Hope for your financial life and beyond

Why You Should and Shouldn’t Refinance Student Debt

If you have student debt, you may be wondering whether or not it is a good idea for you to refinance the loan. To be honest, it depends on your situation and several important factors. But make no mistake, you do have to pay them back. If you don’t, you risk defaulting on your loan, which could lead to other drastic consequences.

Not everyone will benefit from refinancing their student loans. So it is important that you take some time to think about it before you jump in feet first. Below, are some of the reasons why and why you should not refinance your student debt.

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6 Ways We Survive the Dark Side of Rental Real Estate

My wife and I purchased our first home to be used as a rental property seven years ago. That move was the culmination of several years’ worth of reading about and planning to own rental real estate. It took us that long to feel knowledgeable and confident enough to put a plan into action that would earn us a steady income stream aside from our normal careers.

For the most part, our experience has been a positive one. In fact, I’d say overall it has been great. However, we have had our share of challenges along the way, like:

rental real estate…an unexpected new well we had to drill and install (that was pricey!)

…leaky copper pipes that had to be replaced in an entire house

…a dual tenant situation where one roommate left, leaving us with half the monthly revenue stream on that property until another roommate could be found

…tenants who don’t inform you of repair issues in a timely manner (“Really? It’s been leaking how long?”)

…tenants who won’t pay on time, or ever

…tenants, who by their actions force you into court (that’s a post in itself!)

…managing the finances to account for repairs, taxes and the house that sits vacant for months while you do said repairs or find a new tenant

…dealing with the emotions that come when facing these tough circumstances

…the time it took away from our already busy schedule to take care of all this

Are you prepared for all that and more? If you are game, then I have five suggestions that will help you manage through some of the dark times that will inevitably come. And I’ll tell you the sixth thing we’ve done recently that has taken our rental real estate business to the next level.

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8 Blogs to Follow to Stay in the Know on Ecommerce

If you’ve ever run a business you know that it doesn’t go smoothly all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if there were someone with a lot of experience to consult for free whenever your ecommerce business hit a hiccup for which you had no ready solution on hand?

Luckily for you there is help. This article will discuss eight blogs you can follow to stay in the know. Listed in no particular order, they offer advice regarding site design, marketing, SEO, finding your niche, choosing products, shipping and more.

E-commerce Related Blogs

eCommerceFuel

eCommerceFuel offers advice from Andrew Youderian, one of the most respected individuals in the world of ecommerce. Youderian started with blank screens and built two stores generating more than $1 million in annual revenue. Consequently, eCommerceFuel offers advice for those new to ecommerce. It touches on topics such as managing cash flow and how to conduct email marketing.

The blog is also rich with resources including a free book, a podcast, training videos and a vibrant forum.

E-Commerce Times

This one is more of an industry newsletter than a blog per se. Industry experts and professionals contribute stories to E-Commerce Times about the latest trends and developments in the industry. Straight from the field’s heaviest hitters, this is where you’ll keep abreast of the latest information likely to have a significant impact upon the way you do business.

Shopify

Shopify looks out for the little guy. Small startups and first-time entrepreneurs going solo will find information covering topics such as marketing, drop-shipping and improving the customer experience. You’ll also learn why every business needs a blog. Writers with a wide range of relevant experience contribute to one of the best ecommerce website builders and blog.

A Better Lemonade Stand

This blog documents the activities of Richard Lazazzera as he builds his ecommerce brand from the ground up. A Better Lemonade Stand chronicles his experiences with SEO, marketing, product ideas and revenue. Additionally, Lazazzera gets into subjects like drop-shipping, manufacturing, wholesaling and working with manufacturers.

Perusing this blog is like being a fly on the wall as a time-tested expert goes through the ins and outs of learning to build your own better lemonade stand.

Bootstrapping Ecommerce

Odds are, if you’ve run searches for any specific information regarding startups, Shabbir Nooruddin has appeared on your screen more than a few times. His Bootstrapping Ecommerce blog is loaded with practical information covering every aspect of launching an ecommerce site. Nooruddin’s strength as a blogger lies in the way he provides practical ideas upon which you can immediately act.

Groove

For your marketing-oriented needs, Groove is the blog if you want to take advantage of solid expert advice including live chats with CEOs. Even more impressive, Groove manages to deliver this information in an entertaining manner, so you actually enjoy reading the site’s content as you learn from it.

You’ll find useful expert advice in the form of well-written how-to pieces. Advice ranges from the best marketing metrics to targeting strategies to SEO insights.

KISSmetrics

Neil Patel and Hiten Shah, veterans of campaigns for large companies like TechCrunch, target the KISSmetrics blog to ecommerce entrepreneurs seeking information regarding marketing, testing and analytics. You’ll find articles on improving your conversion rate, tracking offline marketing campaigns and how to measure your true brand equity.

