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Monday, September 30, 2013

4 major ways men and women spend their money differently

As the saying goes, men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. While the two genders may technically inhabit one globe, men and women couldn’t be more different when it comes to spending habits. If you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head over the financial tendencies of the opposite sex, this guide should help explain some of the differences in the ways males and females spend their money.

Lushes vs. lookers 

Simon's stock
Men spend less on personal grooming and clothing

Women spend more on looking good, while men spend more on feeling good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that single men spent an annual average of $507 on booze, as opposed to a measly $216 for single women. However, the tables turned when it came to personal care and services, with single women spending $524 to the men’s average of  $194. Perhaps the women looked so good after spending all that money on their appearance that desperate single men showered them with free drinks?

Charitable spending vs. chivalrous spending 

Backyard Bouquet on Porch
Women are more charitable than men per the Center on Philanthropy

It is not surprising that women give more money to charity than men, while men would rather donate their cash to the noble cause of wooing a lady. A Center on Philanthropy report revealed that in every income group except for one, women made more charitable contributions than their male counterparts. Female-headed households were also found to be more philanthropic than those headed by males. However, ladies were not so quick to shell out when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Women averaged $88.78; as opposed to $175.61 men spent buying flowers, candy and other romantic items.

Food vs. fashion

SM Mega Mall, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila
Both men and women enjoy shopping, but on different things

Both sexes resort to retail therapy when their mood is in need of a boost. However, their pick-me-up of choice is drastically different. Women hit the shops to spend their dough on new clothes, whereas men blow most of their retail therapy cash on food. Apparently the common perception of women eating their feelings is incorrect, and actually it’s the men who dive face first into a feast when they’re feeling low.

Settling the past vs. planning for the future

Piggy Bank Money
Men are better retirement savers, but women pay loans back more
Women are better at repaying loans, while men are ahead when it comes to saving for retirement. Women with micro-loans were better at paying them back, possibly because the men were too busy throwing their cash away at bars and restaurants to pay back their loans. Gents, however, appear to be more focused on their financial future. A recent survey showed that men have 28.8% more money in their 401(k)s than women, $50,632 to $39,320, respectfully. Of course, men tend to make more money than women in general, but that’s an article for another day!

Why is any of this important?

Understanding the spending habits of men and women and how they differ can help us when evaluating and planning our own financial futures. These studies would suggest, for example, that the next time you sit down with your husband or wife, you should have the Mrs. pay the bills and the Mr. handle the investments and savings.

These spending habits are just a few ways that showcase the many differences between men and women. Whether one’s spending habits align more with the females or the fellas, nobody is exempt from the possibility of bankruptcy. 

What do you think of these survey results? We'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let us know!

About the author: Vanessa teaches classes on financial responsibility and budgeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. When not teaching, Vanessa ocassionally freelance writes for various law and finance blogs. She dreams of one day working for  DeLuca and Associates; a chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney in Las Vegas, but that'll have to wait until she passes her bar exam next year (fingers crossed!).

*Image licenses: 1. Creative Commons image source; 2. Creative Commons image source ; 3. Creative Commons image source ; 4. Creative Commons image source

Don't retire until you've done these 5 things

A one year delay in Social Security income could increase annual payout by 8%
Meet with HR to optimize benefits
By Stephanie Lynch 

Retiring can be an exciting time for anyone, however, before you jump the gun and leave your job, you're going to want to make sure that you're on the right track to a successful and stress-free lifestyle. There are so many potential retirees out there that think they are ready to retire, when in reality, they really aren't.

To make sure that you're ready to hang up your badge and kick your feet up by the pool, you should have these five things accomplished after retirement planning:

1. Crunch the numbers

Since no money will probably be rolling in, you're going to have to ask yourself how you're going to get your paycheck. Are you living off interest? Are you going to live off stock dividends? Bonds? Social Security? I think you get the point here. Add up your numbers, don't forget to add in inflation and see what you're able to come in. Once you subtract the bills and potential emergencies, are you comfortable with this number? Please remember that when you're retired, you're going to have A LOT of time on your hands, so you're going to want to have a good chunk of money to spend.
When crunching the number, also keep this in mind:

• Review your investments. Are you comfortable with them? How secure are they?
• Develop a withdrawal strategy. How long can you tap into your funds before they are exhausted?
• Are your expectations reasonable?

2. Meet with human resources

Before you just leave the job, be sure to talk with the Human Resources department. Let them know that you're thinking about retiring. Most reputable companies will be able to discuss your options and see what can be offered. The last thing that you want to do is retire early and find out that if you would have stayed one more year, you could have received more in a buy out or pension.

3. Get rid of debt

Before you even consider leaving your job, take a good look at your debt. No, I'm not talking about your basic needs like health insurance and utilities. I'm talking about your credit cards, your mortgage and anything else that can be wiped out completely. Paying off these debts are going to reduce your high interest rates and give you a lot more freedom to spend your money when the time comes.

