfying customers more than following rigid policies. It’s easier for them to accept a return after 31 days, stay open an extra 15 minutes, or give you a bonus for remaining a loyal customer.

2. These retailers may offer goods that are unique or hard to find elsewhere. Some examples include artwork, rare books. and special meals or drinks. They are more inclined to customize products for specific individuals. A local eatery or store might also cater to the preferences of people in the surrounding region. On the other hand, national chain businesses tend to offer the same catalog or menu in most places.

3. You will probably travel shorter distances to reach locally owned establishments. They tend to be located closer to residential neighborhoods instead of highways and large shopping complexes. Shorter trips will help you save time and money. If a local shop is within walking distance, you may also be able to get some exercise in the process.

4. In some cases, goods from area businesses are fresher. They’re more likely to buy food from local farms or sell items that they have prepared on-site. This usually means that these products taste better and provide greater health benefits. Fresh items may take longer to spoil if they were produced recently and transported a short distance. They generally contain less preservatives and have fewer packaging materials.

5. If you buy local, it normally causes less harm to the natural environment. Supplies, products, staff. and customers all tend to travel shorter distances to reach these businesses. They often have downtown locations that are convenient for people who don’t drive cars. Family members and employees who know the owner of a local firm are less likely to engage in wasteful or ecologically damaging practices.

6. People at locally owned firms usually try to remember customers’ names, occupations, and personal preferences. For instance, you probably won’t have to describe the type of coffee that you order every day. In addition to saving time, this sort of familiarity creates a more friendly atmosphere. Customers frequently feel that small business owners appreciate their patronage more than huge corporations.

7. The staff at a local shop is often more knowledgeable about their products than people who work in chain stores. Major companies may have high employee turnover rates and merchandise that frequently changes. You have a better chance of finding people with long-term experience at a family-owned appliance dealer or hardware store. They are more likely to have a genuine interest in their industry.

8. Most businesses give money to charity, but local firms normally contribute more cash to organizations in your community. They often sponsor events, donate to food banks, or help the nearest homeless shelter pay its bills. Small businesses also collect donations for local causes. Large chains tend to assist regional or national nonprofits that are less likely to help people in your area.

9. When you buy local, a greater portion of the money will reach other locally owned companies and independent contractors. This may directly benefit you if you own or work for a nearby firm. For example, a local diner or health food store is more likely to purchase some of its ingredients from a farm in the area. It may also hire a nearby tax preparer.

10. You create and sustain employment in the places where you shop. If you travel to another city or use the Internet to make purchases, this happens elsewhere. Successful local businesses ensure that you, your family and friends can find jobs within a reasonable distance. If you get to know the owners, they might even hire you or help you gain employment. Lower jobless rates also reduce crime.

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One of the best ways to keep credit card payments as low as possible is to use a credit card with a low interest rate. In many cases, new credit card customers can get an interest rate of 0 percent for as many as 18 months after signing up. Those who have a large balance on a current credit card account may wish to transfer that balance and save money on their monthly payments. What are some situations when making a credit card balance transfer makes sense?

You Don’t Like Your Current Credit Card

If you think that you deserve a higher credit line, would like to take advantage of cash back rewards or simply don’t like your credit card anymore, it could be a good excuse to make a transfer. In the event that your new credit card comes with a higher balance, it could help your credit score as you are not using as much of your available credit.

Additionally, you could increase your credit score if your new credit line reduces your current debt balance to less than 30 percent of your total credit. For instance, if you owed $5,000 on a $5,500 credit line, you would have a credit card utilization rate of almost 100 percent. However, if you had a credit limit of $15,000, you would be closer to the 30 percent threshold that credit bureaus love when calculating your credit score.

When you switch to a new credit card, the company that you switch to may have better customer service. This can be important if you have to dispute a debt or accidentally make a late payment. In some cases, you will be hit with a large interest rate increase and late charge for making a payment even a few minutes late. However, other credit card companies may allow you to make one payment late without incurring any type of penalty. This can help your wallet now and your credit in the future by switching to a credit card company that allows for a late payment every so often.

