Nothing is more prevalent at luxury hotels than concierge services. A concierge has intimate knowledge of the surrounding area, including businesses and attractions. Within minutes, these individuals can book a flight or reserve theater tickets. They provide guests with vital information sooner rather than later.

But few consumers realize that credit cards can feature concierge services. High-end credit cards from major payment networks tend to include this perk. For instance, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express all include a concierge service on premium credit cards. These services are accessible around the clock by certain cardholders, and this perk can prove invaluable for many individuals. Multiple credit cards can include this feature, so consumers should understand their options here.

The three main credit card concierge services are:

  • Visa Signature Concierge
  • Concierge From MasterCard
  • American Express Concierge Services

Let’s take a look at what each company offers and then find out if you’re benefiting from your credit card concierge!

Visa Signature Concierge

Multiple Visa-branded credit cards include this service 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Travel planning is included, so a concierge can book all amenities and travel accommodations for a cardholder in advance. Also, staying at certain partner hotels results in free amenities and food or beverage credits for cardholders. Travelers can have more than rental cars, flights, and hotels booked, though. Limousines, private jets, and even international smartphones can be reserved while traveling.

Visa Signature Concierge can assist in booking seats for a sporting event or entertainment venue, too. In fact, special ticket offers are sometimes available in advance of events and after they’re sold out. Dining reservations come standard, and gifts or flowers can be delivered upon request with ease. All of these features are available at all times of day, and many Visa cards include the concierge feature.

Concierge From MasterCard

MasterCard’s version of concierge services is similar to both Visa and American Express. Still, cardholders can and should take advantage of these benefits whenever possible. 24/7 concierge services are available with the ability to book travel accommodations and reserve tickets for events. Luxury resorts and hotels often come with free room upgrades and complimentary services. As an added bonus, some cruiseship reservations include a $500 onboard credit per room for cardholders.

A unique feature from MasterCard is its extra airport concierge service. For a fee, an escort assists cardholders while getting through airports around the world. This includes help dealing with customs, going through security, and retrieving baggage. A little guidance through international airports never hurts. Plus, airfare discounts and city-specific discounts are available for regular travelers through MasterCard.

American Express Concierge Services

Amex is both a credit card issuer and payment processor today. Therefore, its concierge services are designed to complement current Amex credit card features. Typical concierge services are included like booking travel accommodations and buying tickets to events. Gift purchases and dinner reservations are a cinch, which should be expected of every concierge service offered by creditors or hotels.

Without a doubt, American Express takes things a step further by coupling concierge services with credit card features. Members can contact their dedicated concierge number and utilize their Membership Rewards points. This means that rewards can be redeemed over the phone with assistance from an Amex representative. Likewise, shopping advice and extended warranty information is available through the service. Personal requests are possible, too, if they’re related to Amex card benefits.

Why are these services offered to cardholders?

It’s important to remember that concierge services are offered with top-tier credit cards only. For better or worse, these services are rarely included with lesser cards. Companies offer this feature to cardholders free of charge as a perk. Premium credit cards tend to come with lower interest rates and other unique benefits.

In that sense, payment networks offer concierge services to retain cardholders and reap extra profits. Cardholders usually pay for concierge-related transactions with their credit cards after all. Offering this service costs payment networks millions of dollars, but they profit many times that amount in the long run for doing so. Fortunately, cardmembers can benefit from this situation on a regular basis.

Is your credit card concierge service helping you?

You should know whether your credit card includes a concierge benefit. Perhaps you’ve never thought about taking advantage of this benefit before. Otherwise, you may have used the service dozens of times in the past. Each cardholder, yourself included, needs to leverage these services to the fullest extent possible. Doing so ensures that your credit card works for you and provides true value for the cost.

The Time Factor

First and foremost, concierge services provide convenience in the form of time saved. A representative handles the research and booking processes for travel or events. You tell him or her where you want to go, or what you want to see. Even last minute accommodations can be made, depending upon the request. Throughout this process, you don’t have to exert energy or stress out because things are handled hassle-free.

The Savings Factor

Concierge services and card benefits can help you save money along the way, too. You reap savings whenever you pay with your credit card. Oftentimes further discounts are available by utilizing the concierge service. After all is said and done, you could save 20-60% on your accommodations or reservations. Some amount of savings or discount is often available, and you shouldn’t pass up on these opportunities to spend less.

Make Your Concierge Work For You!

When you contact your credit card concierge, you should feel important. Such services are designed to put your needs front and center during each call. If you feel like your concierge benefit isn’t providing value, then contact the service immediately. During the call, the representative can run through what benefits you have at your disposal, and chances are high that you don’t know every potential benefit.

Taking the time to understand the concierge feature of your credit card can pay off. The best concierge services attend to your needs and seemingly make magic happen. With a single call, you can have tickets in your figurative hands. You could acquire the information you need to try something new. Credit card concierge services are included in high-end credit cards, so you shouldn’t hesitate to use this complimentary benefit!

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The decision to hire a financial advisor is a positive step towards achieving a healthy financial future for many people. Life is busy, and navigating the impact of taxes on investing, tax return preparation, college trusts, retirement planning, estate planning, and insurance takes time. Knowing how all of the parts fit together in a unified financial plan takes perspective, education, and experience.

The right financial advisor painstakingly gathers the client’s financial and life information first. He or she asks questions and listens with care to answers before recommending investment ideas or planning advice. The ultimate decisions about how or where to invest capital depend upon the client’s financial objectives. Stock tips, options trades, or high leverage forex deals aren’t a financial plan. Here are four topics to consider before hiring a financial advisor:

1. Commissions and Transaction Costs

Many large Wall Street broker-dealers embrace financial planning these days. Clients are much less likely to encounter the “rogue” trader who churns and burns the nest egg. Internal monitoring and compliance professionals are there to safeguard the client’s assets, too.

