What is Inflation?

What is Inflation?

My dad used to tell me stories about how he would get a $0.25 allowance, and he could take his girlfriend to the movies, buy popcorn and drinks, and still have a nickel left over. He was talking about the 1960’s, in small town Pennsylvania. I don’t know if he was exaggerating or not, but I do know that prices have risen a lot since then. Wages have also gotten higher, but the way things sit at present, they have not kept up with the cost of day to day living. We have all felt the effects of these rising prices, as the same money we made for the last few years does not seem to be stretching as far. Groceries, gas, housing, and almost everything else all cost more. A dollar just doesn’t buy as much as it used to. That is called inflation.

It is a normal thing for prices and wages to increase over time. It is when the two do not rise proportionately that inflation starts gaining a lot of attention. It is caused by a massive number of factors, from social change to politics, to global pandemics, and it, in turn, affects almost everything. The cost of production goes up as the parts get harder to access, so prices go up. Wages go up, so people buy more, which makes companies think they can charge more, so prices go up. Interest rates were very low, so more people bought homes, until there weren’t very many homes to buy, so the price of homes started going up. The government raised interest rates, so less people could buy the few houses that are left, in hopes that inflation settles down. So far, it hasn’t made much of a dent in inflation, but now the banks are struggling.

Right now, everything is expensive. It doesn’t seem to matter how much money people are making, they are still feeling the pain of the increased cost of living. There is no easy fix, because there are too many factors at play on a global scale. It isn’t just one thing that causes it, and it isn’t just happening to one country. It could take years for things to balance out again.

In the meantime, we have to look for ways to stretch our hard earned dollars. Eat at home more. Hang out with friends at someone’s house, instead of going out. Don’t buy that new pair of shoes, or new car, until they are really needed. Put money in savings if you have extra at the end of the month, and take advantage of rising interest rates to earn money on your money. Try not to borrow money if you absolutely don’t have to, be it from credit cards or banks.

No one can see into the future, but if history is any indication, things won’t always be this volatile. Inflation will never disappear, but it will likely cool off, if we can just wait it out. Actually, not buying things and not borrowing money helps inflation settle down faster. So, let’s all work together, shall we?

Passive Cash Flow using Peer to Peer investing

If you have ever wished to have more money at the end of the month, you are looking for cash flow. Traditional investing in 401k creates cash flow only in retirement, once you have hit the age that you are able to withdraw funds. The stock market only creates cash flow if you make a profit and withdraw that amount, but not until then.  I have been learning about a new type of investment that creates almost immediate cash flow. It is called Peer-to-Peer lending. This is where you take a chunk of money and send it to a company, such as Prosper or Lending Club, and they disperse very small amounts, determined by you, to many different borrowers. The borrowers have a set time period to repay the loan, plus interest. Usually, they start repayment within 30 days or so, and this is when your cash flow begins. It ends when the term is finished, often 2 or 3 years or so. Because the money you loan is sent to so many different borrowers, each only getting a small amount, your risk is reduced. Even if a few borrowers default, you will still get the majority of your money back, along with interest. If you send chunks of money whenever you have them, the pay back can essentially stack up, giving you more cash flow until the loan terms start expiring. You could use this extra cash flow to pay down debt or invest in larger, more permanent investments such as real estate.

I learned about this from a company who I hired to be financial coaches for me called Tardus. The founder has created a calculator that can figure out the most efficient way for you to use this type of investing to meet your goals, and eventually potentially even replace your income. Although I am pretty savvy when it comes to money, this system is helping me stay accountable, and advance faster than I was doing so on my own. It does cost money, though they say if you don’t make enough to cover the fee after the first year, they will refund it. I am about half way through my first year, and it looks like I am on track to make at least as much as it cost, with that number continuing to multiple as I continue the process. Currently, I am set to see about a 22% cash-on-cash return, with about 10% of that being interest. For me, this is beating my traditional stock market portfolio currently by almost 5% interest, and I don’t see any cash flow from that because it is tied up in retirement funds I cannot access.

Depending on your goals, peer-to-peer lending could be a good option. Something to remember is that it is temporary, because the loan term ends and thus your cash flow does, too. There is some risk that borrowers won’t pay you back, just as there is risk in the stock market that the value will fall. However, if what you want is monthly cash flow that can be stacked up and eventually used to pay for long term investments, this may be a good option.

How to Invest in Real Estate

Real Estate Investment Options

I have been doing a lot of research into alternative investments, after watching the crazy see-saw that the stock market has been over the past few years. I have a desire to create a secondary source of income, as it is all too easy for a person to lose their job when the economy takes a hit, or if they get hurt and can’t work.  I have a financial advisor, and he always tells me just to stay the course, and keep buying when stocks are low and when they are high so that it “dollar cost averages”, meaning the amount they are worth evens out over time and eventually makes a profit. The funny thing, is that most of that profit seems to appear when I am a very old woman, and probably won’t be doing much with it. In the meantime, I work myself to the bone, and put money in the stock market, which often feels like throwing it away, all while hoping I have enough to retire before I die. This is what made me start looking into other ways of building wealth. 

There Are Many Options in 2022

One of the standout options is to start investing in real estate. I have wanted to do this for many years, but I never seem to have enough capital to buy another house, let alone several. I started watching the real estate investing gurus and mentors that are all over the internet, and doing my own research on sites like Bigger Pockets and Roofstock. I have also watched hundreds of hours of webinars and free trainings online, most of which culminate in someone selling something. They do have some good information, though. These online gurus tell you about creative financing without using your own money. There are various angles of this approach, one of which is wholesaling.  What it boils down to is you have to a. convince someone to sell their house at a discount and get them to sign a contract, then b. quickly find someone else who wants to buy it for a little more, and you make the difference as a finder’s fee. You have to be very careful, though, because if you do it wrong, or ask the wrong people it could be illegal, or you may get scammed by the person supposedly willing to buy it. It is possible to do, and it seems people can make a lot of money doing this, but I struggle with it, because I am not an outspoken, hustler type person. I would have a very hard time talking to people and trying to get them to sell their house to me, while relying on someone else to actually come up with the money. I am a pretty linear thinker, who loves to have a strong plan with contingencies, and this seems like a lot of moving parts and potential pitfalls. 

The gurus also tell you about using other people’s money, or OPM, to fix and flip houses. The concept starts similarly to wholesaling, where you have to find a house at a discount. Then you get someone to invest the money, plus the amount needed to fix it up. You could get your own financing for this through a bank, as well, but of course you need to have the money for the down payment and close. This amounts to somewhere around 25% of the selling price. After you fix the house up you can sell it for a profit, or keep it and rent it out. If you can’t come up with that kind of down payment, there is the option of house hacking. This is where you would buy the house as your own place to live, typically requiring much less up front, like 5-8% with closing costs, give or take. The catch is, you have to stay there for 2 years, or at least not rent it out for that long, in order for it not to be mortgage fraud. During that two years, you would renovate the home, and then you could sell it or rent it out. 

There are some ways of investing in real estate that are less hands-on. You can buy the lien on a house, with the idea that the person who owes it will pay you back with interest or else forfeit the home to you. You can join a crowd funding site, where you buy shares of a large conglomerate of real estate, without owning the individual assets directly, but getting returns over time as the asset appreciates and is sold, or sees returns from rent. This is the idea behind Fundrise. They are a reputable company that sells e-shares of properties, which are not publicly traded in the stock market. The money you invest gains value as the assets appreciate, and you have the option of liquifying your investment quarterly, provided the market is not in too much of a spiral. Fundrise has the ultimate say in whether or not they can liquify your shares, based on if they can get someone to buy them, or whether it would cause them a loss. They expect people to look at the investment as long term, like any real estate investment, and keep their money in place for at least 5 years to see the most return. You can also invest in Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, in much the same way as you would invest in stocks. You buy shares of theses funds, that are representing companies who invest in real estate, and as their profits increase they are distributed to shareholders proportionately. The great thing about these is that the money is still fairly liquid, meaning you can decide to sell your shares and have the money in your bank account in a matter of days, just as you would a stock that you sell. The bad part, is that it is essentially like owning stocks, and subject to some volatility. 

All real estate investing, and really any investing, comes with risks. Your money may not make any money at all. It could even lose value. Your money may not be available for withdrawal for many years. If you are investing in rental homes, you have all the responsibilities of a  landlord, and your investment could actually cost you more than it makes you. Statistically, real estate is considered more profitable and less volatile than the stock market, and has been known to build people’s wealth over time. It does have some major drawbacks, and it can be very expensive to get started, but if you go into it expecting to stay invested long term, and willing to accept the risks and downsides, it is still an investment many people will be happy they ultimately pursued. The most important thing is to do your research, and know what you are getting into before you do it. I will continue to post information that I learn about real estate investing, so keep visiting FinancePlainandSimple.com to learn more.


Paying for Final Expenses

Planning Ahead

Nobody wants to think about what happens after they pass away, but the fact is, there are a lot of financial matters involved that are best taken care of before that happens. The worst thing that can happen is to die unexpectedly, with nothing in place, and leave your loved ones with a big financial headache on top of their grief.

I recently experienced the loss of my mother, and I can say wholeheartedly that I was in no shape immediately after her passing to think my way through all the things that needed to be done. Luckily for me, my mom planned ahead, at least a little. She bought a small insurance policy specifically for final expenses. With one phone call, the company took care of the bill at the funeral home, and sent me the remainder of the policy funds. I didn’t have to worry about writing a check on the day I received her ashes. Trust me, that day was hard enough.

Life Insurance vs Final Expenses Policies

My mom chose the final expenses type of policy because she couldn’t afford a regular life insurance policy. She didn’t work, and lived off of meager Medicare funds. She was also a lifetime smoker, so her premiums for life insurance would have been very high. This policy was under $50 a month, and she paid it diligently because she adamantly did not want to be a burden on me and my family. The final expenses policy paid the funeral home directly, while a regular life insurance policy would have been sent to me, and I would have paid the funeral home from that. I may have had to pay the funeral home first, which could have been a problem if I didn’t have the money.

For any policy that includes life insurance or just final expenses, the cost will be determined usually by the person’s age and health status. Therefore, it is generally much cheaper to put in place when you are still young and healthy. This is the same for insurance such as long term care and health insurance. The earlier the better, before you have health issues that will drive up the cost.

As always, when looking for a policy, shop around first. Compare what you will get out of it as well as the overall cost. Buying while it is still relatively low cost will give you peace of mind, knowing you are taking a big financial weight off of the loved ones you leave behind. Take it from me, the weight of their grief is heavy enough.


Long Term Care Insurance

When it comes to thinking about ourselves eventually getting old and needing extra help, most of us have a tendency to shy away. No one wants to envision ourselves as frail or sick, especially when we are young and in the prime of life. Unfortunately, when it comes to any type of insurance that relates to our health, that is exactly when we should be planning for the future. Just like retirement, the earlier you start planning and saving, the cheaper it is, and the more it will benefit you.

Washington State has recently passed a law requiring everyone to either pay a 0.58% tax to opt in to a statewide long term care insurance policy worth $36,000 in today’s money, or show proof of their own policy. If you purchase your own policy before this goes into effect, you can opt out of the state version. Once you opt out, you cannot opt back in. This has sent most of us into a scramble to learn about Long Term Care insurance, and try to figure out if the state policy is what we want.

It turns out, the state policy has some glitches. First, if you aren’t able to opt out, you will get charged automatically from you paycheck. The tax is a percentage of your earnings, so people who earn more pay more. It also is only good as long as you remain a resident of Washington State. Plus, you have to pay into the plan for 10 years (with some exceptions), before you can use it. If you never use the long term care insurance, you just lose the money you paid in. For these reasons, many people are looking into getting their own private policy.

While these policies vary, and they are not exactly cheap, most of them do offer some advantages over the state plan. First, they don’t require you to live in a certain state. If you move, they move with you. Many of them also come with a life insurance part which means that if you don’t use the long term care, it will convert to a set amount of life insurance in the event of your death. Some offer a higher benefit amount for a similar amount of money. Most do not have a very long period, if any, before the benefits could be used.

So far, the policies that I have found are a bit more expensive, but I am drawn to the benefits. I hesitate to use the state version because there is a good possibility I won’t live in Washington when I would need the benefits. This means I definitely need a private policy. My work is going to offer a policy, but as of this writing, I don’t know its details or its cost. As with any money decision, I will shop around and look at several options before making an informed decision. The one thing I can say for sure, though, is that any policy will be cheaper if you buy it when you are younger and healthier. The longer you wait, the more it will cost you, and likely the less benefit you will get. So, shop around now and save yourself some money and stress. Your future self will thank you.

Playing the Stock Market with Apps

These days, you don’t have to work on Wall Street to invest in the stock market. You don’t even have to be a finance professional. With as little as $5, you can invest in a piece of your favorite company via an app, like Stash, Acorn or others. What’s not to love?

Stock Market Investing and Emotion

As you may know, investing in the stock market can be an emotional roller coaster. Stocks by nature go through cycles of loss and gain. Over time, the stock market statistically will gain value. However, an individual stock may rocket to record highs and plummet to barren lows in the course of a day. If you are like most people, your inclination will be to invest in a stock that is doing well, and avoid stocks that seem to be losing value. The problem with this is, it means you will be buying when the price is high, and maybe selling when it is low. In essence, you won’t be gaining as much, and you may be losing a great deal. As humans, it is a hard thing to overcome. They say that if you buy and hold a stock over a long period of time, or better yet own a very diverse portfolio of stocks and hold them, you will eventually see overall gains. This can be very difficult to do if you are watching your portfolio ebb and flow day to day. Most advice you will receive about investing in the stock market will be to invest in a wide range, hold those stocks while investing more money into them at regular intervals, and don’t buy and sell too readily.

I recently put some money into a Stash account, to try my own hand at stock investing. I was hoping I would be so good at it that I could fire my Financial Advisor, and do it all myself, saving me money in fees. Turns out, I shouldn’t quit my day job, or fire my advisor.

My own stock picks were averaging about an 8% gain, which wasn’t terrible. Then, I decided to sell my lower performing stocks, as the market took an overall downward turn. This resulted in my gains dropping to about 1%. Meanwhile, my financial advisor has been averaging 19% gains, and hasn’t dropped anywhere near 1%. Thank heavens most of my retirement money is in his hands and not my own.

I fell into the emotional stock buying pattern, despite knowing it was a risk. I bought stocks like Apple and Tesla when they were at record highs. This meant I paid a great deal for a fraction of a share. Then, when the stock prices inevitably fell, I lost money. They aren’t worth the amount I paid. I will have to wait until their shares are priced at what I paid now to make my money back.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t invest using these apps. Maybe you will be better at not buying and selling than I am. Just know that it isn’t as easy as it seems, and there is not shame in leaving your investing to the professionals.

Lower Your Mortgage Payment without Refinancing

Refinancing Isn’t The Only Way to Lower Your Mortgage Payment

By now, you have probably heard of refinancing your mortgage. This is where, when interest rates drop significantly, you essentially trade in your old mortgage for a new one. The downside is that it costs you quite a bit of money. You have to pay for an appraisal and fees and closing costs just like you did with your first mortgage. It can result in you having money on hand for needed repairs or debt payoff, and a lower overall payment, which makes it overall a good idea when interest rates are significantly different than they were for your first mortgage. This is a current trend in today’s market.

Recasting your Mortgage

If your current mortgage rate is pretty good, there could still be a way for you to lower your mortgage payment. If you have a large chunk of cash sitting around not gaining much in interest, putting that money to your mortgage might be a good option. First, ask your mortgage holder if they offer what is called a mortgage Recast option, and if they do, ask them if there is a fee. I have Wells Fargo, and they do not charge anything. Recasting a mortgage is when you make a very large principal payment, and as a result, the mortgage lender re-amortizes your remaining balance. This means that the loan length and interest rate stay the same, but the payment gets lowered because you have decreased how much has to be paid off over the remainder of the loan years. For example, I currently owe about $123,000 on my mortgage. I pay $883 per month toward principal and interest, not counting the escrow (taxes and insurance). If I pay a one time payment of $50,000, my payment drops to $374 per month for principal and interest. This means I am obligated to pay over $500 less per month, which can be a life saver in case of hard times later. If I continue to pay my normal payment after making that large principal payment, my loan will be paid off years earlier. Or, I could invest that extra $500 per month, potentially making tons of extra money over time. That same $50,000 is only earning about $20 per month in interest in a savings account right now, so it seems like a good time to consider putting the money somewhere that it can at least save me money in interest.

What to Consider First

I would only consider doing this if you already have a significant emergency fund saved up. If you find that you still have a large chunk of change that isn’t earning you significant interest, it could be a good time to put that money to work. Remember, if money isn’t at least earning enough to offset inflation (at least 2% or more), then it is essentially losing value over time. Better to put it somewhere that either earns you more (investing), or saves you more (decreasing debt).

Take Aways

There is more than one way to change your mortgage payment, if you have significant savings in the bank.

Always make sure you have an emergency fund that is easily accessible before putting large sums of money into investing or recasting a mortgage, or any other endeavor for that matter. Security is essential.

Talk to your financial advisor about where to put extra savings, and consider recasting your mortgage as a possibility that may not cost you anything except the payment you put toward your mortgage.

Financial Tips for a Merry Holiday Season

The Holidays and Money

Do the holidays fill you with a mixture of emotions, from joy and excitement, to dread and anxiety? If your finances tend to get out of control during the season of giving, you aren’t alone. Even the most disciplined of us can sometimes let the joy of giving override our sense of frugality. People tend to think more in the short term, than what will happen to us later on if we make the wrong decisions now. The fact that monstrous debt is not only a reality for most people in developed nations, but even expected, is case in point. We are given credit cards and told to spend as we will. We graduate from college with mountains of debt. We buy a house above our means because the mortgage company and “keeping up with the Joneses” says we should. Why should the holidays be any different?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make the holidays less stressful, at least financially? It turns out, there are a few tips that could help, but they take some planning. Like almost everything when it comes to money, looking ahead will get you further than spur of the moment approaches. One idea would be to set a yearly holiday budget. Then, open a savings account and set up automatic withdrawals on payday to be put into that account through the year. It doesn’t have to be much. If you get paid every 2 weeks and put aside $10 each time, by the end of the year you would have over $200. That would sure beat having to take it all out of one check. If you put it into a high yield savings account, you could even have a few dollars of free money (minus taxes) to top it off.

If you are a little more adventurous, and want to make potentially a little more money with your money, you could put that same amount into the stock market in a diversified fund. Use an app like Stash or Acorn, and you would be able to withdraw your money plus earnings by selling the stocks at the end of the year, or even just a portion of them. Beware that whatever gains you make this way do count toward your income for the year, though, and will be subject to taxes. The potential is there, though to make a decent percentage of gain, as the stock market historically makes between 6% and 10% over time.

Another idea is to keep a list of people you like to buy for in your purse or wallet. Throughout the year, as you see gifts that would suit the people on your list, you could buy them one at a time. This would spread the cost over the year, instead of having to put it all on the same credit card at the end of the year and play catch up for the following months.

Don’t forget that some people really value the thought of the gift over the cost of the gift, as well. What about making a gift for someone that touches on something personal for them? Dressing up a picture frame with glue and glitter, or special words, with a picture of you and that person together can touch a heart. Think outside the box. Spending time with your mom one-on-one would probably mean more to her than any trinket. There are probably hundreds of ideas similar to this one that wouldn’t break the bank, but would still carry meaning. Isn’t that the true idea behind gift giving, anyway? We want the person receiving the gift to know that we love them, value them, think of them, and want to see happiness on their face. That counts for you, too. The holidays should make you happy, not totally stress you out. Try one or more of these tips, and maybe one will work for you.

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Why the Stock Market is Booming and the Economy is Struggling

If you watch the news, you have probably noticed two things: the economy is struggling, and the stock market is booming. I always thought that the stock market was part of the economy, with the economy being the bigger picture of how the country is doing and the stock market reflecting that. I was totally wrong. The two are only loosely connected, as one can clearly tell at this point. The question is, why?

What is the Stock Market?

The stock market is basically what it sounds like: a big marketplace where people can buy or sell portions of ownership of companies and groups of companies in related industries. People who invest in the stock market are basically doing so based on what they think will happen to these companies or industries in the future. The stock market is dominated by some massive companies and industry sectors. Many businesses are not publicly traded, and thus not reflected in the stock market at all. In fact, the number of companies represented has shrunk significantly in the past decade.

What is the Economy?

This is a broad term for a country’s resources, and the demand for them. Supply and demand are terms that describe what drives a capitalist economy like the USA. There are a number of indicators that tell us if a country’s economy is doing well. These include things like the price of crude oil, consumer confidence levels, unemployment numbers, and sales of goods and services of various types. The bond yield and interest rates also play a role.

COVID-19 and Stocks

A few companies and sectors have done extremely well during the pandemic. These companies have driven the stock market to record breaking heights. There was a small dip when the country was in lockdown, but once companies figured out ways of doing business that worked even though their workers stayed at home, the market rebounded. People who were stuck at home bought things from the internet more than they did by going to local stores. This drove up the stocks for companies that provided shipping services, delivery, and essential goods and services.

Aside of increased demand for some goods and services, the stock market is based on what investors think will happen. In the case of COVID-19, it seems investors are betting that once there is a vaccine or a return to “normal”, the value of company stocks will go up. This causes investors to buy, which makes the cost of the shares increase. Also, when a company’s earnings have decreased, a temporary decrease in stock price often follows, which in turn leads to a big buy of those stocks, leading to an increase in those stock prices, all while investors hope they eventually gain even more value. The government has decreased the interest rates, so people have been putting more money into stocks than bonds, CDs and savings accounts.

COVID-19 and the Economy

America is still suffering from massive unemployment. Many businesses remain closed. The virus infection rate is increasing at an alarming rate, and there is concern that it will require a return to lockdown to get it under control. People who are out of work are facing mounting bills and little job prospects. People are not spending as much money on travel or non-essential purchases, so these businesses continue to suffer. The housing market is expensive due to decreased inventory, but may be headed for a crash as people who are currently protected from having to pay rent or mortgages are asked to do so and find that they do not have the money. This could lead to vast foreclosures. While some businesses may be doing ok as they learn to change their business model, many are devastated and have had to close their doors forever as the stimulus money that may have kept them afloat has run out.

In Summary

These are hard times, around the world and in America. There is a massive disconnect between the stock market and the overall economy, and this is highlighting the fact that the two are not the same thing at all. For most people, it is the economy that they feel in everyday life. The cost of goods and services as they rise and fall. The availability of resources, or lack thereof, as demand surges beyond supply. The loss of jobs, and the rising cost of housing and healthcare. These are the things that affect the people. So next time you see the stock market soar, do not take it to mean that the economy is doing the same.


When Saving Money Can Cost You

I am sure it won’t be a surprise to hear that I tend to be a bit conservative when it comes to spending money. If you have read any of my other posts, you probably know by now that I put a lot of thought into purchases-especially those that will cost me a chunk of money. My brain can analyze the purchase to the point of insanity, and in many cases I talk myself out of buying things. Many times, this is a good thing. It decreases the number of times I have buyers regret. I rarely give in to impulse purchases. I save a lot of money by not buying things I ultimately didn’t need.

I have recently discovered the flip side of that coin. There is such thing as being too frugal when it comes to certain things in life. Sometimes saving money can cost you more in the long run. Have you ever bought the cheapest version of something, only to have it break or not work as soon as you got it home? Maybe you talked yourself out buying that tool set you have been thinking about, to have your dishwasher break two days later.

This past weekend, my wife and I thought we would have a nice day at the beach. We took the reliable car that gets the best gas mileage, and off we went. About 5 miles from the town, my car started beeping. It flashed a warning: Low Oil Pressure. We were in the middle of nowhere, on a country road with not another soul or business in sight.

I flashed back to that time a few months ago when I got my oil changed and the mechanic told me there was a small oil leak. They wanted $500 to diagnose the problem, and who knows how much to fix it. Being the skeptic of mechanics that I am, and the person who doesn’t like to spend money without knowing all my options, I declined. I thought I would have someone I knew check it out for me and verify that there was really something wrong before I got it fixed. Well, that person never checked the car out. Now, I was stuck.

I promptly called my roadside assistance company that I have had for over a decade. They are the cheap version of AAA. They cost a fraction of the price. On this day, I found out why. I was about 100 miles from home. The towing that was covered was $100. That probably translates to about 5 miles, after the hook-up fee. I was told I would have to pay the rest when the tow company arrived-a whopping $349! Also, because of COVID 19, the tow company would not allow us to ride in the tow truck, so we would have to find our own way home, with our 120lb dog, to boot. What choice did I have?

I then remembered that my friend happened to be camping in the town that I was now stranded. I gave her a call, and she and her husband came to the rescue. They offered to use their AAA membership, which covered up to 200 miles of towing, plus a rental car and hotel if needed. I asked her what she paid for that kind of coverage, and it turns out it is less than the $349 I was going to have to pay for towing. So, for a lot less than I would pay for one tow, she had peace of mind in knowing that in this type of event she was completely covered for towing and for her own accommodations and ride home. Suddenly, my discount roadside assistance service didn’t seem like such a bargain. My frugality would now cost me a lot more money, and stress.

Take Aways

This was a blatant example of how there can be times that being too frugal can bite you. If you save money, but then have to buy something more than once, or what you bought does not actually provide what you need, then you may not really be saving money at all. You might even create a lot off stress, or get yourself into a sticky situation. Sometimes paying a little more for something will actually be the better bargain. You need to really evaluate your purchase to know if it is something where the cheap version is really worth the initial savings. Although nowadays it isn’t always true because things just don’t seem to be made to last, when it comes to services and some items, sometimes, you get what you pay for.

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Do It Yourself Credit Card Fraud Detection

It Pays to Be Obsessive About Your Finances

One lesson I have learned over the years that has served me well on multiple occasions is that you really cannot be too obsessive about keeping a watchful eye on your finances. In today’s world, with all of our online and automated activity, it is easier than ever for criminals to get a hold of our personal and credit card information. In a matter of minutes, a thief can wrack up thousands of dollars in online purchases on your credit card, before you even know it is happening. Back in the 1990s when I had my first credit card, this was not a well-known phenomenon. Neither was identity theft. That is not to say that it didn’t happen, because it did. In fact, my identity was first stolen when I worked at a manufacturing plant and left my wallet with my license and social security card in the bathroom by mistake. A woman took it, and promptly went to the mall, where she bought $2000 worth of items on my credit card. She later opened up utility accounts in my name, and continues to occasionally try to open up various new accounts using my information. If I was not diligent in checking both my credit reports and my daily finances, I would not even know what she has been up to, and I could be liable for many accounts that are not my own. It is important to create a do it yourself credit card detection process. I share mine below.

Credit Card Fraud and All Its Implications

My credit card information has been stolen so many times online that I find it difficult to say exactly how many. Sometimes, the credit card company flags a suspicious purchase, and asks me to verify if it was me. There have been numerous occasions when I have seen a fraudulent charge before the credit card company has, and I have contacted them. All of my credit card companies offer no liability for fraudulent charges, which means that I don’t have to pay for whatever the thief has stolen. They remove the charges and issue me a new card. This is nice, and a definite relief, but it does not mean that I let down my guard. Often, a thief will buy something that costs very little as a way of testing the card, to see if anyone is paying attention. If it goes through undetected, they will then purchase more expensive things. What is particularly worrisome, though, is that there is no way to tell what information a thief has gotten access to. If they have your credit card number, they may also have your online passwords. They know your name. They could know your birthday. If they are savvy enough, they may find your social security number. When that happens, it becomes extremely difficult to protect yourself. Trust me, I know. You cannot get a new social security number just because yours has been stolen. You will have to go through a lengthy process of putting a credit alert on your credit bureau files, so that every time a new account is being opened it will be held until you can verify it was you. You will have to contest each and every thing on your credit report that is not yours, and prove it. You will need to do this repeatedly, perhaps for the rest of your life.

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I use several different apps every single day to watch my finances. I want to know every transaction that occurs on my credit card accounts or in my checking and savings as soon as they happen. It seems obsessive, and maybe it is, but it has saved me a lot of time, money, and hassle since I started doing it. Just this past week, I noticed a $35 charge on my Visa for Pizza Hut that was not mine. The credit card company didn’t catch it, because I have bought Pizza Hut before. I contacted them, and after an investigation, they removed the charge and issued a new card. I have the apps that my bank offers, the credit card company apps, and third party financial apps, Mint.com and Personal Capital. I check them all frequently. I also check my credit at least once a year through www.annualcreditreport.com. If you take nothing else away from this website, I hope you do this. I am sure you will be happy you did.

Take Aways

Number 1: Never keep your social security card or number in your wallet!

Be your own credit champion by regularly monitoring your account activity. Set up alerts on your credit cards so you are notified whenever a purchase is made. Check your bank balances regularly. Be sure to check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus at least once a year. You are your own best advocate. If it isn’t yours, fight for your right to have it removed. Don’t let your credit suffer because of some thief who is out there using your good name and credit.

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Introduction To Investing

What is Investing?

Investing is, simply put, storing your money in a place that will help it grow. There are many different options when it comes to investing, from the stock market and retirement accounts, to real estate and any number of other avenues.

The main thing about it, is that it needs to be something that allows your money to earn you more money over time. Usually, it is done over a long time frame, like years or decades. Statistically, the stock market creates gains over time, and real estate appreciates (or becomes more valuable, so it can be sold for more money).

Generally, holding a lot of extra money in something like a shoebox, or a savings account, isn’t a great long term strategy. The reason being, that money won’t grow much. As inflation occurs, it could actually become worth less. Think of how much farther a dollar went 20 years ago, and you will see what I mean. You want your money to grow at a rate that overcomes inflation (which tends to be around 3%).

I won’t try to tell you which investment avenue is right for you. That involves a lot of different variables. A Financial Advisor could possibly help, and I encourage you to seek one out if you can’t choose on your own, or don’t want to.

What I will say, is the sooner you decide how to invest your money, the better. If you want to have money for retirement, it is important to start planning and saving for it now. Investment money grows over time, so the more time=the more money. Even if you are investing in a business, they take time to grow. So, learn, decide, and then, as Nike says, Just Do It!

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