4. Cashing out too early

Don't just cash out for the easy cash. Even if you're qualified for your IRA and 401(k), you have to 
ask yourself if it makes sense to tap in. The same can be said about Social Security benefits. By tapping in early, this could lead to a lot less money in the future. For example, experts state that for every year you delay, you can see an additional 8% in your check. Always make sure that you know how much you can get if you wait long enough.

5. Prepare

Retirement is a lot more than about money. You also have to think about other things such as your future home plans, healthcare and your loved ones. With that being said, make sure that you explore your home insurance and medical insurance options to make sure that you're covered in case of a damage, theft or long-term illness. By creating a plan, being comfortable and knowing what's going on, there's no reason you won't have a great and successful retirement that you can enjoy for years to come!

About the author: Stephanie Lynch is from howmuchisit.org, a website that is dedicated to helping people find out what things cost. Check out 3,500 guides that range from finance to professional services.

* Image license: Woodsy; RGBStock royalty free

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Early retirement due to a disability? Fighting long-term disability denial

Understanding the long-term disability insurance process is key in disabled retiree planning
High household income is cause for disability insurance denial
By Valerie Stout Cyrus

Despite having paid into the system your entire working life, you may face a long and difficult road before you are approved for long-term disability benefits. In fact, most people like you face rejection after rejection before they are finally approved, often after several years of battling the legal system and nearly exhausting themselves and their financial resources during this process.

If you have already embarked on this disability application process or intend to soon, you would do well to understand the common tactics that insurance companies use to delay or refuse your benefits. Knowing the practices by which these companies often abide can prepare you for the battle that must be waged and assist you in advocating for yourself fully. 

Looking able-bodied 

Besides medical examinations to evaluate your health, many insurance companies will also hire investigators to observe you while you go about your daily routine. If during those visual evaluations they may determine that you look healthy enough to work because they saw you performing tasks that are equivalent to the tasks that you would normally do at work. 

The adjusters will argue that you look healthy, have good color to your face, and can talk and walk seemingly just fine; therefore, you must be able to go out and hold down a full-time job. However, long term disability denial cannot be based on physical appearance because there may be medical treatment that an individual must endure for a long period of time in order to remain healthy.

You can battle against this rejection by bringing every shred of medical documentation about your disability and presenting these medical records to your insurance company. If they see a doctor’s statement about your disability not being related to your physical appearance, the adjusters may be more willing to reconsider your case. 

Having sufficient financial resources 

If you have money saved in your bank account or have a spouse who is working to bring income into your household, your insurance company may quickly deny your claim. The adjusters may say that you do not need any supplemental money right now and that you can live off what you have saved and what your spouse earns.

However, this money that you have saved can go very quickly if you must use it to pay your mortgage, buy groceries, and pay other expenses. You also should not be penalized because your spouse works and earns an income. You can dispute this rejection by showing evidence of your present and future expenses and arguing that your lack of income indeed will hurt your family’s budget.

Despite your best arguments, the insurance adjusters will more than likely stick with their original determinations and ignore any evidence you present to them. When you want to make a significant impact with your claim and sway the adjusters to your favor, you would fare better if you hire a claims attorney. 

Hiring a claims attorney 

Insurance adjusters literally bank on you not knowing the laws surrounding claims and long term disability insurance. When you have an attorney representing you, your lawyer can use the state’s laws regarding these matters to your benefit and be more successful in presenting your claim to the adjusters. If they continue to deny, your lawyer could file a lawsuit against your insurer. Most insurance companies do not want to go to court; they likewise disdain of negotiating with attorneys. You can likely get your claim settled quickly if you hire an attorney.

When you have no success in making a claim against your long term disability policy, you may wonder what strategies you can use to your advantage. Rather than battle each one of the common practices insurance companies use to deny you, you can fare better when you retain legal counsel to assist you.

About the author: Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches insurance claims. She has found that Marc Whitehead and Associates assists individuals who have experienced long-term disability denial by demonstrating to the court that their defendant is in fact disabled and entitled to full payments from the insurance company.

* Image license: Diane Griffiths; CC BY 2.0

Friday, September 27, 2013

Top first time homebuyer pitfalls to avoid

By Kirk Chivas

Realtors, mortgage professionals and homebuilders are alike in asking themselves the same question: “Where are all the first time homebuyers? Even with the housing market recovering at a good pace and home values continuing to grow, homebuilders profits are being held back by a lack of first time homebuyers in the market. Usually averaging 40% of the home buying market, first time homebuyers only comprised 28% of homes purchased in August of 2013.

There are a lot of variables in play as to why so few young adults are opting to rent or live at home instead of purchasing a home. Mortgage guidelines are not working in their favor, often finding issues with their lack of credit or funds available as well as high debt to income ratios from student loans. Who can blame them for being hesitant of owning a home after watching what their parents and family members went through a mere 5 years ago?

