When And How Young Newly Weds Should Start Managing Their Personal …

by Shelton on November 30th, 2014

filed under Finances

Personal Finances: Individual vs Couples

According to Frank Jaffe, a certified financial planner with Access Wealth Planning in Roseland, NJ, this is not uncommon.  “Unlike with their parents who typically were married before they had much of a chance to live independently and so there wasn’t usually any issue, couples today often live independently, and often successfully, for years.  Then they get married and start families in their late 30s or even older and suddenly wonder, ‘now what?’ when it comes to managing their personal finances.  We work with couples to help them make decisions and put a system in place when it comes to managing their assets and liabilities, paying their bills, and figuring out ways to handle their finances moving forward.”

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score This Month

by Shelton on November 30th, 2014

filed under Credit Scores

Photo:
Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers

.

Do your credit scores need a boost? These numbers can affect
everything from the apartment you qualify for to how much
interest you pay on debt. Therefore, the sooner you get your
scores up, the sooner you can take advantage of the benefits.

Contrary to popular belief, you can improve your credit scores
rather quickly — just dont expect it to happen overnight.

Seeing any improvement could take 30 to 60 days, according
to Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of Your
Credit Score, Your Money, amp; Whats at Stake.

If you are ready to get your credit scores in tip-top shape,
you need to do a little homework first.

Get a copy of your free credit report from
annualcreditreport.com and
check your
credit scores

regularly. Under federal law youre entitled to one free copy
from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and
TransUnion, which each have their own score to measure you by. In
most cases, credit scores must be obtained separately at a
cost.

Once you have your reports, check for any errors. A 2013
Federal Trade Commission study found that one in four consumers
had errors on their credit reports. Credit report errors, like
misreported credit limits or late payments, can have a
significant impact on your credit scores. If you notice any
errors, FICO has a
guide

on how to get them corrected.

Finally, your credit scores will include score factors for
each report. The score factors identify the issues affecting your
score, which can greatly help in turning things around.

Now that you are armed with your credit information, you can
get to work. Here are seven easy ways to give your credit scores
a quick boost.

Related:
Why FICO Isnt the Only Credit Score You Should
Care About

1. Pay any overdue bills.

Tackle the oldest bills first. Accounts that are over 90 days
late have a bigger negative impact on your scores than those that
are 30 or 60 days overdue. Once you pay off the oldest bills,
start paying off the rest of your past-due accounts.

2. Pay down as much debt as possible.

The best way to improve your credit scores is to keep your
debt-to-credit ratio as low as possible. Many experts recommend
using less than 30% of your available credit, but less is even
better.

While zero credit debt should be your ultimate goal, the
lower the balances the better for your credit scores, said John
Ulzheimer, credit expert at

CreditSesame.com

. The people who have the highest scores in the country have an
average debt-to-limit ratio of 7%.

Once your balance is low, keep it that way.

3. Make your payments before the billing cycle
ends.

Some card issuers report the last number on your statement as the
amount owed. When this happens, even if you are paying your
balance in full each month, the balance on your last bill is the
one that gets factored into your credit scores.

Making multiple payments in one billing cycle or one large
payment just before your billing cycle ends will lower your
balance before the credit card company has a chance to report it
to the credit bureaus.

4. Become an authorized user.

Ask a primary cardholder, like a family member or loved one, if
you can get an authorized card in your name on their credit
account. You will immediately get the benefit of the account in
your credit scores once it has been added to your credit reports,
which normally takes no more than 30 to 60 days, Ulzheimer
said.

While the authorized-user strategy is a great way to add
payment history to your credit reports, you should only engage in
this tactic with someone you deeply trust. Once you are both
authorized users on an account, you both can affect the credit of
the other person — for better or for worse.

Bad Credit? Getting Married Can Fix That

5. Get your limits raised.

This is a quick, easy way to lower your credit utilization ratio,
which accounts for about 30% of your credit scores. In many
cases, you can accomplish this with a simple call to your card
issuers.

Raising your limits is risky if you have a history of poor
credit card use, so only do this if you are certain you wont
just turn around and increase your credit card spending once your
limit is larger.

6. Pay your bills on time.

The simplest way to improve and maintain your credit scores is to
just pay your bills on time. Your payment history accounts for
the largest percentage of your credit scores (35%), so the more
bills you pay on time the higher your scores will be.

