Financial Calendar for July

1-31 National Recreation and Parks Month. The month of July encourages recreation in the nation’s beautiful parks. It won’t cost much money to get a picnic lunch together and drive your family to the closest national park for a glorious day.

1 Midyear Financial Review. Since the year is halfway over, take a look at your financial situation so far this year. Make any adjustments necessary to finish the year financially strong.

4 Independence Day. Celebrate your country’s independence today. Dress in red, white and blue and enjoy a meal outdoors. Would you like to have financial freedom, too? Analyze your total debt this evening. What can you do to pay it down quickly?

7 Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market. Take some time this weekend to browse the Farmer’s Market. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save on fresh, delicious produce.

15 Finalize College Plans for Your College Freshman. If you have any kids starting college this autumn, have them double-check their living and meal arrangements to ensure everything is in order.

22 Hammock Day. Hammock Day is just like it sounds—a day to spend relaxing and doing nothing but resting. While you’re getting some R & R, vividly imagine realizing your financial goals. How will your life change? Use this pleasant imagery to motivate you to move forward toward this reality.

24 Parents’ Day. In the US, on this date we celebrate the importance of parents who build strong families. In order to be the best parent you can be, have you constructed a strong financial picture for your family? If not, do something now to improve your financial future.

31 Evaluate Your Financial Portfolio. Now is the time to meet with your stock broker to ensure your financial portfolio is building the way you’d like it to. Consider whether you want to add new mutual funds or stocks to your portfolio. If you do not have a broker, consider learning more about investing and decide whether or not you need a broker.


Saving Money, Investing Wisely in 2012 – Insider Secrets on How to Make the Most of Your Money in this Ongoing Recession


Why Seniors Need to Beware of Financial Fraud

Sometimes our advantages can become our weaknesses. If you’re retired or getting close to retirement, you may have some great things going for you, such as an excellent credit rating, your own your home, without any mortgage, and a substantial retirement nest egg.

However, these great things, along with your age, can also put you at greater risk for a range of frauds targeting older people, who usually have more savings but are looking to earn more. We are going to look at a few of the most common frauds perpetrated on seniors, and what you can do to avoid being taken advantage of.

Job Contractor Fraud

If you own your own home, sooner or later it is going to need repair, especially if you have been living in it for some time and your health prevents you from making the repairs yourself.  Contractor scams happen when the contractor asks for the money up front and does not do it, does work that was not agreed upon, and then demands to be paid, or worst of all, does repairs that are bot necessary and then often overcharges for the work, too.

Other common variants include:

* Using admittance into your residence as a means to burglarize it

* Convincing owners to be part of fraudulent insurance claims

Reputable contractors don’t generally go knocking on doors to drum up business. If your house needs some work done, it is usually better to ask around for referrals, or investigate contractors listed by your local Better Business Bureau. See what reviews are posted about them, and look to see if there are any complaints against them before you ever agree to any work being done. Do not pay them until the work is completed to your satisfaction and as agreed upon.

Reverse Mortgage Fraud

Reverse mortgages can be a legitimate technique used in order to gain access to the equity, the money invested, in your home. These are most commonly referred to as home equity conversion mortgages (HECM). HECMs are insured by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). They were created so that people 62 years and older could easily get hold of some of the equity from their principal residence and make life easier for themselves financially once they retired.  The mortgage would be paid off, and a reverse mortgage would value the house and then give you either a lump sum, annual payout, or monthly pay out for you to live on, but still let you and your partner stay in the house until both of you passed away.

A problem can occur with non-HECM reverse mortgages, however, especially ones that sound to good to be true. Some seniors have ended up as an unsuspecting pawn in a property-flipping scheme, or billed huge fees by an unscrupulous “advisor” that simply handles the standard paperwork involved with a normal HECM loan. If you’re interested in a reverse mortgage, your bank or a reputable mortgage broker is a good place to start. Again, no one reputable will never need to go door to door to drum up business.

Investment Fraud

While people of all ages are taken in by various investment frauds, seniors seem to be targeted the most often, most likely because they have substantial savings that can usually be accessed quickly.

Always be skeptical and double check with a trusted professional when it comes to your life savings. Don’t succumb to any time pressure tactics; if it’s something that you have to decide right now, your answer right now should be “NO.” False time limits are a common technique to get people to commit their hard-earned money to a fraud. They are not giving you enough time to think and make any sort of sensible decision or be able to dig deeper, such as on the Internet, to find out if the offer is a scam or not.