However, it’s still essential to ask the “financial advisor” how he or she makes money because not all financial advisors are created equal. If the salesperson (aka financial advisor) reports his or her income is commission-based, proceed with some caution.

The financial advisor, a default title in some firms, has certainly received mandatory financial training after passing securities registration exams. Unfortunately, the tests are challenging but really don’t qualify the financial salesperson to make financial planning decisions. He or she might not understand basic accounting or tax planning at all.

#2. Churning

Transaction charges like commissions accrue to the salesperson’s monthly income. Depending on the firm, the advisor receives a cut or percentage of these commissions. It may be tempting for the advisor to buy or sell client assets to receive a bigger paycheck this month.

If the advisor suggests buying or selling, ask why. If he or she suggests a “sure thing” stock traded over-the-counter (OTC), commissions won’t appear on the client’s account, but that doesn’t mean the advisor suggested the transaction for free. Similarly, some bonds are traded net of commissions.

Read statement details closely. If the number of transactions in the account has increased, it’s important to understand why. Keep records about each authorized transaction. If the number of trades is substantially greater, ask questions. Mistakes do happen. It’s possible that another client’s trades were booked to the account in error.

Churning and unauthorized transactions, if proven, are serious regulatory violations. If the advisor doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation about account activity, ask the advisor’s manager or regional executive for assistance right away.

Commingled Accounts

Some financial advisors request discretionary authority over the client’s account and, in doing so, commingle the client’s name and their own. The account statement from the firm’s custodian should have only the client’s name (or name of the trust, etc.) on it. As above, contact the firm right away and ask questions about why the account owner and the advisor’s names are conjoined.

Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) receive extensive financial training over a period of years before they are granted the use of the title “Certified Financial Planner.” Certified Financial Planners are held to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ code of ethics. If the CFP violates these standards by commingling, his or her CFP certificate may be revoked in addition to the client’s right to pursue legal remedies in civil or criminal court.


Some scenarios, such as too good to be true deals, are red flags. For instance, if the advisor is paid a performance fee, he or she is paid more money when certain account goals are reached.

Steady performance is a good thing, but if the account always seems to return a certain consistent return, it’s possible that the advisor is tied to a Ponzi, or pyramid, scheme. That is, new clients pay for partial or full liquidations of older client accounts.

Ponzi schemes can be difficult to identify. Bernard Madoff, once the head of NASDAQ and renowned advisor to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and organizations, maintained his firm’s Ponzi scheme for years because the firm’s returns were consistently stellar.

Some Ponzi schemes target members of certain ethnic or religious communities and age groups. If something seems amiss, it’s always best practice to check the firm’s FINRA registration status or close the account.


Some financial advisors insist on obtaining discretionary authority in the client’s account. He or she will insist that time is of the essence in achieving returns or other account goals. Granting power of attorney to this advisor can also set the stage for embezzlement.

Several red flags should go off if the advisor demands account access. If the client-advisor relationship is relatively new, it’s important to avoid making a hasty decision. Some experienced financial advisors do request discretionary authority, but the decision to grant it should never be “do or die.” If the advisor explains that he or she will decline the client’s account without power of attorney, accept the decision. It’s best to maintain account control.

Embezzlement of assets can occur when the advisor moves funds from the original account into another. Alternatively, the advisor may request a check from the account if the client has authorized him or her to do so.

If granting power of attorney to the advisor seems like a good idea at some future time, limit authority to securities trading without notification. Limited authority prevents the advisor from withdrawing funds or moving assets from the original account. Before granting power of attorney to any advisor, validate background, ethics records, and credentials. The advisor might not have a CPA license, law degree, or CFP designation after all.

Financial Planners and Fiduciary Responsibility

There are many reasons to engage a financial planner. Career demands, raising a family, or self-employment can make the idea of proper financial planning and management a daunting or impossible task.

The CFP’s goal is to make the client money over time. A private business owner may want to plan for retirement and transition of the business to designates or heirs. A young professional may need to consider how to shelter growing earnings from current taxation and plan for retirement. A young parent with a family inheritance wants to build a home and family.

Fee-Only Financial Planner

All of these clients need the services of a qualified financial planner. A fee-only financial planner doesn’t charge the client commissions and doesn’t sell high front-end or back-end financial products. The financial planner accepts the standard of fiduciary responsibility. This means the advisor must always act in the client’s best interest.

Interview several financial advisors with these topics in mind before making the final decision. After the advisor builds the client’s financial plan and portfolio, little short-term adjustment other than rebalancing assets should be necessary. Ultimately, the selection of an experienced financial planner saves the client time, money, and worry. This is the best reason to hire a financial planner.

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When you’re first starting out, you have limited options when it comes to credit cards. In order to build up your credit, you may have to settle for a card that has less than desirable terms. After a few years, you’re eligible for better deals, but it can be hard to let go of the card that was so good to you. Use this criteria to help you determine whether or not you should switch your credit cards.

Why Stay

One of the factors that determines your credit score is the length of time you’ve had a particular card. Canceling a card that you’ve held for a long time in favor of newer cards can actually hurt your credit score, which is something that few people want to do. This is one of the best reasons to hang on to the card that you’ve been using a little longer. You may also simply like the card you have. For example, if both your checking account and credit card are through the same bank, it’s easy to see all of your data in one place and to make payments online almost instantaneously. Your current card may also offer benefits you like, such as airline miles or cash back that you can use toward paying off your student loans.