Practical Ecommerce

Considered by some the standard for ecommerce, the Practical Ecommerce blog delivers content for every stage of the ecommerce funnel. Whether you’re looking for information on marketing, conversion, shopping carts, design or social media, Practical Ecommerce has solidly earned its place on this list of eight blogs to follow to stay in the know on the subject.

Questions for Discussion: Who do you rely on for ecommerce advice? What is the biggest business issue you are currently dealing with?

Dress for Success: Style Tips for Professional Real Estate Agents

The real estate industry is built on strong first impressions and appearances and for good reasons. With the average home in America priced at $188,900, there are almost 200,000 reasons for people to be picky when it comes to hiring real estate agents.

So how should real estate agents come across to potential clients? What is the first impression a potential client has of you? What do you look like? Are you simply wearing a T-shirt and jeans? Hopefully not.

For real estate agents just entering the industry, it’s tough to figure out how formal you need to be. Does your wardrobe need a complete overhaul? So here are some tips for dressing for success in the fast-paced world of real estate.

Tips for Real Estate Agents

Curb Appeal

This is a concept that agents will try and drill into the heads of their clients when they take a listing. First impressions are vital. This sentiment translates directly from looking at homes to being an agent.

Male agents will want to sport a crisp haircut and freshly pressed shirt and pants. Women will want to have skirt or pantsuit, conservative dress with a jacket and close-toed pumps. This is the prototypical professional image that most people expect from a real estate agent.

Pro-Tip: One what to bolster your curb appeal is to use the latest tech trends. Using real estate lead generation software on a tablet or other device will help you look like you’re “in the now.”

Context is Key

You don’t always need to be in your Sunday best to make a good sale. Sometimes, the regional context in which you live will overpower the need to be professional. For example, if you’re showing off condos at a ski-resort or bungalows in a beach town, business casual is more common. If you are trying to sell vacation homes, you want to appear relaxed, yet professional.

Also, if you live in a rural area selling ranch properties, you’re not going to want to be walking around cattle grazing areas dodging cow-pies in your Manolos. In this context, wearing jeans and boots is just fine and even preferable.

Don’t Stop at the Clothes

You can be decked out in all Armani. However, if you show up in a beater car, you probably will lose some of the curb appeal you need to form a good first impression. There are a couple schools of thought with regards to what kind of car a real estate agent should have:

  • A fancy car will give the impression of wealth and success.
  • The only thing tat matters is that whatever you drive is clean and reliable.

The first school of thought assumes that buyers and sellers will only want to hire some uber-successful real estate personalities. The second assumes that what you drive ultimately doesn’t matter. Which is the right one?

When comparing these two philosophies, it’s important to once again consider context. If you are selling a home in Beverly Hills, you’ll want something a little more flashy that shows off your successes. If you’re selling something in the suburbs, you will most likely be fine with something reasonable and affordable.

The truth is that you need to be self-aware of your circumstances. Know the region and portion of the market you are trying to enter. With a little bit of awareness, you’ll be well on the path to dressing your way to success.

Questions for Discussion: What other advice would you give a real estate agent wanting to make a good impression on a potential client?  

How to Get Out of Debt and Win in Five Simple Steps

Are you up to your eyeballs in debt? Don’t see anyway out? If so, take heart. You are not alone. Millions of Americans live with this burden and never once think about how to get out of debt.

how to get out of debtYou shouldn’t ignore the mountain of debt piling up. It would be better if you paid close attention because excessive debt will cripple your wealth building process. It will mess up your savings, the kid’s college funding, and even your retirement investing. In many cases, it also ruins your relationships.

People choose to ignore the debt crisis in their lives for many reasons. Some aren’t self aware enough to see how debt is affecting their life. Others enjoy the perks that come from excessive spending and think debt is the only way to get what they really want. I’m sure in some cases, people see the mountain of debt is so overwhelmingly high. As a result, they don’t know where or how to begin climbing out of it.

Whatever your circumstance, what I am about to share can help. How to get out of debt involves five simple enough steps to understand. However, the steps themselves won’t be easy. A few will be challenging to implement. Your behavior will have to change if you are going to be successful.

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The Best Advice From God About Playing Video Games

I have a confession to make – I LOVE playing video games. In fact, even today at age 43 – I have to keep myself from playing them because it’s so easy for me to get sucked into their grasp. I can still play all day if I let myself go.

Technology propels society forward perhaps like nothing else. I came of age in a decade where the video game industry saw leaps and bounds like never before. I was seven in 1980 when perhaps the greatest video game of all time was released. Want to take a guess which game that was?

That’s right – Pac-Man.

But the 1980s saw even greater innovations that propelled the numbers of kids and adults playing video games to new heights.

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5 Tips for Negotiating Residential Rental Disputes

Nobody envisions a major conflict when they sign a lease, whether they’re the landlord or the tenant. The relationship always starts out with high hopes and positive feelings. However, it can quickly turn sour depending on how both parties act and communicate over the course of the living arrangement. You could find yourself in the middle of many residential rental disputes.

It’s in the landlords’ best interest to remain responsive to tenant complaints. It’s also in the renters’ best interest to obey the terms of the contract and notify ownership of any issues in a reasonable manner. Proper communication and understanding of situations is the best path to landlord-tenant harmony.

However, most likely disputes will arise. What are some courses of action landlords can take to negotiate residential rental disagreements and get back on track with business? Here are 5 suggestions that landlord and tenant can use to handle residential rental disputes.

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Want to Chase Your Dreams? This Is the Right Way to Win Big

I hope you have some big goals you are trying to reach. Setting the right type of goals is key for personal and professional growth. But have you adequately prepared for what is ahead as you chase your dreams?

Our family faced a situation several years ago when my wife was facing a professional identity crisis. She enjoyed teaching math to high school students and was quite good at it. Although she loved the students, teaching wasn’t leaving her personally and professionally fulfilled.

So we began to discuss a big goal for her – making a career change that would take her from classroom math teacher to CPA. Those initial discussions were exciting. But, they were also filled with some indecision, apprehension and a little fear about how to accomplish the task.

chase your dreamsThe point here isn’t to be a discouragement as you chase your dreams. By all means, find your passion and go for it. However, many people have a tendency to jump before they think. That’s a mistake. You have to plan for the drawbacks and unforeseen situations that will arise as you chase your dream. The better you can prepare for those ahead of time, the easier they will be to deal with when they come.

We faced our share of issues during my wife’s transition. The great thing is we dealt with them and she eventually reached her goal.

Could it have gone smoother? Absolutely! That’s why I’m sharing five hints today from our experience that I hope will help you chase your dreams and reach that goal. You have to think these things through ahead of time and know how to deal with them if you want to win big.

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8 Bible Verses About God’s Love You Should Never Forget

Ever wonder where our capacity to love actually comes from? It’s pretty clear that our ability to love is something that was given to us by God. In fact, the Bible verses about God’s love that I read tell me He is Himself the essence of love and has passed that on to us.

verses about God's loveGranted it’s not always easy loving others. Often times we choose to love others based on how they act towards us. But that’s not how it is with God.

God’s love towards us is unconditional. That means He loves us no matter what. We can’t do anything to reject, or bypass or disown His love. He can’t help it – love is part of His nature. He loves us – all of us – equally and without hesitation.

If you doubt that, just look at these verses about God’s love found in the Bible.

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Is Your Perspective On Life Limiting You?

Enjoy this guest post from Don who writes for Breath of Optimism, a personal development site that helps readers to be the best person they can be in this life.

How do you see things in life?  Through a glass half empty or a glass half full? If you are one that tends to see the negative side of things, I urge you to change your ways as your perspective can be limiting you in life. Maybe you aren’t where you thought you would be because of how you view things. If you could change your perspective, you could see a great change in your life.

Every Situation Has Two Sides

In life, we tend to only focus on one side of the coin, either the positive side or the negative side. For whatever reason, most of us are wired to look at the negative. As such, we go through life always focusing on the negatives, finding fault in everything.

When we view life in the negative, we have added worry, stress and unhappiness in our life. But when we view life in the positive, we have little to no worries and we live each day to its fullest.

For me, I’ve been someone that tends to look at the bright side of life. I can remember a big decision I had to make at a young age that illustrates this perfectly.

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Should You Invest in the Stock Market During a Trump Administration?

Last week the stock market was setting all-time highs as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 20,000 for the first time. Since the close of trading on Nov. 4th, the market has raced ahead by over 2,200 points to where it stands today. Of course it remains to be seen whether this market can sustain the momentum or not under the leadership of our new President, Donald Trump.

stock marketJust typing that last sentence seems surreal, for people in both parties. We hardly could have imagined this two years ago. Whatever your political views, you have to give him credit for doing what no one thought possible. It’s something we haven’t seen in the history of our government.

President Trump is still an unknown quantity. By his own words, he is new to the political scene. We do not fully know how he will proceed with matters of national policy or foreign affairs because he doesn’t have a long track record for us to parse through. But we do know one thing about him. President Trump is a businessman through and through. He has done well for his family and the thousands of people he has employed.

Will this expertise be good for businesses across the country though? And will it translate into upward momentum in the stock market? Should you invest in the market during the Trump presidency, be it four or eight years? Let’s try to find out.

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