Friday, May 29, 2009

6 Tips for College Grads

You graduated from college and received your diploma. Now what! Now you have to face reality and face the real world. First, get a job. Next, figure out what to do with your money but don't spend it all. Forty-percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and seventy percent of Americans live above their means. It can be tempting to buy on impulse and spend your money on everything you see but slow down and pace yourself. Here are 6 tips to help you live below your means and stay out of debt.

1. Setup a debt payoff plan. Setup a debt payoff plan to prioritize your bills including student loans and credit card debt. Start by paying off the smallest bills first, then use the money paid towards a previous bill and apply it to the next bill and continue this process until all your debts are paid.

2. Pay more than minimum monthly payment. If pay the minimum monthly payment you will end up paying 2 to 3 times what you actually charged due to the interest and finance charges that accrue on your balance. Try to send extra towards your balance each month.

3. Pay with cash. Pay for purchases with cash until your credit card balances are paid in full. If you pay for an item with a credit card you end up paying 112% the original cost of the item.

4. Start with your company's 401K as soon as you are hired for your first job. Do research to see what plan has the best options to help you achieve your retirement goals.

5. Diversify. Control your risks by investing in various mutual funds that are a combination or low, medium and high risk to limit your losses.

6. Buy insurance – health, life, disability. Many Americans go into debt due to medical bills and lack of insurance. Get at least basic health, life and disability coverage. Coverage is cheaper for individuals.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

FERA - A Huge Victory for Homeowners

President Obama signed the the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) on May 20, 2009. The act gives the federal government more tools and authority to track fraud that caused millions of homeowners to lose their homes to foreclosure and caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Over 13 million Americans are unemployed and over 1.2 million Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure in 2009.

Many Americans were victims of fraud in the financial industries. The Act will target those financial institutions that are regulated or insured by the government and private companies that are not. The act will expand the Department of Justice’s ability to prosecute crimes resulting from the mortgage process.

The legislation amends the major fraud statute to protect the funds distributed under the TARP and the Recovery Act. The Act will provide more money to hire employees to investigate and prosecute fraudulent behavior. The Act will also create a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial methods used that led to the recession to ensure that we do not encounter this type of financial crisis in the future.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

8 Tips for Credit Card Protection Plans

Credit card protections plans are sold to consumers as a safety measure to help consumers when in reality it is just another money making tool for credit card companies. The credit card companies make hundreds of millions of dollars a year and the recession is just another easy way for credit card companies to scare consumers into purchasing a protection plan. You also have to be careful about credit card protection plans scams. Here are 8 Tips for to consider when purchasing a Credit Card Protection Plan.

1. Credit card protection plans are similar to insurance plans used to insure credit card accounts. Some plans may or may not charge a fee to "protect" your credit card account. Read the agreement carefully before signing or ask the company for an explanation of the terms of the plan. The protection plan exempts you from payments, interest and fees and does not affect your credit score.

2. Plans usually require you to be under age 65 to enroll and be employed full-time. The plan covers crises such as: disability, unemployment, theft coverage, or if you are nable to make the payments. However, coverage is not available in every state. Verify if the plan covers self-employed workers and those who work less than 30 hours per work. Over-the-limit and past due accounts may not be eligible for coverage.

3. The price of the plans varies from state to state but usually ranges from $.35 - $.95 per $100 of your account balance. This adds up quickly when including the monthly finance charge, any late fee, over-the-limit fee or annual fee.

4. This can make it difficult to pay down the balance because the plan fee is added to the finance charge. Instead of your minimum monthly payment being applied to the principal or finance charge on your account it will be applied to the: plan fee and finance charge which will make your balance go down at a slower rate especially if you have a high credit card balance.

5. If you already have home, car, or life insurance, you may already have enough coverage. If you don't carry a balance on the credit card you may not be eligible for coverage.

6. The length of time to process claims can take up to 30 days and usually the claim payment is applied later which can cause your payment to be late. If you file a claim you cannot make charges after the claim is filed because they are not covered during the claim period. Claim payments are made based on the amount owed on the account at the time the claim is made.