Buying a home is not impossible however, and it is still a good time to enter the market. The key to making this a successful journey is being prepared and knowledgeable about the steps ahead. First Commerce Financial, a mortgage broker based in Michigan, has provided an infographic detailing the top first time homebuyer pitfalls to avoid.

Check this list out to help prepare you for the path to homeownership. Remember, the most critical thing you can do to help yourself when buying a home is to keep open communication with your Realtor and Mortgage Lender. They will assist you in navigating these waters and getting prepared for all the hoops to jump through. 

Fewer property buyers in the real estate market is holding back homebuilder profits
Communication with Realtors and lenders is vital in the real estate purchase process

About the Author:  Kirk Chivas is a licensed Loan Officer and co-owner of First Commerce Financial, LLC, a mortgage brokerage based in Wixom, Michigan.  With over 17 years of experience, Kirk has committed to providing Michigan residents with accurate and honest mortgage advice.  If you have any questions about your current or future mortgage needs, please feel free to ask Kirk a question over on his Twitter.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The most effective tips and techniques for small business managers

Important areas of business management include workplace ethics, marketing and cash-flow
A long-term strategy is important for business success
It is better for an individual to run his/her own business rather than being employed by somebody else. 

It is true that all billionaires in this world are self-employed. This is the reason why so many people are trying to operate businesses these days with the aim of becoming super rich one day regardless of the size of their businesses. However, only a few people do make it to the better end after beginning from scratches. 

So many people have reasoned out that entrepreneurs are born, a fact which is completely not true. There are only but a few basic tips and techniques that can drive one's business to success regardless of the business’s size, here are just but a few of them:

Set proper goals

  • Most successful business gurus started their businesses from scratch mainly by properly defining their long-term objectives goals. 
  • They came up with the best business plans and calculated the risks associated with the businesses they intended to start. 
  • This is one of the most important steps to follow if you want to succeed in the end remember nothing comes easy.

Establish strong work ethics

  • As the chairman of your company make sure you come up with strong work ethics, train your employees to set a good example on how they relate with their fellow colleagues and the general public.
  • Avoid some bad behaviors which may dent the image of your firm remember a company's reputation is very important. 
  • By doing this your business is guaranteed to succeed and before you know it you will be seeing great results.

Persuade your targeted consumers

  • Nowadays days, there is a lot of competition in almost every sector when it comes to business. 
  • Many companies have come up to produce similar goods, some of these companies are good at producing better quality goods and services while others are associated with poor quality goods and services.
  • As a result of this, most consumers all over the world have become so careful with the particular brands they purchase. 
  • Most buyers do buy goods from big companies with recognized trademarks all over the world these days which might be to your disadvantage if you are just starting the same business. 
  • Due to this, it is therefore very important for you to properly persuade your targeted customers in order for you to be able to sell your goods and services to them.

Manage your cash inflows and outflows well

  • Most small scale businesses have collapsed due to the lack of proper management of cash. 
  • The reason as to why this is so is because most small scale businesses are always run and managed solely by their owners. 
  • Most of these sole proprietors do not always employ qualified personnel to help them make strategic decisions e.g. the financial experts. 
  • Therefore if you intend to solely run and manage your business without the help of other professionals, make sure you manage your cash inflows and outflows properly all the time.

About the author: With all these said about the tips and techniques for small business managers, the land registry contact is on twenty four hours a day all year round to help you implement your business plans easily. It is a type of business which provides information relating property, owner details and so on.

* Image license: Ervinbacik; RGBStock royalty free

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The market is full of homes for sale: Don't make these common mistakes and miss out on the right one

Keeping emotions seperate from financial decision making helps objectify home buying
Inspections are necessary for real estate insurance purposes
By Tiffany Olson

You've decided to buy a new home and you're eager to get to it, but take a moment to get your priorities and emotions in check before you dive in and make some of the most common home buying mistakes. 

Whether this will be your first homeowner experience or your seventh, it's always a bit overwhelming conducting a search among the numerous homes for sale in your market. 

Creating a list of features that you desire in a home is great, but make sure you're looking at the big picture and keeping the future in mind so you can avoid creating problems for yourself down the line.

Making decisions based on emotions

This is frequently the number one error a potential buyer makes. Although many emotions are involved when buying a home, it's best to keep those emotions under control and leave them at the door while you search through listings to find ones matching your criteria.

The first thing that should match up is your budget with the asking price. It's easy to fall in love with a property that's realistically out of your price range, but it's not as easy to downgrade once you imagine yourself making the perfect life in a house you can't afford. Be responsible and limit your search to a specific financial plan.

It can take awhile to come across just what you're looking for, and in the meantime, you can get frustrated and desperate enough that you jump the gun to make an offer before fully considering things like location, neighborhood and renovation costs. On the other hand, you don't want to miss out on a great opportunity by waiting too long to make an offer on something you really like.