It probably doesn’t seem fair that you as a senior have to constantly be on the look out for fraud in your golden years, but you have worked too hard for your money and house to lose it to scammers. Always ask the right questions, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, or a scammer has come to your door and is pressuring you, report it to the police. Hopefully the scammer will be stopped before he can harm anyone else. Don’t be an easy victim. Remain alert, and fight fraud.


For more great tips on how to make the most of your money, visit the Eternal Spiral Books Money Matters section.


Avoid Impulse Spending, Part II



To overcome impulse spending, the first thing to do is learn to separate your NEEDS from your WANTS.

Your budget will help you do this. Rent, electric, phone, paying your taxes, all of these are essential needs. Food, a modest amount on clothing and shoes which will help you hold down your job and keep money coming in, also NEEDS.

That designer handbag, great shoes, amazing jeans, well, sorry, those are NOT life’s essentials.



You are NOT entirely to blame. The whole of the ad industry is based on turning WANTS into perceived NEEDS.

Advertisers blitz us with their products at us 24/7. Perhaps you really DO need a new computer, for example. But don’t just say yes to the first as you see or the first salesman who comes along and tells you that you really NEED the model with the most expensive bells and whistles.

Or that you have to act now before the sale is over. Most of the time if there is a sale, it means it’s a slow month and they are trying to keep their numbers up!



The trick with shopping, even in a ‘sale’,  is to give yourself a cooling-off period before you buy anything that you haven’t planned for or budgeted for. Especially if you have a credit card.

When you go shopping, make a list and stick to it. In particular, never go shopping in a supermarket when you are hungry. At the holidays, make your list, check it twice, and do not go overboard at the holidays and then have to keep on paying for it via your credit cards months after the fact.

When you do go shopping, take only enough cash to pay for what you have planned to buy, or use a debit card linked to your checking account.

Leave your credit cards at home. In fact, try to get rid of all your credit cards by paying them down, and then keep the one with the lowest APR for emergencies.



And be very strict about what qualifies as an emergency. For Carrie in Sex in the City it was the Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes. For me, it would be my dog’s surgery in January.

If you see something you think you really need, give yourself two weeks to decide if it is really something you need or something you can easily do without.

By following this simple solution, you will curb your impulse spending. Then you will mend your financial fences and your relationships, and be able to move forward toward your short and long terms goals aligned with your budget, and not constantly busting it.


Avoid Impulse Spending Part I


Is your weakness impulse spending?


Answer these questions truthfully:

1.)    Does your spouse or partner complain that you spend too much money?

2.)    Are you surprised each month when your credit card bill arrives and you see how much more you charged than you thought you had?

3.)    Do you have more shoes and clothes in your closet than you could ever possibly wear?

4.)    Do you own every new gadget before it has time to collect dust on a retailer’s shelf?

5.)    Do you buy things you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them on display in a store?

6.)    Do you often wonder what happened to the money you had in your purse or wallet?


If you answered YES to any two of the above questions, chances are you’re an impulse spender and indulge yourself in retail therapy.



Impulse spending is not a good thing. It will prevent you from saving for the important long term goals you really want, like a house, a new car, a vacation, or retirement.



Once you define your adult financial goals, you will have to set a budget and stick to it.   Impulse spending is an enemy of any budget. It is pointless to sacrifice your long term goals for a bunch of short term ‘hits’.  Your retail therapy doesn’t cure anything, you just end up spending money on items that really don’t matter in the overall scheme of things.



Impulse spending will not only put a strain on your finances, but your relationships as well. Arguments over money is touted as the number one reason for divorce in this country.


Continued in: Avoid Impulse Spending Part II


Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part II

(Continued from Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part 1)



With access to the Internet, you can actually play the stock market with fake money to start with at some sites, in order to get a feel for how it works. Then when you feel confident, you can move on to the real thing.

To start with make-believe investments, do a search with any search engine for Stock Market Games or Stock Market Simulations, and start studying.



Other types of investments outside of the stock market, such as foreign exchange, also known as FOREX, also have make-believe accounts and simulations.

The great thing about FOREX is you don’t have to worry about which stocks to buy. Currency is traded in pairs, and the main pairs you really want to look at all have to do with the American Dollar.

So for example, the  American Dollar trading against the Canadian, or against the Euro, or the British pound. You can look at only 6 pairs every day, day after day, and make money, IF you are patient and learn how to spot and ride a trend.

And unlike the stockmarket, you can also make money in FOREX whether your pairs are going up or down. ll you have to do is predict the trend.

As a potential investor, you should read anything you can get your hands on about investing, but start with the beginning investment websites first, and go through them methodically so you don’t get lost or confused. It can certainly be a maze, so if you want to keep it simple, but have some moderate risk tolerance, go for FOREX.



Finally, you might want to speak with a financial planner. Tell them your goals, and ask them for their suggestions–this is what they get paid for!

A good financial planner can easily help you determine where to invest your money, and help you set up a workable plan to reach all of your financial goals.

Many will even teach you about investing along the way–make sure you pay attention to what they are telling you, rather than thinking you know best. Resist the temptation to try to get rich quick as well.  And always make sure you are not risking more than you can afford.

Knowing your investment goals, and where you want to invest, are two of the cornerstones to successful investing.


Determining Where To Invest Your Money, Part I


There are several different types of investments, and there are many factors in determining where you should invest your money.

Of course, determining where you will invest begins with researching the various available types of investments, determining your risk tolerance, and determining your investment style once you have determined your financial goals.



Remember, without a financial goal, you will lack the clear vision to know what you want to achieve by investing. It would be a bit like starting to run a race, but not having any idea where the finish line was supposed to be.



So, what is your financial goal? Do you have a list of short-, medium-, and long-term ones? A new house will probably be more short to medium term than say, a college fund if your children are in diapers, or a retirement fund if you’ve just got your first job.

If you were going to purchase a new car, you would do quite a bit of research before making a final decision and a purchase. You would never consider purchasing a car that you had not fully researched, examined, determined if it was suitable for your overall lifestyle (eg, a two-seater sports car is not practical if you have 4 children and a Great Dane. Or even just the Great Dane!)

You will examine the details, look at the performance history of the car, and take for a test drive. You might even get recommendations from friends and review sites online.

The good news is, investing works much the same way.



You will of course want to learn as much about the investment as possible before plunking down your hard-earned cash, and you would want to see how past investors have done as well.



Learning about the stock market and investments can take a fair amount of time  depending on the kinds of investments you are interested in, and there can be all sorts of applicable fees, or even hidden fees you might not be aware of until you are actually investing online.

So any research you do before you risk one penny will be time well spent. There are numerous websites to help first-time investors, and you can even take courses online or at your local college.

Continued in:  Determining Where To Invest Your Money Part II


Different Types of Investments: An Overview Part II

(Continued from Part I)


If you are  not a conservative or moderate investor, then you are an aggressive one.


Aggressive investors commonly do most of their investing in the stock market, which is higher risk, especially in a volatile economic climate. As we write this, for example the Dow went up 400 points on Tuesday and has pretty much last all those gains when it plunged about 175 points again on Thursday and on Friday.

Aggressive investors also tend to invest in business ventures as well as higher-risk real estate. For instance, if an aggressive investor puts his or her money into an older apartment building, then invests more money renovating the property, they are running a risk.

They expect to be able to rent the apartments out for more money than the apartments are currently worth, or to sell the entire property for a profit on their initial investments.



In some cases, this is a worthwhile gamble, but given the current property market, especially in certain areas, it might not be the most sensible place to put your money at the moment.



Before you start investing, it is very important that you learn about the different types of investments, and what those investments can do for you. Understand the risks involved, and pay attention to past trends as well. History does indeed repeat itself, and investors know this first hand.



All of the funds you have the chance to invest in for your 401k retirement fund, for example, should have a full record of past history, both recently, in the past year, the past 5 years, and even the past 10.



For those of us interested in saving for college, a 529 also offers similar investment choices, with different portfolios. Since we are based in New York State, we have certain options administered by Vanguard Funds.



We could have opted for their choice, but with a little more time, effort, and research at the Vanguard site we are making that much more money, and with a credit card from Upromise which gives you money on all the purchases you use on the card, plus extra percentages for things you buy regularly, like household products, it makes it easy to save money and invest it even if you don’t think you can afford it with your present budget.



As we said in a previous article, make sure that you stabilize your current financial situation before you start thinking of investing, and remember how credit card companies make their money.

But investing in a 401k if the money is taken out as pre-tax dollars, and especially if your company gives you a match, is very worthwhile and easy. So is a 529, and you can get started with as little as $25.



Educating yourself by looking at these options is the best way of dipping your toe in the water, and if you start making money, well, stick to your formula and do a bit more.

Above all, though, know your investing style and how much you can afford to invest, because it really means, how much time can you spend building your  portfolio, and how much can you afford to risk on different types of investments.