Annual Fees and Interest Rates

If your card has an annual fee and high interest rates, though, it could be holding you back. With the wide variety of credit cards available without annual fees, it’s hard to keep paying for a card if it’s not offering you a special benefit. An annual fee may be the single most important reason to switch cards. Why keep a card with an annual fee if you can qualify for a card without one?

Also, if you have credit card debt that you’re trying to pay off, it can be difficult to keep things under control with a high interest rate. Since many cards offer zero-percent introductory rates, switching to a card like at is a good idea if you qualify. Even while making the same monthly payment, you’ll be able to pay the debt off more quickly if you aren’t paying interest.

Streamlining Card Management

As you start to get more credit cards, you may find that your higher credit score means that you qualify for cards with higher limits. For example, if your first credit card had a limit of only $500 and the next two cards you get have limits of $3,000 and $5,000, it can seem silly to hang onto the card with the $500 limit. The limits on the other cards are high enough that they’ll cover you in case of emergencies, and you may simply want to cut back on the number of cards you have to check in on each month. By canceling that older card with the low limit, you have fewer cards to manage, which makes things easier for a lot of people.

Better Offers

Many people find that over the years, they simply start receiving much better offers on credit cards. If the current card has an interest rate of 25 percent and newer cards are offering rates of 10 percent, it just makes sense to choose the card with the lower interest rate. Even if you’re good about paying off the balance in full each month, emergencies can strike at any time. If you’re stuck making payments on a high balance, you want the interest rate to be as low as possible. However, you should carefully read the terms of any credit card before you accept the offer. Cards with low introductory rates sometimes have a high jump in rate once the introductory period ends. Sometimes, cards only waive an annual fee for the first year and you’re on the hook for it every year after that. If you’re not paying attention to what’s going on with your cards, you may end up paying a lot more than you thought you were.

Before You Go

Even though there are plenty of good reasons to switch credit cards, it’s still a good idea to think long and hard about the process before making a firm decision. After all, canceling an old card can negatively affect your credit for a while. Instead, think about the reasons why you’re looking elsewhere. Call up your current credit card company to see if they’re willing to match or beat the other offers. Once a credit card company hears that you’re thinking about leaving them, they’re often eager to drop the interest rate or increase the credit limit. Some might even waive the annual fee.

You should also remember that you can have more than one credit card. If the current card doesn’t have an annual fee, it doesn’t hurt you to hold onto the card and simply not use it. You can keep the old card and still apply for and use the other credit cards are your preferred method of payment. This allows you to reap the benefits of both your longer relationship with the old card and the better terms of the new card. Whether you’re opening a new credit card account or closing an old one, your choices often have a big impact on your credit score. Understanding the potential consequences of your actions is the key to making the right choice. For some people, sticking with an older card is the best move. Others have found that it’s time to make some changes. The choice is an individual one, and you’ll be able to make the best decision for you if you take the time to do your research.

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If you have credit card debt that’s been hanging over your head, you’re certainly not alone. A lot of people have credit card debt that they want to pay off as quickly as possible. Almost 50% of Americans have a credit card balance and the average amount of household debt is approximately $16,000. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are currently in their 20s or 30s will be outlived by their debt. It’s time to make a change – improve your finances and start living the life you’ve wanted. If you have credit card debt, take the following steps to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

1. The first thing you should do is pay off your high interest rate card. Any extra cash that you have at the end of the month should go straight to paying off this card. In the meantime, continue paying the minimum balance on your other cards. Every time you fully pay off a card, you’ll have extra cash at the end of the month. Then, you can put that extra money toward the next card you want to pay off. The reason you want to start getting rid of the high interest cards is so that you stop racking up debt as you’re trying to get it down.

2. Don’t use your credit cards for the time being. The quickest way to eliminate credit card debt is to stop collecting it! Pay in cash whenever you make a purchase – you’ll start to be more aware of how much you’re spending and you’ll naturally begin to spend less. Research shows that people are willing to pay up to two times the price of an item when they use a credit card instead of cash. Until you’re debt-free, vow to only pay with cash.

3. Still can’t put enough toward your cards every month? It’s time to re-think your budget. Take a good look at everything you spend. Are there any areas where you can cut back to save money? Maybe you can dine out less, make your coffee in the morning instead of stopping at Starbucks or use coupons when you go grocery shopping. Ultimately, you want to reduce your spending so you can contribute more to paying off your debt.

4. Don’t hesitate to call each credit card company and request a lower interest rate. When you have a lower rate, you’ll also have lower monthly payments and associated fees. Every time you make a payment, you’ll be paying off more of the principal. If you have a good credit score or if you’ve been offered a lower rate by a competing creditor, mention that to the credit card company – it may make them more willing to reduce your interest rate so that they keep you as a customer.

5. Make two minimum payments each month instead of one big payment. Whenever you make a payment, your average daily balance goes down, which means you’ll get lower interest charges. You’ll pay off your debt quickly and improve your credit score at the same time.

6. If you have a high interest rate credit card and the company won’t lower the rate, consider transferring the balance to a card with 0% interest for the first few months. Many card companies offer this type of deal as a promotion for new customers. This will give you more time to pay off the balance while focusing only on the principal. At the same time, you can start paying off your other high interest rate cards. Just be aware that some balance transfers charge a 3% fee for the service. Make sure you’ll still be saving on the interest after paying this fee.

7. Consider consolidating your debt. Depending on the size of your debt, this may be the best option. You can do this by borrowing from a bank, a peer-to-peer lender or a private lender. You’ll then use the loan to pay off all your credit card debt. Then, you’ll focus on paying back just the one large loan, which means one manageable payment per month. Just make sure you can make that one large payment every month. Loans come with interest rates as well, and you don’t want to get into more debt than you started with.