7. Your maximum liability on a credit card is $50 per card, and if you report a lost or stolen credit card right away it is zero so it doesn't make sense to purchase a protection plan.

8. You can create an inventory of all of your credit and debit cards and list the following information for each: account number, mailing address, toll-free number, and interest rate. Review your credit card statement each month to verify all charges and check for errors.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

7 Tips to Lower Costs at the Gas Pump

The average gas price is $2.32 a gallon for regular gas. The recession is still taking on a toll on Americans and gas prices add an additional burden to struggling families. The highest gas price is in San Francisco California at $2.89 a gallon. The lowest gas price is in Cottonwood Arizona. If you are looking for ways to reduce costs at the gas pump and plan on doing any road tips this summer here are 6 ways to help keep money in your pocket.

1. Carpool. If gas prices are hurting your pocket, start carpooling. Offer to pick up co-workers or friends who work near your job. Charge enough money to cover the increasing costs of gas and car maintenance. You can also use carpooling services if you don't want to drive and join a carpool with neighbors or co-workers.

2. Drive steady. Maintaining a constant speed reduces the amount of gas needed to rev up the engine to go faster and will keep you from filling up more often. It is also better for the environment.

3. Generic Tires. Buy standard or generic brand tires. This will improve gas mileage and save you money when buying new tires. Standard tires also provide a better ride especially on the highway.

4. Regular Maintenance. Perform regular maintenance on your car at the scheduled intervals, make sure you get regular tune-ups, oil changes, check tire pressure, air filters, and check your tires for wear. This will improve gas mileage and save you money in the future.

5. Use fresh air. Roll down the windows instead of using the car air conditioner to save on gas usage.

6. Consolidate. Combine nearby trips on the same day to reduce gas usage.

7. Downgrade. Trade in your luxury car for a cheaper car or ditch your gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient car. This will save your money which can be used to pay down debt or pay for necessary household expenses.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Bank Bailout Money Was Used for Lobbying Congress

Congress is considering credit card legislation to help consumers. However some members of Congress believe that the banking and financial industries have too much influence on members of Congress. Unfortunately the banking industries does have a great influence on Congress which is not good for consumers. Some banks increased the amount of money spent on lobbyists last year including Wells Fargo and Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving TARP money are members of Congress who chair committees tasked with regulating the financial industry and overseeing the effectiveness of TARP program including Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs who received $854,200 from the companies in the 2008 election. Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee received $279,000.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Financial Services Committee and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-2008 election cycle.

The 300 or so companies that have been received aid from TARP, 26 of them paid lobbyists $76.7 million to represent them on Capitol Hill in 2008. The 161 companies approved for TARP money gave $37.5 million to federal candidates, parties and committees in the 2007-2008 election.

Bank of America spent $14.5 million towards campaign contributions for Congress, received $45 billion from the bailout and spent $8.78 million on lobbying. Citigroup was also one of the top companies that spent the most, $12.5 on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions, and received $50 billion from the bailout. American Express spent $3.79 million and M&T Bank spent $10,000 on lobbying.

The top 10 companies that received the $700 billion bailout spent $9.5 million on federal lobbying during the first 3 months of the 2009. Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. spent over $1 million in lobbying. Bank of America Corp spent $660,000 in lobbying, Wells Fargo $700,000 in lobbying, PNC Financial Services Group, spent $135,000, and U.S. Bancorp spent $170,000 on lobbying.

Write your state congressman and representative and voice your opinion about the banking and financial industry lobbyists.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fighting Teens for A Job

According to USA Today, there will be fewer jobs than last summer which was recorded as the worst teen unemployment market in six decades, in a report from the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies.

June-August 2008, 32.7% of teens worked which is a decrease from 45% in 2000, according to seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment for 16-to-19-year-olds was 21.5% in April.

Teen workers are disadvantaged because most employers will hire adults because they feel they require less training. Laid off adults are getting jobs such as: cashiers, babysitter, valet car parker, and amusement park workers.

U.S. theme parks will hire about 500,000 seasonal employees, about the same as last year, according to an estimate from The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

According to a report by Junior Achievement, 18% of 12-to-17-year-olds are working alongside more adults and former retirees. They are also looking for work in low paying industries such as hospitality and retail. Many overqualified laid off adults are looking for jobs that pay minimum wage, above or below minimum wage such as Summer Lifeguard positions.