Not working with a real estate agent

Going through all of the necessary procedures of buying a home on your own can make for a really difficult process if you don't know what you're doing. Most buyers won't have access to all the homes for sale that an agent will have. Real estate agents have a better chance of pairing you up with properties that correspond with your search criteria and can save you valuable time. Also, getting excited about finding a home you love can result in an offer that's more than the actual appraisal. An agent will know how to deal with a bidding war and is skilled in negotiating fair prices.

Not getting a home inspection

Home inspections are essential for home insurance purposes, and they also play a big part in making sure a buyer doesn't end up with a real fixer upper after they've already made a commitment. It may be hard to hear if your inspector ends up bursting your bubble about your great find, but it can save some major damage to your wallet in the long run. Don't knowingly put yourself in a compromising situation by overlooking crucial flaws on purpose because you may be unpleasantly surprised with repair costs and complications.

Neglecting to think about resale value

The resale value of a home should be just as important to the new buyer as it is to the seller. You never know what life will bring and when the time will come for you to sell the very house you're now purchasing. To prepare for this, you will want to consider all the elements about the property that contribute to resale value.

Make your home buying experience a memorable one. There are enough homes for sale on the market, and more going up each day, that you can take your time and wait for just the right one.

About the author: Tiffany Olson  is fairly new to the real estate game, but is enjoying immensely all of the learning she is doing. 

When she's not researching or blogging about her findings, you'll usually find her making art, reading, or cooking. 

* Image licenses: 1. Woodsy; RGB Stock royalty free;  2. author owned  & licensed

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some bankruptcy basics

Aggressive debt collectors are subject to bankruptcy laws and rulings
Government debt is excluded from bankruptcy
By Derek Smith

Bankruptcy can be a scary prospect for anyone who is struggling with overwhelming debt. Most people don’t consider it or even think about it until they are too deep in the proverbial ‘hole’. But what is bankruptcy really about? Does it mean you are doomed forever? Is it just a way of labeling people who can’t pay their debts? Here are some basic facts about bankruptcy that may help you understand it a little bit better.

What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal status as determined by a court of law. You are only truly bankrupt when you petition the court to declare you or your business ‘bankrupt’, and a judge agrees with you.  It is possible to file for bankruptcy and be declined the status and rather the court says you need to work out repayment with your creditors. Bankruptcy has many laws defining exactly how it works and who is or is not bankrupt and with regard to creditors, who is or is not entitled to being paid back by the bankrupt person or entity.

What is the purpose of bankruptcy?

Up until the beginning of the 20th century in the US, people who could not pay their consumer, private, or business debt were sent to jail. These were known as debtor’s prisons. As bankruptcy laws evolved, legislators began passing laws which limited the use of debtor’s prisons and all but eliminated such a punishment from existence. However, some debts are still subject to jail. This includes: taxes owed, child support debt, and contempt of court fines. All of which are essentially government debts. When the government is owed money, they will put you in jail; bankruptcy cannot protect you from that. But for every other type of debt, there are bankruptcy courts.

Bankruptcy laws are design to protect a person or entity from aggressive debt-collection activities of the creditors when the bills aren’t being paid. They help all parties sort out what is the true financial situation for the debtor and whether or not they can pay some, all, or none of their outstanding debt.

Often just before an entity files for bankruptcy, the aggressive collection activities of the creditors can be at a fever-pitch and for individuals already dealing with money problems, it can drive these folks to the edge. Bankruptcy, when appropriate, can actually restore order in someone’s life who is truly overwhelmed with debt. It legally calls upon the court to get involved in resolving the debts and protect the debtor from any further debt-collection.

Type of bankruptcy

In the US there are the following common bankruptcy types known as chapters:
  • Chapter 7: For individuals and business. It allows for discharging or some or ALL debts. Of course, government related debts and taxes are still excluded from discharge.
  • Chapter 11: Known as reorganization, it’s for individuals or businesses and allows for court approved debt repayment plans, required reduction in liabilities and expenses, and the selling of assets to help pay back creditors and still remain solvent.
  • Chapter 12:  Known as ‘Farmers Bankruptcy’, it applies only to farmers and fishermen. It works similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a reorganization type of process.
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy:  Reorganization process for individuals. This applies when an individual has substantial assets such as investments, stocks, bonds, or real estate, which can be liquidated to pay back creditors.  The court can order/ approve repayment plans so that all creditors get paid back and nothing is discharged.
Most often people wait until they are in such bad shape that Chapter 7 is their only option and therefore it is the most commonly filed bankruptcy chapter. While on the one hand, after it’s all over the person is essentially debt free, but; they are also asset free! 

Any valuable (or not so valuable) assets can be liquidated by the courts in order to pay some of the debt back. This includes jewelry, appliances, furniture, electronics, and clothes. People may be left only with the clothes on their back, literally! However, working with a bankruptcy attorney before it has gone too far may offer better solutions.