The Promotional Period on Your Current Card is Almost Up

If the promotional period on your current credit card is almost up, it may be time to look for a new card that you can put that balance on. As long as you have good credit and a history of making timely payments, you should be able to roll your credit balances almost indefinitely. However, you may want to consider making a payment plan that you can stick to at some point as your debt may continue to rise over time. Credit card companies often increase the amount of credit available to those who make their payments on time, which could cause you to overextend yourself if you don’t budget properly.

You May Wish to Transfer All of Your Balances to One Card

Those who are thinking about consolidating their debt may wish to put all of their balances onto one card with a low interest rate. This can make it easier to keep track of your credit card debt as well as make only one monthly payment. When you only have to make one payment, it is a lot harder to forget to make that payment. It can also show you exactly how much debt you have to pay off. Seeing that you have $10,000 in total debt may make paying off that debt a higher priority as opposed to having $1,000 on one card, $1,400 on another and so on.

If you do consolidate all of your debt onto one card, do not cancel your existing cards. All this will do is hurt the average age of your credit, which could lower your score and ability to get additional credit in the future. For the most part, you can continue to keep those cards open with a $0 balance without running the risk of having your account closed. Anyone who is worried that they may use the money in the future may wish to cut up their credit cards or reduce the balance on those cards.

Make a Transfer Whenever it Helps Your Finances

There is never a bad time to make a balance transfer if it fits into your financial profile. Lowering your interest rate and lowering your credit card payment is never a bad decision even if you don’t necessarily need to do it. If you find a card that offers perks that you can use now such as cash back on gas or groceries, it can put even more savings into your pocket. During the holiday season, it may not be a bad idea to get a card that offers 5 percent cash back on purchases that you were planning to make anyway. You should also consider transferring to a credit card that provides you with your FICO credit score. Doing so can help you track your credit while you get a better handle on your overall spending.

A credit card balance transfer can be a great way to keep your spending in check while helping you get a better handle on your debt. Additionally, most cards come with cash back or other perks that can further help you save money on the things that you buy each day. Therefore, there is never a bad time to search for and switch to any tool that helps you remain financially secure and financially independent.

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After the financial crisis of 2008, it became almost impossible to buy a home, forcing would-be home buyers into the renters’ market and driving up the prices of apartments around the country. Some of the cities to take the largest hits in rising rent prices are also some of the most well-known cities in the country; however, some might surprise you. Nabbing an apartment in one of these cities can be extremely competitive due to low vacancy percentages so having stellar credit is a must to be considered for an apartment.

1. New York City, NY
The Big Apple is notorious for having some of the highest rents in the country. Not only is the rent in Manhattan as high as its skyscrapers, but rents in Brooklyn and Queens are rising upward. With rent prices so high in Manhattan, residents have little choice but to cross the river. The average price for a small one bedroom in Manhattan is around $3,000. Considering back in 2009, the average price was around $2,000, the cost of living has substantially grown in the past six years alone.

2. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities for renters, but it turns out, the areas around the city proper are also pricey. Apartments within a 10-mile radius of the city by the bay average at around $3,000 a month for a one bedroom. In 2009, these prices were significantly lower—only $1,400 for a one bedroom. Large companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have imported employees in the past six years, causing rents to climb as high as New York’s.

3. Los Angeles, CA
Though Los Angeles is known as a wealthy city, the average price of an apartment is not as expensive as its neighbor to the north. The average price of a one bedroom in LA costs around $1,800 a month. In 2009, the average cost was only around $1,300, which means the cost of living has only increased by $500 a month in the past six years—a significantly smaller percentage the San Francisco or New York. Rents get pricier in neighborhoods like Century City and South Park, where neighborhoods like Hollywood and North Arroyo are on the lower end.