Another group affected by the economy are adults in their 20s work are unable to find jobs in the career fields and are forced to work jobs that they did as teenagers. Many teens are looking for summer employment to pay for college or other expenses.

Employers are seeing record numbers of applicants. Workers from previous seasons are coming back to get their old jobs back because there are not as many options available this summer. Many employees are documenting record setting turnouts at job fairs with an increase in applicants and an increase in hopefully job seekers.

Here are 5 tips for teens looking for work:
1. Contact youth organizations
2. Use the internet to search for jobs
3. Go to youth job training center to gain skills that are in demand
4. Talk to your school counselor or former counselor to learn about any possible job opportunities or job leads
5. Do volunteer work which can sometimes lead to a paid job
6. Join organizations like Junior Achievement, Americorps or Peacecorps

Here are 5 tips for adults looking for work:
1. Get up at the same time you did when you were working, no later than 8am, get dressed and be ready in case a prospective employer calls for an interview
2. Attend free networking functions
3. Tell everyone you know or come in contact with that you are looking for a job
4. Lower your standards for employment such as salary, job title, etc. You may have to take a pay cut to get a job but it is better than not having a job. Your ultimate goal is to get a job in your same field making approximately the same amount of money you did when you were unemployed but don't limit yourself
5. Visit job training center to learn new skills, you should have at least 2 skills that are in demand
6. Contact staffing firms or apply for temp-to-perm work

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 Ways to Pay Down Medical Debt

Medical debt is one of the reasons why Americans file for bankruptcy. Every year many Americans file for bankruptcy due to medical debt. In 2008, 46 million Americans did not have any health insurance coverage.

Many people are uninsured due to the high costs of medical coverage. Many employers only pay a small portion of healthcare costs leaving the remaining expense for the employee. It is expected that 1.4 million Americans will file for bankruptcy this year, and some will be due to medical debt.

Health care costs continue to increase each year. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, in 2008, total health care costs increased approximately 6.0% - almost twice the rate of inflation. In 2008, employer health insurance premiums increased by 5.0%. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700 versus $4,700 for individual coverage. Retiring elderly couples will need $250,000 in savings just to pay for the most basic medical coverage.

Many Americans file bankruptcy for various reasons such as job loss, illness, death of a loved one, disability, loss of coverage, divorce, and the additional medical fees associated with health care coverage such as co-payments, deductibles, prescription costs, COBRA costs, etc.

The problem is the lack of mandated regulations in the health care industry, industry fraud and billing errors. Health insurance companies over charge patients fees for services and if you do not have health insurance coverage you might as well sign over your child to pay for the medical costs because when you don't have insurance you can basically be charged whatever fee the doctor or hospital chooses. When you have health insurance you can only be charged a certain amount for services.

We claim to be the most powerful country in the world yet we are the sickest developed country in the world. We have the highest incidents of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, and cancer.

We should demand that full health insurance coverage is provided to all Americans no matter what their income or lack of income. You should not get better treatment or additional services simply because you have a higher income or can afford better coverage. Every human life should be valued but based on our health insurance industry it is not. We must fight back and force Congress to develop better laws to improve our health care industry and provide insurance for all Americans because we deserve it. Here are 5 Ways to Pay Down Medical Debt

1. Ask for an itemized list of all services to ensure you are not being charged more than once for services you received
2. If you had health insurance at the time of service, verify which charges are covered under your insurance
3. Negotiate with the service provider (doctor or hospital) to get fees reduced or eliminated in exchange for paying the debt
4. Setup a payment plan with the service provider to pay down the debt
5. Adjust spending to gain extra money to pay towards the medical debt

Friday, May 08, 2009

Are Balances Transfer A Good Thing

Many credit card companies make it easy to transfer credit card balances from one credit card to another offering a lower interest rate for a promotional period of time. After that promotional period expires you will be required to pay a much higher interest rate and any payments made will first be applied to the old debt.

Any future purchases will continue to accrue finance charges. Once the old debt is paid down then any payments made will be applied to the new purchases. You may say – what is the point, I don't see the benefit.