You can learn more about bankruptcy law from your local state government website. Remember, it’s not the end of the world and bankruptcy can and does help people resolve very difficult situations.

About the Author: Derek Smith is a freelance writer and blogger who writes for a Bankruptcy Law Blog.

* Image license: Lusi; RGBStock royalty free

Monday, September 23, 2013

Drug cartels: A billion dollar industry

By Gloria Moore

In a world where every industry’s economy seems to be suffering, there is one industry that continues to thrive under the radar and that’s the world of illegal drugs, specifically, cocaine. Right now, the cocaine industry alone is worth billions and billions of dollars. It is a money-maker like no other industry. Why, is something so illegal so profitable? Let’s look at this case a little more closely.

Drug cartels, an illicit cartel formed to control the production and distribution of narcotic drugs, are all over the world. The largest and most successful of them reside mainly in Latin and South America. The Sinaloa cartel is known as the most powerful and dangerous cartel in the world. The hit man for the cartel was recently captured. He alone, is responsible for over 350 murders relating to the cartel. The head of this cartel is known as “El Chapo” Guzman. Glorified like the bank-robbers in the Wild West, “El Chapo” has become a myth and a legend in the Western Hemisphere. Let’s take a look at the break down of profit for this cartel alone.

The Sinaloa cartel purchases cocaine (in kilos) from Peru or Columbia for about $2,000. As it goes through the steps, it gains value. In Mexico alone, the cocaine is worth around $10,000. The U.S. will maximize profit, over $30,000 wholesale. Let’s say the kilo is broken into gram-sized amounts, it can be worth over $100,000. The Sinaloa cartel exports a lot more than cocaine, producing and exporting heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.

The Justice Department approximates that Columbian and Mexican cartels make $18 – 39 billion in profit from drug sales to the U.S. annually. Taking the lowest of those numbers, the Sinaloa cartel alone is a major player in this market, sharing at least 40% of that total revenue (and as much as 60%). By those numbers, El Chapo is earning an annual revenue of over $3 billion at the lowest. To show you just how large that is, U.S. companies such as Netflix and Facebook have similar earnings.

Since 2006, the drug war in Mexico alone has taken over 50,000 lives. Through the bloodiness of this industry, a complex and very integrated business model is revealed. More than a dozen countries are involved in this industry. The scary part is, cartels aren’t just surviving through the tough economic times, but are actually thriving. Despite the violence surrounding the industry, the cartels now control even more territory along the U.S. borders than they ever did in the past.

“El Chapo” has become a figure of recognition similar to that of the godfather. He is completely focused in his business and an entrepreneur like no other. He operates his multi-billion dollar business from a remote location in the mountains of Columbia or Mexico. It can be argued that this is the most sophisticated business in today’s economy due to the fact that it must all need to be done in secret. When looking at it from an economic perspective, its profitability, longevity and future projections may make it the most successful crime business in the economy today.

Sinaloa is a refuge of violent man in Mexico, isolated as Sicily is to Italy. It is home to the country’s most violent and notorious drug traffickers. Once the U.S. caught on to the traffickers’ Caribbean route, they had to switch their business model to focus on the Mexican route. This was the beginning of El Chapo’s reign of success in the drug cartel business.

The Colombians paid Mexican smugglers in cocaine instead of cash. This transition realigned the power dynamics along the narcotics supply chain in the Americas. Mexican smugglers were no longer then middlemen but the actual head of the operation, due to their ability to produce and sell the product from start to finish. This had only made the Sinaloa cartel, and El Chapo stronger and more successful.

The drug trafficking business has only gained momentum in recent years and continues to thrive in a world where law enforcement still can’t control it.

About the author: Gloria Moore is a rehab writer with a passion for holistic therapy and healing.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tiding over financial problems with personal loans

Financial stop-gaps and purchases are achieved via personal loans
Personal loans are secured or unsecured 
By Sam Payn

Personal loans are a great way to fulfill a range of needs like purchasing a car, or else a diamond ring or a high end gadget. You can even use it to fund your college examinations. 

These types of loans can be broadly divided in to two categories namely secured and unsecured loans. They can also be repaid in easy installments while using the item itself. 

As you go further through this post you will be duly acquainted with the elaborate description of the two types of loans, the reasons why they are secured, the impact of credit scores on the borrower's chances of securing them and others.

Reasons why these loans are secured by borrowers

As already mentioned above, personal loans can be obtained for a number of reasons ranging from financing a car to education. However, in the recent past, borrowers have taken their aid primarily, to meet the following needs:

  • Debt Consolidation
  • Funding Holiday
  • Purchasing Furniture and Home Appliances
  • Wedding

Difference between secured and unsecured loans

Borrowers generally obtain the secured loans against collateral. A huge sum of money is borrowed which he can repay over a long period of time. The huge amount of money involved and the long repayment period trigger the potential risk of failure of payment from your end. 

