Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Easily Protect Yourself When Giving to Charities

Are you someone who loves giving to charities? My wife and I sure do. We make it a practice to give at various times during the year. But our interest really peaks during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many charitable organizations that do great work at these times of year. It is true that people are in need year round. However, the depth and seriousness of focus seems to peak during the holidays. I think that’s because we have an innate – some would say God-given desire – to help those in need. Many of us have been blessed through the holidays and we want to pass those joys and blessings on to others.

giving to charitiesOf course giving to charities doesn’t have to be only about money. You can give of your time and talents as well. But for most, the easiest path is to donate money and let the charities put that to use the best way they know how.

But how do you know if your money will be used wisely? Perhaps the better question is how do you know if you are not getting ripped off or taken advantage of by a rogue charity or a scam artist?

[Read more…]

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off From Service Industry “Professionals”

Have you ever needed to hire a service industry professional for advice, a project or repair? Chances are we have all been there. Why? Because taxes need completing. Cars break down. Computers need fixing. Home air conditioning systems go bad.

You may be among those fortunate enough to know how to do these things on your own. Or at least you know a little about how these things work. The vast majority of the public does not know how to fix a car or computer. We don’t know why AC units malfunction. We rely on industry professionals who are trained to handle such projects or repairs.

service industry Most service industry professionals are hard working and credible people. They are not looking to take advantage of people. They just want to make a living by doing an honest day’s work.

However, we all know that not all service industry professionals fall into this category. In fact, we need to put quotation marks around some service industry workers when we call them “professionals.” They may be experts at their chosen career. But they are also experts at another thing – conning people out of their money. So they don’t exhibit the kinds of qualities we would all want in someone who was truly professional at their job. Here is a case in point.

[Read more…]

Visa Debit Card Safety: What You Need to Know

My daughter just reached an financial milestone the other week when she opened her first checking account several weeks ago. However, she’s even more excited that, along with the checking account, came a Visa debit card. Yep, her first piece of plastic.

Visa debit cardOf course she will have to learn how to use it responsibly. That’s because debit cards act like cash. All transactions post to your checking account register. In other words, when you buy an item with a debit card, the money is immediately withdrawn from your account to complete the purchase.

The advantages here should be obvious. Debit cards force you to budget your money. They force you to keep track of how much money you have left to spend. Credit cards don’t do that. The credit limit is the limitation placed on the account. But once you’ve hit that limit, many people have already spent more on the card than they actually have. That’s what makes credit cards so dangerous.

[Read more…]

What Is a Savings Account and Does My Child Need One?

As part of my return to blogging after a brief absence, I’m going to be writing a series of posts that answer some basic money questions.  Even for seasoned consumers, it’s important to return to the basics from time to time, if nothing more than to solidify in our minds why we do these things. So today I’m going to be answering the question what is a savings account?

And I’ll be answering some FAQs at the end – one in particular about savings accounts for children.

Savings 101

what is a savings accountOther than spend, there is no more basic activity to do with money than to save it. People save for many reasons. But the main purpose of saving is to have a store of money for needs, for wants or for emergencies.

You can save money anywhere. If you are like most people, you probably have a small amount of cash at your home. But the majority of people who want to save large amounts of cash do so by opening a savings account at local bank.

[Read more…]

How to Save One Thousand Dollars in a Month

If you are serious about getting out of debt and building any kind of financial future, then you must save money on a regular basis. The best part is you don’t have to begin with much. All you need to do for starters is to save one thousand dollars. That will give yourself some cushion.

When I worked construction I learned that every building requires a solid foundation. For your financial life, that foundation is savings. Without adequate savings you will struggle to get out of debt and will always be susceptible to emergency situations.

save one thousand dollarsNow I know the process of saving money isn’t sexy. We’d rather go spend our money on gadgets and entertainment that would give us an emotional high. Saving money and leaving it in the bank is an emotional blah.

To save one thousand dollars in a month may or may not sound like a daunting task depending on your situation. Some of you may be struggling to pay your basic bills.

But you can save one thousand dollars quickly. In fact, you could do it in only one month. Here’s how.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

3 Principles from the Bible that Will Help You Build Wealth

The following is a guest post from ESI who blogs at ESI Money. He’s a 50-something early retiree who has amassed a multi-million dollar net worth by following three simple steps to build wealth — earning, saving, and investing (ESI).

As most Christians know, the Bible has a wealth of information and advice about handling money and the ability to build wealth. The book of Proverbs alone provides enough guidance to fill many personal finance books.

build wealthOf course the Bible doesn’t focus on becoming wealthy for wealth’s sake, but to bless others. That said, if you apply the principles in the Bible, you can’t help but become wealthy.

Over the past 25 years I have applied three simple steps to become wealthy. At the same time, my knowledge of what the Bible says about money has grown. Somewhere along the way I realized that my actions mirrored what was in Scripture. And even better, as I changed my actions to better reflect the Bible’s teachings on money, I prospered even more.

[Read more…]

Always Plan a Budget Around These 5 Expenses First

The first time I sat down to plan a budget with my wife, we didn’t know where to start. There were literally dozens of expense categories popping into our head at once. The whole process seemed a bit overwhelming.

plan a budgetAt some point it dawned on us that we needed some clarity about the process. We needed to narrow the field and focus on certain priorities in the budget. By doing that, it became obvious what areas of the budget we needed to focus on first.

What we found was that there are five fundamental expenditures to focus on when you plan a budget. Without them, any person would have a difficult time surviving. Coincidentally, these categories will also be some of the most expensive budget items each month. Those two reasons alone – basic survival and cost – should justify why it’s important to start with them when you plan a budget each month.

Five Basic Categories When You Plan a Budget

[Read more…]

Operation Christmas Child: Changing Lives One Shoebox at a Time

I believe the Bible when it says, He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor”  (Proverbs 22:9). There are spiritual and emotional blessings that come when we give to others, especially those in challenging life situations. And this time of year I can think of nothing better to give to than Operation Christmas Child. 

operation christmas childCan you imagine living in a world with no Christmas? What does that look like?

There are no kids eager to wake you up at 7:00 a.m…no smiles when a gift is received…no feelings of being special…no thoughts that someone cares for you.

What an unattractive and dismal scenario. Sadly, millions of children all over the world experience a Christmas just like this.  Their Christmas is bitter, meaningless and without hope.

That’s where Operation Christmas Child steps in. But they are only able to do so with your help. Here is how.

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Program

[Read more…]

“I’m Rich!” – How to Handle a Lump Sum Payment of Money

I’m sure you’ve daydreamed at some point about how life would change if a large lump sum payment of money came your way. Say like a million dollars? We’ve all played this game and fantasized about all the good we could do for ourselves and others with that much money.

lump sum paymentFor most people, this will not happen. The better likelihood is that it will take many years of hard work accompanied by traditional saving and investing to become wealthy. That’s how most of us will reach our financial milestones.

However, people’s lives can change quickly because they receive a lump sum payment of money worth six or seven figures. How could this happen? Well, here is how and it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Ways to Receive a Lump Sum Payment of Money

The following are ways a person could receive a lump sum payment of money:

[Read more…]