Well, for those Americans who are struggling to pay down credit card balances with interest rates of 17%, 21%, 25% or 32%, a balance transfer is a reasonable option but should not be your first option. You should try to negotiate with your creditor to get a lower interest rate at least temporarily.

If your creditor refuses to work with you, you can file a complaint against the creditor. To save time and money you can transfer the balance to a low interest credit card.

Remember that each time you open a new account it counts towards your credit score and if you have opened more than 1-2 accounts in a 24 month period your credit score will slightly decrease. However, once your debt is paid down to 30% or below the credit limit your credit score will increase.

Transferring credit card balances may also lower your credit score because it is an indication that you are unable to manage your money. The biggest mistake made with transferring credit card balances is not reading the credit card agreement to find out all the terms and guidelines associated with the credit card.

The key to balance transfers is to pay off the transferred balance before the promotional period ends and use the card only occasionally for small purchases paying the balance off in full at the end of the month to prevent paying high finance charges.

Do some comparison shopping before selecting a credit card that offers a balance transfer. Some good sites to use are and

Here are 5 reasons to transfer a credit card balance to another credit card with a lower interest rate.

1. If your current interest rate is higher than 12%
2. If you are struggling to make the payments due to late fees, over-the-limits fees and finance charges.
3. If you know you will be able to pay the debt off before or by the end of the promotional period.
4. If you are have at least an average credit score of 650 or above and can get approved for a new credit card.
5. If you are serious about getting out of debt.

The goal is to get out of debt and the fastest way to get out of debt is to pay more than the minimum monthly payment.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Stop Annoying Calls From Creditors

Creditors call you at work, home and on your cell phone day and night sometimes every hour on the hour asking for payment. Due to the recession the harassing calls from creditors have increased and have gotten more unprofessional. In some instances consumers are unemployed and therefore can't send a payment but creditors don’t care, they want their money and will do just about anything to get it – even lie.

If you make just one late payment usually 30 days or more late, no matter what your previous payment history you could be placed in the same category as those who avoid paying bills, hide under a rock hoping their creditors will get tired of contacting them for payment or who have filed for bankruptcy.

Most creditors have a Collection Department that calls to remind you to send a payment if the payment is even one day past the due date. The first few calls the creditors seem really nice and ask when you will be able to send a payment. Then they their attitude quickly changes and they use all kinds of threats, lies, emotional guilt, rudeness, etc. to get you to make a payment.

Please don't fall for this! Know your rights as a consumer and the rights that creditors and debt collection agencies have to follow before making a payment agreement verbally or in writing. The two main acts that protect consumers are the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which can found on the Federal Trade Commission website at

A creditor or debt collection agency cannot call you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm. If a creditor or debt collector contacts you, you have the right to ask them to stop contacting you by phone by saying "cease and desist" and ask them to contact you by mail. If you feel a creditor or debt collector has violated your rights as a consumer file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or by going to their website at

Never make a decision to pay an overdue bill based out of fear or due to bullying tactics used by the creditors and collection agencies. Take a day or two to calm down, think about your situation and then develop a plan to start paying your debt back. Call the creditor back and tell them your plan to pay the debt back. Follow-up your agreement in writing and keep a copy for your records.

If you fall behind on your payments in the future notify your creditor or the collection agency immediately that you are having financial problems and setup a payment plan with them to prevent bad marks on your credit report and to prevent legal action being taken against you.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Upcoming Events

May 2009
May 6, 2009, Living by Design Show with Cathy Hill, Charlestown, IN, 6pm
May 8, 2009, Booksigning with DC Bookdiva, Washington, DC, 12-6pm
May 9, 2009, Guest on Urban Flow Show, DCTV, Washington DC, 2pm
May 23, 2009, Guest Speaker with Urban Leadership Institute, Baltimore, MD, TBD

June 2009
June 20, 2009, Guest on Urban Flow Show, DCTV, Washington DC, 2pm

July 2009
July 31, 2009, National Black Book Club Conference, Financial Seminar and Booksigning, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA

August 2009
August 1-2, 2009, National Black Book Club Conference, Financial Seminar and Booksigning, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA