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The Money Minute - February 2014  

In this Issue




Olympics

Your Financial Olympics

The 2014 Olympics are underway and for many athletes this is an accumulation of years of preparation. There have been triumphs, as well as challenges, on their journey to Sochi and Olympic gold. But they didn’t get there without a plan. They didn’t say, “I want to be an Olympian” and then do nothing about making it a reality. You should approach your finances in the same manner. You certainly wouldn’t say, “I want to retire with enough money to travel the world,” and then not contribute to your retirement account. Just like the Olympic athlete, you need to have a plan to get what you want. So let’s start your training.

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Bitcoins

Bitcoins- Are They Right For You?

A debt collector calls you every day, sometimes multiple times in the same day. He leaves you threatening messages at home, and tries to contact you at work. His messages threaten legal action if you don't make an immediate payment on the debt. The worst part? You don't even recognize the debt that the collector is trying to collect. What can you do to take control of the situation, find out if the debt is real, and prevent further harassment by the debt collector?

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America Saves Week 2013

America Saves Week (February 24- March 1, 2014)

Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

Are you ready to take charge of your financial future? America Saves is ready to help. They can assist you in developing your goals and taking action

For More information, visit: www.americasavesweek.org

   
 Valentines_Day_Certificates.jpg

Debt May Spoil Cupid's Plans

Cupid was up against a mighty opponent this Valentine’s Day: debt. The majority of respondents participating in the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) monthly poll, of which Apprisen is a member, indicated they would have serious reservations about taking on the debt of the person they love, even to the point of ending the relationship.

 

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Credit Reports and Scores Flyer Final

Webinar: Understanding Credit Reports and Scores              

Personal credit issues frustrating your dreams? Apprisen wants to help you reach your dreams by giving you the information you need to be successful through this FREE webinar where you can:

  • Understand how credit issues can impact many areas of your life
  • Learn how to dispute information
  • Recognize the factors that make up your credit score
  • Learn ways to improve your credit score

Attend this free webinar: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

12pm EST, 11am CST, 9am PST

To register or find out more click here



 

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Your Financial Olympics   

The 2014 Olympics are underway and for many athletes this is an accumulation of years of preparation. There have been triumphs, as well as challenges, on their journey to Sochi and Olympic gold. But they didn’t get there without a plan. They didn’t say, “I want to be an Olympian” and then do nothing about making it a reality. You should approach your finances in the same manner. You certainly wouldn’t say, “I want to retire with enough money to travel the world,” and then not contribute to your retirement account. Just like the Olympic athlete, you need to have a plan to get what you want. So let’s start your training. 

Set a goal. You have to know what you are working for and then motivate yourself to achieve it. Write it down on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet. Next time you are going to make an impulsive purchase you will see it and, perhaps, not  spend the money. If you want to take it to the next level, take the money you were going to use and put it in account that is designated specifically for your goal. 

Create a support system. Everybody in the household should be on the same page when it comes to finances. Weekly discussions on how you handled your finances the week before and what is coming up the following week will help keep you on track.   

Get coaching. Examine your financial situation and determine what kind of coach you need. If you are struggling, you can make an appointment with a certified counselor from Apprisen to discuss your overall budget and create an action plan that is specific to your situation. Or, you might consult a financial planner if you are preparing for your retirement. Regardless, seek out the experts to assist you in your journey.

Proper Equipment. What are the things you need to be successful in reaching your goals? There are many computer programs or apps on your phone that could provide you with the resources. Whatever it is, your information needs to be stored in a safe place and updated on a regular basis.    

Solid Training. There’s a saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” but make it a priority to find out. If you don’t know exactly how to create a spending plan or raise your credit score, learn. Seek out quick tips, educational videos, and free webinars in the Learning Center on Apprisen’s website (www.apprisen.com). Your community may offer other workshops and seminars that you should consider seeking out.  Bottom line, don’t assume you know what you’re doing -- that could be a very costly mistake.

Perseverance. Don’t give up. Life happens and sometimes we lose focus of our goals. Try sending yourself monthly emails reminders that are specific to your goals using www.futureme.org. You can ask motivating questions and give yourself encouragement. For example, “I bet you have $1,000 in savings already!” or “You got your raise last month, BUT did you remember to increase what was going into savings?” Short notes of inspiration will help you focus and get you through the difficult times.

Today is the day to begin your training for Your Financial Olympics and experience the thrill of victory by achieving your financial gold medal.

 

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Bitcoins- Are They Right For You?

Before we can answer the question, we should probably spend a moment to answer another question; what is a bitcoin? 

