How Hard it is to Hang Onto Your Money?

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

One of the main reasons that we use banks is security. Sure there are other benefits – organization, centralization of different accounts, cards, benefit programs, lending, etc. But central to a bank’s identity is the fact that they keep your money safe. The concept simply doesn’t work without that aspect.

That’s why the ongoing PPI scandal from the past several years has been so alarming. Bank customers, without their knowledge or consent, were issued policies for Payment Protection Insurance (PPI for short). PPI isn’t a bad form of insurance on its own, but when it is sold fraudulently, as it was to thousands of consumers across Europe by banks and insurers, then there is a major problem.

PPI claims have poured forth by the thousand since the scandal emerged several years ago. Multiple class action and individual lawsuits are pending, and many individuals have already received restitution. If you find PPI payments drafting from your account, it’s important that you read a PPI claims guide soon, and get in touch with PPI claims handlers.

PPI as Emblematic of a Deeper Banking Problem

Even if you do not personally have PPI auto-drafting from your bank account, there are a number of other ways that large banks have been recently caught in defrauding their own customers. We only have to look back at Barclays Bank as an example.

The results, in some cases, were harmless. In other cases, the bank mis-sold ppi insurance to many of its customers. Customers were confused when they had no received annual letters in the mail updating them to how much they were spending on protection and their rights to cancel.

Other large banks have had large-scale theft of customer data. These have included the loss of sensitive information, such as account and social security numbers. Wells Fargo is one of the banks that have had such breaches, but in this case, the bank responded well, by issuing free identity theft protection services for the affected customers.

In the end, banks are businesses just like any other. Just because they are large doesn’t mean that fraud and mistakes will not occur. For people with money stored in these institutions, it is important to demand that they do their due diligence in protecting the customer’s wealth and preserving the customer’s interests.

Don’t take it for granted that your money is safe in a major bank. Keep an eye on the balances of your accounts, and take action immediately if something seems amiss. Fast action will allow you to achieve quick resolution of any problem that you encounter. The sooner you bring problems to your bank’s attention, the more likely they will be to make the issue right.

Gold Investments for IRA Accounts

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

There’s a growing trend where many people are adding precious metals, mainly gold, to their IRAs. It’s quite a literal way to turn your retirement nest egg into gold. The IRS does allow so-called “gold IRAs,” where owners can include precious metals in place of assets like stocks or bonds. Gold is, of course, included along with cash assets.

Not all gold is eligible to be included in IRAs. For example, if you come by a very rare gold coin, it may be considered precious among collectors, but is rather useless when it comes to being included in an IRA. The IRS has a strict category for types of gold that can be included in the forms of bars or coins. There are many other requirements as well.

Reasons to Add Gold to Your IRA

Before getting onto the intricacies of adding gold to an IRA, it’s important to consider why. If you have ever paid attention to gold prices, you would know that it’s extremely volatile. It may not make sense to include gold in an IRA right away. But, it’s important to consider how gold is valued. The value of gold is measured in an inversely proportional manner to paper currency. Meaning, when the price of the dollar goes up, price of gold comes down. But when the price of the dollar stumbles, gold value picks up.

Think about this scenario: In 2001, an ounce of gold cost $271. In 2010, the same ounce was worth $1,896, which is an increase of about 700 percent. That remarkable value can be attributed to the Great Recession. Assets like gold are most important during time of economic crises. When the dollar plunges as it did during the recession in 2008, physical gold can hedge an investment portfolio against devastating losses. In this sense, many people add gold to diversify their retirement investment portfolios.  No one can predict what the market will be like in decades when you retire. So, gold assets can protect your lifelong savings in case of an economic calamity.

Add Gold with a Self-Directed IRA

You can only add gold to your IRA if it is self-directed. Investments in traditional IRAs are usually made up of currency-based assets like stocks, mutual funds, and certificates of deposits. If you want to diverge from such assets and add gold, then you need to exercise a certain amount of control over your account. This is what a self-directed IRA is. The owner of a self-directed IRA can tell the bank or another trustee what to invest in. Trustees do not usually say no to gold investments as long as there are plenty of cash investments as well.

You cannot have an entirely gold IRA. That makes little financial sense. Rather, you can add a small amount of gold to your IRA to protect cash assets in case of another economic downturn. When you have gold in your IRA, you will have to keep up with gold news and price charts. It’s very important to check gold prices today on a daily basis when adding this precious metal to your IRA.

Choose a Good Trustee

You are required to entrust your IRA to a custodian or a trustee you can rely on. There are certain federal requirements these trustees have to meet. You can get a bank, an investment firm or a certified gold dealer company to be the trustee of your IRA as long as legal requirements are met. You may have to spend some time searching for a firm that allows gold in IRAs.

Once you get through all the requirements, having gold in your IRA will protect your future wealth no matter what the political climate is.

Finding the Perfect Mortgage the First Time 

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

Every year, millions of first-time homebuyers set out on a search for the perfect piece of property. They scour advertisements; they search through real estate apps; they go on countless tours and stop by untold open houses. Then, when they finally find the home of their dreams, they are utterly unprepared to make an offer.

Buying a home is more than comparing cabinet styles and deciding whether a pool is worthwhile. You must understand your mortgage options before you even consider whether you need or want granite countertops. This guide will help you determine what features you need from your home loan, so you can find and afford your dream home in no time.

Fixed vs. Adjustable

Mortgages last a long time ― typically between 15 and 30 years. Since that is such a significant amount of time for a loan, most lenders offer two options to help you manage your interest rate: fixed or adjustable. Which option you choose depends on your current income, your credit score, and a few other factors.

Fixed Rate

Fixed-rate mortgages are the most common. With these, you can expect the same interest rate for the entire duration of the mortgage loan. The primary benefit of having a fixed rate is knowing exactly what your mortgage payment will be each and every month; your home payment will never be a financial surprise. However, fixed-rate mortgages tend to have a higher interest rate ― at least initially.

Adjustable Rate

Adjustable-rate mortgages are less common but more accessible if you have poor credit. The opposite of fixed rates, adjustable rates will change over time. Most often, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) are actually a hybrid product, as lenders will promise a brief fixed period before adjusting your rate.

Some buyers find ARMs preferable because they seem to have lower interest rates. However, over time, those interest rates will rise, and you likely won’t be able to predict when or how much. Therefore, you can expect financial irregularity for the duration of your loan.

Jumbo vs. Conforming

The cost of your home will also determine the type of mortgage you can obtain. Though you might not realize it, most home loans have a size cap, and not all lenders offer conforming loans, which are the standard size, and jumbo loans, which are substantially larger.

Conforming loans earn their name because they conform to the guidelines of the appropriate government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.

In 2013, these enterprises determined that the size of home loans should be limited to $417,000 for a single-family home in the United States. The GSE can do this because it purchases and sells mortgage-backed securities, which form the foundation of the housing market. In 2007, the unreliability of these securities incited the Great Recession, so adhering to the size cap for home loans should keep the economy more stable.

Conversely, jumbo loans are available from some lenders for those looking to purchase a home worth more than $417,000. However, such sizeable loans represent a marked increase in a lender’s risk, which means you must have impeccable credit, high income, and a large down payment to qualify. As long as you are prepared for the financial responsibilities of a more expensive home, a jumbo loan is an excellent mortgage option.

Conventional vs. Government-Insured

Finally, not all potential homebuyers have the credit history or liquid assets to purchase a home. Fortunately, the government offers unconventional, government-insured loan programs to help less-advantaged citizens buy property.

The benefit of having a government-insured home loan is that the government promises to pay your mortgage if you default, so lenders see the loan as no-risk. There are three main types of government-insured mortgages:

VA Loans

Typically available only to veterans or their partners, VA loans require no down payment, offer competitively low interest rates, and do not require mortgage insurance. These loans do conform to GSE guidelines, but they are incredibly easy to qualify if you or your spouse served in the Armed Forces.

FHA Loans

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also offers a mortgage program to low-income, low-credit homebuyers. Unlike VA loans, FHA loans require a down payment ― though it can be as low as 3.5 percent ― and mortgage insurance. However, interest rates are low.

USDA Loans

If you are willing to move to a rural community, the United States Department of Agriculture will help you secure a mortgage. Your qualification for this program depends on your income; it can be no more than 115 percent of the regional average. However, by participating, you earn exceedingly low interest rates and the opportunity to bypass a down payment, as long as you pay mortgage insurance.

Strategies to Trade Forex Online

The following is a guest post by Mary Beth Sanders. Enjoy! 

The 2016 US Presidential elections have come and gone. To a proportion of the world’s surprise, Donald Trump won the elections. This news sent the financial markets into a tailspin, causing traders to move their investments into safe-haven funds as well as hedge stocks. The markets then recovered some of their losses; however, they continue to be very volatile and strongly influenced by any global political murmurings.

As time passed, investment brokers and the world at large calmed down allowing the financial markets to recover some of their losses; nonetheless, the volatility remains. Added to this, because of the inherent liquidity of cash, the foreign exchange trading markets remain the most volatile of all the financial markets, resulting in the need for caution when considering the option to trade Forex online.

How wise is it to trade Forex online?

This beg the question: How wise is it to trade Forex online in our current politically and economically unstable climate? Unfortunately, this is not a challenge unique to a single currency or country. Because of the rise of the internet and online trading, the global volatility affects all currencies. The only difference is that it affects some currencies positively and others negatively.

What is foreign exchange trading?

Before we answer this question, let’s take a look at trading online entails. According to the Investopedia University, this market “is one of the most exciting, fast-paced markets around. Until recently, forex trading in the currency market had been the domain of large financial institutions, corporations, central banks, hedge funds and extremely wealthy individuals… now it is possible for.. investors to buy and sell currencies easily with the click of a mouse through online brokerage accounts.”

Trading strategies

If online traders read the current volatility in the markets correctly, it is possible to trade successfully; however, caution is required. Experts recommend that you develop a solid trading strategy before you start trading and then it is imperative to stick to it. Here are three tips in order to help you work out your trading strategy:

  • Decide which position you are going to take

A trader can take three positions – short-term, medium-term, or long-term. In a nutshell, this essentially means that a trader needs to decide whether he is going to buy a certain currency and at what point he/she is going to sell it.

  • Decide which currency pairs you are going to trade in

You need to sell one currency to buy another currency. Currencies are always divided up into pairs. For example, the GBP-USD is a currency pair. In this case the British Pound is the commodity and the US dollar is the currency that you will use to buy the GBP.

  • Establish your exit point

You need to decide at what point you are going to sell your commodity. For example, if your position is gaining ground or making money, at what rate will you sell or cash out? On the other hand, if your position is losing money, at what rate will you sell and cut your losses?

Final Thoughts

These three tips are just a start to help you develop a solid trading strategy, as they will help you safeguard your investments and prevent you from losing money. In order to successfully trade Forex online, you can check out this website, in order to improve your trading strategy by adding well thought-out stop losses and limits

Why More Practical Money Skills Should Be Taught In School

The following is a guest post. Enjoy!

Younger people have to make significant financial decisions these days, and acquire financial facilities such as bank accounts and debit cards at an earlier stage than previous generations did. With likely trends continuing into future years of increased life expectancy, uncertain economic and job prospects, and the already present need for students to manage their living costs and student loans when in further education, the need for youngsters to be financially aware is increasing.

A desire for financial education

Research undertaken by bodies such as the Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg), a body helping younger people gain financial skills, has revealed that over 60% of youngsters open a bank account before starting secondary school, and some 75% of 15 year olds with a bank account have a debit card. The pfeg also found an overwhelming number of parents and teachers, and young people themselves, thought financial education should be taught in schools.

The need for financial education

Along with managing savings and bank accounts from a tender age, young people very soon have to get to grips with heavier financial aspects such as managing a budget when studying away from home and dealing with student loans.

Judging aspects such as the best way to finance their mobile phone by understanding contracts and commitments, deciding when to borrow money, how much they can afford to borrow, and assessing the most appropriate loan sources for their needs are just some of the required financial skills.

The possibility of having to leave home at a young age for the right job, and organising what may be tight finances when renting and paying bills on a starter salary, are very real circumstances younger people have to face with career-specific jobs less likely to be found closer to home.

The Money Advice Service claim that consumers lose on average nearly £430 per year simply through misunderstanding financial terms and conditions or not studying them properly, and this could be at least in part blamed on lack of sound financial education at a younger age.

If nothing else, the principles of assessing financial products such as bank accounts, credit cards, loans and contracts would stand younger people in good stead. For example, if considering taking out a loan, youngsters would be shown how to assess the lender’s suitability for their requirements such as visiting their website and looking for key information such as their credentials and checking if they’re members of the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), and how they operate perhaps by reading their ‘FAQ’ page. The website of established lender Avant Credit is a good example.

Steps being taken

Unfortunately, due to pressures to deliver on other aspects of the ever-changing school curriculum, barely a third of primary schools offer financial education. That said, some headway has been made through the pfeg’s Centres of Excellence programme; as of April 2016, over 50,000 students had benefitted from some type of financial education and over 2,500 teachers had been equipped with skills enabling them to teach financial education.

All-party parliamentary groups have been formed in recent years to instigate financial education; in 2014 the Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People was the largest all party group with over 200 members. Household name financial institutions were involved in providing training materials and actual lessons to young people in over 1,000 secondary schools.

Steps are being taken, but there’s still a long way to go in equipping youngsters with important financial skills.