In order to avert the risk, the lender is compelled to “secure” the loan against a property that you value so that it can act as a guarantee for him to at least recover the outlay. For instance, if you put your vehicle as collateral, the lender would take possession of it in case you fail to repay your debt. They are typically offered as mortgage or small business loans as the money required for these purposes is generally high. Other purposes for which you might need them include sponsoring your child's education or to arrange for a lavish wedding.

The unsecured loans, on the other hand, can be borrowed for a very short period of time as the amount of money involved is also lower than that of the secured loans. They involve greater risks for lenders as there is no collateral involved. The lender will not be able to reclaim the money through any property if you fail to pay the debt off. However, they are ready to take these risks as the principal is less and it can be repaid typically between 6 months to 10 years. They might be obtained for recovering shortfalls. 

To illustrate, you are buying a car and you think that you have the cash ready for the same. Nevertheless, much to your surprise you might as well find out that you're running a bit short of money while you're actually zeroing in on the car of your choice. This is when a short term unsecured loans might just be able to cover the shortfall for you. Similarly you can borrow them for funding a holiday or else buying a piece of jewelry as well.

Your credit scores

One of the crucial factors governing your chances of securing any type of loan is your credit history. A blemished credit history won't really stand in your way of securing an unsecured or secured personal loan. However the scores in your file reflect your previous repayment tendencies. A good score implies that you have been a regular with your debt repayments earlier while a poor credit rating implies just the opposite. 

As already mentioned it’s not absolutely impossible to obtain personal loans with a discouraging credit history, but you should be prepared to shell out high rates of interest as the ones paid by those with decent credit scores. It's only fair since the lender is taking an increased risk by offering loan to someone who doesn't exactly have a decent credit history to back his credentials as a borrower.

How to choose a reliable lender

A casual online search will throw up the names of a wide array of lenders willing to provide loans with affordable rates of interest. However as a diligent borrower it would be your responsibility to conduct thorough research in order to avail the best services for yourself. There will be not one, not two but a number of factors influencing your choice of a lender:

  • Go through the websites properly. Have a look at the kind or rates provided by them. Compare all these rates to determine who among them is providing you the most affordable deals.  
  • Comparing the rates of interest will not be enough in this regard. If you're particularly inclined towards availing the services of online lenders, make sure that you are establishing the credentials of the lender properly. Consult good review sites in order to ascertain whether the lender whose services you are considering is featuring prominently or not. Try to gather as much market review as possible in this regard. Ask friends for help as well.
  • Once you have found out about the reputation of the lender and are ready for an agreement, you should read the documents carefully before signing. Clarify your doubts without fail before putting your signature on those papers.
  • If you are someone seeking the aid of these loans with a poor credit history, please take the trouble to find out about the exact credit score that you have earned as the rate of interest would be decided accordingly. Thus, you're well set for a worthwhile deal ahead!

About the author: Sam Payn's flair for writing about financial topics can hardly be contested today. Among the modern content writers he is one of the best when it comes to producing topics on short term loans, insurance and investment banking. He owes his success to his five years of constant learning in the content industry. 

* Image license: Lusi; RGBStock royalty free 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Healthcare contract management software and compliance with federal law

Patient information is protected by HIPAA compliance
HIPAA protects the public
Healthcare organizations must manage numerous regulatory requirements and vendor relationships to maintain operations in the modern medical marketplace. For many smaller healthcare providers, contract management software can provide valuable assistance in juggling all these requirements and relationships effectively. Among the advantages and benefits of these advanced software packages is the ability to ensure complete compliance with federal mandates and regulations, including the following:

• Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA
• Federal Civil Monetary Penalties Law, or FCMPL

Contract management software can provide valuable tracking and monitoring functionality to streamline reporting and help healthcare providers to maintain compliance with the requirements of these regulations.

Maintaining HIPAA compliance

HIPAA was enacted by Congress in 1996 and outlines a number of requirements designed to ensure that healthcare providers maintain proper security for confidential health information and that patients can readily transfer their health records from one provider to another as their insurance coverage and medical needs change.

Contract management software provides tiered access
Contract management software can provide tiered access levels to maintain patient information on a strict need-to-know basis within the healthcare environment.

Additionally, because information is stored in a centralized location and retrieved electronically, unique health identifiers and patient numbers can be readily retrieved and forwarded to the necessary parties without extensive copying and physical transfer of patient records. Instead, the entire file can be transferred through secure electronic delivery, making it easy to maintain the required level of protection for these confidential medical records.

Avoiding FCMPL violations

Designed to help prevent fraud and malfeasance during the claims process, FCMPL provisions outline severe financial penalties for healthcare providers who submit claims for procedures and treatments that were not performed or that were not eligible for payment during the period in which treatments were delivered to the patient.

Medical fraud is penalized via FCMPL regulations
Medical equipment kickbacks are illegal
FCMPL regulations penalize healthcare providers who knowingly engage in fraudulent activity; however, they also assess penalties for those who should have known regardless of their actual state of knowledge. Other FCMPL violations include offering Medicare and Medicaid patients items of value or cash payments to select a specific provider or providers.

Exceptions exist for healthcare providers who offer financial assistance to low-income patients in cases of genuine need; these assistance packages cannot be publicized or made available generally to patients who receive federal healthcare assistance through Medicaid or Medicare programs. Contract management software packages can provide oversight and monitoring to ensure that administrators are kept in the loop and aware of any possible violations within their healthcare facilities.

Other regulations prohibit kickbacks or rebates for the purchase or lease of equipment and other healthcare products in facilities that receive funding through Medicare or Medicaid programs and restrict referrals where conflicts of interest exist. Healthcare contract management software offers centralized tracking and management of all these regulations and provides medical care providers with the in-depth information and reporting functions needed to avoid violations of these regulations. By managing vendor and patient information in one convenient software system, healthcare providers can streamline the storage and retrieval of important data and create necessary reports to prove compliance with all applicable federal and state laws.

About the author: A former registered nurse, Suzanne knows the ins and outs of the paper trails that often frustrate patients. She understands the importance of a tightly run records office, and loves to write about how medical providers can streamline their record-keeping.

* All image licenses: US-PDGov

Friday, September 20, 2013

Don’t believe these car insurance myths!

By Samantha B. Rivers
How well do you really understand how car insurance works? If you’re the average person, you probably don’t know it all that well. But take comfort in that even if you don’t know a deductible from a down payment, you’re not alone.

There also are lots of myths that make buying car insurance even harder. You’ve probably heard friends or family talk about how the color of your car can drive up the cost of your insurance, but keep reading to find out why you shouldn’t believe them.
  • Myth #1: A new car is automatically covered under my current auto insurance policy.

Truth: No way! If you want to add a new care to your existing policy, you’ll have a certain amount of time (usually 30 days) after buying the car to contact your insurance company and add it to your policy. If you don’t take this important step, your new car is uninsured on the road.
  • Myth #2: Red cars costs more to insure than other colors.

Truth: This is a common myth that is 100% false. Unlike the cost, make, model and year of your new vehicle, the color of the car has no affect on your insurance rates. Your auto insurance company is more concerned with your driving history, where you drive and even your credit history than what color your car is. So if you really like red, go ahead.
  • Myth #3: As I get older, my car insurance premiums will increase.

Truth: In reality, it’s usually the opposite. Drivers who are retired or only working part-time may be able to get discounts on their car insurance because they are driving less. Drivers over age 55 or older who complete an accident-prevention course offered by their insurance company to help refresh their driving skills may qualify for additional discounts.
  • Myth #4: Any damage to my car is covered by my insurance.

Truth: Nope, it’s not that easy. To put it simply, there are different types of car insurance coverage for different kinds of protection. You have to choose what type or types you want to purchase (your state may have its own requirements so be sure to check). While liability insurance covers you if you cause an accident that causes injury to people or property, it won’t help you for damage to your vehicle. On the other hand, collision coverage pays for damages to your own vehicle after an accident. Comprehensive coverage covers you for things like vandalism, damage from flooding or fire and vehicle theft.
  • Myth #5: If you file an insurance claim, your premiums will automatically increase.

Truth: This one is a bit harder to say whether it’s true or not. The short answer is, it depends. Most car insurance companies look at many factors before they raise your rate. Mostly, they consider the severity of the accident and your driving history. Who was to blame for the accident is another major consideration. If a tree branch falls and shatters your windshield and you file a claim for the damage, your rates likely won’t go up since the damage wasn’t your fault. But if you were speeding and caused a multi-vehicle pileup on the freeway, be prepared to pay more for insurance.

About the author: Samantha B. Rivers is a freelance writer based in Chicago who writes about automotive and insurance topics online. Follow her on Twitter @SassySammyBee.

* Image licenses: SisCiel; RGBStock royalty free

Buying used auto parts in an effort to save cash? Check out the store's reputation first!

By Andrew Lisa
There has always been a market for used auto parts. Perusing the junkyard has been a ritual for gearheads and DIYers for generations. But now more than any time before, people are fixing their cars with previously owned parts for the obvious reason of saving money. 

Although the Internet has made it easier, tracking the lineage of individual parts is still difficult for the average consumer, which means you're putting your trust in the retailer. Buying used auto parts is like buying prescription drugs. Saving money is great, but you really, really want to know that the person from whom you're buying is on the up and up. Getting ripped off could cost you your life.

DIYers use previously owned car parts to lower their costs
Save money without sacrificing quality by buying used auto parts from a reputable dealer

Return policy 

The best way to protect yourself is never to buy from anyone who doesn't have a clear, fair, written return policy. A return policy is the closest you're going to get to a guarantee in the used auto parts industry.

Used auto parts dealers buy salvage parts wholesale or at auction, inspect them, clean them up, and resell them to consumers for a profit. The good, honest ones believe in their ability to detect defects or dangerous wear, and back it up by giving you the confidence of a strong return policy. Generally, the good ones have a return policy and the shady ones don't.


Before you buy anything from anyone - including a used parts dealer - you'll want to know their reputation first. Reputation is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: "The estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or the public generally."

Until fairly recently, this meant relying on word of mouth, which at very best gave you a selective, incomplete picture. The Internet allows you to get a general, overall picture of how people feel about their dealings with virtually any business.

First, run the dealer's name through the Better Business Bureau, which will tell you if any complaints have been filed or if any action is pending against them. Second, take the time to Yelp the business. Some people are unreasonable. Some people are irrational. Some people are crazy or bitter or mean. But if more than, say, one in 10 people has something negative to say about their experience with the dealer, find another place to buy.

Avoid certain parts

Generally, avoid buying parts used if they wear out anyway by design. Alternators, starters, brake rotors, batteries, brake pads, brake shoes, water pumps, and fan belts have a shelf life. They wear out over time and should generally be purchased new. Tail lights, motor mounts, and other parts that don't accrue wear are a perfect chance to save a few bucks.

Utilize reputable used car part dealers to help ensure equipment reliability
Rely on your ability to identify a defective dealer, not a defective part
Generally, it's safe to buy many used car parts. Unless you're truly an expert, it is difficult to thoroughly identify defects in auto parts, which means you're relying on the integrity of the dealer. Shop for used auto part dealers as if your life depended on it - because it just might.

About the author: Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about Internet investigation and how to improve your online reputation.

* Images: Author owned and licensed

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What payroll software should you use?

By Sara Boisvert

For small business payroll, full-service external service providers may not be cost effective until you reach enough critical mass to justify the added expense. Small businesses have simpler needs, and any new business owner with the desire to learn can master internal payroll in a short time.

New payroll packages also include excellent technical support so that it’s less stressful to go the in-house route than ever before. But the question then becomes, “What payroll software should you use?” 
Payroll graphic
Quickbooks is the market leader for payroll software per USA Today
While there are many good economical payroll software options out there, the tried and true choice is QuickBooks. Here’s why:

Market Leader

According to an article in USA Today, QuickBooks is the market leader for small business accounting solutions. With upwards of 85% of small businesses and accounting firms using the popular software package, your choice of the QuickBooks Payroll option will ensure:
  • Product reliability
QuickBooks has been available since 1983 and has the years of experience required to understand the needs of small businesses. Intuit, the company that makes the software, has the financial stability to stand behind their product and has a strong reputation in the business community.
  • Software Compatibility
Chances are you’re using QuickBooks for your small business bookkeeping, making QuickBooks Payroll logical to integrate in one system. Data transfer is then a real time saver for any small business, and the link also improves accuracy. Learning QuickBooks Payroll will also be easier since it has the same look and feel as the accounting program.

Many developers have created software for time records, project management, and other employee-related functions that integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks. Adding the payroll option to link these tasks will save time and energy, as well as money lost from costly mistakes.
In addition, most accountants and bookkeeping firms use QuickBooks, which makes payroll tax time far less painful for you!
  • Continuous Improvement
As the industry leader, QuickBooks Payroll has a program of continuous improvement. Whether it’s using new cloud computing or adding new help features, the company works to stay ahead of any new competition.
    financial forms
    Strong technical support adds value to accounting software
  • Technical Support
As with QuickBooks, the payroll option has strong technical support and a variety of options. But again, being the market leader means there is a large support network of other users. In addition to online forums, many community centers and schools offer classes and workshops for products in the QuickBooks family. 


QuickBooks Payroll itself has a number of features that make it a good choice for a small business owner just adding employees. These include:
  • Customization
A nice feature of QuickBooks Payroll is its ability to be easily customized to fit your business needs. 
  • Two Payroll Options
If you work closely with an accountant, you can choose a less expensive version of the software that does not provide tax forms. You’ll be able to automatically generate paychecks with the correct tax deductions; then your accountant can file the appropriate forms with payment.

For a slightly higher fee, QuickBooks Payroll will also generate your tax forms. Of course, they won’t cover your taxes – you still have to pay those yourself! – however, they stay on top of tax law and can help you avoid penalties or fines.
  • Checks or Direct Deposit
QuickBooks Payroll gives you the option of generating and printing your own paychecks or of using direct deposit.

Sticking with the industry leader often brings a wealth of benefits to a business, and this is especially true for small business payroll processing. Silicon Valley pioneer QuickBooks is the clear choice when it comes time for an entrepreneur to add employees.

About the author: Sarah Boisvert is an author who writes on a variety of topics for small business and innovation. She also covers digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing.

* Image licenses: 1. Royalty Free or iStock source: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
2. Royalty Free or iStock source: Arvind Balaraman via FreeDigitalPhotos.net