7 Credit Myths You Thought Could Hurt Your
Score but Dont

7. Lie low.

Dont make any big purchases, shop around for credit, take out
cash advances, or miss any payments while you are trying to raise
your scores. That kind of behavior is a red flag for creditors,
as theyre considered signs of financial stress.

This article originally appeared at
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The article
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score This Month

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Which monthly bills affect your credit score?

by Shelton on November 29th, 2014

filed under Credit Scores

Heres the truth about your credit score: There are more things that can hurt it than help it, and theres some confusion about how that works.

A recent survey from TransUnion asked consumers about a few common bills and whether or not theyre regularly reported to the major credit reporting agencies. Generally, things like rent payments and utility bills arent reported to credit bureaus, so you dont get good credit for making those payments on time. However, if one of those bills is overdue, it might end up hurting your credit, if the company you owe sends the bill to a debt collector.

If you thought paying your rent or electric bills on time helped your credit standing, youre not alone: 48% of those who responded to TransUnion Interactives online survey said they thought rent payments were regularly reported to credit bureaus. Even more confusion surrounded other bills: 53% thought cable and internet payments are regularly reported, 54% thought their utility payments are reported, and 52% thought credit bureaus had record of their cellphone payments. Thats not the case.

At the same time, if you fail to pay those bills, your credit score may be in jeopardy. Collection accounts have a negative impact on your credit standing, and even after you pay the debt, your credit will continue to suffer. The damage will be short-lived if the collection account is an outlier on your credit report, but multiple debts in collection will really hurt your score, and making on-time cellphone bill payments wont directly improve your credit standing. Unfortunately, you dont benefit from doing the right thing, but if you screw up, youre in trouble.

The TransUnion data is based on a survey of 1,001 US consumers ages 18 through 64 who rent their current living unit. Even though the respondents are exclusively renters, its surprising that only 29% knew mortgage payments are regularly reported to credit bureaus and, as a result, have a significant impact on credit scores.

Paying rent on time may not be your path to a high credit score (though its a data point the credit scoring industry is looking at as a potential risk indicator), but its still an important priority, so you avoid late fees and dealing with debt collectors. If youre looking to improve your credit, there are plenty of strategies to consider, and its a good idea to track your progress by getting two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

Whats the easiest way to improve your credit score?
How to get your free annual credit reports
Why do I have so many credit scores?

Credit.com is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

Your Credit Score Reveals Way More Than You Realize

by Shelton on November 29th, 2014

filed under Credit Scores

Never mind the blood pressure test: A new study finds that you can tell how healthy someones heart is just by looking at their credit score.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds a correlation between high credit, cognitive ability and self-control. Researchers studied health and financial data from more than 1,000 people who had been monitored since birth for nearly 40 years. They discovered that your credit does a lot more than tell a bank whether or not it should give you a loan.

Employers, insurers and even landlords regularly pull the applicants credit already, treating it as a proxy for a vague sort of approximation of your diligence, honesty and character. Consumer groups have raised questions about the use of credit as a way to assess things like peoples ethics, arguing that the two arent necessarily related.

Credit reports were not designed as an employment screening tool, says nonprofit group Demos. Employment credit checks are an illegitimate barrier to employment, often for the very job applicants who need work the most. In a survey of job-seekers, Demos found that one in seven people with blemished credit said that theyd been denied a job as a result.

But scientists insist the link is real and they have the proof to back it up. What it comes down to is that people who dont take care of their money dont take care of their health, study leader Terrie Moffitt says in a statement.

At least some of the factors that influence both health and credit have deep psychological roots. Moffitts team found about 20% of the correlation between credit scores and cardiovascular health can be attributed to attitudes and behaviors that are either innate or ingrained very early the attributes in question were all observed before the participants were 10 years old.

On one hand, it makes sense that someone who exercises poor impulse control when it comes to their diet or fitness regimen might be similarly lackadaisical about their finances, but this doesnt mean that hard-wired personality traits doom you to poor health and poor credit. Social scientists say they hope the knowledge can lay the groundwork for people to make positive changes in their lives.

It provides hope that early life intervention can impede the development of life-long patterns of illness and financial struggle, says Lamar Pierce, an associate professor of organization and strategy at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study.

York City finances influence economic development director’s departure

by Shelton on November 28th, 2014

filed under Finances

Citing a fiscal crisis, York Citys economic development director expressed concern about the future of the department in the resignation letter he submitted just five months after taking the job.

Leonardo McClarty submitted the letter Monday. In it, McClarty said he has accepted a job offer.

The York Dispatch obtained the document through a Right to Know request.

The letter adds a bit more context to Mayor Kim Braceys announcement of McClartys departure Monday.

And, it turns out, McClartys concerns may not be far off.

Budget: A potentially contentious budget season is underway in York City, where several officials have already committed to a 2015 budget that does not hike property taxes.

To balance the budget without a tax increase could require significant spending cuts.

Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, Councilman David Satterlee said Wednesday.

The fiscal crisis extends to every part of the citys budget, Council President Carol Hill-Evans said.

There is no doubt that certain functions that the city government is now funding may not have stable funding in the future in the very near future, Councilman Michael Helfrich said.

That includes economic development, he said.

Councilwoman Renee Nelson said she found it telling that (McClarty) brought it up.

Councilman Henry Nixon said he is concerned about the future of the entire city, not just the economic development department.

Hempstead and Brookhaven improve finances despite recession, Moody’s reports

by Shelton on November 27th, 2014

filed under Finances

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine is shown on Oct. 25, 2014. Brookhaven is one of two Long Island townships on Moodys list of 34 US municipalities to flourish despite the economic downturn from the 2008 recession. (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

Long Islands two largest towns have made a New York bond ratings agencys list of 34 US municipalities that have flourished despite the economic downturn spawned by the 2008 recession.

Brookhaven and Hempstead are the only townships on the list released Thursday in a 12-page report by Moodys Investors Service.

Moodys said it looked at 50 of the nations largest municipalities by…

council’s finances return to spotlight

by Shelton on November 26th, 2014

filed under Finances

DEBATE on the financial future of Cessnock City Council looks set to resume this week, after the council reported an end-of-year operating profit of $3.8million.

The council’s newly published annual report for the 2013-14 financial year – which mayor Bob Pynsent said on Sunday that he had yet to see – shows a bottom line bolstered by state government grants and contributions of about $8.3million plus a revenue increase of 5per cent compared with 2013.

Those funds paper over what would have otherwise been a $4.5million overall operating deficit. The results will again place focus on the council’s ”financial sustainability initiative”, adopted earlier this year as part of a continuing cost savings effort to shore up its financial future.

The plan – adopted in July – includes a review of services, fees and charges, property, assets and developer contributions.

In the past, the plan has prompted talks that the council may eventually seek approval for a rate rise from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

Council rates in Cessnock rose 9.55per cent this financial year, which made permanent a 6.05per cent increase that occurred previously, along with an additional rise of 3.5per cent.

An update to the NSW Treasury Corporation report on local government finances in September rated Cessnock’s finances as ”weak, very weak or distressed”.

State-named panel to run Detroit finances for 13 years

by Shelton on November 26th, 2014

filed under Finances

DETROIT – A nine-member, state-named panel, with no unionists among its initial appointees, will run Detroits finances for the next 13 years, a court-approved bankruptcy exit plan says. That includes the power to accept or reject the citys union contracts, the plan adds.

The plan approved by Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes in early November will cut the citys debt by billions of dollars. City workforce retirees will see their pensions slashed, while other creditors will also take a cut.

The plan drew no immediate reaction from Detroits union leaders, but the lead attorney for the retirees committee, Carol Neville, said fees to bankruptcy specialists are $144 million and counting. She said the committee has not agreed to pay further fees after the city exits from bankruptcy, which is expected before the end of the year.

Detroits bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, was preceded by sharp cuts in the citys workforce, and a state takeover, through a fiscal czar, of all its finances. Before that, the state appointed another czar — both named under a GOP-enacted failing governments law — to take over the city schools. That czar promptly fired all 10,000 unionized teachers, most of them minority-group members, rehiring those he chose.

The city financial czar, Kevyn Orr, will give way to the 9-person oversight panel, which includes current city chief financial officer John Hill, plus Detroits mayor and city council chair.

While union leaders declined to publicly comment on the bankruptcy plan, attorney Jerry Goldberg, who had led the Moratorium Now! movement in the Motor City and who opposed the plan as a bailout for banks, said retirees would suffer 78 percent of the cuts. His article in an alternative publication also predicted more public workers would lose their jobs to privatization.

Detroits unsecured debt is reduced from $9.61 billion to $2.51 billion. Of that $7.1 billion reduction, $3.85 billion comes from eliminating retiree health benefits and $1.7 billion comes from cuts in pension payments. Thus, a total of $5.5 billion, or 78 percent, of the bankruptcy debt relief comes off the backs of the citys retirees, Goldberg explained.

Instead of being enrolled in health insurance plans where the retirees paid 20 percent of the premium and the city paid the rest, most retirees are now receiving a $125 stipend toward purchasing their own plans on the federal health insurance marketplace. Uniformed retirees get a somewhat higher stipend.

Non-uniformed retirees also got a 4.5 percent reduction in their base benefits, elimination of cost of living amounting to an estimated additional 22 percent cut in benefits over time, and, for many retirees, a clawback of annuity payments they received from 2003 to 2013, amounting to as much as a further 15.5 percent benefit reduction.

Although accrued pension benefits are guaranteed under the Michigan constitution, Judge Rhodes refused to recognize this constitutional guarantee, Goldberg said. Faced with even deeper pension cuts, Goldberg said both AFSCME and the retirees committee abandoned the constitutional challenge and urged acceptance of the cuts, the retirees, in a divided vote, accepted the cutbacks.

Fire and police retirees earlier agreed to a separate arrangement – a Voluntary Employee Benefits Association with union retirees on its board – to manage their health care plan. And the unionized police reached a contract with the city in August calling for a 15.5 percent wage increase over five years.

Photo: Back in July members of the Peoples Water Board Coalition in Detroit protested against water shutoffs in the city. Todd McInturf/AP amp; Detroit News

Archdiocese auditing Moore’s finances in wake of resignation of ex-athletic …

by Shelton on November 25th, 2014

filed under Finances

STATEN ISLAND, NY — A day after announcingthe resignation of former athletic director Richard Postiglione, school officials on Fridayremained tight-lippedabout the move, as did the Archdiocese of New York.

The archdiocese, as well as the schools board of directors, referred all requests for comment to principal Robert Manisero. Fran Davies, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Manisero was not available Friday. Moore — along with Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese — was closed Friday as eighth-graders sat for the TACHS (Test for Admission to Catholic High School) exam.

Meanwhile sources close to the situation told the Advance Friday that the archdiocese is conducting an audit of the schools finances in the wake of Postigliones resignation.

In addition to his official position as athletic director of the Graniteville school, Postiglione had functioned behind the scenes as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the school.

During his tenure, Postiglione was widely credited in sport circles for rebuilding the schools athletic program, including its football program, which at one point had collapsed due to low enrollment and other problems.

Postiglione resigned from Moore in the wake of statutory rape charges againstMegan Mahoney, a coach under his supervision. He had also been accused of inappropriate behavior with a former female staffer.

Postiglione was athletic director during the time period when Ms. Mahoney stands accused of having an affair with a then 16-year-old student at the school. Ms. Mahoney resigned in January from the school where she had served as a gym teacher and assistant basketball coach.

Parents were informed of his resignationin an e-mail blast late Thursday afternoon. Students were released early on Thursday for parent-teacher conferences. The same statement was released to the Advance.

Richard Postiglione has tendered his resignation from Moore Catholic High School, Manisero said in the statement. We thank him for his many years of service to the school, and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Postiglione, 57, who is married and also was accused of inappropriate behavior with a former staffer, stepped down in October. Sabrina Panfilo, the former development director at Moore, filed a complaint with the state, alleging Postiglione created a hostile work environment claiming he touched her buttocks and insisted she sit on his lap. Sources said the case was settled out of court, in Ms. Panfilos favor, although details of the settlement were supposedly sealed as part of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Manisero, in a letter to the Advance regarding a separate story, boasted of Moores most recent achievements, including new computer labs and iPads, college-level courses, and an expanded performing arts program offering acting, band, dance and vocal courses. He said enrollment at Moore has increased from 400 to 450 students this year. The school celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

Protecting the Finances of Military Families

by Shelton on November 25th, 2014

filed under Finances

Being a soldier is hard, no question. Managing a military familys finances is no picnic either. But just in time for Veterans Day, efforts are underway to expand financial protections for service members.

The Military Lending Act, which took effect in 2007, places some limits on small-dollar, short-term lending practices, but lenders have found many ways around the law. The Defense Department has proposed beefing up the act, known as the MLA, so that it applies to all forms of payday loans, vehicle title loans, refund anticipation loans, deposit advance loans, installment loans, unsecured open-end lines of credit, and credit cards, the announcement said.

Related: 5 Ways Service Members Feel Outgunned Financially

The signs of stress on military families are abundant. Many service members are anxious about the possible effects of sequestration (or spending cuts) and defense downsizing, with 55 percent of military families worried about job security, compared with 6 percent of the general population, according to a survey released in September by First Command Financial Services.

Unemployment among military spouses is also well above the national average, with 30 percent joblessness among spouses aged 18 to 24, further stretching military families budgets. Partly thats because military families relocate much more than the average family. Holly Petraeus, former wife of retired Gen. David Petraeus, said in congressional testimony that their family moved 24 times in 37 years.

Members of the military are also preyed upon by fraudsters using their own military connections to establish trust. The Securities and Exchange Commission said last year it halted an alleged scheme created by a former Marine whom it accused of investing only a fraction of the money he received from would-be clients, spending the rest on fancy cars, a Hollywood mansion and more.

Not surprisingly, service members, particularly those who are younger or more junior, are more likely than the general population to take out high-cost, short-term loans and credit lines, especially since payday lenders, pawn shops, and used car dealers often line the streets outside military installations.

Related: Bad Credit Makes Everything Harder – How to Fix It

In a Defense Department survey, 41 percent of enlisted service members said they or their significant others had used small-dollar lending in the previous 12 months, including payday loans, loans from pawn shops, advances on bank deposits and cash advances on credit cards. Among all members of the military, 35 percent used those products, versus 30 percent of the general population, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Millennials in the military were more likely to go that route than their older counterparts.

Sometimes its easier for those service members as they taxi off post to run into the payday lender and find their financing that way. They just dont have the information to know whats available to them, said Jerry Quinn, manager of Wells Fargos Military Affairs Program and an Army reservist. The military does offer financial education at certain times, like when a unit mobilizes, he said, but at that point, soldiers have many other things on their minds. Worrying about their car payments might not be their top priority when they are counting rounds and making sure their protective vest is set up right, he said.

The Military Lending Act is supposed to protect members of the military from overly costly short-term loans. But as it stands now, that law only applies to three narrowly defined types of loans, like payday loans with terms of 91 days or less and for $2,000 or less.

That means a lender can offer a slightly longer or larger loan at a higher rate. Another way around the Lending Act limits is with things like deposit advances, where a bank offers a high-interest-rate advance on a paycheck that is coming in via direct deposit.

Related: 7 Ways to Make the Most of Your 401(k)

That corner of the credit market has in the past included some big names. Wells Fargo, Fifth Third, and US Bank offered credit like deposit advances to military members and other consumers until regulators late last year imposed certain limits on that type of lending and they exited the business.

A number of financial services industry associations believe the current proposal to expand the Military Lending Act takes the wrong approach, contending that the new regulations would place unduly heavy burdens on banks and credit unions. 

Its important that regulations protect military service members against predatory loans, as the Military Lending Act intended, said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president for consumer protections and payments at the American Bankers Association. Its equally important that they not cause all service members, their spouses and their dependents to lose access to valuable mainstream lending products.

But consumer groups like the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumer Law Center and Americans for Financial Reform all support the expansion.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an early proponent of the changes and herself an Iraq War veteran, is sending a letter signed by members of both parties to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arguing that the proposed rule provides the inclusive definition of consumer credit necessary to ensure that all service members are covered by the consumer protections envisioned by Congress in 2007 and will help preserve our forces readiness.

The public comment period on the proposal ends on Nov. 28, and the Department of Defense will issue the final rule after reviewing the comments. If Duckworth has her way, the weeks and months following this Veterans Day could bring members of the military a little more than ceremonies and wreaths.

This article originally appeared in CNBC.

Read more at CNBC:
Obama administration seeks more protection for military borrowers
Military preparedness meets its match: Finances
Military families hidden risk: finances