8. Don’t stop paying off your debt! After you’ve paid off a card or two, or once you’ve consolidated your debt into a loan, it’s tempting to start pocketing any extra money you get every month. Continue paying off your debt, though, whether that means contributing more to your credit cards or paying extra toward your loan. The only thing that will truly put more money in your pocket is having less debt to worry about. Once you’re finished paying off one credit card, you’ll have even more money to contribute to the others. If you continue to spend your extra cash, you’ll never get that debt paid off completely.

9. Whatever you do, don’t close all of your credit cards! Once your cards are paid off, keep them open. Your credit score is partly based on how much credit you use. When you close a card, that’s less credit that can work in your favor. Keep your card open and aim to carry 30% balance on it. Make sure to pay a majority of the balance off each month. Use the card to pay for necessities and only the items that you have the actual cash for.

Before you do any of the above, get yourself organized so you can realistically see your budget and what you owe. Make a spreadsheet that includes detailed information about your cards and balances. Be sure to include the interest rate for each card, too. You’ll need a true idea of your total amount of debt so that you can come up with a strategy for paying it off. You can’t tackle a problem unless you’re clear on exactly what that problem is.

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Early retirement requires deep consideration, otherwise it might not work out for you.

The dream of early retirement is one that many, many people have. The reality of early retirement can become a nightmare for those who are not prepared, as well as for those that go into it without giving it deep consideration.

Even for those sitting on a tidy sum in assets, it is possible that early retirement simply is not the right move. Here are a few points to consider.

The Traditional Retirement

First, it is important to understand how retirement is designed to work for most people. Once someone reaches retirement age, they have access to all of the funds that have been waiting for them over the years. That includes,

  • Social Security
  • 401(k)s
  • Other retirement funds
  • Pensions

When someone retires, they can start collecting many of these things. However, each of these sources of funds comes with caveats and rules that can upset someone who is seeking early retirement.

Social Security Doesn’t Favor Early Retirement

Generally, for someone to collect their full Social Security retirement benefits, they need to retire at the proper age. As of right now, the full benefit age for those born on or after 1960 is 67. In fact, those who retire even later than 67 can receive more than their full benefit amount.

When were you born?

Those born before 1960 can usually get away with full benefits at the age of 66. For any age before 66 down to around 62, Social Security funds are still available, but only at a permanent reduction. For the SSA “early retirement” is retiring at the age of 62. At that age it is possible to forfeit about 30% of Social Security benefits.

Since social security benefits go by work credits and formulas, it is still possible that someone who retires extravagantly can collect. Social Security benefit amounts are reduced by a percentage for each month before retirement age. Depending on when someone retires early, they can still collect, albeit a ridiculously reduced amount.

A 401(k) Withdrawal Will Come with Harsh Penalties

If an early retirement is predicated on a 401k withdrawal, then it is important to know what early withdrawal entails. In almost all cases, a withdrawal before the age of 59.5 will result in some or all of the following penalties.

  • Taxed federally
  • Taxed by state
  • 10% early withdrawal penalty

Altogether, those taxes and that penalty can equal about 35% to 45% of the full amount. So an early withdrawal can mean giving away nearly half of the funds. Depending on how the plan is managed, there may be some ways to bypass some of the penalty, but that is strictly on a case-by-case basis.

Retirement Plans of All Kinds Don’t Like Early Retirement

If someone would want to retire early, they would do well to go over the plan details of their retirement plan. Not all plans have the same rules, and some may actually cause less of a hassle than others.

For example, it is easier to take withdrawals from a Roth IRA than it is from a 401k. Regular IRAs, like 401(k)s, do not like for anyone to try to take a withdrawal before they reach 59.5 years of age.

However, IRAs offer the ability to annuitize payments for those that would withdraw early. There are many retirement plans out there, so it is important for the early retiree to fully research theirs before they attempt to retire.

Early Retirement Relinquishes Many Future Funds

When someone retires early, they stop contributing to all of the previously mentioned options. There are no more 401k contributions, which means no more company matching as well. There is no more interest accruing on many of the retirement investment accounts. There is no more rate of return, or if there is, it is drastically reduced.

These are important considerations when thinking about early retirement. If someone retires today, they are literally giving up future money, and lots of it.

Retirement Plans Do Not Always Match the Reality of Available Funds

Many people want to retire in either extreme luxury or extreme relaxation. Ideally, they want both. But the goal for most is to live comfortably. But in order to live comfortably for several decades, a lot of money is a requirement.

Regular funds are great for paying for a home to live in, and food to eat. Unfortunately, regular payments cannot always take care of medical costs and many other needs that arise. What many early retirees fail to realize is that retirement requires considerations that go far into the future.

That is one of the reasons why waiting until actual retirement works better for some. When some starts an early retirement flushed with cash, they must watch as that cash slowly dwindles over the years. It is highly possible to hit bottom with a good several decades of life still left to go.

Make a plan that includes the future.

None of this means that early retirement is a poor choice. It just means that it requires a depth of planning that goes beyond what many people ever consider. It is still possible to break it down into steps.

  • Determine the proper age to retire
  • Consider how many years the retirement plan must account for
  • Estimate the yearly expenses for the extent of that plan
  • Document current assets, match them against the expenses for the plan
  • Develop a budget
  • Make changes to portfolios to line up with goals
  • Decide when to take distributions and apply for Social Security
  • Allocate resources to healthcare and long-term care

There are numerous tools out there to help someone figure out the numbers. These steps are the same no matter what age someone chooses to retire.

Early retirement can definitely turn into a financial risk. But for those that take the time to make sure their finances are ready for the long haul, that risk becomes greatly reduced.

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Over 100 million people live in rental properties in the United States. This includes properties like homes, condominiums, and apartments. Therefore, chances are high that you pay monthly rent rather than a mortgage. Rent rates vary from city to city, and even different areas within a single city can feature staggering differences. Certain areas in the country even feature rental rates that match mortgage rates.

It’s a simple fact that millions of people struggle to pay their rent each month. Plenty of people pay late on a regular basis. Otherwise, a late payment or two per year is quite common. An increase in rent or an unexpected expense can make paying the rent a challenging task. You’ve undoubtedly experienced such situations from time to time. We can’t control everything in our lives related to money after all.

Here’s a simple question: can you afford your rent? Nothing is worse than a monthly rent that eats up most of your income. American consumers deal with that exact situation on a regular basis, though. Without a doubt, you should take stock of your current financial situation and figure out how much you rent impacts your financial livelihood. The results could prove shocking to say the least.

To figure out the answer to this question, let’s start crunching the numbers!

Step 1: Create A Basic Budget

First, you should figure out how much you spend on housing, fuel, and groceries. Most households spend 60% of their income on these three expenses. Overreaching beyond this threshold can wreak havoc on your finances. Your budget should include how much money you earn from all income sources in a typical year. To paint an accurate picture, you should include things like employment income, investment income, and bonuses.

Annual income helps you determine how much you can spend on expenses like rent.

You should consider creating a more detailed budget now, or sometime in the near future. When you map out all of your expenses, then you acquire a better picture of your financial situation. With that information, you can make a lot of positive changes to increase your savings and decrease your expenditures. Only a basic budget is necessary to figure out your ability to pay the rent each month.

Step 2: Run Your Income and Rent Against Common Guidelines or Formulas

30% Income Rule

Most people know about the 30% Income Rule in which rent shouldn’t comprise more than 30% of your annual pay. In reality, a large number of people spend way more than 30% of their income on monthly rent. This guideline is still solid advice because it helps you reign in your expenses. The less money you spend on rent, the more you can put into savings or other expenses. You can still live comfortably passed this threshold.

In the United States, it’s not uncommon to see people paying 70-80% of their income in monthly rent. That’s not a desirable position to exist in, but some individuals and families can make it work. The takeaway here is that rent should take up the lowest amount of your annual income possible. By keeping rent low percentage-wise, you’re more likely to live a comfortable life with some financial stability.

40X Rent: Can You Manage It?

Many property management companies use a formula to determine if you can afford rent. Typically, landlords use a “40 Times The Rent” methodology to make this determination. Your annual income divided by 40 dictates what you can easily afford per month in rent. Annual earnings of $40,000 results in yourself being approved for $1,000 per month in rent. Such formulas help landlords approve financially stable tenants.

If you meet these requirements, then you can indeed afford your rent as far as many landlords are concerned. Other landlords use a variety of separate formulas to make that determination, though. Many property owners want you to earn 2.5 times more than the rent on a monthly basis. Sometimes, the entire decision is based upon your creditworthiness more so than anything else. Every landlord is slightly different.


You might consider using the 50/30/20 rule instead. This means that you should dedicate 50% of your income to fixed expenses. From there, 30% of your income goes into day-to-day expenses, and 20% falls into the financial goals category. A 50/30/20 spending formula ensures that you’re taking care of necessary expenses with some wiggle room for unexpected events. It even ensures that you take care of savings, too.

For obvious reasons, the 50/30/20 rule is more of a guideline because you can make modifications. Perhaps you want to spend 40% on fixed expenses, 20% on day-to-day expenses, and then put the remaining 40% into savings. Most people can’t manage that particular proportion. Still, all that matters is that your expenses are covered and that you’re putting money away for financial emergencies and future expenses.

Another Factor To Consider

In the end, you need to take a step back and consider your situation. Do you feel comfortable paying your current rent rate? Are you happy with the money you’re able to put into savings? There are countless ways to determine if you can pay your rent. Most people are satisfied with paying the rent and getting on with their lives. For that reason, how you feel about the situation does make a difference in many ways.

Using tangible formulas and calculations to answer that question comes with certain benefits, though. You can crunch the numbers and easily determine whether you can pay the rent or not, especially in the eyes of your landlord. With these numbers, you have real evidence that your money is going where it should based on your income. Such numbers allow you to see if adjustments are possible to lower expenses.

Either way, you can probably pay your rent in full on most months. Everyone experiences financial uncertainty throughout their lives. A late payment or two won’t become the end of the world. To avoid such situations, you should check out your financial and rent situation. Determine if adjustments can result in lowered rent or higher savings each month. A few changes could help you live more comfortably.

Rent shouldn’t be 70% or more of your income. Sadly, thousands upon thousands of people experience high expenses like that. A simple budget and assessment of your finances can make an incredible difference. Many people look at that picture and realize that they can improve their financial situation. Getting that rent rate closer to 30% isn’t necessary, but it can’t do any harm either.

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Coupons boast big savings, and it is difficult to pass up a good bargain. Coupons have been a staple of American consumerism for decades, and there are even television shows covering “extreme couponing” with buyers obsessed with savings. But are coupons actually tricking you into buying and spending more? Here are some ways coupons may actually be a trap rather than a bargain, and tips on how to avoid them.

Buying What You Don’t Need

The most common way that coupons can cost you money is by encouraging you to buy things that you otherwise would not have. Perhaps this can lead to trying new things, but more often it leads to stockpiling. Rather than actually getting a good bargain, you may be cluttering your home with unwanted and unused items. This is a particular problem with food items, as food expires and you may literally be throwing money away. When using a coupon, it’s smart to always ask yourself if you would have purchased that item without the coupon. If not, skip the savings and spend that money on something useful.

“Buy One Get One”

One of the most common types of coupons are the “Buy One Get One” deals, often referred to as BOGO’s. But buyer beware: unless the coupon is “Buy One Get One Free” the consumer is rarely getting a good bargain. “Buy One Get One 50% Off” is the equivalent of getting 25% off on two items, which may seem like a good deal. However, single coupons often award more than 25%, and the BOGO may simply be trapping the buyer into purchasing more. When using a BOGO, you should ask yourself if you really need two of the item, or if you will actually use it.

“Minimum Order” Coupons

Another type of coupon that often tricks buyers into purchasing more is the “Minimum Order” Coupon. These are coupons, on or offline, that offer a percentage-off for a minimum order such as “20% off with a minimum purchase of $99 or more”. This is an attempt by retailers to get the buyer to purchase more than they would have otherwise. Although the coupon does provide savings on the overall order, it often leads buyers to spend more than they would have otherwise. A good trick when using one of these coupons is to ask yourself if you would have spent the minimum required for the coupon anyway. Then you can reap the savings, but otherwise you can get caught in the trap of buying items you don’t want or need.

Online “Coupons” That Aren’t Actually Coupons

One of the most common ways in which buyers end up spending more is through online “coupons” that don’t actually give a lower price. Online buyers love a good deal, and there are hundreds of websites that provide coupon codes to various retailers. However, many online stores provide 20-25% coupons only after raising their prices, leaving the buyer with the same or a higher price for the full-price item a couple of weeks before. Many popular clothing retailers use this method often. Avoid this by comparing the prices of the items to other similar retailers and decide if the coupon is actually providing a good deal.

Free Shipping with Minimum Purchase

With the convenience of online shopping comes the extra cost of shipping, and buyers jump at the chance for free shipping to save a few extra dollars. However, often free shipping comes with a “minumum purchase”, and you may find yourself $10 or $20 dollars short of the minimum. This coupon comes with a catch; often it leads buyers to buy more, and end up with a larger total than they had before. To avoid this trap, first ask yourself if you really want or need the extra items, and if the items are worth the extra purchase. It’s also a good idea to bring up Google and search for “Free Shipping [Insert Retailer Here]” and see what comes up. Oftentimes, coupon websites provide a ton of coupon codes that may give free shipping without the extra purchase. Finally, it’s always a good move to contact the retailer customer service directly, as they may have a few coupon codes set aside that they can give.

Coupons You Buy

Popular websites like Groupon boast big savings, but often with an expiration date. Often buyers will purchase the coupon and then forget about it, or decide it’s not for them, giving money to the retailer with nothing in return. When purchasing a coupon, ask yourself: will I actually use this in 30-days? Do I actually want to take this cooking class, or will I decide later that I don’t have the time? Always check for expiration dates on coupons before buying, and only purchase if you know you’ll use it long before the expiration date.

Extra/Lengthy Trips

Fortunately using online coupons avoids this problem, but oftentimes in-store coupons specific to certain stores can lead buyers to make extra or lengthy trips. The coupon savings may be tempting, but the extra gas and wear and tear on your car may not be worth using it. When using a store-specific coupon, be sure to compare to prices to nearby stores, and decide whether or not the extra mileage is truly worth the savings.

These are the primary ways in which buyers can find themselves losing money rather than saving money from coupons. Following these tips will help you use coupons the smart way, and to both avoid stockpiling and to become an overall smarter consumer.

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Identity theft stands as one of the most common offenses in the United States, affecting over a million new people every month, and there are several factors that make it so widespread. To start with, it’s quite simple to commit. Criminals can generate a handsome profit with hardly any effort, and there’s often not much probability of them getting caught.

A primary reason it’s so difficult for individuals to guard themselves against identity theft is due to there being several kinds of identity theft that may occur in a wide variety of ways. Methods for identity protection may help decrease the threat, but a few forms of identity theft just can’t be averted at all.

Listed below are a few of the more prevalent kinds of identity theft, ways to reduce the likelihood that it will happen, and what should be done if it does happen.

Existing Account Fraud

This is probably the most frequent type of identity theft. Rather than stealing or duplicating someone’s identity and pretending to be them, thieves just get hold of a debit or credit card number and start racking up purchases. According to Identity Theft Resource, credit card scams increased in 2014, comprising one-fifth of all identity thefts.

How can it be prevented? The best strategy for anyone hoping to avoid this kind of identity theft is to just be cautious of where they use their credit card, and to use a credit card rather than a debit card.

How can it be spotted? The best and possibly way only way is for people to carefully and frequently scrutinize their bank account statements. This means investigating even small charges that seem unfamiliar, as it may be identity thieves checking the card to see if it’s valid.

New Account Fraud

This is a more dangerous form of identity theft since it often means the crooks have their victim’s Social Security number or other extremely vulnerable data. With adequate facts, thieves can convince creditors and banks that they are their victim, and may then start up credit cards with their name. Aside from credit cards, they can even sign up for mortgages, utility services, house rentals, car leases, and plenty of other kinds of credit. Even though new account scams appear to have dropped in 2014, the 2015 Javelin Strategy and Research Identity Fraud Study reveals that it usually takes much longer for new account fraud victims to realize that their identities are being stolen in contrast to other kinds of identity theft, like existing checking account fraud.

How can it be prevented? This can also be quite challenging to avoid, since a lot of businesses that might have data such as Social Security numbers don’t adequately protect it.

One definite method for consumers to prevent new account fraud is to freeze their credit reports. While this is fast, easy and usually cheap or free, it also means people cannot sign up for authentic credit in their own names. Another alternative is for people to constantly monitor their credit reports in order to spot early warnings that crooks are attempting to start new credit accounts with their names.

How can it be spotted? A credit monitoring company will notify consumers when somebody tries to start up an account in their names, and some lenders will also want verification that it is actually the consumer applying for credit. Sadly, many victims first discover it after it’s happened and appeared as an unpaid debt on their credit reports, or when a collection agency makes contact.

Tax Identity Theft

This still-expanding form of expensive identity theft occurs when criminals use a consumer’s data to file a bogus IRS tax return in order to obtain a sizable refund in place of the victim.

It’s very profitable for identity thieves, and the IRS reports that it loses billions of dollars annually to this kind of offense. Consequently, the IRS has been forced to employ a huge workforce to catch it, and has reported receiving calls from over a million tax identity theft victims in 2014.

How can it be prevented? People can file their taxes as soon as possible each year in order to outpace tax thieves. They may also apply for a special PIN from the IRS which must be used whenever they file a tax return. Without this PIN, thieves can’t file for a fraudulent refund.

How can it be spotted? The only true way to discover this sort of identity theft is to have a tax filing rejected after somebody has already submitted one under the same Social Security number.

Criminal Identity Theft

Criminal identity theft specifically involves an offender masking their own identity with that of someone, such as if somebody is arrested and provides another person’s identity or information. In this case, victims are tied into that person’s criminal history, which may cause them to be denied a driver’s license due to someone else’s DUI or even arrested as a result of another person’s crimes.

This variety of identity theft is often very tough to reverse. It may require a lengthy legal course of action in order to have the false offenses expunged from the record, and if the courts reviewing the case are in another state or country they may be reluctant or slow to take action.

If tangible proof like fingerprints or photos of the identity thief is unavailable, it may even be impossible to correct. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft using government documents and records accounted for more than 1 in every 3 cases of identity theft last year.

How can it be prevented? Just like detecting it, it’s nearly impossible to avoid. Victims usually won’t know how or when thieves steal their sensitive information until it’s already happened and resulted in much misery and heartache. This stands as one of the biggest issues of coping with identity theft, and in some instances there are no solutions. It can’t really be prevented, and all a victim can do is act in response to it and piece their life and identity back together.

How can it be spotted? Unfortunately, most victims only learn about this kind of theft once they’re denied a driver’s license, declined for a job due to an unfavorable criminal background check, or when they’re imprisoned owing to another person’s outstanding warrants.

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When a business owner applies for a credit card, he or she will have the option to apply for a consumer card or a business account. While there are many similarities between the two, there are also a few key differences. The credit card that is selected by the business owner will impact everything from convenience and usage abilities to financial record keeping, bonuses and perks and more. Each card has different features, costs, and benefits. However, when all options are carefully analyzed, the small business owner may discover that there are clear benefits associated with applying for a business card rather than a consumer card if the credit card will be used only for business purposes.

Benefit From Business-Related Perks

Some credit cards do not have perks, but most cards today do. The majority of the perks that a business owner can benefit from relates to points earned with each purchase. Bonuses points on credit cards generally can be redeemed for everything from cash to airline miles or gift cards from retailers. Consumer cards generally have a rewards system that is designed for consumers, so the business owner may see more gift cards for restaurants, movie theaters and consumer-based retailers, such as home and bath stores. Business owners, on the other hand, can find cash-back rewards as well as rewards for office supplies stores, technology stores and other similar venues that businesses may use regularly. Some also have airlines miles programs. Keep in mind that many credit cards have a limit on the number of points that can be earned, and this will limit the power of the rewards program for the account holder. When selecting a business card based on the reward program, it is important to read the fine print and to learn more about the requirements, rules and limitations for the business card’s rewards program.

Maintain Separate Financial Records for Business and Personal Expenses

One of the main reasons why small business owners apply for a separate business card relates to record keeping and accounting. It is possible to charge all business-related expenses onto a consumer card. A business owner may even open a separate consumer card that is used solely for this purpose. This is one way to keep the records for personal and business expenses separated. However, when a personal credit card is used, all of the debt will be linked to the account holder’s personal name. This means that when applying for a personal loan, such as a home mortgage or a car loan, the outstanding balance, payment history and minimum monthly payment will be listed as a personal expense. When the business owner is the primary account holder on a business card, he or she will be personally liable for the debt on the business card. However, it will not be reported on a personal credit report or listed as a personal debt.

Access to Financial Tools and Analytical Features

Most credit card accounts today give the business owner access to at least a few financial tools online. For example, the owner may be able to log into all types of accounts online, view payment and usage history and make a payment. Redeeming points online and monitoring rewards program usage online is also possible. However, this is typically where the financial tools associated with a consumer credit card end. Business credit cards may have advanced features like the ability to itemize expenses for the year, to categorize them for easier accounting management and to view images of receipts so that the account holder can see exactly what was purchased and by which employee. In addition, many of these accounts can be linked with accounting and financial management software programs, such as Quicken or others. This can save a considerable amount of time and energy with financial record keeping efforts and can make it easier to manage funds. When there are different authorized users on the account, the account holder can also log in to simplify the management of the authorized users.

Enjoy Better Control Over Authorized Users

With both consumer and business credit cards, the account holder can typically add an authorized user to the account. Because consumer cards are designed to be used by individuals, the number of authorized users may be limited to one or two individuals in most cases. This is because an individual may need to authorize a spouse or perhaps a teenager or adult child to have access to the card. In a business setting, the number of authorized users may need to be higher. Most business card accounts enable the account holder to have many more authorized uses. Bear in mind that there typically still is a limit on the number of authorized users, so compare the limitations of different cards up-front before deciding which business card to apply for. In addition to having access to more authorized users on the account, most business cards provide improved control over those users’ usage. For example, the business owner may log into the account online to monitor spending on each individual account in real-time. It may also be possible to establish individual spending limits and even to turn access to the account on and off as desired. These are powerful and convenient functions that many business owners who will have authorized users on the account may prefer to have.

Access to Better Sign-Up Bonuses

Many credit cards for both business and consumer use have a sign-up bonus. For example, it is common to see a sign-up bonus for a consumer credit card that offers free balances transfers or a low introductory rate on new purchases for a period of time. The sign-up bonuses for a business card may be more lucrative in many cases, and they may also be more advantageous from a business standpoint. For example, some business card accounts will give new account holders tens of thousands of rewards points that can be redeemed immediately. Others offer special perks or incentives for a period of time, such as complimentary access to a VIP lounge in different airports around the world or discounts on air travel and rental cars. These can save businesses a small fortune, and they generally may be far more advantageous for a small business owner to use rather than the moderate perks and bonuses associated with a consumer card.

Each business owner many have unique needs and goals when opening a credit card account for the business. While applying for a personal credit card that is used solely for business expenses is one option, it is generally not the best option for most small business owners. Each of these benefits can be truly advantageous to a small business owner in different ways. With this in mind, many small business owners who are shopping for a credit card today may consider comparing the different types of business cards available.

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One of the most important elements of keeping up with your finances is self-awareness. The ability to evaluate your progress and make money adjustments if necessary is crucial if you want to keep yourself on track and stable. There’s a lot of ways for you to adjust your plans after you make them, so you have to get into the mindset of thinking of your financial planning as a constant activity, not a one-off planning session you do once a year. In this post, we will list some of our favorite tips for making changes to your financial plans after you make them in ways that will benefit you or let you adapt to circumstances in a more flexible way.

Re-Evaluate Your Budget Every Month

If you did your planning at the beginning of the year, then you are doing everything correctly- it’s a great idea to set goals in advance for the medium term, and the beginning of the year is a good time to do that. However, it’s also important to make sure that you go back and revisit your plans frequently. Each month, don’t just do your monthly budget- check on how you are doing for your yearly goals each month as well. That lets you see if you need to make an adjustment to, for example, how much money you save per month or what you can expect to spend on Christmas gifts. Don’t get sucked into the trap of only thinking a month ahead- stay on top of the longer-term considerations as well.

Check Your Expense Categories Often

Being on top of your finances is more than just making note of how close you are to your goals. You should also carefully track your expenses and see where your money goes. It’s highly valuable for you to understand which expense categories cost you the most money. Conduct a little audit to see how you spend your money on, say, a monthly basis. If the results surprise you, that could indicate you are prone to impulse buys in a certain category like meals out or clothing, or that you need to rethink the number of movie rentals you make. Then, armed with that information, you can try to reduce your spending on your biggest expense categories and free up more money for saving.

Buy Gifts Months In Advance

One of the biggest predictable expenses for most people is Christmas presents. Big sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday encourage you to delay thinking about buying presents until late November, but it is actually a good idea to start early in the year. If you put the time in to build a list of presents early on, then you can enjoy summer sales and early fall sales, which are often just as big, if not bigger than the traditional big sale days in late fall or early winter. Plus, depending on what presents you choose, the gifts might be on bigger discounts because they are out of season. Prices on winter gear are lower in the summer because few people think to buy winter items then, and you can take advantage of that. If you buy early, you can save a lot on presents and save that money, or put it towards holiday travel expenses.

Maintain An Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund is not just a static savings account that you fill up once and forget. First of all, keep in mind that your emergency fund should have enough money to cover six months of expenses. As your spending evolves, that amount will change as well- keep a running total of the past six months of expenses for you so you have an up-to-date figure for how much you need to have banked. Furthermore, keep in mind that your emergency fund is not for typical purchases. If you find yourself dipping into the fund frequently, then reevaluate how you spend money each month. It’s for emergencies only, so at the end of every month transfer money to make sure it is topped off and check the account activity to ensure that you did not spend it on anything that was not an emergency.

Check Your Credit Score

You are entitled to three free credit reports each year- one from Experian, one from TransUnion, and one from Equifax. There is an official US government website to let you access these reports. In addition, some credit cards include free credit score reports as a perk. You don’t need to use all of these sources at once, but you should have a good idea of the condition of your credit at all times. It’s up to you to decide if you need an update. If you haven’t missed any payments, paid off a big debt, or applied for a new card or loan in the past few months, then your score should not have changed much. On the other hand, if you have done any of those things or you haven’t seen a credit report in a year, then you should probably get one. It will tell you your credit score and whether you have any important problems with your credit like delinquent accounts. This is also a good way to check for identity theft- if you see credit cards or loans on your report that you don’t remember taking out, you might be the victim of fraud or identity theft.

Do A Progress Check

Finally, once you set out your annual goals, take an hour or so every quarter to see how you are doing. Check to see if you are on pace to save the amount you anticipated, whether that be for retirement, a down payment, a vacation, or anything else. Evaluate the obstacles to your goals. If they are one-off expenses or emergencies, then you might just have had some bad luck. On the other hand, if you have systematically failed to meet your benchmarks simply by spending too much, then you have a problem that you can address. Sit down and think about ways to trim spending so that you can reach your financial goals.

If you follow these tips, you will be able to step back and evaluate your goals in the short, medium, and long term and know how to adjust your spending and saving to meet them. This is a valuable skill that gives you the flexibility to change your habits for your financial well being.

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