Bitcoins are a virtual currency invented by a mystery programmer in 2009. By virtual, we mean that they do not exist in physical form. They can’t be found in the form of metal coins, gold bars, or paper bills that you can see, smell, or touch. They only exist in computer accounts called wallets. In that sense, each coin is an electronic record that is stored on a computer. If this sounds a lot like your online bank account, you are beginning to understand the concept of bitcoins.

There is one great big caveat to keep in mind when thinking about bitcoins. The electronic record of the money in your bank account represents real dollars that are backed by the U.S. government which is insured by the FDIC. There are no similar protections for bitcoins. They only have value because someone is willing to give you hard currency or products in exchange for them. The moment people believe that bitcoins have a reduced value or even worse, no value at all, bitcoins become worthless.

To spend a bitcoin, the record is transferred from one wallet to another in an anonymous electronic transaction. Because no one knows who owns each wallet, no one knows who actually owns bitcoins or who is spending them. For this reason, bitcoins have become popular in illegal transactions. You can think of exchanging bitcoins as being like electronically handing cash from one wallet to another without anyone knowing who owns each wallet.

Bitcoins are like cash in other ways as well. For instance, they can be lost. One early buyer of bitcoins lost more than 7 million dollars by accidently throwing the computer hard drive containing the records of his electronic wallet into the trash. They can also be stolen by computer hackers and unlike your bank account, if someone steals your bitcoins, no bank is going to reimburse you for your loss.

So, let’s get back to our original question. Are bitcoins for you? For most people, the resounding answer is NO! The entire concept of virtual currency is in its infancy. For the moment, investment in bitcoins is pure speculation. You could make a lot of money or you could lose every penny. Just like any speculation, you have to ask yourself if you can afford to lose the money you invest. Most of us can’t afford to lose our hard earned money. For the average consumer, bitcoins or any other virtual currency is probably not a good choice until they become main stream.
 

  

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Debt May Spoil Cupid’s Plans

Cupid was up against a mighty opponent this Valentine’s Day: debt. The majority of respondents participating in the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) monthly poll, of which Apprisen is a member, indicated they would have serious reservations about taking on the debt of the person they love, even to the point of ending the relationship.

Fifty-four percent of respondents would either not marry until the debt was repaid (37%), marry but not help pay the debt (10%), or end the relationship (7%). The remaining 46 percent of those who weighed in were willing to marry and jointly pay off the debt.  

Consumers need to consider the negative ramifications of debt and the associated problems that go beyond credit scores and interest rates. Debt can have serious, long-lasting personal implications. The results from the poll seem to appear that debt overrides love, at least temporarily, when deciding to move forward in a relationship.   

The fact that debt can give a person second thoughts about continuing a relationship may be particularly true with young adults who emerge from college with tens of thousands of dollars in credit card and student loan debt. If two millennials with similar debt obligations marry, they could begin their happily ever after with a six-figure debt load. Close to half of all marriages in America end in divorce, with financial strain often cited as the culprit. Therefore, it is no surprise that people are reluctant to start off on the wrong financial foot.

Due to the potential negative impact debt can have on a credit report and score, it may also be difficult to buy a home or car, rent an apartment, obtain insurance or land a job, all common steps people take when building a life together. 

However, lovebirds need to be aware that credit reports and scores are for individuals, not couples. A marriage license may join two people together in matrimony, but their credit remains separate. The game changes, however, if accounts are opened jointly with each person a co-applicant. People often apply for credit jointly when making a major purchase that requires two sources of income to support the loan. In this case, one person’s low credit score may hinder the approval, or if the lender extends credit, it may be at a higher interest rate.

Further, if two people marry, one with good credit and one with iffy credit, there is a way to legitimately improve the credit of the not-so-fortunate party. Adding a person onto an account as an authorized user allows the credit history to be reported in both the authorized user’s name and the primary account holder’s name. Over time, with the credit handled responsibly, this will positively impact both credit reports. 

Love and money cannot be separated. Financial decisions are made each day in a marriage. For that reason, it is important that couples communicate openly about their finances, are willing to sharing all sources of income, debt obligations, credit reports and scores. A discussion would also need to be had regarding personal preferences about loaning money to family and friends and attitudes toward spending and saving. Financial baggage can be heavy, but settling differences before walking down the aisle will go a long way toward making happily ever after a reality.

The NFCC January poll question and results are as follows:

If the person I loved had a large amount of debt, I would

A. Not marry until the debt was paid = 37%

B. Marry and pay it off together = 46%

C. Marry, but not help pay the debt = 10%

D. End the relationship = 7%

Note: The NFCC’s January Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (www.DebtAdvice.org) from January 1–31, 2014, and was answered by 2,170 individuals. 


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