4. Seattle, WA
While Seattle hasn’t been known for outrageous rent prices in the past, in 2014, the rainy city saw over an eight percent spike in rent thanks to Amazon’s new campus. The online company brought in over 10,000 employees in 2014 and plans on importing at least twice that amount in 2015. The average rent for an apartment jumped from $1,000 to $1,400 in less than six months. Trendy neighborhoods like Bellevue saw the greatest increase with apartments rising to $1,654. The neighborhood of Ballard saw the largest percentage spike as its rents were raised almost 13 percent in a one-year time period.

5. Austin, TX
Though the state of Texas isn’t known for pricey apartments, the city of Austin has the highest rent in the state. The typical minimum wage employee would need to work a 111-hour workweek in Austin just to afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Austin, the minimum price for a two-bedroom apartment is just over $1,250 where the rest of Texas boasts prices under $900 a month. The most expensive neighborhood in Austin is Old West Austin that sees prices at around $1,800 a month. The cheapest neighborhood in the city is Rosedale that has two bedrooms for $1,200.

6. New Haven, CT
With New York City residents fleeing Manhattan and the other boroughs’ spike in rent prices, New Haven, Connecticut has received much of the overflow. Just over an hour train ride to the city, New Haven is slowly becoming a commuter enclave. The average rent in New Haven was around $1,300 in 2014. For a city that’s considered one of the worst cities to live in? Not great prices. In 2014, New Haven made it to number three on the most violent cities in America to live in. Connecticut also has some of the highest taxes in the country, making New Haven even more expensive.

7. Boston, MA
Boston tops the most expensive cities, hovering around New York and San Francisco rents. The average rent in Boston is around $2,900 a month. With the average household income at just over $53,000, this figure seems practically impossible. Vacancy rates are only just under six percent, making apartment hunting that much harder. Many residents, like in New York City, are heading outside the city proper for better deals and more vacancies. Rents in the neighborhood of East Cambridge were at the top of the spectrum while Mid-Cambridge apartments were a little more affordable.

8. Washington, D.C.
It’s no wonder so many rich politicians live in cushy digs in D.C. The rents in the city have only grown by about $300 in the past six years but remain high nonetheless. The average one bedroom in the capital city is around $1,700 a month and the average two bedroom is around $2,400 a month. This is quite high compared to the city of Baltimore, which has average one bedrooms at around $1,000 a month. Though the crime in Baltimore is much higher, many federal workers choose to live here and take the 45-minute train ride into the city and forgoing the steep Washington prices.

9. Santa Ana, CA
Though not a major metropolitan city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, Santa Ana is one of the most expensive cities in the country for renters. The average price for a rental in this city is around $2,000 a month. When you consider the city is located just 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, it’s surprising that the city’s apartment prices are actually more expensive than that of a major metropolitan area. The population of Santa Ana is only just under 330,000 residents. The apartment prices are expected to grow by four percent each year.

10. Minneapolis, MN
Renters might expect the town to cap the Midwest’s most expensive rentals would be the windy city, but Minneapolis is actually topping the chart on this one. This once economical city broke the $1,000 mark in 2014 and is expected to see some more raises in rent. Perhaps it has something to do with Minneapolis and St. Paul becoming the insurance capitals of America (taking the title from Hartford, Connecticut) and bringing in new employees. The insurance companies originally moved to Minnesota for the cheap rents. Will they set a new rent level?

Whether or not you’re planning on moving to one of the below cities, maintaining good credit is the key to getting your dream apartment—wherever you may live.a

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If you’ve obtained a credit card in the past few years, it’s likely that the associated credit card company has attempted to sell you additional services that they offer. Identity theft coverage. Debt consolidation. Credit score tracking. These are all services that credit card companies urge customers to purchase. They sound logical and enticing at the time of the company rep’s pitch, but are they really worth it? Each person has a unique financial situation. However, the universal answer to this question is a resounding, “NO.”

These are six examples of supplemental services offered by credit card companies that you ultimately do not, and will never need.

Identity Theft Coverage/Insurance

Identity theft coverage/insurance is a “convenient” service offered by many credit card companies that promises financial protection in the event that a customer falls victim to fraudulent charges on their cards. While the the idea makes sense in theory, many customers aren’t aware that they are already protected by default (and for free) from identity theft. The Truth in Lending Act protects cardholders from being responsible for more than $50 in fraudulent charges if they report the illicit activity as soon as possible.

This is why it’s pointless from all angles to purchase identity theft coverage/insurance. Some card companies will also warn you that this type of coverage is useful in dire situations where other cards, or even your Social Security number, have been compromised. Even if you’re looking to avoid these scenarios, your money is better spent on a paper shredder. It simply doesn’t ever make sense to purchase identity theft coverage/insurance.

Missed Payment Coverage/Insurance

This type of protection has become more popularly offered by credit card companies as of late. Many sales reps will attempt to sell this coverage by explaining that your payments can be placed on hold for literally years if you ever find yourself in a financial catastrophe. Card companies will generally charge around 5% of the total outstanding balance in fees for this service. While it sounds useful at face value, this one takes a bit of contemplation to understand how pointless it is.

Consider the fact that the odds are slim to none of you being in a financial catastrophe for years on end. If you are a responsible card holder, it’s likely that you rarely carry a balance from month to month. In this case, this coverage has no real purpose. Missed payment coverage could be useful for a cardholder who carries large balances, but even then, it’s risky in general to carry hefty balances at any time. A savings account that you casually manage would be more useful for a missed payment safety net than this phony service.

Credit Score Tracking

To the average person, their credit score means quite a lot. However, credit score tracking provides 24/7, ongoing access to it. In the grand scheme of things, this is virtually never necessary. This is especially true if you’re going to be charged for it. While you might be able to think of semi-reasonable scenarios in which this service would help, you could probably realistically live without it.

Credit scores change with time, and while everyone would like to keep closer tabs on their particular performance, it’s just not necessary. If you’re doing everything you can to positively impact your score, there’s absolutely no sense in paying fees just to watch those magical numbers change on a computer monitor. It’s much more sensible to grab a yearly report from AnnualCreditReport.com at the start of each year. Even the major credit bureaus such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian offer users extended access for a price. This type of privilege is almost never necessary when it all boils down.

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is a service seen more commonly offered by businesses rather than card companies. These businesses are incredibly good at making debt consolidation out to be a catch-all solution. However, it is nowhere near being what it’s cracked up to be. Debt consolidation businesses attract their customers by advertising low and manageable monthly payments. What they don’t spend too much time talking about is the fact that debt consolidation greatly increases how long a person stays in debt. Likewise, the person in debt will end up paying much more in the end than they originally owed.

Try to think about it like this: no creditor would ever actively restructure a person’s debt if they weren’t after some sort of cut. With that in mind, it’s quite obvious that debt consolidation never lowers debt or makes it easier to manage. Debt consolidation companies are in the business to merely move your debt around so that it’s temporarily more easy for you to manage it. That’s it. You should always avoid these types of services if at all possible.

Credit Score Repair

Because the world is largely in debt, credit card companies notoriously offer credit score repair services to their customers. This offer tends to work on those who are not familiar with how credit scores work and are also under the impression that a magic wand can be waived in order to alleviate credit score woes.

When broken down, credit scores are not mysteries to be intensely explored. A credit score quite literally boils down to five counterparts. These are the length of the credit history, payment history, amounts owed / outstanding balances, new credit lines, and credit types used.

That’s it. Credit repair services cannot be manipulated with special services or tricks. When you purchase a credit repair service, you are essentially paying for things that you could already do without help. This includes steadily minimizing outstanding balances, paying bills on time, monitoring how often you open credit cards, and so on.

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Top Tax Season Tips

Published by Alice


The tax season begins in mid-January, giving filers three months to gather all their information and prepare to file. For filers expecting a refund, tax season might be something to look forward to. It’s almost like a savings plan, receiving untouched money in a lump sum.

On the other hand, those who make too much, or do not have enough deductions, or simply did not withhold as much, tax season becomes a thing of dread as they expect to pay the IRS. Furthermore, for those with complex returns with all the itemized deductions, credits and so on, tax season is immediately stressful. Three months might seem like far too little time to track down all the receipts and other necessary items.

Depending on a filer’s situation, tax season can be a welcome thing or it can be a season of dread. However, no matter how complicated or simple a filer’s situation is, tax season does not have to be full of stress. Planning for tax season the other nine months of the year and following these tips can help make the season easier.

File Online

Filers with easy returns and even those with semi-complex returns should consider filing their taxes online. There are many places to file online, from the IRS site to one of the most prominent tax programs of all time, Turbo Tax. Many online tax programs have affordable fees and some do not charge for simply using their software. You can also use an online site to fill out the return, then file manually through the mail.

Simple returns up to semi-complicated ones are the best type of taxes to file online. It saves money on using an accountant or patronizing a tax agency. Online filing sites typically offer plenty of guidance for those who are not used to doing their own taxes. Sometimes the sites even eschew using a model of IRS forms, but instead ask pertinent questions that fill out the forms. Online services also do a good job of presenting every option to make sure filers are getting all the credits they qualify for.

Online filing services typically let the filer know during the return and how much money they are due for a refund, or conversely, how much money they owe.

Understanding All Available Tax Credits

It is extremely important to understand tax credits and which ones are available for which situations. This is something that online filers especially will want to be aware of. Understanding tax credits can give filers a heads up on whether they might get a refund or whether they can feel comfortable about filing taxes individually instead of with an agency or accountant.

Most people are unaware of at least a few different tax credits that are available to them. Tax credits exist for renters, student loans, dependents, job-hunters and work related expenses. Filers should check guidelines carefully for credits that might apply to them.

Another reason to investigate credits ahead of time is that it helps gauge whether filing online will be easy or more complicated. If several credits or deductions are available to one filer, it might be easier to let a tax agency take care of it.

Debt Consolidation

Tax season is ultimately about finances. When filers are investigating their finances for credits or information, it might also be a good time to determine if there is also debt to be dealt with. Upon looking through expenses, a person might discover that the interest on their credit card bills is extensive and minimum payments are not moving the balance. If that happens to be the case, consider looking for a zero percent APR credit card with balance transfer options.

There are many options out there for new cards and quite a few of them offer a zero percent intro rate for balance transfers. The time limit on the rate can even be up to 18 months, just as an incentive to get people to switch cards. Take advantage of this type of offer and work on consolidating debt for next tax season.

Spending Cuts

For filers that know they will end up paying, the pressure to find money elsewhere can be overwhelming. One solution is to implement temporary spending cuts. Start setting aside money from paychecks early to prepare for a potential IRS expense. Putting the set aside money in an account with interest can be a way to make the money work while it’s being set aside.

One clue as to whether a filer can expect to pay in any particular year is how much money was removed from their check during the year. If a person does not pay much in taxes from each check, they should expect to more than likely owe money to the IRS next tax season. If the money is substantial, they may be put on a payment plan, which is an additional monthly bill.

The good news is that most people can find plenty of little ways to cut spending. It might mean not going out to eat as much, or not driving as far, or it might mean cutting back on entertainment, such as trips to the movie theater or a concert. Work on categorizing unavailable income and disposable income. Unavailable income should include bills as well as the amount decided upon for a future IRS payment. Disposable income is essentially the amount left over from this.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid being in the red when tax season rolls around is to restructure paychecks to make sure more taxes are being paid rather than less. That makes it more likely that a refund will be owed the following year. For those who do not like the idea of the IRS holding onto their money for a year, consider taking the amount out that the IRS would take and then putting it into an interest-bearing account. That way, the money is still counted as unavailable, but will be making money in the meantime.

With a little extra planning, every filer can take some of the burden and stress out of tax season.

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Everyone envisions retirement as the golden years where you live a lavish life off your substantial nest egg. The sad reality is that most retirees find themselves having to get a second job to maintain their standard of living. Everybody should be rich at retirement. All it takes is the proper long-term planning throughout one’s career. Three of the most important keys to retiring rich are sound investment strategies, smart spending habits, and setting financial goals. Let’s look at these three areas in more detail.

Sound Investment Strategies

The biggest difference between retiring rich and having to work a part-time job is sound investment strategies. Research has shown that those with a solid knowledge of investment strategy earn an average of 1.3% more annually than their peers. That amounts to over 25% more in their retirement fund over the span of a 30 year career. So what do these people understand that others don’t?

There are 3 basic principles to a good investment strategy. The first principle is understanding interest rates. Most savings accounts earn an annual interest. For example, you’d accrue $1 in interest on a savings account that has $100 and 1% interest. The problem with savings accounts as a long-term wealth building strategy is the inflation rate; which is the second principle. If you have a 1% interest rate but the inflation rate is 2%, then the value of your money will decrease 1%. Over the long-term your best option is to invest in a money mutual fund. Money mutual funds often let you draw from it as if it was a savings account, and offers an interest rate that is generally higher than the rate of inflation.

The third and most important principle is risk. Managing risk is the difference between the millionaires and the investors who go broke. Beware of the shady stockbroker who will sell you the financial equivalent of snake oil just because it pays a higher commission. Your safest option is to always understand an investment enough to make an educated decision independent of anyone else’s influence. You have to fully understand the level of risk you are comfortable with, and as long as you don’t cross that line you will see sustained return on investment over the long term. One of the less risky investment options is a stock mutual fund, which diversifies your investments into several companies instead of a single stock in one company. This is like hedging your bets at the roulette table.

The final piece of investment advice is to understand the difference between investing in stock and investing in bonds. Basically, you should always opt for stocks over bonds if you’re in it for the long-term. Stocks may be more volatile short-term but they pay exponentially more over the long-term.

Smart Spending Habits

Next to investment strategies, smart spending habits are the most important factor for being rich in retirement. The spending habits regarding your cash is way less important than your credit spending habits. No matter how bad you are with cash, you can’t spend cash you don’t have. The biggest danger of being bad with cash is it forces you to rely on credit more than you should. This starts a downward spiral that makes saving for retirement virtually impossible.

The biggest killer of retirement dreams is debt. Millions of people bury themselves in debt by using credit to spend money they don’t have. This leads to bad credit, which in turn leads to more expensive payments for things like mortgages and car payments.

The best way to use credit is to treat it like a debit card. For example, if you make a $200 purchase you should have that $200 by the end of the month; otherwise, you should not make the purchase. If you stick to this strategy religiously you will never spend money you don’t have.

This purchasing strategy of paying off all purchases at the end of the month lets you avoid interest charges on most cards. It also builds great credit, which saves you money in the long-term through low interest rates.

Be smart when choosing a credit card. There are several options that offer all types of rewards, from cash back to flight points. Do your homework and select the best card that fits your spending style.

Setting Financial Goals

The third and final component of being able to retire rich is setting financial goals. One of the most popular financial goals is the “100 rule”. This rule states that to determine which percentage of your assets should be in stock, you subtract your age from 100. Some experts say this should be 110 minus your age.

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as too young to think about saving for retirement. All you have to do is make sound investments from the first year of your career and by the time you retire those stocks will be able to fund a retirement lifestyle fit for the rich and famous.

The other aspect of setting financial goals is a healthy mix of long-term and short-term savings goals. For example, say you have 20 years until retirement and you want a million dollars to live on. You can break down that long term goal as a $50,000 increase on the return on investment of $50,000 each year. This helps make your lofty goals become concrete and obtainable.

When it is all said and done, retiring rich comes down to how much you commit to that goal. Retirement is something most people envision as a right, and they are sorely disappointed when they realize they need to pick up a part-time job to support their lifestyle. The reality is a high quality retirement comes from committing to an investment strategy from day one. Knowing the basics of things like interest rate, inflation rate, and risk is essential. If you can manage your credit well and spend within your means, your investments will flourish over the long-term and by the time you’re ready to retire you will have enough of a nest egg to live the high life.

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Less than $2,500 More than $2,500
Always Never Sometimes